(You won't actually go through the town of Schaffhausen, but will proceed directly to the falls.) The town was largely the creation of the Rhine Falls. Why: the falls forced boatmen to unload their cargoes here, and merchants settled in the town and set up a depot. By the end of the 12th century, Schaffhausen had become a free Imperial town. It entered the Swiss confederation in 1501, and is the capital of the canton of Schaffhausen, one of the smallest (population of the canton: 70,000). The canton of Schaffhausen is German-speaking and Protestant. The name Schaffhausen means sheep-houses, a reference to sheep herding which took up most of the land centuries ago (and on a smaller scale still does).
The Rhine Falls are the most powerful in Europe. The Rhine is 500 feet wide at this point, and plunges 70 feet down. The flow of the water is tremendous, carrying 25,000 cubic feet of water over the falls each second. (The River Thames carries 2,500 cubic feet per second.) The poet Goethe was enthralled by the Rhine Falls, pronouncing them "the very source of the ocean."
(After the Rhine Falls, you'll take a secondary road south, briefly re-entering Germany, then crossing into Switzerland again. This is the time for your general introduction to Switzerland.)
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