Europe trip 2013 part 4

My idea was to travel back from Switzerland to Amsterdam via France. Last year I had visited a few Loire castles with my brother Pim,  and I wanted to show their beauty to Aric, so I booked two nights in Blois. However, planning in more detail, I found that the distance between Grindelwald and Blois was almost 700 km, a bit too long for a comfortable drive. Therefore I looked for a suitable stopover halfway. Beaune! To be honest, the name did not ring a bell. Now I know better.


Wine lover friends will scold me, because Beaune is the Wine Capital of the Burgundy region. The most important wine auction of France is held here yearly, but we were too early for that. Besides, Burgundy wines are too  expensive for me.

It is a medieval town with a famous tourist attraction: the Hospices de Beaune, a hospital for the poor, founded in 1443 (!)


Well worth a visit, here are some pictures.

The hospices also possess a very famous medieval work of art, The Last Judgment (1445-1450) by Rogier van der Weyden. Impressive.


After a nice dinner and a good night sleep we continued the next day to Blois, situated on the banks of the Loire river. The weather had changed, it drizzled when we arrived. We did a short walk in the town

After our walk we had a delicious dinner

Haute Cuisine in les Banquettes Rouges, Blois

Haute Cuisine in les Banquettes Rouges, Blois

The next day it was raining cats and dogs! Still we decided to visit the two castles. And we were not the only ones. It was the National Heritage weekend, there were special activities everywhere and the admission was at a reduced rate or even free. Resulting in crowds of people. First we visited Chenonceau, my favourite.


Because of the rain we skipped the beautiful gardens and spent more time inside the castle. In its present state it dates back to the 16th century. The castle was acquired by king François I and later given by his son, Henry II to his mistress Diane de Poitiers. She commissioned the building of the famous arched bridge across the river Cher.

Next destination was Chambord, the largest of the Loire castles. If Chenonceau is androgynous, Chambord is alpha-male…:-).Built by the same king François I and possibly designed by Leonardo da Vinci.


The rain had become heavy now, we were soaked already, so we spent only a short time on the roof with its many chimneys. Pity for all the people who took part in the activities. The castle was never inhabited continuously, the kings of France just moved in a for a couple of weeks. Lous XIV, the Roi-Soleil had a ceremonial bedchamber here, where VIPs could watch how he woke up and was dressed..:-)

Wet and cold we came back to our hotel, bought some food in the supermarket and had a simple meal in our room. This was the only day during our trip that we had bad weather, so we consider ourselves lucky…:-)

The next morning there was sun and blue sky again! But we had to be back in Amsterdam that evening, so we could only make a hurried visit of the castle of Blois. The Chateau de Blois is located in the center of the town, from our hotel room we could see the backside of the François I wing. Here is the entrance from the square:


There is a lot to see in the castle, the famous octagonal staircase in the courtyard, the François I wing, the Salle des États Généraux and much more. But we had not much time. Here are some pictures

Are you interested in philosophy? Then you may think about the caption with Aric above: “The present king of France is Chinese” True or false?

We arrived in Amsterdam just in time to return our car. About 3500 km in two weeks time.

Europe trip 2013 part 3

When I was discussing my travel plans with my Malaysian friends, one of them mentioned Liechtenstein. It is a tiny country (160 square km, population less than 40.000)  between Austria and Switzerland. We decided to have a look and spend a night there.

On our way from Hall we had lunch in Feldkirch, another medieval gem in Austria. It would be easy to spend a full holidays in Austria!

DSC_5626 DSC_5638DSC_5628


Liechtenstein is not part of the European Union, but belongs to the Schengen zone, therefore no border control or passport formalities. It is rich and expensive, has nice countryside, but nothing special. In the (characterless) main street of the capital Vaduz we met a VIP (the prince of Liechtenstein?) with his security guards. We found a supermarket, and bought food for an alfresco dinner…:-)




The next morning we had a look at the castle of Vaduz, where the Prince is still living. Then we crossed the border with Switzerland.  It was the first time we visited this country and probably it will also be the last time.




Our destination in Switzerland was Grindelwald. This mountain village is situated at the feet of the mighty Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains. With a special train you can reach the Jungfraujoch, at an altitude of ~ 3500 meter. This was the main target of our trip, to see the snow and walk on it. But would the weather be favorable? We arrived in the rain and the next morning we could see fresh show on the mountain slopes. The pictures show a lake on our way to Grindelwald, the view from our hotel room and the fresh snow the next morning.




We decided to try our luck and bought tickets for the trip. Expensive, ~ 145 Euro pp. The train is a rack train and the ride consists of two parts. First you go from Grindelwald to Kleine Scheidegg. It was quite cloudy but sometimes we could see the mountains, which gave us hope.




The second part goes through a tunnel in the Eiger mountain. The train stops at two locations in the tunnel where windows have been made, so you can look out. The first stop showed only mist and fog, but at the second one, Eismeer (Ice Sea), the clouds were breaking and we had a good view of the glacier. Impressive!



When we reached the Jungfraujoch station, this is what we saw.

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Difficult to describe our feelings. Exhilarated, almost emotional. You just could go out and walk on the glacier. Yes, it was very cold…:-)




You can easily spend hours here. But go slowly, or you can get dizzy because of the high altitude. The highest point we reached is at the Sphinx observatory. It is possible to walk to the Mönch hut, but we were not equipped well enough for that hike. There is also the Ice Palace, dug out in the glacier with ice statues, freezingly cold but interesting.

The Jungfraujoch is called the Top of Europe and it certainly was the Top of our Europe trip. Worth every Euro. We have been very lucky, both one day earlier and one day later the weather conditions were bad!

Europe Trip 2013 part 2

From Salzburg it is not far to the romantic small town of Hallstatt, situated on the shore of a lake.We stayed there three nights, to explore the region. Besides enjoying the atmosphere of the place, we visited a few popular tourist attractions.


On our first day we took the cable car to the Ice Cave and the Five Fingers. The Ice Cave fills up completely with snow and ice during winter, even in summer this ice remains there.




We also visited the nearby Mammoth Cave (not that interesting) and then took a second  cable car higher up. Fabulous views of the Hoher Dachstein massif (2995 m). Nice flowers. And a mountain hut, with food and beer, reminding me of my younger days as a mountaineer..:-)





After our lunch we walked to the famous Five Fingers. A metal construction, resembling a hand with a beautiful view of Hallstatt deep down. Not suitable for people with fear of heights…:-) A popular place for paragliders




The next day we visited the salt mine. Hallstatt has a glorious past because of this mine. In the past miners mined the rock salt and to take it out they used slides. These slides are now a tourist attraction. Big fun!


An “attraction” of a very different kind can be found in one of the churches. Because of its location, Hallstatt had only a limited space for a cemetery. Therefore after not so many years old graves were emptied to make space for new burials. The skulls of the deceased were treated with respect, painted with names etc, and kept in a chapel. Very impressive.


After Hallstatt we continued our trip in the direction of Switzerland, passing on our way the Krimml waterfalls. Impressive falls, the highest in Austria and, according to the website, the 5th-highest in the world. That however is cheating, as the falls consist of three separate tiers!



We had planned to spend one night in Innsbruck, but instead decided to stay in the small, medieval town of Hall in Tirol, not far from Innsbruck. An unexpected, pleasant surprise.



Europe trip 2013 part 1

I will split this post in a few parts, because it covers a two-week trip through Europe, visiting Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein (!), Switzerland and France. I took more than 1000 pictures. Don’t worry, I will publish here only a few..:-)

We started with a long (750 km) drive from Amsterdam to Regensburg in Bavaria. This is a very old town and a Unesco World Heritage site.


It is located on the Danube river, has many beautiful buildings and is famous food-wise for its sausages. Less touristic than its neigbours Nürnberg and Salzburg, it was a nice surprise for us.

The next day we crossed the border with Austria on our way to a tiny hamlet with a funny name: Fucking. There is nothing to see, there is not even a shop, but every year thousands of tourists come here to have their picture taken with the signboard for the village. And so did we …:-)



Salzburg was our next destination, the town where Mozart was born. We stayed in Hotel Mozart, had dinner in Cafe Mozart, visited the house where he lived and went to a concert where his music was played. The Salzburger Festspiele had just finished, but there were still many tourists. A beautiful town with the castle Hohensalzburg high above the town.


We stayed two nights in Salzburg, the weather was splendid. We really enjoyed the Hohensalzburg castle, spent almost a full day there. The Hellbrun Palace, just outside the town, was fun, with its trick fountains. Unbelievable that an archbishop was responsible for it. Here is a collection of Salzburg pictures.

From Salzburg we continued our trip to Hallstatt, that will be part two of this report. Here already two galleries about the whole trip. First some pictures of the places where we stayed overnight. We like Guesthouses, Pensions, Bed en Breakfast places better than the big hotels.

And of course we had lots of food…:-) The German and Austrian cuisine are not very refined, but they serve in general huge portions. With lots of beer.In France we had a few times really fine dining.

Flower Corso Zundert 1-9

A few months ago one of my Malaysian(!) friends forwarded an email to me with pictures of a spectacular flower parade in the Netherlands. In Zundert. Had I heard about it or even visited it? No, I had not, hardly knew the location of this village near the Belgian border.

But the pictures were really spectacular, so I decided to visit this corso during my next visit to the Netherlands. It has been held already 72 times, on the first Sunday in September.

We were not the only visitors…:-) Luckily I had booked seats on one of the stands, so we had a good view and could take many pictures.



Here is a collection of pictures. No captions for the time being. Mind you, almost everything is made of flowers. Detailed report later