Switzerland is as safe as chalets

You know you’re secure when their knife of choice has tweezers and scissors, yes, Switzerland is as safe as chalets.

And even more so when the Swiss Army Knife you are given by their delegates at your Irish fair give you is a chocolate blade.

Of course, we’d never recommend, or expect to carry anything with us for protection abroad but it is, alas, a consideration these days.

Open spaces: In Switzerland

We’ve perhaps been blessed to have stayed safe on our travels, apart from a close shave involving a barber and false guide in Marrakech.

While we have the salutary tale of a relative who was drawn into a card school in Thailand and was cleared out.

India’s top-rated gambling guide Gamblino (no, us neither) have ranked the safest places in Europe based on a number of metrics.

And our yodelling, like clockwork, friends come out on top but where else is as safe as chalets, ice houses, canal boats or crofts?

Always an Alpine hand

Slayed it: On my sled in the Australian Tirol

And the Penthouse of Europe has the best views and the most chilled people.

Like Interlaken inspiration Brigitte and Ehrwald Presley who, while the rest of us stressed-out types shout at the world, they yodel their way through the day.

Unperturbed by the sort of things that might trouble us like crime, road troubles or natural disasters.

All of which puts the Swiss top of the list and Austria also riding high in the charts.

Ice to meet you

Bracing: Iceland

And in the Land of Fire and Ice too where you’ll find the friendliest guysers you’ll ever meet.

Apart maybe from the exorbitant costs.

But they say the best things in life are free.

And you lose all your inhibitions when you’re swimming in their fave icy pools with new friends.

Nordic Nirvana

Sweat it out: In your Nordic sauna

And it must be something in that Nordic air, and we’ve experienced that first hand in the Norwegian fjords.

Because Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden also make it into the top ten safest places in Europe.

And the stressbuster to beat all stressbusters.

I mean you know your safe when you can take off all your clothes and sweat it out together in a sauna together.

Hello from the Low Countries

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

Where the crime rates are low and the approval ratings are always high.

In Luxembourg where despite its miniature size you’ll feel free as a bird surrounded by forests, gorges and the Moselle river valley.

Or the liberal Netherlands where they stay cool, cycling along canals, eating crepes or getting high in brown cafes.

A hundred thousand welcomes

With queen of Spain Teresa, Eoghan Corry and Sharon Jordan in Dublin

And it would surprise absolutely nobody to see Ireland up there as one of the safest countries in Europe.

Where you can still stop and talk to strangers in the streets of its capital Dublin and get the craic.

While out in the country, often called Real Ireland, and certainly my Dear Old Mum’s heartland of Co. Donegal there’s always a welcome in the hillside.

And quirkily where there is no rail service, getting about requires a lift from Maura.

And she’ll drop you off at Seamus’s who will take you as far as Breid who is going your way.

And so Switzerland is as safe as chalets and across Europe too.




A No1 Finnday Funday

And for the fourth year running it’s the happiest place in the world, it’s a No1 Finnday Funday.

So what do we put Finland’s joy down to… all those icy dips and saunas?

Well, yes, according to the Finns themselves who credit their love of nature.

He’s started so he’ll Finnish

Roll in it: Finland

Heli Jimenez, of Business Finland, explained: ‘We appreciate the small things in our daily lives.

‘Such as sitting quietly on a bench and staring at the empty lake after a relaxing sauna session or taking a morning dip in the sea before starting the working day.’

If you now live in the frozen north of Britain, or Scotland as it’s sometimes called, then it’s a victory for chilly places.

Cry freedom

Happiest place on earth: Paula in Orlando

The UN World Happiness Report looks at perceived freedom, honesty, welfare, good health and generosity.

And a trust in their leaders which has been reciprocated over Covid with that ‘helping to protect lives and livelihoods during the pandemic.’

Now we’re all of us ambassadors for our countries when we live abroad.

And among my most treasured possessions is the Pleasure To Work With Award that hangs proudly on my wall.

From the Travel trade from my 13 years in Ireland.

And indulge me here but I’d lavish my own praises on unofficial Finnish ambassador to Scotland, and part-time Disney character Paula Murray here.

Among the friends from around the world who I got to meet through Ireland were those who also scored highly for happiness.

Happy talking

Walking on air in Copenhagen

Ireland themselves obvs and it will come as no surprise to our Paddy Party People that they come four places higher than the UK.

The Nordic and Scandi countries and be sure to know the diff.

Denmark, Sweden and Norway are in both alongside Finland, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

The Danes and the Icelanders occupy second and third spots and Sweden and Norway seventh and eighth.

And what they lack in low drink prices which sees cruisers stay dry on on-shore excursions, they make up for in spirit.

And a smile on their faces

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

Making up the rest of the top ten are the swish Swiss (4th) and the liberal Dutch (5th),

Tiny Luxembourg (6th) you can get around in a day while Israel (9th) isn’t called the Land of Milk and Honey for nothing.

While the New Zealanders (10th) will be doing the Haka in celebration at being two places above Australia.

It is though refreshing, much like the Nordic air, to see that it’s still a No1 Funday Finnday

Countries, Culture, Europe

Amber lists and you’re a gem

I put my foot in it with a colleague, so just to say there will be no more gags about Amber lists and you’re a gem..

The amber threat has had holidaymakers panicking and fretting about getting back from foreign countries and then paying through the nose for self-isolation.

And the latest countries in the firing line are two of our favourites, France and Italy.

But the fossilised tree resin is something to be treasured as a precious jewel.

And also a healing property for hippies, whom I lean to….ooooohhhhhhm!

Museum pieces

Craftwork: amber

You’ll find amber really wherever you’ll find trees, or where trees once were, which is pretty much everywhere.

And among all their magical qualities they also seem to have a magnetic pull on women.

Particularly when you’re on your holiday with la famiglia in the coastal town of Southwold in England’s East Anglia.

And the evidence is somewhere at the bottom of the Scary One’s Jewellery box.

Though not the 2.2 kilo exhibit… it would only drag her neck down.

Pole stars

Shine bright: The colour of the sun


Now every day’s a school day when you’re meeting holiday providers from around the world.

And while feeding our bellies with big bowls of Polish soup and warming our hearts with their vodka, our Polish friends gave us the rundown on Gdansk.

And its impressive history with amber.

What’s more it’s even better than it was before with the new Amber Museum of Gdansk opened to the public only last week.

Amber is brilliant in tone and hue and can act naturally as a receptacle for all the things that can get stuck in trees, like bugs.

While it is a great building block for jewellery yes, but from spoons to chess sets to Fender Stratocaster guitars.

Opening gambit

The voice of Dresden: With Ingrid in Dresden

Museum director Waldemar Ossowski said: “Amber items are delicate and sensitive, and the susceptibility to damage increases with the age of the item, which is why many amber masterpieces have survived in fragments and are missing many figurines.”

We’re told too that it sits in the pantheon with the the collection of the Danish royal family, the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and the Grünes Gewölbe museum in Dresden.

Something begotten in the state of Denmark

Walking on air in Nyhavn, Copenhagen

And if you know your Copenhagen you’ll know the museum is located in Kanneworff’s House in Nyhavn which dates back to 1606.

You’ll be taken on a 30-50 million journey and needless to say Denmark is at the heart of it.

And there will be a celebration of Scandinavian forests and their traders.

While there’s also chess too, naturally.

The Russians are coming

And take a tour of the ramparts: Kaliningrad

Whisper it around Poland where they like to claim amber as their Baltic gem but the Russians are coming with their own amber museum in Kaliningrad.

Well, like all things Polish, they’ve already settled and are flagging their own museum.

Should you be in the region then lucky you. So have a look around.

Obviously at all the amber and the many exhibitions including the Fifth Russian Contest of Gallery Art.

But also take a guided tour of the rampart to learn about the history of the growth of Konigsberg fortification power.

So that’s our Amber lists and you’re a gem all of you who are called Amber.






Countries, Culture, Europe

Rainy Days and Songdanes and Scandis

For the week that’s in it with England taking on Denmark in the Euros here’s Rainy Days and Songdanes and Scandis.

And before my Finnish friend Paula starts I know Finland, or Iceland, are technically Scandinavian.

Though I have seen these Nordic countries included as Scandi in places.

Scandis and Nordis are uniting in support of the Danes on Wednesday.

And much of the world after Christian Eriksen’s collapse.

Why the three countries on the British isle don’t do the same for each other is a different story.

All of which brings us to a musical tour of these lands.

Probably Denmark

And there’s a bridge to the rest of Scandi

Whigfield, Saturday Night: ‘It’s party time and not a minute we can lose.’

Now that’s a call to arms if ever. And it’ll be easy for the Danes to change the words to Wednesday Night.

A-ha there!

Screaming and shouting for Norway

A-ha, Take On Me: And proof from the video that these Vikings from Norway are gods straight out of a storybook.

Although don’t take my word for what the Norwegians are like in their fjords. Oh, go on then, do!

Abba Fabba

Fabba Land

Abba Waterloo (Swedish version): Yes I do, I do, I do, I do, I do, I do if only Agnetha had been available rhen.

You can, of course, see Sweden’s Fab Four at the Abba Museum in Stockholm.

Where Finns started

Snow business in Finland

Hanoi Rocks, Boulevard of Broken Dreams: And maybe not the Finnish band you were expecting.

Hard Focks Hallelujah. Finland glam punk band Hannoi Rocks were thete long before Lordi and even inspired Bon Jovi and Green Day.

Ice, Ice, Baby

Remember us England

Of Monsters And Men, Dirty Paws: And we’ll finish on an Icelandic Viking mythology vibe from Iceland’s finest.

All in the setting of the Euro favourites Italy and our favourites too, though it’s for you to work out if that means football favouritism.

But that can wait… here’s to Rainy Days and Songdanes and Scandis.