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:

Garbage in Lugano

Continuing the series, here are some stunning waste receptacles that I spotted in the southern Swiss city of Lugano,

One of the first reactions I have is buck the trend. There is a trend in the world today – and for some time – to replace well-built, long-lasting products with cheap and disposable ones. You see this trend in almost every aspect of life. So when you see this new trend to replace short-lived garbage receptacles with better built and more longer lasting fixtures, it is a step in the right direction!

Amazing Swiss bunkers

The Swiss set out to fortify Switzerland long before World War II. To me that’s always been a very apt and fitting closure of the circle of fate, because – before the introduction of the long bow – Switzerland had the best and most well-trained soldiers and mercenaries in the world.  Probably, more lives have been lost in medieval battle at the hands of the Swiss than many other kingdoms combined.

Here’s what I see everyday on my long 15 km Nordic Walk through the Winterthur countryside:

But here’s what it looks like if you really zoom in:

That’s a bunker. You can’t see it in the snap, but it is situated in the hills high above the village of Winterthur, and the holes are pointing directly down into the village.

There are many, many tens of thousands of bunkers and fortifications all over Switzerland – so I’ve never really been inclined to start a blog series to photograph them. Just like a few others, this one just caught my eye.

Amazing Red Kite over the skies of Winterthur

Took this snap from my balcony using the telephoto lens on my little point-and-shoot camera. That’s a red kite (Milvus milvus) that lives near my building, and for over three years now cruises around looking for pigeons and crows to eat.    (In fact, I always know he’s out hunting when the zillions of crows somehow disappear.)

Interestingly, the area in which I live is almost entirely devoid of tiny birds, only massive numbers of crows, so I’ve often thought that probably the crows have pushed out the other birds.

Triangle Crane

I captured this snap in Oberwinterthur, next to an indoor “freefall” center where you can pretend to fall out of an airplane:

I never re-touch or edit any of my snaps, so I thought it was wonderful  how the colors of the crane compliment how the sky looked at that moment.

And the crane itself is one I have never seen before: instead of being comprised of triangular truss rods, it seems to be comprised of pieces of triangular sheet metal.

Winterthur: Sprawling megacity with a thousand frogwalks

OK, time to come clean: I may be guilty of a little bait-and-switch.

This is Winterthur, looked down upon from the edge of the forest where I carry out a daily 15 km Nordic Walk:

First, Winterthur is not a mega-city. I visited many mega-cities like Tokyo and Mumbai and Delhi, so you can take my word for it. In fact, truth be told, with a population of just over 100’000 inhabitants, Winterthur is not even close to a mega-city.

Second, I can’t really say Winterthur is sprawling. It has a pretty well-defined boundary, and although there is a bit of growth in the center, sprawling is just not a word that comes to mind.

Third – and arguably the most important – a thousand frogwalks.  I cannot really say there is a thousand  frogwalks. In fact, if I am honest, I’ve only ever seen three frogwalks, which I walk by on my daily 15 km morning Nordic walk.

But what is a frogwalk?  you may ask.

Well, this is what I see on my daily morning walks, hidden in a drainage ditch next to the side of a road:

And if you get a little closer you can see it’s a little ramp – complete with steps! – to help frogs and other amphibians walk up out of the ditch. That’s why I call them frogwalks:

Now, there remains a big question in my mind – and in fact it’s a whopper!  Why build frogwalks? 

In fact, the drainage ditch is next to a road in a residential neighborhood completely filled with apartments and cats. Is this an attempt to genetically purify the race of frogs by taking the stupid ones out of the gene pool?  Or perhaps to keep the cats clean by bringing their food to them?


Cow line

You can’t take a bad photograph of a good cow, and that even holds true for a whole line of cows!

I took this snap just outside of Winterthur:

I’m not an expert on cows, but I read something interesting: although they are herd animals, indeed there are “alpha” cows, and in group situations they always arrange themselves in such a way that the alphas tend to be in the center – and therefore much harder to reach for predators.

Swiss Police Cruiser

I thought it would be fun to capture police cruisers in different countries. In Switzerland they paint them with a high-vis orange:

What’s more amazing – even unbelievable – there is nothing inside!  My Uncle is a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio, and his cruiser is loaded with a rifle, a shotgun, several other weapons that I have promised not to publicly mention – a computer, a high-powered search light.  Interestingly, the computer does have games.

A saint, a bear, and a magnificent city in Switzerland

There are a lot of cultures that have legends of “Big Bad People,” such as Paul Bunyan and Babe the Big Blue Ox.  Here’s another one, Saint Gall (550 AD – 646 AD):

According to legend a bear attacked from the woods, but once encountering the saint it became tame and followed him around thereafter.

Anyway, he is the namesake of a truly magnificent abbey, which in turn is the namesake of a truly magnificent city in northeast Switzerland, St. Gallen. I haven’t shown many pics of this city in my blog until now, but I think it’s time to start sharing them – but slowly, otherwise your brain could explode from the majesty of the architecture, as this snap shows:

The Swiss danger is terrifying and – this time – real!

This is the famous Schilthorn nestled high in the Swiss Alps,

And at the cable car station just below this at 2677 m lies the peak called Birg, where they have installed a massive outdoor attraction called the Skyline Walk consisting of chainlink and glass walkways suspended almost three thousand meters above the ground.

You always ASSUME they design these things with huge safety factors in mind. But on a recent visit there part of the glass walkway was cordoned off, and this is the frightening image I saw:

Spot the frog

I work in a building next to a creek – and just next to my building is a small natural spring out of which a stream of water runs into the creek. They’ve turned this into a natural biosphere:

At this time of year it’s filled with algae and water plants and frogs – probably well over a dozen big frogs. See if you can spot the frog:

He’s more or less in the middle:

Weed Shocker

I don’t know how common these things are outside of Switzerland, but at least in Switzerland they are becoming more and more common.

This is it – a weed shocker:

I think their official name is steam weeding machine. Sadly, I don’t know what these machines are called in German, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was something along the lines of Dampfunkrautvernichtungsanlage or Dampfunkrautbereinigungsmaschine.

The idea is to kill weeds dead by blasting them with extremely high temperature steam, rather than by the use of chemicals.  Presently, the Swiss Federal Railways use a carcinogenic weed killer to keep their rails clean and free of weeds – they plan to convert to 100% weed shockers in the next few years.