I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!

Search

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Archive
Saturday
Apr082017

16000 steps later

 

DSC03250

 

Well, the weather couldn’t last, could it?  The home screen on my phone delivered the warning, even before I’d looked outside – sleet and snow, minus 3C.  OK.  We’d come prepared, so it wasn’t a worry and really, we’d had such luck so far.

 

DSC03254

 

Such weather demanded a satisfying breakfast, so I chose the syrniki again, as recommended by Valeriya yesterday.  Delicious!

 

DSC03258

 

Having sorted out arrangements for dinner tonight, we left the youngsters to spend the morning in the spa and set out to browse along Nevsky Prospekt.  One thing I’ve noticed here and there about the city are the memorials to people whose names I can’t read.  We can interpret most of them given time, though this one has defeated us so far.  What I noticed for the first time here was the small shelf beneath it, for flowers.  How sweet that this person is fondly remembered, then.

 

DSC03259

 

And how sad that just a few doors down, someone else whose name I can’t read remains unloved…for now, at least.

 

DSC03264

 

We’d bundled up in coats, hats, gloves and warm shoes, just like the rest of the population today, but as we walked, the rain stopped and except for the odd few flakes, the snow came to nought as well.  There was a chill wind blowing though.

 

DSC03260

 

There’s not much window shopping to be done here, since most everyday Russian shops have no outward facing displays at all.  But the souvenir shops make up for all of that.  How about this for a quiet and unassuming piece of jewellery?

 

DSC03262

 

Or a small wooden ornament to grace a corner of any home?

No, we didn’t think so either.

 

DSC03263

 

One bookstore had an interesting window display and for once, I could read the title!

 

DSC03267

 

A little further along, we came to the Stroganov Palace.  We’ve all enjoyed the dish bearing the family name in the last couple of days.

 

DSC03270

 

Following the lady street cleaner, we reflected on how good it is to be here and not have a set programme to follow.  We could stroll along here for as long as we fancied, go as far as we wanted and not worry about getting back on time or holding up the group.  It’s the first time that we’ve done that here and really, it made all those visa shenanigans worthwhile.

 

DSC03271

 

Anyway, here we were at the Kazan Cathedral again.  We’re just passing by today, since tomorrow we’ll spend longer here with Edward and Amy too.

 

DSC03272

 

Tempting though it is to cross the road and look in the old Singer store, we’ll stay on this side and wait till we come back on the other side to stop there.

 

DSC03277

 

Instead, we’ll wander through the arcade of the old department store instead.

 

DSC03276

 

Decide that no, I don’t need a fur hat!

 

DSC03278

 

And then go inside to remember how it was when we were here the first time – almost empty, save for a few, poor things which no-one wanted to buy.  Now, it’s full of small souvenir stalls and other tourist-related goods.  I stopped at one to buy a few postcards and we moved right along.

 

DSC03280

 

Crossing the road at this point involved a subway, where there was a news stand selling magazines – time to get Russian Vogue for Amy, then!

 

DSC03281

 

In the subway crossing we passed yet more souvenir stands.  Just how they all make a living is a mystery, especially at this time of the year when there appear to be virtually no tourists about at all other than the large groups, who wouldn’t be using the subway.  Still, if it wasn’t worthwhile, they’d shut up shop, wouldn’t they?

 

DSC03282

 

As we emerged from the gloom onto the other side of the street, we spotted a tiny patch of blue sky!  Woohoo!

 

DSC03284

 

Back past the Armenian Church then…

 

DSC03285

 

with another of those plaques that I can’t read, except that I know this one says “Armenian “ somewhere in there, and that it was by Queen Catherine’s architect – not that I can read his name.

 

DSC03287

 

And as a whiff of something familiar hits our noses, we knew we were near a Lush shop Winking smile

 

DSC03290

 

Whilst my Hero made a quick dash down the street to size up our dinner restaurant location, I lingered a little longer by the canal, before slowly making my way over to the bookshop which is in the old Singer store across the road.  At last, I got to look inside!

 

DSC03291

 

Inside, I found postcards galore, including these sweet ones of the Romanovs.  They looked a little familiar and I was reminded of the family photos we saw in the Ukraine a few years ago.

 

DSC03292

 

A couple of doors down we found ourselves on familiar territory and made a small purchase before moving on to a rather different coffee shop/patisserie.

 

DSC03297

 

We decided that we should patronise a Russian coffee shop where possible, and settled ourselves into a comfy table at Severs where the hot chocolate and cookies were delicious.  We had half an hour before our arranged meeting time with Edward and Amy, so made use of the free wifi too!

 

DSC03298

 

We watched so many people stop and take photos of the polar bear in the window, we just had to take one ourselves, didn’t we?

 

DSC03301

 

So, they were there waiting for us as we hurried to our meeting place at the end of the bridge by the Hermitage.  Even though the rain and snow had stopped, the icy blast from the river made us shiver.

 

DSC03304

 

So over the bridge we went, heading for the St Peter and Paul Fortress on the island in the Neva.

 

DSC03307

 

Though it didn’t look very far, it’s a huge river and those bridges are long.  Not only that, but there was a fair way to go on the other side and another bridge to cross too.

 

DSC03310

 

From this side of the river, there’s a fine view of the Winter Palace and the Hermitage.

 

DSC03311

 

And there was a bit of fun there on the embankment by the Rostral Columns with “Peter the Great” (he gets everywhere) and Catherine having a giggle with a group of women and a wedding party taking selfies with glasses of something pretty strong in hand, judging from the raucous laughter.

 

DSC03312

 

The T shirt seller wasn’t doing much business though.

 

DSC03318

 

Two bridges down and just one to go.  At last, our target was in sight.

 

DSC03321

 

Not that it was easy to find our way in.

 

DSC03325

 

Edward and Amy even took a look along the beach for the entrance but no, that fortress was impenetrable.

 

DSC03327 

 

At last, having retraced our steps and watched where other people were headed, we made our way in through a gateway around the other side.  Not easy!

 

DSC03328 

 

And here was the map we’d needed about half an hour ago!

 

DSC03330

 

Once through the gateway, though, it was fairly straightforward to find our way.

 

DSC03333

 

We had a golden spire to aim for, of course.

 

DSC03338

 

And once we’d got our tickets (thank you, Amy!) we were in.  The Cathedral of St Peter and Paul, that is.

 

DSC03341

 

Ooo.  Lavishly decorated, just like the other cathedrals we’ve visited here, though in a rather more subdued palette of colours.

 

DSC03344

 

We’d come to see the Romanov’s memorial, the place to which their remains were brought in 1998, with the remains of their servants who were murdered alongside them.  Two names were missing though – Princess Marie and the Tsarevich Alexei.  Where were they?  The answer was given by a dear Russian lady who asked if she could answer any questions for us and who used her very best English to explain that their remains are still in testing and maybe – who knows – next year, they too will be brought here.

 

DSC03345

 

The subdued Romanov memorial was in contrast to the other, more elaborate white marble tombs arranged in the body of the church.  Most were fairly anonymous, save for a nameplate, though Marie, the Danish mother of the last Tsar and sister of our own Queen Alexandra had a small personal memorial by her tomb.

 

DSC03348

 

The most prestigious spots by the altar and overshadowed by gold and flowers were where the tombs of Peter the Great, his wife Catherine and Empress Catherine II were to be found.  Peter the Great’s tomb had been adorned with a variety of posthumous medals and awards and an explanation of these was to be found nearby.

 

DSC03353

 

It might have been a quiet spot in some respects but the decor was anything but.

 

DSC03354

 

The gold stretched into the spire as far as the eye could see.

 

DSC03355

 

And the whole altar was filled with icons and other gold statuary.  Wow.

 

DSC03360

 

But strange as it might seem, having taken so long to get here, we felt that was it.  We’d seen what we had come to see – and there wasn’t as much of that as we’d imagined. Never mind.  We were happy to have been here and now, it was time to move on!

And look!  the weather has cheered up!

 

DSC03364

 

Whilst my hero and his boy went to take a look at the Aurora, Amy and I decided we didn’t need to see a warship and returned to the hotel.  Walking along the embankment on the opposite side of the river, we could see where we had been.

 

DSC03366

 

We’d walked miles – and how pleasing a sight it when our hotel came into view.  Footsore and feeling very weary indeed, we were glad that there were young men to open doors for us, because even that might have taken more energy than we could muster at that point.

An hour in the spa recharged the batteries, of course!

Friday
Apr072017

Top of the list

 

01-DSC03084

 

We couldn’t believe our luck when we looked outside this morning!  Another bright, clear day to look forward to.

 

02-DSC03081

 

Today, I remembered to look the other way from our terrace as well.  I hadn’t realised we could see St Isaacs so clearly from here.

 

03-DSC03086

 

We had only a short walk to the first place on our list: The Hermitage.  I couldn’t resist stopping in the middle of the pedestrian crossing to snap a picture of the Admiralty, shining in the sunshine though.

 

04-DSC03092

 

Just a couple of hundred yards further and we were in Palace  Square.  The Winter Palace looks super in the sunshine and hopefully, if we got it right, we should be there before the crowds.

 

05-DSC03093

 

Opening hours here are clearly posted. How long will our stamina last? (not till 8pm, I’m sure of that!)

 

06-DSC03095

 

We bought tickets from the machine – a bargain, really, at just R600 or about £8.50 each for all the Hermitage museums combined.

 

07-DSC03097

 

Pretty ticket, too Winking smile

 

08-DSC03099

 

First stop the cloakroom.  If this is the small one though, how many does the large one take!?

 

09-DSC03101

 

No sooner were we through the turnstile than we were there – at the foot of the grand staircase, just as magnificent as we’d remembered from our previous visits.  We stood a while and took it all in. 

Magic.

 

10-DSC03108

 

We did need to know where we were going though, to decide what we wanted to see and how best to get there. 

 

11-DSC03109

 

Still, we can’t go wrong if we start by walking along the corridor with the paintings of the Russian Royals, can we?  I love those hats/crowns/whatever; conical with a fur band!

 

12-DSC03114

 

Each room we visited had some breathtaking feature, be it a chandelier

 

18-DSC03136

 

a beautiful floor

 

13-DSC03116

 

or just an interesting door handle.  (Before the advent of plastic/acrylic, what do you suppose that great “jewel” in the claw might have been made of?)

 

14-DSC03118

 

From time to time we gazed out over the River Neva through the rather dusty windows.

 

15-DSC03121

 

Some rooms were just too much and not to our taste at all.

 

16-DSC03124

 

Others looked like they had been brought from another part of the world altogether.

 

17-DSC03125

 

From time to time, we spotted something rather covetable.  Do you think any of the elderly women who stand guard in these rooms would miss the polar bear vase if I stuffed it under my coat?

 

19-DSC03138

 

So we went on, room after room, each one as stunning as the last, if not more so.

 

20-DSC03149

 

And as you’ll gather, we had the whole place to ourselves!

 

22-DSC03161

 

Well, not really.  Whilst standing in front of the throne to take the classic front forward shot, I was elbowed out of the way by a visitor of oriental origin; a member of a large group who were just ahead of us through this set of rooms.  Rather than stand and wait for every Mei, Wang and Lai to stand in front of it for their photograph, I just went around the side and took mine.

 

23-DSC03163

 

Further patience was required when we reached the Peacock Clock in the Pavilion room.

 

24-DSC03165

 

This is how it really was…

 

25-DSC03168

 

so we looked around the rest of the beautiful room and admired the decor and the chandeliers for a couple of minutes.

 

26-DSC03173

 

After which, we had the bird to ourselves.  Shame I didn’t compose a better picture, considering that, isn’t it!?

 

27-DSC03176

 

But you knew we’d catch up with them again, didn’t you?  In the room with a couple of major works by Leonardo da Vinci, a little more patience was needed.  Actually, taking pictures of these masterpieces wasn’t easy anyway, for the lights reflected in the glass and the end result would hardly do the work justice.

 

28-DSC03184

 

On a little further then, past a couple of storyboards with photographs and descriptions of the days leading to the Revolution.  Obvious really, but it had escaped my notice until now, that this year is the centenary of those events.

 

30-DSC03186

 

By now, we were used to waiting till the crowds had moved on before we looked around.  This corridor was especially beautiful – known as the Raphael Loggias.

 

31-DSC03188

 

It led to a kind of armoury, where a couple of exhibits stood out from the rest.  This one looked a little shiny and new.

 

32-DSC03189

 

This one just looked weird – and was causing a stir amongst that group who were a few steps ahead of us.  They were both part of an exhibition

 

36-DSC03201

 

Jan Fabre’s “Knights of Despair, Warriors of Beauty” was to be seen here and there throughout the whole museum, though in this particular area, it seemed to be particularly noticeable.  The two suits of armour were amongst the most palatable exhibits, the rest of which ranged from body parts made from beetle-wings to art involving stuffed animals, some of which were a little disturbing.

We moved right along from those, suddenly feeling rather overwhelmed by what we’d seen so far and ready for a break.

 

34-DSC03192

 

Having explored the offerings at the snack bar, it was time to move on to a different building.  First though, there was the small business of the staircase.  Heaven knows how anyone with mobility issues manages here!

 

35-DSC03200

 

Anyway, over and out from this part of the Hermitage…

 

37-DSC03203

 

through the courtyard with the snazzy bollards…

 

38-DSC03205

 

and past the poster with a reminder to the dear guests, not to forget the “other building”.

 

39-DSC03206

 

Guess where we were headed?

 

40-DSC03207

 

Though first, I just had to take a look back and capture that glorious golden dome on top of the Winter Palace.

 

41-DSC03211

 

Now, the General Staff Building had served all kinds of purposes during its life.  Today, we were hoping to see some great art in there!

 

42-DSC03212

 

Behind the original facade of the former office building, there’s a new extension and exhibition space.  Lavish architecture with many interesting details – but no public lift!  Thankfully, a  member of the security staff noticed us looking at those stairs (with no consistent handrail) and offered the use of a staff lift.  He waved over to a colleague who accompanied us to Floor 2.

 

44-DSC03214

 

Actually, we’d intended to go straight to floor 4 and work our way down, but floor 2 was all that was offered.  We got out and walked through the large, modern space – not quite what we’d come to see, but interesting nevertheless.

 

45-DSC03215

 

The main exhibit in this first room was a cloth full of scribbles.

 

46-DSC03216

 

Yes, really.  A cloth at least 6m long and 3m high, fully covered with ballpoint pen scribbles.  Opposite was a similar technique on a large wooden cupboard.

OK.

We moved into the next room where there was an extension of the Jan Fabre exhibit, including what appeared to be stuffed cats and dogs.  Not our kind of thing at all (and we are not alone it seems).  We moved right along returning to our original aim of getting to floor 4.

 

47-DSC03220

 

We walked through what seemed like miles of featureless corridors like this one, doing our best to follow our map but somehow failing!

 

48-DSC03221

 

Eventually, thank goodness, we came upon the Faberge rooms and this glorious miniature copy of the Imperial Regalia, beautifully displayed on exquisite little cushions and remarkably well lit too.

 

49-DSC03227

 

From here, having now found our bearings, it was straightforward to find our way to the rooms containing the most incredible collection of Impressionist paintings we’ve seen.  A room full of Van Gogh’s work, including the one above which was my favourite.

 

50-DSC03229

 

A similar collection of work by Cezanne, including this tree (and a few hillsides).

 

51-DSC03232

 

And there, amongst the Bonnards, the Pisarros, the Monets and the Manets was one of my favourite pictures by Renoir.  Sorry about the strange angle, taken to avoid the reflections, but I included it simply to remind myself how pretty it looked in a small corner of a room full of treasure.

Sure, there were Gauguins a plenty, there were works by Degas and just about every other Impressionist painter you can think of (with the possible exception of Berthe Morisot!?)  I think we could have possibly spent a whole day in these few rooms alone…

 

52-DSC03237

 

But oh my, were our feet complaining?  Mine certainly were!  And however many great things there are to see, there’s only so much we can take in one mouthful.  so, we bade the Hermitage farewell for this time and returned to the hotel with pictures of golden rooms, malachite pillars, wonderful paintings and the sheer extravagance of it all turning around in our heads.

 

53-DSC03241

 

Just the kind of weariness that calls for an hour in the most luxurious and relaxing spa!

What a wonderful day.

Thursday
Apr062017

Мы здесь

 

We are here.  In St Petersburg, that is.

 

01-DSC02987

 

I know, no sooner have I finished rabbiting on about Switzerland and all of that, and here we are, just a couple of weeks later in somewhere totally different.

Life, eh?  (Good, innit? Winking smile )

The glorious sunset was captured as we arrived at LHR last night.  With a flight leaving at 9.20am this morning, we chose to stay overnight at the Sofitel, expecting to meet Edward and Amy there sometime mid-evening.  But the hours wore on and it was almost midnight by the time they appeared, feeling slightly discombobulated by a succession of transport hiccups along the way.  Never mind.  We were all together and all was well!

 

02-DSC02991

 

Because this was Edward’s belated birthday jolly, organised in January for a supposedly quieter time, even if the quieter times only really exist in our imagination. 

 

03-DSC02993

 

A flight time of nearly four hours, together with a time difference of another two and it was mid afternoon when we arrived, in spite of that early morning start.  Never mind.  The sun was shining and we were happy!

 

04-DSC02998

 

I’d arranged a transfer from our hotel, not wanting to spend valuable time fiddling about with taxis and the like, so in minutes we were speeding down the motorway into the city.

 

05-DSC03009

 

Our travelling companions lost no time at all settling into the fine surroundings.  We quickly sorted ourselves out and decided to get out there and enjoy what was left of a beautiful Spring afternoon.

 

07-DSC03016

 

I mean, look at that sky!

 

17-DSC03045

 

We weren’t going very far – just across the road in fact, because we thought we’d begin gently and take a look around St Isaacs Cathedral first.

 

08-DSC03020

 

Now, it’s not long since we were here, is it?  Just last September, in fact.  But we had loved what we saw and we couldn’t wait to share it with Edward and Amy.

 

09-DSC03021

 

I think they were similarly bowled over.

 

10-DSC03024

 

Of course, he was there watching, still.

 

11-DSC03028

 

And I did my best not to take all the same photographs again, trying to look at things slightly differently and to notice small details which may have escaped me previously.  But actually, it didn’t matter at all.  It was simply amazing to just be here, to sit and wonder at the magnificence of it all and to enjoy the whole experience.

So that’s what I did.

 

12-DSC03032

 

When we were all ready to move on, we walked down towards the river, heading towards the large statue of Peter the Great, past a most impressive building with the name in gold letters above the arch.  I find it so frustrating to not be able to read the names of places, but at least the bright spark amongst us recognised a word which resembled “bibliothek” in there somewhere, so we assumed it includes some kind of library. ( I googled it later, and yes, it does)

 

14-DSC03034

 

I loved the view of the street through the archway.

 

15-DSC03035

 

The main thing we’ve noticed so far has been how grey everything is.  Until the sun came out this afternoon, there was a dreary look to the city with not a blade of grass or green leaf in sight.  This patch of parkland looks threadbare and brown, but the sunshine and clear blue sky brought everything to life and the whole city twinkled in the light.

 

16-DSC03037

 

Actually the sun made it hard to take a decent photo of this, the Bronze Horseman.

 

18-DSC03046

 

But looking the other way, it was difficult to stop taking them!  Cities on water have that special something, don’t they?

 

19-DSC03051

 

High above the Admiralty building, the flag flies at half mast following the incident on the Metro earlier in the week.

 

20-DSC03055

 

We continue along the river front to the Hermitage.  No time for a visit now, but it’s good to get our bearings and work out what is where, and especially good to wander independently without a guide too.

 

21-DSC03057

 

The four of us stood for a while, counting our blessings and feeling very thankful to be here.

 

22-DSC03063

 

We resisted the temptation to ride in a horse drawn carriage – or is it a pumpkin?

 

23-DSC03068

 

Because by now, we were feeling peckish.  Elena, the concierge at our hotel had recommended Gogol, a Russian restaurant serving traditional fare, so that’s where we headed next.  It was 7pm by now, anyway.

 

24-DSC03069

 

Was this his hat and coat hanging in the hall?

 

25-DSC03071

 

The menu came in the form of a book, with chapters for each course.

 

26-DSC03072

 

It made for quite entertaining reading, even before the food arrived.

 

27-DSC03073

 

Yes, of course he tried that.  No, not the tongues, but the lard!

 

29-DSC03077

 

We’ll remember Gogol for the bell on each table though.  “Please ring the bell when you have decided what you’d like”. 

Somehow, though, it didn’t seem right to ring the bell for attention, even if the moment we did so, our waitress would come running (or maybe, because that’s what happened?)  Suffice to say, we had a super meal, the beef stroganoff was delicious, as was the smoked salmon, the Siberian white fish and everything else we ordered.

 

31-DSC03079

 

Returning to our hotel in somewhat lower temperatures than when we’d set out, St Isaac’s was looking rather lovely in the mist.

We are so pleased to be here and feel that, whatever the weather chooses to do tomorrow, we will always remember a sparkling afternoon in the city!

Friday
Mar312017

Not quite finished

 

A busy couple of days means I didn’t quite get to finish our Swiss stories. 

 

DSC02854

 

Our flight wasn’t until 6pm or thereabouts, so we had a day to enjoy.  We wanted to spend some time in Zürich so headed for the airport and returned our rental car first.

 

DSC02858

 

Zürich airport is very familiar and works brilliantly!   First thing to do was to leave our luggage in a locker for the day.

 

DSC02859 

 

Squeezing in two suitcases and two carryon bags wasn’t easy, but I left my hero to do the tricky part whilst I went to get 9CHF in change – by buying chocolate of course Winking smile  (and of course, I took a photo of the locker, just in case we forgot the number or location)

 

DSC02862

 

Just gone 11am then, and a train due to Zürich Hauptbahnhof at ten past.  Love it.

 

DSC02863

 

But there’s tickets to buy first.  Yes, of course there’s a machine right there and yes, of course it’s all in working order and takes credit cards…

 

DSC02865

 

Down the escalator onto the platform with plenty of time to spare!

 

DSC02868

 

At 11.10am precisely, the train pulled into the station and we hopped on board.  Efficient, no?

 

DSC02869

 

We’ve spent quite some time using Swiss railways and always enjoy travelling by train here.

 

DSC02872

 

In just ten minutes we were arriving in the city.

 

DSC02874

 

Our train was going on through Zug and Bellinzona to Lugano – how lovely it would be to stay on board and ride to the sunny side of the Alps and spend the day with Toni and Pietro, our sweet friends there!  But the city awaits us…

 

DSC02876

 

It was a greyish morning, but thankfully dry.  We planned a simple stroll up the Bahnhofstrasse and had a couple of things on our list to look for.

 

DSC02878

 

We always enjoy a browse in Globus a stylish and very attractive department store with rather enticing displays.

 

DSC02879

 

Something often catches our eye here and today was no exception.  Look at these nifty table lamps, designed like books!  We opened and closed them, looked more closely (they appeared to be battery operated, so could be used anywhere).  Hmm.  What do you think?  

As we stood, thinking of several places where one of them would fit right in at home, I turned one over and spotted the price.   

We didn’t need one anyway!

 

DSC02881

 

A little further along the street then, heading towards the lake and aiming to be at our favourite restaurant for a late lunch, we dropped into a couple of other shops for knitting yarn and bath salts!

 

DSC02882

 

We took a closer look at the new version of the TAG smartwatch and I reflected on the #connectedtoeternity hashtag.  Now, that would be something, wouldn’t it?

 

DSC02884

 

We still had one more thing on our list – the Zuger Kirschtorte I referred to in my first Swiss post.  Any local konditorei will probably have one, but the most reliable source in Zürich is Sprüngli who are to be found in several locations, including our favourite shop in Paradeplatz.

Luck was not with us, though.  No Kirschtorte!  All is not yet lost…I suppose there’s the shop in the station and another at the airport.  We’ll have to try elsewhere and keep our fingers crossed.

 

DSC02885

 

Both of us were beginning to get hungry by now, but wanting to leave lunch until later, we carried on to the end of the Bahnhofstrasse to Bürkliplatz where we knew we could pass a happy few minutes.

 

DSC02887

 

We found a bench by the water and looked over to the Uetliberg and the Enge area where we rented an apartment for a week a couple of years ago.

 

DSC02888

 

Feeling (and possibly looking!) like our Grandparents, we sat on the bench and watched the world go by for a while.

 

DSC02889

 

We knew there was a steamer due, for the lunchtime round trip of the lake and thought we sit and watch it arrive.

 

DSC02890

 

People were turning up on the jetty to wait for the service and provided us with ample to talk about!

 

DSC02894

 

So we just sat and watched, perfectly happy to do nothing for a while.

 

DSC02896

 

There were pretty ducks to watch, safely out of my scary zone and far more interested in what lies beneath the water than in me.

 

DSC02899

 

Sad pair that we are, we tried to guess where it might pop up next!

 

DSC02906

 

Eventually though, as the boat left the jetty, we just had to haul ourselves up and make our way to the Zeughauskeller, just off Paradeplatz, because lunch was not going to come to us!

 

DSC02908

 

It’s a long time favourite, reasonably priced and serving good, hearty Swiss fare just as we like it.

 

DSC02909

 

We thought we might just about have finished by the time they needed our table back.

 

DSC02913

 

Zürich is a great, walkable city and though we could have taken the direct route back to the station, with full tummies and plenty of time, we decided to take the scenic way back.

 

DSC02915

 

Past our favourite Storchen hotel, newly renovated.  We once had the room with the stork outside – thankfully, he didn’t leave any surprises Winking smile 

 

DSC02917

 

Sometimes, it’s hard to imagine that we are in one of Europe’s main business hubs.

 

DSC02922

 

But we mustn’t forget we have still a kirschtorte to find.

 

DSC02923

 

The first Sprüngli shop in the station had also sold out but the helpful assistant directed us to the other station shop and thankfully, there was the cake of our dreams!  Well, perhaps that’s going a bit far…  Suffice to say, we were glad to have ticked the last thing from our list.

 

DSC02925

 

Time to return to the airport, collect our luggage and check into our flight home.

 

DSC02929

 

Which we did without further incident.

 

DSC02927

 

So what of the cake and the other little chocolatey favourites which we couldn’t resist?  When I took the photograph of our luggage, the bag was safely in the hands of my hero.  It safely made it through security, with the usual joke from the customs staff as it went through the scanner: will it come out the other side or will it disappear mid scan?

The (very expensive, of course) cake was carefully placed in the overhead locker of the plane and retrieved at Heathrow, where we made our way to collect our car at the valet parking facility.  It was only somewhere near Windsor that my hero slapped his forehead, made a hasty decision to leave the motorway at that junction and pull into a layby.

“I don’t remember putting the cake in the car”.

We returned to Terminal 5, screeched into a car parking space and I stayed in the car whilst he hurried back to the space where our car had been parked.

No cake.

There in the Valet parking office were three or four chaps sitting around a blue and white carrier bag – “Hello Mr Thomas, did you leave this behind?”  They had retrieved it from the parking space when the next car had been brought and taken it into the office.  They joked that had they known it was a cake, they might have had a tea party.

I can’t tell you how good that Zuger Kirschtorte tasted when we finally got to eat it!

 

Oh, and what about those light-books (book-lights)? 

 

DSC02938

 

Delivered by Amazon Prime the very next morning and looking identical to this one.  We love it.

Sunday
Mar262017

It was hardly lunchtime

 

..and we’d already seen so much.  We consulted the Textilland brochure again and set the satnav for our next destination.

 

DSC02730

 

Our route was taking us uphill, into the Appenzell area and what’s more, the sun was trying to shine!

 

DSC02731

 

We made an uplanned stop in Heiden, feeling ready for some fresh air and a look around.  It was around 12.30pm by now and since rural Switzerland tends to close for lunch, there were few people about (the story of our day!)

 

DSC02732

 

The fresh, clean mountain air was, well, breathtaking and pottering about, we noted the picnic table in the middle of the village green.  The table formed the cross and the four stools on each corner the background – except it was the wrong way round for the Swiss flag? But maybe a white table would not have been a practical choice?  Who knows?

 

DSC02736

 

We love the way Swiss villages present local information so clearly, with detailed maps and places of interest.  Our own village at home could use something similar, since there are no house numbers at all and people are frequently lost!

 

DSC02742

 

The smart hotel overlooked the railway station and the valley below and we wandered over to take a closer look.

 

DSC02741

 

The ground floor level had been turned into a kind of showroom for a local electrical store and in the window was a washing machine on special offer.  We’ve commented all weekend about the prices here and our German friends with whom we had dinner after the concert joked about how poor they feel when they are in Switzerland.  So I took a photograph of the washing machine to compare prices.  Bearing in mind that today, 1 Swiss Franc (CHF) is worth £0.81, this washing machine has been reduced from £1 852 to £1 528.   A bargain?  It proved difficult to compare, since this appears to be an exclusively Swiss model (a means of Miele making comparison difficult, perhaps?) but the closest equivalent I could find in John Lewis is just less than £1000.  It must be so tempting to go shopping over the border in Germany.

As we stood looking about, a young man came out of the office and asked how we liked Heiden.  Had we had chance to look around yet?  We replied that we had, but if he could share any further “must sees” we’d be glad of his suggestions.

“How about the Red Cross Memorial?” he said.

 

DSC02744

 

Just around the corner from the square, overlooking Lake Constance, is a memorial to Jean Henri Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross, who died in a nursing home in Heiden in 1910.

 

DSC02745

 

It was a rather brutal design, but very much of its time I suppose.

 

DSC02746

 

It stood in a large open space too, offering room for commemoration and large gatherings.  Unusually, the peace and tranquillity was spoiled by a young man sitting on a bench nearby playing loud music on a radio – such an unusual occurrence in these days of earphones !

(and of course, the significance of the colours of the picnic set on the green fell into place, too)

 

DSC02749

 

OK, thank you, Heiden, for an hour of fresh air and fun.  Time to move on and make our way to our destination, Trogen.

 

DSC02752

 

We could see where we were headed, over there, to the village on the hillside.

 

DSC02755

 

It had clouded over again but was dry and still quite mild.

 

DSC02756

 

The Post buses are a frequent sight around here, with regular services (mostly hourly) between all the villages but this is the first time we’ve seen a double decker!

 

DSC02758

 

The two small children who had just got off the bus and were walking home from school wearing rucksacks and bobble hats looked like the pair from the StartRite advertisement.

 

DSC02810

 

At the top of the hill, there we were, in the Landgemeinplatz Trogen.  This is where the inhabitants of the village would gather to place their vote during elections, by raising their hands.  We parked the car outside the Zellweger’s “Double Palace” and headed off, following the recommendation of the leaflet to begin at the wash house.

 

DSC02760

 

The story of our day, it all appeared to be closed.  Not a soul in sight.  Never mind, we thought, we’re still enjoying our mooch about.  But of course, I had to try the door…

 

DSC02762

 

as I did, it creaked open, the lights came on and a multi-media presentation began!  We took our seats on a stone windowsill, sitting on cushions placed there for the purpose, and learned about the textile heritage of this small town and the family who developed it, the Zellwegers.

 

DSC02764

 

We loved it!  Here we were, quite alone (again) in a small Swiss village with such a well thought out visitor experience.  How pleased we were to have discovered it.

 

DSC02775

 

When it finished, we stood outside, rather captivated by the whole thing and thinking that before we moved on, we’d like time to sit and assimilate some of what we’d learned.  Thankfully, Einkehrlokal Ernst was just over the road, so we made our way over and knew it was a great decision!

 

DSC02773

 

A warm welcome (from Michi) delicious soft drinks and the scrummiest of chäschüechli (little cheese tarts) hit the spot and I loved the little details in the decor too.  First class!

 

DSC02777

 

Time to return to the square and to visit the three remaining locations on our “Zellweger Route”.

 

DSC02792

 

The cute logo clearly identified the relevant spots.

 

DSC02787

 

First, the church.  I don’t need to tell you there wasn’t anyone there, do I?

 

DSC02786

 

There was, however, a rack of guide boards – only as I took one from the stand did I realise it was a piece of mirror glass!   Be careful…

 

DSC02781

 

Very useful though, even if I did have to watch out for steps and other pitfalls which I might miss by peering into the mirror!

 

DSC02788

 

Just around the corner were the weavers’ cottages, rather grander and more solid (though also rather younger) than the cottages built for the same purpose in our own Cotswold village.

 

DSC02780

 

Back into the Square, the beautifully painted Hotel Krone wasn’t on our list but nevertheless caught our eye for obvious reasons!

 

DSC02771

 

We were heading for the Gemeindehaus, formerly another of the Zellweger’s properties and now the site of a small museum on the third floor.

 

DSC02791

 

The interior was just lovely and of course, we had it to ourselves.  As we made our way upstairs, lights came on automatically and the door was open to the exhibition.

 

DSC02793

 

I was immediately taken by the textile vocabulary printed on the screen.  Lovely words, auf Deutsch, natürlich , with names of fabric and the processes which were associated with them.

 

DSC02795

 

Here’s the dress on the other side.   I’m sorry, I didn’t note the significance.

 

DSC02794

 

Here was another self-service collection to peruse.  Lovely books with samples and clear explanations, though yes, more than a smattering of German was needed.

 

DSC02798

 

There was a huge table, filled with collections of material such as these old almanacs from the Zellwegers’ time.  Were they original?  I have no idea.  I just loved looking through them.

 

DSC02800

 

The box of photocopied letters was full of sheets filled with dense handwriting.

 

DSC02796

 

Some was projected onto the wall, as an animation so as if someone was writing it, speaking it as they went.  Rather lovely.

 

DSC02803

 

There was a small library

 

DSC02801

 

and floor standing browsers with large reproductions of maps, engravings and drawings

 

DSC02802

 

all mounted on heavy corrugated card and impeccably presented.

 

DSC02804

 

Best of all there were the fabrics.

 

DSC02805

 

Each one was carefully labelled with the details.  Well of course it was!

 

DSC02807

 

As we returned downstairs, still a little awestruck by the whole Zellweger thing, we spotted the image of the Landsgemeinde in the square, right outside this building.  There’s a few more details and a better picture here

 

DSC02809

 

After such a great experience, it was really quite hard to leave Trogen.  Of course, we wanted to learn more of what became of the Zellwegers and felt that this afternoon was only the start.  We’d totally overlooked Trogen’s other claim to fame: The Pestalozzi children’s village, too.

 

DSC02811

 

But after such a breathtaking series of discoveries, we were ready for something more familiar.  Time to make our way back to St Gallen via Appenzell then.

 

DSC02816

 

I’ve described this landscape before as one with a green fitted carpet and the same is true today.

 

DSC02817

 

The rolling hills and patches of wild flowers are enhanced by the backdrop of snow mountains.  We love it here.

 

DSC02818

 

As my hero drives, I’m clicking away, taking so many photographs whilst absorbing the sights and sounds to remember forever.

 

DSC02823

 

We were not alone in Appenzell.  In fact, it’s hard to imagine there would ever be a time when there wouldn’t be others here, so popular is it.

 

DSC02834

 

There’s a good reason though – it’s a small, charming town with beautifully decorated buildings, a great cheese shop and a welcoming atmosphere.

 

DSC02836

 

We made a couple of purchases before returning to the brewery car park (same procedure every year Winking smile ) though I resisted bringing a copy of a favourite German magazine home with me, having seen the €5 price overwritten by CHF10.  We stopped in the Migros for a couple of bottles of our favourite Flauder and some other Swiss grocery bits and were soon back in St Gallen, reflecting on a truly magnificent day.

 

DSC02842

 

Did I say how happy we are to be here?