Zagreb to Zurich to Lucerne

On the train again! Early morning departure has us backpacking to the station and onto the train, even found a coffee stand with “coffee to go”; a new sales tactic for Europe. Saying our goodbye to Croatia as the train makes its way through Slovenia. There is still a slight third world feel to the train ride. That will change once we reach Graf. Showing papers, making sure our train schedule is filled out on our global pass and everyone being polite and friendly makes this a great way to travel. We were falling behind schedule, but the treats we brought onto the train would help us along.


My first surprise was a young man who wanted to know if I was “Kevin”. He had somehow gotten access to my computer and let me know that he couldn’t enter in unless he had my password. I told him I wasn’t going to give it to him. His name was Jacob. His mother was Croatian and his father was German. This little computer genius did a “Pokémon” bible study with me, as we talked about how big God must be. He would come and hang out with us off and on during the trip as we shared some chocolates and treats with him.


As we got closer to Graf both we and Jacob’s mother began to realize we would be missing our connections. We were told not to worry, so we didn’t.

Amazingly, the first world train system, aware of the slightly third world train system, were waiting for our train so that we could all make our connections. When I saw the schedules for our train rides I wondered how in the world we would make the changes in the time allotted. A couple of them would have been impossible if we were lugging luggage; but with backpacks it was a breeze.

As we climbed up into Switzerland we had our first rains. The views of the mountains would not be ours to see this trip. I mentioned our communication with Harold in an earlier post. It was nice and proper that he would help us understand how to catch the trolley to where we were staying. We made it to the trolley and another man, recognizing our circumstances, further instructed us on exactly where to get off. He gave us one warning: do not go over the bridge, it is the red light district. It has been a long day, it is late and we are tired; yet our spirits are not dampened. We get to our room, our check in is automated. We take a midnight stroll that brought us to a little store where the non-Swiss mid-easterner let us know he supports Trump. Kind of cool.

Groups of Somali or Ethiopian men (I think I can see the difference) roam around as we do. Just like every human being I have ever met we “cross the bridge”; but really nothing to see, got information about a cool place for coffee and breakfast. The marker for our apartment is the “pot” place next to it, I think the Eagles described it as “the warm smell of colitis”. When our friends would drop us off the next day after our day in Lucerne; they were shocked that we were staying in the same district where the Christian ministries reach out to the prostitutes and such. It was a picture of a 1980 American downtown. Not quite the Zurich, Switzerland I had imagined.

The next morning we took the trolley (more like a light commuter train) south to where Reiner and Louise live. Louise was doing a geological internship in Arizona in the early 80’s. She met Joan. One thing led to another and Louise would get saved and take her salvation back to Germany with her. She and her future husband would come through Wickenburg while Joan and I were dating with a German youth group touring the states. Years later, they would visit us in Seattle, as Louise would take a special creationist geologist interest in Mt. St. Helens. We would then take our three daughters to Paris for Valentine’s dinner and then onto Freiburg where Reiner had a dental practice. Since then Reiner has moved to Switzerland where he owns two dental practices south of Zurich.

They are a refreshing couple to be with. Their children have grown, married and kept the faith. Louise does a special yearly tour of Provence with her daughter. They go to an international church full of expatriates from all over the world. Louise describes the Swiss as Germans on hyper-drive. There is a cultural divide that Rainer can move through easily as a competent dentist; it is a little more difficult for Louise; yet God is helping her. Reiner is fun to talk to. In the past his English was minimal but now he is able to communicate perfectly. He is a Trump conservative in a world run by the liberal “good people”. I had never heard the phrase before; it fits.

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We got a tour of his offices, some cookies and coffee and then a ferry across lake Lucerne with a visit to the city.

We were not able to view the mountains from the ferry as we traversed the lake. We would have to purchase an umbrella while we walked Lucerne. We passed by the Marc Rich estate. Rainer reminded me that he was the guy who gave the Clintons and democrats millions and then amazingly enough received a 12th hour pardon from the Clinton’s for his illegal business dealings with Iran. No worries, he is buried in Israel now. Life goes on as the rich and famous still come to Lucerne to purchase the things that the rich and famous purchase. We walked the wooden bridge that burned and generally enjoyed the sights, sounds (tourists) and tastes of the city.

The highlight was the visit to the Lion of Lucerne dedicated to the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss. Mark Twain call it “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.” I have to agree. The Swiss guard, who still function for the Papacy, were charged with the defense of the Kings of France. It was Louis XVI, married to Marie, who would have their courage and faithfulness tested. The French Revolution should be taught side by side with the American Revolution. Without defending war or revolution there are some differences to behold. If this can be said; one with God the other without God. The Swiss in their fulfilling of duty were treated in a manner unworthy of praise by the people standing for “liberty, equality and brotherhood”. They had 900 go to battle to defend the King. Most would die in battle with about 200 dying in prison from wounds or executed. The engraving was put together by Karl Pfyffer von Altishofen, an officer on leave in Lucerne at the time of the attack.

We would finish the night off with a cheese fondue at a convent up in the Swiss hills overlooking their town. They gave us a ride home that night as we got ready to move north into Germany.


About hansston

Pastor a church in Sparta.
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