Archive for September, 2010

After the afternoon visit in the Schaffhausen museum it was time for us to head to Germany. I decided to ignore the recommendations of the Michelin Green Guide (which I seldom do) and visit one objective that the guide was not giving even one star, but which was deep entrenched in my memory since childhood. As a good pupil in the Romanian schools I had heard that many times that the greatest river in Europe which ends its path in the Delta of the Danube in Romanian territory has its springs some place, in the Black Forest in Germany. I had been as a student at the very end of the path, at Sulina, where the Danube waters flow into the Black Sea. Time had come to see where the path starts.

Driving from Schaffhausen into Germany was as event-less as the majority of the European borders nowadays. No border control, no customs, barely a sign on the road. Still a strange experience for somebody who lived for 31 years without a passport and without the freedom to travel, and now lives in a country where the borders are severely guarded, in some parts neighboring hostile countries.

solar-pannelled stables

The landscape though changes immediately one crosses the German border North of Schaffhausen. The spectacular mountains of Switzerland open to broader plains, there is more farming, and what is striking is the number of solar panels on the buildings – in some cases the full surface of the roofs being covered with solar panels. I just took note and wondered why this extensive use of solar energy in an area that does not get that much sun is not replicated in Israel, where sunshine is a fact of life and weather for the majority of the days of the year.

springs of the Danube

There are some geographical and historical controversies about where the springs of Danube really are. Two small rivers the Breg and the Brigach join in the small city of Donaueschingen. The tourist objective identified with the springs is actually the springs of the Breg, near palace of the princes of Furstenberg. The tourists arriving by their own should be careful to ask for directions when entering the city, as there are no clear signs, despite the popularity of the place. Parking may also be a problem in pick season, we got relatively late on a Saturday afternoon, so we did not encounter any special problems.

Donauequelle Fountain

I can understand why the Michelin is not enthusiastic about the place. It is not spectacular, and it is the emotional significance of the place that prevails. The springs are actually a round fountain, from where water flows with timidity out to start the 2850 kilometers path across the old continent. A marble fountain represents a mother with a child – symbolizes the Baar area around lovingly embracing the baby river.

Romanian inscription at the springs of the Danube

Most if not all nations that the Danube crosses in its way to the Black Sea put memorial inscriptions on the wall near the fountain. Here is the Romanian one.

the church in Donaueschingen

The fountain neighbors the park and the palace of the princes of Furstenberg which can be visited in prearranged tours. We had not arranged anything, and it was anyway quite late in the afternoon, so we just entered the beautiful St. Johann church that is located on the other side of the fountain.

inside the church in Donaueschingen

The building dates from the first half of the 18th century and is built in late Gothic style. It has been recently decorated and its beautiful interior radiates light and tranquility.

(video source gdashdcast)

Tomorrow night, on the 15th day and on the first full moon night of the Jewish year starts Sukkot, or the Feast of the Tabernacles. An agricultural festival at origin, as similar holidays of other peoples celebrating the crops and coming of the autumn, Sukkot received a special meaning in the Jewish religion. During the week the holiday lasts the families are supposed to live and eat in the sukkot (open roof booths, tabernacles) as a reminder of the 40 years wandering of the nation in desert after the Exodus and before reaching the Promised Land.

(video source maozisrael)

It’s a family holiday which has a special flavor in Israel. Sukkot show up near almost any house in the country. Some of the other traditions related to the holiday are described in the video above.

(video source Peres)

Sukkot is one of the holidays when the house of the President in Jerusalem opens for the citizens. Above you can see one of these opportunities filmed in one of the previous years, with president Shimon Peres receiving and being honored by his guests. He shook the hands of 8000 people that day.

(video source infolivetvenglish)

Jerusalem has a special place in the traditions of Sukkot. In the old times the holiday was one of the three occasions each year when the people of Israel came in pilgrimage to the Temple. Today the temple is no more, but parades and music in the streets entertain the many visitors of the city during these days. The prophet Zechariah predicted that when the days of Messiah will come all nations will gather in Jerusalem to celebrate together the holiday.

Hag Sukkot Sameah!


Here is the genre of action movie that catches you while you watch it, keeps you on the edge of the chair or sofa, but later, when lights are turned on again you start asking questions about credibility and authenticity not only of the action, but also of the characters and the meaning of what you have seen on screen.

(video source trailers)

The first scenes of Law Abiding Citizen show the hero (played by Gerald Butler of king Leonidas fame in 300 in a very Russel Crowe style) talking with his young daughter while building some amateurish electronics (actually they should be very professional but we shall know this much later). Then hell breaks, bad guys break into the house, kill his daughter, kill and rape his wife. When the DA (Jamie Foxx) closes the deal with one of the murders to be the prosecution witness against the other, so that he gets a lighter punishment vs. death row, our hero gets angry. He actually gets more then angry, he becomes a psychopathic serial killer, who will kill one by one not only the perpetrators of the horrific crime that destroyed his life but also everybody who was involved in the deal. He actually will be more than just a serial killer, he will be a sophisticated serial killer, who is able to kill even while he finds himself in jail, even when he founds himself in seclusion. This we learn because his skills were not really amateurish,  but rather the ones of a professional planner of murders. The criminals and the compromise-prone justice people had really chosen the wrong guy.

(video source moviesireland)

Does the synopsis look like already-seen-hundred-times at best and stupid at worst? Yes, it does. The surprise is how well it works for the majority of the film duration. The merit belongs in my opinion to director F. Gary Gray whose previous best quoted films (The Negotiator, The Italian Job) were also in the thriller and action genres proving his mastering of the matter. Gray keeps the suspense at high most of the time, he succeeds to surprise the viewer several time with insertions of violence just when the apparent order seems to be re-established, but most than all he knows how to pick his actors. Gerald Butler is so credible that we end as viewers by empathizing with his hero much more than he deserves, but the real surprise is Colm Meaney a great TV actor that we know from scores of series, who gets here an opportunity to make it on the big screens and certainly deserves much more time on them.

It’s just after-screening logic that kills this film. But turning on the lights after the screening is unavoidable as we all know.

As we finished the morning schedule and we almost skipped lunch, we realized that we have time for a visit – even shorter than we would have wished – to the most important museum in Schaffhausen  – Museum zu Allerheiligen (All Saints Museum). So we walked back to the Munsterplatz were we had started the morning tour and we entered the museum whose entrance is located near the Munster.  Actually part of the exhibition halls are hosted by the old rooms of the Benedictine Monastery once located near the cathedral.

Museum zu Allerheiligen

Switzerland has fine museums in general, and Museum zu Allerheiligen is one of them. A little bit eclectic in conception, it combines archeology, history, art, and natural sciences in the same institution. The museum was founded in the first half of the past century bringing together collections or art and historical objects related to the history of the region. It is vast and orientation is not very easy, especially if you are not a German speaker, as there is little material in other languages than German. As we had little time at hand we focused our visit to the arts section.

Hanni Bay - Landschaft im Oberaargau

We started at the upper floor where the art section was in part occupied by an exhibition that promised to be interesting. Switzerland without Switzerland (open until September 26) gathers especially landscapes painted by Swiss artists, avoiding intentionally the routine postcard landscape of the Alps, in a successful tentative to demonstrate that the Swiss landscape and the art inspired by it are much more diversified and interesting than what the usual representation offers. There are many interesting works in this exhibition, and I have written about some in the episode about the Rhine falls. Another beautiful piece by a local artist is Hanni Bay’s landscape in a pointillist style, with combining the strong fauvist colors with the dramatic lines of the trees in winter.

Otto Dix - Blick gegen Stein am Rhein

Although the order of presentation is not chronological but rather thematic, the painting above drew my attention as slightly out of the stylistic context – a Flemish master painting a Swiss landscape? Then I looked at the name of the author and I realized that I was looking at one of the landscapes painted by Otto Dix in classical style during the time he spent in Switzerland. Marked as a hostile to the Nazi regime because of his anti-war art and of the anti-Hitler works at the beginning of the 30s, his paintings included in the ‘degenerated art’ exhibitions, Dix took refuge in Switzerland in 1936, and spent part of the war period here, returning however to Germany in the middle of the war, being drafted in the late agonizing war efforts of the Nazis and falling prisoner in the final days of the war.

Otto Dix - Vier Masken, 1948

I have met here again one of my old friends and preferred painters. I had seen the retrospective of Dix’s works at the Neue Galerie in New York a few months ago and written about it. Dix must have kept a strong connection with Switzerland and especially with Schaffhausen. During my visit in the museum I have seen a few more works of his, each representative to another period of his creation. Vier Masken (The Four Masks) is a late work, dated 1948, a tragic clownish composition with Ensor-esque allusions.

Otto Dix - Billardspieler, 1914

The Billardspieler (The Billiard Player) is a much earlier work. Dix may have taken earlier works with him from Germany and sold them in Switzerland in order to subsist during these years.

Otto Dix - Sterbender Krieger, 1915

Close in style but belonging to a completely different space as a theme the painting above from 1915 already deals with the theme of the war. It must have been painted shortly before or soon after Dix was enrolled in the German army in the first world war. The terrible experience he went through in the next few years changed his conceptions and approach to life and art as well.

master from Schaffhausen - Crucification, 1449

As I have departed from the order of our visit, let me try to describe a few more of the remarkable pieces of work I saw in the museum. There are many more that make a longer and more structured visit worth. One rich section deals with religious art, and one of the amazing exhibits is a mid-15th century Renaissance composition of the Crucification, a painting of large dimensions with a complex and diversified combination of landscape and dramatic characters.

compared original and restored frescoes from 'zu Ritter' house

Also here can be found the original frescoes taken from the zu Ritter house during the last century in order to preserve and save them from the aggressions of time and weather.

glass work from the St Georg church in Stein am Rhein

Beautiful glass work was taken from the St George church in Stein am Rhein. We could not visit the church the previous day, as we arrived too late in Stein am Rhein, so had some little compensation by admiring it here in the museum.

late Gothic altar

In the same category of religious art we can find in the Museum zu Allerheiligen several beautiful altars, sometimes combining painting and sculpture. The one I liked more is rather recent (19th century) in late Gothic style combining a relief representation of the Holy Virgin in the center and representation of saints on the side panels.

Cranach - Das Silberne Zeitalter

Back to the art sections I could admire a few splendid works by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Here is the complex and refined representation of the Silver Old Age …

Cranach - Maria mit Kind und Traube

… and the delicate figure of Mary and the Child.

Tobias Stimmer's self-portrait

As in any visit in a foreign museum I looked for remarkable local art, which I cannot find and understand better than in that respective place. The museum in Schaffhausen has plenty of it, and let me start with a self-portrait of Tobias Stimmer born in Schaffhausen in 1539 and deceased in Strasbourg in 1584. We were going to meet his work a few days later, as some of his most famous paintings decorate the astronomical clock in the cathedral of Strasbourg. Here is a beautiful self-portrait, with a skeptical and mistrusting look enhanced by the inclination of the head and the stare that go in diagonal and divergent directions.

Johan Heinrich Fussli - Robin Goodfellow-Puck

Johan Heinrich Fussli is a Swiss artist from the 18-19th century. Born in Zurich he lived much of his life in London (known there as Henry Fuseli), where he illustrated works of Shakespeare, Milton, Homer, Dante and other. The combination of Shakespeare’s Puck and of the popular English character Robin Goodfellow combines the late Baroque style with memorable character representation. We seem to be advised to stay away from this quite malefic spirit.

Ferdinand Hodler - selfportrait with roses

Closer to the modern period we meet Ferdinand Hodler, one of the most famous Swiss painters in the second half of the 19th and start of the 2oth century, an artist who assimilated quickly the techniques brought up by the accelerated evolution of art in the decades of his life and creation, but brought them up into a personal manner, with a balance that I cannot characterize it better than … well … Swiss. Here is one of his best known self-portraits.

Valloton - Femme nue ettendue sur un drap blanc

The last artist I will talk about is Felix Valloton – French speaking Swiss artist, who created much of his art in the French cultural space, being associated with the Nabis movement, working as a painter, print-maker, and collage artist. The beautiful nude above belongs to a genre which generated several masterpieces in the history of art, to mention just Velasquez, Goya and Manet. It’s a beautiful ending to a visit in a museum where I hope to be back sometime, with more time at hand.

I do not remember exactly the moment, but it’s very probable that I learned about Jimi Hendrix’s death exactly 40 years ago from Cornel Chiriac’s Metronom broadcasts at Radio Free Europe.

(video source vwontheautobahn)

Hendrix was an exceptionally gifted musician and an icon of his generation. He was born in 1942, the same or around the same year the members of the Beatles were born, and his death happened the year the Beatles broke-up. In less than one decade Hendrix, the Beatles, Bob Dylan and a few other musicians changed forever the sound of the rock music and the face of the Western culture. From marginal entertainment rock became the core of the culture of the new generations and of their way of life.

(video source criak22)

Same as the career of the Beatles, Hendrix’s path and first recognition happened in Europe. It was followed by appearances that are by now legendary at the festivals in Monterrey in 1967, Woodstock in 1969 and Isle of Wight in 1970.

(video source JethroTull4you)

Hendrix, as all of the great musicians of his generation found roots and inspiration in the classical American guitar blues music, but transformed and took it ahead to expressing the feelings of a whole generation, turned it in an universal sound that transcends borders and not only stays actual, but gains value as the time passes.

(video source dragonchaser07)

He was a fantastic  instrumentalist, an innovator in guitar technique, an inventor of new sounds and an opener of paths that were took over by other genres that were to be discovered and get names only later. His career was cut short by the untimely death but luckily recordings and filmed sequences from concerts, TV shows and festivals remain available, bear witness and inspire musicians that came after him. I brought here a few that I found available on youTube and I hope that you will enjoy them.

Tomorrow at sunset Yom Kippur begins. The service in the synagogues opens with Kol Nidre. Here is what wikipedia tels about this dramatic opening of the Day of Atonement:

Before sunset on the eve of Yom Kippur (“Day of Atonement”), the congregation gathers in the synagogue. The Ark is opened and two people take from it two Torah scrolls. Then they take their places, one on each side of the cantor, and the three (symbolizing a Beth Din or rabbinical court.) recite:

In the tribunal of Heaven and the tribunal of earth, by the permission of God — praised be He — and by the permission of this holy congregation, we hold it lawful to pray with transgressors.”

The cantor then chants the passage beginning with the words Kol Nidrei with its touching melodic phrases, and, in varying intensities from pianissimo (quiet) to fortissimo (loud), repeats twice (for a total of three iterations) (lest a latecomer not hear them) the following words (Nusach Ashkenaz):

“All personal vows we are likely to make, all personal oaths and pledges we are likely to take between this Yom Kippur and the next Yom Kippur, we publicly renounce. Let them all be relinquished and abandoned, null and void, neither firm nor established. Let our personal vows, pledges and oaths be considered neither vows nor pledges nor oaths.”

The leader and the congregation then say together three times “May all the people of Israel be forgiven, including all the strangers who live in their midst, for all the people are in fault.” The Torah scrolls are then replaced, and the customary evening service begins.

(source –

(video source KlezmerGuy)

Beautiful music accompanies the declaration. Here is one variant filmed in a Reform synagogue in Texas, the name of the cantor is Stephen Saxon.

(video source fivnten)

Here we have the variant sung by the famous cantor Moishe Oysher in the 1939 Yiddish film “Overture To Glory”

(video source mariadelamor21)

The most famous instrumental variant belongs to Max Bruch – a cello composition here in the interpretation of Jacqueline du Pres.

(video source MooliX)

For folks who may bot know how Yom Kippur is celebrated in Israel, here is a fast-forward version of a crowded street corner in this unique day of the year. The whole life of the country stops, no planes come in or out, no cars (excepting emergency services) can be seen in the Jewish areas of the country.

Gmar Hatima Tova – May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for Good

After the visit in the Munster zu Allerheiligen we spent the next few hours of the second day morning in the streets of Schaffhausen. The city of 35000 inhabitants was mentioned first as a city state in 1045, and joined the Swiss confederation in 1501.

Metzgerbrunnen fountain

The old city streets must be quite crowded during the pick season, but during that cloudy last Saturday morning of August the crowds were not excessive. We started by admiring two medieval fountains ornate with statues – the first of a Swiss mercenary dated 1524 …

Mohrenbrunnen fountain

… and the second of a Moorish king from 1535.

zum Steinbock house

Most significant are however the houses in the old city that preserve the original shape, ornaments and exterior frescoes from the medieval times until today. There are around 170 such houses in the Schaffhausen old city, in a mix of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles, 35 of them are listed as national heritage monuments of exceptional value. For example the zum Steinstock house is covered with Roccoco ornaments …

zum Ochsen house

… while the zum Ochsen house which was originally an inn during the Middle Ages was renovated in 1608 and Gothic ornaments and frescoes were added on the facade.

zum Grossen Kafig house

Most impressive are the frescoes on the zum Grossen Kafig house representing the triumphal parade of Tamerlane after having taken as prisoner the Turkish sultan Baiazid.

the Schwabentor

Nearby the Schwabentor built in 1380 represented in the past the Northern gate of the city and is nowadays one of the remains of the wall that surrounded the old city.

zum Ritter house

The zum Ritter (Knight) house has probably the most beautiful exterior fresco in the city. Actually the current painting is a copy, the original being preserved in the city museum, which we visited later. Painted in 1570 with a theme inspired by The Iliad heroes it is considered one of the most beautiful Renaissance frescoes North of the Alps.

a meeting with Giora Feidman

Wondering on the streets of the city we saw a poster announcing that Giora Feidman was scheduled to play here soon with the Gershwin Quartet. Giora is born in Bassarabia, emigrated as a child to Argentine and then to Israel, where each year is one of the major musicians animating the Safed festival of klezmer music. I hope to have time to write about him sometimes on the Catcher.

time for tea?

Lunch time had come, but we had a rich breakfast, so we decided to skip. We examined a tea stand in front of the zu Ritter house, and I bought some herbs tea – I always like to explore new tastes in tea from various parts of the world.

... or time for a cake?

Than we started to look for a coffee and cakes place …

smiling cakes

… and we settled for a pretzel and a cake and of course, a good espresso at a place in front of the St Johann church. I do not remember its name, but it had some beautiful smiling cakes in the window, hard to miss it.

St Johann Church

We decided that we have enough time to visit the Museum zu Allerheiligen (which will be the subject of the next episode also including the meeting with an old and dear friend), but before it we entered the St Johann church, the second in fame (but largest in size) church in Schaffhausen.

detail in St Johann (1)

detail in St Johann (2)

We encountered here a similar history as in the Munster and other churches in this area of conflict between Reformation and Catholicism. The original parish church may have been built as early as around the year 1000. Then, when the Reformation took control of the whole area, the church was transformed, many of the cult objects removed and maybe destroyed, and the beautiful frescoes painted over in white. The current architecture of the church and the tower dates from the 18th century, but recent restoration work brought to light beautiful frescoes dating from around 1500 and this work may not be over. Today the church hosts many concerts of sacred music, especially Bach.

Born in a Jewish family in Budapest in 1929, Nobel-prize winner Imre Kertesz is a Holocaust survivor. In 1944 he was deported to Auschwitz, and liberated in Buchenwald in 1945. Part of his work is a reflection of the Holocaust experience, but there is a more general humanist and anti-totalitarian voice that can be felt in his work, a rejection of any ideology that denies human rights.


The history of the creation of Detektivtortenet which I have read as Roman Policier in the French translation of Natalia Zaremba-Huzsvai and Charles Zaremba, illustrates this fundamental direction in the work of the Hungarian writer. It is more a novella than a novel, barely exceeding 100 pages, and was written in two weeks in the 1970s. Kertesz was trying to publish another novel in Communist Hungary of the time, and the editor was refusing to accept it because it was too short, below the ‘standard’ number of pages acceptable by the editorial policy. He had the idea and part of a text of what writers in the Communist countries of the time were calling a ‘drawer’ work, one of these texts of protest that had no chance to be published under the Communist censorship, a text about political power taken illegally and about the secret police not only supporting the totalitarian rule, but becoming the essence of it. In order to have his text published he accepts to change the setting of the story to an imaginary South-American country, hinting to Chile or Argentina, at that time under right-wing dictatorship regimes. It was a trick often used by East-European authors, and it worked – the Detective Novel was published.


As said, it’s not a novel, and it is not detective, although the principal hero and story-teller is a detective, one who had put himself at the service of the totalitarian regime, and now expects the punishment in jail, after the fall of his masters. Some of the best passages in the book are the dialogs between policemen, that catch the essence of the totalitarian state with its obsession on antisemitism (among other), and the transformation of the secret police into an autonomous monster that ends by dominating by terror the life of its subjects:

-Ecoute un peu. Descente, arrestation, interrogatoire, liquidation: d’acoord, c’est notre boulot. Mais pourquois est-ce que tu les detestes?

La-dessus il me retorque:

- Parce que c’est des juifs.

- Espece de connard, il y a dans ce grand pays tout au plus quelques centaines de juifs, si ca se trouve!

- Je m-en fous. Tous les mecontents sont des juifs. Et d’ailleurs qui d’autre que les juifs serait mecontents?

(pag. 20-21)

- …bref, a vrai dire je pensais que nous etions ici au service de la loi.

- Nous sommes ici au service du pouvoir, mon garcon …

- Je croyais jusqu’a present que c’etait pareil.

- Si on veut. Mais il ne faut pas oublier les priorites.

Et il m’a repondu avec son sourire inimitable:

- D’abord le pouvoir et ensuite seulement la loi.

(pag. 29-30)

The book is almost written in one breath, and can be read almost in one breath. Beyond decomposing and describing in details the mechanisms as well as the typical characters that can be found in the service of the secret police in a totalitarian state – the  leader with intellectual aspirations who will eventually disappear with the fall of the regime and save his skin, the sadist brute that bad times allow him to put his bestiality in the service of the system, the passive technocrat who does not have the power to resist or to avoid becoming an instrument of evil. It also does include a beautiful story of a failed tentative of survival, a demonstration about how hard it is in times of dictatorship for anybody to stay away from becoming part of at least one of the circles of oppressors or of oppressed.

The advantages of brevity and fast writing are also the disadvantages of the finished work. There is more promise in this book than the quick creation process under the pressure of the time allowed as each one of the six key characters (the three policemen and the three members of the Salinas clan) could have been developed as a strong character in a full-bodied novel. Yet, this novella about times of oppression written in other times of oppression leaves a strong impression and was for me an invitation to continue to explore more of the work of the Hungarian Nobel-prize winner.

Schaffhausen - Munsterplatz

Schaffhausen - solar clock in Munsterplatz

Day 2 of our vacation started with a tour of the center of the city of Schaffhausen. After finding a good parking place we crossed the street towards the historic old town, and found ourselves in the Munsterplatz. The style of the decorated buildings, some of them with exterior frescoes catches the eyes and I shall talk about some of the most beautiful of them in the next episode. One building however attracted our attention for the solar clock and the inscription indicating that the building was bombed in 1944 and rebuilt in 1945. This is related to one of the strange episodes of World War II – Schaffhausen being the only city in neutral Switzerland bombed by the allies during the war, on April 1st, 1944 and then again in February 1945. Although the allies claimed that the air force mistakenly bombed the town located close to the German border, is is suspected that the bombing may have been intentional, as some industries in the town were suppliers for the German army.

the Schaffhausen Muster zu Allerheiligen

The Munster zu Allerheiligen (All Saints Minster) was our first objective of the day. Believe it ir not, it is actually the first time I made the connection between the German word munster, the English minster and ministry, and the Romanian manastire. The first church on the site was built in 1049 under pope Leo IX, while the current building’s foundations were laid by the end of the 11th century, with the first part of the current building being finished by 1103. The next centuries saw the development of the cathedral, the building of the Romanesque tower and of the cloister in Romanesque-Gothic style, the largest in Switzerland.

Munster - West Portal bronze door

The access to the church is through a massive bronze door in the West Portal, created in 1959 by Otto Charles Banninger (1897-1973), representing the descend from the cross, and the symbols of the 4 evangelists, with a door handle in the form of a crown of thorns.

bronze bust of Albert Schweitzer

Immediately after entering the church, on the left, one can find the bust of the theologian, doctor and philosofer Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), winner of the Nobel price for peace in 1952.

Munster - glass windows and tapestry

It’s a reformed church today, so the overall impression of of austerity and simplicity, enhancing the architectural elements of the building. 12 monolithic columns sustain the building, symbolizing the 12 apostles. On one of the them the capital has split and is held together with an iron brace – this is “Juda’s column”. The beautiful colored glass windows representing Jesus flanked by angels were made by Carl Roesch and below hangs a tapestry representing the Last Judgment by Lissy Funk.

Munster - detail of the Credo-frieze

It is however the few remains of the original medieval church paintings that deserve most of the attention for their beauty and originality. By the time of the Lutheran reformation in the 16th century most of the altars and cult objects were removed, and the original walls painted over. We were to meet this pattern of reformation taking over the Catholic churches and bringing essential changes to their appearance several times later in the trip in this area which was by the middle of the previous millennium on the line of conflict between Catholicism and Reformation. The little that was saved and restored in the Schaffhausen Munster has however the advantage of being authentic and has a remarkable artistic value. A Credo-frieze includes 12 beautiful medallions from the mid-15th century …

Munster - enthroned Mary with child

… and on one of the pillars a picture of the enthroned Mary with the child Jesus from around 1400 brings a striking resemblance to the Byzantine iconic representations and the later Russian icons descending from the same tradition.

Munster - squires cemetery in the cloister

We continued the visit in the interior cloister. Part of it hosts what was a cemetery in the walls of the minster for the noble squires of the city, with elaborated tombstones bearing witness of past times and men who were important enough to be buried here.

Munster cloister - herb garden

The gardens also include the huge Schiller bell cast in 1486 (Schiller never visited the place but wrote a famous poem about it based on a mention by Goethe) and the herb garden – kind of a botanical garden with elegant arcades on one of its sides. The smaller St. Anna chapel used by the Catholic community was unfortunately closed the day our visit.

Waldhotel Hohberg in Schaffhausen

The hotel where we spent the first night in Schaffhausen is worth a few words. It was the only hotel we booked fr from the center of the city, for the rest of the trip we preferred to pay more and assume risks for a noisier place but be located near the places we knew we were to visit. In Schaffhausen we knew that we shall spend only one night, and the next day proceed on our way after visiting the city, so we picked the Waldhotel Hohberg, located at the outskirts of the city. The choice proved to be a good one.

horse riding ... in the hotel

The hotel is quiet, located in what seems an industrial area and near a big supermarket (so if you are in shopping mode it’s a good place – we were not – yet). It does not offer a great view, but it is well equipped, enough parking space, good Internet connectivity, and one attraction that makes it fun if you travel with kids – a riding arena with horses and ponies inside the hotel.

crossing the EC border

As we had ‘won’ time by missing the museums in Winterthur we decided to go and visit the village of Steim am Rhein, something we had planned for the next day. It’s a 20km drive from Schaffhausen, but an interesting drive, not only for the landscape but also for the route which crosses twice each way the border between Switzerland and Germany (actually the European Community border). No border guards or customs officers were in view, and crossing the border is as simple as crossing the street or a wooden bridge across a small river as in the photo.

Stein am Rhein - old city gate

Steim am Rhein was mentioned as a fishing village one thousands years ago, when emperor Heinrich II moved the St. George Abbey to this place (in 1007). It is located at the extremity of the lake Constance (Bodesee) where the course of the Rhine starts towards West gathering strength towards the Rhine falls and then to Basel and Strasbourg (where we shall meet it later in our trip) and then North and West to Germany and the Netherlands.


The village is most famous for the houses painted at the exterior, some of the most beautiful in a style which is wide spread in this area of German-speaking Switzerland. Most of them date from the 16th century, although renovations and additions were made in the later periods. The majority of the beautiful buildings are grouped in the Rathausplatz, with the Rathaus building itself at the edge of the square, with the lower store built between 1539 and 1542, with additions from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Rother Ochsen and other painted buildings

The buildings on the left side of the Rathaus include the Roter Ochsen (Red Ox – also hosting the oldest tavern in the village where we had dinner), the Hirschen (stag), Krone (crown), Steinerner Traube (stony grapes), and Sonne (sun) – the names being descriptive for the themes of the paintings on the facades.

Adler and Weisser Adler buildings

On the opposite side are the Adler (eagle) and the Weisser Adler (white eagle) which offers to the viewer the oldest frescoes on the walls of the city, painted in Holbein-esque style between 1520 and 1525.

Venice on the Rhein

The place is said to be very crowded during the days of the pick season, but it was late afternoon when we got there, and the pick season was behind. Our choice to take the vacation at that time of the year proved itself – we avoided crowds, weather was pleasant most of the time, and most of the places were still open and happy yo receive guests (well, Winterthur excepted :-) ).

Stein am Rhein and Bodensee at sunset

We took the last photos on the way back to the car, near the bridge at the gates of the city. The tranquility and beauty of the environment made us start to feel the tiredness of the previous night, so we returned to the hotel for a good rest before the second day of the trip.