Part 9 – EuroScandi Odyssey (Innsbruck to Lucerne)

Thursday December 1

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Facade of the Wilten Basilica

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Interior of the Wilten Basilica – Austria

Innsbruck – Liechtenstein – Lucerne

I can say that I enjoyed my breakfast particularly the rolls and pastries, but I am not sure the Casino crowd could stomach such sweetness given their nightly binge.  First stop was the ethereal and spectacular Wilten Basilica, which was built in 1751. To fully appreciate the ceiling, it is necessary to lie on the floor, which is hard to do, given the throngs of tourists. So I settled for  a crick in my neck and some standard photos. Apparently the Austrians fought the Turks for many years, finally defeating them in 1600’s. Then the  Catholics fought the Protestants, ( who were very austere), and thus the Catholics embarked on a mammoth Church building program. The more lavish and ornate, the better the chances at keeping the masses within their doors. The inspiration for the Crown of 12 stars  in the Basilica, was from the Book of Revelations.

From this point, here we had a great view of the Ski Jump from the graveyard, opposite the church.  Following this, we boarded the coach, and drove up the Inn Valley following the green river “Inn”.

Looking towards the Ice Man's Valley where Frozen Fritz was found.
Looking towards the Ice Man’s Valley where Frozen Fritz was found.

We passed the Oetztal which is the Valley  where the Bronze-Age, Ice Man: “Frozen Fritz” was found on the Similaun Glacier. Fritz caused quite a stir between the countries as the debated which country controlled the area where he was found. The Italians wanted him, but in the end the Austrians who found him, succeeded in having him relocated to the Museum in Innsbruck. Fritz had killed four people before he died as he had the DNA of 4 people on his person.  He wore furs and had a dagger. arrowhead and flint. I can see why people would be attracted to this area, and why the pass between the mountains would have been traversed by billions of people over the evolution of man. An easy pass through the mountains, and it made me think of the children’s films, ” Ice age.”

Continuing then, through the Tirolean region, we stopped at the absolute must see Trofana Rest Stop at Mils http://www.trofanatyrol.at/xxl/_lang/de/_area/485365/_subArea2/487859/_articleId/487123/index.html

which is a privately owned autobahn stop. Downstairs in the cellar, Tiroler Speck  (ham )was  hanging along with local cheeses. The food selection at this place, is fantastic and you really need to allocate a full meal here and not just a “snack” or at the very least, if your tummy is sensitive, a photo stop. You will find the ubiquitous Heidi cups and other souvenirs here as well, just in case you need to fill up more room in your suitcase.

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Trofana Rest stop

“Trofana Tyrol” is located between Imst and Landeck in the upper valley of the Tyrolean “Inn” River Valley and the rest stop will jump in your eye when driving along highway A12. It is beyond being an ordinary rest stop. It is a diverse and romantic world by itself. A meeting point for locals, tourists, gourmets and travelers. If only our bland, character-less, generic, “golden arches type bp” rest stops would take a leaf out of this decorating style, we would all be better off. Tradition melded with modern functionality. I could have spent hours there!

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The Castle in Vaduz, Liechtenstein

Next we decided not to drive  through the 15 km Arlberg Tunnel into the province of Austria called the Vorarlberg, but, in an attempt to find some snow for those who have not experienced the pleasures of the frozen white stuff,  we drove over the gorgeous Arlberg Pass Road passing the world-famous resort of St Anton am Arlberg. At 1800 metres, we did manage to find an oh= so small patch of snow which one of the fellow travellers managed to toboggan down with a plastic bag lodged underneath his bottom as a makeshift toboggan!

Tirolean Valley - St Christoph
Tirolean Valley – St Christoph

The skiing towns of St Anton, and St Jakob, were busy making artificial snow for the children to play in, due to a lack of the natural snowfall this year.  I so enjoyed this vast Tirolean valley of shingled roofed houses with an icing sugar dusting of snow, and the ever-present fortified Church atop a high hill.  Minus 2 degrees was just a perfect temp for me.St. Christoph is another resort in the valley where all the resorts are linked, when the snow is falling. Apparently, all accomodation is 5 star there! ( not seen in this photos)

The last town in Austria was Feldkirch where everyone goes home for lunch. Women do not work outside the home, once they have had children. The way into Austrian society is Krist, Kinder and Kuchen or perhaps it is Kinder, Kuchen, and Krist.  ( Children Cooking and Church)  I could deal with the first two, but maybe not the last.

Liechtenstein

Shortly after which we entered the 4th smallest country in the world called Liechtenstein, indicated by the initials F.L.  Population 33 456. Capital is called Vaduz.  A short stop was all that was needed to view this tiny principality,which is just 17 km long.It has the highest rate of tax at 18 % and the biggest producer of false teeth!!!!!!! One could easily see the medieval castle belonging to the Lords of Vaduz from the main street, even though the Prince “bought” this land and the Principality that went with it, when he was appointed Prince.  His family is originally from Vienna. Fancy going shopping for a Principality.

I noticed that things were quite expensive here and there was not much to buy unless you wanted a tacky souvenir, so we were quite content to window shop and view the architecture of the main street,whilst, some members of our group decided to have their passports stamped at the tourist office. Even that  cost them 2 Euros.

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Liechtenstein

It was easy to spot the Liechtenstein Parliament. This country has a hereditary constitutional Monarchy. They are affiliated politically, with the Swiss.  An ultra modern building, which to me, lacks the character of this previous parliamentary structure, which is pictured here with its historically  relevant gables and strong striped walls. Why does modern architecture have to be so “boxy”?

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Driving along towards Lucerne, alongside Lake Zurich. If you look closely, you can see Michael, our driver in the mirror.

Switzerland

Lake Zurich is often called the Gold Coast, and although the lunch stop at Garnerland rest stop smelt of cow dung fertiliser, there are apparently many famous people living along the lakeside, such as Tina Turner. I hope they don’t fertilize the fields too often!

On through “Heidi” country and past Hirzel where the author  Joanna Spyri was born.  and C.H. and the city of Lucerne, Switzerland was now firmly in our sights

C.H. is used to indicate the Confederate of Helvetia and has been used since Roman times to indicate the united cantons of Switzerland.

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Hirzel
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Hirzel, Switzerland
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Heidi country where Johanna Spyri was inspired to write the famous book.

Arriving in the early evening, to Lucerne, a city of some 68,000 people, we were settled into our Hotel ” Astoria” with ease. Mind you, it was hard to facilitate social contact with the other guests from our group, as the hotel is located in three separate parts and the elevators do not connect at all. There was free wi-fi in the foyer, but internet was not available in the rooms, so a cluster of 10 or so guests sat around the ‘2001 Space Odyssey’ Swiss designed white furniture in the lobby and surfed the net, emailed and uploaded photo content at will. Breakfast was to be in another building located around the corner. Such was the life in a city as old as Lucerne, I guessed. We were to spend two nights here.

Astoria Hotel

Pilatusstrasse 29, Lucerne 6002, Switzerland

Hotel report: The rooms were pretty spartan and the nightclub close by did its darndest to make sure our eyelids did not close, until the wee hours, so some guests questioned the 4 star rating. There is a penthouse bar on the roof top, which has nice views of the city. The breakfast provided was tasty but very light on, compared to the establishments in Germany. The good: This hotel was located close to the city centre so we were walking distance from the lake and Bucherer. Couple this with the fact that we were in Switzerland, and this probably explained why the 4 star bar had been lowered, comparatively speaking. Rating: 2.5 out of 5

On our first evening, we took a five minute walk til we were right on the lake, opposite Bucherer and the Chapel bridge. Our tour director took us on a walking tour. Bucherer and the mandatory Image

souvenir spoon was high on most people’s lists. But what is Lucerne know for but the famous Chapel Bridge?  Built in 1333, it is so very old, well that goes without saying, and painted with biblical type paintings inside its gables. Tragically, most of it burnt down in 1993, 660 years later.( I am glad it wasn’t 666 years, or some conspiracy theorists/devil worshippers, would have had a field day). Only a small part of the original bridge remains, and you can easily see charred spots here and there on some of the older parts that they managed to save from the flames.  How many millions of people have wandered through its arches from one side of Lucerne to the other?

Much photographed, I had little time to take in the paintings, and their glory, as our group kept a sprightly pace, but a later opportunity came a few weeks later when we passed through the city of Lucerne again.  The paintings are really a marvel and I wonder at the treasures that weres lost in the fire.

Our dinner this night, was partaken at a Swiss restaurant, in the same medieval vein as the paintings.  Restaurant Fritschi on Sternenplatz 5 so delighted the artist in me.

http://www.lu-luzern.ch/index.php/de/restaurant-fritschi-luzern

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Restaurant Fritschi

Historic pictures of jesters, jugglers and town’s people of old, adorned the exterior walls, and timber panelling with more medieval themed paintings could be found alongside traditional Swiss furniture, in the interior. I loved it. This was the place to have an authentic Swiss fondue. Traditionally made with a mixture of three cheeses, Gruyere, Jarlsberg and Emmenthaler, this dish was served with a crusty baguette, thickly sliced. I ordered a fondue for one, and for my young daughter, they graciously served “hot chips” much to her pleasure, while I struggled to finish the deliciously decadent and hearty fondue. It was no surprise that the Swiss army is held in high regard, as one of these fondues, could easily have fed a battalion!  It was so rich and so delicious, yet I only managed to eat about three slices of bread, before my stomach said “Whoa there!!!! ”

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Timber Panelling on the walls of Restaurant Fritschi, Lucerne

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Wandering the streets at night in December, is not a lonely experience. Not only were there Alpine horn blowers to entertain us, but some other traditional Christmas musicians, which you might just make out in the following photo. To me they  looked a bit like Chefs, carrying large gongs, and they played a percussive tune as they crossed the traffic bridge (covered in a net of Christmas lights) Even though the Christmas markets did not commence until 3rd Dec…( a day later) there was already such a festive atmosphere.

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Christmas time in Lucerne
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Of course you will find a host of treats at Christmas time, in Lucerne’s shops

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The Jesuit Church, built in 1667-68 was another stop, and featured a fascinating light show, which delighted my daughter. A different pattern was illuminated on its walls, every few minutes, including one of the swiss flag. They told me the church interior was open for viewing, even at night, but when we entered, it was so gloomy and dark, and devoid of tourists, that we felt a little unsafe and exited rather quickly.

Another amazing day, but I do have to ponder the safety of me and my daughter when travelling alone in a foreign land. I almost got lost making our way back to Hotel Astoria, but the map saved us. Safety of woman travelling alone is something we should ponder about before we leave home.

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