Sunday, October 26, 2014

Chef Bruce, Badenweiler and Schloss Buergeln

Bruce wanted to cook for our friend in the building whose wife is in hospital. We suspect he doesn’t eat much after taking care of her so Bruce cooked a consumme from scratch and added vegetable in separate packages called “his soup” so he could add what he wants. 

Bruce feels good cooking again and we went to the Munsterplatz market to buy the freshest veggie, to the Rewie downtown to get the rest. The flat smells wonderful! Next on the menu was Borscht. In case you didn’t know Borscht is made up of broth, carrot, beet, parsnip, turnip, herbs, onion, as the main ingredients, we added sausage and lots of lemon juice. It takes a while for the flavours to meld together but when they do it is very flavourful meal.  Now we have enough to feed almost an army! When Bruce cooks it keeps the dishwasher running but he is good about cleaning up after himself and I am Sous Chef. 

Very stormy one night with lashing rain carried by howling wind and lightening. I read it hit all South Germany. Need to buy a flashlight but have candles. I worry about Lexi and candles, don’t want her tail going up in flames, unlikely, but then, I’m a worry wart. 

We took a day trip with Christoph to Badenweiler in the Black Forest. Badenweiler is a smaller version of Baden Baden, think spas and health treatments. He took the scenic route so travel through many small towns, some of which we’d seen before, others not, but always a pleasure. Grapes have been harvested and the vines are turning gold and red.

We started the tour at the Roman spa ruins which are impressive! Read about them here if you wish

What is most unique is the modern, curved glass roof spanning the ruins. It is open to the air at the bottom but keeps rain off. There are several interpretive areas for guides with groups, a video explanation. It is well set up for groups and even weddings!

Interior, still in pretty good shape due to the dome.

Saw this "fellow" atop a parking meter. Don't know why it's there but I liked it. There is a lot of sculpture dotted around the town.

I think he's laughing at people having to pay for parking.

I don't know what this is but liked the curves
Had lunch at a hotel restaurant Christoph had been to before, but had sat outside. Inside is a very grandiose dining room, linen napkins, very elegant and empty of patrons.

Surprisingly they served Thai food along with typical German. We all ordered Thai and it was really tasty. Bruce had a veg on his plate that was about the size of a small thumb, oval, striped like a watermelon – huh? So he asked, it’s a green tomato, certainly we haven’t seen that kind before, ever! 

Then we drove to Schloss Buergeln. 
Deer on top of the spire and very ornate clock.
It’s at the top of a long hill so there are panoramic views of the Vosge Mountains, Basel, Mulhouse and the Black Forest, hazy so I didn’t take a picture. I’d looked it up prior to going, here’s a website, so you can see it’s relatively modern. 

It was closed that day, rose gardens in back are pruned except for the designal hedging. Beautiful spot, would be crowded in summer, but worth another look. Stopped in Staufen for a coffee at Drecker’s where they specialize in chocolate and cake, I even had a piece, unusual for me. We had a nice day touring the countryside again. 

Downtown Freiburg to go to a travel agent for our flight tickets to Sevilla and I saw a Boston Terrier puppy with a large bull dog. I tried for a picture but wasn’t fast enough to get a good one. It looked up at me with it’s beady looking eyes (they always are on Bostons), tongue half out, just melted me! 

This picture is of the tower over the main water station that controls the water through the bachle (those mini-streams) that run around the streets of Freiburg. Saw it as we were taking the ring bus around while the construction is happening to the tram lines downtown. Construction is finished and tomorrow the 27th they'll be open again. Hasn't been too  inconvenient really, but glad to have the trams going through again.

Yes, Bruce is still cooking but our friend politely said “enough already” so the freezer is filling up and we keep running out of container boxes. Not a bad problem to have!

All for now, cheers, Bx2 & Lexi Cat

Monday, October 20, 2014

Basel and home to Freiburg

At the Aparthotel a tram outside the door, traffic a bit noisy but then we were used to none at all before, hah, can’t please us! We are actually in the Theatre and Convention Centre district, after walking around, getting our bearings Bruce said what a shame so much space was taken up by them. Many small “oriental” shops that carry a little of everything around the area. Didn’t find anything in the way of restaurants but didn’t go in the right direction the first afternoon.

Next day we take a tram down to the old town. There are two old towns here, small on our side of the Rhein (Rhine) River and large on the other side. There is an outdoor market at the (Rathaus) City Hall, not as large as Freiburg’s but lots of selection. Didn’t take pictures today and should have, sunny and warm. Bought Kalamata olives, Gorganzola cheese, dried tomatoes - yum! Basel’s architecture is more Baroque in style, very ornate buildings, from the bit we saw. Beautiful! The old town is hilly and we were thinking it was flat, should have known better, as usual. It is at the northern tip of Switzerland, very close to the French and German borders, German spoken first, then French, then English. Having been here one whole day, we like it very much already and are glad to have cut short our time in Zurich to come and experience another city, different culture once again even though the same country.    
I had kartofel gratin gratin in German it would be kartofel kaese (e indicates double dot over the a), see how the mix of language is here. Basically what we used to call scalloped potatoes in Canada. Bruce had a Russet apple he hasn’t had for years. So we both took a foody road down memory lane.
Went to the Tinguely fountain which is a bunch of oddly shaped mechanical structures that spray water in all directions. Tinguely was an artist and there is a museum there but we didn’t go in. Probably a lot more to know about this but I didn't research it.

Passed by the doll and teddy bear museum called Spielzeug Welten, didn’t go in there either but may do if we get a rainy day, but didn't get a rainy day!
Downtown for  a short walk along the river. There are four ferries that run across at various points. They float with the current, which is strong, on overhead cables. 

Visit to the outdoor market and Globus food market, bought picnic like food. Another sunny day and enjoyable to walk around.
Already after only two days we like this city very much and would return. Won’t go back to Lausanne or Zurich, although we were there longer than we are here so we’ve sort of “done” those cities, for what we wanted to do anyway.
Sunday and we take two trams to the Basel Zoo. It is beautifully constructed with waterways throughout. Decent cages for the animals and they are building a new elephant enclosure. It’s not as large as Zurich’s but easier to walk. The penguins are amazingly fast underwater, there was a viewing post to see them flying around, then they burst out of the water and jump on the ledge, as this one did, as if to say “Here I am, perfect photo op!” We were there mid-afternoon so a few of the cages seemed empty, animals inside having their siesta. 

Dual enclosure note zebra looks smaller than ostrich
Love the colour!

I do know zoos can be a controversial subject with some people, everyone to their own opinion, but we do enjoy going. 

The City Hall in Basel, probably the most photographed building.

A piece of it.
The symbol on the right of the statue is for Basel. A staff used by probably the statued person, a nobleman, it's everywhere.

River cruise boat
We went to a paper museum, a bit of a walk from the tram but found it. Making paper was a very large industry in Basel and they have used many buildings in this district of St. Alben-Tal to make it in, all combined into the museum now. The museum has many activities for children, they can make their own paper, they can scribe on it with a quill pen etc. The district itself is very pretty along the river, with a good restaurant attached to the museum.

Works from a chain inside, bringing water into the building from the Rhine and back out again - very big!
City wall, beautiful park
Last afternoon we were there, there was an extremely large demonstration at the Messe, the Exhibition hall, we were located close to. People kept coming and coming and when the hall was full gathered outside on the streets. Lots of shouting or chanting "we want ... " and flag waving. We could see all this from a front view seat at a Restaurant we had been to a couple of times before. When the police started holding hands to make a barrier, Bruce said it was time to go home. Although people were bringing in children so I don't think they expected violence of any sort. Many different coloured flags, some on staffs, some worn over the shoulder. I have never witnessed anything like it! We asked the waiter and he said it was a political rally to do with Iran. 

So I feel that we "skimmed" Basel, intending to come back and learn more. As you can tell I have not done a lot of research on the symbol of Basel, the Tinguely fountain and art gallery, all reasons to come back. I could use the excuse that internet access has been skimpy but honestly that's a cop out. Enjoyed the place immensely anyway and sometimes you just enjoy and don't think about the historical details. 

Our partners with the flat came to pick us up in Basel, much appreciated although I’d already bought train tickets, it was easy to get a refund on. We had two nice afternoons of visiting and catching up on flat goings on and they are headed home to Ottawa.

We just love this flat, so comfortable and spacious and appreciate it even more when we’ve been on the “road” for a while. 
The usual flurry of catching up with laundry, bills, shopping for food, making appointments for things like haircuts and pedicures, in both cases, much needed but prefer to go to someone we know. Bruce is cooking again! 
To the Mundenhof I’ve spoken of before. We like to go Sundays, while it is usually packed with families, it’s a good walk for me and good lunch too. They have baby monkeys, about the size of a teacup, so little and so cute, sorry no picture.

But this is their version of a scarecrow, made with round hay bales and gourds for eyebrows and nose.

All for now, but the weather we've had in October has been better than July, August and most of September so we're grateful for that.

Cheers, Bx2 & Lexi Cat

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Zurich Zoo and on to Basel

We were downtown Zurich, no news here, we went downtown every day. Bruce bought me a locally made reversible coat. It is brilliant blue on one side and navy blue on the other side, almost a work of art and cost the bomb, but it is an early Birthday present, and probably Christmas too. The clerk filled out a tax free form for us to claim back the tax. Been to the train station twice, stand in line for at least 20 minutes both times to be rejected. First time, I didn’t bring my passport, second time a bit more complicated, needed a Custom’s stamp which you can’t get at rail stations. So we’ll try in Basel or Freiburg to find a Swiss Customs House, get the stamp and the monies back, not a lot but enough to try for.

We decided we've seen enough of Zurich and we would go to Basel, Switzerland. Bought our train tickets for Basel and Freiburg too while there, takes some time because we request help on and off the train for Bruce’s machine. Good agent, very thorough and he gave us options to choose from. Both Swiss and German agents we have found to give excellent at customer service.

Had a glass of wine at the wine shop where we’ve been once before, that fellow has a good memory and has a website I promised to post no English option but his English is excellent and he says he likes talking to foreigners, a couple were there from Washington. He beamed all over when I asked him for his business card and also asked if I could include him in the blog.

I went to see the Zurich Opera House but guess you aren’t allowed inside unless you purchase a ticket to the Opera. Disappointed! Almost attached myself to what looked like a tour group, but they probably paid a fee so didn’t, wouldn’t have been fair. 

Busts of two of the many composers that are featured in the Opera House

I will never forget my first, unexpected view of the Sydney Opera House! We rounded a corner and there it was in all its glory! Such a surprise although of course we expected to make it a destination while there, and there it was, sort of hard to miss really.

They are setting up for the 10th annual Zurich film festival in the Parade Plaza in front of the Opera House, a very large plaza made for large events.

Raining and cold the next morning, got a ride to the Station and went downtown to shop at the large Coop, there are many in the City, not the smaller one in the Station. As usual grocery shopping is a type of destination for us. By the time we finished the sun had come out and it was warmer, thankfully. Went back to Waldesruh which is closing for good today. Many locals in, we were the only tourists. Felt a bit like Copper Sky Café in Madeira Park only we were the tourists instead of being locals. Food was good as it has been the last two times and we were allowed to smoke inside because it was the last day. Chef was smoking so guess it was his ruling. I think the locals will really miss the place. They play cards there and greet each other familiarily. It is a large establishment, pub style in the front, dining in the back and lots of outside seating. Bet during the summer months it gets really busy, so if they are retiring I don’t know why they wouldn’t have sold it. Again, my curious mind, or perhaps I’m just nosy.

We finally got to the zoo! Up, up, up, on the tram, past the University, hospital and many very stately homes. Obviously once the richer area of Zurich, but many have been turned into flats now for University students. 

Elephant inside enclosure
Pools outside, very nice landscaping

Elephants were wonders! So big and interesting in their shape and form, large bodies, huge feet, trunks used as noses and feelers to carry hay from the holes in the feeding stations to their mouths. I haven’t seen elephants for a very long time so they fascinated me. They throw hay on their backs to avoid sunburn. They also will drink from one of the many pools and spew it over their body to cool off. 

Baby elephant
Larger elephants in their "house"

We basically walked past the penguin and baboon areas, both interesting, but to the elephants, the major attraction of this zoo. They are supposed to have a swimming area. They are in a supremely large enclosure with many pools of fresh water coming in and fields to roam when they aren’t “on display”. They are from Thailand, there was Thai food available and Thai written on all the signs along with German and English.

The animals are majestic and almost silly at the same time. There is a large building, mushroom shaped with lots of skylights that the elephants are in, (see above pictures) along side the outside space which is extremely large. They are well taken care of here I think. Bruce walked very well, we had debated on bringing the wheels but the hills, as everywhere were steep and it would have konked out. 

Jacqueline gave us a ride with all our stuff to the train station, train in, help boarding, help off in Basel, cab to the Aparthotel. As you can tell it’s an apartment with kitchen and provides hotel services such as breakfast and cleaning. Bright, roomy enough, plain, old furnishings but comfortable, smoking inside. WiFi in the lobby, cable connection to Internet, manager got us a converter but me being not too savvy with technology I could not get the network settings right. Probably computer went into shock, never been hooked up to anything but WiFi - what is this? Huh?

Free transit passes given to us – bonus! Paid over 300 CHF (Swiss Francs) for monthly passes in Zurich, and can’t remember how much in Lausanne. In Switzerland the reason is tied to whether you pay a nightly tax on the accommodation, if you do, free pass, if not, you pay. Haven’t done the math on that and too late now, so no point, but if we come back, will do. Another little detail to learn, alas, too late on this trip. 

Next blog will be from Basel, a city we really liked. We're actually back in Freiburg at our flat - yeah! Have to admit being a bit travel weary and glad to be home.

Cheers, Bx2 and Lexi Cat

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

More Zurich

Downtown to Bellevue again to a sunny café, walk around the neighbourhood a bit. Heard what could have been an entire band, Bach’s 6th Brandenberg Concerto, but it’s a fellow playing an accordian. Bruce recognised the piece, it’s played for organs. Not the usual accordian music for a fact! He is playing in a large alcove of the Wasserkirche – Water Church so the sound reverberates nicely and he’s very, very good. There are four churches, each have their own style, of course, the Water Church was originally only accessable by boat, land has been filled in to accommodate traffic, doesn’t seem to be a church anymore but a meeting hall.

Symbol on the side of a building, don't know the significance...

Then he moves onto a Mozart for violin piece.  We stayed for about half an hour to listen, paid him some money for the privilage it was, such a pleasure! Had a glass of wine/beer at a classy tourist hotel along the river. Then a long train ride home, a few delays and cranky kids.

We saw, Bruce counted seven paragliders, hangliders, parachuters? Great debate as to which they were. Colourful chutes in the air above us anyway, on the walk back to the house.

We took the “Trolly Experience” over Zurich for a couple of hours to see many parts we hadn’t yet. It seems from the commentary that they have razed many of the older buildings to make way for new ones in the Financial District. They also reclaimed some of the Lake Zurich to get more land. They don’t have a Rieselfeld area to build on. It was a nice trip, although we had already discovered the Bellevue neighbourhood and keep going back to the Alstadt, old town.

I was in desperate need of a haircut and while in that area, having more onion soup for Bruce, found a salon/bar – yes, the salon works during the day, they open it to drinkers and music from 1700 on until midnight. Glad we decided not to book into the hotel across the alley! So the young lady trained in Italy, spent some time in the Maldives and decided to come to Europe, to Zurich, where “people have money”. She said she is young and why not, good attitude. She asked me what I thought of the people here, I said they were more reserved than other places we’d been and she agreed wholeheartedly. She has been here for three months and not made a Swiss friend yet, and she’s a friendly person! Good cut I think, unusual method, but then I’ve never knowingly had a haircut from someone trained in Italy.

We explored by walking some to the lake, the market, Migros and found a store that sells lots of English language books – yippee – I was in heaven even though didn’t buy this time, sort of overwhelmed I guess, will go back though for sure! Books aren’t needed as urgently with using Kindle Reader but it is always nice to have a real book. Bruce had a good walking day so that was wonderful!

Went to a Lebanon restaurant Le Cedre, The Cedar, apparently a bible quotation from Solomon. My lack of bible knowledge is showing, Bruce knew. Great spicy food with take home. Bruce got a lemon/lime sorbet, his fav, and sat at the river watching the swans while I explored the artsy district. Hand made leather, jewellery, odds and sods – a purchasable museum of artwork, lovely!

While there we saw a TV fashion shoot, models behind a desk were posing as fashion models came out and explained their outfits. We were asked to be “in the crowd”. Frankly rather boring but interesting to see the very long boom and the large cameras used. 

We took a 45 minute train to a place called Rapperwil, “City of Roses”.

Entry to Church or Palace
It’s another old town south of Zurich, also on the lake. Had a Spanish tapas lunch. We do get around Europe in the way of food! They had a large flat pan of Paella, famous Spanish rice dish usually with seafood and chicken or whatever is available that day, outside which apparently they served from, spoons being in it. Many people stopped to look and said it by name but by the time we arrived it had had a few visits from flies and I wouldn’t touch it, call me picky.

The town was very pretty, roses pretty much over with, but a few still around, has a medieval castle up the hill, we didn’t go in but from the outside looked like a church to me.  

Back at the house more people came to stay in the downstairs flat, their first wedding anniversary, from London. We rode back into town with them their last day here and she’s a lawyer and he’s a Environmental building consultant to large business. To give you in, Canada, how close things are here, they take a twenty minute train ride to the Station, then another to the Airport, then an hour and half flight to London.  Now this likely means a whole day of travel but still, they’ll likely be home to have their Gin and Tonic by about four pm.

The main zipper on my purse broke, darn it, but it’s seen many kilometres so I suppose it was getting tired. If I were in Freiburg I know where to get an exact duplicate, not so in Zurich. As you probably know, I think “retail therapy” is for the birds, and it broke Friday, so shopping Saturday even more so. Urgent because I almost lost my prescription glasses on the train, having fallen out. Luckily Bruce doesn’t feel the need to put himself through it, parks himself on a bench and relaxes. No sense in us both becoming grumpy people, he took me for a glass of wine after, looks after me well. Long story, short, got one, not quite what I wanted, we’ll see. 

And now for something completely different – here’s Lexi at her sexiest. Eat your heart out Burt Reynolds! Okay, I’ll explain, the actor Burt Reynolds had this picture taken of him naked on a strategically placed skin rug years ago. 

Finally went to a WiFi café, the place with the great onion soup. Didn’t know it was WiFi but went for the soup and brought the computer into town to make sure of connection – somewhere. They don’t advertise WiFi in Zurich often, as they did in Lausanne. Even one place had a notice “ No we don’t have WiFi – Talk To Each Other!” Fitting unless you either have work to do or a blog to get out after a really long time.

At time of posting this we are actually in Basel, Switzerland.