The Retirees return to Europe – Luzern/Lucerne

Our trip by train to Luzern was uneventful save for the surprise that Euros are not accepted in Switzerland due to the exchange rate for the Euro against the Swiss Franc instability. We have had to convert our euros to Swiss Francs and the exchange rate is almost par at the moment. Our lost luggage and the money spent to replace the essentials has reduced available holiday funds and Switzerland is more expensive than I had expected.

Luzern rail station is the ideal station with a tourist info centre within the terminal and a terminus with all possible destinations lined up across 14 platforms. No problems collecting our luggage – love these trains – and we can just stroll over to the Tourist Info centre to locate our hotel and obtain some other valuable information on things to see and do. Then its off to Hotel Rossli. The hotel is a doorway off the road in the old city on the northern side of the Reuss River and the reception is in another hotel across the road – in the short space of time it has taken to walk here we have learnt to be aware of cyclists who flash past pedestrian in all directions. After registering at reception we return to the doorway and enter up two flights of stairs to our room which is quite tidy and serviceable with a view over the adjoining roof to river glimpses.

Various photos – the train station, the front door of our hotel the view from the window in the hall and some of the art features in the hotel

Luzern has a long history and the most notable is the Kapellbrücke or Chapel Bridge. Part of the bridge complex is the octagonal “Wasserturm”, which translates to “water tower,” in the sense of ‘tower standing in the water.’ The tower pre-dates the bridge by about 30 years. Over the centuries, the tower has been used as a prison, torture chamber, and later a municipal archive as well as a local treasury. Today, the tower is closed to the public. The bridge itself was originally built c.1365 as part of Lucerne’s fortifications. It linked the old town on the right bank of the Reuss to the new town on the left bank, securing the town from attack from the south (i.e. from the lake). The bridge was initially over 270 metres (890 ft) long, although numerous shortenings over the years and river bank replenishments mean the bridge now totals only 204.7 metres (672 ft) long. It is the oldest surviving truss bridge in the world. The bridge almost burned down on 18 August 1993, destroying two thirds of its interior paintings. Shortly thereafter, the Kapellbrücke was reconstructed and again opened to the public on 14 April 1994.

There is a second bridge of this type a few hundred metres up stream called the Spreuer Bridge. The first bridge was constructed in the 13th century to connect the Mühlenplatz (Mill Place) on the right bank of the River Reuss with the mills in the middle of the river. The extension of the bridge to the left bank was completed only in c. 1408. This was the only bridge in Lucerne where it was allowed to dump chaff (in German: Spreu, therefore the name Spreuerbrücke) and leaves into the river, as it was the bridge farthest downriver. The bridge was destroyed by a flood in 1566 and then rebuilt, together with a granary as the bridge head, called the Herrenkeller.

Photos of bridges – Spreuerbrücke then Kapellbrücke and the dam whereby they manage the water flow and generate some hydro electricity

Our accommodation being very close to the Chapel Bridge and old town made it easy to explore however we chose the remnant of the old city wall as our first target. We passed over the foot bridge closest to our flat and into the old town and in the distance saw Chateau Gutsch high on a hill within walking distance of the old town however we did not know that at the time. Passing through the streets we came upon a square with restaurants and hunger took hold so lunch first and explore later. Did I mention that Switzerland is expensive. We shared a pizza Kerry had a soft drink and I had a small beer – 39 Swiss Francs about AUD$55.00.

Without any plan we followed the road which gradually climbed up to the city wall passing an old workers hut. We must have walked about ten minutes uphill before finding a set of stairs which we climbed thinking this would get us onto the wall but no it brought us to the base of the wall but it gave us a good vantage spot to take some pictures including the clock tower in the wall. We entered through the modern door which contained a “spare” clock up some narrow wooden stairs to the wall – no interest in climbing to the top. we ventured out onto the wall for some grand views over the city. On the other side of the wall (the outside I presume) is now parks and sports grounds. Attached to the wall is a house with a metal deck leading to its roof (an Italian style “altana” ). There are a number of towers remaining with connecting walls leading almost to the lake and we walked as far as we could before leaving the wall to follow a road and visit a large church “Peters Chapel” in Kapellplats. And of course, there was a confessional.

We continued our exploration through the streets of the old town finding the restaurant we had stopped at in 2015 on the way to Basel. We decided to enjoy a dessert for dinner and unfortunately the occasion was not as good as our remembered occasion. We then crossed the river and passed what has to be the oldest extension to any building in Lucerne on our way to our flat.

Lucerne is on the banks of Lake Lucerne and one of the tourist musts is a boat trip on the lake. The experience in Bregenz made us wary of just taking a boat trip so after some research we found that a visit to Mt Rigi included a boat trip but the price was eye watering. The other mountain trips on offer were even worse. We had decided to suck it up and do the trip to Mt Pilatus. But when booking it at the Tourist Info Centre we learned that because we had an EUrail Global pass we got the tickets to Rigi at half price. Woo Hoo! But the ferry left in 10mins and we had to get on the boat before then. Handing over the folding, we got the tickets and ran to the wharf which fortunately was only across the road through the park from the Tourist Info Centre. Jumped aboard just in time and went straight to the top deck as the boat was jam packed with other tourists and locals. Ticket Inspector came along and pointed out we were in 1st class on a second-class ticket – so we got kicked off the top deck but not off the boat. The boat appeared to be a restored midship panel steamer only the engine was no longer steam powered. The restorer had exposed and polished the large diesel pistons and created a window into the engine room and the wheel chambers so the visitor could observe the pistons and the paddle wheel and the clean neatly arrayed tools of the diesel mechanic.

We travelled east across the lake stopping at various ports including Weggis and Vitznau. We left the boat at Vitznau to catch the cog train to the top of Rigi. We could then return by cable car from one of the train stops on the return journey and pick up the boat at Weggis.

Photos

The train was a modern electric powered vehicle rather than the historic looking tram advertising the trip. It climbed rapidly up the mountain side and at times appeared at risk of falling off sheer drops. As we climbed postcard pictures were available of rural homes and panoramas of the larger towns in the valley on the shores of the lake. After several stops at stations for hikers to alight, tourists to make their way to accommodation and locals going home, we made it to the last station some 30m below the summit. Then to my surprise a 2nd train appeared. Apparently, there is another line running to the other side of the island and the blue train was a whole different bunch of tourists. We ascended the summit some 1700+ metres high. Took some fabulous photos including some panoramas and these are following.

The summit is the site of the first survey point for the Canton of Luzern and this is highlighted by a raised concrete peg and a type of tepee over it. Just in case you are not familiar with cog trains I snapped a shot of the under carriage on the blue train (it was more obvious than on our train) to show you the centre rail and the cog wheel that fits into to it to give the train traction up the hills.

After filling our lungs with fresh air on a rather warm day at the summit and avoiding any of the numerous cow pats along the paths we joined the train for the return journey getting off at Rigi Kaltbad where we could use the cable car to travel down to Weggis. We captured some beautiful views of the lake and its towns travelling down. Those photos follow.

We had not seen everything of Lucerne its statuary and tattooed buildings, so we took a walk with the plan of visiting the Wounded Lion Monument. Here are a few photos of the interesting things we saw.

The Wounded Lion Monument recognises the sacrifice of the Swiss mercenaries employed by the King of France as his bodyguards and their massacre at the hands of revolutionaries of the French Revolution in 1792. From the early 17th century, a regiment of Swiss guards had served as part of the Royal Household of France. On 6 October 1789, King Louis XVI had been forced to move with his family to the Tuilieres Palace in Paris. In June 1791 he tried to flee to where troops under royalist officers were concentrated. On 10th August 1792 revolutionaries stormed the palace. Fighting broke out spontaneously after the Royal Family had been escorted from the Tuileries to take refuge. The Swiss Guards ran low on ammunition and were overwhelmed by superior numbers. A note written by the King half an hour after firing had commenced has survived, ordering the Swiss to retire and return to their barracks. Delivered in the middle of the fighting, this was only acted on after their position had become untenable. Around 760 of the Swiss Guards defending the Tuileries were killed during the fighting or massacred after surrender. An estimated two hundred more died in prison of their wounds or were killed during the September Massacres that followed. Apart from about a hundred Swiss who escaped from the Tuileries, the only survivors of the regiment were a 300 strong detachment which, with the King’s authorization, had been sent to Normandy to escort grain convoys a few days before August 10. The Swiss officers were mostly amongst those massacred, although the Major in command at the Tuileries was formally tried and guillotined in September, still wearing his red uniform of the Guard. Two surviving Swiss officers achieved senior rank under Napolean.

Mark Twain is said to have commented that this was the saddest monument he had visited. It’s location in an English garden is now out of the generally trafficked areas but worth a visit to view the extraordinary workmanship of this monument carved into a cliff face.

So, having viewed the monument and read all the information boards in the park we toddled off “home” and on the way discovered that the lane next to the front door of the hotel connected us directly with the River Ruess. It has been joyously decorated and not vandalised with graffiti.

You may recall my mention of Chateau Gutsch and the desire to visit the white palace on the hill. It turns out the palace is now a 5 star hotel with a funicular to take visitors to the hotel (of course there is car access also). With nothing better to do we donned our best clean clothes put on our thongs and tracked down the hotel which happened to be literally 5 minutes from our place. Finding the funicular proved to be no challenge at all and riding up in it gave us an outstanding view of the city wall and its towers, as well as views of the River Ruess, the lake the whole panorama of Lucerne. Inside the entry foyer is an elegant pictorial history of the Gutsch and from the lower balcony theses extraordinary views.

We were the only visitors at this time and had the deck to ourselves. The kitchen was not open, but they could offer coffee and a croissant. The cost was no more than we would have paid at a grubby street cafe – a pleasant surprise.

We left the Gutsch vowing to return after 2pm for cocktails at the American Bar. We returned to the town via the garden which in fact is a forest on the ridge behind the hotel. As we walked through the forest, we encountered workmen and Kerry struck up a conversation with the bloke standing in a trench. He was an Austrian from Bregenz – an Anthropologist completing an investigation on the impact a new freeway would have on the forest – fortunately the freeway was being tunnelled underneath the forest and it was more the impact the exhaust stack would have on the forest. He completed the friendly chat with some directions back to the town (how to avoid any steps). Our course took us through a residential area where we made a few discoveries like the self-serve nursery with an honesty box, the family bike (battery assisted for all those hills), Farmer paying a visit to the big smoke, some Advokatur and Notorial offices below the symbol of an iron dragon (??), and a visit to St Paul’s Church with its confessional before stopping for lunch. We then retired to our flat to rest up for the big afternoon at Gutsch.

Rested and raring to go, we went to Gutsch and the American Bar. This time we went into the hotel itself and the bar was all classic with portraits of all descriptions and sizes hanging on the wall. The receptionist who was German not Swiss could not say if it was the family and was unable to explain the portrait of a woman holding a severed head on a platter. We left the mysterious portrait and adjourned to the deck in front of the bar. The view had improved with the earlier haze having lifted. The following photos and Kerry’s posts on Facebook will give you a good idea of the old-world opulence of the place.

The Bar has that opulence that we imagine the rich and famous enjoy with views of the town and lake that cannot be bettered. Speaking of which I don’t know if he was rich or famous in his own right but the gentleman in the apartment overlooking the Bar decided to take the sun in his underpants as we enjoyed our drink and tried to enjoy the view. After the “show” and drinks at the American Bar we toddled home for tomorrow we take the train to Interlarken.

The Retirees return to Europe – Brengz Austria

Bregenz

Goodbye Vienna. Our preplanning worked well and we might have caught the train on time if Kerry had not left her handbag in the train station waiting room. Literally she was stepping into the train when she realised it was not there. She ran back to the waiting room, but we knew we had missed our train. However, unlike aeroplanes we could catch the next one with our luggage and the EUrail pass gave us that flexibility. We had chosen first class seats because this is a 7 hour journey with no stops. There is a dining car, and we could order from the menu and get in seat service. The train reached speeds of 221kph and taking photos was often difficult, but we managed to capture some of the pleasant Austrian countryside and Austrian Alps. The following photos trace our journey from outside Vienna to Bregenz and you may notice the progression from plain to Alps in the west.

Photos

We arrived in Bregenz late afternoon and caught a cab to our accommodation which was outside of Bregenz and in a suburb/village called “Hard”. Very suburban and quiet but with not a lot of action either. It is a studio in a large house probably purpose built and clumsy in the way of east European architecture but suited our needs perfectly. The lines 15 and 17 bus to Bregenz Bahnhof (the main rail head) was under 5 minutes’ walk away and the buses ran every half hour – very convenient.

We walked up to the nearest supermarket “Billa” – about 20minutes away and bought some articles and two salads for dinner. After 7 hours on our bums the walk was needed. Bedtime was strange as sunset was about 8.30pm in the evening and this continued to disrupt our planning right up to the evening at the theatre when we arrived for a 7.00pm start only to find it was 9.00pm start as the theatre was open air. We knew it was open air and wondered how it was going to function in the bright afternoon light. Now we know – they wait till the sun goes down.

Bregenz is on the banks of Lake Constance Europe’s 2nd biggest Lake and the lake is the border for Austria Germany and Switzerland. The Austrian and Swiss Alps run up to the lake so Bregenz has Pfander mountain at its back. For our first visit to the city/old city we started with the board walk along the lake to the boat terminals and then walked to the cable car to ride to the top of Pfander.

My first photo is Kerry on the boardwalk and then the ultramodern dinner boat called “Koningin” docked at the boardwalk. Then follows photos of the cable car ride up to Pfander, a view of Lindau Island Pfander, and rest area where there is a mini zoo of mountain animals. I have included a panorama showing the lake spreading away to the unknown. Views of the surrounding Alps and the facilities and animals of the zoo follow. The return journey gives a clear indication of the height of Pfander and how quickly it rises behind Bregenz. Watch out two of the jousting mountain goats have escaped from this gallery to the next gallery.

After returning to the town level, we walked along one of the streets bounding the old town so there was a mixture of old and new. Amongst the houses we encountered a parked car with a car cover over it clearly been there for years: so long in fact the town has declared it street art and posted a sign about the “artist”. It is all in German with no English note but our enquires lead us to understand that some local “artist” bought himself a new Porsche and was disappointed with it, so he put the cover over it and walked away. This was in 1947. His studio is beside it and an eclectic bunch of stuff sits in the yard of the studio.

Several of the old town buildings are decorated with art works some portraying the first use of the building. In the main square stands the local parish church constructed with the eastern Christian church “onion” dome. Bregenz Summer Festival is on, so the streets are decorated with flags declaring that to be the case. In the case of these photos, they were taken when we had coffee at a restaurant above the square in one of the modern buildings which looks abhorrent and out of place. Like the monument to Indian Snake Charmers – the knotted rope statuary. No photo of the abhorrent building.

My library of photos has been overtaken by some sparring mountain goats left out of the previous photo gallery. don’t pay too much attention and they will be fine. The next photo is a historic house then the “porsche under cover”.

We had some reason to visit the Apothoke (Chemist). We found the Apothoke shop just off the main square. The interior was a museum perhaps of a 19th century shop.

We are here for our wedding anniversary. Kerry promised herself to return and see a show at the Bregenz Theatre in the Lake after we had stumbled across it in 2015. In 2015 the Opera was “Turandot” and the stage was the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Army. This year it was Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly”. The stage is a deceptively simple white background with hidden stairs doorways and a hole for an enormous flagpole. Under the stage (rows F, G & H) banners advertising the show and pictures of the previous stages hence the photo of the stage which we saw being constructed. This magnificent stage is built at the western end of the lakeside walkway with Bregenz Bahnhof (train station) behind it. There is no orchestra pit but rather the orchestra plays on a sound stage inside the auditorium behind the patrons seating. This outdoor seating is erected leaving space between seating and stage for boats containing parts of the stage scenery to sail past during the performance.

One of the entertaining things to do in Bregenz is to travel on the lake and visit different countries or so you might think. Well, there are no tours as such, but you can sail aimlessly around for 1 or 2 hours (we did the 2 hour trip) looking at the different countries. The following photos give you 2 hours of excitement.

After the excitement of the boat trip, we decided to follow the self-guided tour provided by the Tourist Information Centre. Now the first stop was a shop selling various forms of alcohol. See the first photo below. Here I was persuaded to sample a Swedish single malt whisky (or do you spell it the Irish way “Whiskey”) and purchase 500ml of the brew – many of my friends will be clamouring for this. The next few photos depict some of the older buildings in the narrow streets of the old town. But number 5 is the front door of a residence which is little more than 1 metre wide at its entry – Bregenz’s smallest residence. Next is the adjoining building which appears to have been a type of craftsman’s lodge judging by the figurines displayed on the exterior. By the time we had climbed to the oldest part of the town we came across what might have been a moat around a fortified residence which proved to be a former monastery. The parish church although not connected was on the outside of the former moat but separated from surrounding land by its own moat. Inside was a clean and fresh-looking church and of course it had a confessional (you know whom I am referring to VC). After leaving the church we found a set of stairs which now allows movement between church and monastery which has been separated from the residences constructed where once monks would have toiled. The old castle gate remains with it an open portcullis and the track down to the town. In the town we found this strange feature on one block of residences – it looks like someone was buried but manage to stick their arm out of the coffin.

We had not been impressed with the boat tour so the following day we tried direct travel to selected places; Lindau Isel (Lindau Island) and Fredrickschafen in the Bavarian-Swabian part of Germany. By ferry Bregenz to Lindau Isel takes 1 hour and 2 hours to Friedrichshafen and we were to find out only 20 minutes by train to Lindau. We purchased a return journey on the ferry to Lindau and on the trip, we spotted a modern Zepplin (Dirigible balloon). Arriving at Lindau Is. visitors are greeted by a resting lion and lighthouse from the early days of trading between villages. A tower which formed part of the defences of the harbour also remains. The foreshore is hotels and restaurants, and everyone had the same idea as us to visit the island. The pictured building is the Rathaus or Local Government Hall. The other photos are general street scenes. This is an island, and it is connected by a causeway to the mainland. Near that causeway bridge we found the remnants of a church predating the 11th century. The Peterskirche is the oldest sacred building in the city of Lindau. The essentially Romanesque church goes back to the 11th century and is of supraregional importance due to late Gothic wall paintings often attributed to Hans Holbein the Elder. It stands on the western outskirts of the old town and has housed a war memorial in the form of a WW1 German soldier since the 1920s.

We enjoyed the trip but really the ferry was a pain, so we decided to experiment with the train and found it to be superior and without so many tourists

We then circled back to the harbour but our next ferry was some time off arriving. We decided to try catching the train home. Not only was it cheaper but less than half the travel time.

I think I need to say something about our accommodation in Bregenz. Whilst not in the city centre and not near shops it was well serviced with buses and very quiet. I have inserted some photos of the exterior and the interior for your interest.

Our trip to Friedrichschafen in Germany was a gamble in that we knew nothing about it, other than it was a Bavarian town on Lake Constance.

After docking we walked around checking the place out when we came upon the Graf Zepplin Museum. The Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen is there because Friedrichshafen is the birthplace of the Zeppelin airship. The museum houses the world’s largest aviation collection concerning dirigible airships and chronicles the history of the Zeppelin airships. In addition, it is the only museum in Germany that combines technology and art. The museum has been in its current location at the Hafenbahnhof (harbour railway station) since it was reopened in 1996.

The centerpiece of the zeppelin displays is a full-scale, partial model of the airship LZ 129 Hindenburg. The exhibition also includes an original engine nacelle of the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin airship. A great number of airship models, not only from Germany, are also on display in the technology department. There is a full-scale recreated Cabin Lounge of Zeppelin Hindenburg, the centrepiece of the Zeppelin airship and a partial replica of the LZ 129 Hindenburg, which was reproduced true to the original and authentically furnished. It is 33 m in length, large enough to convey an idea of the enormous dimensions of the original airship. The Hindenburg was 245 m long and had a maximum diameter of 41.2 m. It was propelled by four Daimler Benz diesel engines with a capacity of 772.3 kW (1050 hp) each, and reached a maximum speed of about 130 km/h.

After the impressive overview of the partial model from the outside, the folded-down retractable aluminium stepladder invites visitors to go on board. It leads into the lower deck, the B-deck, which has a bar, a smokers’ lounge, and toilets. The passenger cabins are arranged on two decks, stacked one on top of the other. In the cabins, visitors can experience the special inside ambience of a 1930s airship and get to know the technical aspects of this aircraft. The beds inside the cabins are made of aluminium. Every cabin has a wall-hung wash basin (with running hot and cold water from a tap), a curtained wardrobe niche, a folding table, a stool, and a ladder for climbing into the upper bunk. The cabins also have electrical lighting and are ventilated and heated.

The Hindenburg travelled 18 times to North and South America. On 6 May 1937, while landing in Lakehurst, New Jersey, the airship burst into flames just before touch-down and crashed killing numerous passengers and crew. Some of that wreckage was also on display.

My photos start with the view across the bay when alighting from the train. We walked around the bay for some distance before we encountered the waterfront. The only evidence of a commercial past is the derrick amongst the cafe umbellas. Then we encountered the Zepplin Museum.

Truly worth while visiting this museum. I had no idea of the extent of Zepplin history or that Friedrichschafen is home to the Zepplin factory today and is one of the largest employers in the town.

There was not much else different about the town. The waterfront was all cafes and very busy. Of course this was a little bit different.

We returned home to our apartment in Hard without any plans for tomorrow.

We had been informed that there were supposed to be 2 restaurants nearby and that we could gain access to a beach nearby. So, our plan for the next day was to find the beach and restaurants. We set off to find the beach and restaurants. Opposite our apartment is bush land and in that green space several trails and a football field. We tried following one of the trails ending up following a bitumen road with no sign of any beach however we did pass a restaurant which was not yet opened for the day. It had a colourful old buggy full of flowers in front which gave it some charm. During this walk we noticed that every household had wood stockpiles standing in their yards and on some occasions the stockpile formed the “fence” between neighbours – a sure sign that the winters are cold.

Our purpose in coming to Bregenz was to witness an opera perform on the Lake stage and Saturday evening was the date. We had difficulty finding the opening time and were impatient and anxious to get there. So, on the basis that the show would commence at 7.00pm we caught the bus into the city and walked to the theatre. Too early! We had arrived about 5.30pm and we learned the show started after sunset at 9.00pm, so we found seats and settled down at the Sunset Bar (a Rotunda on the end of a short pier in the lake) with a drink to wait for the show to commence at 9.00pm – yes I certainly got that wrong. We had a big lunch at that restaurant we found so we weren’t hungry, but it was going to be a long wait and as the wind picked up a cool evening. We even went and sat in our seats to wait for the show but that did not last long through boredom. Finally, about 8.30pm there was some movement to get the show on the road with the arrival of passengers from the cruise boats. We had purchased a souvenir blanket to keep out the cold wind that was rising and lined up to take our seats. There must have been over 1,000 people who finally took their seats and the show started at 9.00pm.

A very moving performance across a very functional stage portraying the arrival of the American ship with Pinkerton on board and the arrival of Butterfly and her entourage and assistant Coco, the British official Wilkinson and the other players. There were vessels arriving and passing through the channel between the stage and the audience and the opera although not familiar to me was very moving. Two hours passed quickly. Unfortunately, no photos. Home by 11.15pm and up by 5.00am to catch the train to Luzern.

To be continued.

The Retirees return to Europe – Vienna

Vienna

Our plan to travel to Vienna via Amsterdam went well and truly awry. Our flight out of Heathrow was late to leave which meant we missed our connection in Amsterdam (not by much I might say as we had to run from terminal B to terminal D to get our connector). A simple phone call by the ground staff for our filght to the gate of our connecting flight stating we were on our way was all it would have taken to avoid the pain that followed. Having missed our connection, the gate captain offered us two alternate connections to Vienna – a direct connection leaving at 8.00pm or a connection via Munich boarding now and leaving in 10 mins and arriving Vienna at 3.00pm – it was now 10.00am in Amsterdam. We chose to go via Munich, boarded the flight and waited and waited (there was no departure slot available for our aircraft) and waited for over an hour.

We arrived in terminal 1 Munich with about an hour before our connecting flight was due to depart, but we could not find the KLM desk to obtain a boarding pass. A staff member on an information desk directed us downstairs to the KLM desk. We hurried downstairs only to be redirected back to where we started where a friendly Air France girl checked our ticket and was unable to identify the airline code as to which airline was our carrier and she assured us that KLM did not fly out of Munich, so she sent us downstairs to another agent who directed us across the tarmac to terminal 2. By this time, we had 15mins to reach our flight.

Terminal 2 was just as difficult to navigate until we found a volunteer visitor assistant who immediately could tell us our airline was Austrian Air not KLM and to go to the Lufthansa desk. The Lufthansa assistant was superb but had to advise us we had missed our connecting flight and the next was at 8.00pm arriving in Vienna at 9.30pm. She also tracked our luggage noting on her screen the change of flight and identifying an error in the recording for both suitcases – (only the first mistake). All of this bad news seemed wonderful to us as we were exhausted, hungry and stressed with all of the f**k ups. Assured of our flight arrangements and our luggage we sought a cafe for a strong drink and something to eat.

Our first choice for our repast was not so good – an incident was in progress and the cafe was cordoned off with heavily armed Police deterring customers from entering. Our second choice was more successful, and we were able to relax. We had four and a half hours to wait for our flight, so we slowly made our way through security again and into the bowels of terminal 2 where we sat suspended until 8.00pm.

Finally, our flight gate opened, and we were seated in the last two seats in the plane so it was a bit of a struggle to get off the plane and then we had a struggle to find the luggage collection belt only to find our luggage had not made the flight. So, we spent the next half hour completing a lost luggage claim form with the depressing feeling that we would not see the suitcases again. Tired and distressed we simply grabbed the 1st cab handed him our hotel address and bundled into the taxi with only the clothes we stood up in. Sometime after 10.00pm we arrived at Westbahn Hotel as pictured below, uncertain of what awaited us.

The next day we awoke to grey skies and intermittent rain. The room was not air-conditioned, and we had spent most of the night sweating on the bed waiting for morning trying not to think about the fact that our last meal was some hours ago in Munich. Our plans were in disarray, so we decided to make up for it with a hotel breakfast then brief the reception staff about our lost luggage and our anticipated delivery of our luggage. We had an enjoyable breakfast and found the staff on reception sympathetic. They provided us with a city map and pointed out a few of the sights.

We had selected this hotel for its proximity to the rail station. Although very close to a major rail station terminus at West Bahnhof we were not at Bahnof Meidling which we learned is where we had to be to travel to Bregenz in a few days’ time. Had we stuffed up again?

We walked across to West Bahnhof station and found a mini shopping centre and underground station as well as an above ground rail station. Alongside the rail station with an entrance from the station was Vienna’s IKEA store. Located in a most unusual high rise building it appeared part of it was missing with the upper levels left hanging in the air.

Photos of the Hotel, rail station and IKEA are below. One of the pictures shows a church through the window of the station and one of the pictures shows the church which we found whilst hunting for the IBIS Hotel and the door is the ornate carved door of a cafe/bar near the IBIS.

Photos

Our plan for our time in Vienna involved getting a feel for the layout of the city using the Hop on Hop Off Bus pick the things we wanted to see and return later but the hotel seemed to be some distance from the first stop for the Bus. The hotel receptionist assured us the hotel was centrally located so we walked over to the nearby main shopping Street Mariahilfastrasse after breakfast, and nothing was open – we were to find that the Viennese have some very different habits. The Strasse was very long and no where near to stop 1 of the Hop On Hop Off bus route – the nearest stop turned out to be outside the nearby IBIS Hotel. Using google maps we set off in search of stop #5 on the blue line at the IBIS Hotel.

Well, the IBIS Hotel decided to play hide and seek with us – every time we thought we were getting closer it moved further away. Of course, we were going the wrong way but once we corrected our path we found ourselves in front of the Ibis Hotel only a stone’s throw from our hotel. S**t! We could not take a trick.

Our luck improved once we found the hotel and boarded the bus.

Below are photos of the Viennese trams which crisscross the city and have done so from the beginning of mechanisation as borne out by the derelict horse drawn tram shed still standing in Vienna. At stop #5 Ibis Hotel we got a different angle on the IKEA building, a view down Mariahilfastrasse before the Viennesse arise for the day and we passed this elaborate carved door frame to a restaurant near the Ibis. The Blue line stop 6 is the Schloss Schonenburg to which we would return, and this line generally took us on a cultural tour of Vienna and through districts of Council flats which remain popular till today. The flats are identifiable by the notice on the building that they were built by the Council and the year of building. Fifty percent of housing in Vienna is council owned and rented. These apartment buildings stand out from the modern constructs of glass and metal. See if you can pick out the French Embassy amongst these pictures. One of the features of Vienna is its sausage stands – the Viennese refer to them as “the wurst sausage stands” and don’t understand our mirth about that description. Here is a picture of one near the State Opera featuring a green rabbit. The Viennese treat these similar to a pub where they meet fellow citizens after a show and have a sausage and glass of bubbles or a beer – where we might have a “lamb sandwich and a schooner”. Finally, a statue in honour of Emperor Franz Joseph I think outside the Art museum “Albertina” – the Hapsburgs’ have left their mark everywhere.

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We stayed on the bus until we had completed the blue line and then we joined the red line filling in the blanks around our knowledge of the city. The following photos show where we had lunch at the Palms Restaurant in the former Orangerie of a grand house, some of the grand designs repeated throughout Vienna, the State Opera, the Rathaus (City Hall) and Hotel Stephanie Vienna’s oldest hotel.

Kerry was sick of the bus by the end of the red line – some parts of the red line were long and boring with little of interest to us. Once back at stop 1 we took the Blue Line Bus to stop 3 and walked home along Mariahilfastrasse which is the retail mall of Vienna connecting through to the Schoenberg Schloss (PALACE) – so a bloody long road. We had to replace our missing clothes and here was a street full of shops – so shopping we did go. The loss of the luggage and having to deal with the airline and the insurer greatly diminished our enjoyment of the holiday. Some more photos of the architecture of Vienna.

The second day started with breakfast at the hotel followed by some deep dives into particular parts of Viennese life. Our hotel had the luxury of 3 floors and an elevator – it nearly fitted slim Kerry and sleek Glendon who had to breath in. Mariahilfastrasse was asleep when we ventured out, but it meant we were not dodging bikes scooters and the occasional car and motor scooter in the crowds of people shopping up and down the Strasse – it comes to life around 10.00am. The following pictures demonstrate this. Note the “Viennieserrie” and the Cannabis shop (Mr Nice Guy”).

Notice that the photos below include a tower with plants growing up the side – this is the aquarium. During the Nazi occupation of Vienna, the Nazi’s built 6 gun in-placement towers containing anti-aircraft guns and search lights to combat the Allies bombing of Vienna. The towers are so structurally strong that the Viennese have found it commercially unviable to demolish these towers although we only saw one that had been partially demolished and two others – this tower converted to the aquarium and another which we viewed from the top of the aquarium. We were able to get a good oversight of Vienna atop of the aquarium. Many buildings were destroyed and faithfully restored but the gun tower to an aquarium was remarkable.

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Working our way along Mariahilfastrasse we came across this church which strangely has a statue of the composer Josef Haydn in front of it. Although a contemporary of Mozart and Beethoven and working with them in Vienna I could find no connection to this church. However, we encountered various persons living on the street whom we helped and a student from Kosovo who we helped get a meal that day and was it coincidence that Haydn had also known hunger whilst growing up.

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There are a number of alleys and laneways off Mariahilfastrasse and these photos take you through this particular lane.

One of our hopes was to visit the Strudel Cooking demonstration at Schloss Schonenburg. It is not a well known event and after some enquiry we caught the Hop on Hop off Bus to stop 6 where we were swept up by the tourists visiting the palace but we made for the bakery. For not a lot of Euros we joined about 20 other people consuming a large piece of strudel and hot chocolate whilst an apprentice baker showed us the traditional method of making strudel which I recorded so that I can make my own strudel not for this blog but here are the pictures of show and the palace gardens.

After the strudel show (where we ate a huge piece of strudel with a mug of hot chocolate) we returned to the Hop on Hop off Bus for a boat trip on the Danube or the Donau as the Viennese call it. This was part of the package for a 3 day pass on the Bus. We started at Red Line stop #3 beside the Belvedere Palace. The photos below show the monument to the Russian soldiers lost in some battle over Vienna after WW2 just outside Belvedere. We travelled to stop 8 on the Red Line on the other side of the city from the Palace (did I mention Kerry was sick of the bus). After obtaining the tickets and whilst waiting for the boat I noticed the building across the canal had this distinctive wall art of two men making a hole in the building. The walls around this part of the canal have been given over to graffiti artists and they have made a right mess of it in my view. The cruise starts in the canal and joins the river where the river flooding is controlled by a lock. Not much of a boat trip for 2 hours but another part of the history of Vienna. Nothing much to report on the cruise until we were outside Vienna when suddenly all these huts started appearing on the bank of the canal. I suspect they are weekenders for fishermen. No mention of them in the misguided commentary but they ranged from the derelict to complete.

At last, we reached the Danube and the lock came into view. Unusually the front gate of the lock did not open but rather sunk like a garage door in reverse. The water height difference is quite significant, and they still generate hydroelectric power from the river. As usual there is someone lurking waiting for a bigger vessel to come along and open the lock gates for them. Note the water mark – our boat was raised 5 – 6 metres to pass through the lock.

Just as we approached the end of the journey a Buddhist monument to Peace could be seen on the banks of the river. It seemed quite out of place in the style of its architecture but most appropriate given Europe’s history. Also out of place but for different reason one of the early river cranes used for loading and unloading on the vessels on the Danube has been preserved.We were dropped off at red line stop 10 to endure the bus ride back to the city centre.

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Back at stop 1 we decided to move onto stop 3 Blue Line and walk back to the hotel. We were getting our steps in each day.

The next day, we decided to test the underground and took a ride on line 6 to the main rail station at Meidling and identified where we were to go to catch our train to Luzern. Having successfully done that, we took the underground line 3 back to the city for the guided tour included in our Hop on Hop off bus ticket. The tour was to start at stop 1 red line but upon arriving there was no guide and the guide at that stop told us to look for a blonde woman holding a flag on the other side of the road. At first, I thought the guide had started the tour without us but a tiny little plastic Austrian flag caught my eye and we flushed the guide from her cover. Very quickly we were joined by another half dozen people also hunting for the guide for the tour.

On the way to red line stop 1, I had decided to photograph a statue of Archduchess Maria Therese and her advisors and followers – said to weigh 40 tonnes. We passed the Sacher Hotel which claims it invented the Sacher Torte a claim disputed by an opponent. The dispute was decided in Court in favour of Sacher but not to be out done the opponent claimed it had the traditional recipe. These photos follow.

The tour was for 1 hour and my photos from the tour appear below. The first few photos are of a monument depicting the disarray of the aristocrats following the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire, the subjugation of the working class and the upright slab in the monument with writing on it represent s the constitution of Austria to end the rule of the aristocracy and the end of the disarray.

The Albertina is shown with its remodelling architect’s trademark metal wing over the front veranda. Below the veranda stand horse drawn taxi’s, which take their passengers to the Hoffburg palace which currently is housing the President and some of the offices of the government. Behind the Albertina is the national library with it statue of Joseph II, through another passage and another courtyard opens before us – you see the horse drawn cabs again with th Roman ruins found during renovations in the foreground then we burst out of the palace to another commercial shopping mall (and there is the competitor to Hotel Sacher behind the red umbrella) ending in the square of St Stephens Church. This is the principal church of Austria having been founded in the 12th century. Contrast this against the modern commercial building reflecting the church back to it.

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The tour ended here and we had to find our way back to stop 1 on the blue line. One thing I learnt was the Viennese love their sausage stands and so I had to taste why. The following photos will give you the sense of what I am enjoying. As we made our way back, we explored the Roman foundations uncovered in recent renovations, enjoyed a coffee in a traditional Viennese coffee house and passed the stairs to Albertina once more. On our way back to the hotel, Kerry noticed the pedestrian signs displaying images of two pedestrians – turns out that many of the crossing have been changed to rainbow crossings recognising LGBTIQ people.

Our visit to Vienna has almost finished except for an unusual encounter over dinner. We had chosen where we wished to eat that evening – a pub two streets down from our hotel. As I was entering the pub I opened the door and stepped back to allow a woman exiting the pub to do so. She in turn said something to me more than likely in German and I responded with “Excuse me” which brought a retort in English “They are full up – no tables” Without thinking I replied “there is another restaurant one street away ” and she asked if she might join us. We agreed and that is how we met Kristine from Bavaria. Well this was one of our more enjoyable dinner whilst learning that Kristina was a widow and travelling with a group but she was seeking a break by dining alone . We cahtted about family and travel whilst enjoying dinner When we left the restaurant Kristine stated that her group was going east and we were going west tomorrow so like ships in the night we passed each on our way.

We had not heard anything regading our luggage so we purchased a suitcase cosmetics medications and clothes to continue the journey. After briefing the Reception staff not to accept our luggage should it be delivered to the hotel, we left for the train station Bahnhof Meidling.

The Retirees return to Europe – the Journey Begins

London

Wednesday Kerry and I started our first trip back to Europe since our anniversary trip to Rome and Lake Gondolfo in 2018. Covid intervened and we put our return trip on hold until now. For various reasons, some the restraints of anti-Covid policies and some personal, we determined to travel to Vienna then east to Bregenz for our 34th anniversary, then moving on to Switzerland, France and finishing in the UK.

So, 3rd August we left Brisbane flying QANTAS to Perth then to London Heathrow – what a shitty flight – 5 hours to Perth – a couple of hours there then, 18 hours to London. EIGHTEEN hours is far too long in an economy seat. We overnighted at the Holiday Inn Express Heathrow as we planned to fly to Vienna the following day. We can recommend this hotel for an overnight stay and onward journey. We tried to achieve too much in London after such a long flight and had to take a rain check on dinner with my niece Louise. However, we were chuffed about how well our arrangements were going, how manageable the crowds were, how trouble free everything had been but all that was about to change.

Photos of terminal 4 from our hotel room shows how close we are to the airport and from inside the hotel gives you an idea of the size of it.

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Whilst in London we travelled into London central and bought Kerry a new pair of runners at John Lewis Dept store and then caught the underground to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. There was a long walk from the station to the park which had been created for the 2012 Olympic Games. We had not been to these areas of London and we were quite impressed with the park.

My photos of the big slide, West Ham United FC home stadium, the Olympic Games Swimming stadium the river where river events were held during the London Olympics, the park walk to the slide tower and random pictures from the tower are below. No we did not slide down (you have to pre-book) and besides it frightened the living day lights out of me just to walk down the400 odd stairs on the outside of the tower.

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After walking down the tower the impact of the flight hit us and we dragged ourselves back to the hotel as we had to catch our plane to Vienna early next morning.