Sunday, September 12, 2010

Austria (Tyrolean Alps: Innsbruck & Pertisau)

In honor of friends who are about to head off to one of most beautiful places on earth -- a place we were fortunate enough to be able to visit last year -- the ScheckTrek will this week visit the Tyrolean Alps of Austria. Wow, it is so gorgeous there!

As this was a literal trip, this will be more of a travelogue than a search for the perfect hotel.  Our accommodations were part of a group, and the hotel venue was pre-arranged. So I will provide a tour of Hotel Rieser, where we stayed in the lakeside village of Pertisau (it was lovely!) and some of the highlights of the area, including places of interest in Innsbruck.  (Since this is based on actual travel, photos will be by ScheckTrek Photography unless otherwise noted.)

Pertisau and Hotel Rieser
Front of the hotel, with mountain backdrop and typical window boxes overflowing with flowers. They’ve got to be keeping Miracle-Gro in business!

Pool and adjacent hotel property 
I loved the rugs throughout the hotel.


Our room, #222

Those walls certainly looked like Venetian plaster to me.

The view from south-facing room #222. The little church played Ave Maria at noon and 6:00 p.m. every day. They had a good sound system!

Partial lake view from our balcony

Closer view of the lake

Indoor pools don’t get much better than this. And can you just imagine what it’s like to be inside here, all warm and cozy, when snow is covering those mountains?

The opening in the glass wall allows for indoor/outdoor swimming.

I almost included a photo of the sauna, but decided against it. Suffice it to say that they don’t dress for the sauna!

Building that houses the swimming pool and second-floor indoor/outdoor sundeck, as seen from pond on the hotel’s property.

One of the charming dining rooms, where every night we were served 5-course dinners.

One night we went to a mountain hut for an evening of music and hot mulled wine.

By happy coincidence, we were in Pertisau on one of the two most important days of the year: the day the cows are brought down from the mountains before winter. (The other most important day is, no surprise, the day they go up to the mountains in the spring.) All my life I’ve heard about “[this or that] till the cows come home.” So here’s the proof that it has now happened!

I’m pretty sure the spectators enjoyed the parade more than the cows did, poor old gals.


Staying in Pertisau puts one within easy striking distance of beautiful Innsbruck, city of the Golden Roof and, as it turns out, a golden lady.


The Golden Roof

The Golden Roof (Goldenes Dachl) -- probably the most recognized tourist attraction of Innsbruck -- is a Late Gothic window and balcony, topped with a roof of 2,657 gilded copper tiles. Built in 1494-96 as a royal box for watching tournaments on the square below, it was commissioned by Archduke Friedrich IV for Maximilian I, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. According to Wikipedia, it was to commemorate Maximilian I’s marriage (his 2nd) to Bianca Maria Sforza. Not wanting to alienate allies gained by his first marriage, to Maria of Burgundy, the Emperor had images of himself, between the two women, painted on the balcony. The lower balustrade is decorated with the coat of arms.

But inquiring minds want to know: why was there a row of rats lining the roof?  Do you see them, running along above where the columns end?

Heibling Haus

Built in the 15th century, the Helbling Haus was originally a Gothic townhouse. In the early 1700s the facade decorated with Late Baroque stucco work, including cherubs, acanthus leaves and shells. When seen in person, it looks like porcelain.

Unbelievable wedding-cake architecture

How much time and money went into this???

Cathedral of St. James

Speaking of which, how much time and money went into building the Cathedral of St. James (Dom zu St. Jakob)? Built between 1717 and 1724, it has an extravagant Baroque interior.

Mausoleum for Maximilian I

One enters the mausoleum for Maximilian I, located in the Imperial Court Church (Hofkirche), through the Tyrolean Folk Art Museum (Tiroler Volksmuseum).

Though a lavish tribute to the Emperor who turned the Habsburgs into one of Europe’s most notable dynasties, it is, alas, an empty tomb (he’s buried near Vienna). However, the Hofkirche, built in his honor in the mid-1500s by his grandson, Ferdinand I, is not to be missed on a trip to Innsbruck. The empty tomb is silently guarded by 28 larger-than-life bronze statues (ancestors, relatives, and heros, including King Arthur). They are arguably the most important specimen of German Renaissance sculpture. I hope the close-up shots will help to convey their level of detail.

You can’t believe the detail in every single statue.

The black marble sarcophagus is surrounded by 24 white marble reliefs, each of which depicts accomplishments during the reign of Maximilian I. Encasing the tomb is an ornate grill with gold-leaf(?) accents.




In and Around Innsbruck


All too soon, it was time for us to leave as well.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Victoria, Australia

In honor of the current flooding in the Bright area of Victoria, Australia – and to commemorate the trip we made there almost exactly two years ago – the ScheckTrek will this week visit the towns of Bright, Wandilagong, and the surrounding area known as the Australian Alps (for us Americans, not to be confused with the Austrian Alps!). As this was a literal trip, all photos on this post are ScheckTrek Photography.

Above photos taken from Mt. Buffalo

Bright is a ski resort that's a 3-1/2 hour drive from Melbourne, so I suspect the town is fairly bustling in the winter. But we had the good pleasure of being there in the springtime (autumn in the U.S.), when we were warmly welcomed by both temps and townspeople.  The locals are not accustomed to seeing all that many American tourists, so there were several questions along the lines of, "Why did you come to Bright?" 

It was such a peaceful, bucolic setting. I joke that this is a picture of rush hour.

And alongside the road, instead of billboards and buildings, there are bovines.

Contented cows, one would imagine

And sheep with ear piercings.

And, this being Australia, you never know when you’re going to come across the odd field full of kangaroos.

The third kangaroo from the left has a joey. But it’s easier to see Joey in the one below, spotted in a residential neighborhood.

Some of the sights around Bright itself:

Five sweet schoolgirls who couldn’t imagine why the American lady could possibly want to take their picture (they had no idea how cute they all looked in their uniforms and caps!), but who willingly obliged.

The Ovens River which, as of this writing, is flooded at or above extreme levels.

Our pick for accommodations in the Bright area was actually in Wandiligong, about a three-mile drive away, along that busy road shown above.

As the customs agent said at the airport, “When you stay at Wandiligong, you’re getting the real Australian experience!”

I think this photo, taken in Beechworth, illustrates what she was referring to!

Other than the maze in Wandiligong, which people come from all around to see, this appeared to be one of the major happening spots along the main drag.  :)

But that is not where we stayed.

This is where we stayed – The Evening Star, a 2-bedroom vacation rental – and we could not have been happier!

Here’s a closer look:

Loved this bedroom!  There was a second bedroom, also with sliders (not pictured).

When I saw the photo similar to this on their website, I was sold! I could hardly wait to wake up in that room. What I didn’t know then was that there was more than a view to enjoy on awakening. If it was warm enough to leave the windows open (or even if it wasn’t, but we didn’t know that yet), we were awakened to an absolute jungle-sounding cacophony of bird noises! It was an amazing treat, and one I don’t think we’ll ever forget.

What a bathroom!

Sometimes parrots would visit the deck. The locals’ best guess was that this was a young rosella parrot. You don’t usually see them spotted like this.

We never tired of that deck!

Friends said we couldn’t miss the Brown Brothers Winery. They were right. It was one of the best meals of our stay.

This week’s ScheckTrek ends up in Beechworth, an old gold-rush town reminiscent of the Old West in the US.

This photo was taken in 2007. It’s the real deal.

Some of the shops have scaled up. But the real treasures we found were on the street…

An old Holden

A really great, really old Chevrolet pick-up truck

Moving forward in transportation evolution, we took off on a prop plane from this charming area of Australia, bound for Sydney (reviewed July 25, 2010).