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

The Elephant Safari, Corbett National Park

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The Elephant Safari at Corbett National Park is one of the most happiest, most blessed times of my life! It happened last October when we visited the park and its neighboring beauties- Binsar and Nainital. I’m sorry to say I don’t remember the details of the trip; Anybody who knows me, knows all about my poor memory! But thanks to the journal I kept during the trip, fragments of that journey are still recorded for me to look back on, and for you to, hopefully, savor. Here’s what I wrote in my journal-

It (The Elephant Safari) felt so earthly, so primal; I felt as if I was one with nature. An Elephant Safari is much better than a Jeep Safari. With every footstep of the Elephant, every brush of a tree branch, every poke of a thorny shrub, every breath of fresh air inhaled. every grunt of the swaying elephant, I felt more and more connected with Mother Earth. I couldn’t stop looking at Laadli, the Elephant behind us. She looked so lovely and divine, I fell utterly in love with her. We were seated upon Kalina. They both sucked the juice out of sugarcane sticks as they trudged on. And they kept pooping too… Heaps of it. Some floated right across the river we crossed. Ah! Crossing the River! It was an adventure in itself! You should see how an elephant steps on a boulder, ensures she has a firm grip on it, and then moves on. She is onerously careful as she crosses the river. You find yourself rooting for her as she does that!

We went all over Seethavan. We spotted some birds stirring up in the early morning Sun. We heard Distress calls by a Sambar too, which meant a Tiger must have been nearby. And we felt the presence of a male Elephant, as Kalina became too excited and kept veering off to where she wasn’t supposed to go! “Thwack!”, went the Mahout’s stick upon Kalina’s spiky head. Whenever that happened, Medha felt so bad for her. She was almost in tears. She wasn’t enjoying the ride as much. And when we asked the mahout why he punished her so, he explained how an Elephant needed to be brought back on track with a bit of spanking, just the way a kid needed a bit of discipline now and then, and it didn’t mean that he loved her any less! And believe me, I felt his love for the mammoth. He kept telling the other mahout that they needed to come back to clear the web of tangled branches to make it easier for the Elephants to pass.

Medha kept mumbling about how she felt the Elephants looked like Lord Ganesha himself and as soon as we got down, she simply bowed in front of them. And I too couldn’t hold back. I hugged and kissed Kalina and Laadli both!”

For all those of you who need more information, other than just the ramblings of a romantic fool, here are some details I found in the mail the proprietors of the Safari sent us (We booked the Safari days (months?) in advance)-

1. Only Sitavan (Sitabani) Zone is available for the Elephant Safari.

2. Morning – 8:00 am to 10:00 am (We had it changed to 6-8 am as we had to head towards Nainital the same day.
Plus, we love to explore the jungle early in the morning)

3. Boarding place – Dhikuli Village at 7:45 am 
4. 2 Elephants for 8 Pax. We were 8 passengers, including 4 kids.


Terms & conditions for Safari advance booking

 (Subject to availability & approval from forest department and weather conditions)

 1. Safari permits are booked in 100% advance payment basis.

 2. To book the safari will require name, age, gender of All the passengers, Photo ID and details Issued by GOVT. 

 3.As per jungle safari regulations, once confirmed and booked, the booking amount of Elephant Safari is Non-refundable and non transferable. 

 4. Maximum four persons are allowed to sit on an Elephant.

 5.In case of any natural calamity ( rain, flood etc) there will be no refund.

  6. Timing Might change because of Weather Condition & Season.

  7. When You Reach ( Corbett City Ramnagar / Resort / Hotel ) Inform Us.

 8. Cost of Elephant Safari – Rs. 3500 per Elephant for 1 to 4 Indians Inclusive of Elephant Fee And all taxes. (2 Elephants x Rs. 3500 =Rs. 7000 for 8 Pax.)

Love,

Manasa

Chaplin’s World, Vevey

I don’t know if it was the love for his movies or the charisma he brought into the film industry or just the sheer romance for the classics (which I inherited from my dad), that when I read the news that a Charlie Chaplin Museum, “Chaplin`s World” had opened in Vevey, in the French part of Switzerland, I decided to go.

After Charlie Chaplin presented his film, “Limelight”, on a European tour, he was denied re-entry into the US because of McCarthyism. And so, he decided to settle down in Vevey, along with his fourth and last wife Oona O’Neill Chaplin and their children. The family stayed in the Manoir du Ban in Corsier. It was in this mansion, built in the neoclassical style and set in a vast park that Chaplin spent the last 25 years of his life. He died there at the age of 88 in 1977. It has now been converted into a museum.

It took us almost 2 and a half hours to reach Vevey from Winterthur by train. From the train station there is a bus which takes you directly to the Chaplin Museum.
The entrance to the Museum costs – 24CHF for adults (from 16 years) and 18CHF for children (from 6 to 15 years).

The mansion and the 14-hectare park with unobstructed views of the Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) provide insight into the everyday life of the Chaplins. An exhibition hall has been built nearby as a mock-up of a Hollywood studio focusing on Chaplin’s movie work. Apparently this museum took around 15 years of planning before it came into life.

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As you enter the mansion, a wax figure of Chaplin warmly welcomes you inside. A Family tree of the Chaplins and their lives are depicted on the walls. Visitors can walk throughout the huge mansion into the living room, dining room and library, where Chaplin used to write his autobiography and prepare scripts.

Chaplin’s World features (both inside the mansion and the studio) around 30 wax figures created by the Grevin wax museum in Paris. These include lifelike models of Chaplin, his wife Oona, actors and actresses from his films, and friends like Albert Einstein, as well as artists inspired by his work such as Michael Jackson, Woody Allen and Federico Fellini.

Out of all the rooms, I loved best the library (Ofcourse!). Big wooden shelves carried immense number of books. I could imagine myself sitting by the window with a beautiful view outside and enjoying a nice cup of coffee while reading. A second room next to the library was decorated with clippings about Chaplin`s achievements and stories from newspapers. It just seemed like the design of every room was thought through carefully and each furniture setting and the decorative item was handpicked with care. After walking around the mansion, we took a stroll into the beautiful garden soaking as much sun as we could.

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Inside the studio, we were shown a short movie about Charlie Chaplin and glimpses of scenes from his best movies. By the end of this film, the screen opened itself for us to walk through. Walking through the 16-metre-high studio, fans can learn about Chaplin’s early humble beginnings in London and his meteoric rise to become one of the biggest names in the film industry at the age of 26. With the recreated sets and embedded film screens inside the studio, visitors can experience what it was like to stroll down “Easy Street” or be in a cabin teetering on the edge of a cliff, like in Gold Rush, or sit on the barber’s chair from “The Great Dictator” or view the restaurant where he dined in “The Immigrant”.

In a narrow room resembling a Swiss bank vault, some of the iconic objects associated with Chaplin’s work are on display, including his bowler hat and cane of his Little Tramp character, the certificate signed by Queen Elizabeth II when Chaplin was knighted in 1975 and his awards.

I think this has been one of the best experiences I have had so far in Switzerland. I was so in awe the first time that I decided to bring my parents along when they visited. And guess what, they too had a great time!

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Love,

Madhurya.

Reichenbach Falls

Being one of the biggest fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle`s fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, paying a visit to the Reichenbach Falls, was on my travel list for a long time! So when Mike took me, my parents and my mother-in-law there as a surprise on my birthday, my happiness was boundless!!

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Reichenbach falls are a series of waterfalls in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland.

Now you may wonder what is so special about this place and how it is connected to Sherlock Holmes? This is the location where Sherlock Holmes fights with his arch nemesis, Professor Moriarty at the end of “The Final Problem”, first published in 1893. By the end of the story, Holmes and Moriarty both fall to their deaths down the gorge while locked in mortal combat.

On his vacation in Switzerland, Sir Doyle visited many waterfalls in the region. Apparently Reichenbach falls made the greatest impression on him, that he decided to let his hero die there.

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(Conan Doyle meant to stop writing about his famous detective after this short story; but the pressure from fans eventually persuaded him to bring Holmes back in his next stories).

Taking a train is not the best option if you are planning to go on a day trip, as it takes at least 4 hours to get there, and you might need to change 3 trains in between. It is better to drive as it takes fewer hours to reach.

From the parking lot, the falls are made accessible by the Reichenbach fall funicular.

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At the station on the top, there is a viewing platform. The actual ledge from which Moriarty fell is on the other side of the falls from the funicular, but we decided not to walk that far.

From where we stood, we could see the narrow column of water making its plunge from high above. It wasn’t the “dreadful cauldron of swirling water and seething foam”, as the author describes the “final” moments of his protagonist, but the height of the column and imagining the scene where Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty fall to their “deaths locked in each other’s arms”, sent a chill down my spine!

(The falls are open only part of the year, May through October. The funicular runs from 9:00 until 18:00. Adult return ticket costs CHF 10 and a one-way ticket is CHF 7. For children ages 6-16, a return ticket costs CHF 8 and a one-way ticket costs CHF 6.)

On our return journey from the hike and the funicular ride, we drove to the small town of Meiringen, to have our lunch at a nice Pizzeria (Thanks to my mom-in-law for this treat!).

After lunch, we walked around the town. We spotted the Sherlock Holmes museum, located at the basement of the Anglican Church near the train station. It is dedicated to Holmes. Though we did not go inside the Museum, we enjoyed the walk around it, which has a life-size statue of the detective.

For anyone visiting Meiringen, the Aare gorge (known locally as the Aareschlucht) is not to be missed. The Haslital, one of the large valleys in the central alps, stretches from the Grimsel Pass to the Lake of Brienz. The flat valley floor of the lower Haslital is separated from the upper valley by a transverse rock formation. Over thousands of years, the Aare River eroded a path through this rock formation resulting in a gorge which is 1400 metres long and up to 200 metres deep.

Since 1889 the gorge has been open to the public and nowadays a fully accessible walkway runs along the bottom of the cliff wall. It is a one of a kind experience to walk through this gorge.

(Entry ticket for an adult costs CHF 8 and for children between 6-16 costs CHF 5. (Children below 6 years can enter freely)).

I must say this was one of my best birthdays ever. I got to spend time with my family and finally got the chance to pay my tribute to the great legends of all time. Thanks Mike!

Cheers,

Madhurya.

 

Lindau

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It was a beautiful sunny weekend; We decided to drive to Lindau on our motorboat. Lindau is a major town and an island on the eastern side of Lake Constance, bordered by Austria and Switzerland.

We reached Lindau at noon. We decided not to dock the boat at the main harbor (which is usually occupied by the bigger boats) and instead chose the side harbor to moor. (Docking costs around €11 per night, which also includes WC/ Bath).

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After a couple of sandwiches and a salad at the local diner, we wandered around the harbor, enjoying the picturesque views of the mountains, lake, magnificent ships and boats on one side and restaurants and shops bustling with people on the other.

The entrance to the harbor is very popular and beautiful. It is guarded by a majestic statue of a Bavarian Lion (Bayerische Löwe) and the new lighthouse (Neue Leuchtturm).The six-meter high, statue of the lion (completed in 1856) overlooking the lake is the work of a Munich Professor, Johann Halbig. It is made of sandstone and weighs about 50 tons.

the-entrance

The new lighthouse is 36 meters high and measures a base circumference of 24 meters. It is one of the few buildings of its kind that has a clock on the facade.

You can enjoy the views from the lighthouse’s observation deck at the top after climbing about 139 steps. The inner walls of the tower are decorated with amusing anecdotes and detailed information about Lindau and Lake Constance. The lighthouse is open to public depending on the weather and demand. (Admission costs € 2.10 for adults, € 0.80 for children).

I highly recommend approaching Lindau using Water transport, even if it means taking a short ferry trip for this purpose! The vistas, I’m sure, will take your breath away.

The beautiful streets of Lindau invite even the least athletic visitor to explore on foot. Lindau’s market square is lined by a series of sturdy and attractive old buildings. You’ll see many shops housed in buildings built in the 15th and 16th century.

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The Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus) is one of the most beautiful buildings in Lindau. This historic building took around 14 years to build and was completed in 1436. It is in Gothic style and is covered in murals on the façade. One of them depicts the time Emperor Maximilian I, held a deliberation here in 1496.

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The city library (Ehemals Reichsstädtische Bibliothek, ERB) is truly magnificent. It stores around 13,000 books that hold within its thick, leather book covers, adventurous travel stories, philosophical observations, detailed analysis of ailments and other stories of bygone generations. I was totally in awe of this library. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take any pictures inside.

The island of Lindau is connected to the mainland via a small bridge accessible to cars, bikes and pedestrians. There is also a train which travels from the mainland to the island. We strolled to the mainland while enjoying the surroundings and ended the evening on our boat, relishing a delicious Pizza from a local Kebab shop..

Next day, we had a lovely breakfast at a Hotel/ Restaurant called Hotel Bayerischer Hof. Our Breakfast included Omlette with onions and herbs, sauteed mushrooms on the side and bread with homemade butter. Every bite tasted heavenly! Ah! What an amazing way to spend a weekend!

a-heavenly-breakfastLove,

Madhurya.

Insel Mainau

A few weeks ago, we visited the Insel Mainau, a beautiful island off the shores of Lake Constance. Insel Mainau is small, about 45 hectares, and lies on the far south-west part of Germany, close to Switzerland and Austria. This island is called the “Flowering Island” as it is full of parks and gardens;  It is covered in flora over 150 years old!

Beautiful Gardens

On the way to the island, we stopped at my mother in law`s house to take her along with us. It is an hour-long drive from our home to the mainland of Mainau. You must park the car on the mainland and cross a small bridge to reach the island. Entry to the island costs 19Eur per person and 5Eur for parking a car.

Tulips

Millions of Tulips, Rhododendrons, scented Roses, Dahlias and perennials cover the length and breadth of the island, looking like colorful carpets. People had come from all over to view this splendor, making the place a bit crowded and stuffy, but we didn’t mind. We were having a good time!

Flower power

First, we went inside the Butterfly house, shaped like a Butterfly, with its inhabitants fluttering all around.

Our next stop was the ancient Teutonic Castle, completed in the year 1746, and the Palace Church of St. Marien. These monuments with their ornate detailing were built in Baroque style of Architecture and have a lot of history behind them. The castle has now been converted into a Souvenir shop where many kinds of artifacts are sold.

Teutonic Castle

Interior of the Church

A beautiful garden surrounds the castle and from here you also get a picturesque view of Lake Constance.

Lake Constance beyond

The Grand Duke Friedrich terrace, named after the Park’s founder, Grand Duke Friedrich, is breath-taking! It is an Italian Renaissance Garden with a staircase adorned with colorful and exotic flowers and a waterfall cascading down to the lake from the top. Benches are placed at the bottom by the lake for visitors to relax and soak in some fresh air. From the terrace, visitors can also have a pleasant view of the Arboretum.

The Grand Duke Friedrich Staircase

As you walk along the shore, you enter another garden and a petting farm with animals like goats, cows, rabbits, donkeys etc. Kids seemed to be having a gala time there.

There are a few fancy restaurants and some fast-food joints too. As they were too crowded, we did not get a chance to dine. However, we had a really good time at the island!

Family time

Cheers,

Madhurya.

Malta (Contd.)

You can read the beginning here…

On the third day, we left early to visit the island of Gozo. We drove to the port of Mġarr from where we took the ferry ride to Gozo. The ferry makes a trip every 45 minutes and the ride is around 25 minutes each way. We can even take our cars inside the ferry. The fare of this ride needs to be paid during the return journey (from Gozo), and it is approx. 20 euros (for the car).

Ferrying to Gozo
Ferrying to Gozo

Compared to the main land, Gozo is less developed and more rural. We drove to Dwejra bay to check out the Azure window, one of the most beautiful features of Gozo. Azure window is a natural arch rich in Maltese limestone, Globigerina. The Azure sea provides a gorgeous backdrop for this arch.

Azure Window
Azure Window

Azure Window 2

Driving across, we reached Xwejni bay.  Along the bay, salt pans were built for sea-salt production. This form of salt production has been carried out since Roman times. It is a natural way of producing salt, where the sea water fills the rock-cut salt pans, and after the water evaporates, the film of salt is harvested.

Xwejni Bay
Xwejni Bay
Salt pan
Salt pans

We drove to the main city of Victoria and decided to walk around. One of the main attractions of Gozo, the citadel is located here. This Citadel is visible from almost everywhere on the Island, rising steeply above the surrounding countryside. It owes its roots to the late medieval era. For centuries, it served as a sanctuary from attack by Barbarians and raiders who took the population into slavery. History says, until 1637, the Gozitan population was required by law to spend their nights within the Citadel for their own safety. In later, more peaceful times, this restriction was lifted and people were allowed to settle below its walls, creating the prosperous town of Rabat, now known as Victoria.

The Citadel 2
The Citadel

The Citadel

There are lots of little nooks and corners to explore within the Citadel- shops, cafes, restaurants and viewpoints that allow you to see the whole of Gozo. The citadel of Victoria is well worth a visit if you are in Gozo. However, you must prepare yourself to walk uphill.

After a beautiful day spent on this island, we took the ferry back to the main island.

On the last day of our trip, we checked out of our hotel early and drove to places like Birzebugga and Marsaskala, which are beautiful sea side villages, before heading back to the airport.

Birzebbuga
Birzebbuga

Though the trip was very short, we made the most of it. Everywhere we went, we encountered beautiful churches, and to top it all, it was Easter; It was heart whelming to find people decked up in gorgeous dresses, suits and neckties (even the kids), rushing to the churches and after the sermons, back on the streets, spending time with their families, neighbors, friends and enjoying coffee and lunch together at the restaurants nearby. It reminded me of India, where friends and families get together so often to celebrate even the smallest of occasions…

Spotted this fancy car!
This one reminded me of India too! How fancy!

Cheers,

Madhurya