Thursday, September 25, 2008

Day Six: Schaffhausen

Before leaving Lucerne, I really wanted to see the Löwendenkmal. This is a sculpture memorial to the 700+ Swiss guards (mercenaries) who died trying to defend King Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, and their children from a murderous mob during the French revolution. Mark Twain described the sculpture of a mortally wounded lion as "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world" (A Tramp Abroad). It truly was moving. It was a little tough to find as we were still learning the ins and outs of our new GPS system. We wound up parking the car in a small alleyway meters away from the park in a very obvious no parking area. It looked like a private alley and loading area for some artisan shops. We literally ran to the monument, paused long enough to take a few pictures, then ran back to the car. Perhaps not the inspired introspection that the artist had in mind.

We then packed back into the car and headed North. Our journey took us right through Zurich. I am hoping that our journey took us through the most unpleasant portion of Zurich as it was not all that inviting a city. It was during this portion of the journey I was happy to have bought the GPS. It made the transit relatively stress-free. On the other hand there were a couple of detours along the way that the GPS made a titch more stressful than necessary. A barricade and arrow told me to detour left. The GPS told me to go straight. The GPS told me to "turn around when possible". Repeatedly. The funny part was that the kids thought it said "Turn around, impossible!" and were a little concerned as to where exactly their mother had taken them. They are always judging me!

Arriving in Schaffhausen just before noon we discovered another little foible of the GPS system. It is programmed with a number of camping grounds, but not with the entrance to the camping ground. It will take you to the closest point on a public road to the camping ground, which is sometimes not anywhere near the entrance. The campground itself was the prettiest of the trip. It was right on the Rhine river, had a lush green grass field along the river, and two wading pools for the kids.

After a quick lunch and setting up camp we were off to our main local destination: Rheinfall. This is the largest waterfall (by volume of water falling) in Europe. It is no Niagara Falls, but it is pretty impressive in its own right. In the picture you can see the train bridge just behind the falls. We crossed the bridge and then climbed up to the tourist building and paid 1CHF ($1) to climb back down the stairs alongside the falls. Viewing platforms are at 4 different heights descending the falls and at the bottom one you feel you can reach out and touch the water. You can't though, I tried. Michael (I am tired of the initials by now) was appropriately impressed. "Cool" he exclaimed. Chris carried Michael up the stairs on his shoulders, but Lucas was climbing by himself right alongside me. As we turned the 6th or 7th corner and I started to feel tired I began to lament that I couldn't keep up with a 4 year old. Not 30 seconds later Lucas started to complain he was too tired to go on. Yay! _I_ could have kept going, but we took a breather before continuing the climb.

By the time we got back to the camping site we were all pretty hot and tired. We pulled on our bathing suits and went for a dip in the really cold Rhine river. Michael was not so impressed so he soon switched to the nearby wading pool. I had hoped to visit the old fortifications of Schaffhausen or the quaint village centre of Stein am Rhein. Swimming and relaxing was a better idea. I was trying so very hard to be flexible for my poor, over-scheduled family.

For dinner we went to the Coop restaurant just down the road. Coop is one of the two major grocery chains in Switzerland (hurray for lack of competitive prices!), so the "restaurant" was more of a cafeteria. Additionally, the kitchen closed at 5pm (!) so the selection was less than thrilling. I mention this only because there was a play area, complete with a touch screen video game that spoke German. The boys were both rather taken with this play area and requested it, incessantly, for the rest of the trip. To this day they lament not having the opportunity to return to this particular Coop restaurant.

Speaking of over-scheduled, next up: St. Gallen, Lichtenstein, and St. Moritz!

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