Travels to Europe and the Triode Festival
Part 1

Umm, can you tell I was just a little jet-lagged when I took this picture? This is how it feels when you are 9 hours out of sync in a strange city partway around the world. The curves and diagonals in the old quarter of Zurich makes you realize where surrealist artists like Escher and Magritte got their ideas. Of course, it helps to hold the Canon S410 digital camera straight, too, since I'm still used to a traditional SLR, like my faithful Nikon FE2.

Looking up at Europe's biggest clock-tower (8.8 meters!) and standing under the curved balcony you see in the picture above. Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore.

A 4X detail from the photo above, showing the dancing cats on the sign above the restaurant, inn, or brewery, could be all three. Zurich has been a crossroads of Europe for hundreds of years, and unlike much of Germany, was not bombed during World War II. The buildings you see are originals.

Photo-Geek Comment: Yes, I know the picture is grainy - I could have used a full-sized Canon D-SLR and put it on a tripod and gotten a perfectly sharp close-up, but I didn't, cause I don't own one just yet. I could have brought my classic Nikon FE2 film camera, but I took a pint-sized 4-megapixel semi-autofocus Canon S410 Powershot instead. Sometimes the dinky little thing gets the focus right, sometimes it doesn't, but the color is surprisingly good, even with mixed lighting. The rule with digicams seems to be Take Lots of Pictures Since Film is Free. All of the originals were photographed at full resolution and reduced and color-corrected in Photoshop.

More tiny little streets of medieval Zurich. Still morning, but some of the small exotic-art stores are turning on their lights for the day. The very small shops in this quarter (and the previous pictures) specialize in rare and exotic artwork - yes, Zurich has a Sotheby's, right on one of the main streets downtown. The folks who live here have superb taste in art and architecture - ever heard of the "Helvetica" font? Guess where it came from.

Finally straight and level here, with wider streets - the old quarter has very trendy shops all through it, along with exclusive Private Banks for the ultra-wealthy of the world. Switzerland is a tax haven for the wealthy of Europe, the Mideast, and Asia, with much lower income taxes and only about 7.5% VAT (Euro-wide sales tax). Quality of life is very high as well, with a beautiful city, world-class restaurants, many cultural attractions, low crime rate (it's safe to lock up your bicycle outside your apartment at night), and a location in the center of Europe.

Interestingly, if you're wealthy enough, you can actually negotiate with a given canton of Switzerland for a favorable tax rate! Switzerland, unlike the USA or most Europe countries, is very decentralized, with most political decisions, including taxation, handled at the canton level. The town-hall style of democracy is still alive and well in Switzerland, and unlike the USA, it has a very lively multiparty system. With the USA down to one-and-a-half parties, European-style multiparty systems are starting to look pretty good.

All Aboard for Langenargen!

Text and Pictures © Lynn Olson 2005, except where noted.