Greetings. I wonder if anyone still has this blog on their feed reader?
If so, I would love it if you would join me at my new abode: Edwardian House Renovation.
See you there!
“What does she think I’m three?
What does she think I’m four?
I’m more than four,
I’m even more than four and a half…
Obscure reference, – no-one will get it. Maybe Karen if she knows what CD to listen to…
Anyway – I just looked at the archives and realised that Scott’s Abode turned five in January. Oh my. That’s an eighth of my life…
On this note I have decided to take a break from blogging. I have really enjoyed having you come along on my adventures all the way from Australia to the UK. In particular I have loved taking you on my trips – when travelling alone I always felt I had others with me because of this blog.
I am sure that we’ll meet again!
Here you can see two different flags. The flag of the Canton of Geneva features an imperial eagle and the key of St Peter. The Swiss flag, the white cross on a red background, is one of only two square flags of a sovereign state, the other being the Vatican’s. The symbol for the Red Cross is the reverse of the colours of the Swiss flag. This is to honour Switzerland as the Red Cross symbol was first declared as a universal sign of protection at the Geneva Convention of 1864.
It reminded us of the Sainte Chapelle in Paris.
We then spent a fascinating hour under the cathedral. There has recently been an extensive archaeological excavation under the building. Rather than cover it over again the cathedral floor was rebuilt on steel girders and concrete so that visitors can explore the site. It traces the site right back to pre-Christian days.
We also visited Maison Tavel, a grand family home that dates back to the 12th century. It is now a museum dedicated to Geneva’s urban history and domestic life. On the top floor was an enormous model made from copper and zinc of Geneva in 1850 when it was still a walled city. I couldn’t take any photographs but the model was about three or four metres in diameter and featured every building in minute detail. Absolutely amazing.
It was our last night in Geneva so we had dinner and then said our goodbyes. Michelle and Margaret’s train to Nice was leaving at 6:40 the next morning. We had had a terrific time in Switzerland.
My plane was leaving at three o’clock in the afternoon, so I had the Saturday morning in Geneva too. I decided to look around the large flea market that is held on Saturdays at the Plaine de Plainpalais. I didn’t buy anything though but was tempted by some albums of vintage postcards.
After breakfast, Michelle and I took a walk up the hill to the southern outskirts of Zermatt.
We admired the scenery and tried in vain to get one last shot of a cloudless Matterhorn. It was not to be.
We said goodbye to our lovely hotel and took a train from Zermatt to Geneva, changing at Visp.
While Michelle did some laundry I took a walk around Geneva. This is the medieval clock tower that was once part of the castle defences of the city. Until the mid 1800s the entire city was fortified with a massive star-shaped set of bastions and walls. They were no longer needed after the Swiss federation and were demolished after 1850.
Once again I was in search of the Jet d’Eau. We had seen it from the train as we approached Geneva so I was confident of getting a good shot. I saw it again from a bridge but it was too far for a decent photo. When I arrived at the bridge called Pont du Mont Blanc, guess what happened. No Jet d’eau! Apparently in winter it is turned off at 4pm.
This is the Ile Rousseau, dedicated to the philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, one of Geneva’s most famous citizens. It has recently been refurbished and I stumbled upon the opening ceremony. In 2012 Geneva is celebrating the 300th anniversary of Rousseau’s birth.
I continued my explorations and found the Brunswick Memorial. The Duke of Brunswick died in Geneva in 1873 and left a large sum of money to the city on the condition they build him a great memorial. It reminded me of the Albert Memorial in London’s Hyde Park.
Our hotel in Geneva this time is perfectly adequate, though we are not convinced of its four star rating. Compared to other places we have stayed it is quite devoid of character. I have a nice view of a church.
The bathroom is good but is separated from the room only by a glass partition. It doesn’t provide much privacy for people who are sharing a room. I guess we have been spoiled by our other accommodation on this trip. I know, it’s just awful, isn’t it? Poor us!
Zermatt is situated on a high plateau at the foot of Switzerland’s highest and most famous mountain, the Matterhorn. Despite being a famous ski resort, Zermatt manages to retain the charm and beauty of a picturesque Swiss mountain town.
Only electric cars are allowed in Zermatt and this gives the town an incredibly peaceful (and clean) atmosphere.
Did I mention that I turned forty? I am almost as old at the Matterhorn.
We took the Gornergrat railway up to the top of the Gornergrat, a ridge in the alps overlooking the Gorner Glacier. Here you can see the station. At over 3000 metres it is the highest open air train station in Switzerland.
When we got back to the hotel we had a drink while sitting by the fire in their bar. When the bar waitress heard that it was my birthday she brought us three glasses of champagne as a gift.
It’s a very traditional Swiss restaurant. All the meat is prepared on the grill right next to the tables. I had a veal steak and it was the best I have ever tasted. For dessert I had the Tobleronemousse.
Zermatt is such a gorgeous place and it was the perfect setting for my birthday.
Today we left St Moritz and boarded the Glacier Express, one of the world’s great train journeys. For seven hours we traversed the Swiss Alps crossing 291 bridges and passing through 91 tunnels. The carriages have special panoramic windows so that you can look up and enjoy the view.
There was spectacular scenery all the way.
We arrived in Zermatt at around 5pm and checked into our hotel, above, which has a traditional Swiss chalet feel.
This is my view of the Matterhorn from the balcony.
We had dinner at a nearby restaurant called Chez Gaby and then turned in for the night.
We were up so early that you can see it was still dark outside. We had to be ready for our biggest challenge yet – three different trains to our next destination, one of which involved a seven minute transfer to another platform. Due to Michelle’s brilliant planning it worked out perfectly, and we were in St Moritz just after 1pm.
The train ride was beautiful – especially from Chur to St Moritz.
St Moritz is in a lovely setting – the lake as you can see is completely frozen over and they will be using it for a horse race next weekend.
St Moritz is very much a place for skiers and Russian oligarchs and their wives. The town is compact and has a large number of modern buildings so it lacks the charm of other Swiss towns we have seen so far.
We had dinner at Hauser, which is actually owned by an Australian. That’s why they had something called the Roo Bar and had kangaroo and Australian wines on the menu.
We didn’t sip ay Napoleon brandy though. If we did we would probably have got our lips wet. Ann O’Dyne will know the reference. Others of you will too, no doubt.
On Sunday we began with breakfast at the hotel. To our delight we discovered they serve champagne at the breakfast buffet!
We then took a train out to the town of Engelberg at the foot of Mt Titlis (don’t snigger it’s pronounced Teet-leez). We got the bus to the base of the mountain where we joined hundreds of serious skier types on the ascent of Mt Titlis. We were the only tourists among goggle-wearing, ski-boot-clomping, stick-brandishing sporty types, and yes, I had my camera around my neck.
The ascent to the top of Mount Titlis takes 45 minutes (not including waiting time) on three different types of cable car. The final cable car is a 360 degree rotating monster called the Rotair that holds up to eighty people.
I have the feeling that our car had a few more than that. Everyone is herded like cattle and there was no drinks service or anything! I don’t know what I was expecting but I had somehow imagined myself sipping Sauvingnon Blanc whilst gently rising above the alpine hills but it was not to be.
At the top the view is spectacular.
That’s right 10,000 feet up. 3020 metres. The air is quite thin at that height so I found I had a little altitude sickness and found it hard to catch my breath from time to time. It was also extremely cold.
You are literally on top of the world. There are other activities at the top of Mt Titlis such as an open cable car across the glacier and activities with names like Crevasse Abseiling and Bikini Tobogganing (I made that last on up but it is true that there was a picture of such an activity at the Titlis Glacier Station). Instead we opted for lunch in the restaurant three kilometres in the sky with an amazing view from the top of the Swiss Alps.
The floor is ice too and I got a little overexcited to take this picture and I slipped and bruised my knee. No permanent damage done though, but it was enough to tell us that this place was potentially dangerous and that we should return to where humans are meant to be – somewhere that serves ten different types of potato.
See the shadow of our cable car? It was much less crowded on the way back down, which was pleasing to us.
We then returned to Lucerne. It was 3pm so we decided to take a cruise on Lake Lucerne.
The trip we took was two and half hours and there was a drinks service (finally!), which is more our kind of thing.
The boat stops at various locations all over Lake Lucerne.
We were lucky enough to see the sun setting in glorious fashion.
It was time for dinner by the time we returned from the boat ride. We passed the KKL building, Lucerne’s marvelous cultural centre with its cantilevered roof and crossed the bridge into the old town for some well-deserved noshing. There were plenty of kartoffels on the menu!
These people seemed to be an important part of the ceremony.
Lucerne is a very beautiful city and many of the buildings are decorated in one form or another. I will have to look up what this building’s decorations represent, though it looks like a family tree with many different coats of arms.
The roof panels are painted with 17th century scenes like this one. They tell the story of the town’s patron saints St Leodegar and St Mauritius. Many were restored after the fire and some had to be repainted.
It is a monument to the Swiss Guards of Louis XVI of France who defended his palace against the revolutionaries. The guards who did not die in the battle were executed by guillotine. The carving was unveiled in 1821. You can see the lion is pierced by a broken arrow and is in the throes of a painful death. It is very moving.
Once again I am in a hotel room and there is a Sandra Bullock movie on the TV. I think I have seen Sandra Bullock dubbed into other languages more than I have seen her speaking with her own voice. This film is Miss Congeniality, or perhaps Miss Congeniality 2.
At breakfast this morning I caught up with Michelle and Margaret and we set off the station at about 8:15 to catch a train to Bern, the capital of Switzerland. There was some lovely rural scenery along the way but photos taken from the inside of a train never live up to expectations.
We spent the rest of the day exploring Bern. Bern lies on the River Aare and was founded in 1191. The Duke who founded the city is said to have named it after the first animal he hunted in the area, which was a bear. The bear is thus the namesake and the symbol of the city and appears on the coat of arms.
Now they have a much nicer enclosure galled the Barengraben or Bear Garden. I wanted to spot a bear and take a photo so I traipsed all the way over to the other side of the town and across the river. Guess what bears do in an alpine environment in winter? Yes, that’s right. Needless to say I didn’t spot one.
The clock has figures that make an elaborate display just before the clock strikes the hour.
Sandra Bullock has just ripped the tiara off the head of the pageant winner and thrown it into the stage set behind her and there is a massive explosion. It was a funny scene.
More to follow! About Switzerland, not Sandra Bullock movies.