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.

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

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.

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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.

Christmas Market, Constance

Hi all! I am back after a really really long time! Things were truly hectic for me, but now that I’m here. I’ve got loads to share about –

  1. Spending time with my family, especially my sis! 🙂
  2. Traveling in India
  3. My New Year’s Resolution

and other news. But before I move on, I need to tell you about a Christmas Market we went to. I LOVE Christmas! I look forward to December the whole year, not just because of the holidays but also because of the rosy, cheerful, blessed feeling this time generates. People are busy buying gifts, planning trips to visit families, shopping for food etc., and the shops have big sales, there’s the advent calendar tradition, decorating the Christmas trees and so on… It is as if everything just becomes extra beautiful, extra special!

During this period, Christmas markets are held in different parts of Europe, where ornaments, special foods and drinks are sold; games, music and dance shows are conducted.

We decided to visit one such market in Constance.  We drove our car, but it is best to get there by train, especially during the busy season.

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Constance was filled with stalls right up to the harbor and sold stuff like handmade wooden utensils, candles made of honey, jewelry items, scarves and shawls, glassware etc. There were bakeries selling German and Swiss sweets like gebrannte mandeln (sugary fried almonds) and magenbrot (sweet glazed biscuits). Delicacies like raclette, fondue, sausages etc were being sold at some food stalls. And there were not just Swiss or German, but Indian, Hungarian, American, Chinese and other food stalls too.

A popular drink is sold during this time called the Glühwein (Mulled wine), made with red wine along with spices and is served hot. Sounds yummy, right? Guess what, I just didn’t like it!!!

Everyone seemed to be having a gala time despite the freezing temperatures! Me too!!! Now I can’t wait to explore the other markets!

December, Where art thou?

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A Very Happy, Healthy, Safe and Prosperous New Year from Mike and I to you, dear readers!!!

Cheers,

Madhurya

Munot Ball

The Munot is a 16th century Roundel (circular fortification) at the center of the Swiss city of Schaffhausen. It is an undisputed landmark of the city. No other city in Switzerland has constructed a building of comparable beauty and magnanimity.

History goes like this- After Schaffhausen became a part of the Old Swiss Confederacy in 1501, the council decided to strengthen the city’s fortifications. After years of planning, in 1589 the Munot was finally built. Soon after completion, doubts surfaced whether the Munot could withstand the ever-more powerful artillery. Luckily, only once, the Munot was militarily occupied: in 1799, during the French Revolution.

Now, it is a tourist attraction and hosts a number of events.

To enter the fortress, one has to climb quite a number of stairs (I don’t know how many exactly). The Interior of the fortress has a huge arch, which has a thick ceiling of about 4 meter, made of gravel and supported by nine pillars. Through 4 circular chambers, light falls into the casemates (a small room in the wall of a fortress, with openings from which guns or missiles could be fired, according to Google). The fortress is surrounded by Rose gardens and vineyards.

On top of the Fortress is a bell, which was mounted in September 1589. The Bell has a diameter of 90.5 cm; a height of 70 cm and a weight of 420 kg. It is rung every evening at 9 pm for 5 minutes by hand by the guardian of Munot. This guardian is responsible for the maintenance and order around the Munot, and also helping around during the events and taking care of the visitors.

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There is an open area at the top of the fortress, from where you can view the entire beautiful city of Schaffhausen and the river Rhine.

Breathtaking views of the city.

There are seating arrangements where visitors can relax and buy refreshments in the summer. This open area is where most of the cultural programs take place and one of them is the Munot ball.

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Between June and the end of August the traditional balls take place on the Munot.
The Quadrille, also called Française, is a ballroom dancing, which began in the 17th century in France and England for the first time. This traditional square dance is being celebrated in the Munot balls for over a 100 years. The Munot Club was formed several years ago; Members of the club can learn the Quadrille and take part in cultural programs. They also help the state in taking care of the Munot.

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This year in June, my mother-in-law and I decided to see the Munot ball; It was my first time. Casuals are a big no-no. So we both got dressed up for the occasion. But by the time we climbed the stairs and reached the top of the Munot, we were exhausted and soaking- wet. We had to pay 10 CHF (10.17 US Dollars) to enter the Ball. It was only 7 pm and hardly 10 people were around. The musicians were getting ready. The restaurant was doing its final preparations. We ordered some cold drinks and fries to eat. As we waited, we started checking out the dresses worn by the other ladies, remarking `Oh she looks good!` or `look what she has worn!`. As the people began gathering, I noticed that 70 to 80% of them were older than 60 years. It was fun to discover that there’s no age-limit to enjoy a bit of dancing!.

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When the music began, the couples took their positions around the periphery of the area and started ballroom-dancing. It was so beautiful! This was the ‘unofficial dance’ as the bell was not yet rung. At 9 pm sharp, after the bell was rung for 5 minutes, the Quadrille began. Quadrille is performed by 4 couples in a rectangular formation. Couples dance together in a figure or “set”, each dancer dancing to his or her partner and each couple dancing to the other couples in the set. You might have seen such dances in movies like Pride and Prejudice or Becoming Jane. The dance ended after 15 minutes with all the couples running around the periphery. Yes! Literally! Everything happened so fast, I could not capture it on my camera.. It was fun to watch though!

I had never seen such a beautifully-coordinated dance, with so many participants, in my life before. Though my mother-in-law and I did not take part in the dance, we had a great time watching it.

Love,

Madhurya

( I got all the information on the Munot and the Ball from this Website. I have translated it from German.)