Schaffhauser Fasnacht

This is a short post about a Carnival we went to, this year. It is called the Swiss Carnival or the Fasnacht. Over 200 carnivals take place throughout Switzerland in the week after Ash Wednesday, and most of the action is concentrated around the City Centers.

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The carnival is a fascinating mix of party atmosphere, vivid costumes, stirring tunes of drummers and piccolo players, and the weird but wonderful music played by brass bands.

Many visitors and locals simply enjoy the experience of wandering around the city’s lively streets, alleys, checking out bars and restaurants while soaking up the festivities around. We did the same. 🙂

It’s so much fun to participate in and absorb the local traditions and customs, isn’t it?

So what’s happening in your neck of the woods this weekend?

Take care and Have Fun!

Love,

Madhurya.

On a “Musical” Journey in Salzburg

The hills are alive with the sound of music…

Do you remember this song from the movie “The Sound of Music”?

It’s my absolute favorite!

Ever since I watched this movie (and re-watched it about a hundred times!) I made up my mind to visit the beautiful city of Salzburg, home of the Von Trapp family (based on whom the movie was made), before they fled from Austria during the Second World War. Salzburg is also the birthplace of the World famous Musician, Mozart.

The drive from our home to Salzburg took around 5 hours. Since it was Christmas time, we enjoyed beautiful vistas of snow-capped mountains throughout the journey. In Salzburg, we checked into hotel Motel one and took the public bus to Altstadt (Old Town) which is the city`s center. Public transport is pretty cheap here.

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From the moment we set foot on Salzburg, I fell deeply in love with it. Located on the banks of the river Salzach, the city is filled with effortless old world charm. Walking around the old town, we admired the beautiful Baroque architecture found in many churches, museums and residential buildings.

Salzburg Cathedral is the most significant religious building in the city. This cathedral was built in honor of Saint Rupert and Saint Vergilius. Over the years, it underwent extensive damage, especially due to fire, but it has been reconstructed and enlarged ever since.

Towering over the city atop the Festungsberg hill and approaching 1,000 years of age is the “Fortress Hohensalzburg”. A visit to this fortress is a must when one is in Salzburg.

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It can be reached after a strenuous 15-minute climb from the centre, or a quick ride up via the funicular railway! The fortress consists of various wings and courtyards. Some of the highlights inside the fortress include the Golden Chamber, which is richly decorated with gold-studded ceilings and walls, the Salzburg bull organ, Bedchamber, Torture room and the watchtower. The views from the watchtower are spectacular, giving us a commanding view of Salzburg and it’s surrounding mountains, villages, and foothills.

The next day, we took  The Sound of Music tour. It is a bus tour taking us to the sites where the movie was shot. Our tour guide was really cool, telling us anecdotes about the movie, the story of the real Von Trapp Family and some interesting facts about Salzburg. Apparently the movie makers made a lot of changes to the story.

We visited many places like…

Palace of Leopoldskron – The part of the movie where the kids fall from the boat into the lake after the song “Do re mi”, was filmed here with the palace used as the back of the house.

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Nonnberg Abbey – This was where Maria was a nun in the movie as well as in real life, but it was also where the real wedding  between Maria and the Baron was held in 1927.

The Gazebo Rolf and Liesl sang ‘Sixteen Going On Seventeen’ under this Gazebo.

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St Gilden/Lake Wolfgang – This spectacular vista is seen in the opening credits of the movie. Also, on one of the mountains, the starting part of the song “do re mi” from the movie was shot. St. Gilden is a picturesque village by the Lake Wolfgang where Mozart`s mother was born.

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Church of Mondsee  Located in a small town called Mondsee on the shore of lake Mondsee, this is one of the famous churches in Salzburg. This was where the wedding of Maria and the Baron was shot in the movie. The Wedding was shown as a grand affair in the movie  while in reality it was a very simple occasion.

Mirabell Gardens – Finally the tour ended at this garden where the ‘Do-Re-Mi’ song was shot with Maria and the children.

While most of the scenes picturized indoors were shot in Hollywood studios, we got to see the places where the outdoor scenes were shot. We also passed the house which was used as the facade of the Von Trapp family home and the mountain Untersberg where in the beginning of the movie, Maria sings “the hills come alive..”

In the end the Von Trapp family are shown to escape over the Alps to freedom in Switzerland (while in reality they took a train to Italy). The best part of the tour was listening to the songs from the movie and singing along with “Maria” as our guide played them on the bus. I highly recommend taking this tour if you are a big fan of the movie just like I am!

Located in the old town is a small Christmas market, known in German as Christkindlmarkt. We spent some time after the tour window-shopping there before dining at one of the restaurants.

We ended the evening by having the famous Sacher torte, a Chocolate delicacy specialized in Austria, and a slice of  Apple pie, at the Hotel Sacher Salzburg, where you get the original Sacher torte .

(Another Sound of Music fact- Julie Andrews, the actress who played “Maria” stayed at this luxury hotel during the shoot for the movie).

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Finally, on the last day before we began our journey back home, we stopped over at Hallein salt mine. Salt is one of the most important natural resources in Austria. Salz in Salzburg means “Salt”. Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau transformed this treasure of the mountain into hard cash and had Salzburg developed into a magnificent Baroque city. This is one of the oldest mines in the world. The tour around the mine can be accomplished using mine trains, mine slides and a bit of walking.

I’m so glad we took this trip. I look forward to visiting this place again, maybe in Summer?

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Love,

Madhurya.

 

A Day trip to Chikmagalur

One of the best trips we took last year was a One-day trip to Chikmagalur. Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law who made this outing possible for me and Mike.

Chikmagalur is a town located in the Indian state of Karnataka. My sister-in-law is well-acquainted with the place as she worked there for a few years; So SHE became our special tour-guide for the day.

We began our journey early in the morning at about 5.30am. With a distance of 150 km from Panemangalur (where we were staying), it took us around 2 and a half hours to reach the town. It was one beautiful ride! India is at its prettiest, very early in the morning, when there is less traffic. Driving through the majestic Western Ghats during Sunrise was absolutely breathtaking!

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Western Ghats

We were quite starving by the time we reached our destination, so we made our way to the Town Canteen. Trust me, we ate one of the best Dosas we’ve ever eaten in our lives (Mike was eager for more!)

After our breakfast, we drove to Mullayanagiri. Located 15 km from Chikmaglur, Mullayanagiri is the highest peak in Karnataka. Standing tall at 6330 ft, it is also one of the highest peaks between the Himalayas and the Nilgiris. After parking the car at the foothills of Mullayanagiri, we began our trek up the hill. Enjoying the panoramic view of the Western Ghats and the beautiful Coffee estates of Chikmaglur, we climbed up further. Talking, regaling one another with our stories, singing and falling (just me!), we trudged on for another hour!

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View from Mullayanagiri hill

We took breaks in between for fruits and biscuits (Again thanks to my sister-in-law, who’d packed every essential needed for this trip!).

After climbing the steep hill, we came across a muddy road used for vehicles, which was closed for construction purpose (Mullayanagiri can be reached through road as well). Another hour and a half’s trek took us to the foot of a temple. A 600 steps later, we finally reached the Shiva temple, which is at the highest point of Karnataka. (Lord Shiva is called Mullaya around here, and that’s how the hills got the name Mullayanagiri). The views atop were awe-inspiring!!

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Steps to Mullaya Temple

A couple of hours later we were back where we began.

And then we drove from there to Manikyadhara, where there is a beautiful Waterfalls (As we were too tired by then, we did not walk down to the falls). The view of Bababudangiri hills from there was Impressive!

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After resting at Manikyadhara, we visited the Bababudangiri shrine, named after the Sufi saint Baba Budan, who was and is still revered by both Muslims and Hindus.

Then we drove to Belur. Located in Hassan district, Belur is one of the major tourist attractions in Karnataka. The beautiful temple sites of Belur and Halebidu, at the heart of the Hoysala Empire, form the richest sources of Hindu art and sculpture in the country. I was too young to appreciate this amazing wealth of art when I came here the first time, so I’m happy I got another opportunity to visit this place. The geometry and design of the Hoysala Temple architecture and the beautiful carvings left me dazed!

Sadly, we were already short of time and had to head back home, so we skipped visiting the temple of Halebidu.

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But I must say I had one of the most wonderful experiences in India and I’m proud to come from a country so rich in Heritage and Beauty!

Love,

Madhurya

Granny Crochet Table Cover

Mixing different colors of yarn has always been my style of crocheting. To me, Crochet is all about colors and that too vibrant Spring kind of colors, which really brighten up any room for any occasion.

For my next crochet project, I decided to make a Granny Crochet Table Cover.  I thought of using up some of the yarn I’d purchased at one of the shops in Salzburg (Oh! A review of our visit to Salzburg is due, next week maybe?). “Bravo Originals” is the name of the brand and they cost me just Eur 1.00 per 50 g! I bought balls of yarn in pink, blue (light and dark), green, red and yellow colors.

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 I used a crochet needle of size 3.5mm for this project and followed this pattern.

It took me almost a month to finish this project! (You really don`t need that much time, but I had some lazy days in between!)

Once I completed the squares, I placed them in the order I wanted before joining them. I hand-stitched the squares together.

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I felt too lazy to give it a border as shown in the website. And my sister suggested making pom poms all around the edges. Now what in the world is a Pom Pom in crocheting?? I have no idea!

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So I decided to keep it as it is for now. I LOVE it! I hope you do too… 🙂

Love,

Madhurya.

A visit to Allmend, Frauenfeld

When Mike suggested we go for a walk on a warm lazy Sunday afternoon, I gave into the idea, but not without a tough fight, as I had to pull myself away from the book I was reading.

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But as we neared Allmend, I had to admit I felt glad to be out and about.

We drove from Dachsen to Diessenhofen, before stopping at Allmend. Located in the region of Frauenfeld (in the canton Thurgau), Allmend is a Natural Habitat for a wide variety of flora and fauna.

Hedges interlink different habitats like dry meadows and forests while the river Thur (which gives the name to the Canton, Thurgau) cuts through the landscape.

Different species of birds, amphibians and reptiles make this region their home. Apparently this area is full of Beavers. Though we couldn’t spot any, their presence was evident in many trees, which were gnawed upon so much that they were ready to come crashing down!  Some of them already had fallen, creating dams.

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According to some reports on the Allmend, between 1999 and 2005, more than 800 arenas (the size of 15 football fields) were restored. Some of the barren meadows were sown with native flowering plants, and the rest were planted with different species. However, sadly, due to the recent climatic changes, there has been a strong decline in the flora and fauna. But the Canton is doing its best to protect them.

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We walked around for an hour or so. There weren’t many visitors that day. I wonder whether they allow folks to have picnics or barbecues in the premises. It was very surprising to see the area so clean and well-maintained, even though there were no supervisors around.

Allmend is a fun spot where the whole family can have a great time walking, playing and exploring, while kids can learn a lot about nature. I highly recommend going there to enjoy and appreciate the tranquility and to soak up the beauty around….

Love,

Madhurya

A Baby Shower for my Sister-in-law

Last weekend I held a Baby shower for my sister-in-law at our home.  It is not a typical Swiss tradition, but I thought why not? I’d felt bad that I could not  do it when she was having her first child, so this time I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity.

We decided to make it a surprise party for her. So instead of telling her that she was going to have a baby shower, we simply asked her and my brother-in-law to join us for dinner!!

I’d planned to have a girls-only party, but since I knew very few of her friends, I decided to have a “Family only” gathering.

So after deciding on the date, I researched some online websites where I could buy the party materials to decorate our home. After a lot of searching, I found this , this and this.

I bought a pretty tableware, a banner, honeycomb balls, balloons, paper plates, cups and napkins and a few gifts. Mike and I had so much fun decorating our home.

We made Cheesy garlic bread for appetizer and for main course yummy enchiladas. For dessert we ordered a customized cake from this bakery (Trust me it was really yum!!).

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The best part of the evening was their reaction to the arrangements as they entered our home. It was a real treat to watch their surprised faces, full of smiles! Well, it was all worth the effort we put in! My Sister-in-law found it hard to believe that we’d worked so hard to make her feel special!

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I loved hosting this special day for my sister-in-law and  can’t wait for the arrival of this sweet baby into our family!

Cheers,

Madhurya.

Grilled Eggplant Rolls

 

I had 3 large eggplants in my refrigerator (???) and I was not in a mood to cook a South- Indian eggplant curry. So I googled a nice recipe for a spicy eggplant dish.

Thanks to pinterest, I found many options, but I chose to make this.

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The recipe was quite simple; however I made a few modifications.

  • First of all, I am not an adept culinary artist, so my eggplant slices were thicker than expected.

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  • In the sauce, instead of fresh parsley I used dried ones as I did not have fresh ones at home, but it tasted amazing nevertheless

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  • For the filling, instead of spinach (which I did not have at home, of course. Now don’t you dare laugh wondering why I bought 3 large eggplants, of all the veggies! I have no clue myself!). I used other veggies like peppers, carrots. You can toss in any veggie of your choice. I mixed some cumin powder and chili powder to add some spice to the dish.

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  • Instead of rolling the eggplants, I placed one layer of eggplant slices at the bottom of the tray (as the slices were a bit thicker, it was difficult to roll them), next, a layer of veggie filling. I grated some parmesan cheese over it and again placed the rest of the eggplant slices on top, then spread the sauce all over and finished it off with another sprinkle of the cheese.

And guess what, it tasted really yum! Pictures don’t do much justice though!

Do try to make it at home and let me know if you liked it.

Love,

Madhurya.