Friday, June 28, 2013

Farmers Market

I was going to write about Music in Dunedin but then this clip was sent to me. Another great reason for living in Dunedin.
I do not go every week as I only have one mouth to feed but try to visit every 2 or 3 weeks. Had to go last week as I had not been for 10 weeks, being in Europe. There had been floods then snow and many farmers were cut off. There were probably less than half the usual stalls and it was showery.  Still I managed to stock up with eggs, cheese, pies, vegetables and finish with my regular crepe.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Switzerland - Lucerne and Appenzell

I have now arrived in Mainz, Germany and will spend today wandering around including visiting the Gutenberg Museum as this is where the printing press was invented. This evening I will travel half hour by train to Frankfurt Airport for the flight to Hong Kong and after one night there fly onto Auckland and Dunedin arriving home on Saturday night. Not the best part of a trip to Europe.

I developed a cold on my last night in Paris so, while I managed to keep going for the hiking near Interlaken described in my last message, I decided to take it easy in Lucerne. I spent Thursday cruising on the lake. The journey up to the head of the lake and back took 5 and a half hours and I stopped off for an hour to have lunch at the water’s edge and wander around the small village of Fluelen. The ferry back was a paddle steamer.

I think the upper parts of the lake are more scenic).

On Friday I returned part of the way (just 40 minutes) on the ferry then took the rack railway up Mount Rigi (1798 metres or 1364 metres above the lake). Two photos show part of the many views from the top.

Not sure which of these characters represents me climbing to the very top of gipfel.

You can catch the train back to the top of the cable car but I walked down a very easy road  even though it went down 440 metres.  The view descending to the lake at Weggis.

From there it was back on the ferry but I got off at the Transport museum where I had lunch then spent a lot of time in the railway section.  There was a very good demonstration of building the St Gotthard tunnel, travelling in the dark on a small rail car and learning of the life of the, mainly Italian, workers.  I quickly took in the road, air and boat sections but bypassed the planetarium. All transport, even into the future, is covered. I walked back along the lake to my hotel and then after a rest toured some of the city walls and bridges.

Saturday was spent crossing Switzerland by train to the eastern area of Appenzell. I stayed at Wasserauen in 2008 and find it a lovely area. There are very few international tourists but lots of locals visit to walk.  Staying 3 nights provides a card for local transport and one trip up and down on each of the cable cars plus visits to museums.

When I arrived at the hotel in Wasserauen, where I had stayed before, it was a bright sunny day, the garden restaurant was full and as I ate my lunch there were literally dozens of paragliders landing in the field next door. There is a paragliding school there.  I went up the Ebenalp cable car next to the hotel with some of the paragliders but took the hard way down. I had wanted to do this on my previous trip but being early May, it was snowing lightly and was ill equipped. The view from the top shows the lake to which I hiked the next day.

The track down goes through a cave and past a cave chapel then a guest house on the cliff edge .

The guest house is 20 minutes down from the top and over an hour from the bottom so not suitable for my luggage. My hotel is more suitable for me and has probably the largest and nicest room on my travels.

Sunday was not so nice but remained fine. I travelled free by train then postbus around to Schwagalp on the other side of the mountain and went up the highest but not free cable car to Santis (2503 metres) but it was cloud covered. However there were some good views on the way up and down. I had originally considered hiking down from there to my hotel but, on rereading the notes that commented on the knee jarring number of steps and the fact that cables assisted the nerves, I decided against it. I saw the track heading down into the mist but returned the long way round.

In the afternoon I went up to Seealpsee

 previously viewed from above and could see Santis was free of cloud up on the top right of the photo. However there was a lot of snow up there and this climb of 300 metres from my hotel was enough for me. I went up the road but returned by the forest path which probably went a little higher passing many cows in their summer pastures.

Monday was wet and, being Monday, the museums were closed so was largely a wasted day in the towns of Appenzell and St Gallen.  As it was fine in the afternoon I did go up one of the other (free) cable cars to Hohen Kasten(1794 metres) but I was the only tourist up there and the view on the other side into Austria was mainly hidden. However I was there in fine weather in 2008.

Tuesday morning was also wet but thankfully fine as I walked to the railway station. I travelled right across Switzerland to Zurich where it was a clear day then onto Basel and into Germany and Mainz.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Switzerland - Interlaken

I was going to post one message at the end of my 9 days in Switzerland but I already have so many photos after just 3 days in the town of Interlaken. Switzerland is amazingly beautiful and horrendously expensive. I feel the need to rob a bank before going out to dinner.

Anyway I travelled on the very fast train from Paris to Basel last Sunday and perhaps will reconsider any thought of going 2nd class in France again. It was quite packed. On arriving in Basel and changing to Swiss trains, 2nd class is quite ok as the distances are small and there are always plenty of seats.

I caught up with the misty weather on arrival but the clouds lifted by evening and the weather has been glorious since.  However May has been wet and the snow cover on the mountains is still quite extensive so I had to change my hiking plans as many routes were still closed.

On Monday the hotel owner told me at breakfast that the mountain top was clear so I caught the mountain train to Lauterbrunnen (796 metres) and then the cable car to Grutschalp (1489 metres) so much more civilised than hiking in Italy.  I then walked rather than catch the tram to Murren (1645 metres)  which took about an hour and a half

and had coffee with the view.

Sadly when I reached the next cable car I was told that the mountain top was clouded over and as I would have had to pay 37 Swiss francs (Au$42), I decided against it and instead walked downhill to Gimmelwald (1420 metres)

where I had a steak sandwich again taking in the view.  As the path becomes very steep at that point I again took the cable car

 to the valley floor at Stechelberg and walked for about 20 minutes beside the river.  All the way there were large waterfalls tumbling down the sheer valley sides.

At the Trummelbach Falls I had to pay to enter and was taken by a lift inside the mountains to where the water tumbles down in a series of 10 falls inside caves carrying up to 20,000 litres of water per second.

As the sky had clouded over, it was quite cool and my feet were tired, I caught the bus back to Lauterbrunnen and after a hot chocolate, the train back to Interlaken.

Tuesday was another glorious day and I was assured the mountain tops were clear although there was a bank of cloud just above the town. So I returned to Lauterbrunnen but this time changed to another mountain train up to Wengen (1274 metres) and then the cable car to Mannlichen at 2227 metres. We burst through the clouds to be in bright sunshine with snow covered mountains in all directions.

I had to have another cup of coffee.

The cloud even cleared later and I could see back down into the valley.

I even tried to climb through the snow to the very top

 but stopped about 2/3rds of the way just above where paragliders were taking off.

I would have liked to walk to another mountain top but the route was closed so I went down the other side in a gondola

 to Holenstein (1529 metres)

 and spent over 2 hours walking down through farmlands with cows and bells

to the village of Grindelwald (1034 metres) where after a late lunch of apple strudel I caught the train back to Interlaken.

On Wednesday I had to travel to Lucerne but I broke my journey at Brienz and after leaving my luggage in a locker travelled by the steam rack railway.

 Even it has had to start later in the season and is only going half way but it provided a great view over Lake Brienz.

I have made a video of the 2 full days

Sunday, June 02, 2013


Those who received my messages back in 2011 might remember that  I was disappointed in the hotel where I had previously stayed in 2002 and 2007. It had a small kitchenette but the management had changed and was not at all pleasant.  I found a studio apartment on the net not that far away and it has been a marvellous find. While further from the metro it is much bigger with a full kitchen, good size bathroom and washing machine, small balcony and costs less than the hotel.  The owner met me and took a good size deposit which I hope he will return tomorrow.  There are 3 pass numbers to key in at the doors and lift but I guess that makes it very secure. I have made my own breakfasts and lunches and 2 dinners. It has been wonderful to get breakfast without getting dressed first (except I have thrown my track pants and a jumper over my pajamas along with shoes and plodded down in the lift and 100 metres to buy a baguette each morning).

The first day I just rested and did my washing until I went out and bought some food (I had purchased some breakfast necessities from the nearby supermarket the night before). Then after lunch I made my way to the hotel where my sister and brother-in-law were to arrive in the evening after flying from Barcelona. I checked out some nearby brasseries. I spent time sitting in the Parc Monceau which I had found in 2011 and loved. It was alternately sun and cloud but I had not taken my camera. All my photos of this park had been lost in the great computer crash of December 2012.

Sadly as I had dinner with my sister, her husband and their friends, it began to rain which has been the story of their cruise and it continued through much of their stay the next day. I again met them after another lazy morning due to the weather but a bad habit I have developed. They had been on a morning bus tour of the highlights and after lunch I took them to a museum which I had also found on my previous visit.  The Museum Nissim de Camondo is a house built just before WW1 to hold a remarkable collection of 18th century paintings and furniture. As the Count de Camondo’s only son, Nissim, died in the war,  the house was left to the State and I think it must be one of the best little museums in Paris.

As the rain had eased when we left, we visited the Parc Monceau but the only photo I took was of a nearby mansion or hôtel.


Friday was grey and cold but at least no rain so I went back to my book on the walks of Paris which had led me to that museum and park back in 2011. This time I chose a walk around the Marais of 3.5km. I passed the garden of the Hôtel de Sens with its mixture of Gothic and Renaissance styles and one of the oldest buildings in Paris

 and it pointed out the scissors and knife grinder carving on the wall from the city’s medieval past that I would never have seen without the book.

I had seen the impressive Place des Vosgues before and visited the Picasso Museum so did not mind that it seems to be undergoing extensive renovations and is closed. However I was led to a small (and free) museum Cognac-Jay which had many 18th century painting, furniture and objets in a wonderful hôtel built in the 16th century.

In the evening I went to another musical function, a piano recital including works of Chopin, Rachmaninov and Schubert at St Ephrem’s church.

I experienced a malfunction of the metro for the first time. I have often commented how this is a regular occurrence on the London tube and thankfully I understand the announcements and can take appropriate action. It was a little frustrating to not know what was actually going on but I took comfort that many people stayed on the platform, although some left, and after about 20 minutes the trains began to run again and I was not late for the concert.

Today the sun finally returned and I chose another walk around Place Bastille of 5 km.  While parts were interesting with the fruit markets and old buildings eg the Boulangerie or bakery,

others were long merely passing where some building had once been. A photo of a metro entrance  was a typical Paris scene for me.

 I again ate a lunch made with part of the breakfast baguette but, after I reached the end, I walked the short distance to the Ile St Louis and found the creperie that I had visited last time.  I had told the French lady from whom I regularly buy crepes at the Dunedin Station markets that I would be going there again. I expected them to be dearer but they were not, however I do not sit down and combine my crepes with a glass of wine followed by an expresso on my Dunedin market visits. As I left I passed the Ile de Cité with Notre Dame and the Seine  and I again realised why I love this city so much and am already thinking of my next return.

However tomorrow I must pack up and head for Switzerland and must getting going early in the mornings again..