We are visiting Werner's cousin Michaela, her husband Simon, and their two children, Hanna (7) and Julian (5). This is a new friendship for all of us--we had only met Michaela once, 12 years ago, and then she came with her family to the reunion at The Mill last week.
The children are very present and charming. They are fascinated by us. They adore us. They only speak Swiss German, so we have no common language. They have about 6 cousins, plus aunts, uncles, and grandparents, all nearby. An aunt and uncle plus two of the cousins live right next door--the two houses are connectedThe cousins are all beautiful little blond children of similar ages. And now, this new, tall, surprise of a cousin, Werner!!
Michaela teaches grade school. Simon is a TV news producer. They are family-oriented and delightfully involved with the children. Their house is ultra-modern and sophisticated, the only house like this in their small, traditional village of perhaps 2000 residents, located about 40 miles southeast of Basel. Entire walls of the house are glass, with stunning views of the neighboring hills and sky. Our visit was incredibly simpatico, and we all felt like family together. They treated us wonderfully and fed us delicious Swiss meals. The entire visit was a great delight. We strongly advocated for them to visit us in Oregon. For the gallery of photos click here.
All the children in the village walk to school unescorted by parents, even kindergarteners. The children's friends stop by, and they walk to school together.
The children all walk home from school every day for lunch.
The church bells ring every hour. But at 6 a.m., they ring the bells for an extra long time, long enough to wake everybody up.
Public transportation by train makes it easy to commute to work in Basel.
Michaela teaches in public school. Her work shift is about 45%, though last year she worked longer, about 60%. She says if they had to work longer shifts, no one would teach.
All the villages throughout Switzerland are connected by hiking/biking trails. All the trails are marked by signs saying "Wanderweg," the walking path. There is good signage indicating the direction and kilometers to the next village.
We never saw an excessively overweight person in Switzerland. People of every age are active--they walk, hike, bicycle, and garden.
Switzerland is incredibly clean, tidy, and uncluttered. Beautiful.
The standard of living is high. The minimum wage is more than $3000 per month. The prices are astronomical compared to US, like 3 to 5 times what we are accustomed to paying.