Countries, Europe, Skiing

Aussie beer games and Tirol

It’s probably a more restrained affair than the carnage of Aussie beer games and Tirol that I got caught up in back in the day.

But heck, Kitzbuhel in Austria has it all.

Our friends in Tirol have alerted us to the news that they have made it easier for English-speakers to learn about their picture-postcard resort.

Through the Museum Kitzbühel and its free audio guide.

In 33 chapters, it takes you through the areas of town history, winter sports and Alfongs Walde.

And from now on, English is also available to our visitors in addition to German.

All you need is a smartphone and the Hearonymus app, which can be downloaded free of charge from the App Store and Google Play Store.

Whether the Topdeck passengers of circa 1985 and 1986 make it into the annals (more likely anals) of Kitzbuhel, or its neighbour, Kirchberg history is another matter.

Das boot

Boot-iful: The Glass Boot. http://www.hopculture.com

Centred around the festivity in the party chalet was a beer game.

It involved a glass boot filled with best Austrian beer.

Among the rules was to keep the toe centred, pass in the correct direction.

And, of course, not to regurgitate when you turn the heel and hit the bubble.

Of course just to keep you lubricated between shots was the Hexengeist schnapps which you set fire to to before downing.

Schnapps to it

Name on the frame: Schnapps in Ehrwald

A strong chocolatey taste from what I can remember it was known among our circles as an F*** because that’s what you do when you drink it.

Search for ”Museum Kitzbühel” in the app and the voices of Wido Sieberer, museum director, Michael Berger-Walde, actor and grandson of Alfongs Walde, Melanie Preston and Nevena Lukic will accompany you.

Through all the exhibition areas and onto the spectacular roof terrace.

Visitors simply listen to the background, stories and anecdotes via the smartphone speakers or the headphones they have brought along.

The  Museum Kitzbühel

For Arts’ sake: The museum

The museum is situated in the Hinterstadt of Kitzbühel and it was first mentioned by name in the 16th century.

Only the southwest tower dates from the time of the town’s founding around 1271.

Now, of course, when you’re in Kitzbuhel and Kirchberg you need to take part in the outdoorsy activities too.

We did, even though it was the autumn and we were moving on from the Oktoberfest.

Slip slidin’ away

Heart and Soll: With The Scary One in Soll

And that meant the tobogganing which, of course, I took an alternative way of negotiating…

On my back, sans my board…

And, yes, once the beer and schnapps and whisky wore off, it hurt like hell.

Particularly writhing around the bunk bend of the booze bus which also accommodated a kitchen downstairs.

I have, of course, been back since those days of Aussie beer games and Tirol.

With the Scary One skiing and sliding in Soll in the wintertime.

And on a walking trek in Ehrwald with the speedy superannuated.

And still on my back

Slippery slope: Above Ehrwald

With Top Flight for Schools where tobogganing was again on the schedule.

And despite the roll-on of years, yes, you guessed it.

I went down on my back and side, and went back again for more.

 

America, Countries, Europe, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays Carols

Woah, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, in excelsis deo (wherever that is), it’s Rainy Days and Songdays Carols.

And particularly with the choir of carol singers from the high street in our town now having dissipated.

Sing-a-long: And we love a carol

But church services go on unabated and the original spirit of Christmas sometimes sneaks past Mariah Carey and Michael Buble.

And so a celebration of carols, their origins and the destinations with which they’re associated.

Stille Nacht

The Other Salzburg: With the Scary One

Or Silent Night which originates in Oberndorf bei Salzburg.

No, not that Salzburg of Mozart and The Sound of Music in Austria but the small city north of Salzburg.

It does though have it’s own blessed place in music as the birthplace of one of our favourite carols.

Mohr and Grober may not be as recognisable as Gilbert & Sullivan, Rodgers & Hammerstein, King & Goffin, Lennon & McCartney or John and Taupin.

But the assistant priest, and the schoolmaster and organist certainly hit on one with this classic on the Christmas Eve of 1818.

It travelled around the world and got the ultimate seal of approval when Bing Crosby sold 10 million copies in 1935.

Feliz Natal

In her working clothes: With the Scary One again

Feliz Natal as they say in Portugal.

Or O Come all ye Faithful (except they say it in Portuguese) and not this southern US draw… though Carrie on Ms Underwood.

We have King John IV to thank for it becoming Anglicised (the Portuguese are England’s most enduring ally).

The clue to King Johin IV’s musicality is in the moniker he was given King John The Musician.

His works (he is also said to have written a setting for a Good Friday standard Crux Fidelis) alas were destroyed in the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755.

Of course Portugal is full of secrets just waiting to be discovered.

Crowning Bethlehem

Philly Christmas: They love a carol

Talking of secrets, I’ve just been watching the original Jesus.

Well the blockbuster televisual one, anyway, Robert Powell retracing Our Lord’s steps on the Smithsonian channel

And spoiler here.. he may not have been born there but rather his childhood home Nazareth.

The song would be very different, or would it be? Nazareth scans too.

The carol we so love, is actually an American construct.

With it written by Phillips Brook, an Episcopalian minister, then a rector in Philadelphia, and later of Boston, in the 19th century.

And sung beautifully here by The King himself.

Ding Dong Merrily On High

Roger Bravo: Roger Whittaker

Sounds very English village hall, but mais non, Ding Dong Merrily On High is a French Joyeux Noel, ditty.

The tune was originally recorded in the 16th century by Dijon‘s finest Jehan Tabourot in his study of French Renaissance social dance called Orchésographie.

Ca va, English composer and campanologist George Ratcliffe Woodward updated it with the old ding dong that we all enjoy.  

Now randomly we can’t think of anyone better to sing or rather trill it than Roger ‘The Whistler’ Whittaker.

Deep pan crisp and even

On the King Charles Bridge in Prague

OK, we’ll get the old Christmas Cracker joker out first.

What pizza does Good King Wenceslas like?

Deep pan crisp and even.

Whether the Good King first looked out on the Feast of Stephen and the snow laid round about deep and crisp and even we don’t know.

But Wenceslas Square in Prague is usually packed at this time of year, and on most days.

It might be different this year with Covid which is all the more reason to toast our Czech friends with an Urquell. Na Zdravi.

Take it away Bing… 

Merry Christmas and sing along to yourself with your Rainy Days and Songdays Carols.

 

 

 

Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

European Spa Towns springing forward

It felt like I should have been letting all this seep into me in my reviving bath… European Spa Towns springing forward.

And indeed I’m remembered for attending our last European Thermal Cafe seminar from my tub.

Our friends from the European Thermal Towns’ visit to Chez Murty corresponded with its Heritage Day.

In truth they were in Wiesbaden but you get the picture.

It is indeed timely with the world coming together soon for COP 26 in my home town of Glasgow.

Water is, of course, the source of life, but it’s worth repeating that spas were the first tourist resorts.

Our hosts mapped out their First XI who have World Heritage Status as the Great Spa Towns of Europe.

Of course we all know that they just trip off the tongue.

The First XI

Crystal clear: Spa

But here’s a reminder.. 

1. Baden bei Wien (Austria)
2. Spa (Belgium)
3. Františkovy Lázne (Czechia)
4. Karlovy Vary (Czechia)
5. Mariánské Lázne (Czechia)
6. Vichy (France)
7. Bad Ems (Germany)
8. Baden-Baden (Germany)
9. Bad Kissingen (Germany)
10. Montecatini Terme (Italy)
11. City of Bath (United Kingdom)

And while it’s the Czech Spa Triangle I know best they all have their merits.

Belgium’s other watering hole

My kind of watering hole: With Simon in Belgium

Now I’d be more used to the Belgian bars and the kinds of beer experience which remind you of the paucity of good ales back here in Scotland.

Now as water is core to beer it’s worth flagging up Belgium’s spa sector, and particularly the town which gives the whole business its name.

Spa‘s springs we are told date back to the 14th century and you’ll get some good exercise in walking from the town to the forest to get your water.

For a town of just 10,000 Spa does punch above its weight with its grand prix and it’s status in beauty pageants, Concours de Beauté, as the first in the world back in 1888.

Beethoven on a roll

Beethoven got around: In Czechia

And the Great and Good of European society would flock to spa towns. 

With our old friend Ludwig Van Beethoven a frequent visitor to Baden bei Wien in Austria

We tracked him down at the hotel named in his honour, Beethoven Spa in Teplice in the Czech Republic on our Hops and Health tour. Complete with his hearing horns in a glass cabinet. 

That ain’t half Bad

Kaiser Wilhelm: In Bad Ems

The Germans are the only other country which has three spa towns on the list.

And yes, that ain’t half bad… but in truth, bad is just another example of the Germans having a word which means something completely different from ours.

Bads are baths and Kaiser Wilhelm I loved them (no, not the Bad Wilhelm of First World War Fame).

It was in Bad Ems where the Kaiser mixed with the Great Unwashed, before they were cleansed, and there’s a statue of him in Bad Ems in his civvies.

All of which we’re told just emphasises that in spa towns everybody mingled freely, away from the social dividing lines elsewhere.

V for Vichy

Mais oui: Vichy

Now the wars do get in the way and alas we do associate Vichy in France with the Second World War.

But get close and personal and you will see that it is one of our glorious Spa Towns with a drinking hall and a Celestins Spring.

Que Sera la spa

L’Aqua Italia: Montecatini Terme

Yes, another tortured pun brings us to Italy’s offering, but one with a funicular railway which is always a selling point with your favourite blogger.

We’re told too that Mussolini was here in Montecatini Terme... and I guess he got all the funiculars to run on time. 

We’re told there is a strenuous walk up to the springs but we’ll leave it to you to decide if you want to trek to the Alto, high part of the town.

Why not do both? 

Bath, English for Bath

Let’s get steamin’: Bath

And yes, we’ve kept the best for last, Bath

The English city with the Roman roots is twice blessed with a UNESCO stamp for both the city and also as a Spa Town.

A great lead with European Spa Towns springing forward.