Though the Rhine Cruise ended, our time on the Rhine did not. Schaffhausen is a lovely, restored town situated on several steep hillsides on both sides of the river. The Rhine here is very swift, as if it can't wait to reach the Rhine Falls, a Europeann natural wonder, a few kilometers away. More on that later.

The old part of the city is full of pastel, olive and ochre buidings boasting bay windows and medallions above each rustic doorway, seeming to vie with each other as to which one is older. Here's one from 1651, around the corner is 1514, after the next square, 1420; then 1300 something. Even older, at the town's core, is the ancient Benedictine monastery, which still has its cloister and gardens and the Church of All Saints. The whole complex has been turned into a marvelous history museum, taking visitors on a journey from the area's prehistory to the industrial age. It was a good way to spend Sunday, August 1, Switzerland's national holiday, as most everything else was closed!

This was the real start of the trip, staying our first full week in one locale, using it to explore areas through nearby excursions and day trips by train. We stayed in a walk-up apartment above a high-end restaurant managed by a chef and owners. It's on Webergasse, close to the train station and around the corner from a theater presenting a modern play about Don Quixote-- in Swiss-German! We could not afford the restaurant and missed a couple of chances to see the play, which had a temporary food and drink bar set up on performance nights. Walking up from the theater, our street had a coffee shop closed for vacation, a resale shop where I ended up donating a few items that no longer fit or were weighing me down, an African restaurant, an Irish dancing center, an Italian cafe, an antiques store, and a sort of hang-out sports bar for local guys where everyone smoked and that never seemed to close. Restaurant and theater guests seemed right below our windows most nights, but our white noise machines helped tune things out.

We shared a space outside our room with restaurant staff. It included a sink, small fridge, dishwasher, washer/dryer, and a coffee machine, plus restaurant worker bathroom and stockroom! The day after we arrived was a Saturday market. We loaded up on erdbeeren and heidelbeeren (strawberries and blueberries) and got yogurt, muesli and fresh rolls from nearby shops, so our fruhstucks (breakfasts) were reasonable and efficient. It was kind of wild to be prepping and have one of the cooks come by to wash up or get some dry goods from the stockroom for their own work in a tiny kitchen off the back stairwell access to the apartment.

One of our daytrips was to the Rhine Falls. We took a short train ride to what we thought was the park entrance, but had gotten off one stop before. Walked a half hour (!) to the thrilling rapids and dramatic falls, the largest in Europe. On the way, we saw a tern dunk into the Rhine to grab and quickly swallow a fish about half its size, as he rode the swift current, then suddenly take off in flight before the rushing water took him too close to the falls. Like Niagara, there are Maid of the Mist-like boats that maneuver through the powerful currents to bring tourists close to one of several falls or to a rock in the middle of it all that they can climb and feel like they're in the center of a whitewater cauldron!

Schaffhausen is easy to get around. Right out of the train station, you're on the main gasse (thoroughfare). We stopped for a bite before rolling our suitcases around the corner to our apartment. My first Swiss lunch was a quiche and 'salat,' which, I came to learn, was their version of a mixed salad. Every vegetable side is dressed separately, then more dressing is piled on. French or Italian. Their French dressing is thin, light, seasoned mayo stuff--not like our orange Wishbone at all.

On that first day, rainy and cool, we hiked down to the Rhine, found one of several stairways to heaven (more on that later), and rows of stunning buildings. The tourism office is in an ancient frescoed structure. The black ram jutting from it is a symbol of the fighting spirit of the city. Rhybad, right on the Rhine, is one of several swimming areas. This one is actually a covered structure built right on the river where you can swim in the Rhine protected from the currents. There are saunas there and even a bar, where you can watch the swimmers!