In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Ornate.”
A visual feast for the eyes?
Some may say it is overworked, a sensory overload, yet in historic or religious terms, one can see that the designers wanted to transform material objects, into something ornate in such a way as to exemplify glory, or divinity, with a fantasy of shapes, colours, and golden embellishments, for the congregation and secular visitors for many generations, to enjoy.
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.”
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.
“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!
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.
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.
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”?
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.
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.
Pilatusstrasse 29, Lucerne 6002, Switzerland
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 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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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……