I’m in the gorgeous little town of Schaffhausen, Switzerland, within stone-throwing distance of Munot Fortress, from where a curfew bell will sound at 9:00 pm. I’ll be asleep by then, no doubt.
I checked into a backpacker hostel run by a very friendly family of eastern Europeans. Soccer is playing on the television, pop music is blaring through the sound system, people are laughing, and everyone is smoking. Myself, I’m having a beer and enjoying the presence of other people.
I’ve had my first shave, change of clothes, and shower in eight days, unless you count dipping a wash cloth into the Rhine and scrubbing my parts with it a shower. I washed my clothes and have them hanging over my dorm bed to dry. Showers after eight days of walking and traveling are good for morale.
This isn’t a criticism, more like a social comment, but I’ve noticed the Swiss seem to be living in their own little economic world, without seeming to realize what the rest of the world is paying for food and coffee outside Switzerland. No, $7.50 is not the correct price for a basic cup of coffee served with a little packet of cream. One banana doesn’t normally cost $1.50 elsewhere, and a small plate of fries in an out-of-the-way pub doesn’t cost $12 anywhere else I’ve been, except in Liechtenstein, where they share the Swiss Franc as currency.
Also, when you pay for things here in Euros, you are given change in Swiss Francs as if the Swiss Franc was on par with the Euro, which it isn’t. I know, math can be hard.
I slipped over the border into Konstanz, Germany, to use a bank machine. While I was there, I poked my head into a grocery store and nearly cried. It was like I was back in Spain, the food was so inexpensive. I bought more than ten pounds worth of food, even though I knew I had to carry it. I mentioned the difference in prices between Switzerland and Germany to the grocer. He said, “Oh, I know; the Swiss walk over the border and buy their food here all the time.”
So now my backpack is bloody heavy, but I have a smile on my face.
I really enjoyed the journey today, especially the last 10 kilometers coming into Schaffhausen. It was fabulous walking along a path right next to the river, with swans and ducks going about their business, the sun in my face, kicking fallen leaves like I did when I was a schoolboy, other pedestrians greeting me in a joyful ‘we-love-autumn’ manner, young moms with smiles on their faces pushing baby buggies, seniors walking along with hiking poles for support, and always the Rhine to my left, slowly moving along, carrying the spirit of the moment toward the North Sea. It’s what I imagined would be the best part of this adventure. Sigh.
I also quite enjoyed the town of Stein am Rhein, where Lake Constance empties into the Rhine. It’s one of Switzerland’s best preserved medieval towns, with some of the buildings in the pedestrian-only Rathausplatz covered in frescoes. Simply beautiful to gaze at these old pictures.
A stork, such a beautiful bird, flew just above me, almost close enough to touch, and swooped past to land on a building behind me. It is said that if a stork chooses your village to roost, your village will have luck that year.
I shall enjoy my beer, my overpriced fries, my walk around Schaffhausen, and my warm bed with its fluffy comforter. And before I close my eyes to sleep, I will give thanks again for this life.