Schloss Laufen above the Rheinfall

Switzerland — Rheinfall and Schloss Laufen

My son, Adam, was the first to guess the exact locations for this trip was Rheinfall (largest waterfall in Europe) and Schloss (castle)
Laufen. It may seem a cheat to require a correct guess of two locations, but as they are colocated, I don’t think it was too much to ask.

The clues I dropped, along with a brief explanation (that, of course, were not shared until someone guessed the location correctly), and a few photos follow:

Christopher Walken would be pleased. They don’t need more cowbell. Cowbells are one of the most common souvenirs here. I have one on my shelf from my last trip here. One of the first surprises, when you land at the international terminal at Zürich International Airport, is the sound of cows when the airport tram carries you to the arrival hall.

View of Zürich along the Limmat River

Because of the work done in the capital city of this country, I know that 186,242 miles per second is constant regardless of your inertial frame of reference. Einstein came up with his famous E=MC2 while working as a patent clerk in Bern. One of the most interesting (and perplexing) results of this is that we know that light travels at a constant speed of 186,242 miles per second. What that means is that even if you were moving toward the sun at 50% of the speed of light, and someone else was traveling away from the sun at 50% of the speed of light, and a third person was sitting still, the light from the sun would pass all three of you at exactly the same speed — 186,242 miles per second. This seems impossible, but it is one of the most robustly proven facts of physical science.

These people are woke, and really know what time it is. Swiss watches are, of course, famous. That is all. Silly reference to Swiss watches. Oh, and the largest clock face in Europe is in Zürich on the St. Peter Church.

Ike laughed, but Tina laughed last. In the mid-1950s, Ike Turner discovered a talented young lady from Nutbush, Tennessee named Anna Mae Bullock and began performing with her in his band, Kings of Rhythm. Due at least partially to Ike’s fear that Anna would become a big solo star and leave him, she changed her name to Tina Turner. Tina was famously mistreated by Ike and left him in to enjoy the solo success Ike feared so much. Tina married Erwin Bach in 2013 and now lives in Zürich, Switzerland.

These people are squarer than Dr. Sheldon Cooper having fun with flags.
If you don’t get the “fun with flags” reference, watch Big Bang Theory, but this is one of only two countries in the world with a square flag. Interestingly, the only other sovereign state with a square flag is the Vatican City. I don’t know if there is a connection, but Switzerland provides the Pontifical Swiss Guard, responsible for the safety of the Pope and the de facto military of the Vatican City. This arrangement goes back to Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484).

Very inventive people here, ranking three spots ahead of the US and four spots ahead of the UK in an important measure of creativity. We could not be playing this game without the inventions of one of those country’s native sons. On the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) ranking in 2017, Switzerland was number one for the seventh year in a row. Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web here.

Very long average life spans here, in spite of much higher than average tobacco, chocolate, and cannabis use. While Japan has the longest lifespan on average (83.7 years), because their women live longer (86.8 years) than Swiss women (85.3), Swiss men have the longest lifespan on earth for men (81.3 years). By the way, these long lifespans are especially surprising in light of the fact that 68% of adults in Switzerland smoke, compared with 15.5% in the United States. Of course, other lifestyle choices are very much in favor of the Swiss.

A country of polyglots. Switzerland has four national languages (German, French, Italian, and Rhaeto-Romantsch), and pretty much everyone speaks English. Not only is English very widely spoken, but I was also constantly surprised at how well English is spoken, almost as if it is a native language.

A language fun fact. Throughout Europe you often see oval shaped stickers on the back of cars with one, two, or three letters that denote what country that person is from. Some are obvious, and some take a little thought for the American visitor. For example, “B” for Belgium, “I” for Italy, and “GB” for Great Britain. “D” for Germany might be confusing at first, but Germans call their country “Deutschland”, not Germany, so it makes sense. But what’s up with “CH” for Switzerland? I always wondered about that. Well, to avoid the need to translate the name “Switzerland” into their four official languages, they went with Latin and “Confoederatio Helvetica”, or Confederation of Helvetia, is their two-letter country code. You also see “Confoederatio Helvetica” it on their currency and many official documents.

This is a very peaceful country, which you would probably be insane to attack. By law, they are required to have enough bomb shelters for the entire human population. They are also a neutral country and damn sure plan to stay that way. They have the oldest policy of military neutrality in the world and have not been involved in a foreign military conflict since 1815, but the roots of Swiss neutrality go back three hundred years earlier. An interesting facet of this neutrality is that it is considered a militarily enforced neutrality, so they are not pacifists, and anyone who tried to invade Switzerland would face a challenge. The Swiss militia system requires that all soldiers maintain their personal equipment, including personally assigned weapons, at home. They also have the third-highest rate of gun ownership in the world, and over 3,000 “demolition points” along their borders prepared to blow up bridges, rails, tunnels, and roads in case of invasion.

While not part of the contest, time was also spent in Zürich and Lucerne, two beautiful cities.

I did try to do a bit of homework even though this was spring break. I was partially successful, but with a view like this (and amazing beer) it was pretty tough!

Hoping there may be an “A for effort” here….

This photo actually doesn’t do justice to the view. The café where I was sitting was right on the Limmat River, with the Zurich Rathaus off to the right.

Lucerne was another very pleasant surprise! A short visit, but well worth the effort. I knew on arriving on the train it was going to be beautiful!

The old town area of Lucerne is one of the most beautiful areas I’ve seen in Europe, and that says a lot! This city dates back to around 750 CE, so there is plenty of history to see here.

First stop, the Kapellbrücke, or Chapel Bridge (above), named for the nearby St. Peter’s Chapel. The Kapellebrücke was first constructed in the 14th century and features a 113 ft tall octagonal “water tower” (a tower that is in the water, not one that actually holds water). As a tie in for one of my classes, this tower was once used as a torture chamber.

The Kapellbrücke, or the Chapel bridge

Switzerland is one of my favorite places to visit, so there will be a few other blogs on different spots here.

Tony Davis is a professional writer, adventure travel junkie, and author of God Loves You: Some Restrictions May Apply (and Many Other Christian Dilemmas)

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