Thursday, October 13, 2011

Last Day in Switzerland

My sincere apologies for the lag in my blog posts about our trip to Switzerland. A case of the shingles has slowed down my writing substantially but there was one very exciting thing that happened our last day in Switzerland that I want to share with you. There aren't, however, any pictures of the best part of the day so I'll share a few others with you that I took that day. Feel free to skip the pictures and move to the bottom of the post, if you'd rather.

Our plan for Tuesday evening was to go into the "Red Light District" of Switzerland (yes, they too have a "Red Light District") to minister to the prostitutes, most of whom have been brought into this position through human trafficking. In the morning we bought some small gifts to take to the girls and put them together in cute little bags in hopes of making them feel special.

At 2:00 we met up with Pastor Desmond, the pastor of the church we were working with, at the downtown Zurich train station. Maybe it's because I don't spend a lot of time at train stations that I was fascinated by all the activity. Busy place. Also, this is where the good pretzel stand was located so, of course, we had a pretzel snack to tide us over.

After leaving the train station we did a bit of shopping to stock up on chocolates or any other trinkets to bring home. After finishing up our shopping we went to the top floor of a store called Manor for a coffee break. (And yes, I do realize that it appears that all we did was eat on this trip but it didn't really feel that way at the time - though my scale might disagree.) One thing I noted about Manor is that they have the exact same logo as Herberger's has here in MN. Hmmm . . . makes one wonder. The following two pictures were taking from the little deck right outside the eating area. We were in full on tourist mode as we stood out there taking pictures. (As if my white tennis shoes and mega-camera hadn't already alerted the locals that we were tourists.)

One funny story is about the clock in the background of this next picture. You can see a closer up version in this blog post
but as we were walking today I was told that this particular clock has the largest face in all of Europe. A couple hours later we were walking past it again and I heard a man tell his friend that this clock has the SECOND largest face in all of Europe. If Wikipedia is to be believed, it is in fact, the second largest clock face in Europe (by .3 meters) but the largest clock face on a CHURCH. So, now we know. Oh, and it's St. Peter Church in case you are curious.

Pastor Desmond knows the owner of the local watch shop and suggested since we had some time before beginning our ministry that we go there and visit the museum in the store's basement. Wow, fascinating clocks! This first one is just one that I found interesting. I can't really tell you much about it.

This huge clock has seven faces and dates back to the 14th century. I didn't catch what all of the seven faces do but besides the one that tells the time there is also one that shows the movement of five planets. Here's the incredible thing; ALL seven faces are powered by one big weight. Crazy huh?

The last clock here is one of four, I believe, that are still in existence. I believe one of the other ones belongs to the Queen of England. I wouldn't mind having it on my mantle.

After our tour in the clock/watch museum we were waiting outside and John decided to take a picture of the actual storefront. The man on the left coming out of the store is a security guard coming to tell John that he can't take pictures! (We'd been given permission to take photos downstairs.) Let's just say that this isn't the store you'd want to go to in Zurich for a cheap watch.

Around 7:00 we headed over to Starbucks to meet up with the women who would join us (actually lead us) into the red light district for our ministry time. To be clear, it was just the female members of our team who visited the girls. The men stayed at Starbucks (or outside of Starbucks actually because they closed at 8:00) to pray for us.

I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about going into the red light district. I had NO idea what to expect. Well, I had some idea, but to be honest, it was much less offensive than I was anticipating; at least from the street view. Our "guide" had a bit of a "route" that she usually takes. She said she rarely sees the same girls because they are moved to and from other countries every few months to comply with visa requirements. We spoke with a number of girls; some in windows waiting for their evening's work and others just sitting outside of bars. The amazing thing is that all of them were so grateful for the gifts we brought and welcomed the information we had to share with them about Christ. The one girl whose face still sticks in my mind was from Romania. She appeared to be no more than 17-years-old. It made me so sad that she was forced into such a nasty way of life. Tragic!

There was a moment in the evening that was totally unexpected and one I will never forget as long as I live. We were outside of a bar talking to about four girls. We were probably there for about 15 minutes but before we left one of the girls prayed for US! For real!

Let's say you gave me a list of things I would never anticipate happening in my lifetime that looked something like this and told me to pick the one I would least expect to occur:

1) You will go sky-diving.
2.) You will adopt a child from a foreign country.
3.) You will have twenty grandchildren.
4.) You will be prayed for by a prostitute.

I would put "being prayed for by a prostitute" at the top of the list of things least likely to happen; and, by the way, I don't much expect the other things to happen either (with the possible exception of sky-diving, but shhh. . . don't mention that to my mother . . . or John.) It was the most surreal and humbling moment. You can be sure that I had to wipe away a few tears.

And thus, an amazing moment capped off an incredible trip.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Enjoying God's Creation

I apologize for the lag in my blog. I’ve been sick. I’m writing this on Saturday, October 1 about our time in Lucerne on Monday, September 19. I figured I’d better hurry up or my brain will get a little fuzzy.

We didn’t actually anticipate having a lot of touring time in Switzerland but that is how things worked out. Nothing was really planned for us on Monday so we took a vote as a team and decided to do a day trip (at our own expense) to Lucerne. What a stunning place!

We started with a train ride through the Swiss countryside, from Zurich to Lucerne. After we arrived in Lucerne, and spent $2.50 to use the “clean” toilets at the train station (a marvelous example of free-enterprise), we had a little time to walk around and see the city before departing on a boat ride across Lake Lucerne.

The 669 feet wooden Chapel Bridge over the Ruess River has been a landmark in Lucerne since 1333. A large portion of the bridge was damaged in a fire in 1993 but has since been rebuilt and is still beautiful. I wonder whose job it is to water the flowers that line each side of the bridge? From a distance they are so perfect you almost think they are artificial flowers; but they aren’t.

You’ll be able to tell by most of my pictures that it wasn’t a warm, sunny day for our visit to Lucerne but we did not allow the clouds and rain to dampen our spirits. Views are always different when it’s raining but there was still plenty of beauty to go around.

After our 1½ hour boat tour we got off in Alpnachstad to board the world’s steepest cog railway. Basically, the cog is a gear on the underside of the train that hooks into a rack on the track allowing the train to scale heights at a steeper grade than a normal train would be able to. The cog train from Alpnachstad up Mount Pilatus climbs, at some points, a grade of 48%. Mount Pilatus by the way is named as such because local legend teaches that Pontius Pilate hung out there after he sentenced Christ to death and was later buried there. Who knows if that is true or not?

Although it was raining the views up the mountain were spectacular until it started to snow. I will confess that I would have preferred a bright, sunny day offering plenty of vistas to take in but I wasn’t the only person to consider in this expedition. Sitting across from us on the cog train was a girl from Brazil. She had never seen snow before and the look on her face when she first spotted the beautiful flakes was priceless. She was SO excited and thus we cheered with her.
By the time we reached the top of the mountain I was either sick from altitude or from turning my head so many different directions trying to “see it all.” But, thankfully, I recovered in time to have schnitzel for lunch, which I found out is basically a piece of pork pounded flat and fried. YUMMY!

There are two hotels built on top of the mountain; one built in the 1890’s. I am amazed at how they were able to build such a huge structure on top of such a tall mountain so many years ago.

Going back down the mountain provided another type of experience. We started off in a aerial cableway which is different than an aerial panorama gondola; although other than the size and seating, I couldn’t explain the difference to you. In the cableway we stood and the ride only took us a little way down the mountain where we then boarded the gondolas. Both were the smoothest gondola “type” trips I’ve ever been on. It was as though we were gliding through the air in hot air balloons.

This is going to sound strange, I know, but the highlight of the day came as we were gliding down the mountain. John and I were alone in the gondola and all of a sudden I heard this beautiful melodic sound. I know John can’t sing like that and I didn’t see any speakers in the gondola so I wondered where it was coming from. I glanced below us to see a field of cows munching on the grass, all of whom had bells around their necks. That’s what was making this beautiful sound. Apparently, each cow’s bell has its own tone so, when they are all moving about, the combination of the sounds creates a little concert. The lady in the gift shop at the bottom graciously answered all of our questions about the bells which I’m sure she answers a hundred times a day.

After we reached the bottom of the mountain we took a bus back to Lucerne (as we’d ended up in Kriens a few miles away.) There we did a little shopping, walking around (sometimes in the rain), and enjoyed a fabulous dinner before heading back to Zurich.

We saw lots of little ones on scooters like this one. So cute. I found it interesting that this mom led this little guy over to some steep steps. How she was planning to get down those steps with a stroller, a scooter, and a toddler I'll never know. Pastor Lindsay went over to help them out.

What a great day of enjoying God’s amazing creation!