The amazing self-service flower stands of Germany and Switzerland

I’ve seen these things for years – but like so many things, I only just realized that for Americans this concept might be kind of strange.

The countrysides of Germany and Switzerland are filled with little “self-service” stands owned by local farmers. You can stop anytime and get flowers, vegetables, and sometimes even eggs.  There’s a little jar for you to put your money, and it run 100% according to the honor system.

I took this snap of a flower stand just outside of the Northern Swiss village of Embrach:

The amazing history of the Jews in Switzerland – 1

There have been large communities of Jewish people living in Switzerland since the Middle Ages.  Sadly, there were also large pogroms, so their history was hardly a pleasant one.  I’ve shared some information about the Jewish community in Zürich in a recent blog post.

During a brief period in the eighteeenth and nineteenth centuries, the Jews in Switzerland were required to reside in one of two villages in the North Switzerland canton of Aargau, just a few miles from where I live: Lengnau and Endingen.

This is the village of Lengnau, and in contrast to other German and Swiss villages, the city center is punctuated by a truly massive synagogue rather than a Christian church or Catholic cathedral:

There is a Jewish description in both German and Hebrew carved into the stone arch doorway:

And a plaque in front of the synagogue shares a few details:

The villages of Lengnau and Endingen are filled with interesting relics from this Jewish period, and I will share some additional photos and more information in future blogs.

The Euro Cruiser

The latest addition to my personal fleet is a 150 PS, 2.0L 2017 Peugeot Business Traveller van that comfortably seats 9 people:

The main way to interact with this vehicle seems to be the voice system, so I am in the process of learning dozens of voice activated commands.

By the way, it all began with the Urbana Cruiser, 20-year-old 1978 Oldsmobile that I bought in 1998 for $200 from a good friend of mine, Andrei Botchkarev, one of the world’s most well-known semiconductor physicists.  It was too cool to resist giving it a name.

The tradition continued with the Zürich Cruiser.

Räterschen Rätsel

Or in English, the Riddle of Räterschen.

First things first, this is NOT the Räterschen Rätsel. This is just a nice little spider snacking on a bug she caught:

But I took the snap in the tiny village of Räterschen, just outside of Elsau in North Central Switzerland – and that is the mystery!

For you see, in the North of Germany, the diminutive form of nouns in German is “-chen” appended to the end of the noun.  (Example: Mädchen = little Hamburg girl.) As you head south, the “-chen” is replaced with “-le.” (Example: Mädle = little Schwabian girl.)  As you head even more south, the “-le” is replaced with “-li.” (Example: Mädli = little Swiss girl.)  If you keep heading south, nobody really knows what happens, because you run into the area called Wallis – and there they speak a form of German that is so hugely different than anything else, even to this date linguists have never really figured it out; some linguists even believe that due to the majestic, magnificent Swiss Alps in this area, the locals have no words for the concept of “small.”

And so the mystery is: why does a tiny village nestled deep within North Switzerland have a North Germanic name?

 

Dirty Harry on the Sihl

There is a small river called the Sihl, and it runs parallel to a shopping center in Zürich known as Sihlcity. And on a concrete pillar is a rather nice depiction of Dirty Harry.

I’m not sure why it’s there, but it is located only about 200 m from one of the largest movie theaters in Zürich – so maybe that is somehow related?

Transitory Things – 1

This morning I was impressed when I caught a glimpse of the traffic gates closing due to an oncoming tram. And it caused me to start wondering: are there many “transitory things” that I can capture, as they fleetingly move between one stable state and the next?  Just like these barricades – no longer up, but not yet down.

I’ll keep thinking about this, and if I find some more examples, I’ll show them in my blog.

Incredibly amazing Frick

I could not believe my eyes when I went to Frick and saw – for the first time in Switzerland – and probably for only the third or fourth time in all of Europe – a real, American style strip mall!

And not only that, but it even had an Asian restaurant to boot!

Unbelievably, while I was taking this picture a vintage Cadillac rolled up next to me, the driver got out and started to make some repairs under the hood.

You can’t get more American than that!

Unbelievably disappointing Frick

First things first, I want to be crystal clear so nobody is confused. This is not a real dinosaur:

The dinosaurs all died out a long time ago. This is just a big model of a dinosaur.

OK, having got that out of the way, now to “Frick the Disappointing.” Before you get to Frick, you pass all sorts of signs on the Autobahn that say Dinosaur discovery place and Dinosaur museum – and you get curious and decide to go visit this strange place called Frick. As you turn off the Autobahn, a big friendly dinosaur is there to greet you – and now you really start to get excited!  This is going to be really something special, you think to yourself!

And then, suddenly, all at once, when you drive into downtown Frick – nothing. Nada. Zilch.  No little dinos lining the streets.  No “Dino Kebabs” for sale in the Turkish kepab  shops.  Even if you want to get to the dinosaur museum it is a huge challenge: you can’t see the sign until you pass it.

As part of my sense of civic duty, I want to make a Frick-Tip:  Turn Frick into something exciting. Get a few more dinos lining the streets.  Have the kebap places sell “Dino Kebaps.”  Open a souvenir shop selling “Dino Frick” T-Shirts and little plastic dinosaurs.  Here is a good example.

Terrifying, intimidating, threatening cat: Luchs in Winterthur

OK, this one really was terrifying, intimidating, and threatening!

About three weeks ago I was on the early morning train to Zurich, just as the sun was rising. Between Winterthur and Kempthal I spotted what looked like a scrawny deer at the edge of the forest. When my eyes focused on it, I immediately realized it was no deer, but instead I thought mountain lion. But as I studied the animal as the train slowly moved by, I could see it was like no mountain lion I’ve seen: very long legs, stubby “half-tail,” relatively tiny head, and big spots.  Sadly, I could not reach my camera in time, but this is what it looked like:

To be honest, the cat I spotted had much bigger spots, and fewer of them, than this one. Later in the day I did a bit of surfing on the Internet, and I learned there is an animal called a Lynx (in German: Luchs), and I also learned they have been seen close to where I live.

WARNING: This is not even remotely like a tiny pussycat or even a large tomcat. The animal I saw was as large as a cougar or mountain lion. In my judgement, it would have no problem to kill a man.  But since there seem to be so many in Switzerland, and so few encounters with people, thankfully it is hopefully very shy.

A different face of Switzerland

Most non-Swiss people I know – including many who have made Switzerland their home – think of Switzerland as exclusively land of the rich.  And indeed, it tops the charts as one of the world’s most expensive countries.

But people often overlook the fact that not everyone in Switzerland is as affluent as your typical Zürich resident or Geneve resident. In particular, there are still many rural areas, often isolated in tiny villages and hamlets in the Swiss Alps, where the income and standard of living is somewhat less.

In order to help these regions, the Swiss grocery store Coop operates a collection of donation stations, where people can donate old clothes and shoes, like this one:

Additionally, they have a terrific website that gives full details about the various projects they support to improve the lives of many people in these remote mountain villages.

Panzersperre – vom schweizer Reduit zum Grillplatz

Anyone who’s spent anytime in the north of Switzerland quickly learns about the huge number of bunkers and fortifications erected to protect the border.  Formally it’s known as the Swiss Redoubt, or the Réduit Suisse in French. But whereas many people believe this was motivated by World War II, in fact the efforts began somewhat earlier, in 1880.

Here is a rather ornate anti-tank fortification (Panzersperre),

I took this snap at Augusta Raurica in northern Switzerland, where it formed one side of a huge area for outdoor picnics and grill parties.