Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Computer issues

Just wanted to let everyone know that my computer has died, so there will be a hiatus from blogging until the situation is remedied.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Meltingen to Grellingen

Today was a beautiful day for a hike! My friend and I decided to hike from Meltingen to Grellingen, the reverse of a previous planned hike that got detoured somehow. We both decided that it was much easier to follow the trail this direction. We hopped on the S3 train from Basel SBB to Laufen, then the 111 bus to the Meltingerbrücke stop. I think the whole trip took about 45 minutes to an hour. Then we just followed the wanderweg yellow diamonds and signs to Grellingen.

It was sunny and got up to about 18°C (65°F). The trail was a bit wet and muddy in some places but all in all was no problem to hike along. The bärlauch is still growing strong, and we could smell it as we passed by. There were a lot more flowers out, and many more of the trees are springing forth with little green leaves. We even saw a couple of butterflies. I was able to get a pretty good photograph of one of them. It landed in a patch of violets, which made a nice backdrop for the colors on its wings. This is definitely a hike to repeat.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Thar be dragons! Lucern and Mt. Pilatus

There are apparently a few legends about dragons on the slopes of Mt. Pilatus, which overlooks Lake Lucern. It was a beautiful day for an outing, and we enjoyed a relaxing day exploring the city of Lucern and strolling along the lake. We stopped at Restaurant Storchen for a tasty lunch - crostini with various toppings, roast beef platter, and warm asparagus salad. Next time we visit we'll have to head up to the mountain top on what is billed as the steepest cog railway. Lucern is a very clean city, and the walkway extends quite far around the lake, and is well maintained with pretty flowers and landscaping. It is possible you can walk all the way around the lake, but we didn't try that as it would likely have taken quite a few hours. It seemed like it would be a great place to live, and the view can't be beat. There were a lot of shops and restaurants, and we enjoyed walking along the old city wall where we enjoyed a spectacular view of the city, lake and mountains from the top of one of the towers.

Water tower with covered bridge and Hotel Gutsch

Old city wall and clock tower

Mountain Views

Mural and Spring flowers

Surprise! Highland cattle (they had an enclosure next to the old city wall)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Schauenberg Ruins

Saturday, March 29, 2008

We decided to try to hunt down another castle ruin today, and picked one outside of Pratteln called Schauenberg. We managed to find it, but it was closed! Apparently some of the ruins are actually falling down enough that the public can't be trusted around them. There was a little sign that said "Achtung, Steinschlag" and something else that we figured probably meant that it was closed (must remember to bring along our German dictionary!). We followed the trail around to the other side, and found an old wrought iron gate firmly locked.

I took a photo through the gate, but you couldn't see much. We were wondering about the little house that seemed to be built amongst the ruins. On the map it looked like there was another possible ruin, so we decided to head up that way. and up...and up...we ended up at the top of a big cliff, with a great birds-eye view of the ruin we had just visited. We decided that the 'little house' amongst the castle ruins was possibly a watch post or something like that, but haven't been able to find any further information about it. From there we continued back down and around to Munchenstein and hopped on a tram home.

Biel outing in the snow!

Monday, March 24, 2008

We took a trip with one of MrB's coworkers and his friend to Biel/Bienne. It was quite cold and snowy, so we didn't get to see much of the view across the lake, or much of the town, though we walked quite a ways up the hill. The town is dominated by a big Rolex factory/office building, and has a nice old part of town to wander around in. We went into an old church that had nice stained glass windows, and most importantly was warm! We warmed up in there for a few minutes before continuing on up the hill and back down and around to the lake where we watched a snow squall blow over the lake and turned into icicles. Then we headed back into the old town for a quick coffee and pastry to warm up before we hopped on the train back to Basel.

Snowy church door and stained glass

Rolex and old church clock tower

Snow squall and pretty purple flowers

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ruine Dorneck

Saturday, March 22, 2008

We had seen this ruin overlooking the town of Dornach when we were taking the train back from an earlier hike. We decided today was a good day to head out and see if we could find our way to it, even though the weather predicted was not very promising. We took tram number 10 out to Dornach, and without much help from the Swiss trail markers, managed to wind our way up the hill through the town to the ruins.

On the way up through the town we saw the strange monumental Goetheanum building. It was hailing and raining as we were walking up past it, so I didn't stop to pull out the camera and take any photographs.

Unfortunately, while you could walk around the outer area of the ruins, the inner area was closed. The sign said something about being open mid-March, but it was already past that, and it was still closed, so we'll have to go back and see what we missed at some point. Maybe it will be nice enough to take some photos of the Goetheanum building too.

Snowy ruins


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hike from Grellingen to Waldeck

A friend and I decided to hike from Grellingen to Meltingen, following a stream through the valley between the hills. We were greeted with wind and misty rain as we stepped off the train in Grellingen, but set off with our hoods up. Within about 10 minutes the rain had blown away and the sun was peeking through the clouds. It remained cloudy with occasional glimpses of sun for most of the hike, and thankfully the rain did not return. The temperature was a little chilly, but very comfortable for a hike.

The trail wound back and forth across the stream with many sturdy moss covered bridges along the way. The ground was covered with bärlauch (bear's leek- seen carpeting the ground along the right side of the trail in the first photo). This is a garlic flavored green that can be used in salads (like chives) or cooking (I had bärlauch ravioli once), and the air smelled faintly of garlic where it grew thickest, and when the sun shone on it. There were also numerous little white and yellow spring flowers dotting the ground, though the trees are just barely budding. Moss coated everything, and ferns and vines of ivy draped many of the old stonework and trees, a testament to the eternal dampness of the valley.

We wandered along the trail snapping many photographs - it was such a pretty day for it! We even got to explore a little cave we saw along the way. It didn't go back very far, but we thought it might have been a good cave to stay in if you didn't have a house, though it was a bit damp. There was a raised area in back that would have worked for a sleeping platform, and an area off to the side in the front that would have been perfect for a fire. Across the stream there was another cave for your friends, which you can see in the photo, though we didn't explore that one. The stream was a bit too high at that point to try getting across, and there was no convenient bridge.

Somewhere along the way we lost the trail to Meltingen, and with some help from my friend's GPS, we eventually ended up in Waldeck, where we caught a Post bus back to Grellingen with only a few minutes wait for the train back to Basel. We'd like to try this hike again, and figure out where we made the wrong turn off the trail to Meltingen!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

A friend of mine got a group of five people together to take advantage of a special discount travel ticket, five for the price of three or something like that. She wanted to go to Freiburg for some shopping.

When we got there we split into two groups, two of us who had definite shopping in mind, and the other three, who were content to wander. The three of us had a nice relaxing day, enjoying the spring flowers and pleasant weather and the sights of Freiburg. It is still a little chilly out, but mild enough that the cherry trees are blooming and crocuses and daffodils are popping out.

There is a good variety of stores, all located conveniently around the town center. I'm sure there are some farther out as well, but we didn't venture much beyond the main shopping area as we were on foot. I finally managed to find a new pair of good walking shoes, which I have been looking for since before we moved here in August. The ones I have are quite worn out.

This is the bottom part of the clocktower/city gate seen in the previous photograph, there was a McDonald's just to the right, in part of the old building. To the right of that, there was this old art deco building seen in the next photograph, with a Burger King in the bottom floor. Needless to say, we didn't have any interest in eating at either one. Instead we had a very tasty lunch of vegetable salad and pasta with black truffle at an Italian trattoria we saw on the way into town from the bus station. It was the first time I have ever had black truffle, and it was quite tasty.

In our wanders, we passed by these two cathedrals. Many of these older churches that we have seen are at least partly enveloped in scaffolding, which unfortunately detracts somewhat from their appearance.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg is a pretty little city, wreathed with canals, and was very cold the weekend we were there. The center of town is dominated by the towering gothic Cathèdrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg, built over a period of 400 years or so and never completed. The stone carvings on the outside and the stained glass are well worth a visit. You can see the tower in the background of this photo.

We arrived early Saturday, meeting our friends at the train station, and made our way to the hotel to check in. Then we headed out to wander around the city center and find a place to eat lunch. We decided on crepes, and the little restaurant we found specialized in them. They were absolutely delicious! No surprise there, we have found the food in France to be the tastiest in Europe so far. Unfortunately I didn't make note of the name of the restaurant, but it is not too far from the cathedral.

After lunch, we headed to the Salon des Vins des Vignerons Indépendants for which we had free tickets. It was huge! I think there were over 600 different tasting stations, and people were routinely walking out towing dollies with crates of wine. We ended up with only two bottles of red wine, a bottle of cognac, but everyone had fun tasting and comparing. I think we made it through less than a quarter of the stands. You could definitely see why wine is one of the biggest businesses in France.

Sunday we went to the Musées de la Ville de Strasbourg in the Palais Rohan. There are a number of museums in this former Archbishop's Palace, and we spent the morning roaming through them, staying in out of the cold. We happened upon an exhibit of Albrecht Dürer's prints that was a temporary exhibit, quite a special treat, then wandered through a number of the other museums. The Musée des Arts Décoratifs was interesting, as many of the rooms had been furnished according to records for when the archbishop was in residence, and using period furniture whenever possible. Photographs were not allowed, unfortunately.

We will most likely be making another trip to Strasbourg in the future, as we did not make it out to the intriguing Musée Les Secrets du Chocolate, or the castle of Fleckenstein.

Here are some photos from around the town, and of the cathedral.

Looking up the street at the front of the cathedral. This is a truly massive building, photos just don't do it justice.

Detail of the front, you can see little beasties cavorting amongst the saintly figures.

View of the back, where you can see the flying buttresses.

Gargoyles along the side of the cathedral.

Sun through the stained glass windows inside the cathedral.

View up one of the canals in Petite France, a neighborhood in Strasbourg.