SWISS TIME

MONDAINE WATCH

In 1944, Hans Hilfiker, a Swiss Engineer and Designer and employee of the Federal Swiss Railways, created a clock which has become known as the “Official Swiss Railways Clock”. For design buffs and railway enthusiasts alike, this clock remains a simple and ever-present pleasure of every Swiss rail journey.

In 1986 the Montaigne Watch Company, with official license from the Federal Swiss Railways, turned it into a watch collection. It has become a true Swiss icon. The simple design, the unmistakable easy-to-read face, distinctive hands and the famous red seconds hand have made the Mondaine collection successful the world over. Ingenuity and simplicity are the elements which often distinguish an attractive piece of design from a truly iconic design classic. With strong black markings instead of numerals, each five minute increment given further emphasis and a sweeping second hand in red it is so visually simple that a train guard can read it easily from the far end of a train.

If you look closely you see that the solid red circle at the end of the second hand not only resembles a pendulum but is also a replica of the signalling paddle once used by station guards.

I knew nothing of this history until walking the streets of Zurich where, as we looked at the display in a jewellery shop window, Erika told me the story of the watch design.  It was not the time to make a purchase but it certainly gave me food for thought.

I am now enjoying wearing a Mondaine watch and am delighted with its clarity. The background story and the memories from my visit to Switzerland are renewed each day.

ALL ABOUT SWITZERLAND ……… or almost. (Part 2)

Health – You couldn’t find a better place to fall ill than in Switzerland, with 572 modern hospitals filled with state-of-the-art equipment and exceedingly well-trained doctors and nurses. Everyone residing in the country has to have health insurance. As they’re all private and not state-run providers, they need to be quite pricey. In any other country one can go to a supermarket and buy an Aspirin or any other over-the-counter medications. But not in Switzerland. Good and healthy food, lots of sport and outdoor activity (62,416 km maintained hiking trails), as well as a high quality of life, the Swiss are a pretty fit, trim and contented lot. This is reflected in the life spans: men can expect to live until 81 and women until 85.2 years of age – second only to Japan.

Defence and Safety  Air bases and arms depots inside mountains, secret tunnels everywhere – Switzerland resembles an explosive Swiss cheese. Add fortifications and hidden gun emplacements. The Swiss population can find refuge in underground shelters big and small – car parks, hospitals or private homes. In peacetime, private shelters are used to store ski equipment and wine. The Swiss Army Knife has been developed in the 1880’s and is still issued to every soldier. With annual sales of 26 million knives it’s also a global success story largely thanks to American soldiers returning home with them after World War ll. Originally they were only handed out to officers, which probably explains the thoughtful inclusion of a corkscrew. Not only Swiss men have a knife, but me too ………

Food and drink – Switzerland is anything but a culinary wasteland. The traditional cuisine may betray its rustic peasant origins – cheese, bread, potatoes – but it has been refined to a high standard. The Swiss love eating out.

Muesli, the world’s favourite breakfast dish started life as a dinner option, often in jails. In 1990, medical doctor Maximilian Oskar Bircher soaked oatmeal in water, then added lemon juice, condensed milk, grated apples and nuts. Today exists many varieties of Muesli.

Rosti, the roast potatoes are golden, warm and nourishing. Crunchy outside and soft within, the secret lies in the right potatoes..

Bread, the Swiss love their bread in any of the more than 200 traditional forms. “Zopf” is the traditional must-have for Sunday’s breakfast.

Switzerland boasts more than 20 natural springs. Not only tap water is drinkable, but so too is water from many rivers and lakes. Whey is the unpalatable part of milk, which is why the Swiss turned it into a soda called “RIVELLA”,  first concocted in 1950.

Chocolate  For a long time after its introduction in Europe chocolate was an acquired taste.The Swiss changed everything. They were the first to add sugar, milk and hazelnuts. Chocolate’s inadvertant genius was Rudolph Lindt. One Friday evening he forgot to turn off a mixer. The unexpected 78 hours of stirring created chocolate as we know it: soft, sweet and melting in the mouth.

Cheese – There are 246 different kinds of cheese. The typical Swiss cheese comes from cow’s milk. However, there are odd cheeses like those made from Buffalo milk, sheep and goats. It takes up to 13 litres of milk to make 1 kg of cheese.

Economy  – Switzerland is bare of any natural resources. Trade was hampered domestically by mountains, internationally by the absence of coastlines and harbours.If they wanted to make money, the Swiss had to use their prime resources: their wit, their business sense, their inventiveness and their thrift.

Transport  The network of trains, cable cars, buses and boats crisscross the country with precision. A remarkable feat, considering that in transportational terms, Switzerland is a bit of a contradiction. On the one hand largely inaccessible due to its mountains topography, on the other hand a major European thoroughfare due to its geographical centrality. Some Swiss get mad when their train is just two minutes late. Swiss rail claims to be on time 97% of the time – meaning, not more than three minutes late.

 Science – Swiss scientists have changed our lives considerably. They invented Nescafé, Swiss Army Knife, electric guitar,Velcro (two-sided fastener) pre-fab concrete,LSD, cellophane, stock cube, zipper, computer mouse, micro scooter, Robidog, toilet cistern, Stewi clothes dryer, ………

LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING YOU IN SWITZERLAND!!

ERIKA

 

 

 

 

ALL ABOUT SWITZERLAND – or almost ……

Shirley asked if I could write something for her blog. Since I’m Swiss I like to give you some information about that beautiful country and their inhabitants you might not have heard of:

History  One man representing each of the cantons, Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, meet on a summer’s day in 1291 in a clearing over Lake Lucerne called “Rutli”. They swear an oath to defend the other cantons against the Hapsburg oppressors. Since then, the Swiss have had neither lord nor king nor emperor. Their peasants and burghers ruled themselves generally in a successful way. Since 1515, the Swiss have not participated in European wars. Poverty overpopulation and the promise of adventure enticed the peasant boys to take up arms for foreign rulers. They were highly sought after as Swiss fighters had a reputation for courage. More and more cantons joined. From 1815, there were 25 cantons, increasing to 26 after the secession of the canton of Jura from Bern in 1979.

Shirley and Pat this time visited the Cantons Zurich (city of Zurich, Winterthur, Seeleger Moor), Freiburg (Murten), Nidwalden (Klewenalp-Stockhutte), Appenzell  (Hoher Kasten, city of Appenzell), St. Gallen (city of St.Gallen, Rapperswil), Aargau (LAUFENBURG), Thurgau (Romanshorn), Tessin (Isle of Brissago).

Diversity   The Swiss are not a single ethnic group but made up of various nationalities, shaped by their German, French and Italian neighbours. They’re only held together by their common will to be a nation.

Geography  Switzerland is all about mountains. They shape and define its geography and its mentality. But there’s much more: glittering lakes, ancient cities, lush meadows, broad and fertile valleys traversed by mighty rivers.

Fauna and Flora About 40,000 different species of animals inhabit Switzerland, most of them insects. Despite being densely settled, still more than half of the country’s territory is woodland or pristine nature. Switzerland has 3,000 different native plants, nearly a third of which are flowers. Pretty and pleasing to the eye. The Swiss have one of the world’s strictest environmental and nature protection laws – and not just recently: in 1914 they created their first national park.

Cows No other animal is so much associated with my country. They seem to be everywhere and they  assault all your senses: you see them, hear their bells, and their cowpats carry an unmistakable smell. Every summer, cows take a holiday in the mountains. Fresh air, fresh water, grass and herbs make for happy cattle and good milk. Farmers swear that cows look forward to their vacation…..The meadows containing up to 50 different tasty species of plants per 100 m2. In autumn, decorated with flowers and weighed down by big bells which are tuned differently, cows make their way back to their stables. Switzerland’s air rescue service has to bring cattle to safety that have strayed off into inaccessible parts of the mountains. Beset by low milk prices, more and more farmers resort to rent-a-cow schemes aimed at city dwellers. You may not take your cow home, though, just visit, pat or even milk her.

Education – The Swiss are among the world’s best educated people. A specialty is that Apprentices learn at a workshop and attend classes at a vocational college at the same time.

There is much more that I can tell you about my country so Part 2 will follow soon…….

 

 

HAMAD AIRPORT, DOHA, QATAR

WEDNESDAY, 28th June

HEADING HOME FROM VIENNA TO ADELAIDE (Transit stop in Doha).

Our day started with the alarm at 06:00 at the Hotel in Vienna. We had booked a taxi for 07:00 and it was waiting for us when we got to reception. There were three of us travelling to the airport as Erika was flying back to Zurich a little later in the morning. We were not sure whether she would be allowed through to the overseas International    Departure area so were pleased that, with a bit of sweet talking (in German, of course) she was able to join us for breakfast.  Time to say Goodbye – not easy when parting from a friend. The word “goodbye”originates as a parting prayer of blessing, “God be with Ye” (from the heart).

HAMAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – In its bid to become a tourist destination of the future, the oil-rich nation of Qatar has gone all-out to impress visitors. With eighty designer stores and shops selling gold, travellers can spend while they wait.There are works of art like the over-sized Lamp Bear by a Swiss artist. Extravagance has been taken to another level with gold-plated coffee kiosks.There are huge futuristic play areas for children.

We had 5 hours on the ground so had plenty of time to walk, explore, have a light meal and chat to other South Australians awaiting the direct flight to Adelaide, South Australia arriving at 17:35 on Thursday 29th June. Pat’s home is in Western Australia so she had a Domestic flight to Perth the next day. We certainly had a wonderful 8 weeks together and I am thankful to her and to all friends, both old and new, who made the time so memorable.

In future days I may add to this, my Diary, as I know that special times will come to mind as I revisit my photographs.

A DAY IN THE CITY OF VIENNA

TUESDAY, 27th June

ST. STEPHEN’S CATHEDRAL (More commonly known by its German title: Stephansdom) is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna. It has borne witness to many important events in Habsburg and Austrian history and has, with its multi-coloured roof (111 metres long), become one of the city’s most recognisable symbols. 230,000 glazed tiles cover the roof which is so steep that it is sufficiently cleaned by the rain alone and is seldom covered by snow. Standing at 136 metres tall and affectionately referred to by the city’s inhabitants as “Steffl”, St. Stephen’s Cathedral’s massive south tower is its highest point and a dominant feature of the Vienna skyline. The Cathedral has 23 bells in total. Composer Ludwig van Beethoven discovered the totality of his deafness when he saw birds flying out of the bell tower as a result of the bells’ tolling but could not hear the bells.

THE PESTSÄULE (Plague Column or Trinity Column) is located on the Graben, a street in the inner city of Vienna. It was erected in 1679 by Leopold l following the Great Plague epidemic.

PETERSKIRCHE is the second oldest church in Vienna and the city’s finest example of Baroque church architecture.

HOFBURG PALACE – The Hofburg is the former imperial palace in the centre of Vienna. Built in the 13th century and expanded in the centuries since, the Palace has been the seat of power of the Habsburg dynasty rulers and today the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria. It was the principal imperial winter residence, as Schonbrunn Palace was the summer residence. The name translates as “Royal Castle” which denotes its origins when it was initially constructed during the Medieval age. The Spanish Riding School of Vienna is a traditional riding school for Lipizzan horses which perform in the Winter Riding School in the HOFBURG. They are intelligent and lively horses and are Europe’s oldest horse breed.

VOLKSGARTEN  (English: People’s Garden) is a rose scented public garden in the Inner Stadt, first district of Vienna. The park was built over the city fortifications destroyed by Napoleon in 1809. The VOLKSGARTEN was opened to the public in 1823. At the centre of the park stands the neoclassical Theseus Temple. The park is famous for its beautiful rose garden with over 3,000 rose bushes of more than 200 different cultivars. This is a peaceful cocoon in the midst of a busy city.

AUSTRIAN NATIONAL LIBRARY is the largest library in Austria with 7.4 million items in its various collections. The State Hall of the Library is located in the Hofburg Palace. Founded by the Habsburg, the library was originally called the Hof-Bibliothek (“Imperial Library”); the change to the current name occurred in 1920. The Library complex includes four Museums as well as multiple special collections and archives. The State Hall is home to around 200,000 books from 1501 to 1850. At the time of our visit there was a special exhibition – 300 Years of Freemasonry. Tradition has it that the “United Grand Lodge of England” was founded in 1717, beginning the history of modern freemasonry, which was to become an integral element of European intellectual and cultural history. In the exhibition the Austrian National Library presented a backstage view of this both famous and mysterious brotherhood. We were there to enjoy the Library, not the exhibition and I admit that in many ways it spoiled the experience for me. The Library is absolutely beautiful.

CULINARY DELIGHT – K.u.K. Hoflieferanten Gerstner &  Schlumberger in the first district of Vienna near the State Opera. The beautifully decorated location combines a Schlumberger sparkling Bar, a delicious pastry shop and a great variety of fancy gourmet food in an elegant interior which was for us a peaceful afternoon retreat – does coffee with a lemon curd pastry tempt?

VIENNA STATE OPERA is today considered one of the most important opera houses in the world; in particular it is the house with the largest repertoire. Opera means something to everyone in Vienna – an admission ticket is not needed to experience a great evening full of music and song. Oper live am Platz is held in April/May/June where The Vienna State Opera broadcasts more than 80 performances live on a 50 m2 LED Video wall each season. We came upon this quite unexpectedly at sunset after a very full sightseeing day so only stopped briefly to enjoy a snippet of the performance.

VIENNA – FROM CASTLE TO CHURCH TO MARKET

SATURDAY, 24th June

This is the day of our final train journey using our Eurail Pass – Salzburg to Vienna. We have thoroughly enjoyed the train travel through France, Switzerland and Austria on a 3 Country Pass. Our advice to others is to travel First Class with seat reservations. The only momentary testing time is when manhandling (or woman handling) cases on and off the train (some easier than others).

Erika, who had flown from Zurich, was at the station to meet us and had already checked the direction of Hotel Beim Theresianum so we caught up on news as we trundled our cases on the ten minute walk. This is a Hotel I would happily recommend. We have an accommodation budget when planning our travels and most would be in the 3 star category. The Staff here were very welcoming and helpful and suggested a great place for lunch so we were soon on our way on an “Erika Walking Tour” with lunch being our first stop. My Haloumi and Mango Salad was certainly a good choice.

Map in hand, our first point of interest was the BELVEDERE.                                                                 The two Belvedere Palaces were built in the early eighteenth century to be used as the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736). One of Europe’s most stunning Baroque landmarks, this ensemble, comprising the Upper and Lower Belvedere and an extensive garden is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today the Belvedere houses the greatest collection of Austrian art dating from the Middle Ages to the present day.

HOCHSTRAHLBRUNNEN (high jet fountain)                                                        The fountain was built in 1873 to celebrate the completion of the First Vienna Mountain Spring Pipeline. The jets symbolise a calendar: 365 on the outer ring for days of the year, 6 little fountains and the central island for days of the week, 12 high water jets for the months, 24 smaller jets for the hours of the day and 30 big ones in the middle for the days of the month.                                                                                                                                                                THE SOVIET WAR MEMORIAL behind the fountain was built in 1945 to commemorate 17,000 Soviet soldiers who were killed in action during the Vienna Offensive in World War ll.

KARLSKIRCHE (ST. CHARLES’S CHURCH) is a church located on the south side of Karlsplatz. Widely considered the most outstanding baroque church in Vienna as well as one of the city’s greatest buildings, KARLSKIRCHE is dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo, one of the counter-reformers of the sixteenth century. KARLSKIRCHE contains a dome in the form of an elongated ellipsoid and this plus its two flanking columns of bas reliefs has brought fame to the architecture of the building.In 1966 an association of friends and patrons of the church started a thorough renovation of the interior including the world-famous dome frescoes in the year 2000. Tourists are still offered the opportunity to access the platform erected for the renovation via a temporary lift for a unique view of the frescoes at close range.

THE SECESSION BUILDING is an exhibition hall built in 1897 as an architectural manifesto for the Vienna Secession. Secession refers to the seceding of a group of rebel artists from the long-established fine art institution. The building has been selected to figure on the national side of the 0.50 Euro Austrian coin. The leaf work dome (“golden cabbage”) is the symbol of the Secession and visible from afar. When it opened in 1898 it touched off a scandal. Today, it is one of Austria’s most photographed structures and a leading centre for contemporary art.

NASCHMARKT is Vienna’s most popular market. It is about 1.5 kms (0.93m) long and has existed since the 16th century when mainly milk bottles were sold. Milk bottles were made out of ash (wood from the Ash tree). Asch (German for “ash”) led to the name “Aschenmarkt”. From 1793 onwards all fruits and vegetables brought to Vienna with carts had to be sold there, while goods arriving on the Danube were sold elsewhere. The atmosphere of the NASCHMARKT is famous far beyond the borders of Vienna and large numbers of tourists visit the market every year.

Continue reading

SCHONBRUNN PALACE (German: Schloss SCHONBRUNN)

MONDAY, 26th June

Like most visitors to Vienna, Austria, SCHONBRUNN Palace was high on my list of places to visit so, together with Pat and Erika, we set aside this day to enjoy visiting the place we had viewed in books, travel programmes and brochures. Since the mid-1950s the Palace has been a major tourist attraction. Eight million people visit the Palace, Park and its attractions each year.

The Palace is a symbol of the power and influence of the House of Habsburg over a long period of European history from the end of the 17th to the early 20th century. It is a former imperial summer residence and the 1,441-room baroque palace is one of the most important architectural, cultural and historical monuments in the country. The name Schonbrunn, meaning”beautiful spring”, has its roots in an artesian well from which water was consumed by the court. The Palace in its present form was built and remodelled during the 1740-50s during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa who received the estate as a wedding gift. Franz l commissioned the redecoration of the palace exterior in the neoclassical style as it appears today. The buildings and the gardens are owned by the Republic of Austria . Emperor Franz Joseph was born in the palace in 1830. In 1916 he also died there in his bed at the age of 86.

We purchased tickets for the Grand Tour of the Palace (with audio guide) to learn about the Viennese dynasty and to get a glimpse into the old imperial world. We walked through the elaborate themed rooms from Sisi’s private chambers and beauty salon to the Marie Antoinette room which was used to host family dinners.

 

THE GLORIETTE  (from the 12th century French gloire meaning “little room”) is a building in a garden erected on a site that is elevated with respect to the surroundings. At Schonbrunn it is a colonnaded building flanked by wings and arches and topped with an imperial eagle (very impressive). The views over the gardens and palace from this unique vantage point are spectacular. The inner hall was originally used as a dining room in the 19th century and now  is a lovely cafe area. We chose to sit at one of the outdoor tables to enjoy our coffee and cake.

SACHERTORTE – It was an opportunity for me to taste one of the most famous Viennese culinary specialties. It is a specific type of chocolate cake, or torte, invented by Austrian Franz Sachertorte in 1832 for Prince Wendell von Metternich in Vienna.

ORANGERY GARDEN – measuring 189m in length, the Orangery is one of the two largest Baroque orangeries in the world, alongside the one in the Palace of Versailles on the outskirts of Paris. Franz Joseph ll used to use his Orangery or, as it was called, the ‘winter garden’ for imperial court festivities where he would decorate the citrus trees with exotic flowers to impress his guests! The cultivation of exotic plants in tubs goes back to the early eighteenth century.

PRIVY GARDEN – the Privy Garden lies immediately in front of the east facade of the Palace.The four parterre sections are framed with narrow beds and at the centre is an old Yew Tree. As the garden is sheltered from the wind, fine specimens from the citrus collection of the Federal Parks Authority are transferred here during the summer months.

VIENNESE APPLE STRUDELSHOW – Erika and I watched a young baker from the Imperial Bakery of Schonbrunn bake “traditional, classic, typical Viennese apple strudel – probably the best in town”. We watched as the chef rolled and pulled the dough until it became paper thin (see through). End result – YUMMY, and I can vouch for that.

The Park at Schonbrunn was opened to the Public around 1779 and since then has provided a popular recreational amenity for the Viennese population as well as being a focus of great cultural and historical interest for international visitors like us. It extends for 1.2 kms from east to west and approximately one km from north to south.

Another day incorporating all recognised methods of perception – seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling. What joy to learn so much through these God-given senses.