Saturday, 26 September 2015

Rhine Falls

Switzerland is all about water and mountains. And watches. And chocolate. And cheese. Alright, there are many great things in Switzerland but the truth is that nature is spectacular here. One of the most amazing nature shows are the Rhine Falls.


They are located close to Schaffhausen (famous for watches of course), on the High Rhine. They are the biggest falls in Europe in terms of water flow. 

I would suggest that we start our visit from the side of Neuhausen am Rheinfall. This little castle houses a nice restaurant, a souvenir shop and a pier for boats that will take us on a little tour close to the falls.

There is plenty of fish here as you see. This is because they are unable to swim up the falls and need to stay below.

Finally we are on the boat. The water is quite shaky so do not stand up from your seats.

The driver's job must be deprived of all excitement, the total length of the cruise is probably a few hundred meters. Though I am not sure if one can get ever bored with the view.

One amazing thing about the Rhine Falls is that little rock in the middle, called Rheinfallfelsen. It is possible to climb it up but be careful, the path is steep.

The view is worth the effort though.

Do you feel the water drops on your face? Great feeling, isn’t it?

Those rocks do not look inviting so be careful not to slip.

The castle on the other side of the lake is called Laufen Castle. It used of course to belong to the noble family of Barons of Laufen but today it is a youth hostel.

Would you like to visit the castle? Great, this is just a half an hour walk. We will cross Rhine through the aqueduct-like bridge and we will be able to see the falls from close again.

Actually, there is a similar one on the other side, just that it does not have water below but trains on.

You might though that such big falls generate lots of hydropower. Well, they do, but just for their own pleasure not for the humans. Many energy companies tried to build a hydro power plant here but the Swiss people opposed to it heavily and on more than one occasion. So all you can see is an old fashion mill.

One of the reasons for this protective approach to Rhinefalls was to preserve its touristic features. Another one was to protect the wildlife. If you watch carefully, you can spot many birds.

What has amazed me most here is the contrast between the fierce power of the falls and the peaceful stability of Rhine just above them.

And the colour of the water is amazing too.

At night, the Rhine Falls are illuminated by these huge lamps.

The results can be spectatular. This one comes from a special celebration for St. Patrick day.

Here you can see the rock again. And yes, we were on top of it!

Finally we arrive to the bridge.

Look, there is a train coming out of the hill. It seems that there is a train station just below the castle.

Let’s get inside the castle now.

As I mentioned, the castle itself is now a hostel.

The walls have little wholes. Most probably in the past they were used as shooting positions. Though honestly speaking, I do not know to whom they could shoot from this part of the river.

And here comes the full view from the castle.

I hope that you have enjoyed this trip. For those who look for more contact with the Swiss nature, I recommend taking a canoe and going down the Rhine to Lake Constance.

I have heard it is a very nice place. If you can confirm it – let me know and maybe in some time I would put it on my travel list as well.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Polish Museum in Rapperswil

As you might have noticed, the human family in which I live is Polish. Polish people are amazing - you can get them out of Poland but you cannot get Poland out of them. As a result, when we came to swim a bit in the Zurich Lake, the first thing that they wanted to visit was the Polish Museum in Rapperswil.

The Museum is located in the Rapperswil castle.

It was created in 1870 when the Poland did not exist - it was invaded and divided between its neighbours, Russia, Prussia and Austria. Władysław Plater has then leased the Rapperswil castle to create there a safe place for some of the cultural treasures being part of the Polish national heritage. It was also a refuge for Polish patriots, both soldiers and civilians, fighting for its freedom. Many famous Polish people have spent some time living and working here, for example the famous writer Stefan Żeromski.

Let's enter inside the castle.

In the courtyard you will find a nice restaurant.

The museum is located on the second floor. Next to the entrance you can see the coats of arms of former Polish regions (voivodships).

Most of the books and other historical artefacts were moved back to Poland in 1927. Unfortunately, in1944 they were burnt by German nazis together with other valuable items from Polish national heritage. Today, you just see a few items, like sabres from the times of king John III Sobieski.

 You can also have a look at a few really old books, dating back to sixteenth century.

Since Rapperswil was the beating heart of Poland in days when Polish patriots were not safe in their homeland, you can see here numerous exhibitions devoted to Poles that had to flee their country in different periods. In 1830, after the November Uprising ...

... in 1940 during World War II ...

... and in 1945, when the communists took over Poland.

Recently, Poland has celebrated 25 years of (full and effective) freedom. As a result, the Rapperswil museum is slowly getting populated also with exhibitions of modern Polish art.

Before we leave the museum, I propose that we go up to the tower. It may look tough, but trust me, it is worth it.

From the top of the tower we can see a fantastic panorama of the town ...

... and the Alps in the background.

We horses live from one day to another. I am always impressed by the human ability to keep and celebrate memories. I truely recommend you to pay a visit to the Rapperswil museum. Even if you do not live with a bunch of Polish people.

Saturday, 12 September 2015


Last week we were bathing in the Zurich Lake. This week, I will show you a nice little town on its East side - Rapperswil. To arrive there, we will take the Pre-Alpine Express that runs between Lucerne and St.Gallen.

We will use it mainly to cross the Lake. As an alternative, we could also walk. Oh, no, I do not expect you to walk on water, this is not the season for miracles. Just look through the window.

And yes, there is a bridge over the lake. It is built on wooden pillars and connects Rapperswil to Hurden. Wooden pillars are of utmost importance in this area as it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps". Obviously nowadays you will not see any of these pile dwellings, and the bridge is pretty modern.

To my surprise, I have found out that the bridge and Rapperswil are on one of the many pathways to Santiago de Compostela.

Rapperswil has a nice little Old Town. The first building on the left is the Town Hall. The big inscription in the middle reminds everybody that school has started again.

The Zurich Lake lies in a valley surrounded by hills. No surprise then that all the little town are located on the banks of these hills and most of the streets go up. Let's take one of them.

On top you will find the St John's church. This is a catholic church, which is not so obvious since Zurich was one of the centers of Swiss Reformation.

Next to the church (but on the other side of the hill already) there is a little cementary.

The church was built in the thirteenth century and rebuilt many times since. You can see the influence of gothic style.

The big organ behind is again made of wood, not metal.

The ceiling is also wooden.

But the biggest surprise was not in the walls and ceilings. It was the first time that I saw a group of altar servers made predominantly of girls.

As already mentioned, the church of St. John is located on top of a hill. On a sunny day it offers a spectacular view. On one hand you can admire the Zurich Lake and the numerous villages that surround it.

On the other side - the Alps.

When you look down you can spot the Old Town ...

... and just next to it - vineyards.

And of course - the wooden bridge.

But the biggest attraction in town is located just next to the church, on the very top of the hill. It is the Rapperswil castle.

The castle in Rapperswil houses a little surprise. I will show it to you next time.