Australia, Community, History & Traditions

Christmas Traditions Around the World

Denmark

Almost every tourist to Copenhagen will visit the Tivoli Gardens, but if you want to experience an authentic Danish Christmas, you have to be around on December 24, as that is when the Danes and many Scandinavians, and indeed Europeans, celebrate Christmas. Danes might stay at home making and preparing marzipan Christmas sweets, and in the evening, celebrate Christmas with a hearty meal with family or friends, before dancing around the Christmas tree singing carols, (in danish of course), and finish the night playing Christmas games. It is all about creating Christmas Hygge!

Norway

The focus in Norway at Christmas, or Jul, is on food and lots of it. From the Rice porridge, or Rommegrot to seven types of Christmas biscuits or cookies, the Norwegian are into it. Trolls, Nisse and all.

Germany and Europe

Over in Deutscheland, and many parts of Europe, you might attend a Christmas market. It is almost compulsory and who wouldn’t want to, when there is delicous Christmas food, a festive atmosphere and Gluhwein in the offering.

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Switzerland

The Swiss have long trumpet like horns that are played in the streets at Christmas time. In Lucerne, they also have enormous cow bells which are held in front of them and are rung, in a rhythmic march, whilst parading down the city streets. A very special Swiss Christmas.

Austria

Over in Austria, you might meet fairy tale characters in the streets of the Old Towns, such as these in Innsbruck.

However, the vibe is a little different in Austria and southern European areas like Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia or Austria, who have the tradition of the Krampus. Based on old Germanic folklore, Austrians, (not to be confused with Australians, who have the kangaroos), start celebrating Christmas on Krampusnacht,December 5. That is when Santa’s evil twin, the “Krampus”, a devil like figure with horns, roams the streets with his evil accomplice, brandishing a whip and stick to threaten naughty children who’ve misbehaved throughout the year. 

Austrian Christmas - Krampus
The Krampus

Traditionally, young men dress up with the hairy ‘Krampus’ masks and walk the streets creating havoc, hitting people with sticks. That’s Austria. Luckily, when I met the Krampus, he was in a good mood and without his heinous accomplice!

Australia

Australia, the ones with the kangaroos and Crocodiles, (not Austria), has its own version of fun in the sun at Christmas time, because it is anything but cool, “down under.” Christmas Day, December 25 is often celebrated at teh beach.

Every shopping centres hosts Santa, where he sits posed on his gold throne, surrounded by fake snow, with children atop his knee, listening intently to wishes for Christmas. It is highly confusing for the smarter kids, as they can’t work out how Santa is able to be at every shopping centre at the same time!

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Christmas

Often there is the opportunity for official Santa photos, and now it is popular for beloved pets get involved too. The Schnauzer seemed to enjoy the experience this year.

New Zealand

Down in New Zealand, you will most likely have a Christmas tree (usually an artificial one), or more than one, if you are as passionate about Christmas as this kiwi.

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New Zealand Christmas

This Lady of the above house in Wellington loves decorating, makes all her own decorations and has no less than 15 trees in her house. It is always tastefully done, albeit a tad obsessive, but in the nicest possible way! Dianne collects a gold coin donation from visitors and the money raised is donated to charity, so there is method in her madness.

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Some of her trees were really creative. She had even created seasonal trees – in tones of Spring, Summer Autumn and well, winter of course.

Sweden

At the opposite ends of the world, in the far north of Sweden, you might be building a snowman or sliding down a snowy slope on a mattress at Christmastime. Or digging out your car, if the snow is heavy!

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Skellefteå

Japan

In Eastern parts of the world such as Japan, you might not really celebrate Christmas at all and instead, focus on the bigger celebration of New Year. Mind you, the growing tradition of eating Kentucky Fried Chicken on December 25, is oddly popular, for some reason. I would most likely starve if I spent Christmas day there.

You may even be someone who dislikes the hype around Christmas and prefer not to celebrate and that is okay too. Wherever you are and how ever you choose to see Christmastime, may you find Joy in your day and peace in your heart.

God jul

Griss Godt

Fröhliche Weihnachten

Nollaig Shona

Wesołych Świąt

Manuia le Kirisimasi

メリークリスマス

Glædelig jul

Merry Christmas

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas

from Amanda at Something to Ponder About

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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!!
Vejen, Denmark
Book review, Community

Invisible Murder – Book Review

With the topic of refugees and terrorism very much in the news, this novel by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis, is written for our time and makes for illuminating reading.

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Two impoverished Roma boys are scavenging for something to sell in the ruins of an abandoned Soviet military hospital. Purportedly to improve the lives of themselves and their poverty-stricken families in a rural village of Hungary, one of the boys embarks on a radical plan. Far away in middle class Denmark, Red cross nurse, Nina Borg inadvertently risks her own life and those of her family, to assist a group of Hungarian refugees but little does she know her actions will have disastrous ramifications.

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Source: Economist.com

“Jobbik. It had to be Jobbik, taking to the streets to protest the Jews, Communists and Romas from ‘ruining out nation.’ Lusja straightened herself up pursing her lips as though she had found something disgusting on her shoe. ‘God spare us from any more racist, goose stepping idiots.’ The driver turned in his seat. ‘Jobbik aren’t racists,’ he said. ‘They’re just for Hungary.’ Lusja straightened up in her seat and stared daggers at the driver, 128 pounds of indignant humanism versus 260 pounds of overweight-but-muscular nationalism. ‘And what kind of Hungary would that be?’ she asked. ‘A Hungary clinically scrubbed of all diversity? A Hungary where you can be arrested just because you skin is a different colour? A Hungary where it’s totally okay for Romas to have a life expectancy that’s fifteen years shorter than the rest of the population?’

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Source: Hungarianfreepress.com

A novel that is carefully crafted and well-balanced, allowing you to understand both sides, their personal  motives and furthermore, to feel empathy for the characters woven into the story line: The studious brother who in one brief moment is denied a legal career and betterment for himself, and his family, only because of a racially slanted agenda, his quest to save his wayward orphan brother who, by way of contrast, chooses an extremist, crash-through course of action, and the consequences for each; the innocent bystanders; the well-meaning humanitarians in Denmark, the terrorist thugs and ordinary residents of homogeneous, suburbia integrating with ‘foreigners’.

Are they all helping or hindering the cause? What toll does it take, personally, on those who help the less fortunate, the traumatized, the dangerous, and those on the fringes of society?

In the face of a changing Europe, this Scandinavian novel illuminates some salient points to ponder about inter-related events that shape our modern lives.

Rating 8/10

Other Novels by these bestselling authors: The Boy in the Suitcase

 

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Travel

Zurich – Travel Odyssey in Switzerland

Crossing the Swiss border and heading for Zürich where my sightseeing included the imposing Grossmünster, elegant Fraumünster, and winding alleys of the old town alongside the river Limmat.

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 After visiting so many Christmas markets in Germany and Austria, Zurich’s ‘Christkindlmarkt’ touted as the biggest indoor Christmas extravaganza in Europe, at the main railway station, was off the mark.

It did offer 160 wooden chalets and a three story Christmas tree, dripping with Swarovski crystals, but I could find nothing that interested me enough to purchase, and the smell of roasted chestnuts was quite overpowering. (That can be good or bad, depending on your preference).

The atmosphere was friendly and festive and that, alone, made the trip into the city from our hotel, Movenpick, worthwhile.

Besides giving us a free upgrade on our room, a great thing about the Movenpick Hotel, is its proximity to the airport. There’s also a free shuttle, running at regular intervals, to the Airport’s undercover shopping centre. A range of clothing, food, camera, and tourist souvenir shops are a good option if the weather is inclement. I found several bargains on walking boots on a day when it was too wet to venture further.

Do I have a hankering to return to Zurich?

Not especially.

I adored the old buildings arcades and churches, the surprise decoration on a cantilever balcony, but the city itself seems too cold and business like. I don’t think I spoke to any Swiss native, in any store, and the language barrier didn’t appear to be the issue.

Asking to have a hot chocolate or coffee at a restaurant, as opposed to a whole lunch, was met with stares of disbelief and a courteous, and somewhat clipped, “No, we are booked out.” Perhaps the Christmas season is too busy for drinks only.

Zurich did not offer me much, except I can say I window shopped til I dropped on the Bahnhofstrasse, considered by some to be the richest street in the world, but bought nothing more than a few gourmet chocolates and a scarf.

A large department store did have a good quality cafeteria, that was packed to the hilt at lunchtime. An experience I won’t ponder about for too much longer.

Next Stop: Lucerne /Chur

???????????????????????????????Related Posts:
https://forestwoodfolkart.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/part-9-euroscandi-odyssey-innsbruck-to-lucerne/

https://forestwoodfolkart.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/part-5-euro-scandi-odyssey-rothenburg-travelogue/

Community

Part 3 EuroScandi Odyssey – Landing in Frankfurt

Day 3

Although it was Friday and we spent most of it flying over Asia and the Middle East, we were to move backwards in time and experience Friday a second time. It was shortly after 6 am Friday when we landed, so the start of Friday again!

Our Lufthansa flight was on the then new and so enormous A-380, which has two floors of seating. With the Lufthansa CEO and his entourage taking up most of the senator class on the Upper deck, (spotted later on German TV, otherwise would not have had the foggiest who he was),  it then took us almost a full hour to board this mammoth, flying monster that had just come into service; so recently in fact, that it still smelt new. I must comment that the cabin was very well insulated, which did cut down on that awful vibrative noise one gets during long haul flights.

The Crew were not very friendly, but not unfriendly either. Just a presence, could not really say  a verbal one, more a physical one. As for the passengers, the man next to me was either Russian or East European and he was the best flight neighbour I have had yet. He just curled up and went to sleep, and I did  not hear ‘boo’ out of him all night. The other side of the plane consisted of a large group of square-headed, severely blonde gentlemen with no. 1 crew cuts, shouting in what sounded like an angry Deutche. But then German sounds like an angry language, sometimes.

Frankfurt airport itself, is huge and extremely difficult to get one’s bearings in unless, of course,  you go directly out to an exit. On passing through Passport control, we were asked about our itinerary as happens when you are a foreigner. I must say that the customs/police were very kind and friendly, as was our taxi driver, (who was hell bent on breaking the sound barrier, getting us to our hotel in Offenbach, a satellite town of Frankfurt. He was from Pakistan, ( aren’t most taxi drivers?) and he told us how he had a near fatal car accident when he first started driving… eeek! Something he tells his customers to reassure them, no doubt……

To our delight, our room at Sheraton Offenbach was made available for us straight away, at 7.15 am, which was either by good fortune, or because we were part of a large tour group that was commencing the next day. So, after settling in, we toddled out to find what Offenbach had on offer….excuse the bad pun/Dad joke.

What we found was a small  Christmas market, focused on food, in the “main” (again excuses for the pun/Dad joke), a wonderful Cafe at the Rathaus, where hot chocolate would be served to you for a  meagre $1.20 Euro, but who am I to complain? (Especially when I am used to paying $6.00AUD).Also,  a medium sized indoor shopping centre with some wonderful clothes shops, just a short stroll from our hotel. Heidi and I spent most of the day there buying jumpers and t-shirts, also some jewellery that was a bit more stylish than the mainstream shops back home. We loved it and found many a bargain and some nice new winter gear. When I visited Germany in 2004, everthing was so  expensive, now…. things were very inexpensive. Was the AUD performing that well against the Euro?

It was rather cold and we started to feel it, but nothing daunted, we did spot a squirrel in the nearby Palais park, and it was far too tempting to not chase this little fellow into the park. Whilst the Autumn leaves periodically dropped around us, we attempted to get a good photo of the illusive creature (which turned out to be a blurry shot anyway). The Palais building, pictured below,  is now a conference centre for the hotel, but looked like something that the Von Trappe family might have once owned.  The outside temperature was about + 5 degrees, but felt a little colder, presumably after our Singapore sojourn, and we had not yet acclimatised to the cold.

Busing Palais Offenbach
Busing Palais Offenbach

Europe 2011second batch 063Europe 2011second batch 075Something else we had yet to learn about Offenbach was where to find good local eateries and we were somewhat put off by the name of some of the food at the supremarket and  Christmas markets such as  “Super Dickman.”  (The mind boggles but there we have it…) Opting for something safer, we purchased some simple bread rolls from the Supermarket, (it’s always good to check out the local’s food ) and found some delicious pastries as well, which were more than satisfying. The German bakery treats were to become so familiar to us and indeed part of our permanent body shape for the next 3 weeks and hopefully not part of our body shape for three years. They are sooo good!!!Come nighttime, we dined at the hotel restaurant and the prices, once again, I have to say were moderate, compared to Australia. I had a delicious prawn pasta dish, seen below, in its triumphal glory and Heidi had a bolognaise that would have easily fed 6 people!!!
Travellers tip: If you are used to having still water with your meals, then beware, in Germany you have to specially request still water and pay for it, or they will provide mineral water in a bottle for you, again at a price.If you just ask for ‘water’, they will give you the version with bubbles, or ‘gas’, as they say. In other words, sparkling mineral water. You have to ask for ‘still vand’, or ‘still water’. Perhaps because it is much colder in Germany than at home, noone seems to drink still tap water here.  You can see our requested ‘water’ in the background of this picture, where we learnt this lesson very quickly. Water was something we pondered about on our first night in Germany.

Searching for the illusive Squirrel
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.