The town of Schaffhausen was a beautiful border town along the Rhein River west of Lake Constance. Like many other Swiss towns, it was colorful and lively, with tremendous natural scenery and lots of medieval architecture to show off. What I liked best about Schaffhausen was how well it was maintained -- the building facades were repainted bright and cheery. Under a warm spring sun, the streets were overflowing with people, and the marketplaces were super busy.
Schaffhausen had an excellent tourist map that guided me through a clear path past all her antiquities, easily doable in a leisurely couple hours. The highlights were numerous, but certainly the most impressive of them was the Munot Castle, shown in the first picture.
That photo was taken from south bank of the Rhein River. As you can see, the Munot was perched on a high hill near the bank that was flanked by active vineyards. There were stairways from several sides that took me up there, but all of them were very steep. Thankfully, the back side had a parking lot that permitted folks to reach the Munot by car. The best view of it came from climbing up from the main street by snaking through some residential alleyways. In the afternoon, the sun was behind me, so I got some great shots of the tower and the vineyards.
Once I got there, I thoroughly combed the castle, which didn't take long. The interior of the Munot was austere. In the lower level only the supporting archways remained, but I was more interested in the observation deck anyway. The views from up there were excellent, as evidenced in the second picture showing the Rhein. The opposite side view was of the city itself, and it too was beautiful. Leaving through another exit, I came upon the castle's deer garden, located in the old moat. There were over a dozen deer present, laying about enjoying the sun or grazing. The deer garden seemed to be popular among the little children.
I stayed primarily on the south bank amongst the old city, and encountered many scenes similar to that of the third photo -- of the Zum Goldenen Ochsen. What fascinated me about the downtown were how each building had its own name -- elaborately portrayed on foyers located along the second floor, like you see in the center of the third photo. The names were poetic, such as the Goldenen Ochsen (Golden Ox) or Zum Hiefen (Giant) or Zum Grossen Käfig (Large Hunting Tower). The foyers were gilded, covered with paintings or mosaics, and/or shaped with beautiful sculptures.
Many of the buildings had one or two paintings on the facades, or a number of them like the Goldenen Ochsen, but others -- like the Herrenstube in the middle of the main street, was absolutely coated with colorful paintings. The faded appearance of many of them suggested that they were left as original, rather than redone.
When I first arrived, the Saturday market was in full swing on the main road from the Obertor (High Gate) and the harbor. The street was arrayed with white canopies with people selling locally-grown fruits, vegetables, and other goods. It mostly concentrated at the bright white Reformed Church of St. John, a beautiful Protestant church with a square white brick steeple and bright red clock faces. Schaffhausen's only churches -- such as its Munster near the harbor and the Catholic Church high above the city, are not overly dominating structures like you might find in German cities.
A signature Switzerland item was their fountains, and Schaffhausen had plenty of great ones, like the Tellerbrunnen shown in the fourth photo. This typical fountain arrangement showed a round pool of water decorated in the center by flowers with a colorful, lifelike figurine on a pedestral over it. The ones in Schaffhausen depicted mostly famous figures -- warriors, kings, or heroes such as William Tell here. (Some in other cities, like Bern, offered characatures). The building behind the Tellerbrunnen was the Zieglerburg, a grand Rococo building from the mid-18th century.
The square-towered building in the fifth photo was the Obertor, and it sat at the high entrance to the old city next to a major highway and traffic circle. There were several similar square towers around the city, such as the Schwabentor a kilometer off the photo to the left. The road next to the Obertor was the main road leading through the Saturday market (such as the steeple of the Church of St. John in the distance).
Behind me was a very steep hill (about twelve degrees, I believe), that led up through residential areas. I walked up that way and wandered around a couple neighborhoods -- beautiful houses, and terrific views. Many of the houses were of uniform size, probably so that everyone had a fair shot of a view!
I also spent quite a lot of time walking along the Rhein toward the Rheinfall about three kilometers downstream. The river was laden with large boulders, some of which were rather decorative, decorated. One had an orange flag on it, as if some family was staking it as property. Another had a whole forest of trees on it, like it was an artificial island. The banks had a couple rows of houses, then open farmland, which made the scene very pretty. Outside of the city proper, the Rhein valley came right up to the banks, and the hills were densely forested. Just short of the Rheinfall, I noticed a major construction project underway to garner energy from the falls, while not ruining their aesthetics (after all, it is a major regional tourist destination).
Schaffhausen was a lovely city to visit, particularly on that beautiful sunny day. As a border town, it is also a great place to branch out from to other Swiss and German destinations (like Zurich or the southern Black Forest). With the views of the Munot, the walk along the Rhein, and the colorful and exuberant downtown, there's plenty to see and enjoy.
Trip Taken 19 April 2003 -- Last Updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2003 Tom Galvin