CH-6005 Luzern, Switzerland
Merry Christmas! I hope the holiday season finds you in good health and enjoying life. Here in Switzerland, Sandra and I have had a good year, filled with travel and other adventures. Here's a recap...
I made two business trips to Iceland this year. The first was in the middle of March, which caused me to miss the Engadin Ski Marathon. The second was in the late summer, in August, during which I visited the Kárahnjúkar construction site in northeastern Iceland. This is the main project where our drawing management system is being used. At the site I was shown most of the major 'attractions', including a visit to see one of the TBMs (tunnel boring machines) in operation. This entailed a 9km ride up a water soaked tunnel in a tiny utility train. Back in Reykjavík, I rented a car for the weekend and finally took time to see some of Iceland's more traditional tourist attractions, including the Blue Lagoon, Ŝingvellir and the Gullfoss water falls.
For my birthday, at the start of May, we visited the Caribbean island of Tobago. Our goal was an easygoing and relaxing holiday, which we achieved thanks to recommendations and introductions from a Tobagian friend. Most of the holiday was spent lazing on the beach, taking the occasional swim to cool off. In addition to swimming and snorkeling, we rented a car one day and toured the island. Naturally I also took the opportunity to do some scuba diving. Tobago is a giant village and everyone seems to know everyone else. Quite by chance, we even met a friend of a Belizian friend of ours.
The highlight of the year was our visit to Pompeii and the Amalfi coast in June. Our plan was to fly to Naples and then travel around the province of Campania by car. Unfortunately we missed our connection in Rome, but were able, after considerable confusion, to rent a car and drive the 200 km to Pompeii. This was through countryside that reminded me of California. In fact, we even passed a highway exit for California!
The archeological site at Pompeii is amazing. I had expected to see a few ancient rocks here and there, but the city was almost completely preserved by the seven-meter layer of ash that engulfed it. Entire structures still stand (minus the wooden parts) and when you walk down the streets you have the full height of the buildings on either side. We spent two and a half days exploring, including a half-day long guided tour (in Italian!). Following that we 'climbed' the still active volcano Etna, which originally buried Pompeii, and visited Herculaneum (Ercolano), another historic site that is smaller and even better preserved, than Pompeii.
We then drove onto the Amalfi peninsula, staying in Sorrento on the northern coast and Positano on the southern. From Sorrento we made a day trip to the island of Capri and walked the incredibly narrow passageways punctuated by stairs. The predominate feature of the Amalfi peninsula is the ruggedness of the coastline. The roads are very narrow and full of curves. The villages are literally glued to the cliffs. Driving and parking, even measured by Italian standards, is difficult. The towns themselves are beautiful and full of old picturesque buildings with nice views of the coastline and sea. Most villages have a beach, which in former times was the sole access to the outside world.
We concluded our trip in Naples, with a long visit to the magnificent Archeological Museum, where most of the artifacts found in Pompeii are displayed. Of course, while in Naples, we had a Neapolitan pizza! To say that we ate and lived well during the trip is an understatement.
Given the positive experiences on our Italian trip, I started an Italian language course this fall. It's lots of fun and surprising to see that I am helped by the Spanish that I learned in high school nearly three decades ago. I feel I'm making progress, and have already signed up for the continuation course, but I have yet to seriously test my skills in Italy, or on Sandra's family.
Since we live near a big lake, this summer I decided to try a couple of scuba dives here in Switzerland. Surprisingly, there is a lot to see. I'll admit there are no tropical fish, turtles or coral in the local lakes, but there are many fish and interesting underwater rock formations. The water does get considerably colder with the depth, but this can be overcome with thick wet (and dry) suits. The upshot is that I've equipped myself for scuba diving and plan to do more in the coming months. Yes, this includes diving during the winter and is, I suppose, my personal response to global warming.
Two weeks ago at the start of December we took a week off to get some sun at a resort near the town of El Quseir, on the Red Sea coast in Egypt. While it was quite sunny there, it was also quite windy, which somewhat curtailed swimming and snorkeling. In spite of the wind, we did spend a lot of time at the beach. In addition, while Sandra was enjoying Ayurveda wellness treatments, I went scuba diving, this time with my own equipment. The water was warm and quite clear, and the coral and fish life were fantastic. I also did an Oxygen Enriched Air (Nitrox) certification course, which basically enables me to make longer, but shallower, scuba dives with less risk of the bends
Sandra and I wish you all the best for the Christmas holidays and the coming year. Thanks for last year's cards and letters. We look forward to hearing from you in the coming year.