Tag Archives: Austria

On This Day – Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 30th May 2008 I was at Lake Constance in Germany with my daughter…

Friedrichshafen 07

Germany? You’re going on holiday to Germany? But why?”  I am willing to bet that this question/response never arises if you tell people you are travelling to Italy or France.  No, there’s something about travelling to Germany that requires an explanation. Or should that be, there’s something about British people that requires an explanation if you are travelling to Germany and although I encountered this reaction before going to Friedrichshafen I didn’t really feel that I really needed to explain myself.

As Sally had recently broken the news about having a baby which I have to say came as a massive shock, I wasn’t ready at only fifty-two to be ready for that sort of commitment, I thought it would be a good idea to have a last bonding holiday together as father and daughter before the big event as it might to be a long time before we get this opportunity again.  I was straight to the Ryanair website and I quickly located cheap flights to Germany.

I really had no idea where Friedrichshafen was and I really didn’t care, I was determined to have the flights so I booked them without giving the transaction a second thought.  After it had been confirmed I set out to discover where it was exactly and to learn something about our destination.

I was delighted to find that it is in the far southwest of Germany sitting alongside Lake Constance and within easy reach of its neighbours Switzerland and Austria and I quickly realised that here was a trip where I could pull in some extra countries in my quest to visit as much of Europe as possible using the low cost airlines to get me there.  After consulting the guidebooks and planning a suitable itinerary the final plan was to fly to Friedrichshafen then drive to Switzerland and visit Liechtenstein as well.

Lake Constance

We arrived in Germany at three o’clock in the afternoon and picked up the hire car with a minimum of fuss and drove directly to the city to find the hotel Schöllhorn, which wasn’t as straightforward as it should have been but eventually we found it at the third attempt and checked in.

The hotel was a grand building in a good position with front rooms overlooking the lake but as I had booked a budget room ours had an alternative view over the car park at the back but this didn’t matter because as it was mid afternoon already we quickly organised ourselves and made our way out of the hotel and down to the lake to see what the city had to offer.

We walked for a while along the friendly waterfront and before very long selected a table at a bar with an expansive view of the water stretching across to Switzerland.  Not that we could see Switzerland however because there was a strange mist that hung over the curiously dead calm water that rather spoilt the view of the Alps in the distance.  A glance at the menu confirmed my excellent judgement in earlier purchasing a German phrase book at the airport because the menu interpretation looked especially tricky with very few words that meant anything to me.

“My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing) in thirty hours, French in thirty days, and German in thirty years.” – Mark Twain, ‘A Tramp Abroad –That Awful German Language’

Friedrichshafen 01

My first attempt at the German language proved a total failure.  I ordered two beers and got three from a slightly confused looking waitress who couldn’t distinguish between my zweis and my dreis – anyway we didn’t complain and drank them all anyway so perhaps it wasn’t such a linguistic catastrophe after all, but mindful of the possible dangers in being too adventurous with food choices from an unfamiliar menu we restricted ourselves to a simple salad for lunch.

This was a perfect spot for an afternoon sojourn and we sat and watched the lake that was busy with ferry boats crossing over to Switzerland or simply stopping off at all the little towns that border the lake and we sat and practised German from the phrasebook and Sally impressed me with her natural grasp of the language.  Later we walked along the promenade to check the schedules for our planned trip to the other side of the water the next day.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

If you were wondering, the grand looking chap who has his statue it is Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin because this is where his airship was pioneered and developed.

Zeppelin was born in Konstanz, on the other side of the lake and in 1898 he founded the ‘Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Luftschiffahrt’ or the company for the promotion of airship flight, and construction of the first Zeppelin began in Friedrichshafen in 1899 which enjoyed a perfect location for launching the airships presumably because the lake provided a slightly softer landing in the event of mishaps.  The first Zeppelin flight occurred on 2nd July 1900 over Lake Constance and lasted for eighteen minutes.

Read the Full Story Here…

Not sure why I was so worried about having a grandchild – now I have four, Molly, Patsy, William and Heidi…

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How a Starling Wrote a Piano Concerto

Mozart's Starling

These days it  is totally illegal to keep wild birds as pets as this is in contravention of the Protection of Birds Act of 1954 and what’s more, under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, there is a potential fine of up to £5,000, and or six months imprisonment.

Until we realised that we had made a mess of the natural biodiversity of the world and started getting precious about birds and wildlife it wasn’t unusual at all to keep wild birds as caged pets and of the most famous pet birds of all was a starling that belonged to the composer Mozart who died on 5th December 1791.

The story goes that he had just been writing a new piano concerto and feeling rather pleased with himself he went out for as walk and was whistling the catchy little tune as he passed through the city of Vienna.  As he went by a pet shop he heard his new masterpiece being whistled back, which must have surprised him somewhat because it hadn’t yet been finished or published.   As he tried to find the source of the whistling he apparently looked up at a bird cage outside a pet shop and in it was a starling mimicking the composer perfectly and joining him in a duet rendition of his new work.

Starling singing

Now this does seem rather far-fetched and might be hard to believe but I have discovered an interesting fact. The starling is in fact a relation of the Myna Bird, which is well known for its ability to mimic. The starling too is accomplished at copying other birds and other quite complex sounds, so perhaps it isn’t so unbelievable after all.

William Shakespeare knew that Starlings are accomplished mimics and in Henry IV Part I Hotspur is in rebellion against the King and is thinking of ways to torment him. In Act 1 Scene III he fantasizes about teaching a starling to say “Mortimer” – one of the king’s enemies.

“Nay, I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak nothing but Mortimer, and give it to him to keep his anger still in motion”.

When I was at school I used to have a friend called Roderick Bull (really) who had a pet myna bird who lived in a cage in the hall of his house and who was trained to scream ’Bugger off’ (or something similar) whenever the doorbell rang.

Anyway, to go with the story, Mozart was so impressed that he immediately purchased the bird and went home with his new pet starling. Apparently (and quite frankly this is a bit hard to believe) the bird assisted him in making some final improvements to the concerto and thereafter its party piece was to sing the beginning of the last movement of the piano concerto K453 in G major.

The bird and composer remained close friends for three years but eventually the bird died and the grief-stricken composer had to compose his own music again without avian assistance. After the bird’s death, Mozart gave him a first-class funeral and wrote a poem as his eulogy.

Mozart it seems was rather fond of wild birds, this is a portrait of him, aged eight with a bird’s nest ( I know it looks like a pork pie), by the artist Johann Zoffany.

Young Mozart with Bird's Nest

 

Wrocklaw – Food, Street Entertainment and Beer

We were travelling with our friends Mike and Margaret and Christine and Sue and it was late afternoon when we left the hotel and made our way to the Old Town.

The sun was still shining so after a swift circuit of the Market Square and as we hadn’t eaten since breakfast we found a restaurant with outside seating arrangements with the intention of ordering a small snack to tide us over until evening meal time.

It seems however that the Polish people have a different interpretation to the English of what constitutes a small snack and what we thought would be a modest sharing platter turned out to be a mountainous plate of sandwiches, pastry, chips, bacon and sausage and something called Zapiekanka (a sort of baguette, about twice the size of a double Big Mac,  with nothing left out and then smothered in tomato sauce) which provided in one setting our entire calorie allowance for the day and completely eliminated the need to make any more plans for evening meal.

After all of that food and drink the only sensible thing to do now was to try to walk some of it off so we left the Market Square and headed out-of-town along one of the long boulevards which brought us eventually to the City’s main railway station and being a train enthusiast was to be the highlight of Mike’s day.  It was refurbished in 2011 in preparation for the Euro Football Championship and although it is an impressive structure it looks rather out-of-place, designed as it seems to be in the style of a North African Palace that would be more at home in Marrakech or Tangiers..

Image by Tim Richards – Lonely Planet

By the time Mike had tired of train spotting it was dark and becoming quite cool so we made our way back to the Market Square where various entertainments were in full swing.

This is one of the great pleasures of travelling to the Continent because the evening time is so very different to being in England where the town centres close up and empty of people very early and everyone rushes off home, close their gates and retreat behind their front doors.  Generally we are suspicious of people who hang around town centres at night – when Polish people living in England walk out at night people get upset and start writing letters to the local newspaper complaining about anti-social behaviour.

Once in Krakow I asked a tour guide why Polish people walk out at night even in bad weather and his explanation was that many people live in small overcrowded units in apartment blocks and rather than spend the evening getting in each other’s way they go out instead for some recreation and to be neighbourly….

… and sometimes to get drunk!

Here in Wroclaw the Market Square was buzzing and vibrant and families and friends were flowing like lava into the Old Town from every side street and alleyway and filling the bars and cafés around the perimeter.  I don’t know what they call it in Poland but this was the equivalent of the La Passeggiata in Italy or La Paseo in Spain and it was wonderful to be a part of it.

We walked around the square, several times I think, stopping frequently to watch the street entertainers and to throw some small coins in the collection boxes as we passed and when we had seen enough we looked for somewhere to stop for a drink.

We knew a place from our previous visit, a little place close to our hotel which is rather simply called ‘Drinks Bar’ which may seem unimaginative but avoids any confusion about what you are going to do in there or any other possible catastrophe such as inadvertently walking into a shop by mistake.

The really good thing about the ‘Drinks Bar’ is that it serves a variety of good beers and it is cheap so we stayed longer than we planned and drank more than we should have before moving on.

The Poles are statistically the fourth highest beer drinkers in Europe with per capita consumption of around one hundred litres a year just slightly behind the Germans and the Austrians at one hundred and five but some considerable way behind the Czechs who are way out in front with one hundred and forty-five litres per head.  So we thought we might make a contribution to a Polish challenge upon the Czech Republic beer consumption statistic and on the way back to the hotel stopped off several times at anywhere that looked bright and cheerful and would dispense foaming glasses of ale!

The Official Travel Guide in Wrocław – visitWroclaw.eu

Ljubljana, Klagenfurt Christmas Market

Klagenfurt Austria

How disappointed we were when we discovered that the market in Klagenfurt was even tackier than the one in Ljubljana –  it was full of cheap trash and repetitive rubbish that none of us had a mind to purchase.  And there wasn’t a great deal of seasonal good cheer on offer either.

I am sure that the market would be more lively and vibrant at night but in the middle of a cold and overcast day it was just dull and lifeless and minding every stall was someone who looked as though they wished that they were somewhere else.

Read the full story…

Liechtenstein, Austria and Germany

Vaduz Liechtenstein

We stopped the car in Vaduz and walked aimlessly along the main road, looked at a church and tried to convince ourselves it was interesting, and then the new Parliament building that was being constructed and then we left.   We crossed back into Switzerland and progressed towards Austria, which we entered through a busy border control crossing but were not asked to produce our passports this time.

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Germany, Friedrichshafen and Lake Constance

Friedrichshafen Lake Constance Bodensee Germany

“Germany? You’re going on holiday to Germany? But why?”  I am willing to bet that this question/response never arises if you tell people you are travelling to Italy or France. Probably not Japan or Russia for that matter.  No, there’s something about travelling to Germany that requires an explanation.  Or should that be, there’s something about British people that requires an explanation if you are travelling to Germany and although I encountered this reaction before going to Friedrichshafen I didn’t really feel that I really needed to explain myself.

The time was right to visit Germany at last or maybe it was just simple opportunism.

Read the full story…

Mozart’s Starling

These days it  is totally illegal to keep wild birds as pets as this is in contravention of the Protection of Birds Act of 1954 and what’s more, under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, there is a potential fine of up to £5,000, and or six months imprisonment.

Read the complete article…

Salzburg – Hohensalzburg Fortress and Mirabell Gardens

Salzburg Austria

Just as the previous morning the day started with a lot of cloud but it was already clearing nicely as we walked down Linzer Gasse stopping only to visit a graveyard to see the tomb of Mozart’s wife, Constantia, and by the time we crossed the river and entered the old town the sun was shining and the temperature was rising nicely.   We planned first to visit the Hohensalzburg fortress so we purchased tickets for the ride to the top on the funicular railway and took the quick journey up to the castle courtyard.

From this elevated position there were some expansive views from the battlements. To the south and west were lush green valleys and high mountains decorated with farmhouses and huts, and to the north and east was the city spread out like a ribbon of pastel colours all along the river valley in both directions.

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Salzburg – Mozart and Julie Andrews

Salzburg 043 Austria Early Morning

It was still early when we arrived in Salzburg and the thin cloud was still clearing but by the time we were through arrivals and passport control and waiting for a trolley bus into the city the sun was beginning to burn through.

The bus arrived and the journey took about twenty minutes but this was not my best day with transport and I made a mistake and made us all get off of the bus about five stops too soon and that meant a walk of about a kilometre to find the Hotel Mozart.  It turned out that the people of Salzburg are not too imaginative and almost everything is named after the famous composer.

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Liechtenstein, a European Micro State

Lichtenstein, Malbun

Liechtenstein is the fourth smallest independent European state after the Vatican City, Monaco and San Marino.  It is predominantly Germanic but the only German speaking state that does not have a national border with Germany itself.  When the Holy Roman Empire was abolished by Napoleon in 1806 all of Europe seemed to forget about this tiny insignificant Principality and the royal family were able to keep their heads down and have continued to exist as an independent state ever since and as such it is the only state in Europe that can claim direct continuity with the thousand year old Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne.

Read the full story…