Alpine DelightsAuthor: Joann Kniola
Date of Trip: April 2012
The lovely covered bridge city of Lucerne was picture book perfect.
Upon arrival we wasted no time and walked over to the Rosengart Museum across the street from the hotel. The museum contains 17-20th c art with a large collection of Picasso. The Rosengart family was good friends with Picasso. Also, Klee, Monet, Seutat, Cezanne, Renoir and Pissarro. Lots of pictures of Picasso in his home studio.
Day 2 After a great breakfast of salmon and herring, We joined a guided walking tour of this lovely city. Weather was chilly and sunny. We went to see the lion monument, built to remember the 700 Swiss mercenaries who died defending Louis XIV. Just as we started walking, a 4-ship formation of Swiss F-5s seemed to be practicing for an airshow overhead. We walked into the old town, seeing the orioles jutting out of the buildings for the birds eye views of street. Lucerne has 2 long covered wooden bridges that span from the hotel and downtown area to the old town. One dates to the 14th century, was mostly destroyed by fire, and rebuilt. Up in the triangle where the roof beams cross there are medieval paintings of prominent families and religious themes. The buildings in old town often have elaborately decorated paintings on the facades, humorous to religious themes. We also saw a 16c Jesuit church, Baker's guild house and City Hall with measurement bars in the stone wall (which set the standards for common measurements). In the afternoon, we walked back to old town in the afternoon and had a fondue in one of the bars with the painted facade, wood carving and paneling inside. Lucerne is a very walkable and charming town.
Bought plum pastry, Leffe beer and wine for a picnic dinner in the room. We went to Bar Pacifico near the hotel for a Happy Hour drink. They had onion rings, guacamole, salsa and chips. It was crowded, mostly young people, and noisy. The bartender spoke excellent English, was originally from California, came 11 years ago, met a girl, and stayed.
Day 3 We took a city bus to the Swiss Transport Museum. Saw a wide screen 3D movie (English narration could be selected) on African safari tracking animals in the game preserves. The museum is big, several buildings of plane, train and car museums, and play areas for children. A Convair 990 was mounted on posts 10 feet above the ground. There was access to tour the cabin and a view of the cockpit behind plexiglass. It had a small nav table behind the captains seat and a type of D-1 sextant mount in the ceiling. The AM sun turned cold and drizzling.Early evening we went to the Metropole Hotel Suite Bar, on the fifth floor of the hotel, with a great view of the city.
There was a guy on a very cool slicer shaving cured ham. They served it on a a tiny piece of bread with an olive and olive oil. We had beer and a Prosecco with a view of the black suited 20's crowd and a view of Lake Lucerne.
Day 4 We left Lucerne and drove to Bern. Bern is bear in Swiss German, and the symbol of the city and the canton. We saw 5 bears-2 in a stone pit structure and 3 on a nearby hillside, close to where the bus was parked. It is a city of 100 small fountains with painted figures on top. We went to the clock tower, once used as a women's prison, and saw the glockenspiel. The weather cleared as we drove to Geneva for a picture of the Jette d'Eau and the fragrant flower clock. We had a brief bus tour past the UN Headquarters and Red Cross building. We drove on to Annecy, France. Annecy is the postcard French town, and very walkable. We walked to old town. At 6:30 we went to dinner at the restaurant Osmos which was very good. Appetizer of a round of puff pastry with scalloped potatoes, bits of ham and melted cheese, lettuce and balsamic on top. Entree of cubed crispy potatoes. parmesan green beans and several slices of pork in a burgundy cream sauce. Dessert was a delicious slice of chocolate mousse with drizzled chocolate sauce. Accompanied by red wine, beer and a very good expresso.
Day 5 We returned to investigate the old town. Annecy has a very old castle built into an island in the middle of a river which runs through town. There are many restaurants along the river, spilling out onto the sidewalk. Took a boat cruise on Lake Annecy. Saw lovely hillside houses, castles and mountains. The weather was cool and drizzly, but the boat was comfortable and smooth during our 90 minute tour. Then we went to the Escargot restaurant. We had a warm chevre salad and a wonderful flatbread pizza called a flamme with tomatoes, escargot butter and 12 escargots. We visited St. Joanne du Chantal Cathedral for 6pm mass. The priest's homily was very comprehensible. We went to Fretti's for raclette, cornichons, mini onions, potatoes, bread and cured ham and inexpensive white wine. The raclette was placed on a small table next to our table, and plugged in to an outlet. We didn't eat the whole piece of cheese, but it was very good. We walked back in heavy rain, soaked in spite of our travel umbrellas.
Day 6 on to Chamonix. It was snowing on the way, then turned to sunshine. We stayed in Chamonix for 4 hours. We had a lovely raspberry tart and cafe au lait at an outdoor table while others went to the top of Mt Blanc for 45 euro! We visited a tiny church with a skier and hiker stained glass window, then sat on a stone bench outside and ate our sandwiches enjoying the sun and people watching.We continued on the road passing several castles and then through the 7 1/2 mile Mt. Blanc Tunnel. We arrived at the Lecco hotel at 5:30.
Rainy and cold in Lecco. We walked in old town 10:30-12, in the pedestrian street. Being Monday, most stores were closed till 3 PM. Lovely lake front.
Day 8 on to St. Moritz. We left Lecco at 9:30 and arrived at Chavena about 10AM for a coffee break. Then stopped at a gas station at 10:50 due to snow. We waited 4 hrs., as it was snowing heavily, chains were necessary on the bus, and the driver said he had no chains. Then it turned out he had chains, but they were the wrong size. Finally, the guide called and arranged a mini bus to St. Moritz arriving at 4pm. Meanwhile, the snow stopped, the roads cleared, and the sun came out. We checked into the Laudinella. We walked 1/2 way around lake and up to the village, a long but scenic walk. St. Moritz had about a foot of snow on the ground. We had a drink at the Stefani hotel, using the last of our Swiss francs.
Day 9 on to Innsbruck, Austria. We left sunny St. Moritz and stopped in Vaduz, Lichenstein for a brief hour. The ruling family has a castle on a high bluff overlooking the town. We went into the St. Florin church-patron of firefighters. Then on to the lovely city of Innsbruck at noon. We had a guided tour. He was excellent, with a great sense of humor and history. He had photos and even a copper roof tile to demonstrate his talk. The actual golden roof was covered for repairs, with a cloth painted to show how it looked.
We visited the Baroque St. Jacob (James) church. The guide explained the illusion art with flat paintings that appeared 3 dimensional and same with organ. He explained the Hapsburgh large nose (like his own) and spoke of Maria Theresa and Maximillian. After tour, we stopped for a beer and wine at an outdoor table.
Dinner was traditional and enjoyable. We had a flavorful beef consome with slivers of pancake, very nice mixed salad, pork schnitzel with potatoes and apple strudel with cream. The location of the Innsbruck hotel is excellent. It is around the corner from old town and museums. One outstanding feature of all these towns is that they have pedestrian street areas, with motor vehicle restrictions.
Day 10 Had Prosecco with the excellent hotel breakfast. We bought the 29 euro Innsbruck pass for the day. We took the tram and then cable car to the top of the mountain. It was a great ride using 2 gondolas to the top of the mountain, with a dizzying view of the city and valley below. It was a bright sunny day. We visited the Imperial gardens and saw men playing chess in the park with giant chess pieces. We ate a (purloined breakfast) sandwich on a park bench enjoying the flowers and sunshine. We visited the Palace with the refurbished hall of chandeliers. We went to the Tyrol museum and saw many reconstructed wood rooms from old houses, ceilings and all. Life indoors was very dark, back then. In the Court chapel, we saw the elaborate but unoccupied tomb of Maximillian, video on Maximillian and the huge brass statues of royalty flanking the tomb. Art took a nap. I walked over to see the Marketplatz enclosed market. In the evening, still using our day pass, we took a bus to the end of the line-Amras. It was in the country side with cows and an interesting WWII cemetery with iron markers. We went to a nice restaurant and shared an excellent roasted duck with red cabbage, duchesse potatoes and cranberry sauce. They had Steigl beer. In the evening, we went to the 7th floor of the Galleria to bar 360 with an incredible 360 degree night view of Innsbruck, the ski jump, the beautiful snow capped mountains.
Day 11 We went to Munich. Checked into the Sheraton Four points near the Oktoberfest. The bus was pulled over on the Autobahn for not paying a highway toll and had to pay a 220 euro fine. That delayed us an hour. We got to Munich at 12:15 and had a 1:30 tour with a city guide. Went into St. Peter's church-the oldest church. There is a statue of St. Peter. His hat is removed and then ceremoniously replaced with every new Pope. Munich and the south of Germany is the Catholic portion. We went to the Palace and saw the apartments of the king and queen as well as the room with the portraits of all his mistresses. The guide went into considerable detail about the royal family, mistresses, children, more than one would ever remember.
We went to the Maria square and saw the Glockenspiel. Went to the Hof Brau house and Art had beer and veal sausage. We walked over to Augustiner where Art had bratwurst, saurkraut and beer and I had crisp apple fritters with ice cream and cream. Locals were having a celebration and they tapped an entire keg for the two tables. There were fabulous fireworks visible from our hotel window. A perfect ending to our trip.
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