An American in Switzerland – Day Five

Awoke this morning to a winter wonderland – it had snowed all night, and would snow all day, too. The snow doesn’t slow anyone down here like it does in parts of the US. I can hear cars and motorbikes whizzing along at top speeds on the main street near our hotel. Trains were all on time, and buses nearly so.

I bought my ticket to Schaffhausen from a teller (rather than a machine, you can do either), because I wanted to verify that I had the right stop to see the Rheinfalls… that, and I was really afraid of accidentally buying a first class ticket instead of a second class ticket. I had a bit of time before the next train, so I went into the basement shops underneath the train station and got myself a caffemochalino, which is close enough to a café mocha as I can get. But, man, it is a tiny cup! And they mostly fill it with whipped cream! And it costs 5.20 francs. But it was tasty. Also bought a bottle of water from another shop.

I wished at first that I’d brought a book or a magazine, but once we got out of the town and into the countryside, I had no regrets whatsoever. Everything was covered in snow – the fields, the vineyards (of which there are a surprisingly large amount), the forests. It was just beautiful!! The train (which runs on electric, btw), was mostly empty (I’d skipped the morning rush), and I just felt really relaxed and peaceful.

When I arrived in Schaffhausen, I talked to a ticket agent there to verify where and which bus to catch to see the Rheinfalls. Bought a bus ticket (forgot that I had a free pass from one of Heath’s coworkers who’d not stayed the whole month), and took the ride out to the falls. Navigating the streets after I left the bus, however, was a bit tricky. The signs weren’t all that clear, and the slush on the pavement was really slippery. But I made it, and took some pictures and a short video (hopefully posted soon). I was the only one there, standing in the now-heavy snow, with the roar of the falls. It was exhilarating.

I turned from the falls and started back up the hill towards the bus stop, having to stop half-way because it was so steep. I went what I thought was the way back to the bus stop, but realized that I was horribly lost. I wandered for a bit, found a street sign (for the cars) pointing towards Schaffhausen, and headed in that direction. Every bus stop that I came to was so screwy that I couldn’t figure out how to get back to the train station. And my shyness overcame me so badly that I couldn’t stop someone to ask for help. There were mostly houses around, too, and cafes and restaurants not yet open for lunch. So, my stupid fears caused me to walk several miles in the steadily falling snow until I found the old town center of Schaffhausen.

It was not a fun walk. My hips hurt from walking gingerly so as to not fall in the slush, and where I wasn’t freezing, I was sweating (had to hand wash the beret that Kirsti knitted for me). Plus, every truck that roared by (there seemed to be a lot on the particular road I was on) was emitting fumes so bad I was gagging.

I finally reached the town center, and thankfully as I’d been there before, was able to navigate my way to the train station. That found, I attempted to find a wine shop to purchase some of the Schaffhausen Riesling that we’d had the other night. The only shop I found sold Italian wines, and the directions that they gave me to another wine shop were fruitless. I also tried to seek out a local Lush store that I know I’d seen there so I could surprise a certain someone with her favorite product. I walked up and down every single damn street and never found the other wine shop, or the local Lush store.

At this point I’d been tromping about in the snow on hard cobblestone streets for over an hour and a half (this includes my sad trek from the falls). I realized my thighs were numb and shaking. I picked out a restaurant to have lunch at, and realized after I’d already taken off my coat that it was the same place we’d had dinner at before with the nice Croatian waiter. I really wanted to try a new place (not that this one was bad, just wanted to hit as many restaurants as I could), but I decided to just stay put. I had a rather harried and stuck up waiter this time. Ordered a similar dish as the previous time (only because it was the most tempting item on the lunch menu).

I headed back out among the shops, with a half hour to kill before the next train to Winterthur. I still didn’t find the dang wine shop!!! Argh! Lucked out on the train ride home again, faced the outside rail most of the time, and was facing forward. Decided to check out the local wine store right next to the hotel, and sadly, no Schaffhausen Riesling, just a label from Zurich. It was cheap so I went ahead and snagged a bottle. I’m hoping that we might find a bottle of it elsewhere.

Exhausted, I returned to my hotel room, stopping only to have a brief but confusing conversation with the hotel manager about ironing Heath’s dress shirts (I think). Hand washed my beret and laid it out to dry, hopefully to wear it tomorrow (I can get by with the hood on my coat). Showered and rested.

On my way back to the hotel, I remembered that Heath needed a hat and probably a scarf, as he’d not packed for snowy weather. Headed to a small mall across the way from our hotel. The bottom story is a grocery store, the middle is women’s clothing and floral, the next floor up is mens and housewares, and I believe the top floor was children’s clothing and toys. I found the cheapest discount hat and scarf I could locate in the men’s section for Heath (and he’s happily wearing them).

Next I went around the corner to the Coal Mine, a local coffee and book bar where I can get on the internet for free. I ordered a cup of tea, and uploaded some of my travelog as well as checked email, and chatted a bit on messenger. It was nice. I think I might go there again another afternoon, if I have time.

I dropped the laptop back off at the hotel, and realized that I should go back to the grocery store, as they had a huge wine selection, to see if I could find my new favorite Riesling. The whole building was packed to the gills when I went, just after 5PM. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the wine I wanted, but a different Riesling’s label showed that it was made from grapes of an area just south of Schaffhausen, and it was cheap, so I grabbed it (actually, most wine is pretty cheap here).

I remembered that we were almost out of q-tips, and also grabbed a package of Fasnachtschuechli, which is a light fried crispy thin pastry dusted with sugar that is eaten on Carnivale (Mardi Gras). I’ve had a few nibbles, and it is pretty tasty! The lady at the counter didn’t know any English and rolled her eyes when I mumbled “Sorry, English?” to her checkout question. She also didn’t give me a sack (then again, maybe that’s what she was asking), so I put the q-tips in my pocket, and held onto the wine and the Fasnachtschuechli.

By the time I got back to the hotel room, Heath was there, which was a nice change. We relaxed a bit, and then met up with the UK coworker again and caught a bus to the flat of a Swiss coworker in Winterthur. He was a really nice guy, and had made us a dinner of a pork roast (they eat far more pork than red meat, I’ve found), scalloped potatoes, brussel sprouts, pan-roasted potatoes and cabbage, mushroom gravy, and lots of red wine. The four of us had an excellent time, and as the night wore on, a scotch sampling took place (none for me, of course). And I got to scritch a very large male kitty that was nice for nearly the whole evening, except for suddenly biting me and the UK coworker at one point. Eh, he’s a cat, what can you do?

For dessert, we had something completely unpronounceable, but very traditional for the Swiss. It consisted of vanilla ice cream and meringue cookies topped with this odd macaroon paste that was mixed with Kirsch (cherry liquor). It was a weird melding of flavors, but we all enjoyed it.

We stayed late, and shivered at the bus stop for a very long 8 minutes (they have new electric signs that tell you how many minutes until the next bus). Back to the hotel and almost directly to sleep.

Pictures from my day in Schaffhausen can be found here (the ones with snow in the second half of the album).

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