The Key to … at the Key and Lock Museum in Graz

There are a lot of different museums in the world, thinking just about the museum of broken relationships in Los Angeles for example. When I was visiting my friend in Graz we were at the Key & Lock Museum. I didn’t know what to expect.

Actually the building from outside looks like a big garage, just a concrete building, nothing that looks like a museum where normally you can see old things. We had even to ring the bell. A young lady greeted us and led us upstairs through a hall and into an office. Here we could pay our fee and she then explained in a huge hall what we will see and where we have to go.

On three different floors there are more than 13.000 objects. Keys, locks, wooden caskets and trunks, locking systems and door mountings and all that has to do with closing a door. They are made of steel, wood, ivory, gold and silver, mother-of-pearl or tortoiseshell. These objects are all a private collection of the Schell family. Many information boards explain the most curious things like why a sugar bowl once was locked up.

Even some manequins in antique dresses are giving the sense of which time period we are going through right now.

The time period of all these objects is expansive. It goes from antiquity to the 20th century. The objects are from all over the world, from Europe, Asia and Africa. The last floor shows even complete doors from ancient, long died cultures like the old Egyptians or Babylonians. There’s also a nice place to sit and rest thinking about all these different locking systems they used in millennia already.

Showcases with a huge number of golden or silver keys from baroque or Renaissance are really impressive. But also hundreds of keys from Africa more than 1.000 years old are really mind opening. Humans always wanted to lock something, to hide.

I also found out that the chastity belt never existed and is a myth. Which makes me feel better! How could anyone ever wear something like that, even going on a journey and for security?

We spent a few hours in the museum with an American and a German couple. This museum is really worth seeing, even if it is not easy to find. It is important to have enough time because keys definitely are not only keys, they are much more and super interesting. Key bits are oftentimes amazing, they can be so very elaborate.

Graz, Styria,/Austria:

For further information:
Key Museum – Schell-Collection
Wiener Straße 10
8020 Graz
Tel: +43 316 / 71 56 56 – 38
Fax: +43 316 / 71 56 56 – 38

You might like to read also:
Discovering the Most Interesting Cities in Austria – Graz
A Nearly Rainy Day in Frohnleiten, Styria
A Culinary Tour in Graz – Markets and Cafeterias

Posted in Austria, Europe, ON TRAVEL, Styria | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In the Land of Giants – Carlingford on the Cooley Peninsula

Cairlinn (in Irish) is situated within the Cooley Peninsula next to the Northern Ireland border. It’s a tiny super tidy town (1988 it won the Irish Tidy Towns Competition) next to the sea and int the Cooley mountains with a lot of myths and legends.

A friend of mine and I were here on a wonderful summer day with a blue blue sky. We strolled in the medieval streets, had lunch here and a look to the castle.

The town is situated of a very important place for the Irish mythology. Cooley was the home of the famous bull Donn Cùailinge and the cattle raid of Cooley.

Historically the town was occupied by the Norman knight Hugh de Lacy, who played a huge role in the history of the Leinster region. He founded the castle which still today is seen on a rock high above the sea.

Later it became a flourishing trading port during the 14th and 16th century. But this found a sudden end when the whole place was burnt to the ground by a Scots force as a punitive raid.

Of that prospered time the Mint and the castle are testimonials.

For long periods Carlingford was struggling with its economy and only in the late 19th century it started to open up to tourism. A secondary economic income gives fishing (oysters and crabs mainly)

When I was there I saw a lot of tourists from all over the world and the little town was bursting with people. Tiny shops and restaurants where people got lunch sitting outside in the yards, flower pots hanging at every street lamp, a busy port and people walking in the medieval streets… a wonderful place to dive deep in the Irish history getting the ‘perfect feeling’.

The castle is the most eminent structure in my point of view. Unfortunately it is closed due to safety but you can walk around and enjoy an incredible view on the sea, the port, the town and the not too far away mountains. The King John’s Castle has its name by Richard Lionheart (King John) who visited the town in 1210.

We visited also the Carlingford priory. It was founded in 1305 by Dominican monks. Once these ruins were a cloister, a church and some domestic buildings for living. A small river flows along the complex, perfect for a continuous water supply. But like most of monasteries in Ireland and Great Britain with the dissolution by Henry VIII in 1539 the decline was inevitable. The church survived a little longer as accommodation for herring fishermen.

There is another little church, modern and in use but in old architecture we had a look from outside. Here the windows were fascinating as the glass was uneven, wavy.

It was one of the most beautiful summer days I visited this place and it was a kind of jump in ‘real Irish feeling’. What every one believes when thinking of Ireland. When you are on the way from Dublin to Northern Ireland, this is a ‘must see’!

Carlingford, County Louth/Ireland:

For further information:
Official website of Carlingford

Posted in Co. Louth, Europe, Ireland, ON TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Hiking in the Snow in Southern California

It was a sunny day, not too cold, and friends wanted to go for a hike… We were heading east out of San Diego towards the mountains. Slowly slowly the landscape changed, slowly I had the impression that weather could be colder than in San Diego city. When we arrived I knew it was much much colder than at the coast.

Our hiking place was the Stonewall Peak trail near to Julian, a little place in the mountains and where I was once last September. The trail is situated in the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.

We were 6 enthusiastic adults and a bunch of teenage kids with much less energy for a nearly 4 mile hike.

We parked our cars nearby the trail in a parking area and walked up the hill. It looked high. Actually it’s only a 823 feet climb, and perfect also for people like me without any hiking skills. The trail has smooth switchbacks. Once – they told me – there was a forest but years ago there was a huge fire that destroyed most of it. I saw a lot of dead trees – maybe they seemed to me dead but they are only in winter sleep. A mystic place honestly.

We saw snow everywhere even though not much. But the wind was super chilly and for me it seemed less than 30°F/0°C.

The last part was a little tricky as the ground was icy and slippery. Some of us fall, sliding on the ice.

When we arrived on the top we had the best ever view! So beautiful, a real 360° panorama view as far as to Salton Sea. The view was limited only by higher mountains.

Some of us took another way back to the car, some the same as we came. I took the same as it was the sunny side and easy to go back. I was freezing cold and couldn’t wait to go back into the warm car.

I hope I can do the same trail again in spring as I think it will be wonderful when it’s a little warmer and all green and with flowers maybe, birds singing in the (dead) trees. The view can be great then as well.

I confess I was happy to get back to the much warmer San Diego in the late afternoon.

Trail Stonewall Peak, California/USA:

For further information:
Trail Stonewall Peak

Posted in California, ON TRAVEL, San Diego, USA | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

My First Time with Air b&b – And I Loved It!

I wanted to get away for a few days between Christmas and New Years Eve. But it’s also one of the most expensive periods. So what to do? Airbnb is the solution. And we decided to go for a couple of days to Palm Springs.

It was my very first time using Airbnb and so I had to research a little bit and open an account with the web-page. That was easy, a photo, some describing words about me and my partner and all done.

We chose a nice looking place out of Palm Springs at La Quinta which seemed to be pretty near and also in calm surroundings.

After booking we got a fast answer, I got a text message and shortly after we communicated our approximate arrival time.

The description on Airbnb is already accurate but in the text message there were some additional information how to arrive. It was easy to find and soon we were in front of our host for two days.

Our host June is amazing. She welcomed us warmly with a hug, just like old friends. She showed us our lovely double room with a king seize bed and the bathroom (nearly en suite as it is ours for the time but attached the room). Everything well prepared, bedlinen, towels, even shower soap and shampoo.

We could use the kitchen any time, even cooking if we wanted. Coffee or tea always available, we found some things for breakfast and water was in the fridge. There is free wireless internet, we had free parking in front of the house which is in a condominium and therefore quiet and secure. We had the possibility for a gym nearby, could use the washing machine and the dryer.

The room had of course a heating system/air conditioning and a TV.

She gave us a key so we could go and come when ever we wanted. Her little dog is calm and not disturbing at all. The little patio is great to sit in the morning and having the coffee outside.

Personal experience:
The room is very comfortable as is the bed with a bunch of pillows. There is a big closet and the room has two windows which give a lot of daylight. The flat-screen TV we didn’t switch on. A little desk with paper and pens gave me the possibility to write some postcards.

The bathroom is right besides the room. June didn’t feel well and she was often in bed. Her room is on the opposite side of the apartment and has a bathroom en suite. For this reason we rarely saw her. We had complete freedom to move and feel home.

We had our coffee in the morning sitting outside and planing our day. Check-in was after noon and check-out before.

My first experience with Airbnb was the best one can have. I will do again the Airbnb and will hope I will always have such a nice host like June. She is new on Airbnb but highly recommended for her perfection. She gave us a lot of great ideas where to go, what to see, where to eat.

I recommend:
La Quinta is not far away from many great places. Nearby we found a Mongolian style restaurant. I liked it a lot as one can choose from a variety of meats, vegetables and fruits at a buffet, put all in a bowl and then they cook it for you. They serve your food at the table. It is a set price and you can return multiple times.

Nearby there is Shields Date Garden. Very touristic but interesting if you want to know about date cultivation in California. The old movie was rather fun to watch.

In the summer Coachella is a magic place as one of the biggest music festivals in California takes place here.

More appealing to me was the Coachella Valley Preserve Visitor Center. It was closed itself but the oasis with natural springs and palm trees is a great place for hiking. I loved it.

Palm Springs is not far away and easily reachable by car.

If you like hot springs there are some north of Palm Springs.

South there is Salton City and the Salton Sea. The town has nothing special but a short stop at the shores of the lake at the blue hour is great. Don’t think too much about the smell.. you don’t live there!

I recommend the Indian Canyons. Great for hiking and really impressing desert photography.

La Quinta, Palm Springs, California/USA:

For further information:

Posted in accomodation, California, ON TRAVEL, USA | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The House of Hanover in Great Britain – Hans Caspar von Bothmer and the English Queen

It has been years that I’ve wanted to see this little castle in Klütz in the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern region in north-east Germany. But it was under restoration and opened only recently. When last summer I have learned about the re-opening I asked my usual friend if she would like to come with me. I am so happy we did because after those summer days she started to have severe health problems which she is still struggling with. I hope that in summer she will be fine and we can go on tour soon again!

Schloss Bothmer is situated in the so called Klützer Winkel not too far away from Lübeck where I am doing oftentimes some house-sitting for another friend. Not far from the Baltic Sea the hilly landscape appears most of the year green and full of wild flowers. Famous here is the spa resort Boltenhagen, worth a visit Klütz itself and of course the castle Bothmer.

Schloss is the German word for manor. Schloss Bothmer is a Baroque palatial manor house ensemble and was built by Count Hans Caspar von Bothmer – who never lived here. Th architect was Johann Friedrich Künnecke who built the manor during 1726 and 1732 after the Bothmer’s designs. The family had the property until 1945 when it was taken over by the new government. Today the State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern owns the manor and has it only recently restored to re-open it to public in 2016.

This history is long and interesting especially because the owner never lived here and visited only once when he bought the land. In his will he decided that only the oldest son of every generation will inherited the whole property without being split. In ended up to have more than 8.000 hectares thanks to marriages.

After 1945 it was confiscated and used as a hospital and then a retirement home until 1994. Between the 2009 and 2015 the restoration took place. A nice story in this: during the renovation of the park two chests of silver were discovered, neatly wrapped in newspapers from 1943. The authorities gave the silver back to the Bothmer family.

The Baroque country house was inspired by a few architectures in that period like the Dutch and the English one. Sash windows are an example. The buildings are not immensely huge but it has a main body with two wings, two stories high. The main house is the one to visit today and has around 20 rooms, mainly empty as there is no original furniture anymore.

The park is beautiful. An alley with odd linden trees is the one leading to the manor (not used anymore today but it’s possible to walk the alley). The former orangery has a little restaurant and cafeteria where you can sit also outside, very nice and in summer a must coffee-stop. In the back there is a nice round-way in which was once for sure a typical elegant English or French garden with a big pond in the middle.

But after all: who is Hans Caspar von Bothmer? And why is he connected to the English queen? That was the most interesting and awesome part for me. I could find this out reading the many information boards in the different rooms and thanks to a wonderful guard who is passionate about the Schloss Bothmer and is the best (unofficial) guide imaginable for the place.

Hans Caspar Count of Bothmer was born in 1656 in Lauenbrück, Lower Saxony. He was a son of the Hanoverian Dynasty. His education began at the Ritterakademie of St. Michael in Lüneburg. Languages, history, math, etiquette, dancing and fencing were the subjects a young gentleman had to learn. His nature was that of a fighter, he wanted to go to war but his father had other plans for his firstborn son. But lucky guy had a godfather who helped him to find a position in the diplomatic envoy to the Peace Congress in Nijmegen. He obviously changed his mind and found his satisfaction in diplomacy. He went to London, Den Haag, Paris, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Stockholm and other places. His father’s plans about Hans Caspar to study at the university have blown into the wind.

He started his real career in London. Here he became an important diplomat and politician as an adviser to several British monarchs. He was very close to Queen Anne, to her follower king George I and king George II, both Hanoverian. Both kings often traveled to the mainland while Count Bothmer preferred to stay in London and pull the strings behind the scenes. As the first Minister of the German Chancery he was the smart operator at court. He rarely came back to his home country of the Welfs. Out of the Welf dynasty there are some kings and queens of Great Britain like the late Queen Victoria, George I, II, III and IV and others.

Because of the Act of Settlement in January 1701 the Welfs, and therefore the family of Count Bothmer, were able to become kings and queens. The today queen Elisabeth II is parented with the Hanoverians and therefore in part German. Even the king of Spain is related to the Welfs.

This discovery was completely new for me. Like also the extreme importance of a German count during that period.

The young guard who happened to be a great guide and storyteller gave us many other details. The passion of her for the history of this place made it alive. The manor itself is interesting, not too big like castles are and empty of furniture. Decorations are on the walls and ceilings, but that’s it. She gave life into this place, made shine a nearly forgotten time. And that’s because she heard me asking my friend something about history she also didn’t know.

We had later a light lunch in the former orangery sitting outside in the sun and walked after the coffee to the back of the house into the gardens to enjoy nature and the view from a less busy side.

The Bothmer castle hosts summer concerts and other performances. If you happen to be in this part of Germany you should definitely consider spending a day in this area. It is more than worth it.

Castle Bothmer, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern/Germany:

For further information:
Schloss Bothmer (in German)

Posted in Europe, Germany, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, ON TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment