02 December 2011

Views fit for…a chicken?

Sometimes in life you stumble across a view that is so spectacular, so breath-taking, you have to stop and admire it fully.
 Using all your senses you listen to the sounds, take in the smells as you frame a photograph in your mind so that you can recall the beauty of a setting so perfect it stopped you in your tracks.

Now imagine if you could look at that view every day. Around the world millions of people pay thousands and thousands of dollars for land because of the sheer beauty of the views before them. Such was the view that stopped us in our tracks in Appenzell, Switzerland.

Switzerland is none too shabby when it comes to amazing views. Everywhere you look is the picture postcard scenery you expect in this part of the world - from the majestic mountains forming a dramatic backdrop to endless rolling fields of green. And Appenzell, one of the more traditional villages of Switzerland – they still hold annual town meetings to vote on major initiatives affecting the town by a show of hands–has more than its fair share of stunning scenery surrounding the quaint town centre.

Originally built in the 1100s, the town was burnt by fire in the 1500s. It was rebuilt, and still stands much as it did then. Tourists flock to the town, but there are plenty of walks and activities to ensure you don’t have to fight crowds every step of your stay.

One of the highlights is a trip up Mt Ebenalp which boasts a large cave where the remains of early hermits were found and a chapel and gusthaus built into the side of the mountain. It’s well worth stopping for a drink in the gusthause – and checking out the bathroom where the rock wall of the mountain forms the walls of the toilets.

And so it was on a stroll back to our B&B after a day spent frolicking up Mt Ebenalp, that we stumbled across yet more spectacular views. What struck us about this particular view, though, was not so much the mountain peaks casting an imposing shadow over the valley, nor the fields scattered with bell-laden cows. No, what took us by surprise – and amusement – was that these views formed the backdrop to a chicken coup!

Not for these chickens the shadiest spot in the back garden. Oh no. These chickens had a timber a-frame coup to shade them from those freezing Swiss winter mornings, and lush green lawns to roam through. And if the chickens happened to look up from scratching around the ground, they would be met with breathtaking views across the Appenzell valley and up to the mountain ranges.

Kind of makes you think, perhaps coming back as a chicken in another life might not be such a bad thing afterall!

19 November 2011

Travelling with the inlaws

I’ve realised we must be suckers for punishment! We’ve just finished booking a trip with the inlaws – not any old trip, a roadtrip!

But you see the thing is, it is our second road trip this year, with our inlaws! Different set this time, but still…
In July we spent three weeks travelling through the UK with Ade’s parents, more on that trip in a later blog post, and this time we will be travelling with my parents, and their friend from the UK.

This time we are heading straight up the east coast of Australia, well not quite straight up, more like curving our way up the coast from Melbourne to Brisbane via Lakes Entrance, Newcastle, Batemans Bay and Coffs Harbour.

Eight days, five adults, one car.

The scenery looks stunning and fortunately, we have limited the hours of travel in the car to about four hours a day.

The benefit of going with mum and dad, I recently discovered, is that mum, who is recently retired and has an affinity with the internet, got to and booked almost all the accommodation for us.

So, with itinerary in hand, we begin the countdown to another roadtrip and the anticipation of this time seeing our own amazing country!

30 October 2011

The perils of driving in Europe

Travelling on the opposite side of the road, it seems so easy. Sure, you have to reverse 20 years of learned behaviour, turn into the opposite lane when turning into a road and check for oncoming traffic in the opposite direction, but overall the concept is the same.

At least, that’s what we assumed when we took to the road for our first time in Europe. Took to the right side of the road, that is, not the left, where we are so used to driving.

But so many people before us had braved driving on the opposite side of the road, how difficult could it be?
What we hadn’t anticipated was how difficult it actually is.

Oh and did I mention the gears? Of course we were driving a manual car, so had to recalibrate our thinking to changing gears with the right hand and hanging on to the steering wheel with the left.

We headed into the heart of Konstance, with its cobblestone laneways and traffic control signs funnelling all traffic – in both directions – into single lanes. And left with a minor scratch down the side of the car.

Not off to a good start, but we not to be deterred, we connected our satnav punched in our destination and left Konstance for Appenzell.

With a mantra of “stick to the right” and “look to the left” we followed the deserted country roads through the quaint towns of Germany, past the picture perfect – and clich├ęd - cow-filled meadows back into Switzerland.

We didn’t lose our nerve, not even when the satnav took us along roads we were certain were actually part of private farms, or urged us to drive straight ahead, when our road had clearly ended!

At least, we didn’t lose our nerve until we arrived in Appenzell, where the roads were built up again and the biggest problem? Turning right into a side street with a barge down the centre, try as we might we couldn’t get used to turning into the right lane of the road.

The car survived our stay in Appenzell – perhaps because we chose accommodation within walking distance of a train station, and left the car in the garage! 

29 September 2011

The beauty of Konstance

After a night spent with family and a quick walk through Epalinges we were on the road again. This time we were headed for Konstance, just over the German border, with Jonathon. We had to stop at Zurich airport to change hire cars, but even with that stop, the trip probably only took about four hours. Coming from Australia, the thought of driving four hours into another country is unthinkable – it takes longer than that to drive into another state!

Again, the drive was stunning – past snow-capped mountains, castles and cow-filled meadows.

Konstance is a beautiful historic little town on Lake Konstance. The lake itself forms the border of Germany, Switzerland and Austria – what a position! We spent half the day meandering through the old town of Konstance, marvelling over the buildings which date back as far as the 1300s.

Full of cobbled streets and historic vistas, Konstance is an easy city to walk around. The old town is nestled next to the Lake, though the most interesting streetscapes are a short walk away from the Lake. Unfortunately the trainline intersects between the old town and the Lake, making it difficult to move between the two.

The city more than makes up for this slight inconvenience with its sheer beauty.

From the top of the Cathedral spire – 42 metres high – you get amazing views over the city and the lake. You can walk up higher, to the balconies in the spire – at about 56 metres.

I had to laugh as Adrian had an indepth discussion with a man on the balconies all about camera equipment – the man didn’t speak a word of English, Ade doesn’t speak a word of German, but they spoke the universal language of Canon!

11 September 2011

A mad dash from Venice to Lausanne

The train ride through northern Italy and into Switzerland is spectacular – though our journey was not without incident.

We arrived at the station nice and early and boarded our train for Milan, where we were to change trains for the trip to Lausanne. We had about half an hour to kill in Milan, time enough to find our platform and transfer our luggage, or so we thought!

Heading through the Italian countryside our train stopped at one of the stations and there it sat, and sat. Evidently there had been a problem with the train and we had been delayed about 20 minutes. Still time to get to Milan and board our train, but then the train took off, slowly and didn’t pick up speed until we were just about at Milan.

We arrived five minutes after our train was due to leave – and as we were boarding a Swiss train we fully expected they would have left right on time.

Of course we had arrived on a platform at the opposite end of the station to where we needed to be, so laden with bags, we took off. Running all the way to the correct platform and our train was still there! I don’t know how we found the right platform, but we were soon safely on our way to Lausanne and enjoying the stunning views out the window.

Venice to Milan was nice, but nothing compared to the trip from Milan to Lausanne – where we ambled passed snow-capped mountains, castles, lakes and the picture postcard meadows you expect to find in Switzerland.

We headed straight to Epalinges, to my cousin, Jonathon’s place. Epalinges is about five minutes from Lausanne – up in the mountains just above the snowline – it’s a little quieter than Lausanne, and absolutely beautiful!