Community

Christmas – Around the World

Merry Christmas from Something to Ponder About –

Here are a few snippets of Christmas past spent in various parts of the World. The spirit remains strong and the family connections, despite whatever corner of our globe we live in. May your Christmas be Merry and Bright!

Glædelig jul – Christmas in Denmark

Denmark

God jul – Christmas in Norway

A Norwegian Christmas

Norwegian National dress is worn at Christmas

European Christmas

Frohe Weihnachten! An Austrian, German and Swiss Christmas

Innsbruck christmas
Christmas in Austria
Christmas markets Europe
German Christmas Markets
Lucerne christmas
In Switzerland playing traditional horns
Innsbruck
‘Statues’ in Innsbruck at Christmas

Japanese Christmas

Merri Kurisumasu

Australian Christmas

And in Australia, we celebrate too even though it is hot and humid…. but we try to stay cool!

Christmas in our backyard pool!

Merry Christmas

from Amanda at Something to Ponder About

Merry Christmas is different around the world, and yet the same!!
Snowball Zermatt
Community

My Frozen places

Take a tour with me –

 

Iceland – the ultimate Frozen landscapeIceland Thingvellir

 

A snow bunny in the frozen Norwegian countrysideOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Delicate frozen-ness atop the Swiss Alpssnow

 

Icy vastness in the Antipodes of New Zealandsnow

 

Even in Australia, one can find frozen Gum treessnowgums falls cree 2011

 

The snow was icy and ‘sharp’ this day. If you fell skiing, it really hurt!Beitostolen

 

A face that could freeze hearts!

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Linking to the Travel theme: Frozen

 

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Community

Travel theme: Paths

Walking is something most of us do, and we take it for granted. Our feet take us along paths of life, paths of careers, family and nature.

Come walking with me along my the paths of my travels in this fascinating planet:

Vejen, Denmark
Kicking the leaves in country Denmark

Paths can take you to new discoveries, and invite you to experience a sensory adventure. They instill a feeling of anticipation, or mystery, of what lies beyond.

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Boardwalk in Australia

A path might lead to a place where each of us will imagine something different, based on on own microcosmic experiences.

Sunshine Coast
Pandanas Palms shelter the stairs to the Beaches of the Sunshine Coast

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A stairway to where?

As a child, I was completely fascinated with spiral staircases. Not often seen in Australia, they are subject to strict building regulations but regulations have no impact on a child’s imagination.

Iceland
Path to the Magical Blue Lagoon in Iceland

This was a path I will never forget – a special memory for me and my daughter. A wintry swim in the geothermal waters.

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You never know how you might meet on the path in Austria

Site of the ancient fortress
A path to Else’s house and Viking history in Norway

Do you have a favourite walking path? Is it near of far from home?

Others share their path at Where’s My Backpack.

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Community

Travel theme: Fabric

Traveling to different places in the world gives me an excuse to investigate folk traditions in fabric design. Something I find incredibly inspirational when it comes to designing my own artwork. Fabric and furnishings can also reflect the cultural and historical nuances and traditions of a region.

Norwegian embroidery and weaving

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Where would you find a beautiful fabric motif like this, but Innsbruck?!

fabric innsbruck

Hardanger embroidery on a cafe curtainhardanger embroidery

Norway is a country, where you will find many original and distinctive fabrics in many different forms.

Click on each individual photo to see a larger version

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Norwegian National dress

If you have some fabric that you have discovered in your travels, post a link to your blog or join in with Ailsa’s photographic travel theme challenge.

 

Something to Ponder About

 

Snow m-quote
Community

Proverbial Thursday – Proverbs from Around the World

Proverbial sml

I find there to be profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and I marvel at the way they are so succinct in communicating messages to the reader. Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and from across cultures. They speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned. Quotes, like proverbs, make us think more deeply about something.

Each Thursday, I post a Proverb or Saying and a Quote that I find thought-provoking.  I hope you will, too.

 

“A blind chicken will often find an ear of corn.”Austrian Proverb

Once you realise your past is just a story, it has no power over you

– Author Unknown

Something Proverbial to Ponder About

Community, History & Traditions

Christmas Traditions – Merry Christmas and God jul to All

Everyone has certain traditions surrounding Christmas or Juletide. Some come from one’s own heritage, or upbringing, whilst others have more modern origins.xmascollage5Likewise in our house, we have a mix of Danish/Australian traditions and some we have created ourselves like the fact that we always have lollie jars for the kids and candy ‘teeth’ sweets and bon bon hats are a must. (Nothing like pretending you have a large overbite and wear pointed paper hats for a good laugh).  Traditionally Danish Christmas eve Dinner is held on December 24th, and accordingly we open one present after dinner, and then follow Australian traditions of opening the rest of the presents on the morning of December 25. The lollie jars started out with dinner, when the kids were young, but even so, my big kids, a.k.a. men, still ask for them. 🙂

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Christmas day Dec 25, itself, might be spent visiting relatives or playing water volleyball in the backyard swimming pool, seeing relatives, or trying to keep cool in the sweltering heat. Notoriously Christmas day can be around 37 degrees celsius, so one sits inside with the air con on ‘high cool’, lying around watching old home videos that make one laugh and sometimes, cry.

There are , however, some more unusual traditions than ours. For example:

Austrian Christmas - Krampus
My encounter with the Krampus in Austria

Based on old Germanic folklore, Austrians, (not to be confused with Australians, who have the kangaroos),  start celebrating Christmas on December 5, with Santa’s evil twin, the “Krampus”, a devil like figure with horns, which roams the streets with his evil accomplice, (who brandishes a whip and stick amd threatens naughty children who’ve misbehaved throughout the year).  Traditionally, young men dress up with the hairy ‘Krampus’ masks and roam the streets creating havoc, hitting people with sticks. An excuse for outlandish drunken behaviour, methinks. But it is tradition, designed to make children toe the line for the next year. Luckily, when I met the Krampus, he was in a good mood and without his heinous accomplice!

Other strange Christmas traditions I found on openjourneys.com

In Czech republic on Christmas Eve, “unmarried Czech women practice a traditional fortune telling method to predict their relationship status for the upcoming year. If you’d like to give this a try, here’s how to do it: Stand with your back to your door and toss one of your shoes over your shoulder. If it lands with the toe facing the door it means that you will get married within the year. If it lands with the heel facing the door, you’re in for another year of unmarried status“.

In Japan, children eat Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas Day!

In Catalonia, life at Christmas is surely different:

Caga Tió, the pooping log, is a bizarre Christmas tradition. It starts with a hollowed out log, which is propped up on four little leg-like sticks and then painted to have a face. Every night, beginning December 8th, Caga Tió is “fed” and covered with a blanket (so that he doesn’t catch a cold). On Christmas Eve or Christmas day Caga Tió is put in the fireplace, beaten with a stick and ordered to “poop”. He is encouraged, along with the beating, by singing songs with catchy lyrics such as:Caga Tio, Catalonia, Spain

caga tió (poop log)
caga torró (poop turrón)
avellanes i mató (hazelnuts and cottage cheese)
si no cagues bé (if you don’t poop well)
et daré un cop de bastó. (I’ll hit you with a stick.)
caga tió!” (poop log!)

When he is done pooing candies, nuts and such, Caga Tió will then give one last push to reveal an onion, a head of garlic or a salt herring.” (from openjourneys.com)

In Caracas, Venezuela, church-goers attend an early morning mass between December 16th and December 24th. Not so strange for a mostly Catholic population. What is unusual about this practice is how everyone gets to church: on roller skates. The streets are blocked off to vehicular traffic until 8 am and children, the night before, tie one end of a piece of string to their big toes and hang the other end out the window. As roller skaters go by the next morning, they give a tug to all the strings hanging out the windows.”  That is one way to get the kids up and going to Church.

Nisse

Then there is always the Nisser in Danmark and Norway, which must be kept happy. Tradition dictates that one must leave a bowl of risengrøt or rice porridge to the little nisse/elf, that lives in the barn, so that he may bring good luck to all. Otherwise, he may play some naughty tricks on the home owners.El Caganer, Spain

Perhaps the strangest of all, is the ones found in “parts of Spain, Portugal and Italy, is to set up a model village of Bethlehem.

Along with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, a Caganer, or “Shitter” in English, is placed in the scene. The Caganer is a figurine, traditionally of a man, in the act of defecating, pants around his knees bending over with pile of feces at his heels. He is usually placed in a corner, perhaps because he needs privacy. The Caganer has been around for a few hundred years and in recent times it has evolved from a traditionally dressed man taking care of business to figurines of celebrities, nuns, politicians and Santa Claus.” (source: openjourneys.com)

And I thought my tradition of having candy teeth at Christmas time, was a little weird!!

Do you have unusual traditions at your house? Something I’ll ponder about.Blog pics 020

Whatever your tradition, may your Christmas be a happy and healthy one, full of fond memories, and love and peace. Glaedelig jul, God jul, Merry Christmas to you all.

Australia

Travel theme: Mountains from Where’s My Backpack

The Travel theme: Mountains Weekly challenge comes from http://wheresmybackpack.com/ 

and as I have finished the January Photo challenge, I thought I would join in. Also a great opportunity to showcase some of my amateur ( but I love them) photos of mountains. One or two may be reposts, but worthwhile reposts….

This is something quite relaxing when sitting in the peace and quiet gazing at a mountain scene ( preferably with snow atop) especially where the mountain meets the water line.

Here is my contribution: –

Mt Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland

Tranz Scenic Train Journey : Picton to Christchurch
Tranz Scenic Journey : Picton to Christchurch

 

Cradle Mountain, Tasmania, Australia
Cradle Mountain, Tasmania, Australia

Lake Tekapo New Zealand, looking towards Mt Cook

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Innsbruck, Austria

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Innsbruck, Austria

Skiing the Remarkables
The Remarkables, New Zealand

Arts Centre and Lyttleton Gondola
Towards Akaroa and Lyttleton from the Gondola,Christchurch, New Zealand

Lunch with Edmund Hilary at 760 metres at MT Cook /Aoraki
MT Cook /Aoraki,
NewZealand

Ferry ride... was like this.... and then Paradise...
Looks like Norway, but it is Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand

The best of the Queenstown!
Queenstown! New Zealand

Off to New Zealand
Looking towards Mordor, (LOTR Movie) New Zealand

Amazing Ålesund, Norway
Amazing Ålesund, Norway

 

Beitostolen, Norway
Beitostolen, Norway

 

Food, History & Traditions, Travel

Travel Odyssey – Sightseeing in Lucerne, Switzerland

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The view over the Vierwaldstaerttersee ( Lake Lucerne)

Part 10

EXCURSION to MT PILATUS

The top of the World… From Mt Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland. From there, one can see the Bernese Oberland, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland…fabulous. And this is was our destination this morning, by Cable car and Gondola.

Once upon a time, citizens thought it would bring bad luck to climb Mt Pilatus, but now, millions of tourists visit every year, without any kind of disastrous consequences. In winter, one might see snow at this altitude, but not this year. There was no snow to be seen in early December, at least.

Nevertheless, the views are still spectacular in weather such as this: it was sunny, mild but not cold! Ordinarily, the mountain is covered with fog in the morning, but not so today. The vistas were ours, to be seen.

The entrance to the Mt Pilatus Gondola attraction…

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Our gondola’s wheels whirled and bumped along the track taking us higher and higher. Below, we could see quaint Swiss style houses with ever so neatly packed timber piles, and a summer toboggan run.

Several fellow passengers started to get a bit nervous with the ever-increasing height…. but this was not a time to opt out, so up we went,  higher and higher. “Just look out, not down, or up”, I reassured them.

Up ,UP, UP, the Gondola went until we came to the end of the Gondola cable..DSC00895 DSC00893

But the ride was not completely over, as we weren’t yet at the summit of Mt. Pilatus.

Now we had to squish 40+ people into another cable car, that had the maximum capacity of only 40. Slightly disconcerting to say the least, as it swung back and forth, like the pendulum on  a clock, in mid air. It reminded me of thes cene in one one of those James Bond movie scenes. Was Roger Moore going to pop his head through the roof to rescue us?

And then, the thought struck me, we have to go down in this thing, again with 40 + people.

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The Cable car entrance

Don’t you just love the shadow Mt Pilatus throws in the next photograph?

It looks like some ancient mythological giant..

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The incline suddenly became EXTREME, but it was only moments later that we arrived at the summit…

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The American did a version of Planking: T- balling at 7000 feet. Weird.

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You can see the cable and severe slope it climbs in the foreground.  The summit views were mind blowing!

However we still weren’t standing at the actual summit.  That required a short walk, about 50 steps, that took us to the very highest point possible, where a small hut, possibly containing metereological instruments, is located.

This is where the incredible photo opportunities abound.

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The stairs visible in foreground…

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A small cafe and souvenir shop is located inside the building, where you alight from the Cable car. It was here that I bought a rather lovely Swiss watch, one that had a leather band with edelweiss and the Swiss emblem embroidered on it. And no surprise: it keeps great time! Well, I confess I also did HAVE to get the mandatory T – Shirt,  to say I had made the 7000 ft Ascent. Possibly my highest ascent to date. (We don’t have too many high mountains in Australia).

On the way down, I pondered why the return journey passes ever so much quicker. Then just a short coach ride took us back to the Astoria hotel in Luzern itself.

The breakfast we had earlier,that day, provided by Hotel Astoria, in the building next door, was nothing to write home about, (so much for Swiss cuisine), so we headed straight for the Bakery, opposite Bucherer.

And yes, we did collect both THOSE souvenir spoons, on the way.

What did I eat? I could not resist a Berliner donut, deliciously decadent, and so incredibly unhealthy, don’t you agree?

Sitting on the shores of beautiful Lake Lucerne, in the glorious sunshine, temperature an almost perfect 6 degrees. The moment so fabulous, I decided to text my work colleagues back home in Australia. Just thought I should share. I did not think afterwards, it was the middle of the night and probably woke some of them up. Oops.

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SHOPPING in LUCERNE

If you arrive in Lucerne late on a Thursday night, you will find the shops open til late, but remember many shops such as Casa grande, one of the main souvenir shops, closes during the daytime, around lunch, for 2 hours.

The Swiss are quite protective of their midday siestas.  As for what to buy  here: it is expensive, but if you stick to locally made goods, (ie. Swiss made), you can snag a good buy.

Souvenirs to buy include: Swiss knifes, Swiss watches, Swiss army knives, one for each of my family, with a variety of gadgets suited to their particular needs. I also purchased one of the very best kitchen knifes you could possibly get, at Bucherer.

It is fine quality, not hideously expensive, perfectly weighted, and will last forever! I love it. Also a great souvenir. I made a mental note not to forget to declare it to Customs, as I did not want to tell my husband I would be late home as I had been arrested!

I am repeating something from the previous post, but feel it warrants a seondary mention: You simply must try a Swiss fondue which I had tried the night before

(see previous post)

which more or less constitutes the following recipe:

Traditional Swiss Cheese Fondue

Rub a garlic clove around a Fondue pot and heat gently with the following ingredients.

Select a quantity of cheese suited to feed the number of persons dining:

1/2 of which is Emmanthal Cheese, and 1/2 of which is Gruyere cheese

1/2 teaspoon of Cherry Brandy, my absolute favourite spirit. Mind you if I bought it for the purpose of cooking, I can tell you that it would not make it to the pot.

A quantity of stale brown bread. Dip square into the pot and generously coat with melted cheese.

Tastes so good, and so much it could feed a Swiss Army 😛

Next entry: An afternoon cruise on Lake Luzern (Lucerne)

History & Traditions

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”.

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 slide down with a plastic bag lodged underneath his bottom as a makeshift toboggan!

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!

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. A Principality must have some income.

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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 above, with its historically relevant gables and strong striped walls.

Why does modern architecture have to be so “boxy”?

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!

Travelling on through “Heidi” country and past Hirzel, where the author Joanna Spyri was born.  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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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’ style white furniture in the lobby and surfed the net, emailed and uploaded photo content at will.

Breakfast was to beserved  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

Luzern/Lucerne

On our first evening, we took a five minute walk until 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 souvenir spoon seemed to be high on most people’s lists of places to visit. Image

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 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. 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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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 December, (a day later), there was already such a festive atmosphere in swing.

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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 at  night is something I often ponder about.

History & Traditions, Painting

Travel Diary – Part 8 – Salzburg to Innsbruck

A sunny but cool day, ( perfect weather for me) greeted us as we set off from Salzburg, along the Salach River, travelling for the most part, along roads fringing the Bavarian Alps. ‘Ach’ means water from the glacier, so you can imagine the colour of this particular river. It was an ice blue, from the particles of small rock washed down from the glacier. Just beautiful.  Austria, on the whole, is such a delightful country, so pretty and not well known in my part of the world. I guess it struggles a little economically, particularly with the spectre of the current GFC breathing down its neck, and thus I often saw the sign “zimmerfrei” for rent on the village houses. Much prefer this to a hotel style accomodation don’t you? These houses are full of character.

Our guide and bus driver had colluded together to see if they could find us some snow to look at, along the way to Innsbruck, as we were all looking forward to a winter wonderland, which had not as yet, arrived as yet. So they took us along a back road through Bad Reichenhall and the Lofer Mountains, magnificient Tirolean scenery, along ski road and lodges, dotted here and there with artificial snow, made from machines. Well, I guess that they had to have something for the early winter guests to do?!!! I was happy to see any white stuff, frankly….

The Castle Fratzholz ?sp is found here, in the Tirolean region. It was the where the Nazi’s stored much of the famous paintings/works of art stolen from Europe during Hitler’s reign.  I noticed the Tirolean churches here are mainly comprising a Baroque form, with a round chancel (is this called the chancel or the nave?) comprising the altar area. Really like out of a Grimm’s Fairy tale.

Historically, the Hapsburgs ruled Austria and Innsbruck in the 1200′s  right up to the 1500/1600′s. This was a time of Roman Empress Maria Teresa, and the triumphal arch situated at the south end of Maria-Theresien Straße, which was modeled after roman archetypes, was built by the Empress on occasion of the marriage of her son, the Duke of Tuscany, later Emperor Leopold II, to Maria Ludovica from Spain. The marble reliefs were created by Balthasar Moll in 1744. The ones on the south side show Leopold and his bride Ludovika, the ones on the north show Empress Maria Theresia and her beloved husband, Francis I Stephen of Lothringen, who sadly died during the celebrations. Times have not always been so rosy since, however. Despite losing almost all its territory and empire during WWI, there are still some success stories in Austrian business. Red Bull, Geiger, and Swarovski are all Austrian companies.

Innsbruck has a population of 118.000 and is at 1,985 ft /605 m above sea level.  Entering Innsbruck, you can’t help escape seeing the enormous Ski Jump and the Patscherkofel Mountain which we guessed, most of the skiing takes place.  This is 7,381 ft or 2250 m, and I imagine there would be heaps of black runs or skiing off piste!!!

Arriving in Innsbruck there was loads of free time in the old town doing the mandatory tour of the old pedestrian streets and arcades, seeing the famous Golden Roof, made from 2657 golden plated tiles and all those fabulous Rococco buildings.
The areas around Innsbruck were, for many years, mined for metals, and this was the source of the economic base for the development of the Austrian empire. No doubt some of the gold from the Innsbruck hills, made its way into those 2657 golden tiles). Our hotel was centrally located right next to the Triumphal Arch an architectural remnant of Maria Therese’s reign, a short stroll from the below pictured pedestrian street.
There was a lovely atmosphere to be found in these streets, as the Christmas markets predominated already in early November. I found a great soft leather wallet, with just the right amount of compartments at one store, for a fraction of the price I would pay at home at a street stall in the Xmas market. On the whole, the shops were expensive by home standards, but in the pedestrian street, you will find some department stores with bargains on certain items. I found a fabulous Kugelhof cake tin for a mere pitance. Some beautiful fabric too: elegantly patterned monochromatic Christmas tablecloth fabric, of the likes completely unobtainable in Australia.

There are often street entertainers too, some are a little strange, like two guys dressed as a Madonna and child and ?feminine male partner?? Still a bit confusing for me….

When searching for a replacement piece of luggage (damaged by porters!) in an Innsbruck retailer, we found the most amazing folk art painted cupboards and dresser, painted in ‘Alpbachtal’ style. The shopkeeper told me that she had already had one dresser restored, but she was not happy with the results of that restoration, as she felt it did not do the art justice, so even though her other cupboard is dark and has been antiqued by age, she will not have it restored, as it will still retains the special beauty of the original brushstrokes.  I think I agreed with her.

The fairy tale becomes real in Innsbruck at Xmas time as the towns people decorate windows and walls with characters from the German fairy tales such as Snow Queen, Hansel and Gretel and the Golden Goose and Puss N Boots.

During the free time in Innsbruck, most of the females of the species practically ran to Swarovski to grab some jewellery bargains. Having a bit of Norwegian silver, I opted to go on the afternoon optional excursion to an authentic Austrian farm on the hills outside Innsbruck, called Axams. Another wonderful example of an unique Austrian village where they appreciate decorative and traditional art.

We ditched the bus for an old fashioned carriage ride, complete with horse drawn poop bags, which got to serve the purpose for which they had been made. I began to think about times gone by when horse drawn vehicles predominated the streets. How the streets would have had the sweet sick aroma of horse dung. What a stink it must have been. The carriage ride took us to the Goetzens Church, am amazing edifice to the devotion of the Austrians to the catholic faith. And then on to Fritz’ Farm!

‘Fritz’ (- was that really his name: how appropriate!) then entertained the passengers at his farm stud, where we saw beautiful throughbreds, tasted snapps and listened to Fritz yodelling and entertaining us. It was a shame that the snow did not allow for a sled ride, as what would normally be found in Austria in wintertime, but I quickly learnt the Austrian countryside is just as delightful with a green carpet.  Except for those darn power lines, and the odd Austrian getting in the way of a good landscape shot!!!

Back to Innsbruck, we scoured the Xmas markets whilst the young men of the group checked out the casino, part of our hotel complex. The more refined guests partook of dinner at the Sandwirt on the River Inn.  Something I won’t be pondering on is how they felt after the casino visit……