Augusta Raurica and User Experience (UX)

User Experience – sometimes referred to as UX – is defined as encompassing all aspects of an end-user’s interaction with e.g. an IT system or, for example, a company, its services, and its products.  And although you might not think about it, museums can provide a wonderful insight into the field of UX.

I’ve recently blogged about a wonderful collection of Roman ruins scattered in the Swiss countryside, Augusta Raurica.

What’s really a nice touch is that many of the walking paths have markers that explain about the history of the site:

The displays are a combination of old ones dating back to just after World War II, and relatively new ones.

Now here comes the truly interesting part.  The older displays are written in both German and French, and they contain extremely dry, extremely boring historical facts, as this example shows.

The newer displays are written in German, French, and English – and they use a very simple type of writing, and they contain topics that are interesting to a wide variety of people, especially including younger audiences:

It makes you stop and think about who designed the original displays and why.  Were people many years ago more literate and interested in boring historical facts?  Or is there simply more attention paid today to the user experience?

Augusta Raurica and the descendants of Roman cows

Augusta Raurica is an incredible archaeological site that’s well worth a visit to anyone in the Basel area of northern Switzerland.  In a nutshell, Augusta Raurica is an ancient Roman town, together with a number of impressive roman artifacts – including even an amphitheater and coliseum – that was for the most part, amazingly, discovered after World War II.

Here are some cows grazing near a Roman temple:

Mühle Tiefenbrunnen

The Mühle Tiefenbrunnen dates back to 1889 and it is a common sight for visitors to the Tiefenbrunnen train station in Zürich,

It has its own webpage, but still I have not been able to find out what the overhead passage was for. Could have been used for filling train cars with beer – or perhaps transferring grains from train into the factory?

Hidden peanuts for people

In a recent blog post I wrote about “Hidden peanuts for elephants” – zookeepers that hide individual peanuts in the elephant enclosures in zoos, to keep the elephants amused and occupied as they – supposedly gleefully – search for little peanuts to eat.

I could not help but think the same thing was happening to humans when I stumbled across this interactive display at the Zurich International Airport (ZRH):

There are three buttons on the ground you can press with your feet. When you press them, this controls the video advertisement you see.

In the end, at least the elephants got something to eat.

World’s largest building with no indoor supports

Well, I read this somewhere, but I don’t know if it is true.

This is a common sight on the A1 Autobahn in Switzerland, and I must have passed by it dozens of times. So I recently left the Autobahn to see how close I could get to this structure. Turns out: you can get as close as you want!

But what is this place?  It turns out that Americans do not have a monopoly on toxic waste dumps.

This building is a huge, hermetically sealed hall that covers a toxic waste dump. For years, the Swiss just dumped their toxic waste into the ground here, until they realized it was seeping into the nearby river.  So they built a massive hall over the dump, and inside they use airtight bulldozers and other airtight construction equipment to remove the toxic waste and package it up to be sent to a modern facility that can safely burn it.  I found these snaps on the Internet,

Unfortunately, the picture I took does not do justice to the size and enormity of this building, so below I am posting an arial snap I downloaded from the internet:

Apparently, the site has now been cleaned up – so I am not quite sure how long the building will be left intact.

Büsingen am Hochrhein – A German island in Switzerland

Büsingen am Hochrhein is an amazing, amazing place.

But you would not know it when you drive into the village:

And you would not know it when you drive out of the village:

It’s really only amazing when you stop to think that it is a GERMAN village, but nestled entirely within the country of SWITZERLAND, as this map shows:

Interestingly, there were a number of villages along the German/Swiss border which, until just a few years ago, did not belong to one country or the other.

Zürich Scaffolding

When you see this, you can’t help but be impressed by this amazing, amazing scene.

The scaffolding on this building, part of a massive real estate development project at Zurich’s main railway station (Zürich Hauptbahnhof, or Zürich HB) is redolent of Switzerland itself: clean, organized, efficient:

PS. The Gare du Nord in France is Europe’s busiest railway station in terms of moved passengers, but Zürich’s Hauptbahnhof is Europe’s busiest in terms of moved trains.

Alemanic rituals of Switzerland, Southern Germany and France

Switzerland, Southern Germany as well as the eastern Alsacian region of France are home to a more evolved form of the German language, called Alemanic. And this region is also filled with tiny medieval villages, some of them still having impressive city walls like Riquewihr in France:

Inside of the village you’ll often find public fountains, which until quite recently supplied the residents with drinking water:

But the most interesting bit are the yearly celebrations such as Faschtnacht, planned for months in advance by the locals and usually involving street festivals and parades:

Unbelievably, in many of these towns the specific characters in the parade and even the costumes themselves are hundreds of years old, each accompanied by elaborate stories and detailed historical myths.

William Tell was here

Well, I don’t know if he was or he wasn’t.

But according to the legend, he was captured by a tyrant, lept off a boat to freedom, climbed up to exactly where I am now, and founded the Swiss Confederacy. And unbelievably, all this happened more than 600 years ago.

Today it is a little park called the Tellsplatte, and you can get a spectacular view of the snow-covered Swiss mountains in the late summer, as well as the lake, Vierwaldstättersee.

Here’s a slightly different view:

The amazing architecture of Swiss railway stations

It is not an exaggeration to say that many Swiss railway stations are truly mind blowing.

This is Bahnhof Enge from the outside:

 

And this is Bahnhof Enge from the inside:

Stunning buildings like these harken back to a different time, when a train station like Bahnhof Enge was not merely a train stop on a commuter line, but actually an important debarcation center in its own right.

Interesting, the architects for this train station were Otto and Werner Pfister – and if anyone has spent time shopping for furniture in Switzerland, those names should certainly be familiar!

The peaks from Oberhofen am Thunersee

For three years I had the lifetime privilege to live in the village of Oberhofen am Thunersee in Switzerland. It’s a tiny village, but it packs a spectacular, breathtaking view of the Swiss Alps of the Bernese Oberland.

Shortly after moving there, I became curious about the various peaks and other items of interest that I could see from my balcony, so I created my own “peakfinder.”

This is the view from my balcony, looking to the left (and also including a tiny snap of Oberhofen, taken from the observation platform at the peak of Mt. Niesen):

And this is the view from my balcony, looking to the right:

Jason Bourne Slept Here

Well, I don’t know if he did or he didn’t – and that’s what drives me crazy!

Everyone remembers the film version of the Robert Ludlum novel The Bourne Identity:

(Interesting aside: Believe it or not, I stood behind Matt Damon in France, at a cash machine (ATM), back when he was filming the JB movie.  I didn’t know him as Jason Bourne – but rather I recognized him as the actor in Good Will Hunting.)

Anyway, in one famous scene Jason Bourne is caught by the Swiss police, sleeping on a park bench in Zürich:

When the camera angle pans, you can see the park is on a hill overlooking the Zürich skyline along the Limmat River:

After moving to Switzerland I quickly learned of this park, called the Lindenhof.

Recently, I got curious, and decided to see if I could see if this scene was really photographed here.  Indeed, the Lindenhof is a park, and there are green park benches:

And looking from the other direction, the park really does look out over the Limmat River,

But sadly, that’s where it ends.  I read that no parts of this movie were filmed in Switzerland, and that the park scene was (I think) filmed in Romania.

However, it seems great pains were taken with special effects to make this park as Lindenhof like as possible.  I did not take any pictures of it, but when you see this final scene, and if you’ve been to the Lindenhof, then you’d easily think the scene was filmed here:

Europe’s most impressive waterfall

During the late summer, particularly after a bout of thunderstorms as shown here, the Rheinfall is an incredible sight to behold. It lacks the steep drop of Niagara Falls, of course:

But it more than compensates for this by giving visitors the chance to walk down just mere feet from the thundering, pounding wall of water:

Of course, the locals here don’t speak German but rather a more evolved form of the language, known as Allemanic. So located here in the heart of Allemanic speaking Switzerland, the locals usually call it Rhyfall or even Rhyfau (tending toward the Bernese version of Allemanic).

The amazing Airbus A380

Capable of carrying over 800 passengers, the Airbus A380 is currently the world’s largest passenger aircraft.  And the amazing perk about my job is that I get to get up-close-and-personal with these jumbo jets.

Here’s a snap from driving on the tarmac in Los Angeles International Airport (LAX):

At the Tom Bradley International Gates (also known to us in the trade as TIBITS, Terminal 5), the A380’s are all parked side-by-side.  And here’s a snap of us driving in an automobile underneath the wing:

Looking out their window the flying public sees the busy crew on the “ramp” but has little idea of the overwhelming logistical complexity and challenges that a company like Swissport has to overcome to deliver a top service.

Seven Gates to Jerusalem

I used to live on Lake Thun, and this was the view from my apartment:

Shortly after I moved here I read a book that referred to the “seven gates of Jerusalem,” which were apparently seven majestic castles that were found around Lake Thun.

Here is one of the castles, in the town of Oberhofen am Thunersee:

However, I’ve never been able to find the original reference in the book I read – or any other reference to this term.

To make matters worse, as far as I can tell there are only five castles, not seven: Hünegg, Spiez, Thun, Oberhofen, and Schadau.

But the mystery is still an interesting one: who coined the connection between these medieval castles around a lake and a holy city in a desert thousands of kilometers away?