Saturday, 3 December 2016

Monte San Giorgio

Monte San Giorgio is a mountain close to the city of Lugano in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, in Switzerland. It is not high, does not have an unusual shape, still, it has a tremendous importance for the history of the Earth. Tremendous enough to be recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

So let's jump on the PostAuto, the famous yellow busses of Switzerland.

The uniqueness of Monte San Giorgio relates to its geological structure that shelters amazing paleontological artefacts. In most places in the world scientists can find one layer of fossils, coming from a distinct period. Monte San Giorgio is composed of seven layers of fossils, coming from consecutive eras, which allows the scientists to study the evolution of species living in this region over millions of years.

In the Middle Triassic geological period, Monte San Giorgio lied on the shores of the huge Thetys Ocean which separated Africa from Eurasia. In the shallow waters many species have quickly evolved.

When the dead animals were sinking they had the best possible conditions for fossilization.

One of the things that I liked best in the Monte San Giorgio museum was that the fossils are paired with models which allows the imagination to work better.

Besides fish-like animals, Monte San Giorgio was also home to shell-like ammonites.

You can also admire there different types of sediment rocks.

Look, they were even smart enough to create the Swiss flag out of Monte San Giorgio rocks.

I must say that I was impressed by the diversity of the marine fauna that has lived around Monte San Giorgio.

Maybe you would like to check on by yourselves if any of them are still around? It seems that we will need to watch out for their descendants at least.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Chillion castle

We will visit today one of the most visited castles in Europe - Château de Chillon. It is located on a little island on Lake Geneva so to get there, we need to take the little wooden bridge.

The castle was rebuilt several times, but it still keeps something medieval in its looks.

Which is quite amazing since just on the other side you can see the highway, having nothing to do with Middle Ages. 

The flag on top of the dungeon is the flag of canton Vaud. 

But the castle changed its owner and country affiliation more than once during the last centuries. Let's enter inside to discover some of this heritage.

The castle was built somewhere towards the end of the tenth century. In the twelfth century it became the summer house of Dukes of Savoy. Or one of many summer houses should I say.

In some of the rooms you can still find the coat of arms of Savoy.

The dukes made sure that they have enough space to eat and party. 

The duke had of course the most special place. Not yet a throne, no longer a chair. 

Though obviously it was not easy to heat large rooms at that time, even with really big chimneys.

The dukes had of course also a private chapel. It used to be covered with frescoes but little of their original beauty has survived.

The bedrooms were more modest. To be honest the bed looked child-sized. As you may remember from our trip to Malbork, people in the Middle Ages were shorter than today.

But this bath tube looks quite comfortable. 

Obviously the Chillion castle was not a place of comfort for all its residence. During religion wars in Europe, it was used as a prison. The most famous prisoner was François Bonivard, a monk from Geneva supporting the reformation. His "residence" in the basement was far from being comfortable.

The windows were high and let in only a limited amount of sunlight.

On top, they did not have glass, only bars.

The view on the Alps might have been splendid but in winter it was really cold. And humid.

Obviously the prisoners had little chance to admire the view since they were chained to pillars.

And they knew that their only way of leaving the place was in a coffin.

The reason why Bonivard is the most famous resident of the place is because he is the main character of a narrative poem written by Lord Byron - "The prisoner of Chillon". Byron visited the castle once and even left a signature on one of the pillars. What a vandal.

Let's leave this horrible prison. On the left you can see the duke's cellars. And yes, just next to the prisoners. The wines signed by Chillion castles are well known and are considered to be part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Lavaux vineyards".

The castle includes several courtyards.

The passages between each other are usually guarded by towers.

They are linked by passages that go also on higher level so that the security guard could keep an eye on the visitors.

Some of them go really high and are covered with wooden roofs.

I must say that Chillion castle proved to be an place both interesting and depressing. Long years of pain seem to be part of the rock on which it was built.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Transport Museum in Lucerne

I know, I know, many of you think probably that museums are boring. But today I will take you to a truly amazing museum, I am sure you will like it. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Transport Museum in Lucerne.

The main entrance is guarded by a snow groomer. He is called Peter.

The museum is divided in several sections. The first one is dedicated to railroad vehicles. You can see there various trains.

It is even possible to look inside a locomotive.

And go below to see the chassis.

I enjoyed in particular the possibility to discover how steam locomotives worked.

A fascinating adventure of pistons and pipes.

Railroad is of course not only about trains but also trams.

You can even sit inside and pretend to be a tram driver.

Did you know that first trams were actually horse-powered?

That was a tough job. So travellers were encouraged to weigh themselves before they jumped on.

The next section of the museum is devoted to road transport. Next to the entrance you can see a special bus. In the old days, when few people had cars,  inhabitants of remote Swiss villages had difficulties to shop for fresh groceries. The local retailer Migros has launched special shop-buses.

Inside you can see old cars ...

... and futuristic racing cars.

And some motorbikes on top!

On the central square you can test yourself what it feels like to expand the network of roads.

You can sit in a road roller ...

... or in a tipper truck.

The third section of the museum is devoted to sea transport. Inside you can see all types of vessels. Starting with fisherman boats.

Next to it comes an exploration vessel, called bathyscaphe.

It can go deep inside oceans. The pressure there is huge so to go out you would need a special scaphander.

Obviously ships are very large so the easiest to admire many types is by looking at models.

You can also get close to vital parts of ships, like a motor ...

... or a steering wheel. Captain Rick is on board - full speed ahead!

The last building is devoted, you surely guessed it, to travels made in the air.

Starting with paragliders ...

... and first airplanes.

Then come dirigibles (or airships).

It is possible to look inside an old-fashion passenger plane.

And compare some of the more modern models.

The flight attendants invite ...

... welcome and enjoy the business class experience.

I must say this interactive museum proved to be even better than I thought. Travelling is a great experience, no matter the means of transport.