Downtown train

Downtown cargo train, that is. It is quite an usual sight, but in fact cargo trains regularly plow through the center of the Swiss city of Zürich, as their are a few breweries and older industries that are still in business, even though the metropolitan city encroached around them.

This particular train has a locomotive in the rear, and the person in front is communicating with the train driver via a remote box:

Winterthur Moonrise

I took this breathtaking snap just as the Moon was rising over Winterthur:

I’m sure the more normal types of photographers that use Adobe PhotoShop and spend lots of time enhancing their images could really make this one look great – but I post exclusively images that I capture on my little point-and-shoot camera, with no special effects or re-touching at all.

DevOps via Containers and Kubernetes

Sorry to disappoint, but this snap has nothing whatsoever to do with DevOps or Kubernetes – but it does involve containers!

Given that shipping containers can be had for less than USD 3000, how cool is this?!?  And, why don’t we see more of this???

Since taking this snap I’ve realized how interesting shipping  containers are. In fact, there is one author who has claimed that the development of the shipping container was one of the top 50 inventions that has revolutionized mankind.

Sadly, I don’t presently know much about these containers – but I intend to learn. In forthcoming blog entries I intend to explore this topic much more deeply.

The incredible, amazing storks of Winterthur

Although most people think of Alsace when they think of storks, in fact southern Germany but also northern Switzerland has some.

Here is the Swiss village of Wiesendangen, and on top of the tower you can see a little platform for a stork:

No stork there at the moment – just a few weeks ago I spotted huge flocks of them on their yearly migration. Some of them migrate to northern Africa where they over-winter, others migrate to Spain. Some, however, seem to not migrate at all – and it is not uncommon to find a few still in Europe during the winter.

The Niesen Supervolcano

For me this is no once-in-a-lifetime breathtaking shot – it was what I saw nearly every morning when I lived in the Berner Oberland:

What I never understood then and still don‘t understand now is where these unique colors come from. These purples were the standard morning colors.

Most scientists agree that when the Mount Niesen supervolcano (shown to the right) erupts again, all life in Europe will be eliminated. As with the Yellowstone supervolcano in the U.S., fortunately no eruptions are predicted anytime soon.

When bad things become good things – 3

Continuing the series, it is interesting to find examples where things themselves do not change after decades or even centuries, but how these things are perceived changes. Usually, the trend is in the negative direction: a mobile phone is better than a rotary dial telephone. But sometimes the trend is in the positive direction.

And that‘s when bad things become good things.

For a long time throughout history, parts of Switzerland had a very challenging, difficult life for the residents – as anyone who has read the novel Heidi or seen the movie knows.  Cheese was predominantly a staple that allowed people to survive over winter – and I am quite confident they‘d rather spend the winter eating other things, if only they could.

Nothing about the cheese itself has changed, but now that Switzerland has become affluent, the cheese made high in the Swiss Alps (Alpkäse) has become trendy, as this poster for a „cheese tasting“ shows.


Florentine Cobblestones

Or rather, cobblestones in what has become known as the Florentine (or Belgium) pattern:

No strange sight to anyone living in Germany, France, or Switzerland – but I‘ve often wondered why people would take time to do this?  I have not been able to find any documentation – but my own personal guess, based on other things I‘ve read when studying this, is that a non linear pattern like this holds up especially well against regular linear traffic, such as would be caused by horses and carriages.

I took this snap in the amazing city of St. Gallen in Eastern Switzerland.

Underwater Art

Lake Zürich, known to the locals as Zürisee, has such clean, clear water that it is certified to be drinking quality.

Gazing down through an almost unbelievable three meters of this fresh Zürisee water off the pier at Burkliplatz is a work of street art, or perhaps in this case underwater art is a more fitting term:

I‘d love to be able to explain this to you – or share my theories about what the artist intended. But sadly, why this German expression (Kopf hoch – or keep your head up) has been positioned next to a number of other concrete blocks remains a complete mystery to me!

You don’t see this everyday

In fact, I don’t think I have ever seen anything even remotely close to this:

Sadly, I was in a hurry to catch a train, but there are many questions I’d like to ask. Number one among those: how important is it to keep the stick vertical?  I assume a tube with such a high aspect ratio between its length and diameter is in great danger of bending.

Update on September 6: He was out there again today, so I stopped to talk with him and he showed me the device. He also demonstrated it will NOT bend! It‘s made out of an extremely heavy, extremely thick PVC plastic, and it‘s attached to a compressor that pumps water to the top.

A very special oblique, unique fountain of motion in Winterthur

For this next attraction you have to go deep into Winterthur – very deep indeed, to a part of Winterthur that I think few tourists have ever seen or likely ever will.

With the Swiss being very proud – and rightfully so – of their thousands upon thousands of fountains that provide fresh spring drinking water, it is surprising you don’t see more things like this:

There is a small wheel that is turned by the water, causing the little metal blacksmith to bend back and forth and – believe it or not – hit his hammer on an anvil, giving a nice little chime.

Journey to the Center of Lugano

One of my all time favorite movies is the 1959 Journey to the Center of the Earth, starring Pat Boone and James Mason, based on the book by Jules Vernes:

My recent Journey to the Center of Lugano could not be compared to this at all!

Lugano is a wonderful city on a pretty lake in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland known as Ticino.

When you come to Lugano by train, you’ll either alight (if you are British) or get off (if you are American) at this incredible train station:

Then you’ll immediately walk outside, at which time, upon realizing that you, in actual fact, are hundreds of meters high above the city, you will either say “My word!” (if you are British) or “My goodness!” (if you are American):

At this point it will dawn on you: you are way up here, and the city is way down there. Arithmetically, you have to add the two ways, and that is a loooong way!

So to get ready for this loooong way, in time you’ll either gird your loins (if you are British) or get ready (if you are American) and start the long, long trek down into the city.

Well, that’s what I used to do, many many times – until I made a stunning discovery! Even though I am an American, I am a loin girder, and to properly gird my loins for the long, long journey down I decided to walk back into the train station to buy a bottle of acqua in bottiglia.

And you can imagine my surprise when I saw this stunning sight!

Yes, it’s a contraption!  But not just any contraption, this is a people-mover of sort of contraption that shuttles people up and down the mountain!

It was a beautiful day, I felt fit and strong, I needed a good walk – but I decided to throw caution to the wind and try out this contraption. What use is a contraption that nobody uses!

Well, here is a shot of what it looked like as this fully automated contraption was lowered down the mountain on railroad tracks but tied to a huge cable underneath:

Now, I have been on contraptions like this all across Switzerland, so I was ready – I was prepared – I knew exactly what to expect. A very important principle in experiemental physics is this: opportunity favors the prepared mind.

So I had my little point-and-shoot camera out, and I was ready for what I knew what would come next!

But in case you don’t know, in fact these contraptions have two cars that are each at opposite ends of a very long cable, so that as your car is lowered down, another car is raised up:

The rest, as they say, is history. Despite being am American loin girder I did not alight at the bottom but rather got out and continued on my way.

Here’s a nice shot of what the shoreline of Lugano more or less looks like:

And when I was there the city was filled with shiny metallic works of art, such as this one below that, at first glance, looks like a hole in the fabric of space and time: