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Journeys : Feb March 2012
In Basel, our guide on a walking tour of the lovely city introduces us to the Swiss sense of humour. “I will tell you a Swiss chock,” he says. “Japanese tourists say that people in Sw itzerland smell like chiz!” I wait for the punchline, but that’s it. The city is beautiful, with its fine churches, civ ic buildings, ancient bridges and high walls overlooking the Rhine. It’s also the home town of Roger Federer. “I used to see him often at the post office, and he is a very nice man,” our guide, who’s not joking this time, tells us. In Lucerne, I’m sitting at a riverside café, a warm blanket over my knees, bag of chestnuts and mug of mulled wine to hand. From the narrow streets of the old town comes the distant clang of deep-toned bells and the sharp crack of whips. I finish my wine and join the crowd walking towards the bridge. The sound grows in volume, more of a crash than a jangle. Soon they appear – double lines of solemn-faced marching men, cigars jutting from bearded lips, waistcoats embroidered with meadow flowers, huge cow bells slung at knee-level from broad leather belts, clashing in time to every measured step. With devil masks and rattling chains, black-costumed whip-crackers follow the marchers, sw inging their lashes close to the noses of spectators on either side of the bridge. From Lucerne, a cable car swoops in a series of graceful arcs up to the heights of Mt Pilatus – there are sensational views down to the city and its lake. Paragliders hang in the sky, their slender canopies cur ved like colourful aerial maggots. From the village of Engelberg, the thrilling Rotair cable car revolves through 360 degrees as it climbs towards the peak of Mt Titlis. Here at the highest viewpoint in the Swiss Alps, some of my travelling companions experience their first ride on an open chair lift. As the snow drops away beneath us and the chair swings into space, their shrieks attract the interest of skiers on the slopes below. Vienna’s imperial palaces, art galleries and museums are simply over whelming – I’m not the only visitor in the Belvedere Palace to stand mute in front of Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece The Kiss, a shimmer of sumptuous gold leaf and glowing oils in silver, black and a bright garden of f loral colours. In the evening, a wander past tinkling carousels in the Christmas markets at the magnificent Schönbrunn Palace is a good prelude to an evening of music in the Orangerie concert hall – Strauss and Mozart, who else? Stuttgart in Germany is the site of the remarkable Mercedes-Benz Museum (pictured on the cover), which tells the stor y of what is arguably the world’s best-know n and most prestigious marque. The exhibition begins on the top f loor, with displays of the wonderful machines designed and built in the early 1880s by Karl Benz, inventor of the modern motor car. From there, my route through the world of Mercedes-Benz spirals down via ramps and steps, descending through the decades towards the present-day and into the future in a series of spectacular displays and beautifully-presented explanatory information. Holidays on Location and Rail Plus are specialists in travel w ithin Switzerland, Austria and Germany. Your RACT Travelworld consultant works with Holidays on Location and R ail Plus to plan a personalised itinerar y for you, taking care of all bookings and reservations – air travel, rail passes, accommodation, tours and activities. Everything is provided in a detailed and comprehensive travel wallet containing all the documentation you need. RACT Travelworld can advise and assist with all your planning of a Holidays on Location and Rail Plus European journey – call 1300 368 111 or visit your local branch. In Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the medieval village is decked out for the Advent season, with the Christmas markets doing a brisk trade. There’s time for one more hot bratw ürst and steaming mug of glühwein before f lying back to an Australian summer. But the last day of the journey wouldn’t be complete w ithout another laconic quip from north of the NSW border. Crossing a cobbled square in Rothenburg, I catch my toe on a protruding stone and stumble. “Had a good trip?” Veronica asks. Left: The N orth Face of the Eiger, Swiss Alpine scene. This p ag e clockwise from top left: Mittlere Bridge,Basel; Holidays on Loc ation grou p in Salzbu rg (Veronica second from left); The Kiss, Gu stav Klimt; Chapel Bridge, Luc erne Destinations February / March 2012 15
Apr May 2012