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Archive for the ‘Austria’ Category

Situated in Tirol, Kitzbühel is a Kitzbuhel wind vanes on farmer's house famous ski resort in winter. The town is very picturesque: large parts of the town is laid out in cobblestones and weekly markets are held on one of the squares. On another square fiakers (horse-drawn carriages) are parked: I stroke the velvety noses of the large gentle horses with their big hooves every time I went by.

The first known settlers in the area were Illyrians (which is roughly the region west of the Balkan Peninsula, or where modern Albania is today). These people mined copper in the hills around Kitzbühel between 1100 BC and 800 BC. Under Emperor Augustus, the Romans extended their empire in 15 BC towards the Alps and established the province of Noricum. After them, Bavarii (the original Germanic name was “baio-warioz” and from where the name Bohemia was derived, thus Barvarians are also known as “men from Behomemia”) settled in the Kitzbühel region around 800 AD and started to clear the forest. A document from the Chiemsee monastery mentioned the name Chizbuhel for the first time in 1200 AD: Chizzo is connected to a Bavarian clan and Bühel means “a settlement upon a hill”. The town established itself as a market town, and under the Duke of Bavaria it enjoyed peaceful times – so much so that the stones of its fortified walls were eventually used as housing for its citizens.
Kitzbuhel town

The quiet painted town is just as peaceful today (although the ski slopes can get very busy in peak times). When strolling through the little lanes one hears the Decorative windowsgurgling waters of the streams as off-shoot canals from the Kitzbüheler Ache River; the rhythmic pounding of the horses’ hooves as they carefully tread on the slippery cobbles; hourly chiming of the churches’ bells; a surprize glockenspiel as two shutters would suddenly open on a tower and wooden figurines twirl with the music and the familiar sound of a piano-accordian playing Tirolean songs from one of the cafés.

Plush coffee cafés are beautifully decorated where the soft furnishing of curtains, cushions, tie-backs and napkins all match with the same fabric. The choice of pastries, cakes, biscuits and rich torte in their various sizes, shapes and colours is a feast for the eye. Many of those tasty and attractive looking assortment of treats can easily be veganized at home. For instance: Linzertorte or jam cake (use a dough with oil plus a nut butter as your base and scatter with fresh berries); Apfelstrudel or apple cake (I use Filo pastry filled with apple slices, lots of raisins and walnuts – which is a recipe from my vegan recipe book “BENESSERE well-being: vegan & sugar-free eating for a healthy life-style”, that looks and tastes very traditional); Topfengrießknödel or semolina dumplings (replace the quark and eggs simply with tofu and corn starch); Zwetschkenkuchen or plum cake (make a runny dough with a nut butter and corn starch to replace the eggs and butter, and place fresh plums or peaches onto the dough).
Coffee café
To my sheer delight, I discovered a well-stocked, small organic shop that apart from their usual range of exquisite foods, also sells fresh produce, mouthwatering wholemeal breads and rolls, sugar-free little cakes and sweets. My jacket pockets were stuffed everyday with these energy-giving but healthy snacks for when we stopped on the ski slopes to take a breather. I cannot wait for our next town (Wengen) where we will have an apartment for a week, and with my own kitchen I’ll be able to make use of these delightful organic shops and make my own healthy meals!

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White castle & cobble streets

Salzburg and castle
Salzburg is the capital of the state of Salzburg (it became independent from Bavaria in the late 14th century). It is famous for the musical “The sound of music”, the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the culinary dish “Salzburger Nocherl”. There is evidence of people who lived in the area that dates from the Neolithic Age. The Celts were the first to establish settlements at Salzburg around the 5th century BC. Under the Roman Empire, these separate villages were merged into one city, which was called Juvavum. The city got its name “Salzburg” (meaning Salt Castle), from the barges transporting salt on the Salzach River. River transport was subject to a toll in the 8th century, as with any community or city on European rivers (one can still see the metal rings along the river where thick chains were strung across the river, making it impossible for boats to pass unless the necessary taxes, levies or tolls were paid).

The old part of the town (“Altstadt”) is a Rococo church Baroque jewel of architecture: churches with beautifully painted interiors, large fountains, the sprawling castle, individually designed town houses, rose gardens and iron bridges are a feast for the eyes. The town of Salzburg is divided by the Salzach River into two fabulous, mainly pedestrian areas. On the side of Kaputzinerberg, small narrow buildings seems squashed in by the heavy presence of the mountain. The pathways are roughly cobbled, steep, labarinthian with some shops, very small cafés and the location of a large organic shop (Reformhaus). The other half of the town nestles at the foot of Mönchsberg. On top sits the white Hohensalzburg Fortress that looms over the city like a freshly baked angel cake. The winding, almost half a kilometer long pedestrian alley of Getreidegasse houses the most expensive boutiques, specialist chocolate shops and numerous restaurants. Known originally in 1150 as “Trabegasse” (to trot), changing into Tragasse, Traidgasse, Getreidgasse until the name finally came to be Getreidegasse in the 1900’s, it was in Roman times the main road linking Salzburg and Bavaria. Even in Medieval times it was a rather expensive street to be in: doctors, breweries, wealthy merchants and sought-after craftsmen lived and worked there. A charity bathhouse was also located in the street, where poorer citizens could have baths and free basic medical treatments three times a year. The Mozart family also lived in Getreidegasse.

Getreidegasse

Getreidegasse

All along this famous street, wrought iron guild signs are charming indicators of what the shops sell. Behind the upright shops and town houses are small courtyards reached via narrow lanes with low entrances. Some are open and others form covered galleries, most of them though are decorated with arcades, columns and decorative niches.

We stumbled upon a wonderful farmers’ and deli market in one of the squares. I was in seventh heaven! Walking slowly from stall to stall I noticed in my excitement the shiny deep colours of various fruit, the large sizes of bell peppers and mushrooms, the variety of fresh herbs and berries. In the end I bought far too much for our dinner (to be had in our hotel room), but I happily carried my heavy bags containing home-made hummus, artichoke spreads and olives bought from a friendly Turkish woman; bags of 3 types of nuts and organic dried fruit from a small stall; berries, figs and bell peppers (which I love to eat raw like an apple) at another stall and finally a Tyrolean cake from a man with large, worn hands. He has a family-run bakery making all sorts of regional breads and lovely cakes which proudly sport a label that they were made without eggs, dairy or sugar! They are simply made with only a few ingredients:

Entrance to apartments

Old-fashioned door bells

dried figs and hazelnuts wrapped around an oil-based pastry and shaped into a log which is baked until crispy. Absolutely delicious, and it also makes good train food.

The next morning we quickly dashed back to the market (open from 6 am – being winter it was still pitch dark) to buy a few more provisions before boarding the train to Kitzbühel, still in Austria.

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