Sunday, September 30, 2007


Windsor Castle was our home for a day

Windsor Castle, home to Queen Elizabeth since childhood, is the largest inhabited castle in the world, with 900 rooms and over 300 employees—grooms, flagmen, art restorers, knights, priests, etc. An intimate glimpse of daily life over the course of a year includes a historic state banquet, a tour of the 15,000 acre grounds with Prince Philip, and the wedding of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker-Bowles. As a Royal home and fortress for over 900 years, the Castle remains a working palace today.

Over a period of nearly 1,000 years it has been inhabited continuously, and altered and refurbished by successive monarchs. Some were great builders, strengthening the Castle against uprising and rebellion; others, living in more peaceful times, created a palatial Royal residence. The outer walls of today's structure are in the same position as those of the original castle built by William the Conqueror in the 1070s.

Visitors can walk around the State Apartments, extensive suites of rooms at the heart of the working palace. They are furnished with treasures from the Royal Collection including paintings by Holbein, Rubens, Van Dyck and Lawrence, fine tapestries and porcelain, sculpture and armor.

I was personally overwhelmed in a large room with neatly placed old guns in various ornate positions that covered most of the walls.

Also, within the Castle complex are many additional attractions, including the Drawings Gallery, Queen Mary's dolls' house, and the fourteenth-century St. George's Chapel, the burial place of ten sovereigns and setting for many Royal weddings.

George IV was a great lover of art and fine decoration. Much of Windsor Castle's present appearance is due to the alterations he instigated in the 1820s.

One of George IV's most remarkable additions was the Waterloo Chamber to show portraits commissioned from Sir Thomas Lawrence to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo in 1815.

I was in awe as my wife and I visited the St George's Chapel where Ten British monarchs lie buried in the chapel: Edward IV, Henry VI, Henry VIII, Charles I, George III, George IV, William IV, Edward VII, George V and George VI.

Today The Queen uses the Castle regularly, spending most of her weekends there.

The twentieth-century history of the Castle is dominated by the major fire that started on 20 November 1992. It began in the Private Chapel, when a spotlight came into contact with a curtain and ignited the material.

It took 15 hours and one-and-a-half million gallons of water to put out the blaze. Nine principal rooms and over 100 other rooms were damaged or destroyed by the fire, approximately one-fifth of the Castle area.

The next five years were spent restoring Windsor Castle to its former glory. The restoration was completed six months ahead of schedule on 20 November 1997 at a cost of $59.2 million. Seventy per cent of the necessary revenue was raised from opening Buckingham Palace's State Rooms to visitors in August and September. The restoration was undertaken at no additional cost to the taxpayer.

To mark the completion, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh held a 'thank you' reception in the restored rooms on 14 November 1997 for 1,500 contractors. On 20 November that year they celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary with a ball also held at Windsor Castle.

Psalm 45:15
With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the king's palace.

Liechtenstein is worth the stop

Liechtenstein is but a glance

There is a little small country between Austria and Switzerland that is only about 35 miles across called Liechtenstein. The central landmark of Vaduz is the Castle, actually a medieval fortress expanded in the 16th and 17th century. The earliest explicit mention of the fortress was in a document with which Court Rudolf von Werdenberg-Sargans pledged the fortress to Ulrich von Matsch. The owners at the time – and probably also the builders – were the counts of Werdenberg-Sargans.

The basic structure of the Chapel of St. Anna was probably established in the High Middle Ages. The main altar is late Gothic. In the Swabian War of 1499, the Swiss burned down the Castle. The round tower was built from 1529 to 1532. The western side was expanded by Count Kaspar von Hohenems (1613 – 1640).

Since 1712, the Castle has been in the possession of the Princes of Liechtenstein. The Castle served as a temporary seat for the imperial administrator, but the large part of the building became increasingly dilapidated. Under Prince Johann II, the Castle was finally extensively restored from 1905 to 1912 and was later converted into a residence by Prince Franz Josef II. The Castle has been the permanent residence of the Princely Family since 1938. It is not accessible to the public.

Prince Hans-Adam I, who reigned from 1699 to 1712, was the founder of the Principality Liechtenstein, thanks to his purchases of the Lordship of Schellenberg (1699) and the County of Vaduz (1712).

Prince Hans-Adam II and his four brothers and sisters grew up with their parents at Vaduz Castle. He attended primary school in Vaduz then entered the Schotten gymnasium high school in Vienna in 1956.

In 1960 he graduated with both the Swiss and German high school diplomas in 1965. Afterwards, Prince Hans Adam II worked as a trainee at a bank in London. In addition to his native tongue, German, the Prince speaks English and French.

On 30 July 1967, Prince Hans Adam II married Countess Marie Kinsky of Wichnitz and Tettau (born 14 April 1940 in Prague). They have four children.

After stopping on the main street we stopped at a street café where we could view the castle which was directly over us. Our thoughts make us wonder what it would be like being a King, Prince or Queen as those who lived just above.

Like many before me, I walked just down the street to the post office and bought the commemorate stamps and any souvenir sheets the country had produced for my stamp collection. When I sold my collection it was full of stamps for this country.

Genesis 25:16
“These are the sons….. And these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations.”



Lake Lugano is not just for the rich and famous

One of the most beautiful lakes in Switzerland and northern Italy is Lake Lugano which is both a lake and city where many of the rich and famous of Europe spent their holidays.

We had been to various cities in Italy and had headed to Switzerland for a few days. We stopped at Lugano to eat, shop and sightsee. After walking a long piece beside the water we observed wind-surfing, motor boating, and skiing until my wife said let go do some shopping. Well, the shops on the main road were the expensive Paris shops filled with wares and clothes not worn by my wife. So we directed ourselves into the back and side streets where we found things more to our liking. After deciding on a few souvenirs we entered a quaint little café where the food was very tasty and good.

Then we resumed our trip northward into the new St. Gotthard’s pass tunnel on the border of the two countries. It is one of the longest in the area at 10 miles long. This new route shorten the time by a couple hours from the old road that went over the mountains and down through beautiful valleys.

We have been through a number of long tunnels but this one was pretty freaky since a head-on crash in the tunnel killed 11 people and closed the tunnel for months.

We miss the beauty of the mountain road but the time difference is worth taking the tunnel.

Deut. 2:3
“Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.”

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Downtown Vienna with the Opera House where we saw the Mozart presentation.

Vienna is a city of many facets. Vienna tra classico e moderno


Vienna the Home of Greats

My wife and I have always enjoyed Austria and Vienna the capital is one of our favorite cities.

Vienna is Austria's primate city; with a population of about 1.7 million (2.2 million within the metropolitan area), and is by far the largest city in Austria and is its cultural, economic and political center. Vienna lies in the very east of Austria and is close to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. An Economist Intelligence Unit study of 127 world cities ranked it third for quality of life.

Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Strauss, and Schubert are just a few of the musical luminaries who lived in Vienna and many of the theaters are always playing their material. One of our highlights was to attend a Mozart symphony in the famed music hall.

Beside musical halls the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna is one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria and since the 1860s has been one of the major attractions. The palace and gardens illustrate the tastes, interests and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs. In earlier times it served as summer residence to various Habsburg rulers.

Inside the palace you'll learn all sorts of interesting facts about the imperial family, while you can continue to enjoy further aspects of Baroque culture with a relaxing stroll around the gardens.

The castle was build to rival French Versailles in Baroque beauty and importance but the House of Habsburg lacked funds to outdo its rivaling nation France.

Emperor Franz Joseph (ruled 1848-1916), who was born there in 1830, spent the last years of his life entirely in Schönbrunn. In 1918, the palace became the property of the new republic.

We admired the magnificent apartments of Maria Theresia, her sitting rooms, bedroom and the parlor, in which 6 year old Mozart used to play for the Empress, as well as the parlors and apartments of Imperial couple Franz Joseph and Sissi.

The interior is an orgy of frescoed ceilings, crystal chandeliers, huge mirrors and gilded ornaments. We visited almost 40 rooms but learned we had seen less than 3% of the residence's 1441 rooms.
The city is full of Museums which we enjoyed.The Hofburg is the location of the Schatzkammer (treasury), holding the imperial jewels of the Hapsburg dynasty. The Sissi Museum (a museum devoted to Empress Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie of Austria) allows visitors to view the Imperial apartments as well as the silver cabinet. Directly opposite the Hofburg are the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Naturhistorisches Museum, which houses many paintings by old masters and ancient and classical artifacts.
A number of museums are located in the Museumsquartier, the former Imperial Stalls which were converted into a museum complex in the 1990s. It houses the Museum of Modern Art (Ludwig Foundation), the Leopold Museum focussing on works of the Viennese Secession. The Liechtenstein Palace contains one of the world's largest private art collections. There are a multitude of other museums in Vienna, including the Military History Museum, the Technical Museum, the Vienna Clock Museum and the Burial Museum.
We did not have near enough time to really see this unique city.

Psalm 150:2 “Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.“
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Sunday, September 16, 2007


The Roar of Rhine falls got our attention

After arriving to the area of the famous Rhine falls, my wife and I found a café with the best view and sat down with a hot cup of espresso and just sit and talked as we observed the falls. One of young German girls who was waiting our table took a special interest is us so she could practice her English. She made sure our cups were filled and explained what was happening as we observed many who took a boat ride right up to the falls and went up a protected stairway to a pinnacle in the middle of the roaring area. We were filled with wonderment at the beauty provided by God.

To us Schaffhausen’s best excursion was the short trip westwards to the Rhine falls, Europe’s largest waterfall. They are truly magnificent, not so much for their height as for their impressive breadth and the sheer drama of the place, with the spray rising in a cloud of rainbows above the forested banks. The turreted castle Schloss Laufen on a cliff directly above the falls to the south completes the spectacle is particularly impressive

Getting to the falls can be via a riverside walk from Schaffhausen to the suburban town of Neuhausen, where the falls are located. It takes about 45 minutes; or you could take city bus to Neuhausen Zentrum, from where the well-signposted falls are five minutes’ walk away.

Once you’re within sight of the falls, though, you’re inevitably brought down to earth with a bump by the hordes of tourists crowding both banks in search of the best camera angle, and by the circus of souvenir stalls and dismal restaurants all around.

While it doesn’t compare with other falls we have seen we are happy for the half day spent there.

Acts 16:13
And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

Rhine Falls Video

Rhine Falls (Switzerland Aug04)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Friday, September 7, 2007

Petra: The hard place to get to.

One of the most unusual places I have visited was Petra which lies about 3-5 hours south of modern Amman, Jordan, and about 2 hours north of Aqaba, on the edges of the mountainous desert of the Wadi Araba.

Petra was first established sometime around the 6th century BC, by the Nabataean Arabs, a nomadic tribe who settled in the area and laid the foundations of a commercial empire that extended into Syria.

The site is semi-arid, the friable sandstone which allowed the Nabataeans to carve their temples and tombs into the rock crumbling easily to sand. The color of the rock ranges from pale yellow or white through rich reds to the darker brown of more resistant rocks. The city is surrounded by towering hills of rust-colored sandstone which gave the city some natural protection against invaders.

From the entrance to the site, a dusty trail leads gently downwards along the Wadi Musa (The Valley of Moses). Once inside, the route narrows to little more than five feet in width, while the walls tower up hundreds of feet on either side. The floor of this passage is filled with all sizes of small rocks making it impossible to walk on unless you rent a horse as I did to make the long journey.

The passage way twists and turns, the high walls all but shutting out the early morning sunlight, until abruptly, through a cleft in the rock, the first glimpse of the city of Petra can be seen. Carved out of pale reddish sandstone, ornate pillars supporting a portico surmounted by a central urn and two flanking blocks jut out from the cliff face ahead. This is The Khazneh which is the best-known of the monuments at Petra. The facade, carved out from the sandstone cliff wall, is 40 feet high, and is remarkably well-preserved. The name Khazneh, which means 'treasury’, comes from the legend that it was used as a hiding place for treasure. Inside was a large square room that had been carved out of the rock of the cliff.

Surrounding the open space dominated by the Khazneh are other tombs and halls mostly little more than man-made caves carved out from the rock. A broad track from the Khazneh leads to the main street of Roman Petra, which is paved with cut stone and lined with columns. Towards the amphitheatre is an open marketplace and a nymphaeum or public fountain.

Ahead lays the centre of the city, while following the cliff face further to the right takes you north from the Khazneh to three large structures, known as the Royal Tombs that have been carved into the rock face, and is known as the King's Wall. To the north, there is one more tomb, which was built in AD 130 for the Roman governor of the city under Hadrian, Sextius Florentinus

The Temple, popularly known as the Qasr al-Bint Firaun ("The Castle of Pharaoh's Daughter"), was a large free-standing structure, built of massive blocks of yellow sandstone.

As rode out on my horse I had marveled at how the Nabataeans must have been excellent engineers. I even noticed on the return the walls of the Siq are lined with channels to carry drinking water to the city, while a dam to the right of the entrance diverted an adjoining stream through a tunnel to prevent it flooding the Siq.
Ezekiel 35:8-9
And I will fill his mountains with his slain men: in thy hills, and in thy valleys, and in all thy rivers, shall they fall that are slain with the sword. [9] I will make thee perpetual desolations, and thy cities shall not return: and ye shall know that I am the Lord.