Stonehenge Tourists 3,500 Years Ago

Tourists in Stonehenge are not an invention of our times. Skeletons found by archaeologists suggest that there were visitors from all over Europe to Stonehenge 3,500 years ago. The most recent find is one from a youth originating in the Mediterranean. 

San Marino and The Second World War

San Marino is a tiny Republic in the middle of Italy. During World War II, it was neutral while being governed by a fascist government. It was attacked by both Germany and the Allies while taking in ten times its population in refugees. 

Travelling in The Alps: Albula Pass

The Albula Pass is a historical throw-back for the traveller. It presents itself today as it did in 1865 when the road was built. Along it runs the historical train route built in 1903 with its stunning viaducts. And in winter, it becomes an enormous sledge run. 

Travelling in The Alps: Forcellina and Lunghin Passes

The Forcellina and Lunghin Passes build a crossroad with the Septimer Pass. The Forcellina Pass starts in the Avers Valley to end north of the culmination point of the Septimer Pass; the Lunghin Pass starts in the Engadin to reach a point slightly more to the north. Like the Septimer Pass, they are a paradise for hikers and mountain-bikers. 

Travelling in The Alps: Maloja Pass

The Maloja Pass is sometimes called ‘the pass that never was’ due to its geographical peculiarity. It connects the Engadin Valley with the Bregaglia Valley in the Canton of Grisons in Switzerland. If you travel on it from the Engadin side, the view from the starting point will take your breath away. 

Farah Diba’s Coffee Break

In Switzerland, you get the possibility to rub shoulders with many important people going on holiday there. Until 1979, the members of the Imperial Family of Persia were regular visitors to the Engadin where they had a holiday home near St. Moritz. 

Drinking Tea at Buckingham Palace

There are several ways you may go about getting your tea at Buckingham Palace. Apart from the obvious ways as a family member or a ruling head of state, there are the invitations for the garden parties of the Queen. The newest way to get your tea at the Palace, though, is the Café just opened for the new tourist season. 

Your Italian Dream for a Few Pennies More

Italy’s government decided to get rid of undesirable assets. They include land and buildings that are not deemed necessary to running the Republic in a cost efficient way. The sale will start end of this months. Keep your eyes open for a few bargains. 

Poschiavo, a Borgo with Its Lake and Its Valley

Tucked away in a south-eastern corner of Switzerland, a valley offers a rest to travellers going from the Engadin to the Valtellina Valley. The Valley is dominated by Poschiavo and its lake of the same name. If you want a holiday away from all hustle and bustle this is the place to go to. 

Travelling in The Alps: Septimer Pass

If you want to get the feeling for how the ancient Roman travelled, the Septimer Pass is the road to travel. The Septimer Pass lies in the Canton of Grisons in Switzerland and connects the Julier Road to the Bregaglia Valley south of the Alps. You’ll have to travel it as the Romans did, though, on foot. 

Thun: A Gem Amongst Cities in Switzerland

Thun is a small town near Bern situated on Lake Thun. It has been inhabited continuously since Celtic and through Roman times. Having been of minor importance all the time, it has remained a small town which makes it perfect to explore on foot. 

Travelling in The Alps: Julier Pass

When travelling the Alps, a historic route to take is the Julier Pass connecting the lowlands of the canton of Grisons with the high valley of the Engadin. The pass is kept open all year round and is equally breathtaking in winter and summer. 

Arlesheim: A Village with a Cathedral

The village of Arlesheim is situated just outside the city of Basel in Switzerland. Mainly a farming community, it contains a cathedral and a town centre built in the 17th century, two castles, and a large English garden. Arlesheim is worth a visit for its sights alone, but a must for music lovers to hear the Silbermann organ in the cathedral. 

10 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Come to London in 2012

There are ten obvious reasons why you shouldn’t come to London in 2012, against only two reasons why you should. If you’re into betting, this alone should convince you. If you aren’t, maybe you should have a closer look at the drawbacks. And should you decide to come to London against my advice, please don’t blame me for ‘I told you so’ after you didn’t enjoy it. 

Fribourg: City on The Language Divide of Switzerland

The city of Fribourg is located only 20 miles from Berne, but is today mainly French speaking though it started out as a German speaking city. It boasts the only Catholic University in Switzerland and has retained its medieval character throughout the city to this day. If you want to get a feeling for the lifestyle 600 years back, this is the place to visit. 

The Dos and Don’ts When Visiting The Basler Fasnacht

Always on Monday after Ash Wednesday, Basel celebrates its three day Fasnacht (carnival) which is unlike any other in the world. Should plan to immerse yourself into that fantasy world, you’ll have to be aware of certain rules that apply to all comers. There are also certain things you should be aware of to avoid practical jokes being played on you.

Zeus, I Presume

This day, we went on a visit to Segesta on the island of Sicily in Italy. The little Fiat sputtered and whined, working hard to get us up the hill. We were on the way to Segesta on a sunny autumn afternoon. The heady scents of Mediterranean vegetation wafted through the open windows while fulsome Italian voices blared at us from the radio. They sounded tinny coming from two cheap speakers let into the doors. My son was reading the map when not exclaiming over the views. 

More Pieces in The Puzzle of Stonehenge

Sheffield University presented preliminary evidence on a further circle near Stonehenge found near the river Avon. After blue stone chips found on the site they named it Bluehenge. The circle is not evident as a stone circle anymore, but 27 holes on a ramped mound bear witness to its one time existence. It is time to rewrite the history books (again). 

The New Monte Rosa Hut

Mountain climbing has arrived in the 21st century. The building of the new Monte Rosa hut has been finalized at 2883 m (9460 ft.) altitude. If you’re expecting a romantic alpine chalet, look again. This building is a state of the art computerized building built on the principles of sustainable energy. 

St. Michael The Door Warden

Besides many other jobs assigned to him by God, St. Michael is the foremost door warden. As such, his churches and chapels may often be found on doorways to the Otherworld. Therefore, whenever you find some building dedicated to St. Michael, it is worth while investigating its history. It might stand on one of the doorways to the Otherworld. 

From Russia with Love: A Bear Hug

Berne, seat of the Swiss federal government, lists as one of its main attractions the ‘Bärengraben’, the compound of bears. After the death of the last bear in April 2009, the new bears have arrived these days, a gift from Dimitri Medwedew, the President of Russia due in Berne end of September 2009. 

Britannic's Lost Organ

The ocean liner Britannic was the later built sister ship to the Olympic and the Titanic. Being unfinished at the start of the Great War, the ship entered service as a hospital ship and sunk in 1916 in the Mediterranean Sea. An Organ was obviously not needed on a hospital ship and it disappeared from history to surface in 2006 in Switzerland. 

Bruce Castle (and a Ghost)

Bruce Castle is a misnomer; it is a manor house in Tottenham in London. But living up to a grand name, it has a history and a resident ghost, as well as quite a few open questions that still need to be worked out. 

Light and Shadow in The Gardens

Chatto & Windus published Christopher Lloyd: His Life At Great Dixter by Stephen Anderton. What started out as a biography of a great gardener became a double biography of Christo and his mother Daisy. But there is reason and system to this. 

The Isle of Glass

Approaching through the dense September morning’s mist, St. Michael’s tower looms dark and brooding in the half darkness on the sunless island. By perception warped and cloaked in misty shroud, the tower seems to scale the sky, a dominant power heralding either doom or just plain power to the traveller coming its way. Its indistinct outlines blurred by the wet droplets in the air and in the eyes make it seem slim and incredibly high, part of the stairs to heaven, a reminder of the Tower of Babel. 

Lucerne: Switzerland’s First City

Lucerne and its lake is one of the prime tourist locations in Switzerland. It was the first city to join the Swiss Confederation and started to attract tourists as early as 1840 when the term tourist had not even been invented. 

Quedlinburg: Forgotten Royal Residence in Germany

The city of Quedlinburg lies in modern Germany in the state of Saxe-Anhalt. On request of his mother Matilda, Emperor Otto I invested the Damenstift (a religious community for women of the nobility) of St. Servatius, often referred to as Quedlinburg Abbey. 

Monaco: Principality on The Rocks

The Principality of Monaco is situated on the Mediterranean and borders onto France. The second smallest country in the world, it is also one of the richest. But it started out as a fort on an embattled coast. 

A Room for Every Day of The Year

Knole House in Kent is the family seat of the Sackville-West family. The house came into Sackville hands during the reign of Elizabeth I. The present Lord Sackville describes the family and the house in his new book. 

The Basel Tattoo

Every year in August, the Basel Military Tattoo is the magnet for over 80,000 people. It sounds like an old event, but it started out as late as 2006. But Basel has a long and living tradition of Pipes and Drums, so the event took to the city like a fish to water. 

Travelling in The Alps: Bernina Pass

When looking for breathtaking views, travel the Bernina Pass. It connects the Engadin Valley with the Pushlav Valley in the canton of Grisons in Switzerland. 

Vatican City: The World’s Smallest State and Absolute Monarchy

Vatican City is the smallest state in the world and the only absolute monarchy existing in Europe. Its head of state is the Pope as elected monarch. It is the only state completely enclosed by a city. 

The Mystery of St. Sophie’s Treasure Heist Solved

St. Sophie’s was a church in Dresden. Valuables found there during its destruction became known as St. Sophie’s treasure. The treasure was on show in the Museum at Dresden until one day it disappeared in broad daylight. 

Lausanne: World Capital of the Olympic Movement

Lausanne is best known as the world’s Olympic capital; sometimes it is called the World Sports Capital as well. But it is also a charming town on Lake Geneva with a friendly population that makes you feel very much at home anytime you visit. 

Pritzker Prize for Architecture Awarded to Peter Zumthor

Architect Peter Zumthor from Basel, Switzerland, received the Pritzker Prize, the highest accolade an architect can get. Zumthor’s modern buildings built with traditional materials and using ancient crafts have made him a household name for outstanding architecture on building sites in difficult surroundings. Buildings designed by him may be found in the Alps as well as further afield in interesting locations.

Goetheanum: Concrete Dream or Nightmare

The Goetheanum is one of the earliest concrete only buildings in Europe. It is the seat and centre for the Anthroposophical Society and acts as a university at the same time. Looking at its architecture, you’ll have to agree on one thing: It definitely looks different from any other building you might find anywhere in the world. Situated in Dornach near Basel in Switzerland, it is worth a visit anytime you're near.

The Devil’s Bridge

The Devil and the Russians both have a place in the heart of Switzerland. The bridge was the start of the St. Gotthard pass as we know it today. And just beside it is a plot of Russian territory, perpetually flying the Russian flag. 

Archaeologists Find The Tomb of Queen Edith

German archaeologists were baffled and confounded by the find of Queen Edith’s remains. The remains were found in her grave in Magdeburg’s cathedral what nobody could have expected. The remains are currently at Bristol University for testing to prove that the bones really are Edith’s. 

The Shrine of The Magi in Cologne

The city of Cologne in Germany houses one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Central Europe. In it, visitors will find one of the most extraordinary works of art in existence: The shrine of the three Magi. It draws thousands of worshippers as well as art lovers from all over the world. 

Five Christmas Islands

If you want to go to Christmas Island for a holiday, you are spoilt for choice. There are several islands going by that name, and by dint of majority, Australia wins the crown as the true Christmas country hands down. 

The Yearly Onion Market in Bern

Always on the fourth Monday in November, the city centre of Bern is awash with onions. The yearly onion market has a long tradition, going back to the feast of St. Martin, when the cities of Southern Germany all had large markets, pageants, and communal dinners to mark summer passing into autumn. 

Neuchatel: The Anachronistic City in Switzerland

Neuchatel is a beautiful little town in Switzerland situated on Lake Neuchatel. It managed to become an anachronistic holdover from the middle ages into the 19th century and thereby almost brought Switzerland and Prussia to declare war on each other. Today, it has a university and is a centre for tourists visiting the beautiful countryside and the Jura Mountains. 

There is Music in The Ceilings of Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle was once a Royal residence of the Scottish kings. But being situated near the border to England, it was a castle of strategic importance before that. When the Scots started to convert it into a residence, the builders included a curious code into the ceiling of the king’s bedchamber. The code was recently cracked to reveal the music hidden within. 

Lugano, The Largest Italian Speaking Town in Switzerland

Lugano is the warm spot of Switzerland, situated in the southern Republic and Canton of Ticino on Lake Lugano. The local climate is warm enough that palms and other southern plants thrive, and nestled in between in the lake and the mountains, it offers breathtaking views wherever you go. 

Temperamental Tempest on The Way to Nicosia

An outing turned adventure on Sicily. Sicily is the island at the southern tip of the boot of Italy. It is a mysterious island full of old superstitions, religions, and a language completely alien to Italian. The old gods still walk in its hills; they are (mostly) Greek gods as they colonized the island before the Romans had learnt to build boats. 

The New Year is on January 13th

In parts of Eastern Switzerland, the New Year is still celebrated on the 13th of January. New Year’s Eve, i.e. the 12th, is a festival day for everybody and schools and shops are closed. On this day, the Claus is on the loose going from house to house. 

Why Santa Muerte is an Austrian (too)

R J Evans published an article on the not quite standard saint Santa Muerte in Central America The Strange Cult of Santa Muerte: Saint Death. In it, he claimed quite correctly an Austrian influence on this strange phenomenon. As this might seem a strange connotation to many, I am following it up with information on the strange burial rites of the Austrian Imperial family. 

Geneva: Switzerland’s International Centre

Geneva is mostly seen as the seat of the United Nations in Europe. This is highly unjust, as it is a city full of history and unique international charm. At some time or another, it was capital to three kingdoms and a home to saints and many less saintly. 

Do You Know the Village of Cadempino?

You probably don’t, I don’t. And I’ve driven through it several times. But this is the third richest community of Switzerland. With its 1350 inhabitants that is a major feat. Obviously, there must be a big tax payer around. 

St. Gall: Town of Embroidery

St Gall is linked today with high quality embroideries used for haute couture. But it is also a beautiful town with a long history and a picturesque city centre. At its centre stands the magnificent monastery of St Gall with its cathedral and library.