Switzerland Part 1 and Germany Part 1

HI all,

I'm posting a longer blog here to give you the flavor of what I'm doing. It is excerpts from my journal for the last couple of days. 

The upcoming part of the tour is very packed. I play 9 shows in 11 days and travel 9 of those days also. These shows include Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. I may not be able to add to this record much. If you are interested, please follow my Facebook and Twitter for short updates.

Mar 6 - Dorking to Muehlehorn (Switzerland)
Left for airport (Heathrow) at 9:38. Got there ~ 10:15, very easy.

Through security and had lunch 11 at restaurant on top floor. Very good sushi salad. Comforting waitress.

Went to lower floor to wait for flight. Flight gate not posted until late. Flight a little late leaving. 1:15

Arrived Zürich and through customs quickly. Validated Eurrailpass and on 15:20 train, 1/2 hour earlier than planned. Called Paul and he met me at Ziegelbrucke. To his house, we visited. He's the same, great as ever.

Alice home, very nice to see her. We talked. When I first met Alice, she traveled with Paul and me to a few dates in northern Italy. She was pregnant with Michael, who is now 22!

Mary text about problem with money transfer. Turned out the transfer process from England had lost my account number. I answered some questions and they put the money in the account. For those who are interested, sending my “winnings” home regularly is important on a long tour like this and is not simple. Usually I find business colleagues who can take the money into their account, have their bank convert it into dollars and wire it to my account in the US.

This is not problem free because most US banks will not accept foreign bank wires. Not even ING (now Capital One) will do this.

The problem with a cash business like music is that the business process resembles several types of illegal businesses, except of course the amounts involved are considerably smaller. There is a prejudice that “real” businesses don’t use cash. The transfer of money is similar to various money laundering strategies. For example, it used to be that I could get money home from England by walking into the American Express office in London and paying cash in Pounds against my AMEX card account. No longer. AMEX won’t accept cash anymore.

This is another example of how policies supposedly meant to protect us from bad guys are restricting the freedom and ability to make a living for many of us who are not totally in the common systems.

Alice and Paul set up Raclette for dinner. Wonderful cheese with sliced tomatoes and boiled potatoes.

Talked some, got paperwork for shows. Looks good. CDs there also.

I was very tired and to bed 10:30.

Mar 7 – Muelehorn to Gams

Alice and Paul up and gone early. Alice works in a bookstore in Zurich. Paul has bookkeeping jobs for a some companies in Chur.

Walked to station to make sure I can find it. Not hard, all downhill. Beautiful mountain stream that the streets are built over.

Walked to station 3P. Train to Buchs at 3:35. The trip alongside the Zurichsee was typically beautiful. The lake and mountains on one side and the villages and mountains on the other. Every few kilometers there is a castle. Most are ruined though some have been restored. I tried to take a picture of these, but they are very far off and my I-Phone camera isn’t telephoto. (click here) I hope you get some idea from the photos I posted of how this was in the Middle Ages with small fiefdoms along the lake and river valleys. Good walls make good neighbors as Frost said.

Arrived Buchs at 4:12. Urns Winkler met me. Tall, 40's, long hair and handlebar mustache. He has a guitar shop, specializing in repairs. Has a fancy computerized machine that dresses frets. He says that Joe Glazier in Nashville has the first one in the US.

To shop. Met Michel, his son. To hotel. Organized, dressed, except for boots. Walked to shop. Asked at bike shop to make sure I was going the right way. Used my German! Got there a little before 6. Urs showed me his shop and explained the machine. Dinner with his family, Ursula and Michel. Michel spent several years at a tennis training center in Spain. Doesn't play anymore. We talked tennis at dinner. I had my Roger Federer cap on. As I explained my tennis game, I play exactly like Roger except I’m older, slower, shorter, weaker, and less consistent. Not THAT much difference!

Show was in upstairs room that is beautiful. All wood. Very live. Benno came from Au. Haven't seen him in 20 years. He promoted shows for me that long ago. He is now mostly in Munich taking care of his 100 year old mother in law. Still has apt in Au. He brought me small Christmas ornaments, angels. I took two. Also brought me large boxes of chocolates.

Show was wonderful. Beautiful audience. Spoke with Boots and Melody (trail names from their time on the Appalachian trail.). They are about to get married. Spoke with Beth Wimmer, American who married a Swiss man. She is also a singer-songwriter and gave me a CD of hers.

Everyone was thrilled. Lots of tears and laughter. This is why I do this, to bring people together. Emotions do that.

Back to hotel driven by Michel. Couldn't get in so I pounded on the door. Annoyed the party inside because my key would have worked at the back door. Nobody told me! To sleep 11:30

Mar 8 – Leipheim, Gunzburg, and Koetz
Up 7:06. X, to breakfast. My back seems almost completely well.

Michel picked me up and put me on the train which left Buchs at 09:59. We said goodbye and promised to take time to hit some tennis balls next time I’m here.

I stood in the entry way of the coach as it was only 15 minutes to Feldkirch in Austria where I had to make a connection. In Feldkirch, I waited an hour, bought an apple to supplement my cheese sandwich I had prepared from breakfast which would be my lunch.

The train to Ulm left at 11:15. The first class compartment was very crowded. It was one of those coaches like in “Murder on the Orient Express”. It had a narrow companionway on one side and individual compartments with six seats each and doors. These are rare these days. I found one seat and asked “Ist Frei?”. The response was positive so I put my suitcase in the hall with some others and my guitar also. Usually there is room above the seats for the guitar but all the room was taken. I sat with an older lady to my left and her husband across from her. On my right was a young father with is ~4 year old daughter across from him, both next to the window. Across from me, next to the little girl was her grandmother. The grandmother and granddaughter carried on a constant conversation in German of course. It was delightful.

When the conductor arrived to look at tickets he chastised me for not having filled in my itinerary on my Eurrailpass. You didn't have to do this last time I traveled with one, but that was several years ago, and things do change. He also insisted that I get my guitar out of the hall. The father and grandmother turned out to speak perfect English and moved their stuff to make room for my guitar. They were extremely gracious. The grandmother shared some of her trail mix with me also. I munched my sandwich and apple and completed work on an essay for my MFA course. (I really like the little Microsoft Surface tablet that I am traveling with. It's the older model that I got very inexpensively. It really works for me.)

I left the train at Ulm with goodbyes to the family in the compartment. They wished me well.

One more short train ride from Ulm to Leipheim and Peter Wroblewski met me at the station and accompanied me to the Hotel Zur Post just a few yards away.

After I was settled, Peter and his wife Anne Marie returned and drove me to Guenzburg, a few kilometers away. This is an ancient town, first built by the Romans. After a walk around town and up one of the towers, we met Eberhart and Monika Finke and also Sonja for dinner at an Indian restaurant then drinks/tea at Peter and Anne Marie's home in nearby Koetz. Click here for photos

These are people I have known and called friends for more than 20 years. They have a club that promotes concerts by bluegrass, country, folk, Americana, whatever you want to call it, by artists from all over the US and Europe. As I have often said, they call it country music but they don't say what country. This is world music, guys.

To sleep 11:15

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