Stein am Rhein

We have since moved back to Texas from Switzerland. I first drafted this post before we left.


One of our favorite places to visit in Switzerland is the tiny medieval town of Stein am Rhein. We can take a train (the S29) from the tiny depot near our flat in Oberwinterthur to Stein am Rhein in about 30 minutes. The s29 is a Thurbo, which is a commuter train with very tall windows, and each car has a bike area that easily holds the stroller. The views on the train ride through the rolling country side are lovely, full of farms and vineyards. To get to the altstadt from the train station, follow the signs heading northeast from the station. Go over the bridge over the Rhine, and you’re there in about a 10 minute walk.

Stein am Rhein is located close to the German border, and is at the point where the Rhine River connects with Lake Konstanz. It first was put on the map in 1007 AD when Emperor Henry the II of the Holy Roman Empire (which included Germany at the time) moved the Abbey of Saint George to this strategic location (a side note – all of the man-hole covers in Stein am Rhein are graced with Saint George lancing the dragon). Most of the town has hardly changed since the 15th century, and is full of gorgeous painted buildings and the loveliest altstadt (old town) area in Switzerland (at least in our opinion). It has remained a very small village and the most recent historical note was the accidental bombing by Allied forces in February of 1945 (they got the wrong town).

Most of the exteriors of old buildings in Stein am Rhein have been fully restored, and the town’s main walk is easily explored in an hour or less. On the other side of the altstadt, there are paths running along the river alongside parks and restaurants. You can even catch a boat up river to Schaffhausen or along the lake to Konstanz. For children, there’s a really big fun playground on the river front, nearly entirely all in the shade – just take the river path northwest from the town.

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Trash Stickers

I feel really guilty. We didn’t recycle hardly ever before we moved to Switzerland because they don’t do it in our neighborhood. We still don’t have it here, but the problem is, people are tightwads in our neighborhood, and apparently adding recycling would add something like $5 a month to everyone’s trash bill. They’d probably have a fit about it. Plus, there are quite a few retired/fixed income folks here.

When we lived in Switzerland, we recycled everything for several reasons. First, they charge your trash by how much you throw away. The system where we lived is that you buy these stickers. A sheet of 10 stickers cost about $13. For very large bags of trash (65 L, I think) you used two stickers. For your average bags (35 L), just one sticker, and for smaller bags, half a sticker. Next to the trashbins at our apartment complex was a bin for compost material. On designated days of the month, you could leave your paper (carefully bundled in strict regulated size piles) in the trash area.

Here’s what one sticker looks like, though the picture is a bit fuzzy probably to keep people from copying it. You would get a whole sheet of these, same size as a piece of paper that you get from your printer. They are as wide as the page, and yes, they are wavy on the edges.

If you didn’t have a sticker on your trash (on rare occasions, folks would try to pry off a sticker and put it on their own trash, or people just didn’t put a sticker on it for whatever reason), there is a sort of garbage police. Some poor sucker is paid to go through your trash and find out who they are so you can fine you. First, though, they usually put an orange sticker on the offending trash and leave it outside the bin, giving you the chance to put a sticker on it and make amends. Continue reading

Euros in Switzerland

We have since moved back to Texas from Switzerland. I first drafted this post before we left.

Just a quick note in the midst of our preparations to leave…

Switzerland is not part of the European Union, however they abide by certain of their laws and even accept the Euro for currency. Well, they are supposed to anyway. In the last month, I’ve been to Konstanz, Germany three times (long story), and Colmar, France once. I had leftover Euros from each trip, and while we usually just pool the leftover Euros for the next trip outside of Switzerland, we’re not going anywhere else for a while. So, I thought I’d try to spend my Euros here in Switzerland.

At first shopkeepers sigh or get a befuddled look on their face when you hand them Euros (at least in Winterthur). It seems that every last one of them is happy to take the paper currency, but no one wants to take the coins. It turns out that the banks in Switzerland are the same. No one wants Euro coinage. I wonder if any of my Swiss friends have experienced this?

So, now I have a big fist-full of coins that I’ll just have to pack in my suitcase and hold on to until our next trip to Europe (perhaps Ireland in the summer?).

Home!

Well, just a brief note. We are back home in Texas, our cell phones and home internet finally turned on, and all of our things have arrived as well (though we’re only half-way through the unpacking process – when did we acquire so much stuff?).

Many of you have asked what I’ll be doing with this blog in the meantime. I keep up with most of my friends on Facebook, and while this blog has documented some aspects of our life in Switzerland, it was more of a travelog than anything else. I have a bunch of day-trips that we took that I’ve not yet documented here, so I’ll continue to do that for a while until I run out of material. And of course, any future adventures will be documented here.

Hope all of you are well. Happy New Year!

Unexpected Christmas Difficulties

He may be a little young for it, but we decided to get our son a toddler bike similar to this one:

Most kids here learn to ride a bike this way, and they start as a toddler. He might not use it much until this spring, but since there are such a wide variety of these bikes we wanted to get him one while we were here and had the means to ship it home.

I found a model on sale at one of the larger local stores, and need to do some grocery shopping. I lugged back my groceries and this large box with the bike in it as well as one of those “doodle-pads” (the latter of which we hope to use to keep him occupied on the plane). And it was raining and cold. It was one of the rare times I wished I had a car.

As soon as I walked in the door my overly excited husband started opening up the box. He’s really loving being a father, and can’t wait to help his son ride a bike. Being Switzerland, he of course found instructions in German, Italian, and French. “Good luck, honey,” I said as I went to put my groceries away. I’m pretty proud of him, though. Using only the pictures, and asking me for help with one word in French, he put the wee bike together.