Friday, September 30, 2016

[Fountain Friday] Minimalist silver fountain

This one is in Luzern, Switzerland.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sunday, September 25, 2016

[Sunday in Switzerland] A weekend in Milan

One of the things about living in Switzerland that I thought would be nice is how close we are to other European countries that I've never been to.  This weekend, we went to Milan, Italy.  It was a 4 hour train ride through some amazing mountains and Alpine vistas.

The train station in Milan is massive.  The number of tracks is on par with the Z├╝rich HB, but the building itself is large and imposing.  Which made the funny apple art out front a little incongruous.

The food in Italy was everything we were prepared for: large portions of amazingly tasty food.  Here was the "small" lunch we had, two slices of pizza.  Normal sized adult hand for scale.

We saw Il Duomo, the massive cathedral that took over 500 years to build.  That's longer than the great pyramids, taking only ~400 years, last I read.  There were so many amazing sculptures that I could keep my "Graven Images" part of the blog going for years.  One of the statues was done by an apprentice of Leonardo da Vinci depicting St. Bartholomew, who was skinned alive according to some stories.  Creepy that he's the patron saint of tanners and book binders, but logical.

On a lighter note, I found a sculpture that wasn't sure if it was depicting plants, or just something kind of like plants.

And, the all seeing eye on a confessional grate.

After all that heavy, heady stuff, we went to the mall.  The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele was pretty, but not as big as I expected.

We also saw the canals and visited a few other shops that are hard to find and saw an interesting sign and building paint job along the way.

Italian is one of the national languages of Switzerland, so I see it on labels and other official documents, but I hadn't been surrounded by it before.  It's close enough to Spanish that I can almost make out some parts of it, but it's different enough that it's not really useful in similarities.  (For example, "exit" is "uscita" in Italian, but "salida" in Spanish - kind of important in train stations.)

Luckily, English is popular enough that our lack of Italian wasn't a problem (at least in the parts of Milan where we were).  I now have enough German to feel bad that I can't conduct conversations with restaurant or hotel staff in German, but I know I don't know Italian, so I just play the dumb tourist and hope like crazy they speak English.

Milan was pretty, and very different from Switzerland.  I was happy to come home where the foreignness is more familiar.

Friday, September 23, 2016

[Fountain Friday] Fish head fountain

This one is in Luzern, Switzerland.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

[Switzerland on Sunday] Bikes, rain, and irons

I have been desperately wanting a bicycle since the weather was so beautiful the last month.  I waited until I got back from the U.S., planning to order one from Glaxus, the local Amazon equivalent.  After not really finding the one I wanted, I decided to go to a local bike shop this weekend.  I got almost everything I wanted and had it yesterday for cruising around.

Sadly, today was mostly rain.  I took the bike out for a short ride, 7km round trip.  That's 1km shorter than my commute one-way in Pittsburgh.  But, it was a nice ride and I only stopped because it started to rain in earnest.

Now that we have an iron, I could make some progress on one of my sewing projects.  I'm making a plush bike shed.  (Deciding what color a bike shed should be is short-hand for people arguing about stuff that doesn't matter.  This happens a lot in software.)  So, the bike shed will have moveable walls and roof so that you can change the color.  I'll post more pictures when there's something other than a collection of parts.  As a side note, irons heat up crazy-fast on 220V power, but they take just as long to cool down. :)

The collection of parts.  (Only a subset.)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

[Graven Images] Leaf man

This leaf man appears on a few buildings.  I wonder if it's a representation of the Oak King, a kind of Green Man.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

[Sunday in Switzerland] What a trip to the U.S. can teach you about Switzerland

Among the questions I got on my first return trip to the United States was "what do you like most about living in Switzerland?"  It took me a while to put my finger on it.  Things like "amazing public transportation" and "it's very clean and orderly" were superficially easy, but not really the core of what makes Switzerland great.

What I like most about Switzerland: the mutual respect people have for each other.

This is possibly best shown by example.  Driving in downtown Pittsburgh, pedestrians repeatedly crossed against the light, when they had a don't walk sign.  I've done my share of that, but I always knew I was in the wrong and hurried to get out of the way when a car approached.  I had a guy flip a cigarette butt at my car as he was crossing against the light.  The reason?  I had the audacity to drive through the intersection and make him stop his illegal crossing.

Pedestrians in Zurich generally cross with the pedestrian signal.  Consequently, drivers in Zurich respect pedestrians that walk with the signal.  They also stop for pedestrians in a cross-walk, even if there's no light.  Everyone is obeying the rules, respecting the other party's right to be there.

Another example: bicycle riders in Zurich are given respect on the roads.  In Zurich, I have never seen a car accelerate angrily (and dangerously) past a person on a bicycle just because they dared to use the same road.

That mutual respect and understanding is what I like most about living in Switzerland.

Friday, September 2, 2016

[Fountain Friday] Another like Brunau station

Not all of the fountains are unique.  Here is a fountain that is the same as the Brunau station fountain.