Monday, June 15, 2015

On the road

Since the beginning of the year at Neuchâtel Junior College, every time there has been a holiday Monday or Friday, we have gone on excursions with the students - until Pentecost weekend in late May. That was a long weekend in the traditional sense, with a free Monday, so Bob and I made plans for a road trip over three days.
Austrian scenery
We picked up our car after school on Friday and headed east. On our first night, we had reserved a room in St. Gallen in eastern Switzerland. This turned out to be a very good plan since traffic was very heavy around Zurich – everyone appeared to be going somewhere. We were at a virtual standstill for over an hour. Our planned three hour trip took us five.
The "lounge"
Another view of the "lounge"

St. Gallus statue near the church
The next morning was reserved for a walking tour of St. Gallen. I had visited this city with Margaret in December and I knew Bob would like it. In fact, as we followed the path suggested in our guide book, I saw sights I had missed the first time. The most interesting was a space called the "lounge", where the pedestrian street is painted red, with couches and chairs molded out of a turf-like material. Large balls are suspended in the air.  The effect is bizarre but really fun - as if we had just walked onto the set of a science fiction movie.
The baroque interior of the cathedral
Unlike my last visit, we could see the cathedral towers - no mist this time.
In the old part of the city, we visited both the Abbey church and library, saw part of the original wall that separated the Catholic part of St. Gallen from the rest of the city, and marvelled at the many oriel windows on the main streets. These are symbols of wealth and prestige which locals constructed on the second and third floors of their houses.
An intricate oriel window.
Twenty-three kilometres away from St. Gallen is the small village of Appenzell. I had read about it in a very clever and informative book about Switzerland, Swiss Watching. The town has several claims to fame. It is one of six half-cantons in the country; in late April, it still follows the ancient tradition of having its citizens vote in a public assembly called the Landsgemeinden; it was the last part of Switzerland to give women the right to vote – in 1991; and the area produces a very tasty cheese. We had to see this place!
The River Sitter runs through the town
Located in an alpine region, Appenzell is surrounded by a lush landscape, and has many charming buildings. Its Catholic church, St. Maurice, is quite fine. Its graveyard, too, is beautiful. I hope it does not sound disrespectful to say so, but I found the varied grave markers to be rather whimsical.

What a charming grave marker!
Sculpture at St Maurice
The baroque interior of the church
It did not take long to see the town at all. With its location so close to the border, it was no surprise that the architecture had a German look. We had some Appenzeller cheese for lunch, and walked around for about an hour before we were back on the road.
Typical Appenzell buldings. The Löwen pharmacy on the right has paintings of medicinal herbs on its façade
Flags at the Rathaus

The place to buy Appenzeller cheese.
The road to Salzburg runs primarily through Germany, in fact right through Munich, so for much of the rest of our day, we were on the Autobahn, the famous highway system with no speed limit. Unlike the day before, we made very good time and were in Salzburg, our destination, well before dinner.

We had a very busy time in Salzburg, so I will dedicate the next blog post to it. So let's skip ahead to the trip home.
I love this pink church in Innsbruck – the Spitalskirche
On the holiday Monday morning, we drove west along a different route. This time we would travel through Austria and visit Innsbruck, the capital of the Tyrol, a city where we had spent a night on a European bus tour many years ago.
The main street of the city, Maria-Teresien-Strasse is very inviting. Trams and cyclists share it with pedestrians but there are no cars allowed. It is quite wide too, with colourful buildings on either side. In the centre is the Annasäule, a column dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In the distance loom the Tyrolean mountains. Wow!
A bubble blower attracted a crowd
Cafe with the Goldenes Dachl in the background
The street leads to the house with the golden roof (Goldenes Dachl), a landmark I remember well from my visit to this city so many years ago. Commissioned in the late 15th Century by Maximillian I, it is the principal symbol of the city. On this day, a holiday, a brass band was playing inside the oriel window.
The band plays under the golden roof
That's me on the tower
Nearby stands the Stadtturm, the city tower, which I opted to climb, but Bob did not. The view over the town was lovely, so the ascent was well worth it. From there, I could plan the rest of our walk.
The view down

The view towards the Cathedral
This Italian school group ate their lunches as they awaited the opening of the Cathedral.
Our next stop would have been the Cathedral had it been open but since it was not (there was a Mass taking place), we ventured towards a nearby street which was very grand. Here we saw the theatre, and a palace, the Imperial Hofburg.
The Landestheater

The Imperial Palace
Our walk took us next to the University area, where we visited another church before heading towards our car. When we saw the Café Central on a corner, we had to stop in. The building was not as elaborate as the one with the same name in Vienna, but our experience there was very pleasant anyway since we were asked to take part in a publicity photo shoot as the waitress served us our desserts.
War Memorial in Landhausplatz
Finally, it was time to leave Innsbruck and head back to Switzerland. Our intent was to take the Arlberg Pass, but it was under construction. Instead, we followed a detour through ski resorts along winding roads and beautiful mountain scenery - not a bad way to spend the afternoon.

Mickey was in Innsbruck too.

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