July 17-22, 2018, Switzerland

I thought I had a great new way to get to Europe — using Condor, a relative of Lufthansa — but after chaos at the ticket counter followed by chaos in the boarding area in Phoenix, I’m not so sure. The flight was OK — freezing, of course. Dinner, served about 10 p.m., was noodles and tomato sauce, perfect for a vegetarian. I had to ask several times to be sure it was meatless.

Wine used to be offered for free on international flights. Not on Condor. By the way, the 6 kg limit on hand luggage is strictly enforced. I struggled to take some of my glass pieces, ordered by Jacqueline in France, out of my hand luggage and find spot for it in my over-filled suitcase. I tried to “pack light” –or at least, pack small — thinking about all the staircases in train stations and about the overhead racks in trains. Although I have a 21-inch suitcase, it’s still not very manageable. I got a new Samsonite bag, blue, with four wheels. When I arrived in Zurich (via Frankfurt — direct non-stop from Phoenix), I found that every traveler who didn’t have a black bag had a blue one…. On the train, my four-wheel bag took off by itself. No brakes. I learned to block it in with my heavy hand-luggage piece. Plus I have my laptop.

I arrived late in Zurich, about 8 p.m., because of bad weather around Frankfurt. Got to my friend, Kaisu’s, about 9:30. She lives in Wädenswil, on the south shore of the Zurich Lake, in a house overlooking the lake. It was great to catch up with her after three years.

Out the guest room window at my friend's, Wädenswil

Out the guest room window at my friend’s, Wädenswil

Wednesday, July 18, we hung out in Wädenswil. Early in the morning I went with Kaisu to walk her dog, Haki.  I had to send some things to Gertrud, whom I’ll meet one of these days in Germany. Exceptionally, she left some things at home that she needed. She was a little miffed at me that I didn’t go on the same day and flight as she — she left a day earlier and took Condor from Phoenix to Seattle to Frankfurt, with a 3+hour layover in Seattle. I looked at that and booked the direct flight on the next day.

Thursday, July 19, Kaisu and I rode with her husband, Urs, in his Tesla to Bad Ragaz. The resort town is having a triennial sculpture fest.

Urs went on to play golf elsewhere, we took the train back to Wädenswil after traipsing all over Bad Ragaz. The weather so far is almost the same as Tucson — hot, hot, hot. We had lunch under the trees in the garden of a restaurant, followed by dessert at the cafeteria at the thermal bath.

Friday, July 20, after Haki’s morning walk, Kaisu took me to Einsiedeln to see the ornate, well-restored church. It’s full of gold leaf and wonderful painted murals on the walls and ceiling — it’s really quite impressive. Several priests were celebrating a mass when we arrived. We sat in the back, impressed by the acoustics and looking at the Black Madonna in its/her new dress. After a rösti lunch (rösti is sort of like hash brown potatoes, in this case cooked and served in a cast-iron skillet and topped with sliced tomatoes and cheese) we took a walk around town, then headed home. It could be Tucson from the heat.

Saturday, July 21, I hustled to the train station with Kaisu. I wrestled my luggage onto the train and set off for Bern, via the Zurich main train station. Once in Bern, I couldn’t find the end point for Tram 3, which I needed to get to the hotel. I finally just walked, with the help of my iPhone’s GPS. I set out on “auto pilot”, since I had lived in the area of the hotel for 6 years, but then I wasn’t sure if I was remembering correctly. Once there, I checked in, although the room wasn’t ready yet, and left my luggage. I headed to the Loeb-Ecke to meet Max, a former colleague from my days at the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington, D.C. We had lunch followed by coffee on the second floor of a nearby, quieter restaurant. At 4 I had to go back to the hotel to get ready for dinner at 6 with Gabi, a former colleague in Bern, and her husband. We had a great Indian dinner — complete with Cobra beer. It came in an interesting bottle, which — of course — I latched onto. We’ll see how it melts in the kiln.

Sunday, July 22, got off to a slow start. I had breakfast at the hotel, checked out and got the tram to the train station. The train to Basel went fine.

Switzerland, October 28-29, 2015

One of my earliest memories of Switzerland is Wädenswil in July 1983. Kaisu and I were in an advanced German class together at a language school in Zurich. We were probably the most fluent in the class and got to be friends. One day after class I went to Wädenswil and had dinner with her and her husband, Urs, at a pizzeria.

We stayed in touch, and pretty much every year after that until I moved to Switzerland in 1995, I visited her for a couple of days. That was the benefit of working for German and Swiss entities in Washington, D.C.

We take a quick walking tour of Wädenswil so I can take pictures.

Ceramic art piece in the underground tunnel by the train station in Wädenwil

Ceramic art piece in the underground tunnel by the train station in Wädenwil

Building in Wädenswil

Building in Wädenswil

View of the Zurich Lake and mountains on the other side, from my friend's house

View of the Zurich Lake and mountains on the other side, from my friend’s house

The next morning, I’m on the train to the airport, conveniently one stretch with no change. Then it’s on home to Tucson.

Bern, October 21-24

Wednesday is on to Bern, where I lived for six years, from November 1995 through February 2002. I spend the afternoon in a rush to get all my shopping done. After six years here, I have my favorite stores.

Bundesplatz in Bern (the square in front of the House of Parliament)

Bundesplatz in Bern (the square in front of the House of Parliament)

An arcade in downtown Bern

An arcade in downtown Bern

Stained glass window in Hotel Arabelle, Bern

Stained glass window in Hotel Arabelle, Bern

This is the real reason for my trip: the International Space Science Institute (ISSI), where I worked, is celebrating its 20th anniversary.  In the evening I catch up with a former colleague, now at the University of California, Berkeley, for dinner.

Thursday and Friday are packed with talks and receptions during the day at the institute. I’m sad to learn that Hanspeter Schneiter, formerly of Contraves Space and one of the people who got me to Bern, has died. Another scientist who was one of the directors as I was leaving, Götz Paschmann, is apparently extremely ill. Attempts to get his mailing address through ISSI were unsuccessful — a shame, because I appreciated working with him a lot.

Friday evening is the big event at the Hotel Bellevue Palace, an elaborate dinner with string quartet.

Saturday I’m off to Solothurn, about 40 minutes from Bern by train, to meet Silvia, a former colleague from my days at the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington, D.C. (and the colleague who worked at Glas Trösch).

Painted building in Solothurn

Painted building in Solothurn

In the evening I meet a former ISSI colleague and her husband for dinner in Bern.

Luzern / Hergiswil, October 19-20, 2015

Monday morning I hopped on a train for Lucerne / Luzern, Switzerland. My goal was to see Luzern again, with its bridge across the lake, and to go back to the Glasi at Hergiswil, about a 10-minute train ride from Luzern. The Glasi is the only glass production facility in Switzerland.

Leather protective mask for workers in the glass shop. In order to work with free hands, the workers held the mask on with their teeth.

The iconic bridge in Luzern

The old part of Luzern is right out of a picture book — except for the hordes of Japanese tourists. This must be vacation time there.

I wandered around the old part of town and just took a lot of pictures.



Luzern along the lake

Luzern along the lake

Jesuitenkirche / Jesuit Church in Luzern

Jesuitenkirche / Jesuit Church in Luzern


A little humor by an optician's shop in Luzern

A little humor in front of an optician’s shop in Luzern

The next day I went to Hergiswil. Thanks to the train ticket I had, I didn’t have to pay to get into the facility.

The home of the Glasi in Hergiswil

The home of the Glasi in Hergiswil

The visit began with a well-done tour through time of glass blowing in Switzerland and Hergiswil, ending in the glass blowing area. After watching for a few minutes, I wandered over to the part where visitors can blow their own Christmas ball. This, too, was included in the train ticket (otherwise, it would have cost CHF 20).

Bar in the Glasi, with top and side out of glass

Bar in the Glasi, with top and side out of glass

The Glasi also has a small bar/café, with glass stairs, a glass-topped and glass-sided bar and, of course, a glass lighting fixture. It’s next to one of the two shops where visitors can buy vases, plates, bowls and other items created by the artisans.

Glass sculptures by the lake at the Glasi in Hergiswil

Glass sculptures by the lake at the Glasi in Hergiswil

Like Luzern, the Glasi is on the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake Lucerne). It offers a variety of visitor-operated fountains plus some glass sculptures on a patio outside the bar/café. There’s a small science section for children and a labyrinth, created with the company Glas Trösch (a friend used to work there), and a second, much larger shop with firsts and seconds. You can spend a lot of time there, and I did.

Then it was back to Luzern. I found these stained glass “windows”, an ad for a bank, in the underground passageway near the train station.

Stained glass ad in the underground passageway at the train station in Luzern

Stained glass ad in the underground passageway at the train station in Luzern

Stained glass ad in the underground passageway at the train station in Luzern

Stained glass ad in the underground passageway at the train station in Luzern

The next day I happened on the market, on the path by the lake.

Market in Luzern

Squash at the market in Luzern

Switzerland — Wädenswil (Zug), October 25-28, 2014

My final destination for the day is Wädenswil, a little town overlooking Zurich Lake. It’s about 30 minutes by train from Zurich. My friend Kaisu, whom I met in a German course in 1983, meets me at the station.

After we drop my suitcases and grab something quickly to eat, we’re off to the opening of one of her friends, a painter by the name of Francine (Franzi) Laux. Franzi is showing in an old industrial building with a couple of other artists. The venue is very cool, but way off the beaten path. I’ve met Franzi before, and Kaisu has several of her paintings.

Franzi's self-portrait

Franzi’s self-portrait

Sunday, as is their custom, Kaisu and Urs (her husband) go for a Sunday walk. They take along their energetic dog. a Lagnolo-Romagnolo named Haki. We drive to Zug, a pretty town on the Lake of Zug where Urs has his office. Kaisu and I take a bus and a little train to go up the Zugerberg (Zug mountain). From there Kaisu and I take an easy walk, since I only have sandals with me.

Diane above Zug

Me, on the Zugerberg. Photo by Kaisu. Scarf by my daughter, Amy.

Meanwhile, Urs and Haki take off for a more strenuous walk. We eventually meet up and have lunch on the patio of a restaurant on the mountain. Urs and Haki walk back to where they left the car, while Kaisu and I take the train back down the mountain. We wander around the old part of town, where we find another art opening. This is in the Altstadthalle. Four artists are exhibiting: each artist has her own floor. It’s an interesting old building, from the 1400s or so, with some interesting paintings. I collect cards and plan to look the artists up on the web, only to find that they don’t have websites….

Along the way I find this stained glass light.

Stained glass lamp in Zug

Stained glass lamp in Zug

Across the street from the art exhibit is a glass store. Among the interesting fused pieces is this angel.

Fused glass angel in glass store in Zug

This fused glass angel was one of several interesting pieces in the window of a glass store near the art exhibit in Zug

Then it’s back to Wädenswil.

Zurich Lake from Kaisu's house

Zurich Lake, from “my” bedroom window at Kaisu’s in Wädenswil

Monday we go shopping. I was tasked to find a shirt with a hedgehog on it for Mikey, age 4 1/2. We find some pajamas (which turn out to be way too big). Twenty years ago, hedgehogs were everywhere. Now it’s penguins and polar bears.

Tuesday, it’s all over. Kaisu takes me to the train station, where we find her son Michael, also going towards Zurich, so he helps me with luggage. Wädenswil is convenient because this train stops at the Zurich main station, then ends at the airport. This means I don’t have to change trains, though I do have to deal with early-morning rush-hour commuters.

It is a challenge to get on the train in Wädenswil. You have to climb up several steps, and because of the angle of the track in some places, it’s difficult to reach the first step of the train (like where I happened to stand).

The flight back from Zurich is via Washington-Dulles to Tucson. I worry about enough time in Washington, but we arrive alone (not at the same time as other giant aircraft). With the machines that read your passport, I go through passport control, get my luggage, go through the agricultural check, recheck one bag and go through security in less than 30 minutes. A note: I am TSA-prechecked, thanks to United Airlines, but Washington-Dulles is NOT set up for that.

It’s been a great trip, but I’ll be glad to get home.

Switzerland — Zurich, October 25, 2014

Zurich is just about an hour by train from Bern these days (when I lived in Bern, it was 1 1/2 hours). I arrived a little early for my coffee with Brigitte, also a former colleague from Washington (I worked for the Embassy of Switzerland there in the early 1990s). Wandering around the main train station, I found a lot of art. The flower shop where we were to meet has some cool metal pieces.

Rusty metal bird in train station flower shop

This rusty metal bird makes its home in the train station flower shop

Downstairs was this fountain.

Fountain in Zurich main train station

This fountain is downstairs (underground) in Zurich main train station

No visit to the main train station is complete without a quick look at this angel by Niki de Saint Phalle, a French sculptor.

L'Ange Protecteur, sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle in the Zurich main train station

L’Ange Protecteur, sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle in the Zurich main train station

A quick walk down Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich showed this innovative sign in one of the department store windows. This is a still photo of gigantic figures walking…

WIndow of PkZ department store on Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich

WIndow of PkZ department store on Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich

Switzerland – Subingen, Bern, October 21-25, 2014

Monday it was from Reutlingen via Stuttgart and Karlsruhe to Basel for the last part of my trip, Switzerland.

In Basel I had a brief visit with Margaret and Georges, who own a wonderful shop for antiques and decoration. Margaret is an American who is a treasure trove of info about most anything Swiss-American.

After a quick cup of coffee, I dash for the train to get to Solothurn. Somehow I manage to get the wrong one and end up late. However, this gives my friend and former colleague Silvia a chance to get to the grocery. Then we’re off to her place in Subingen, outside Solothurn.

The weather, which has been really nice, turns chilly and rainy. Silvia has to go to work. I wander around Subingen to check out the bus to get to the train station on Wednesday. I use the day to relax. Silvia has a nice laptop and a fast Internet connection, so it’s also a chance to catch up a little on e-mails.

Silvia bought this fused glass plate on a trip to Istanbul

Silvia bought this fused glass plate on a trip to Istanbul

Wednesday Silvia kindly takes me to the train station in Solothurn so I can continue on to Bern. My big adventure in Bern is trying Air BnB. The place I’m going is in a part of town I’m not too familiar with, though I lived there for six years and Bern is not that large. The apartment is only a few minutes from the train station — but in an area not served by public transportation. It’s down a steep hill and across a bridge over the River Aare. The apartment itself is on the fifth floor — no elevator. Other than that, it’s super — very clean and quiet. It’s basically in the attic, with a bedroom and bathroom. The host helps me up the stairs with one suitcase. He’s around, but I rarely see him or his family.

Altenbergstrasse, by the river

Altenbergstrasse, by the river, near the Air BnB apartment. The train station is above, where the bridge is.

I had a chance to catch up with many friends. I had a Turkish lunch with Irmela, my former Russian teacher, and her partner Stein, a former colleague; a Greek dinner with Gabi, a former colleague, and her husband Dieter. Thursday it was lunch with Max, a former colleague from Washington, D.C., and dinner with Esther and Elisabeth, fellow Russian students. Friday I finished up errands and went to Zollikofen, a Bern suburb, for tea with an ex-boss in our Washington days and his wife.

Pretty much every morning I enjoyed breakfast at one of the Beck Glatz locations. I always liked the bakery’s Mandelbärli, almond-flavored pound cake in the shape of a bear (for which Bern is named). I didn’t eat a Schocki-Igel (chocolate hedgehog) at the Bäckerei Eichenberger, but I had to take a picture (through the window, with a lot of glare).

Schocki-Igel (chocolate hedgehogs) in the window of the Bäckerei Eichenberger, Bern

Schocki-Igel (chocolate hedgehogs) in the window of the Bäckerei Eichenberger, Bern

Saturday I walked past the market in front of the Bundeshaus (house of parliament). Only in Switzerland: As you face the Bundeshaus, the Swiss National Bank is on the left of the plaza, another bank is on the right, and yet another bank is across the plaza.

Farmers market in front of the Bundeshaus

On Saturdays a farmers market appears on the plaza in front of the Bundeshaus in Bern.

I had coffee with Urs, whom I met through work in Bern, and his partner Sabine, in the lobby of the Hotel Bellevue, where I found this stained glass ceiling.

Stained glass ceiling in the Hotel Bellevue, Bern

Stained glass ceiling in the Hotel Bellevue, Bern

They happened to have a car and kindly took me to the apartment to get my suitcases and then dropped me off at the train station. I had been worried about getting two heavy suitcases up the hill to the station. Next stop: Zurich.