Chronicles of a writer abroad

Day tripping: Schaffhausen


While Leah was in Zürich, we took an enjoyable day trip to Schaffhausen (north of Zürich and near the German border), using it as our gateway to the Rheinfalls. (It’s possible to take the train almost directly to the falls, but a recommended hike began in Schaffhausen, so that’s where we went.) I wasn’t expecting much from the town, but it was pretty and typically Swiss, with lots of flags, fountains, and restaurants and cafes.

A flat and enjoyable 6 km walk by the water led us to the top of the falls. I admired the following water sculpture that we passed by while strolling along a river bank:

I’m not sure what kind of (mythical?) animals these are supposed to be, but I was drawn in by their humanity. They look as though they’ve been shipwrecked or otherwise abandoned. I would love to hear the story that the artist had in mind while creating this work.

And now I will show you some pictures of the Rheinfalls. Be prepared, as I perhaps wasn’t, that while they are touted as “Europe’s biggest waterfalls” and even, in some cases, a Swiss Niagara, they are nothing like Canada’s majestic Niagara falls — this is a much, much smaller scale. Nonetheless, they are pretty and appear to attract tourists by the busload.

Rheinfalls seen from above

Rheinfalls seen from below

We ate in view of the falls and then turned around to retrace our steps back to Schaffhausen, where we visited the town fortress before heading home.

Munot fortress above Schaffhausen, as seen from the river

We climbed a fair number of stairs to reach Munot, and at the top we were rewarded with a look inside a very cool (temperature-wise) and atmospheric (ambience-wise) 16th century fortress. The ceiling was studded with skylights in the 16th century style — that is, large holes. They made for some very interesting lighting.

We walked quietly and reverentially through this old and historic place, until a gaggle of teenage girls startled us by bursting through one of the fortress doors and walking quickly across the stones, laughing and calling to each other as teenage girls do. I was just waiting for someone’s cell phone to ring, imagining a conversation like the following taking place (in Swiss German, of course): “Hey. What’s up with you? Oh, I’m good. Just walking home from school. Can I call you back, actually? The reception in this stupid old historic fortress that I have to pass through every day really sucks.”

Before heading back to the train station, we snapped a few photos from the top of the fortress. I love that in Europe, you can count on stairs to lead you to excellent views.

Schaffhausen and the River Rhein

A church, vineyard and that oh-so-European clustered-roof look

Be back soon to tell you about our other day trip!


11 thoughts on “Day tripping: Schaffhausen

  1. I love the skylights – no maintenance! and the very unusual sculpture.
    Your stair-climbing muscles must be in excellent shape!
    Thanks both for your text and your photos, as always.

  2. Spectacular pictures… you have many skills! I often feel like I’m looking at professional postcards.
    I too wondered about the water sculpture animals. Their heads/forearms/paws remind me of kangaroos, tho’ I’m not sure why that would be, or what’s with the knobbly spine. Were they in what appears to be a truck inner tube???

    Loved the interior shots of the fortress. Very atmospheric!

    • Thanks! My trick is to just take a lot of pictures, and then some of them end up being good.

      I agree that the creatures look kangaroo-like. I’mma do some googling to see if I can dig up anything on this piece of art.

  3. That fortress is so inviting and not what it was meant to be on the outside! I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a place. Your photos are stunning.

  4. That sculpture is wonderful, Kristen….fantastic post. The world has so much to show us, doesn’t it?

  5. Your pictures are so clear. Is that the result of the air or the focus of your camera? Now i wonder what the altitude is in Zurich; perhaps that accounts for the clarity.

    Hey, we finally have some sun on the wet coast! First time it has appeared for two days in a row and it is almost warm – 17C.

    Thanks for sharing all your interesting jaunts in such a fascinating country.

    • Hi, Nana — not sure why the pictures would be very clear. Our altitude in Zurich (and near the Rhinefalls) is around 450 meters above sea level. I think the air is quite clean, which helps, and this was a hot but not at all humid day. My camera is good but not super-fancy, but I think it helps that I am careful about keeping the lens clean 🙂

  6. Lovely photos. If you ever go back to The Rhine Falls, here are the two best things to do:
    – take the little boat to the centre island and get off. Then you’re right in the middle of the Falls with water rushing all around you
    – go to the far side (the train station/Schloss side), because there the viewing platforms are beisde the Falls so you get sprayed and can really hear the roar of the water.
    Granted they are not Niagara, but they’re certainly more impressive when you are up close; and it’s a great photo opportunity!
    But I wouldn’t go back this year. With no spring rain and little snow melt, the Rhine is at its lowest level for decades. So the Falls are not at their best 😦

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