Saturday, March 31, 2012

St. Beatus-Höhlen and the FC Thun-FC Basel Fussball Game

"The hay is in the barn."

That is an old football saying that simply means that the team is as ready as they can be, now it's time to play the game.

That's how I felt this morning about the Tigers and our season opener on Sunday so it was time to relax a bit.

The first things that I saw today were two old friends . . .

The Thun Castle and . . .

The Niesen Pyramid

A few weeks ago Martina Baumann suggested that I visit St. Beatus-Höhlen (that is pronounced BEE-AH-TUS, David Lassen) when it opened for the tourist season in late March. Höhlen is Swiss for caves.

I have never been in a cave and Martina had said that this system of caves, stalagmites, stalactites and fast flowing water were quite interesting and now, I must agree.

By the way, stalagmites drip down from from the cave ceiling while stalactites grow up from the cave floor. They share a commom growth rate of about 3cm/century.

The #21 Bus got me there in no time

Martina forgot to mention that I would have to walk a switchback path half way up a mountain to get to the entry point of the caves.

Gnomes guarded the way

St. Beatus and the Dragon on the left

Nowhere near as well known as St. George, St. Beatus was a 6th century Irish missionary who came to the area to convert souls. Legend has it that he fought off a monstrous dragon that had caused the natives great fear for years.

Having dispatched with the dragon, St. Beatus was then able to convert several heathens to Christianity.

The falls flowing out of the caves

Water and Moss

Red Rock

There would be all sorts of brilliant rock colors inside the caves, unfortunately no photos were allowed in side the höhlen.

The Upper Falls

Almost There!!!

Time to smell the flowers

I finally got to the entry area only to find out that the next tour would not start for another 30 minutes.


He doesn't look that fierce to me

The tour took an hour and led us one kilometer into the caves and another 287 feet higher in elevation inside the mountain.

Our tour guide was great! The tour was supposed to be in German and French only, I would have had to wait another 45 minutes for the French/English tour and I did not want to wait any longer.

Our tour guide went ahead and gave me the English version without batting an eye as to protocol. As I said, great guy!!!

Did I mention that Martina Baumann was once a tour guide in these very same caves?

From the caves it was on to Arena Thun for the FC Thun-FC Basel Division I Swiss Fussball League game.

FC Thun pre-game huddle

Everyone was excited about the possibility of knocking off #1 FC Basel.

Elbow to the head

No Red or Yellow Cards, let them play.

FC Basel struck first as Marco Streller scored a goal at the 5:50 mark, FC Basel led 1-0.

At 8:15, home town hero Stipe Matic pounded home a Penalty Kick as FC Thun knotted up the score at 1-1.

Battle in the Corner

Unfortunately for FC Thun, Stipe Matic would draw a Red Card 22:00 minutes into the game and the Big Red would be short handed the rest of the game.

Not to worry, FC Basel's Cabral countered with a Red Card of his own only five minutes later, ten on ten from then on!

Illegal Push in the Back!

Just before halftime, FC Basel's Valentin Stocker hit a laser shot to close out the scoring in the first period.

At the half, it was FC Basel 2 - FC Thun 1.

FC Basel fans lighting road flares in the stands

What safer or saner way could there possibly be to celebrate Alexander Frei's goal 58 minutes into the battle? FC Basel now had a commanding 3-1 lead.

Dennis Hediger would score an FC Thun goal that ricohceted off the right goal post to close the gap to 3-2 in favor of FC Basel at the 78th minute.

Unfortunately, that would be the Final Score as well, FC Basel 3 - FC Thun 2.

I was one of 7,624 in attendance in Thun's 10,000 seat arena.

FC Thun - FC Basel Action

Note the chants by both sets of fans, a fussball game is equal parts sports, drama queens and musical concert.

The Aare River at night

A brisk walk home to Helvetica from the Thun Bahnhof was just what the doctor ordered to end a great day!

Game Day for the Tigers tomorrow at home vs. the Basel Meanmachine. A game at last!!!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Full Football Friday

I was out of bed and on the computer at 6:30 a.m. with a ton of work that I needed to finish in preparation for Sunday's season opener against the Basel Meanmachine at home. After finally finishing up at about 2:30, it was time to head into Thun for some shopping.

The Coop Supermarket

My guess is that they attached the much newer Coop to part of the old city wall, preservation at its finest.

One of the things that I really like about life in EuroBall is this daily trip into town to buy supplies. This ritual is due to a couple of factors.

First, since I do not have a car, I only buy the items that I can hand carry to the bus stop and back to Helvetica. A second factor is that refrigerators (frigerators in Camarillo-speak) in Europe are rather small by U.S. standards so you can not store a ton of food. I find shopping for these reasons to be invigorating as it forces me out of the house daily.

Vereha Dorder and Deborah Steiner

These ladies work at the Stadtbibliothek Thun, the town's library. They have extensive English language book and DVD sections that have provided me with lots of hours of free home entertainment since I am an official Stadtbibliothek Thun library card holder.

Today when I tried to check out two Sherlock Holmes DVDs, one with Basil Rathbone and the other with Robert Downey, Jr., with Vereha, she asked me a question in German which I did not understand at all. It turns out that she wanted to simply know if the DVDs were for return or check out.

When I meekly explained yet again my Swiss-German language deficiency, Vereha looked up at me and strongly declared, "IT'S YOU!" She then went on to explain how she follows the blog and likes many of the pictures that I post. After thanking her for her very generous blog comments, I asked how she found out about the blog in the first place.

It turns out that my Advance Public Relations Scout, Annemarie Sutter had told Vereha all about the blog. Annemarie is Tiger Defencsive Coordinator Ueli Sutter's lovely sister.

That young lady deserves a pay raise, I'll talk it over with the blog's Board of Directors..

Shouldn't I be getting tired of this view by now?

Today's shopping was approximately 95% planned and 5% impulse. The 95% was of the usual food and drink variety.

As for the other 5% today, let me just say that while some people collect bad habits, I collect . . .

Fussball Cards

I collected baseball, basketball and football cards as a youth and, no, my mother did not throw them away.

I know that it is a bit unusual for a man of my age to be doing this but I still like to occasionally purchase a pack or two of cards.

In this picture you can see the four sets that I'm working on at this moment. At the top left are UEFA Champions League cards. In the middle are a set that came free in an edition of Bravo Sport magazine. To the right are my Swiss Football League Top 200 cards.

Finally, the stamp book below holds my UEFA Euro2012 stamps.

If anybody in the greater Thun megalopolis wants to do a little card/stamp trading, let me know.

Friday Night Warm-Ups

It was our last practice before the game on Sunday and was both well attended and full of positive energy.

After the two hour practice, we adjourned to the Morris Restaurant for a little post-practice team bonding.

Good times indeed!

Car Roof Fussball Pitch?

I saw this car in the Morris' parking lot. It is live grass actually growing on this car's roof. The car had a lot of writing on it and it turns out that the car's owner also runs a garden shop.

If he can get grass to grow on a car roof, imagine what he could do for your back yard?

The Basel at Thun sports weekend starts tomorrow with the Swiss Fussball League's top team, FC Basel visiting Arena Thun for a game against FC Thun at 5:45 p.m. and I've got a ticket!

FC Basel is, as I said, in first place with a record of 15 wins-7 ties-2 losses, good for 52 team points. FC Thun is currently in fourth place with a record of 9-7-9 which equals 34 team points.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Swiss Citizenship


On the eve of the Swiss Civil War in 1844 which had very strong religious overtones, the editor of the Basler Zeitung, Jacob Burckhardt, raged that "Jesuits are a curse on all those lands and persons who fall into their hands."

On a much nicer note . . .

Spring wildflowers are everywhere!

Today marked my 50th day in Europe since leaving Camarillo last February.

I spent most of the day continuing to refine our game plan for Sunday's contest against Basel.

I the late afternoon, I finally ventured out to do a little shopping of both the planned and impulse varieties.

The best souvenir shop in Thun

I've been in here several times but today as I lurked about this shop I realized that my grandsons still . . .


While in the souvenir store I also finally came to grips with something that has been in my mind for the past couple of weeks. The idea is a simple one, some day when I grow up, I would like to live in Switzerland.

I took my first step towards my dream Swiss citzenship (dual citizenship with the USA to be sure, actually I would then have triple citzenship as I am already a Cuban citizen under their law) today in this very same souvenir shop when I . . .

Purchased this Swiss Army Knife!!!

Not just any Swiss Army Knife

This is the highly coveted Victorinox Huntsman 1.3713 Swiss Army Knife! It has nine, count them, nine functions including the tweezers and white toothpick.

My name was engraved on the knife at no extra charge. I had several font choices to pick from but naturally opted for Helvetica.

I'm on my way!

I hope I don't pack my Swiss Army Knife in my carry-on luggage in July.

After this major decision making, it was time for . . .

A cool drink of water from an old fountain

These water fountains all over Europe are oh so good to drink from when the weather starts to heat up.

It says
"Come to the Tigers game against Basel this
Sunday at 2:00 in the Frutigen Sportplatz!"

People in Thun are starting to get their game faces on, I think.

One of Thun's two major
shopping centers

It was my first time at this one which is located very near the other major shopping center, the Panorama.

It was time for a bit of grocery shopping at the huge Migros store in the basement of the Zentrum Oberland.

Easter chocolate is HUGE here!!!

I was strong today.

Actually, I've become a chocolate snob preferring to buy my chocolate fixes at fine choclatier stores throughout the Berner Oberland over these mundane supermarket options.

Our last practice for the Basel game is tomorrow night, let's have a great one Tigers!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

All Football, All Day


A wind speed of 267.5 km/hour (166 miles/hour) was recorded on January 1, 1998 at the Jungfraujoch's Sphinx Observatory. This is the highest wind speed ever recorded in Switzerland.

The breeze wasn't that bad yesterday at the Sphinx.

We have our season opener this Sunday at home against the Basel Meanmachine, so today was a football intensive Wednesday.

My day was spent breaking down the Basel vs. Luzern game DVD that I took last Sunday at their season opener. Basel looks as good on the DVD as they did live, we have our hands full for sure.

I was able to come up with a solid scouting report and thanks to the wonders of the internet was able to send it and a copy of the Basel-Luzern game video to all of our players.

U-16 Practice Indoors

Daniel Gygax, who just returned from his stint in the Swiss Army, is seen here coaching the U-16 squad tonight. He showed a lot of passion for the game and the kids. He will continue to be a very positive influence on the team I'm sure.

Daniel is also a running back on the Senior team giving us some much needed depth at that position.

Kickoff Return

After the 90 minute U-16 practice indoors, it was time to head across Thun for our first weekday Senior team practice outdoors!

We had a great turnout and, after first reviewing the game plan with the team, enjoyed a very spirited two hour practice as all of the Tigers want to get our season finally started after several weeks of practice.

It was a GREAT day of American football indeed!!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Jungfraujoch - "The Top of Europe"


Europe's highest altitude railway, Switzerland's Jungfraubahn, was opened on August 1, 1912 at an elevation of 3,454 meters/11,333 feet after a 16 year construction period.

The Sphinx Observatory, located in Switzerland's Junfraujoch, is one of the world's foremost environmental research stations. It is the highest in Europe and the highest in the world accessed by public transportation.

What say you if we were to visit the Jungfraujoch today?

First stop . . .

Coffee at a restaurant in Wilderswil,
elevation 584 meters/1,956 feet

I accepted a very generous offer by Tiger Senior team offensive lineman/Junior team Defensive Coordinator (1-0 in 2012 by the way) Toni Capozzolo to join him and a couple of his friends for a visit to this incredible destination.

Although Toni is a Swiss native, we shared at least one thing in common as we arrived at this restaurant to start our journey. Neither one of us had ever been to the Jungfraujoch!

After a good cup of coffee at this restaurant that is run by a South Korean family, Toni and I met up with our travel partners and boarded the first of three trains that would take a little over two hours to get us to the Jungfraujoch.

Toni Capozzolo, Claudia Tännler,
Marc Friedl and me

The view on the way up to Kleine-Scheidegg

Scenic natural beauty surrounded us but I was a bit apprehensive what with the rapidly thinning air and the plunging temperatures as we awaited to make the transfer to our next train.

Suddenly, I felt MUCH safer!!!

Bryan Adams will play this chilly
outdoor venue this Saturday evening
in Kleine-Scheidegg

We finally made it!

Thanks to . . .

The Founding Father
of the Jungfraubahn

Although the Swiss "Railway King" would die of pneumonia only a year into the project, his family finished blasting tunnels through the Alps in order to build the cogwheel railway that Zeller envisioned.

Once we got to the Jungfraujoch Station, it was time to do some serious explorations.

Claudia leads us into the Ice Tunnels

Scratch, is that you?

With Toni in the Ice Tunnels

Seals, Igloo and an Eskimo Ice Sculpture

Bears Ice Sculpture

With Sherlock Holmes

As you may recall, it was erroneously reported in the papers that Sherlock was killed by the evil Professor Moriarty in the nearby Reichenbach Falls.

Don't these people have fact checkers?

In a very wise move, Marc and Claudia suggested that we eat at 11:00 a.m. when the very nice Crystal Restaurant opened to avoid the lunchtime rush.

Great move!

The Crystal Restaurant

The large windows below the wooden siding is the restaurant's location.

After a fine and very filling meal, we journyed outside into the -4.5ºC/24ºF weather to get a better view of our surroundings.

The Jungfrau

The Aletsch Glacier

The largest expanse of ice in central Europe, it covers nearly 169 sq. km/65 sq. miles.

The observation area

Thun and Interlaken in the distance

How much would a helicopter ride cost?

The Gang of Four at
The Top of Europe

The Sphinx Observatory

Let's climb a little higher and see some new vistas.

OK, we actually rode up in a very fast elevator.

The Alps BELOW the Sphinx Observatory

The Mönch

The Mönch (monk) protects the Jungfrau (virgin) from the nearby Eiger (ogre).

At the Sphinx Observatory

Two Snow Birds at the Sphinx Observatory

They are not afraid of humans

Colorful Minerals in the Alps

An Ice Chasm

I'm keeping my distance as I've lost sight of that St. Bernard.

How about if we go for a hike?

Looking up at the barely visible
Sphinx Observatory

Toni decided against the hike

We followed his natural ability to lead and influence others.

A sudden commotion shocked us all

Our fellow tourists from Japan had started a snow ball fight that could have been huge safety issue but cooler heads prevailed thankfully.

Avalanche ridge?

How about this ridge?

It was now about 3:30 p.m. and we still had a two hour train ride down to Wilderswil plus the 45 minute drive to Thun still ahead of us.

All Aboard!!!

Once aboard the cogwheel railway, I noticed a sign that led me to wonder . . .

Are the Swiss still neutral?

Native Americans camped in Kleine-Scheidegg?

Sounds like a Suicide Run to me!

It was a wonderful, wonderful day filled with fantastic vistas and good friends.

Thank you Toni, Claudia
and Marc!!!

Jungfraujoch Cow Bells for Kevin and Jacob

My two grandsons are growing quickly and are in overall good health but there is always a fear of a fever. If they ever should get one, there is only one known prescription to cure a fever. . .

Enjoy a 360º view of the Jungfraujoch