Frauenfeld, Switzerland: 3 February 2016
“A field of women…how bad could that be?”, was my first thought when I encountered the name of Thurgau Canton´s capital city for the first time.
I have been to this city a number of times since I moved to Switzerland six years ago: for job-hunting, for bureaucratic reasons, as a base to explore the surrounding countryside and as a tourist to explore the city itself.
(See Legends of Castle Frauenfeld of this blog.)
But today I am here for medical reasons, to just “drop in to see what condition my condition was in”.
A skin condition that has caused me many a restless night and uncomfortable day for months had led me to a dermatologist in nearby Kreuzlingen who referred me to the Canton´s expert here in Frauenfeld.
Kreuzlingen determined I had an uncommon disease, but Frauenfeld needed to judge just how badly worried I needed to be about it.
My wife, 11 years my junior and a paediatrician, is expecting the worse.
Cut my finger with a potato peeler and she expects gangrene and amputation.
With celiac children there is a real danger of intestinal problems.
As celiac is a blood disease and on my mother´s side there is a history of cancer, mentally my wife has a tombstone already placed and inscribed with the words: “Yes, my wife was right to worry.”
Like many hospitals, Frauenfeld´s Kantonspital does not encourage one with its architectural bedside manner – stark, Spartan, utilitarian, efficient – it has the feel of an institution whose primary concern is with the amassing of wealth rather than the comfort of the ailing.
I find the building.
I find the office.
I wait for my turn to be seen to.
Fitting to the field of women, I discover my consulting physician is also a woman.
This bothers me not in the least.
She is a doctor because she has earned it through years of grueling study and hard work.
I respect her competence and professionalism without hesitation.
But I am a shy Canadian fellow and she is a strange woman for whom I must disrobe.
I know that the examination of my body is strictly a clinical act, but I am aware of how unlike George Clooney I look.
I have over the years been unkind to my temple of body.
I have scarred the exterior with more than my share of accidents.
I have extended the interior with more than my share of food and drink not recommended by the Surgeon General.
The only unsacrilegious thing I haven´t done much of has been in the usage of drugs or alcohol, though how I managed that still amazes me!
As Indiana Jones said in Raiders of the Lost Ark:
“It´s not the years. It´s the mileage.”
Another chunk of skin in another biopsy is taken and a half-tank of blood is removed.
Go home and wait for the results.
I smile at the only two humane sites I´ve seen at the hospital: the cafeteria and the commemorative plaque celebrating the hospital´s newborn population.
In an institution that battles death it is nice to see the jubliation of birth, the celebration of life.
But all this nervous energy I had built up for the appointment needs release, so I set out to rediscover this city of the field of women.
I find my way downtown / old town.
So, what to see and do in Frauenfeld on a Wednesday afternoon?
Well, Frauenfeld (population: 24, 600) has four archives and a library, two very old respectable churches (the St. Nicholas Catholic City Church and the Simultaneum – shared church – of St. Lawrence with St. Anna Chapel and Messmerhaus), two museums (the Museum of Archaeology and Natural History and the Frauenfeld Castle Historical Museum) and a city hall, all of which are worth a gander.
There is a pedestrian zone where one can go shopping, grab a coffee or wine and dine.
St. Nicholas Catholic City Church (above)
What to buy here?
Well, like any city you can find postcards and similar souvenirs of that sort, but Frauenfeld is the headquarters of SIGG, maker of excellent aluminium bottles – bottles seen worn by many a hiker or rock climber in Switzerland.
Frauenfeld is home to the Pferderennbahn, one of the most famous horse-racing venues in Switzerland.
Here in Frauenfeld, a city of very down-to-earth folks, one can also look up to the heavens at the Oberherten Observatory.
Try your luck at the Stadtcasino.
If you find yourself here in the first week of July, you can attend Openair Frauenfeld, the largest open-air music festival in German-speaking Switzerland and the largest hip-hop festival in Europe.
Big headliners have played here: Eninem, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Drake, Snoop Dogg, Pharrell Williams, Outkast, Status Quo, Marillon…just to name a few who have graced the stage here since it began in 1985.
Visit the modern skate park, enjoy the waters of the Hallenbad, Freibad, Sprudelbad or the 50-metre Sportbecken, or watch the Second League Frauenfeld Football Club or the Premiere League Frauenfeld Ice Hockey Club when they play at home.
And one can learn here no matter how old one is, for Frauenfeld has nine primary schools, two high schools, the canton school – the oldest and largest of the four Thurgau middle schools (“secondary schools”), the Thurgau-Schaffhausen Adult School, a technical college, a vocational school, as well as some private schools, including one called 55 Plus.
And while you are wandering about the field of women, learn of the colourful cast of characters who have walked these streets before you:
Konrad Dasypodius (1531-1600), mathematician, astronomer and designer of Strasbourg Cathedral´s astronomical clock – the synthesis of the most advanced scientific knowledge of the era, in the domains of astronomy, mathematics, and physics.
Walter Rudolf Hess (March 17, 1881 – August 12, 1973) was a Swiss physiologist who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1949 for mapping the areas of the brain involved in the control of internal organs.
Hess used brain stimulation techniques that were developed in the late 1920s, using electrodes to stimulate the brain at well-defined anatomical regions.
This allowed him to map regions of the brain to specific physiological responses.
By stimulating the hypothalamus, he could induce behaviors from excitement to apathy, depending on the region of stimulation.
He found that he could induce different types of responses when stimulating the anterior (lateral) hypothalamus compared to stimulating the posterior ventromedial hypothalamus.
When stimulating the anterior part, he could induce fall of blood pressure, slowing of respiration and responses, such as hunger, thirst, urination and defecation.
On the other hand, stimulation of the posterior part led to extreme excitement and defense-like behavior.
Hess also found that he could induce sleep in cats – a finding that was highly controversial at the time but later confirmed by other researchers, including his son.
(I don´t know why inducing sleep in cats was controversial, because I never met a cat that couldn´t sleep!)
Julius Michael Johannes Maggi (1846 – 1912) was an entrepreneur and the inventor of precooked soups and Maggi sauce.
The Maggi brand originates from Switzerland where in 1863 Julius Maggi created a recipe of flavours to bring added taste to meals.
This marked the beginning of the Maggi brand and its convenient products.
Julius Maggi was a pioneer in combining convenience and nutrition.
In 1882 he served up two instant pea soups and an instant bean soup accelerating the movement to easier food preparation and enjoyment.
In 1947 Nestlé acquired the Maggi brand.
Frauenfeld has produced politicians and theologians, engineers and Olympic athletes, jazz musicians and rappers, and the list goes on.
So as I read the histories of those who have lived and died here before, as I stroll European streets with their mix of modern and old, my wife´s worries fill my mind with only one clear thought.
I intend to live life to the fullest while I can.
Just as my life might appear at first glance to be as unspectacular as this city of the field of women, I am determined to explore the possibilities of where I am and what I can find.
In examining the statistics of Frauenfeld, it seems that for every single death that occurs here, it is matched by a new baby emerging out into the world here.
In this unremarkable canton, in this forgettable capital, even here the circle of life continues.
I am at peace.