Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rheinfall and Stein am Rhein

Accompanied today by Sarah’s cousin Gillian, we experienced a “two for one special” on Sunday by visiting one of Switzerland’s natural wonders plus a monastery town dating back to Roman times. Near where the Rhine River flows into the Bodensee (Lake Constance) forming an aqua border between Switzerland and the adjacent countries of Germany and Austria, lies the town of Schaffhausen and the majestic waterfalls known as the Rheinfall; the largest of its kind in Europe. While not of the size and magnitude of Niagara Falls, a constant damp mist still hung over us as we trekked to various vantage points to view and photograph the falls. Almost oblivious to the crashing waters just a few hundred yards away from them were two men in their respective small boats contently fishing away.

Boarding our second train of the morning, we continued up the rail line to the medieval town of Stein am Rhein, with its 16th century half-timbered buildings and houses painted with elaborate storytelling frescoes along the banks of the Rhine River. As with the many other cities and towns throughout the country, Stein am Rhein had a Christmas market taking place within its central square when we arrived. After feasting upon a lunch of calves liver and rosti (double-fried grated potato formed into a cake) washed down with a glass of the local Swiss beer, we began our exploration of the town that is overlooked by the former hilltop Benedictine monastery Kloster St Georgen. During the afternoon, a local brass band serenaded all within listening distance with a cheery blend of jazz standards and seasonal Christmas carols.

I am composing this journal entry from the comfort of the Swiss inter-region train which is transporting Sarah and I from Zürich to the capital city of Bern. From there we will be boarding another train which will whisk us to our destination of Interlaken, where we will be spending the next two days in the Bernese Oberland region and under the shadow of the Eiger, Monch, and Jüngfrau peaks.

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