Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Les Diablerets, Switzerland (ski resort)

Summers in Switzerland can be toasty. It has been a hot August with temperatures in the 90's the past several weeks. Heading up to the mountains is a popular way to beat the heat. I live in Lausanne and for a quick getaway quite a few locals head to Les Diablerets. Why? By car or train it takes about and one and a half hours. My bike and I have cycled up the mountain several times but now, we hop on the train. Les Diablerets isn't much more than a village but, that's its charm.  Many of the chalets have been around for hundreds of years. Don't believe me? Check out the photos.
 Not a very big home.
So, how does one know when these chalets were built? The front facades are protected (meaning they can't be torn down or changed). Under the roof in big writing many homeowners have stamped the date when the chalet was built. This one says 1791.
This one is easier to read: 1754. You do know you can click on the picture and it will enlarge on your computer?
 There's a date of 1885 on this one.
 The oldest stamped house I found was this one with the date 1664.
 Of course it's not only old chalets. This is a recent build.
 This one has the date 1755.
 Of course, mountain views can be seen wherever you look.
 Gotta have flowers outside the windows.
 This is the main street in the village center.
 This hotel dates back to 1891.
 View looking over the village center.
 It's a fantastic 15 mile bike ride down the mountain to the valley floor below.
Getting near the valley floor vineyards line the switchback road.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Burgdorf, Switzerland (plus castle and prison)

I'm starting the day in Bern (capital of Switzerland) and cycling to Burgdorf (population 15,000) to check out Burgdorf Castle. It's a 40 mile round trip and I'll be taking backroads. A few miles out of Bern I pass through a small village where this pig statue greets customers to the local butcher shop.
 Approaching Krauchthal (population 2,000) I spot what looks to be a castle up on a hill.
 Getting closer the castle complex is looking bigger and bigger.
Getting even closer and using the zoom on my camera I spot barbed wire and guard towers. What the heck? It turns out this was Thorberg Castle and dates back to the 1100's. Over the years the castle has had many uses: school, monastery, a prison back in 1890's and, even a lunatic asylum. What is its use now? Since 1998, when a new cellblock was built, it's now a maximum security prison--which I believe is the only one in Switzerland
 Approaching Burgdorf, one can easily spot Burgdorf Castle as it lords over the town.
 The castle dates back to 1200.
 Looking up at the castle from a main road.
 Got to pass over a drawbridge and a moat to enter the castle.
The bear is part of Bern's coat of arms. Switzerland is divided into cantons (similar to states in the USA) and Burgdorf is in the Canton of Bern.
 Courtyard of castle. The castle is owned by the canton and is now a museum.
 From a castle wall one can see the public pool below.
 View from another castle wall shows part of the town and a passing river.
Covered bridge on the edge of downtown Burgdorf.  Notice the road on the left. The covered bridge is restricted to cyclists and pedestrians.
 Side view of covered bridge. Unfortunately there's no sign/plaque dating the bridge.
The old town area of Burgdorf is a real beaut.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Zell am See and Kitzbuehel, Austria (ski resorts)

 Zell am See, population 9,500, swarms with tourists in the winter and summer.
Beautiful Lake Zell is popular with swimmers, boaters and cyclists--who can cycle around the lake.
 Zell am See shopping street.
From the lakefront it takes about 40 minutes of belly-busting uphill cycling to reach one of the main ski lifts.
There's a line with over a 100 people waiting to climb into a cable car for the ride to the top of this mountain. Many just admire the view from up there but many also make the hike back down.
Austria and Switzerland are the only two countries where I've seen this: major newspapers are sold in newspaper vending machines using the honor system. You lift up the plastic cover, grab a paper and, put the correct change in a small metal box. There's nothing to stop you from grabbing a paper for free. I wonder how this would work in America.
 A big surprise was finding so many muslims in Zell am See. More startling was the number of muslim women wearing full-on black clothing covering everything except the eyes. Wow, I thought this is 2016 and not the Middle Ages.
It turns out Zell am See is very, very popular with tourists from the Middle East.
The ski resort of Kitzbuehel, population 8,000, is famous for being popular with the international jet set crowd.  Shopping street.
 Notice the night lights strung along one of Kitzbuehel's main shopping streets.
 Catching Kitzbuehel on quiet Sunday morning.
Approaching the Austrian town of Feldkirch (very close to the Swiss/Austrian border), visitors are greeted by Schattenburg Castle.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck, population 125,000, hosted the Winter Olympics in 1964 and again in 1976. It's August and the temperature is only in the mid-60's but, the next day shoots up to 90 degrees.
 The old town area is swarming with tourists admiring the colorful buildings.
 More of the old town.
The Inn river barrels past downtown Innsbruck--which pretty much explains how the city got its name.
 This ski jump, within walking distance to the city center, was used in both Winter Olympics
This colorful church was formerly part of a monastery complex. Several former monasteries can still be found within Innsbruck's city limits.
I came across this waste removal truck parked on a side street. Scratching my head to figure out why the owner of this business decided to put those words in English instead German, the local language.
 High on a hill overlooking Innsbruck one can barely make out Ambras castle.
 The 10th century castle was rebuilt in the 16th century on the orders of Archduke Ferdinand ll.
The Archduke's renovated Ambras castle (in Renaissance style) allowed him to accommodate his world-famous art collection in a museum specially built for that purpose. In doing so Archduke Ferdinand ll unknowingly became part of historic trivia: Castle Ambras Innsbruck is the oldest museum in the world.
 As you know, I love to visit cemeteries. This is one of Innsbruck's biggest.
However, just across from the main cemetery I find this quiet military cemetery. In this section each headstone bears the year 1799. Wow, that's during the Napoleonic Wars.
 All the graves in this section are stamped with the year 1918.
Here, I count over 500 concrete tombstones, each bearing the year 1918 AND all have Italian names--evidently there was a battle in the area.
Also from World War l, most of these unusual headstones sport a red fez, a felt headdress traditionally worn by the Turkish army.