Saturday, November 19, 2005

And I thought Americans were paranoid

Did you know that in the span of about 15 minutes, the entire country of Switzerland can be cutoff from the rest of the world? I'm not kidding, literally cutoff. How you ask? Well, before i get into how, a little history lesson is in order.

The swiss are a fiercely independent people. They are and island, albeit a landlocked island, within the sea of other countries that is the European Union. One still needs a passport to enter or exit Switzerland, Switzerland still has its own currency, Switzerland has a very strong military and a surprising number of firearms in the country. If you mistakenly suggest to a Swiss that they are Austrian or German, you will get a quick and firm correction. So back to my question, how can the swiss cut themselves off?

Well, it turns out that during WWI and WWII the Swiss didn't just simply claim neutrality, they built a very strong military complex to ensure that they could remain neutral. For a landlocked country such as this it was important to control it's borders. The solution, to wire all roads and bridges in and out of the country with explosives so that they could be destroyed within a moments notice. This system still exists today along with hundreds of hidden bases, hospitals, airstrips, guns and other armaments throughout the country. What may look like a barn in a field, upon closer inspection, might be a steel shelter containing a cannon. Pretty incredible when you really think about it. Although many of the facilities have been mothballed or turned into museums, many are still in use or maintained for future use in a moments notice. Including the network of exploding roads! I'd like to get a picture of this, if there is anything to see. But that might be risky. Most of the borders have large concrete barriers on either side and a series of Metal plugs in the road, i think this is the explosives. In today's post 911 world, seeing someone climbing around a bridge with a camera is a red-flag in any country i think.

As an American, i don't think we appreciate the pressures of being landlocked. After all, we're surrounded by Canada and Mexico. Let's be honest, i don't see any real fear of an invasion by mounties or Mexicans. Some might argue we already being invaded by Mexico...but I'm not gonna touch that subject in this blurb. American's are fiercely independent just as are the Swiss. Independence in this case is almost the same as paranoid. It's been swiss law for over a decade that all new home construction includes a bomb shelter. American's haven't quite gone that far, but i do hear that Canada has the bomb now.

Road to Lk Silvretta

Somehow...driving this road in a Smart seems wrong. i need a porsche..or better yet, a motorcycle! Posted by Picasa

Lake Silvretta

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Mountain from Lake Silvretta

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Pic from work parking lot

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

My head hurts

I've got to slow down. Two years of this and I'm gonna be dead!

Friday was my first experience with the Swiss train system. It was a learning experience to say the least. I caught the 7PM train from Buchs which is about 5 km or so from my apartment. Parking, finding the station, buying the ticket, all that was fairly painless. Once on the train I met a group from a school up in Germany, a few Americans and a girl from Helsinki. All of them were very friendly. I think that applies to all Europeans actually.

After arriving in Zurich it was only a short walk to the Sugar Lounge where I was meeting people form the Zurich international club. The sugar lounge is a pretty trendy bar, not normally the place I would go to, but it didn't really matter. The beer was good, and I met allot of really cool people. Zurich is a very international city, very much a melting pot. I met people from as far away as Australia and the Philippines and as close as Germany. It was a great experience, I'm sure I'll be going back to the next bar night or event they have.

So back to the trains..The real fun came on the way back. I was having so much fun at the bar, that I lost track of time and missed my train! One of the girls from the bar was also catching a train, and thankfully she offered to help me find a way home. At the train station, we figured out a route that, after 4 train changes, should get me back to Buchs by 5AM or so! There was no direct train.


So I began my journey. Aude rode the train with me from Zurich to Winterthur, but that was her stop. So my help ended there! From Winterthur I headed to St Gallen, arriving around 2AM. So far, not so bad. Here is where the trouble started. the next train wasn't until 4:50. Almost 3 hrs away. So I was faced with quite a decision. Hang around St gallen for three hours, or take a cab. I wandered around for a bit to see if I could find a bar or cafe to hang out in, but there was nothing opened. After about an hour I bit the bullet and cabbed it home. I would be embarrassed to say how much it was. Let's just say I don't think I will ever miss my train again. I got home at 5 AM.

On saturday night i went out with some co workers..we stayed out till about 3. These freeking europeans can drink! Today i went for a hike in the mtns to clear my head and get rid of my hangover. nothing like 2500m of vertical and some mtn air to make you feel good.