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
God jul – Christmas in Norway
Frohe Weihnachten! An Austrian, German and Swiss Christmas
And in Australia, we celebrate too even though it is hot and humid…. but we try to stay cool!
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 Friday, I post a Proverb or Saying and a Quote that I find thought-provoking.
I hope you will too.
There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is still the same.
– Chinese proverb
This Chinese proverb is reassuring to those who sit outside the box, to those who don’t fit the mold, non-conformists who are so often cast aside from the mainstream, as being less valued.
We all, every single one of us, ends up in the very same place There is no immortal life on earth. Death is a leveling experience. The thought that we are racing headlong towards the end of life has slipped the mind of some, has run past many others, whilst a few appear hell bent on getting there before anyone else.
To paraphrase a song lyric: “The race is long, but in the end, it is only with yourself.”
“How abundantly do spiritual beings display the powers that belong to them! We look for them, but do not see them; we listen to, but do not hear them; yet they enter into all things, and there is nothing without them.”
Confucius has many profound things to say, and this strikes me as pertinent, both from a religious and secular angle. The human race is not convinced about the existence of supernatural beings or extra terrestrials, strange metaphysical happenings, ESP, intuition, citing the need for tangible evidence before any acknowledgement is publicly given, yet religion heavily relies on intangible belief and imagination from the flock.
Not as elegant is this Bush Turkey that is nesting around the Rainforest park at Maleny in South East Queensland. A native largeless flightless bird, the male tends a large moulded heap of composted leaf litter into which the females lay the eggs. To regulate the temperatur,e so that it is optimal for the eggs contained within the heap, these turkey remove or add leaf litter to the heap as necessary. Pretty cool that they can detect these temperature changes.
Lastly, here is my old pet Sulphur crested cockatoo. Now about 29 years old. Two years ago she went to live in Sydney, with another male cockatoo, who is much much younger than her. They has a large outdoor aviary and the run of the house!! Paradise for a pet bird bred who has lived, completely in captivity, its entire life. I do wonder what she ponders about these days.
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.
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?
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.
Michelle’s weekly pet challenge week 10 is open. If you’d like to take part, here is how:
Just simply do a post of your pets, or pets of your friends or family. You can also post pictures and stories of animals that come and eat food you leave out for them. Eg, you may have a bird feeder in your garden. Pictures taken in the wild are also very welcome. Link back here and head your post as “Michelle’s Weekly Pet Challenge.” Display the logo on your post or on your sidebar.
Most importantly, have fun!
Not my pet this week!! But something from my travels in Switzerland.
Once a week A word in Your Ear dips into the dictionary and picks a word that the page falls open at, and the challenge is to post a picture or use whatever genre you prefer to share what your take on the word is MISTAKE
The following photos were from my time in Lucerne, on the lake, where my daughter had tried to line up one of those classic photos, but it did not come off…..clearly a mistake. Still a nice memory. Mistakes are a great way to learn, and ponder about how you would change things the next time.
If you are taking part don’t forget to :-
Create a post and add a link/pingback to this one so others can follow the trail and join in or check out entries of other bloggers.
Add a tag ‘A Word A Week Challenge’ in your ‘tags’ box so others can find your post easily if you would like a chance to reblogged
You have a week to post if you would like to take part – A Word in Your Ear normally posts a new word each Sunday. More entries here.
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.
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…
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..
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.
Don’t you just love the shadow Mt Pilatus throws in the next photograph?
It looks like some ancient mythological giant..
The incline suddenly became EXTREME, but it was only moments later that we arrived at the summit…
The American did a version of Planking: T- balling at 7000 feet. Weird.
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.
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.
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
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.