Thursday, June 27, 2013

Unfortunately on this trip we only had a very short time in Innsbruck with Go Ahead. We arrived at around noon and spent the afternoon touring what we could that was within walking distance. This, fortunately, included Old Town which was located almost directly behind our hotel. You know how it is, location, location, location! (click on the photos to see the full sized version)
 On the way into town you began to get a glimpse of how amazing the Alps were and how amazing the view in the town was going to be. 
 Across from our hotel was the Inn River and on the opposite banks the lovely painted homes of Innsbruck. The name Innsbruck literally means Bridge over the Inn River. Behind those towered the Alps.
 We were told that, due to the weather patterns, we were being denied the "best" view of the Alps. If this was the "bad" view then I can only imagine how amazing it looks on a clear day.
 As we turned the corner from the main street into Old Town I noticed this doorknob. Too cool!
 A lot of the doorways were similar to this. Heavy carved wooden doors surrounded by stone facades with open arched tops. I have no idea the reason behind this design but we saw quite a bit of it here.
I loved the fact that you could "feel" the Tyrolian culture in the architecture. From the stone work to the painted details you would know exactly where you were if you had been blindfolded until you arrived there. Almost in the center of this photo you will see a pitched golden my next post I will take you further into Old Town and explain all about the Golden Roof and why it is so important to this place.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

After our wonderful morning in downtown historic Luzern with our Go Ahead Tour Group, we caught a ferry boat and took the long way around to Mt. Pilatus. The cruise itself was over an hour long so we got to see a lot of the beautiful local homes and villages on the edge of Lake Luzern. (click on the photos to see the larger version)
It began to rain shortly after we set off but it didn't seem to deter many of us from sitting out at the back of the boat and taking in, or taking photos of, the gorgeous view of the mountain.
We were totally charmed by the ornate boat houses. Here in the US they tend to be very utilitarian buildings but the Swiss make them mini works of Architectural Art.

 We were there in late May and still the snow was thick high on the Alps. 
 As with the rest of Europe, there are little reminders in the form of turrets and towers of their Medieval past everywhere.
 We arrived at the Pilatus-Bahn early in the afternoon, none of us really sure what we were going to experience. All we had been told was to remember that Queen Victoria had done what we were about to do on horseback.
 Then the train arrived in the station. You suddenly get a very clear idea of what we are about to do! The angle is just impressive.
 This is what is called a "cog" railway. The train literally "steps" it's way up the mountainside. Straight up the mountainside.
 You begin your travel at the edge of the lake where Spring is everywhere then travel up through an almost rain forest section before you arrive in the tundra.
 As you keep rising in altitude the tundra becomes more and more frozen and barren.
 Snow clouds moved in and, for a short while, snow fell thickly and the mountainsides were almost completely obscured.
 The view from the top affords you a look at Lake Luzern and much of the valley below. The valley you were just in a few thousand feet ago!
 A few of our group continued up to the very tip top of the mountain but then headed back down again when the snow got too thick to see anything.
 There are actually hotels up at the top along with restaurants and gift shops. So you can stay up on the mountain winter or summer. In the winter you can toboggan or tube and in the summer you can rope walk or zip line on the mountain. There are plenty of hiking trails and lots to photograph from the top.
Yes, those are wicked looking icicles in that cave. This is actually a walk way to another part of the hotel that was blocked off due to construction while we were there.
 To get back down to the bottom you take a series of cable cars. The first set are actually very large and hold about 40 people at a time. You stop at a way station about half way down and transfer to much smaller cars that only hold up to 4 people at a time. Unfortunately it was pouring by the time we left the mountain and our view was completely obscured.

Next week we'll head to Innsbruck. We were only there for a day but we saw such beautiful things while we were there!


Monday, June 17, 2013

The walk from our hotel to the waterfront was a short one but we took a winding path so we could see all that these short blocks had to offer. Way before we even got to our destination we were thoroughly charmed. One of the things we love about Go Ahead is that you can walk around with your guide for awhile and then you have plenty of time to go out and wander on your own when the informational tour part is done. (Click on the photo to see the larger view)
One of the details I love about Europe is the desire they have to decorate even the smallest of spaces with little touches of color or texture. Such as the window boxes full of red geraniums here....
 or the hanging tongue of the sculpted head on this balcony support!
 This patio was part of a three story building. Each of the patios were painted on the ceiling like this one but only this one was open and not enclosed in glass. I love the idea of painting the ceiling like this. It looks ultra elegant along side the iron work and the columns. 
 I loved the ornate details of this clock but, truly, it's the baby butt that makes me laugh. Along with my lovely lions, there seem to be chubby babies everywhere. This one is apparently working on the clock!
 It isn't unusual to see two styles of buildings in one. Many were added on in spits and spurts over many centuries so you end up with combinations like this one of stone and brick.
 I only wished I could get close enough to really look at this balustrade. The design was incredibly intricate.
 The French obviously had a hand in quite a bit of the architecture around town. It is fairly hard not to be charmed by it's beauty.
 And it's amazingly easy to fall in love with a view like this and a city that is blessed with wild swans happily swimming in the lake. The original swans were a gift to the city from King Ludwig (yes, THAT King Ludwig..the one who built Neuschwanstein Castle)
 We walked the entire waterfront but were to come back to this spot once the tables were moved to the water side of the walk way and the restaurant was opened.
 The covered bridge wasn't all original. Some of it had been rebuilt after a nearly disastrous fire. But the top beams with their paintings and story were rescued.
 The French were not the only ones who influenced the architecture. We saw several moorish touches in this area as well. 
 The wooden covered bridge takes you over and then you can take this iron bridge back to the other side of the waterfront. I love the ornate painting on the building on the other side.
 Everywhere you stopped there was one more picturesque view after another. Even the lamps on the iron bridge were beautiful all by themselves.
 This is the view of the bridge from the other side of the covered bridge back towards "our" side of the city.
 After walking around we decided to rest and actually take some time to soak up the views of Luzern by taking a table at the water's side and enjoying a cappuccino and a croissant.
 As we enjoyed our coffee several swans came right up to us. I'm sure they were hoping for a bit of bread but they were still happy to just hover near us. 
Whatever their reason for hanging out near us, whether for the company or just begging for bread, they were beautiful. 
 This was our view of Mt. Pilatus from where we sat and enjoyed the morning. 
 A view of the turret from the other side of the waterfront looking back onto "our" side of town. The bridge is an auto bridge that is on the other side of the wooden covered bridge.

Wednesday we will head up to Mt. Pilatus! Hope you can come back and join us!


Saturday, June 15, 2013

As we entered Luzern a few things became apparent. One was that the architecture was going to be a real mishmash of styles and centuries. (click on the photo to see the larger size)
  The sheer age of this Guard building got me to thinking of the romantic tales knights and ladies.
 The other thing we first encountered here were the ornate wrought iron signage for the businesses in this area. It was to become my favorite "detail" of this trip.
 Ok, totally juvenile humor here. The happy chef with the sign that says "Heini" right behind his, well, heini, cracked me up.
But nothing touched my heart more than this Lion Monument. Honoring Swiss soldiers, this was set in a tiny park set back from the neighborhood. Shaped like a horseshoe with the lion being at the bottom of the U and the opening of the street at the top, this little park included beautiful trees and a pond with the Monument on the cliff face behind the water. The look on the lion's face was simply heartbreaking. Our Go Ahead Tour Group was just speechless. The moment you enter this little park it just seems right to be quiet, speak in whispers and soak up the peace.
 The different architecture was often side by side. Black Forest style right next to French on the very same block.
 But the details simply delight. From the grey of the building to the wine colored accents to the gold tipped finials, this building was stunning.
 We were there early morning, making our way down to the waterfront, so the shops were still closed and there were not many people around. This sense of serenity didn't change as the shops opened. It was lovely.
 The artistry was evident everywhere you looked. This door fascinated me so much I actually went up to touch it. It has so much detail carved into the wood that I was positive of two things. One, it would weight a ton and two, I would absolutely love it if it were on my house!
 Yes, I have a real "thing" about lions. I love finding them in all sorts of details. I totally loved this door handle with it's regal guardian keeping watch.
Often, when I travel, I keep a watch for patterns I would like to use on a cake someday. This one took my breath away. 

Monday we will head down to the waterfront and give you a little tour of  how beautiful that area is and make you wish you could hop a plane tomorrow to see it for yourself. Hope you can come back and join us!