Salzburg: Hitting the apricot

High and mighty: St Rupert's facade
High and mighty: St Rupert’s facade

“I give you a bit more”, says our monosyllabic Goth waiter as he brings our second round of marillen liqueurs. It’s getting late and we’re hitting the apricot stuff hard. It helps us forget a staggeringly disappointing dinner in Mozart’s hometown.

Our packed morning in Innsbruck means we’re late on the road – again, it’s becoming a habit. A few days ago, we even had to forgo Vaduz altogether after exploring Feldkirch in greater detail than planned.

But we arrive in Salzburg in warm sunshine. It’s quite hot, in fact, and much more summery than the past few days. Our hotel is on the north side of town on the Linzer Gasse. I don’t know if it’s the hotelier’s Mediterranean accent, the cafe terraces lining the streets, or the general layout of the town, but it feels very southern. Nice.

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Innsbruck: Marie-Antoinette’s mother meets Zaha Hadid

Innsbruck: Zaha Hadid's curvaceous funicular stations
Innsbruck: Zaha Hadid’s curvaceous funicular stations

“I’m not visiting another imperial palace or baroque church until we’ve seen the Zaha Hadid funicular,” I say.

Dr K looks at me with a face betraying absolute incomprehension, obviously concerned that I may have passed the point of no return on the road to cultural redemption.

We’re just coming out of the Hofburg, in central Innsbruck, the palace from which Marie Antoinette’s mother, Empress Maria Theresa, ruled Austria for 40 years.

Now Dr K is casually suggesting that we go on to Schloss Ambras, on the other side of town, when all we really want is a nice mélange and a slice of chocolate torte.

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Feldkirch: Ghosts from the past

Feldkirch: the picturesque market square
Feldkirch: the picturesque market square

“Would you like to try and find the house?”, I ask Godfather P. “No, these are ghosts from the past,” he replies, looking around to gauge the extent to which the place has changed since his last visit here in 1958.

Feldkirch, an old Vorarlberg market town just over the border from Lichtenstein, is our first Austrian stopover on the way to Vienna, and one that we – P in particular – have been anticipating with heightened curiosity.

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Lucerne: unfinished business

Lucerne: walk on the lakeside
Lucerne: walk on the lakeside

Having soaked in an extended culture bath in Bern for most of the morning we finally set off just before lunchtime in bright sunshine.

The clouds have lifted and you can actually see the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau very clearly in the distance.

Our destination for today is Feldkirch, our first Austrian stopover, just on the other side of the border from Liechtenstein. It’s only 270km away but we want to stop in Lucerne, which Dr K says has “some good art collections”.   Continue reading “Lucerne: unfinished business”

Bern: going green

Green card: passport to brilliant Swiss painting exhibition at Bern's beaux arts museum
Green card: passport to brilliant Swiss painting exhibition at Bern’s beaux arts museum


Dr K can be utterly shameless. And Godfather P is no better. No sooner have I bought our tickets for the permanent collection at Bern’s national museum that they’re off. Off to the special exhibition, that is, which is not covered by said tickets and which requires a green badge rather than the blue badges we were given.
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Fribourg: it’s oh so quiet, but quite charming

Fribourg: stunning view from the cliff top
Fribourg: all quiet on Monday, but charming too

Nothing can be quieter than a Sunday in Lausanne, we thought. Except a Monday, which in most parts of Western Europe can be just as quiet. Office workers and local authority staff are back at their desks but most shops are shut. And so it was in Fribourg, where we made a brief pit-stop to look at a few “good buildings”, to use Dr K’s parlance and have a bit of lunch on our way to Bern.

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Lausanne: no cheese for dinner

Grinning gargoyle on Lausanne townhall
Grinning gargoyle on Lausanne town hall

We have just finished our main course at Lausanne’s railway station restaurant and are pondering whether to have cheese or go straight to pudding. These are important questions for carefree travellers. I ask our sprightly waitress if we can see the dessert menu, or perhaps have some cheese first. “We don’t have cheese at the end of a meal in Switzerland, but I can arrange for a selection of cheeses for you if you would like,” she replies. Behind her polite smile I reckon she secretly wants us to be sent straight to a Swiss rehab dairy and be reformed in the proper cheese ways. For a split second we feel culturally inadequate but we get over it soon enough thanks to a crème brûlée.

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Cluny: conjuring up lost worlds

Breakfast at Tupinier
Breakfast at Tupinier

It once stood to rival Rome as the largest centre of Christian influence in western Europe and seemed a fitting start to our Vienna road trip.

Yet, imagining what Cluny must have been like in the 11th century is challenging. The huge monastery, whose church was larger than Notre Dame in Paris, fell victim to the 1789 revolutionary zeal and was systematically dismantled and quarried in the early years of the 19th century.

Today there is hardly anything left of it. Wandering around the pretty town you see enough remnants of the old religious complex to get a sense of its importance, including the rows of romanesque houses built by the stonemasons employed to work on the monastery. Continue reading “Cluny: conjuring up lost worlds”