Archive for the ‘Castles’ Category

Kaiserfest in Kufstein

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Last weekend we attended a large street festival in Kufstein, a smaller town about 45 minutes away from Innsbruck. My friend, Nicole, lives there and invited us down, good-naturedly spending the day with a hyper toddler. It was raining on and off (and sometimes ‘on’ in squalls), but there was so much to do and so much awesome Austrian junk food to eat (mmmm, fried cheese and beer) that we managed to stay out for five hours.

This was the first time I have visited Kufstein, whose city center is guarded over by a 12th Century castle.

Festung Kufstein

Festung Kufstein

I never quite figured out what the celebration was for, but the city had done a great job of dedicating the city to the festivities.

There was a very large kids play area, with toys, 2 playgrounds, tractor rides (Annie only lasted 30 seconds on that…tears ensued when a little boy smashed into her tractor), drawing easels, a small train that toured around the festival, and face painting. We hit the face painting first, as there wasn’t yet a line-up. Annie told us she wanted to be a lion. That kid already has very well-formed opinions. (See my tweet from this morning.)



She looks sad here, but she actually loved the final results. Always a bit withdrawn with strangers...for the first 10 seconds anyway.

She looks sad here, but she actually loved the final results. Always a bit withdrawn with strangers...for the first 10 seconds anyway.

As Annie gets bigger, my hardest dilemma is how much to protect her. She is so independent and so never  wants to hold my hand or walk by my side. In big crowds it tends to freak me out, but I know it is important for her development. She had a blast, as a budding ham does, running ahead and then waving back at us with a little wiggle and dance.




Working on her jazz hands.

There isn’t much else to tell, as I spent pretty much every minute I wasn’t watching Annie play eating and drinking. I’m starting to feel like a real Austrian! Annie fell asleep on the ride home and was out for the night, which was great as I conked out early too. Apparently there are festivals in one area or another pretty much every weekend of the summer. My arteries are clogging just thinking about it. Tomorrow…hiking.

A Long Ovedue Post

Friday, June 12th, 2009

I think you can probably relate. Sometimes life just goes a bit South and there is something you have been meaning to do, want to do, but it just doesn’t happen. There isn’t really any explanation…’no time’ just  doesn’t cut it. But that creative energy that it takes me to write, even a simple blog post, sometimes just seems to seep away. (I really wish it would leave a forwarding address, but no; I just have to wait for it to return from whatever excursion it decided to go on.) I managed to pull it together for Annie’s birthday, but there hasn’t been much action before or since that. I am getting on track again (at least for the time being) and really want to capture a visit from a good friend, so I’m taking you all back, way back, to several weeks ago when I could still take shots of snow.

My lifelong friend, Shannon, and I were best buddies down at West Hawk Lake where our families both had cottages. The summers of my childhood spent in the Canadian Shield were almost idyllic, with constant swimming, water skiing, boating, sailing, visiting with friends and even cliff jumping! Ah, youth.

Shannon was in Europe at the end of April as she was attending a wedding of a friend from her time working in the U.K. She only spent a few days in London, though, and I was thrilled when she decided to spend the majority of her trip with us in Austria.

Shannon and me on our balcony

Shannon and me on the balcony

Of course, we talked and talked. I really do miss having long conversations in-person with native English speakers as well as long-time friends. It is just different and fills a place in my soul that nothing else can.  Unless a actually live in an English-speaking country for an extended period, like Markus did, the nuances of the language are just not there for non-native speakers, and makes whatever you are talking about less interesting and more difficult to express. I’m sure the people I interact with here find it to be the same when I am using my mangled German.

It is so fun to show friends the city where you live when you reside in a beautiful part of the world. I always enjoyed that in lovely Victoria as well. We walked around the old town (1o months and counting and still every time I walk amongst those 800-year old buildings I think, “I live here??!!”) and ate at some of the great, simple restaurants, cafes and bakeries.

And of course, life goes on with a busy family of a teenage and a toddler, but Shannon joined right in and even graciously shot some photos.


No teenagers were hurt in the shooting of this photo

No teenagers were harmed in the shooting of this photo

The inevitable playground time regardless of who is visiting.

The inevitable playground time regardless of who is visiting.

But there were definitely adventures. Shannon, who took full advantage of the mountains when she lived in Europe, did manage to get in a morning of figle skiing (short metal skis used in springtime…no poles) with Markus. I think they had a blast, although there were some nerve wracking moments from all accounts (and facial expressions.)



Our big adventure together was taking the train to Salzburg. I’ve been there before with friends Ryan and Renata, and managed to, yet again, choose a day that was pouring rain and cold. Oh well. We did see a fairly different side to the city than the first time I was there, so that was great for me. I actually thought that Salzburg was a bit deary, but as we walked along the river this time the buildings we saw were gorgeous. Large and colourful and beautifully designed.

On our walk from the train station into town we checked out the intricate gardens at Schloss Mirabell. Even in the rain they were impressive. I ripped this pic from wikipedia…weird how it looks overcast as well. (It is better larger, so I suggest clicking on the image.)



Instead of visiting the inner city castle, Hoshensalzburg, we decided to trek out to Helbrunn Palace. And I do mean trek. We were using a small tourist map as navigation, and it looked very walkable from the inner city. Well, not so much. After about half an hour we were looking around us feeling a bit lost when a nice passerby asked if we needed help. I was quite proud that my German was up to asking for and receiving directions, although it was clear that we would be walking for at least another 40 minutes to get there. In the rain. Oh well…we were this far along, so might as well go for it. It actually was an interesting journey down a country lane lined with fields, trees and the occasional turn of the century buildings (the other century.)

Once we arrived at the palace we were told that we needed to join a guided tour to go through the fountains, so we looked in the small palace while we waited. Built in the 1600’s, Hellbrun was strictly a day palace for royalty coming out from the city, therefore no bedrooms. The main attraction of the area is beautiful natural springs that a frisky and obviously humorous Prince-Archbishop Markus Sittikus von Hohenems employed to construct an intricate system of trick fountains. Using detailed architecture, guests would be drawn into an area, grotto or garden, and then the Prince would activate a switch to soak everyone. For example, while dining guest would all of a sudden have a very wet bottom. Oh, those rascally royals.


One of the most impressive features to me was the mechanical theatre, with 200 water-driven figures depicting the life of a small Baroque city. Unbelievable when you realize there are no computers and all movement of the tiny villagers is driven by the flow of water.

But truly one of the nicest things about being with visitors in this part of the world is just enjoying the beautiful scenery and mountains. Shannon commented that it was like a postcard everywhere you looked. A giant movie set blue-screen follows you around on which is constantly projected images of snow-peaked mountains, wildflowers, roaming cows and hillside chalets.


The fresh air always wears her out.

The fresh air always wears her out.

Shannon’s visit was wonderful and way too short. Luckily I’ll see her in the summer when Annie and I head back to Manitoba to enjoy a few weeks at the lake.

And we have more Canadian visitors coming in August to keep me sane; I will commit to being a bit more timely about that post.

Paris in the Springtime: Part 1

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Last week Markus and I kissed Annie and hugged my mom and Drew goodbye (with lots of instructions and several phone numbers), and headed out in the car for a relaxing (for me, the passenger), very scenic 9-hour drive to Paris. The weather was gorgeous, and the landscape of mountains, farms and rolling hills were soothing and stunning at the same time.

We pushed through with only a couple of coffee breaks until we got to France. We decided to stop for lunch in a town near the highway, as opposed to a road-side restaurant. It being Easter Monday, our first couple of attempts in little French villages were thwarted, as the towns were closed. Not just the shops and restaurants, but everything. Not a person in sight, not a dog on the streets. A bit weird, although we appreciated looking at the charming architecture.

We finally made our way to a bit bigger town, Saverne, where we had a very tasty lunch. We walked around for a bit, and then found a spot with outdoor seating and the look of authentic cuisine. After a little coaching from Markus, I ordered what is apparently a local specialty, Tarte Flambe. I was expecting a tart or quiche-like meal, but instead was served a thin flat bread with three different toppings. The gorgonzola was unbelievable, but it was incredibly rich so I’m glad that there were other tastes as well. The bottom is slightly charred, which usually I wouldn’t like, but the flavours worked well together. With a glass of white wine and the warm sun on my back, it was a delicious way to start the trip. (Only a week later, I’m starting to crave Tarte Flambe and am wondering when I might be able to find this again.)

With surprising little trouble (given that I am useless at navigating, as my car sickness means I can’t look at a map for more than 2 seconds while the car is moving…not to mention my hopeless sense of direction,) we found our hotel.

I’ll mention here that this Parisian adventure was made possible by Markus’ and my family. (That is one for the ‘Can’t do this in Canada’ category: travel to Paris on birthday cash.) Markus’ parents joined a vacation club about 30 years back, and let us use some of their points for the 4 nights. The deal with this club is that they choose amazing locations, and the rooms are usually apartment style with small kitchen units. You still have to pay a maintenance fee and for parking, but with total of around € 320, we couldn’t have found a decent place for one night in central Paris. And both my sets of parents and Markus’ grandmother chipped in on spending money, so it was all possible. (Thanks everyone!)

We were very happy with our small suite (one bedroom and main eating/living area). And being able to pop down to the bakery and bring back Pain aux Chocolat with fresh juice and coffee in the room was a perfect way to start the day.



And they  weren’t kidding about the location. We were able to walk everywhere: Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Champs-Elysees. We took the metro a couple of times only because we had worn out our poor feet from hours and hours of strolling through the city and museums.

We were both pretty tired after the long drive, so after a short stroll around our ‘hood, a few pics, and a quick dinner, we went back to the hotel for a relaxing and refreshing sleep.

Saint-Eustache and adjacent gardens just down the street from our hotel

Saint-Eustache and adjacent gardens just down the street from our hotel

In the couryard in front of Saint-Eustache

In the couryard in front of Saint-Eustache

The next morning our first stop at the local Patisserie was a real conundrum. We just couldn’t decide what to order, as it all looked delicious. I had a Pain aux Chocolat every day, and then one other treat to round things out. (Good thing we walked everywhere, as I’ve already gained weight sitting in bed with my broken elbow.)

Our first trek took us over the Pont-Neuf bridge to the Ile de la Cité, an island of land in the middle of the Seine. (Clearly I was quite taken with this river and the architecture surrounding it, as many of my photos are of this historic waterway.) We walked by the 18th century buildings and made our way to Notre Dame. The legendary church is massive and epic, and the details of the art work are a bit overwhelming. But I don’t know if it is just that we have been to so many churches and so many castles in the last 6 months (I know, poor us), but neither of us were moved to spend hours looking around. It is, however, still an impressive memory.

Pont-Neuf and the tip of the island on a hazy spring morning

Pont-Neuf and the tip of the island on a hazy spring morning



Maybe some good Catholic could tell me the deal with the guy holding his head.

Maybe some good Catholic could tell me the deal with the guy holding his head.

Our plan for our first day in Paris was to visit the Musée d’Orsay. However, the Louvre was closed that day so the line up was ridiculous. As neither Markus or I do long lineups unless absolutely unavoidable, we shifted plans and headed along the river to the Eiffel Tower.

Neither of us really wanted to go up the tower, even before we saw the massive line ups, so that was an easy decision. The park around the towers was beautiful, and we found a little cafe with street side tables for lunch.



After lunch we decided to hit the Paris Museum of Modern Art. We enjoyed looking at some of the sculptures as well as art deco furniture and glass work, and expressed our opinions about the paintings. Markus and I have similar tastes in historical paintings and sculptures, but different things move us with modern art. Interesting opinions ensue. We saw one artist that really reminded us of our friend Lucie Marlo’s work, but unfortunately his/her name escapes me.

One thing I was really struck with throughout our trip was how much green space has been retained in the heart of Paris. Large parks and gardens are impressive, but also areas with just grass and trees are plentiful. It made strolling through the city a real treat.

After a rest/nap, we found a very French bistro with a very French waiter, and quenched our cravings for Steak Frites. That was fine, but it was the appy that really got me. Raw vegetables with a goat cheese fondue that was seriously spectacular, served in a little, scalding hot, cast iron pot. After the veggies were gone I dipped bread, and when I was starting to get worrisomely full, I took my spoon and just ate the melted cheese. YeeeUuuuMmmm!

A memorable first day.


Taken strolling along the Seine. Too bad it was too early for a beer.


Our Italian Adventure

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Only a couple of days, and I already am missing Ryan and Renata like a limb. I can’t properly describe how great it was to be able to chat with friends who I have known for so many years (Ren and I met about 20 years ago) and can have easy, free flowing conversations in English. And yet, interestingly, their visit made me feel like Innsbruck was really my home, at least right now. I enjoyed showing them the city and area, and felt proud I could get by in the language, at least in shops and restaurants.

Markus and I are also going to miss the laughs. With all of our incredible life stresses these days, we are experiencing a real dearth of humour here. And Ryan and Ren are just hilarious, with Renata’s filterless tales and Ryan’s dry, quite comments…or unexpected poses, as seen here. Ah, I’ll miss those laughs.


But now that they have returned to Canada, I have a few moments to post about one of our last adventures together, a trip to Trento in Italy. Our original plan was to visit Schloß Tirol again, but it was closed over the holidays. Markus suggested Trento, as we have gone to Sudtirol a few times, which is very much like Austria (having been part of Austria until relatively recently). He thought we would like a taste of a more traditional Italian province and we certainly did.

The architecture of Trento has a very different feel. The area has been inhabited for thousands of years, and many of the buildings were clearly several hundred years old. Here is a shot of the city square, where you can see the buildings with the ubiquitous shutters as well as a part of the old cathedral.

Trento city center

Trento city center

After a tasty pasta lunch and a stroll through the city to get our bearings, we decided to tour the Castellodel Buonconsiglio , which is a 13th Century castle erected next to the city walls. It was an interesting tour including a temporary exhibit of Rembrandt’s sketches (not our cup of tea in terms of art, but still an experience to see).

My favourite part was a multiple room exhibit of the maps through the centuries, particularly those related to routes to the Orient. The progress of how civilization viewed the world is fascinating. The exhibit displayed the sailors’ tools (compasses, ship logs) as well as a sample of the treasures that were brought back from China.

We also slipped into the wine cellar, and looked at the beautiful barrels among the ancient arches.


After a quick slice of pizza (tasty, but a bit doughier than anticipated), we made our way home. This sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, we had decided to take the car again, so this was officially my second driving trip in Europe. Unfortunately, the GPS wasn’t available, so we were on our own with a map and a prayer. We made it to the city following Markus’ directions with only a few missteps, but getting home was another story. The chaotic Italian bureaucracy is legendary, and this was proved in point by the incredibly unclear or simply missing signage for how to get back on the highway. It took us about an hour to find our way out, including several stops at gas stations and stores to ask directions. The worst part was trying to merge onto a 2-lane thoroughfare at night, with the lights coming at me very fast and the cars behind me very impatient. Or maybe the worst was the speedy Italian drivers, who completely ignore the 130 km speed limit, so between the trucks and the sports cars there was at least a 100 km difference in speed which needed to be accounted for when passing another vehicle. Or maybe the worst is that the drivers weave between lanes for no apparent reason. (This was later confirmed by Markus as a common driving practice in that part of the world. Super.) I got a few more grey hairs but we did, finally, arrive home unscathed.

It was a great day overall, and an amazing holiday season. I think that Ryan and Renata were sent away with lots of European stories to tell. Now I just need you (yes you!) to come visit me here so we can have more adventures together.

City of Salt

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Markus ‘agreed’ to watch Annie on Saturday (I feel I am owed a few since he was gone for 4 weeks) while Ryan, Renata and I took the train to Salzburg for the day. It is a very comfortable 2-hour trip that took us close to the center of town. It was a cold day but we had dressed appropriately and, after finding a city map, made our way into the Alt Stadt. (Thank goodness for Ryan, because Renata and I have the same disability; not only do we have a terrible sense of direction, but we are quite pushy and adamant that we are correct.)

The city is interesting, but we all agreed Innsbruck is a prettier city (I guess being a smaller city helps.) It was also quite overcast, so that may have affected our opinion.

We walked around the large old town, watching the efficient city workers tear down the last of the Christmas markets. I’m sad to see them go, and the Glüwine with it. We also stopped into 3 churches, one that was quite ordinary, one was small but very elaborate, and the other one was the Domplatz, which was the stunning catherdral in the heart of the city. Here is a shot of the interior and one of the upper dome:

We then poked our heads into a few restaurants for lunch, but decided on an Italian place, which was a great little find (I had tagliatelle with shrimp and veggies in a saffron cream sauce. Yum!)

Our main adventure was going up to Schloß Monschsberg (Hohensalzburg Fortress). It is a medieval castle, which started being built over 1000 years ago. I really enjoy touring medieval castles, and am fascinated by the history of each place. The castle is located at one of the highest points of the city to maximize the security. We took the funicular up from the city center, but probably could have walked it. Here is a shot of the castle from Salzburg city center:

The fortress was reinforced many times over the centuries, and was never captured. It only reverted from the ruling Archbishop’s control when it was peacefully handed over to Napoleon.

As we walked around, I was especially impressed with the doors. Very intricate. I was less interested in the several rooms with WWI memorabilia, but I’m sure that was well done also for those interested in that. Here is a shot of one of the more intricate doors as well as one of the exterior archways:

Ryan and Renata arching in an arch. Ha ha.

Ryan and Hillary arching in an arch. Ha ha.

We walked around the exterior and interior for a while, and then took a 30 minute audio tour which included the torture chamber, artifact room and tower. The views of the city were stunning, and definitely the highlight of the trip. I wish it had been a bit sunnier…and a bit warmer!…but it was still an amazing view.

We managed to catch the 4:30 train home so we could have dinner with Markus and Annie. A great day all around! Here are just some of the many, many pictures Renata, Ryan and I took of the view:

Looking down over Salzburg

Looking down over Salzburg

The hills are alive...wouldn't want to have to climb those mountains to get out of town!

The hills are alive...wouldn't want to have to climb those mountains to get out of town!

Renata on the tower

Renata on the tower

A Tale of Two Palaces: Schönbrunn and Hofburg

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Another Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous day. I’m sure it will get boring soon. Right.

After breakfast I had the morning to myself so I made a plan to go to the Albertina Museum to see the Van Gogh exhibit. However, when I walked over the line up was about 200 people deep. I only had about an hour and a half before I was to meet Markus so I scrapped that plan.

But oh did I find a little piece of Hillary heaven instead. The Grand Hotel where we are staying is on The Ringstrasse in the heart of Vienna, so everything is walking distance. I strolled around a bit and stumbled onto the Doroteum Auction House. Three floors of art, jewellery, furniture, silver, sculptures, glass ware, ceramics and jewellery. Did I mention the jewellery? All of it either for direct sale or for auction. The Doroteum was established in 1707, so a little more than 300 years ago. A beautiful setting for ogling the goods.

The furniture and art was mostly from the 19th and 20th Centuries. I’m about as far as it gets from an art aficionado, so the only artist I recognized right away was Andy Warhol. I always find looking at modern art an interesting experience for me. I teeter precariously close to the edge of the general masses who “Don’t get modern art.” (Sorry Andy…kind of like the Jazz thing.) For example, there seemed to be an inordinate amount of canvases which were simply painted one color…i.e. completely blank…being listed for several thousand Euros. Hmmm.

But then I pass something that really catches my eye and tugs on my emotions. There was a series by a German painter, Imi Knoebel, that I kept coming back to. I didn’t write down the name of the piece, but I call it Construction Paper on Bristol Board. Because it basically was a large monotone canvas with a smaller blank canvas of a different colour stuck onto it. The colours were bright and interestingly contrasted and, for some reason I can’t explain, intrigued me.

I also was quite fascinated by the modern art furniture. Not to actually use of course, (it looked terribly uncomfortable) but an interesting focus point for a room, I’m sure.

Anyway, it was a delightful 90 minutes and I have decided that for my 40th I’m going to ask Markus to take me there to pick out a lovely necklace. Because I’m worth it, right?

I met Markus to attend the lunch at the Hofburg Imperial Palace where the Relais & Chateaux conference is being held.

Here is a bit of history about the Hofburg:

The Imperial Palace, which until 1918 was inhabited by the imperial family, was originally a castle built in the thirteenth century, which was extended to a splendid residence in accordance with the increasing power of the Habsburgs and the expansion of their realm.

Today, the Imperial Palace houses the office of the President of Austria as well as an important congress center and numerous art collections.

Here are some shots I took yesterday:

Hofburg Imperial Palace

Hofburg Imperial Palace

Some of the gardens around the Palace

Some of the gardens around the Palace

The Hofburg certainly is spectacular and houses libraries, museums, offices and several meeting and conference areas. Each room is incredible and brings to mind the opulence of the empire. For example, here is the room where we had lunch (with a close-up of the chandeliers.)

Just the little lunch room

Just the little lunch room

Sure beats track lighting

Sure beats track lighting

After lunch and a quick change at the hotel, we piled onto buses that took us to the Schönbrunn Palace. Markus and I have been there before, but it certainly is worth seeing again.

Markus and I at the Schönbrunn

Markus and I at the Schönbrunn

Ariel shot from wikipedia

Aerial shot from wikipedia

We had a private tour of the public rooms and learned a bit more about the history. There are over 1400 rooms at the Palace, with only a handful open to the public. The two most well known rulers who lived there are Maria Theresa (with her 16 children, including Marie Antoinette) and Franz Joseph I, almost the last Emperor of Austria who died in 1916, 2 years before the throne was abdicated. Franz Joseph certainly had a lot less fun than the Tudors (if the television series has any basis in reality). He worked up to 14 hours a day and lived in relatively spare quarters with one of the smallest beds I’ve seen.

The tour was interesting and then they opened up the ballroom to us for a cocktail party. I didn’t get a great shot, but you get the idea.

Ballroom at the Schönbrunn

Ballroom at the Schönbrunn

Following the cocktail party we were taken by buses to mystery destinations for dinner. Our bus went 45 minutes out of town to Restaurant Taubenkobel, about 10 km west of Hungary. The Chef has 2 Michelin stars and the menu was certainly well prepared. As I am not the world’s most adventurous eater, I enjoyed some of the dishes very much (marinated rainbow rout with mango and fennel) and others less (goder of pork…that is the throat and the texture just put me off.) It is too bad we arrived at night, as the property is on a lake, which I’m sure would have been very beautiful.

Overall a long and lovely day.

Schloß Tirol Part Zwei

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Great shot of the castle courtyard from our friends at Wikipedia.

Walking through the castle was quite amazing. A direct contrast to our experience from the tourist mecca, Schloß Neuschwanstein. There were hardly any people in the building on this cool autumn day, and guests are allowed to wander though at their own pace.

Markus and I were incredibly impressed with the entire exhibit. I loved that there was a bit of everything that you would expect in a castle museum: paintings, coins, jewellery, chain mail, tombstones, maps, Papal edits to absolve wealthy Catholics, and books. And books. And books. Incredible books about everything you can imagine: torture manuals, lists of landholdings, detailed maps, and directions for how to divvy up the children if one lord’s people (property) married another lord’s.They even had a small display of English travel books about the region from early in the 20th Century.

One interesting room which was completely empty, although you could just feel the centuries of history. This room, known as the temple, (so we were told through the audio system), was the storage room for all of the ruler’s treasures until the seat of power was moved to Innsbruck.

I loved the doorways into the various rooms. Here is a decent shot of one that went into the chapel (you can click on all pictures for a closer look):

And I just had to take this one to show how short the doors were, especially when compared to Markus’ and my modern day height. It barely clears his shoulders! Thank goodness high ceilings were the rage or we would have had a stooped journey through the halls:

Another very interesting room was the kitchen. So as not to disturb the obviously ancient grounds, artifacts were displayed on a raised floor, with certain sections in Plexiglas so you could look down at the original structure. I sure wouldn’t have wanted to make the cook mad with all of the massive knives and scythes lying around.

The curators also made optimal use of the castle tower. They erected a multi-level display around a winding staircase to showcase Tirol in the 20th Century. I thought this wasn’t going to be as interesting for me, but of course the perspective is so different from other NA or European displays I have seen. The mood is quite a bit grimmer when you are the ones that keep losing the wars. One interesting fact I didn’t know was that there was a strong resistance movement in the area from the time Südtirol was taken from Austria and given to Italy. And Mussolini’s aggressive move to populate the area with Southern Italians didn’t help matters. Apparently there were rallies, threats and bombings for several decades.

Besides the fascinating displays and architecture, the other highly notable part of the tour was the views into the valley below. Markus commented that every inch of the mountainous land is used. This is apparent from this shot from the castle (one where you can see the thick walls of the building and a close up to see the incredible stepped farming techniques on the mountainside):

One of the stunning views from Schloß Tirol

One of the stunning views from Schloß Tirol

And a close-up

And a close-up

If you want more info on this incredible landmark, here is a fairly good site, although you have to work through the not perfect translations a bit:

Another Day, Another Castle…

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

I am a bit knackered after a long but lovely day. I don’t want to miss a post in November, so I’m going to make my adventure to Schloß Tirol a two-parter between tonight and tomorrow.

Another memorable travelling Wednesday for Markus and me. Today after dropping off the girl we headed out of Innsbruck to Italy. Our destination was the town of Tirol in Südtirol to see Schloß Tirol. (Not the world’s most original naming scheme, but whatever.)

The trip there was less than ideal. Markus, being the sweetie that he is, decided to take me up the mountain pass so I could see the amazing views. Unfortunately, I became desperately carsick from the switchbacks, and then once we reached the summit the fog was so thick we couldn’t see anything. Oh well. By the time we reached the town and parked to see the castle, my stomach had settled, thank goodness.

Although it was a warm and sunny day in Innsbruck, once we hit the border the weather changed, as is common. (The mountains really do a number on the area’s micro-climates.) But it was still wonderful autumn weather in its own way, with calm cool air, appropriately medieval-like fog, and of course the yellows and oranges of the leaves on the trees and vines.

The 15 minute walk from the car to the castle was amazing. The hike started in the lovely little town or Tirol with tourist-friendly but not too tacky shops. The church on the side of the road had a beautiful cemetery; I just had to shoot these incredibly well taken care of graves:

Because I have a thing for cemetaries

Because I have a thing for cemeteries

Once we passed the town we saw yet another castle which I still haven’t been able to identify. Here is the picture though:

Because one castle is never enough

Because one castle is never enough

The fog was too thick to capture an adequate shot of the Schloß Tirol’s exterior (all my exterior pictures are muted and orangy from the odd light), so here is one from the ever-handy wikipedia. (However, this picture was taken in the summer so you don’t get the awesome effect of the fall colours):

The first castle was built on the hill before 1100, with a second phase in 1139 and a third in the second half of the 13th century. Until 1420 the castle was the seat of Tirol’s royalty until Duke Frederick IV moved the seat to Innsbruck. (Südtirol was part of Austria until it was divided up after WWI, and German is still as common a language there as Italian.)

Here is the last picture on the path to the castle. More tomorrow about our visit.

Schloß Neuschwanstein

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Yesterday Markus and I dropped Annie off and drove for an hour and a half to Bavaria in Germany. It was a beautiful Autumn morning and it was great to get out of Innsbruck for the day. Our destination was a castle called Neuschwanstein. It is a 19th Century palace near a small, pretty town called Füssen. It is a bit of a tourist machine, (apparently over a million visitors annually), so I was very glad we went in off-season, as we all know how much I love hanging out with pushy crowds.

The brief history we were told was very interesting. Commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria, construction of the building lasted from 1869 to 1886. The castle still is not finished, because in 1886 Ludwig was officially declared insane and then died shortly after; all work stopped when he died. After all those years of work and planning, he lived in the castle for only 4 months. My pictures of the front were a bit wonky, so here is one from wikipedia.

Only guided tours were allowed, so we didn’t get as much time to study the paintings and woodwork as I usually like. But it was beautiful nonetheless. The paintings are mainly depictions of the works of Wagner, a favourite of Ludwig’s. The intricate woodwork in the king’s bedroom was incredible; it took five workers four years to complete.

We also went for a walk to the Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge); here are pictures from the bridge and then one of the bridge from the castle.

The valley below

The valley below

Marienbrück seen from the castle.

Marienbrücke seen from the castle.

As you can see, the fog was already rolling in and by the time we left it was thick and spooky. Very appropriate for our castle tour.

After a traditional lunch in Füssen, where Markus was able to have a tasty Bavarian beer, we drove back to the warmth and sunshine of Innsbruck (the micro-climates here are crazy!)

We bought a book of castles in the area, so more to come I’m sure.

Cute Kid Update for the Grandparents

Thought it was time for some cute toddler updates for the grandparents. You might want to skip this one if you are feeling anti-cute-kid or have had enough of your own cute child at the moment.

This was the conversation in the kitchen the other night.

A: I want some pasta

H: Wie bitter?

A: Bitter?

H: O.K.

A: First you have to cook it. I’ll get you a pot.

H: That’s right Annie!

A: Here you go (handing me a strainer when she couldn’t find a pot as they were all in the dishwasher.) It is a green one! (Everything is green or orange right now, even though the strainer was silver)

H: Thanks!

A: You’re really welcome. (How cute is that!? I love the ‘really’ in there. And with a slight lisp thrown in to shoot it over the cuteness scale…”you’re rweally welcome.”)

Annie’s Germ-glish is coming along nicely. The latest is “I’m too schwer!” said with a big family pout on her lips. Schwer is heavy or difficult, so she really means whatever she is trying to move, usually to somewhere she shouldn’t be going, is too heavy. But we get the point.

I tried to take a good picture the last couple of days, but Annie has discovered saying ‘cheese’ and makes a very hilarious face like this:

Annie saying Cheeeese. Will I ever take another good picture again?

Annie saying Cheeeese. Will I ever take another good picture again?

So here is a cute one from the summer which I don’t think I’ve posted before:

Andy took this one at a playground in Victoria this summer (Hi Andy!)

Andy took this one at a playground in Victoria this summer (Hi Andy!)