A Travellerspoint blog

November 2014

The Mysterious Affair of Lonely Ludwig

Another Inspector Bliss Mystery

sunny 17 °C

After successfully solving the 300 year old mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask in Louis XIV’s France, (as depicted in James Hawkins’ epic novel, The Dave Bliss Quintet), we found our trusty sleuth, D.C.I. David Bliss of Scotland Yard, in the Bavarian Alps on the trail of the dastardly killer of King Ludwig II, (alias: The Swan King). This is the last known bust of the deceased who died mysteriously at the age of 40…
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The case so far... King Ludwig II of Bavaria, son of Maximillian II, was found dead in a lake together with a doctor who earlier that week had declared him insane. The time of death was 6.54pm on 13th June 1886. The facts: Ludwig and his equally nutty brother, Otto, were brought up in strict isolation by nannies and tutors in a house across the courtyard from his parents neo-gothic country cottage, the Hohen-Schwangau Castle in southern Bavaria…
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The castle’s thirty lavishly decorated rooms are stuffed with more gilded baubles than a Bavarian Christmas tree, so it’s understandable that King Max and his missus wouldn’t want the kids hanging about and knocking things over. However, when his dad died in 1864, Ludwig moved in. But his mum still lived there and, like the average 18 year old, he wanted his own pad. So he started small – as young’uns are wont to do – and knocked up this little number…large_1-P1110228.jpg1-P1110237-001.jpg
This is Schloss Linderhof… a bedsit by royal standards. With only twenty or so rooms, each plastered with enough gold to buy Portugal, this little gem was modelled on Louis XIV’s Versailles. It even has a mini hall of mirrors that took three years to build.
Ludwig spent at least 7 years in almost total isolation in this mansion and, so that he would never have to see anyone, the dining table was lowered through a trap door into the kitchen below where it was laid before pushed back up… a theatrical illusion just like the rest of Ludwig’s life.
Like many youngsters in his twenties Ludwig had bigger plans so, not content with his mini version of Versailles, he went on to build a replica of the real one on an island in the middle of Lake Herrenchiemsee. But even that wasn’t enough for this crazy genius.
Despite the fact that he had completely blown all the money in the royal piggybank and was up to his eyeballs in debt he tried to outbuild his hero, King Louis XIV, with this incredible castle at Neuschwanstein overlooking his childhood home…
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This enormous fairytale castle is so completely out to lunch that Walt Disney used it as his inspiration for the castle in Sleeping Beauty and his Magic Kingdom at Disneyland.
Only half of the projected castle was ever built and much of the interior was never finished, but Ludwig didn’t care – he was king of the castle. He spent his days alone on his golden throne imagining that he was ruling the world while listening to Wagnerian operas.
So we asked the intrepid sleuth, D.C.I.Bliss, “What really happened to King Ludwig II?” and he told us that, after being subjected to a performance of Wagner’s ring cycle, a fifteen hour operatic marathon in which someone steals a ring from the King of the Gods and he spends the next fourteen and three-quarter hours trying to get it back, Ludwig went completely potty and shot himself in the back – twice - before turning the gun on his doctor. Who knows, Bliss could be right!

Posted by Hawkson 02:29 Archived in Germany Comments (6)

Lucerne - Somewhere over the Rainbow.

sunny 13 °C

Last time on Blissful Adventures…

Having visited the somewhat faded lakeside resort of Interlaken in a futile search for spectacular views of the iconic mountains and glaciers of the High Alps, our intrepid travellers were so distraught at their failure that they were considering committing suicide by chocolate when, with only a couple of hours of daylight remaining, the clouds evaporated and from their hotel room window they had the most glorious views of the mighty Eiger and its sister the Jungfrau…
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Suddenly the murky days of fog and sleet that had so depressed the Blissful Adventurers dissipated in the warm sunshine, and the mountains with their new white blankets rose into the clear blue sky in all directions around them…
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So off they went on the Interlaken Express to Lucerne with light hearts...
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And what beautiful sights they found on the other side of the mountains…
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While the shine may have been taken off Interlaken, the medieval city of Lucerne has managed to hold onto its glamorous past. The city’s elegant waterfront and ancient wooden bridges are simply picture perfect…
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And even the famous sorrowful lion, (The Löwendenkmal or the Lion of Lucerne), who mourns the massacre of the Swiss Guards at the Tuiliers in Paris during the French Revolution in 1792, seemed to cheer up in the sunshine…
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The Swiss alpine landscape is still incredibly beautiful, but urban Switzerland seems to have slipped from its glory days when foreign visitors set their watches by the trains and went home to extol the virtues of clean streets and general orderliness. Today’s Switzerland has too many ugly developments with many buildings defaced by graffiti. Even the trains are slipping and, Mein Gott, (or Mon Dieu or Mio Dio depending on where you are in Switzerland), there is litter on the streets. Thank god that the lofty mountains still rise above this..
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Posted by Hawkson 00:54 Archived in Switzerland Comments (4)

Interlaken - No Longer a Chocolate Box

overcast 3 °C

In its heyday at the beginning of the last century Interlaken was bursting with luxury hostelries catering to the Hooray-Henry’s of the world. It is easy to imagine guests arriving by lake steamer from Bern or on board the luxurious Orient Expresss en-route from Paris to Venice. The Orient Express still stops here infrequently, (as part of a $20,000 US, (per couple), European excursion), but, unfortunately, Interlaken has lost its glamour and is best described today like the weather we encountered on our arrival – a little drab. The five star drinking holes are still here; snobby joints like The Victoria Jungfrau and the Beau Rivage where, off season on a miserable day, you might snag a broom cupboard for three hundred bucks a night…
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But the ritzy hotels have been overshadowed by the numerous backpacker’s hovels and youth hostels where $20 will get you a bed. However, despite the rain and ground hugging clouds, all was not gloomy for us. With a bit of research we found a gem of a hotel just under the mountains on the edge of town…
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The Hirschen Guesthouse is an all wooden inn built in 1666 and it still has many original features, including solid wooden beams capable of decapitating anyone over five feet ten.
Perhaps the only thing missing at the Hirschen is a roaring log fire, nonetheless the central heating kept the place cozy, and the staff were always warm and friendly. The restaurant served excellent traditional food, including the obligatory Swiss cheese fondue…
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And if only the weather had co-operated we were told that we would have a grandstand view of one of Europe’s highest mountains, the Eiger, from our bedroom window. For three days we peered into the gloom hoping to see the fearful mountain which has claimed the lives of more than sixty mountaineers, but we had to be content with views of the emerald glacier-fed rivers and lakes…
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…the gingerbread houses…
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…and the historic buildings that have survived, despite some ugly recent developments…
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Among the recent developments are numerous restaurants serving everything but Swiss food. There are Irish, Indian, Pakistani, Lebanese, English, Korean and Italian eateries, but most common are the Chinese restaurants. Even many of the original Swiss restaurants now offer Chinese buffets and Chinese fondues, (though we have no idea what that means as the Chinese are not known as consumers of cheese). However, the Swiss are known for being inventive – think watches and multi-bladed knives – so who can blame them for wanting to please the huge numbers of Chinese tourists with new found wealth who are flocking here to experience the high life. But the high life doesn’t come cheap in this part of the world. Most things in Switzerland are fairly expensive, (even for Canadians), where a couple of Starbucks’ Earl Grey teas cost us $15 and a five minute bus ride $9. But all is not lost: chocolate, cheese, wine, beer and bread are all much cheaper than at home, so we could happily live here – though we probably wouldn’t live very long.
Now is our last night in Interlaken and we are still peering – the damn mountain has to be out there somewhere. Meanwhile we will console ourselves by watching the snow falling outside and with another box of chocolates…
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Posted by Hawkson 13:13 Archived in Switzerland Comments (4)

Bern - Einstein War Hier

rain 12 °C

Albert Einstein and his family spent 7 years in this Bern apartment at the start of the twentieth century when he worked as a technical expert (third class) in the Swiss national patent office…
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The Einstein Haus looks out over the main street of old Bern – an elegant cobblestoned street of magnificent stone buildings…
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…complete with numerous ornate fountains and wide covered colonnades that have protected pedestrians from the harsh Swiss winters since the 17th. Century…
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However, it is the clocks of Bern that are most striking. This splendid city clock (the Zytglogge) in the middle of Bern’s main street has been keeping time for the citizens since it was completed in 1614…
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The Swiss are sticklers when it comes to timekeeping and there is no shortage of timepieces to keep them on track. Alongside the numerous chocolate shops and upmarket trinket emporiums that line Bern’s ancient streets there are stores just bursting with cuckoo clocks, Rolexes and every make of posh chronometer imaginable…
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There are clocks around every corner. The truly monstrous station clock can be seen for hundreds of metres and that’s important here because, just as in Japan, the trains and buses in Switzerland run like clockwork.
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Bern was named after the European brown bears which once roamed the surrounding mountains. The city is very small as far as capitals go so the surrounding countryside and mountains are never far away, but the Bernese have brought the countryside into the city with many parks and gardens alongside the meandering river and avenues of plane trees on almost every street.

Every Tuesday and Thursday the country comes to the city centre in the form of a market when many of the ancient streets and squares are filled with stalls offering all manner of local products. The numerous stalls offering autumn flowers were particularly attractive...
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Bern also has bears. However it is November; winter is almost here and the bears of Bern are sensibly hibernating. The alpine snows are coming for us too and we are anxious to see them so we are headed to the high alps; to Interlaken at the foot of the mighty Eiger. Hope to see you there - Meanwhile, to give you a true taste of Switzerland, please enjoy these delicious chocolates...
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Posted by Hawkson 01:37 Archived in Switzerland Comments (4)

A Letter from Europe

semi-overcast 13 °C

As Remembrance Day approaches World War One is on the minds of Britons and in memory of all the British and Empire servicemen who died in that conflict a hundred years ago nearly a million ceramic poppies are being ‘planted’ around The Tower of London…
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More poppies are added daily and there is a moving ceremony at dusk each day when the names of another 180 deceased are added to the roll call of the fallen. The poppies have all been sold to aid the servicemen’s charity and will be distributed after November 11th.

The sun was still shining in London when we left for the South of France and the Brits were basking in the hottest Halloween ever. The crowds were out and everyone was shocked to find that the ancient market hall at Covent Garden had somehow split in half …lengthwise…
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It may be November, but the daytime temperatures both in the U.K. and here on the Cote d’Azur would still rival a July day on our Canadian isle, and the Mediterranean sea still has memories of its glory days in August when it hit a tepid thirty. But, while the sun is still shining, the celebrities and mega-rich who own most of this paradise have long gone. The ritzy villas and posh restaurants are abandoned for the winter and the golden sands have been swept off the beaches with bulldozers and mounded out of the grasp of the expected storms. All is peace and quiet at present: the crewless mega-yachts bob gently in the harbours; the convertible Bentleys and Lamborghinis are carefully garaged; and the Lear jets and helicopters have all flown away. They will all return next summer but, in the meantime, we are getting in an early Polar Bear swim so we won’t need to bother when we get home. How could we resist when the sea looks like this…
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Of course, it’s not just the sun and sand that draws us. In truth we are visiting family members lucky enough to live here. But while we are here we are taking in historic sights like the beautifully preserved mountaintop town of Mougins – onetime home of Picasso …
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... the ancient harbours...
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...and the fabulous markets like the one in Antibes…
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We’ve taken you to the Provencal markets before but can’t resist showing you some of the fabulous goodies on offer today…
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Now, after a couple of weeks in the sun, we are headed to the mountains and have flown over the Alps to the Swiss capital, Bern. We were expecting Switzerland to be expensive but we’ve never previously been refused money from an ATM because the amount we requested was too small. Imagine our surprise when the ATM at Geneva airport dispensed a minimum of 1000 Swiss francs ($1200 Cdn) and we only wanted a couple of hundred.

Posted by Hawkson 00:40 Archived in Switzerland Comments (7)

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