Tolkien fans might think they have to fly out to New Zealand to see the Shire. They are wrong. In October 2013, a Hobbit Museum opened its doors in Switzerland. Geographically in the tourist region called Heidiland, the region is an ideal holiday destination for families with children. For the parents, there are excellent local wines to test which the Swiss usually keep to themselves.
On the countrified outskirts of Leipzig in Germany, a double-headed imperial Austrian eagle spreads its wings on a memorial to an Austrian hero of 1813. Built in 1913 by the Austrian Military Order of Maria Theresa, it was blissfully forgotten by German imperials, republicans, communists, and republicans again. When the monument started causing costs, no one felt responsible to pay them.
Switzerland is an odd little country in Central Europe bordering Germany, France, Italy, Austria, and Liechtenstein. It contains more oddities than people, I think, and I want to present a few of these weird peculiarities to you. They might also give you some ideas as to what is going wrong in other, larger, countries.
When planning to take your car into The Alps in winter, proper preparation might be worth your life. It might also be worth a lot of money as most countries may hand out hefty fines if you aren’t ready for snow and icy conditions on the roads.
The German town of Baden-Baden acquired that name officially in 1931. Before that, it was simply called Baden. Baden was a bathing spa in Roman times, and accordingly called Aquae like Bath. Both have the same meaning as Baden. How did this tautological weirdness come to pass?
Books with a certain patina aren’t always the worst ones to read. If you are going on a holiday to Austria (or if you never considered doing that), Airs Above The Ground by Mary Stewart should be part of the reading stuff to take along. Consider it a guidebook extraordinary when you do so.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Principality of Liechtenstein is sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland. It is a hereditary principality with equal powers shared between parliament and Prince. Nobody knows what happens if ever they should agree to disagree. The Prince is also head of state.