Switzerland

a swiss folklore experience in lucerne

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“Off-the-beaten-track” is a commonly used phrase when it comes to travel writing. While, “tourist trap” places are often shunned by travellers because it is gimmicky, tacky, overrated and usually overpriced. Then comes the debate about tourist VS travellers etc etc etc.

But this post isn’t going to be one of them, we won’t be going into any persuasive writing piece about what is right or wrong. We just want to share our experiences at what some might call a “tourist trap” while others might call a fun experience. (We are the latter, in case you were wondering).

There we were in Lucerne, and the weather turned UGLY. The winds were blowing, the grey clouds were looming and the raindrops were appearing. And our stomachs were growling because it was lunchtime.

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Scurrying through the streets in not enough layers with temperatures in the low teens. We desperately wanted to find somewhere to eat. Like a sign sent from… somewhere, we turn the corner and feast our eyes on Stadtkellar; a traditional Swiss restaurant with a four-course meal and a cultural show about to start. See? It was meant to be!

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As we walk in, we were the only patrons under the age of 40 and we were the only two that were not there as part of a tour group – we were entering willingly 😉

Our first course was a Swiss cheese fondue followed by a garden salad. Our main was the choice between strips of veal in mushroom sauce or a homemade sausage, both came with a side of rosti. To wind up the feast, we were served a neringue with applesauce and strawberry ice cream.

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The food was delicious, might we add. Especially the fondue…. we usually try to avoid eating too much bread, but in this instance… the basket was emptied VERY quickly!

While we satisfied our bellies with some traditional Swiss food, we were entertained with folk music, yodelling, alphorn blowing, flag throwing and cowbells. All of these performed  by an ensemble of 6.IMG_4012IMG_4020Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 7.52.43 pm

Much to our amazement, one of the performers was particularly talented – he was able to make music from slapping the backs of two wooden spoons together which we’ve seen before. What had us in awe was how he produced music from what looked like a double-handled tree saw …

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 7.53.41 pmAnd percussion music with a wooden broomstick.

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Of course, we couldn’t forget the random cow that was released into the audience towards the end. We are still scratching our heads over the purpose of this….

IMG_4040It was a fabulous way for us to hide from the rain and the cold winds for a couple of hours so we weren’t complaining.

Are you an “off-the-beaten-track” type of person? Or would you give restaurants like these a go?

Feel free to leave us a comment.

 

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what would you order from our three-course taste of travel menu?

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We were nominated/tagged by two fellow blogger pals, A New Life Wandering and Mrs Ayla’s Adventures for #atasteoftravel blogger competition. Although we are not eligible to win the prize and we are not entering this post into the competition, we thought it would still be fun to get involved in creating a three-course menu from the foods we have tried on our travels.

But we are choosing to put a “spin” on the menu – instead of one entree, main or dessert, we have decided to make it like a set menu: a choice of one of:

  • three entrees
  • three mains
  • three desserts

Simply because we could decide on JUST one for each 🙂 – Apologies in advance that there are no vegetarian options.

So here goes the Wise Monkeys Abroad 3-course Travel Menu.

ENTREE

OPTION 1:

White Rose Dumplings from Hoi An, Vietnam

A steamed dumpling filled with shrimp bunched to look like a rose.

It is served with toasted garlic and sweet dipping sauce.

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OPTION 2:

Sashimi Platter from Hakone, Japan 

A selection of uncooked seafood includes tuna, prawn, squid, octopus, yellow tail .

Served with wasabi and shaved radish.

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OPTION 3:

Cheese Fondue from Lucerne, Switzerland

An infusion of gruyère and emmental cheese in dry white whine.

Served in a casserole on top of a spirit lamp and a basket of bread.

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MAIN:

OPTION 1:

Beef Stroganoff from St Petersburg, Russia

Sauteed beef in a mushroom, sour cream based sauce.

Served with a side of mash potatoes.

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OPTION 2:

Seafood Paella from Leon, Spain

Aromatic rice cooked with seafood, chicken and vegetables over an open fire.

Served in the pan it is cooked in.

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OPTION 3:

Pork Knuckle from Riga, Latvia 

Slow-cooked pork knuckle.

Served with beans, fresh tomato salad and potato wedges.

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DESSERT:

OPTION 1:

Chocolate Soup from Edinburgh, Scotland

A hot chocolate served in a bowl, topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

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OPTION 2:

Creme Brûlée from Carcassonne, France

Vanilla custard based layered underneath a hard caramel top.

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OPTION 3:

Pistachio Baklava from Istanbul, Turkey

Chopped pistachios wrapped in filo pastry and held together with a sweet syrup.

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What are you ordering?

Let us know in the comments.

watchmaking town planning: one of the unesco heritage sites in switzerland

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Switzerland is famous for a few things; cheese, chocolate and watches! Let’s just say, we are no experts on cheese or chocolate but we certainly know how to enjoy and appreciate them. What we don’t know too much about: watch-making.

IMG_4199While we were in Switzerland, we visited two neighbouring towns that are key to the Swiss watch-making industry.

La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle exist because of watches and they owe it probably to some clever town planning from the 19th Century.

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Up in the Espacite Tower (which the locals deem an eye-sore – it is rather out of place), we get an almost 360-degree view over the Old Town of La Chaux-de-Fonds and what we see resembles almost a life-sized Lego town (or a row of houses on a Monopoly board). This is how architects turned the art of watch-making into an industry.

The buildings are neatly lined up in parallel rows in a grid formation with wide streets between each row. If you look carefully, there are unusually a lot of windows on the sides of the buildings, spaced quite closely together.

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And what was the purpose for this design?

To allow maximum natural light to flood through the windows, especially into the top floors of the buildings so watch-makers could work with the tiny mechanics of watches. Light is of the essence here!

Each building would have watch-makers who specialise in a particular component of the watch and when the part was assembled, there would be young runners that would take that part to the next appropriate building for the subsequent part to be assembled/added. This process continued until the watch was complete.

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And why the wider streets?

During winter, being 1000 metres up in the Jura mountains, it snowed a lot. To ensure the continuity of watch manufacturing, historically, the streets needed to be manually shovelled so that the runners could continue to access all the buildings.

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After exploring the town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, we had the time (no pun intended) to visit Le Locle Watchmaking Museum, which is in Chateau des Monts. The museum has on display an extraordinary collection of clocks, mechanics and exhibits of the art and science of time, in particular, time-keeping!

The collection was so extensive, we were just in awe. To see all the different devices from around the world through history that essentially do what our wristwatches do every second, every minute of every day. We surprised ourselves with how fascinated we found time-keeping, we even wanted to buy a grandfather clock for our apartment 🙂 .

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After this unique visit to the two towns, we certainly will be looking at clocks and watches in a different light. This is one of the reasons we love travelling so much, it is these types of places that we get to visit that enlightens us, resulting in us having a greater appreciation for the little things in life we sometimes take for granted.

La Chaux-de-Fonds/Le Locle, watchmaking town

planning was listed as a

UNESCO Heritage site in 2009.

To see the other UNESCO sites we have visited,

visit our unofficial bucket list

Your comments are always welcomed.

our second month in review

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It is just over 2 months since we flew out of Sydney for Europe. It only felt like a few days ago that we wrote our first month in review but here we are sharing our second month already. We are over halfway into this trip now and will be home before we know it.

After our last month’s post, we moved onto Carcassonne and Lyon before saying good-bye to France and hello to Switzerland.

Carcassonne has to be added as another one of our memorable experiences in France. Maybe it was climbing the 242 steps for a rooftop view of the citadel on an extremely warm day that made it memorable. Lyon was a little bit of a surprise package in itself with plenty to keep us busy (more posts to come about that).

IMG_3026We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Switzerland and were very thrilled to be able to visit most of their UNESCO Heritage Sites. The scenery is just breathtaking and every day we seemed to be blown away by something different. There were many highlights in Switzerland (posts still to come) but the one that jumps straight to mind is the Bernina Express from St Moritz to Tirano. We had amazing weather so were graced with the most gorgeous views!

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And on the flip side, our biggest disappointment was without a doubt, another unsuccessful trip to Jungfraujoch – at least we got onto the train this time 🙂

Then it was a quick stop into Luxembourg which is very quaint country. We didn’t see much except the old town but it looks like there are plenty of interesting hikes and things to explore outside the city.

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From there it was back to France for a bit of Paris again, where we got to visit the Louvre and Notre-Dame this time. Back in 2006, we didn’t visit either. Despite the queues, we enjoyed wondering through the Louvre and getting lost – that place is a maze!

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After the very brief stop in Paris, we went south to Bayonne before winding up in St Jean Pied de Port. There we started our epic 800 km walk of the Camino.

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Day 1 – 3 was so unbelievably exhausting. That first day, climbing for almost 27 km to 1400+ metres asl over the Pyrenees into Spain, our bodies had never hurt in that way before! At dinner, we couldn’t even move our arms to feed ourselves. That was an adventure in itself! Our bodies felt so battered and bruised but we soldiered on.

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We had a break day in Pamplona and although we didn’t get to run with any bulls, we did get to experience another fiesta (The Privilege of the Union) they had.

IMG_4969The atmosphere of rural Spain is contagious. We love how there are siestas in the afternoon and then the evenings is in a league of their own! The streets are deserted during the day and as soon as 6pm hits, hundreds of people pour onto the street. Where have they been hiding all day?

We are finally getting into the swing and rhythm of walking everyday. We have walked about 160 km so far and we have enjoyed every minute. Despite the aches and pains and searing heat, it has been rewarding and uplifting to meet other pilgrims. The feeling of seeing our “rest” town in the distance at the end of every day is like seeing a source of water in the dessert! So near, yet so far! So excited, yet such a tease! Imagine walking up a hill, mountain, slope, incline only to peak over the crest to see the town… HOORAY! Except, you still need to walk there. How many times have we wished for a zip-line at that point?

Oh but the satisfaction of accomplishing outweighs the day’s walk 1000 times over. The scenery and sunrise helps as well! Remember, if you want to read our Camino day by day reflections, just duck on over to our Camino Diaries or onto our Facebook page.

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Have a great week ahead, folks!

We welcome your comments here