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Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

Salzburg was hot in mid July, very, very hot and humid. It was also crowded, very crowded with tourists who had arrived in town for the annual Salzburg Music Festival and to see the newly opened Dom Quarter Museums and former Residence of some of the Salzburg ruling Prince Archbishops. And, it was school holidays. Not the best time to be in Salzburg! I had not been to this celebrated baroque city since 1969 when we were able to wander in peace and to imagine how it must have been in Mozart’s time. This time, that was just not possible. Perhaps the best time to visit Salzburg, the famed Baroque city, the Rome of the North, is in the spring or autumn. Then it may still be possible to wander quietly and not have to jostle your way around the streets which are indeed filled with beautiful buildings, all looking well maintained. We bought a two day Salzburg Card so that we wouldn’t have to line up at ticket offices but even that is not much help when every venue is so full of people. I chose our hotel close to the Mirabell Palace and Gardens which I had long wanted to visit. From there, I thought,we could walk everywhere and that would be good. I didn’t count on the hot weather! We found the pavements were so hot that, after some walking, our feet ‘burned’ in our shoes. And even when we arrived ‘home’ from our exploring in the evning there was no relief from the heat. Our hotel purported to be four star, but there was no air con., not even a fan, and only one opening window. In general, Salzburg hotels provide for the need for warmth in the winter not for cooling in the summer. With heat well over 30 degrees until late into the evening and not a breath of air all night, it was not at all pleasant. It was all a bit of shock to us after the cool evening breezes at our previous stay beside the lake at St Wolfgang.   Mirabell Schloss and Gardens, Salzburg On our first day in Salzburg, we walked to the Mirabell Schloss, a Palace built in 1606 by Prince-Archbishop Wolf Deitrich to celebrate his love for his mistress Salome Alt.  With Salome, Wolf Deitrich had had fifteen children, ten of whom survived. He named the Schloss, Altenau, but it was renamed Mirabell by the next Prince-Archbishop, Markus Sitticus who had had Wolf Deitrich imprisoned in the Hohenslazburg Fort.

Like almost every visitor to this palace, we climbed the outside steps to a position on a small hill beside the Palace. From there we looked into the distance across the formal Mirabell Gardens to the dome of Salzburg Cathedral, the Dom, and on up towards the Hohensalzburg Fortress on its perch high above the city. To get there was our goal for the afternoon. .

Marble staircase at Mirabell Schloss

Marble staircase at Mirabell Schloss

What I particularly wanted to see in this palace, was its magnificent baroque Marble Hall, the ballroom.  During the years 1721 to 1727, the then Prince-Archbishop, Franz Anton von Harrach, employed the the famous baroque architect, Lukas von Hildebrandt, to redesign the palace. He was resposible for the stunning beauty of the ballroom. In this room, a young Mozart and his sister, Nannerl, once played for the aristocracy. Concerts are still held in this hall.

The Marble Hall and the massive marble staircase in the palace, were fortunately untouched by a fire which swept through the city of Salzburg on April 30th, 1818. Although we were able to climb that staircase and see the many cherubs balancing on the balustrade and view the beautiful sculptures by Georg Raphael Donner that adorn all the large niches, we did did not see the ballroom.  It was closed to visitors that day because of a continuous stream of Saturday afternoon weddings. It’s apparently a very popular place for civil weddings… and why not? .

Modern altar and stain glass windows of St Andras Kirche on Mirabellaplatz, Salztburg.

Modern altar and stain glass windows of St Andras Kirche on Mirabellaplatz, Salztburg.

Just across the road from Mirabell Gardens is St Andräs Church. It’s not one of Salzburg’s famed baroque churches. It’s newer, being built in the 1890s.  The simplicity of its interior without any elaborate detail and the modern style of art works was a refreshing change. IHere the church is dominated by a stylised altar, art work by Karl Weiser, and three figurative glass windows. I’ve always been fascinated by the development of pictorial glass windows through the centuries. These three windows represent St Mary and the saints, each figure represented being named on an interpretive board in the side aisle of the church. As well as being fascinated by the variety of religious art through the ages, we found on this particular day that churches indeed also offered the coolest place for respite from the heat. We hoped to return here for an evening organ concert. On Thursday mornings the large square in front of this church changes from being a car park at a main bus/tram stop to being a colourful farmer’s market…. a pity we weren’t there on a Thursday. Next time perhaps! .

The church of the Holy Trinity, Salzburg.

The church of the Holy Trinity, Salzburg.

Still on the right bank of the river, on our way to the old town and Dom Quarter, we popped into the Holy Trinity Church, the Dreifaltigkeitskirche.  It’s part of a large seminary for the training of priests. I had thoughts of another quiet rest stop but, just inside the door, our way was barred by a grill.  At least it was cool in there. This church, although in the Baroque style, is much simpler in style that many baroque interiors in Austria and elsewhere in Europe. The floor of the church is elliptical in shape, as is the dome above. .

The imposing towers of Salzburg Cathedral, the Dom.

The imposing towers of Salzburg Cathedral, the Dom.

Crossing the river, we jostled with hundreds of other tourists in the narrow streets making enjoyment of the buildings an impossibility. We finally came to the large Dom Square and headed for the Dom. We were both looking forward to our visit there and perhaps a quiet sit in the cool as we took in the magnificence of this masterpiece of Salzburg’s buildings. That was not to be! The crowd trying to get into the church was huge. We were not aware of the fact at the time, and there were no signs to alert us to the fact, that there was a concert about to begin. We thought we would just have to wait our turn to get inside. When we got closer to the door, we realised that a concert was indeed about to begin. All tickets sold. By now we had become unwittingly caught up in the push and shove of the crowd as people pushed their way in to claim a better seat. We, of course, were not allowed past the door, so had to fight our way back out! It was a nightmare made more so by a lady pushing a wheel chair who was determined that she would run over my toes rather than let me get back out. It’s moments like that a really good knowledge of the language would have been helpful. We decided to retreat to a small restaurant for a meal. We had not had lunch so something to eat was in order plus we needed a break from the heat and crowds. It would have been nice to sit in one of the shaded small streets where the sun never gets a chance to enter. But the street side cafés were, as usual in Austria, full of smokers. We finally found a small air conditioned place where we were able to enjoy a delicious salad and cold water. It was great to have a rest in a quiet spot that, for once on this hot day, was not in a church. .

The main Dom Square, Salzburg.

The main Dom Square, Salzburg.

After that we headed back to the main Dom Square  but the heat coming off the vast area of white pebbles was relentless, so we needed to have a plan B. .

The soaring stone pillars of the Franciscan Church, Salzburg.

The soaring stone pillars of the Franciscan Church, Salzburg.

Well, there was another church nearby. There seemed to be churches everywhere. This one was the Franciscan Church and although it was busy with tourists, at least it was cool in there. This church, like the more famous baroque Dom, has its origins right back in Salzburg’s early Christian period. But whilst the Dom was a bishop’s church, and thus of the aristocracy, the Franciscan church was built as a church of the people, by aspiring Salzburg burghers and business men. The early church was constantly being destroyed by fire. But the current Gothic style church, dating back to the 1400s, was constructed of solid stone with soaring pillars and an air of elegance. It’s meant to be a place of quiet meditation…. That is, it should be, except for the babble of tourists. .

The Hohensalsburg Fortress high on a rocky crag above the city.

The Hohensalsburg Fortress high on a rocky crag above the city.

Perhaps, we thought, it might be a little cooler up on the hill where the old fort was built. Our Saltzburg Card included a ride up there on the funicular and entrance fees to the fort. So to the Fort we went. And that was a very good idea. At least there was a zephyr of a breeze up there. .

An image of the fort almost as it is today after centuries of bits being added on.

An image of the fort in 1653, almost as it is today.

And inside the very thick old stone walls of the fort there were some cool, quiet spots with seats to rest and take in this massive old fortress. The fort was begun in 900 and has been added to over the centuries until the late 1600s. In one area there was a video display of computer generated images of the way the fort had grown over the years. It had begun with just a small square building and grew to meet the needs of the town’s defences. I took photos of a few of the images. I was fascinated by the archeology and the way the story of the fort has been pieced together. The photo above is more or less the fort as it is today, much the same as in 1653. It is very large and contains many, many steps! David went on to climb those myriad steps and explore more of the fort while I enjoyed a quiet time under a very old tree in the main courtyard. It was a much better option for me! .

The view from the Fortress down across the old city of Salzburg.

The view from the Fortress down across the old city of Salzburg.

Later, we went up onto the parapet that gives a wonderful view down over the city with the Dom taking centre stage. From there we could see just how far we had walked, from beyond the trees near the river in the centre distance. And we could also see how far we had to walk to get back to the hotel! It was still over 30 degrees and very humid. It was a long, hot walk back to our hotel. We did have a bit of a break in a square where a couple of men were playing street chess. We joined a few onlookers, and like them enjoyed a cold ice cream. Then, somehow, I managed the rest of that hot walk and finally fell onto the bed with huge relief. There was still no movement in the air. So as we lay there, seeking some relief from cool, wet towels, we made plans to get out of the city the next day, Sunday, when the heat threatened to be hotter and the crowds threatened to be much larger.  More of that anon.

To see more photos of this day in Salzburg, go to our flickr site:

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

Once on our site, just click on albums and select the relevant albums:

AUT: Salzburg a) Mirabell Palace

AUT: Salzburg b) St Andräs Church

AUT: Salzburg c) Walk to the Old Town

AUT: Salzburg d) Huhensalzburg Fortress’

More anon

Jennie and David

Photography copyright ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

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After spending the morning in the delightful Botanic Gardens, we needed some lunch, so we returned to the city centre on Bus 32, the bus designated ‘Zoo/Bot Garten’.

Outdoor eating; watching the world go by!

Outdoor eating; watching the world go by!

In the summer, eating places spill out onto the streets so it was not hard to find somewhere to sit and enjoy lunch and a coffee and just watch life in Augsburg go by. While sitting there, I  took the next photo as our bus returned once more from the gardens.

Tram and bus drivers need to be very aware of people in this "pedestrian zone"!!

Tram and bus drivers need to be very aware of people in this “pedestrian zone”!

The city has a well used “pedestrian first” centre, and, as pedestrians seem to have right of way, bus and tram drivers need to have their wits about them at all times. This photo shows some reasons why! The bus was slowing when two young ladies just walked across in front of it… Not behind!  They were the exception though. Most people were well aware of their surroundings as they crossed the road, like the two shoppers who took the opportunity of the bus braking to walk across as well.  A young man decided that crossing the road was a great time to light up! We couldn’t help but notice that so many people smoke, especially young people … and lots of them are young girls. On the street, it’s hard to get away from the smell of cigarettes. Many people ride bicycles although helmets are not required and rarely are they evident… But hanging off the handle bars is really not going to help much, is it?  We also noticed that mobile phones are not so much in evidence in the streets although owned by most. We did a count as we sat there, and only one in fifteen people were using a mobile or listening to music etc on ear phones… And those who were using their mobiles were young and on their own as they walked. But even they took note of where they were and looked both ways before crossing the street.

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Bicycles share the road with trams, buses and pedestrians.

Bicycles share the road with trams, buses and pedestrians.

In fact, although pedestrians share the cobblestone streets with buses, trams and bicycles, the system seemed to work remarkably well with not a pedestrian crossing in sight.

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Advertising the local brew on a tram!

Advertising the local brew on a tram!

Some of the trams have well aimed advertising on the sides. One of the well known products of Augsburg is its beer.

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A pedestrian mall.

A pedestrian mall.

After lunch we decided to explore some of the city streets.  Not all have trams and buses and are easy to wander in and enjoy. Much of the city was bombed in the war and has been rebuilt at least replicating the facades of the original buildings. Augsburg has a proud history of 2,030 years, although of course these facades are not of a period that old!

Part of the ceiling in the Golden Saale of the Town Hall

Part of the ceiling in the Golden Saale of the Town Hall

We called into the information centre and were guided by the lady to visit the town hall, an amazing reconstruction of the old town hall that was destroyed in the war. The people and businesses of Augsburg have worked together over many years to bring this building back to life, faithfully recreating not only its architecture but also the wonderful paintings and golden clad statues that decorate the Golden Saale on the first floor of the building. They are rightly proud of this community effort.

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Intricate and very old sculptures above the front door of the Dom in Augsburg

Intricate and very old sculptures above the front door of the Dom in Augsburg

Although the main church, the Dom, still has its original front facade intact, much of the church was destroyed and has been rebuilt in what seemed like a bit of a mix of designs. This was not an inviting church, cold and dark and we did not spend much time here.

Instead we caught the #2 tram back to Konig Square where all trams and buses meet.  We changed back to a bus for the ride back to our B&B. Unfortunately, we missed our stop… But that did not bother us one bit.  We just stayed on and did the whole route to the other side of town and saw a bit of the suburbs. The driver had a six minute break and then we returned, this time getting off at the right stop.

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Our B&B in a peaceful garden.

Our B&B in a peaceful garden.

Our B&B was a little unusual.  It was attached to a catholic women’s maternity hospital and in the grounds of the Diocesan centre. Unlike the Dom, this was a warm and welcoming place set in a garden. It was a great place to stay. We were in the tower block behind the main house. My guess is that they will expand the hospital into this wing but at the moment they use the facility for diocesan meetings and let out the rooms to guests like us when not otherwise used. Very sensible. Quite a few rooms had been let to guests like us.

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The hospital to which the B&B belongs.

The hospital to which the B&B belongs.

The view from our room was down into the garden in front of the hospital. There were quite a few nun/nurses around who wore the traditional outfits and small pleated white hats.

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Clematis in the garden.

Clematis in the garden.

And it was peaceful to walk in the gardens and enjoy the plants like this clematis.

 

More anon

Jennie and David

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Bellagio on Lake Como has long been on my wish list of places to visit and now was that chance.  I have not been disappointed.

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Home on foreshore. Of Bellagio, Lake Como.

Homes and gardens on foreshore of Bellagio, Lake Como.

Looking at the lovely homes and gardens from the vantage point of the ferry was a good introduction to this very special place.  Noting how steeply the land rises from the lake was a lesson still to be learned!

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Imposing hotel on shores of Bellagio: not our hotel!

Imposing hotel on shores of Bellagio.

No, this was not to be our hotel. Anywhere on the foreshore, let alone this majestic place, is very, very expensive. This village is home to many very rich people and that is reflected in the prices here.

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Along the foreshore.

Along the foreshore.

Even smaller hotels such as these are expensive. So I had booked a small apartment in the very centre of the old town, not on the waterfront.

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Ferry jetty at Bellagio on Lake Como, Italy

Ferry jetty at Bellagio on Lake Como, Italy

A welcome entrance to the village.

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Part of the steps that lead to our little apartment.

Part of the steps that lead to our little apartment.

Little did I realise when I booked our apartment that it would be at the top of a long, very long flight of cobble stone steps! Poor David did a Herculean job of getting our bags to the top! It was a task not for the faint hearted or the unfit.

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Our apartment is above a pizza restaurant.

Our apartment is above a pizza restaurant.

Finally, amidst this maze of steep alleyways, we found our appointed place above a small pizza restaurant. When I say above, it was…. Two more flights of steep steps above! Hot and weary we were also hungry after a six and a half hour journey to get here on two trains and a ferry.  The pizza for dinner was good!

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View from our room!

View from our room!

No mountain or lake view from our room on this occasion… Just the roof of the restaurant. But the room was comfortable and in this very hot weather, was thankfully air conditioned.  Not that we needed it for more than an initial cool down. Windows opened and the evening air soon dried our clothes. This was a good washing stop!

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The church tower and bells.

The church tower and bells.

There was to be no sleep in on Sunday morning! The church bells of San Giacomo (St James ) Basilica, peeled loud and long near our room. It is thought that the lower part of this bell tower was part of this area’s defence system long before the church was built.

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The altar in the church, Bellagio

The altar in the church, Bellagio

A feature of this church are the murals made of tiny glass tiles.  The one above the altar is quite horrific in the scene it depicts. It’s one of those story telling art works that strikes fear into the heart of the believer.

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Glass tile mosaic in the church.

Glass tile mosaic in the church.

This mosaic is much gentler in its message.

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Very old naive marble sculptures on pulpit.

Very old naive marble sculptures on pulpit.

The age of this church is clearly evident in the naive style of sculptures on the marble pulpit. This Basilica was built from the end of the 11th to the beginning of the 12th centuries. It was decreed a National monument of Italy in 1904.

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Flower boxes adorn pebbled streets.

Flower boxes adorn pebbled streets.

Everywhere you walk in this area there are flower boxes on the pebbled streets. These streets have been paved this way for hundreds of years and have obviously stood the test of time …. but they are hard on the feet!

One of the main means of income in this area, apart from tourism, is horticulture. In fact our street, Salita Mella, was once known as via dei Fiori, ie. flower street.  There are about thirty family horticultural businesses in the Bellagio area. They grow mostly outdoor plants which are sold all over Italy and Europe.

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Starting the all down the steps from the apartment to the shore.

Starting down all down the steps from the apartment to the shore.

Nothing was open at our uphill end of town so we started the day early (08.00) by walking down to the foreshore to find somewhere for breakfast.

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And a bit further down the steps!

And a bit further down the steps!

It seemed to be a never ending set of steps!

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The bottom is almost in sight!

The bottom is almost in sight!

The end came in sight. David waited patiently for me to make my way down.

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Ferries preparing for a busy Sunday of tourist to Bellagio.

Ferries preparing for a busy Sunday of tourists coming to Bellagio.

It was 08.00, and still too early for any cafe to be open here,too… Well it was Sunday!

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Restaurant in the arcade along the foreshore

Restaurant in the arcade along the foreshore

So we went for a stroll along the waterfront while the tables were being set. This one looked a bit posh for breakfast! We’d find something a little simpler! A bakery maybe.

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The foreshore arcade at Bellagio

The foreshore arcade at Bellagio

The arcade is just one long line of restaurants so we would find something.  This are gets extremely busy as the warm summer days bring more and more tourists to the village.

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Markets on the foreshore.

Markets on the foreshore.

In the early days of the village, the arcade was where the markets were held.  Now markets are held in tents further along the foreshore.

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Varenna from the ferry.

Varenna from the ferry.

We found a delightful bakery cum cafe for breakfast along with many of the locals. It was good to sit and listen as people greeted each other and enjoyed a morning chat over a coffee and croissant.  After breakfast we set off for a longer walk of exploration before deciding to take a ferry trip on the lake. At least ferries are not exorbitantly expensive.

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Another view of Verenna.

Another view of Verenna.

The ferry took us first to Varenna. We had been in Varenna the day before on our way to Bellagio.  That day’s journey had taken us by train on a most scenic route across the alps from Chur, in Switzerland, to Tirano in Italy. From there, we took an Italian train to Veranna and then a ferry to Bellagio.

Map of upper Lake Como

Map of upper Lake Como

The map shows the train line down to Varenna with the purple locator. It also shows the criss cross of ferries that go between Varenna to Bellagio ( red) and Menaggio ( black).

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Menaggio from the ferry.

Menaggio from the ferry.

From Varenna we went on to Menaggio on the other side of the lake…. Another charming village but the day was becoming extremely hot and it was time to go back to Bellagio.

And after that, I was finished exploring but, after a short siesta, David set off to walk in the opposite direction from our morning walk. I stayed in the cool to watch the final of the French Open Tennis and to download these photos to share with you.

Below are a few of the photos from David’s walk.

Sailing is a popular pass time on the lake.

Sailing is a popular pass time on the lake.

There are many yachts on moorings in front of the expensive lake side villas.

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Small fishing boats on a pebbly shore.

Small fishing boats on a pebbly shore.

The arched timber frame on a couple of these small fishing boats were a feature of this area. They can be covered in inclement weather.

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Well kept cemetery.

Well kept cemetery.

Higher up the hill was the well kept village cemetery with lots of live plants on graves.

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Meadows have been cut for hay.

Meadows have been cut for hay.

Further on were the small farm holdings and horticultural plots. We have been watching hay making from the train as we have travelled and these rolls are the finally result ready for animal feed for the winter.

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A different view of the hotels lining the waterfront.

A different view of the hotels lining the waterfront.

And this was his view of the waterfront as he walked hot and weary back to the cool of our room and a well earned cool beer.

 

More of our journey anon.

Jennie and David

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After the rain cleared, the sun shone as if we had ordered it, just in time for our very memorable and scenic train journey into the mountains to Disensis.

A final look at the view in Brunnen.

A final look at the view in Brunnen.

We travelled south from Brunnen to Disensis by the express train that goes up into those very mountains and on over the Gothard Pass south towards Italy.  At almost the top of the pass, at Goschenen, the express goes on through one of the long tunnels that the Swiss are famous for engineering. But we took a different route… By cog rail up to the top of the pass at Andermatt. This is where the Swiss train lines that run north south and east west cross. Some passengers headed west to Brig and Zermatt but we joined a very small regional train for the scenic journey east across the Oberalp Pass to Disentis.

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Mountain scenery on Oberalp Pass.

Mountain scenery on Oberalp Pass.

This train too used the cog system for several of the very steep parts of the journey up and over the Oberalp pass.

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A mountain lake in thaw.

A mountain lake in thaw.

The route went by mountain lakes that were in the throws of thawing after the long alpine winter.  Along the right hand side of this lake is a snow tunnel  that just looks like a row of posts in this photo. It’s really a roof built to allow the train to pass this way long before the thaw. It’s almost invisible in the vastness of this scene but it’s there and our train was about to go through that “tunnel” giving some idea of the vastness of this landscape.  It is so hard to show the vastness of the landscape.

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Train tracks cut across the mountains.

Train tracks cut across the mountains.

The train route and the road look like cuts across the landscape.

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Looking back up at the pass.

Looking back up at the pass.

As we began to descend, it was hard to decide where to look…. Back up the pass we had just come across, or down into the valleys ahead. I managed to catch David,s fingers in the bottom corner of this photo. He was looking down the valley from his window, I was looking back. We virtually had the carriage to ourselves and were free to move around from window to window as the scenery changed. And the windows opened letting us see more clearly… And breathe in that wonderfully fresh mountain air.

This train line is part of the route taken by the very expensive ” Glacier Express” where passengers sit in designated seats. Ours was the much cheaper option of the small local train and it was a lot of fun. It cost us just $15 each on top of our normal train pass. Way to go!

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A narrow valley with golf course!

A narrow valley with golf course!

At one point, the train line ran along a ridge high above a narrow valley. We couldn’t believe our eyes. Down there beside that cluster of houses, was a golf course. It appeared to be be one fairway wide, the whole course running the length of the valley. I believe the area is used for cross country skiing in the winter.

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A mountain village

A mountain village

The further we went down the valley, more farms and small villages added to the beauty of this journey.  Always a church spire adding that point of interest to a photo.

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Our destination, Disensis.

Our destination, Disensis.

Finally, Disensis came into view, dominated by its huge monastery. We had reached our destination after a truly memorable and most enjoyable train journey.

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Disentis abbey or monastery

Disentis abbey or monastery

Disentis Monastery sits high on a hill above our hotel which was close to the station. We spent the afternoon climbing up there, finding a wide variety of wild flowers in the meadows that surround the abbey and enjoying exploring the interior of this amazingly large building for such a small village. It is in fact a very important monastery, the centre of life here for many in this isolated valley where the Rhine River begins its journey. Because of its isolation, it is one of the few places left where the Swiss Romanch language is spoken by most of the population and taught at the monastery high school. I have tried to make some understanding of the written language but am defeated most of the time.

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The interior of the abbey church

The interior of the abbey church

The interior of the church is sumptuous in gold and bright colours with very ornate  white plaster work. This is man’s creation and beautiful in its own way.

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Flower and Beatle in the Abbey meadow.

Flower and Beatle in the Abbey meadow.

Outside in the meadows beside the abbey, we spent a very happy time finding a wide variety of nature’s creations. And that’s an activity that brings great joy to both of us.

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Tiny but perfect

Tiny but perfect

And sometimes you have to look very carefully to find the tiny flowers amongst the taller, bolder ones.  Soon all of this meadow will be mown for hay but for now, the wildflowers have their moment in the sun.

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The view from our room.

The view from our room.

Back at our small hotel beside the train station, this was the view from our room up on the top floor…. Worth the climb up all those stairs.  And we could watch all the activity down at this small village train station. We would catch one of those trains next day but for now the sound of the cow bells across the valley, a tractor taking a farmer home after a day of mowing hay, the occasional bells on church and abbey and the hourly train arrival were all the sounds we heard as we enjoyed this delightful little village.

more of our journey anon

Jennie and David

 

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Leaving Bangkok airport is never really a trial as we can book in for a Thai Airways massage. I chose to have my legs massaged in preparation for the long night flight and David had his shoulders and neck done. We had an eleven hour flight ahead of us to Brussels en route to Zurich. David takes up the story:

“What a nice surprise there was in store for us when we boarded our plane which was to take us from Bangkok to Brussels.  It was a B777, listed as just the same as the one that took us from Melbourne to Bangkok.  The big difference between the two was their age; the first plane being 7.6 years old and the second one only 8 months old.  No real difference except the seats. We each had our own cubicle on the newer plane and the seat could be converted into a fully 180 degree flat bed.  Bliss for a better night’s sleep compared to flat beds at a sloping angle.  There’s no difference in price paid, so I’ll take the 180 degree flat bed every time.  And, sleep I did as it was an all-night flight which left Bangkok at half past midnight.  It had been a long day already!

The other obvious difference was the use of lap and sash seat belts.  These were to be used during taxiing, take-off’s and landings.  The sash part of the belt could be detached for the rest of the journey.  What a good idea and as this type of belt has been compulsory in motor vehicles for decades, why has it taken so long for them to be used in aircraft where the forces in extreme situations are even greater?

On arrival in Brussels, Immigration and Customs formalities were necessary as we were entering the EC for the first time on this journey.  We had a 2+ hour transit time between arrival and the change to a Swiss Air flight to Zurich. This time was spent in a lounge which was all but empty when we arrived at around 07h30.  Eventually, we boarded the last of our flights, but the ground crew, whose responsibility it was to load the belly of the aircraft with our bags etc., were late to arrive. We missed our take-off slot and sat around for an extra 30 minutes waiting for a new slot to be found by the guys sitting in the control tower.  It was good to finally get underway.

The most important thing to do on our arrival in Zurich was to get some Swiss francs and to activate our two month Eurail Pass.  This was all achieved with little fuss and with lots of help from a very friendly Swiss Rail adviser.  SBB really does provide an excellent service in every way.

We found the right train and headed for Zug which is where Jennie lived for a couple of years arriving in 1969.  We had to change trains there for our overnight destination of Brunnen, a half hour further south on the Vierwaldstattersee,  the ‘lake of the four states’.  Each area calls the lake their own and gives it a colloquial name!”

I’ll interrupt David’s story here for  a few photos taken with my new TZ 60 camera.

One of the lovely hotels in Brunnen.

One of the lovely hotels in Brunnen.

The 800m walk down to the lake from the train station, the Bahnhof, gave some insight into this small Swiss village.  It is not large or touristy and we were greeted warmly by locals as we wearily walked, pulling our bags and toting our back packs.

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Hotel Schmidt and Alpha in Brunnen

Hotel Schmidt and Alpha in Brunnen

And we were warmly welcomed at the hotel and shown to our room which has a small balcony ….The one straight above the main balcony. The cream hotel and the grey one are run as a joint family concern, with three generations of the family all doing their part to make the business flow smoothly including both B&Bs and a small restaurant.

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Our view!

Our view!

What a view from our room! It could be no where else but Switzerland… a restored paddle wheel steamer just leaving Brunnen pier and the first row of the Swiss Alps as the background. We just sat on the balcony and drank in the clean Swiss air and that view. It was well worth the long journey to get to this well remembered part of the world.  This area of Swiss lakes had been my home away from home in the late 1960s and I had returned many, many times over the years.  But I had never actually stayed in Brunnen before. I have not been disappointed with the choice this time!

Every time I return to the lakes area of Switzerland, one thing I really look forward to is a feed of lake fish. David continues:

“In an attempt to keep things simple, and after a long day, we decided to eat in the restaurant attached to the hotel.  Although we were confronted by a fairly comprehensive menu, we both chose a fish dish.  The young waiter, Patrik,  was able to tell us that our fish was local to the very lake our hotel is situated beside.  He told us we would be getting fillets of fish and that they would be served with boiled potatoes and that a mixed salad would precede the main dish.  The salad arrived dressed with a light creamy dressing – and was fresh and delicious.

Next, of course, came the main offering which consisted of five fillets of fish and three elongated yellow potatoes which had been tossed in finely chopped parsley.  On plunging a fork into the first fillet of fish it was obvious that the Swiss chef had found a way to bloat the fillets of fish to make them look very much bigger than they actually were.  I reckon these fish must be on the endangered fish list, either that or they are very thin fingerlings.  The only discernible flavour, I think, came from the oil the fillets were fried in!  The meal was nonetheless quite enjoyable, but we did decline dessert when we saw  one delivered to a neighbouring table in a large open glass stemmed dish. It appeared to consist of very little, with who knows what in the bottom, topped with oodles of aerosol dispensed whipped cream.  We tried a coffee instead… Lots of froth not a lot of coffee. Then came the bill. The meal was truly expensive by our standards, but then everything is horrifically expensive in Switzerland. We knew that. When Jennie lived here in the 60’s, one AUD bought five Swiss franks. Now it will not buy one Swiss frank.

The day had been overcast and during the afternoon the sky became even more menacing.  During our dinner the skies opened and down tumbled a heavy deluge.  The only thing missing was thunder and lightning. It was time to go to bed and sleep to the sound of rain and hope that it would clear by morning.”

Early morning view.

Early morning view.

And clear it did. This was David’s first view of the world very early next morning. Beautiful. He enjoyed it while I slumbered on.

It was still a little misty when I joined him, camera in hand. I decided to give that 30x feature in the TZ 60 a bit of a trial.

Small village on a plateau on the hill.

Small village on a plateau on the hill.

I zoomed out about 10 x on the nearest hill across the other side of the lake. It became clearer that there are a few farm houses and what appeared to be a largish building on the left of the photo.

A hillside monastery.

A hillside monastery.

At 30x zoom, the building could be identified as a monastery .

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The 'Weggis' at Brunnen Pier preparing for the day's first passengers.

The ‘Weggis’ at Brunnen Pier preparing for the day’s first passengers.

By the time I was showered and dressed, a few weak rays of sun were filtering through the mist.   The Weggis was already at the pier waiting for its first passengers of the day. We were ready to get out and explore but not by boat. The weather was forecast to turn wet again and these boats are expensive. We decided to leave venturing out on the lake for a sunny day and begin our day by exploring more of Brunnen on foot. Then we would use our train pass to take us first to Zug and then to Lucerne for David to experience two of my favourite places in this lakes area of Central Switzerland.

More of that anon.

Jennie and David

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At the end of our cruise on the Vierwaldstattersee, we needed to cross the River Reuss to get from the schiff pier to the old section of the city of Lucerne, the ‘altstadt’.  We walked along the river side to the old wooden Chapel Bridge.

Originally built in 1333 as part of Lucerne’s fortifications, the bridge is dominated by the water tower, which is not a water tower at all. It’s just a tower standing in water and it was built there 30 years before the bridge. It’s been used as a prison,a torture chamber, a municipal archive and today it houses a souvenir shop – a different type of torture chamber!  It’s in a great position to capture the attention of just about every tourist who visits this city because this bridge is one of the top tourist attractions in the whole of Switzerland.

And in the waters below the bridge there are always plenty of swans.

They are an iconic part of an iconic scene.

As is usual in Switzerland, the bridge is decorated with flowers. It’s said that this is the oldest covered wooden bridge in Europe and the oldest ‘truss bridge’ in the world. Having stood as a symbol of Lucerne for so many centuries, it was a shock to everyone when it was almost burned down in August, 1993. I hadn’t been back since then and I was very keen to see what had been done to restore this architectural treasure.

 A variety of geraniums were used in the floral decoration, but in softer colours than the usual Swiss red. How do they keep them looking so fresh?

Up close you can see the engineering of the bridge – and the beauty of the floral decoration.

One of the very special features of this bridge is on the inside where a number of  paintings dating back to the 17th century decorate the triangular roof frames. This wasn’t done on any other European covered wooden bridges and I always delighted in ‘reading’ the stories told in the art. Many visitors, like me, took photos of the old paintings and they are now part of history since many of the paintings were destroyed in the 1993 fire. Out of 147 paintings only 47 ‘survived’ the fire and only 30 of those could be restored.  This painting depicts the three original wooden bridges. The middle wooden bridge no longer exists but the third bridge, the Spreuer Bridge, or Mill Bridge, with its own series of triangular paintings, is still in use today.

Many of the original paintings, like this one, depict scenes promoting the Catholic Church’s saints and teachings. They were painted during the counter- reformation, a time when few people were literate and pictures told the stories.

The personal coat-of-arms of council members who sponsored paintings was also recorded.

Each panel was numbered. This is an important one of the surviving paintings showing the old city joined to the new city by the bridges. It also shows the fortified walls that stretched out on the hill above the city. Much of the wall and some towers still stand sentinel as they have for centuries.It’s worth a climb to enjoy the views – but not on a hot day!

A modern pedestrian bridge has replaced the original middle wooden bridge.

It’s well used by those wishing just to cross the river as it’s not a ‘tourist’ attraction.

The river banks near the bridge are lined with well patronised cafes and restaurants.

 There’s a farmer’s market in this river side area on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

While the bridge has been well restored ‘in the old manner’, there are many empty painting spaces – those 400 year old paintings are impossible to replace.

Two attractive apartments buildings at the end of the bridge.

One of them now with a “Starbucks” cafe, attracting American tourists.

Many buildings in Lucerne have paintings on their facades.  
A good example is the the painting on the old “Hotel des Alpes” which shows the coats-of-arms of all four cantons of the “Vierwaldstattersee.”

The riverside cafe’s looked inviting – but we would have to earn our afternoon tea.

We still had the streets in the old town to explore.

Like most old Swiss cities, there are water fountains in the main squares – some decorated in very colourful ways!

This is a much newer art work that decorates a well known tourist ‘fondu house’.

One of my favourite side streets looks up to a tower on the old city walls which were built 1350 to 1408.

Shop signs like this are common sights hanging out over the narrow streets.

They add to the ambience of the old town.

This old building is covered in historical art works that depict life in the warrior times of Lucerne.

Located in on of the main squares, it’s one of Lucerne’s real treasures.

A close up of part of the art work showing a knight in shining armour and stylised coats of arms.

This building has original hand made glass in its windows.

After our wander in old town, we found a cool cafe for that well earned ‘cuppa’ and a quiet relax before we headed back to the rail station for our final train journey back to Zurich. On our way, we crossed the River Reuss again, this time on the newer iron bridge, looking back across Chapel Bridge to Mount Rigi.

That sight  was a fitting end to four great days in Switzerland.

Photography © JT for jtdytravels

( In my next series of journals, I’ll journey with David to Burma, or as its now called, Myanmar)

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For our last day in Switzerland we decided to enjoy a cruise on the lake called ‘Vierwaldstattersee’, the lake of the four forested cantons – Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Lucerne. But first we had to get to Fluelen, in Uri, at the very end of the lake.

The Sihlbrugg

Our ever dependable Swiss trains took us first to Zurich and then to Zug. On the way we crossed a favourite stream of mine, the Sihlbrugg, and I managed to get a small momento of this bubbly stream as the train wizzed by. The road to Zurich from Zug follows this stream – a road I drove many, many times. It’s at its prettiest in winter when each rock is topped by a dab of snow. In the spring thaw, the rocks are submerged and cause the little stream to bubble and boil.

The community ‘allotment’  gardens at Baar, near Zug.

Another quick photo captured some of the community ‘allotment’ gardens at Baar where people who live in apartments, as many Swiss do, can grow their veggies and flowers and have social contact with others ‘over the garden fence’. As one might expect in switzerland they are well maintained and their garden ‘sheds’ are more like cabins.

A traditional farm seen from the train.

We took a small commuter, ‘all stops’ train from Zug to Fluelen. That gave us plenty of time to enjoy the views over the Zugersee one more time and then on through the farms of the canton of Schwyz to Fluelen in the canton of Uri.

The Gross and Kleine Mythen Mountains

This area is dominated by the Gross and Klein Mythen Mountains. Our favourite ski field was just beyond this hill.  At that time, 1969/1970, a couple of farmers had made a private ski area on their farms and we loved it. There were no busy ski towns, no crowds and no waiting for the T-bar lift. It was a longish run and difficult enough without being hair-raising and it afforded magnificent views of these Mythen Mountains covered in snow. The sun glistened like diamonds off the soft Swiss snow. And at the bottom of the run there was a tiny ‘cafe’ in one of the farm houses where there was always a bowl of hot soup and a hot drink waiting for us.

The PS Schiller comes into Fluelen pier.

But today was about other memories – sailing on a paddle wheeler.  As we waited with a throng of other passengers  on the Fluelen pier, we realised from the number of people all ready on board the schiff heading our way, that our first class ticket would come in very handy – yet again!  The PS Schiller was built in 1906 and is still a popular way to experience the big lake. It might rattle – a lot, and be noisy – very, and have uncomfortable seats, but it’s a really special, historic, some may even say romantic, way to see the lake. It was a hot, sunny summer’s day and once on board, we were very thankful for our upstairs, covered from the sun, first class seats… and a table for lunch.

The steep hills of Canton Uri.

In Canton Uri, on the south side of this far end of the lake, small villages are tucked beneath very steep hillsides – and, once those cliffs hit the water line, they go straight on down into this very deep lake. Getting to such a village by boat is much the best way – but there are good hiking trails here for fit walkers. But it’s all UP and steep UP at that.

The house at Trieb village pier is painted in Uri Canton colours.

From this small village pier,  you can take the Treib-Seelisberg cable railway up to the panorama plateau in Seelisberg. The trip takes about eight minutes. The top station is on the “Swiss Way” hiking route which affords walkers with some wonderful mountain panorama views.  Oh to be young again!  But it’s good to have memories of such hiking.

The view back to the Mythens.

Crossing over to the north side again, to the canton of Schwyz, there’s a good view back to the majestic Mythens. As on all of the lakes, the schiffs criss-cross from one side of the lake to the other to provide transport between isolated villages for residents, hikers, day trippers and holiday makers alike.

After visiting a few villages, we came back to Vitznau. We had been there earlier in the week when we had taken our journey by cog rail up to Rigi Kulm.  This time we came in from a different angle.  You can join us by video!

PS Gallia

After calling into Vitznau, another paddle wheeler joined us. As we couldn’t see our own wheel churning up the water, it was good to see the PS Gallia up so close.  While we were having lunch on board, we sat with a couple who told us about an event that was about to happen involving our paddle wheeler, the PS Gallia and a Motor Schiff. Apparently its a bit of summer time fun between the lake schiffs.  While PS Gallia sailed beside us, the Motor Schiff was about to sail right through between the two paddle steamers. I was taken up the front to be ready with my camera.

It was fun – it was noisy (turn the sound up)  – and I hope I’ve captured it so that you can experience it, too.

Weggis

The next village we called into was Weggis  a delightful place that is very popular for holidays and for eating out. There’s a cable car from here up the Rigi.  It’s an alternative way to travelling by the cog railway.

And just so that you can share in the experience of being on board the PS Schiller, here is one more piece of video!

Lucerne’s Lido and ‘beach’.

It was hot, it was the beginning of the Swiss summer holidays and the lido and ‘beach’ were very well patronised.

Mount Pilatus

You know the cruise is almost over when Mount Pilatus looms over the lake in all it’s majesty. I have been up to the top of that mountain once. We took Em’s Mum and Dad up there and it was an exciting experience for us all. We went up by very steep cog rail and came back down by a series of cable cars. I believe they are bigger these days to accommodate more tourists. But I well remember the first small four seater cable car we took from the very top. It only had a grill floor and so, as the car was literally pushed off the top, the view straight down that cliff face was quite daunting. Maybe that’s why I don’t have a dream to go paragliding!

PS Uri tied up at Lucerne Pier.

We disembarked in Lucerne right next to PS Uri with a view of Mount Rigi in the background… and of course, flowers in the foreground. Where were we?  With a few hours of daylight left, we decided to complete this delightful summer’s day, in true Swiss fashion… with a ‘cuppa’ in a river side cafe and just relax and watch the world go by. But before we did that, it was probably a good idea to go for a wander in the old city… and that’s for our next journal entry.

Photography © JT for jtdytravels

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