Daily Prompt: Disaster

Life can be quite disasterous, from a burnt toast to tragic event. You never know what is around the corner, and often it is not even around the corner but within reach. I have survived many disasters in my life. At the moment my share is a little extreme, but it will also pass.

Fire in the old town of Solothurn

This photo dates back to approximately March 2011 on a day like any other. I remember it well, how can you forget approaching a fire in the old town of Solothurn.

I had to visit the dentist. No-one really likes visiting the dentist, especially if he has to do things like boring, scraping, digging and disguising the pain with an injection. It was one of those visits and I was relieved to be able to leave the chair and say goodbye to everyone. That was the good side of it all, the bad side was that I had to make a new appointment for the next sitting. There are things in life that are really disasterous.

I left the dentist’s torture chamber and as I stepped into the street I smelt something in the air, which reminded me of a b-b-que, but not the nice meaty smell, more tinged with smoke and fumes. I glanced back to the dentist surgery, thinking perhaps the drill had met with a short circuit which would have postponed my next appointment, perhaps even cancelled it, but no such luck. There were no clouds of smoke pouring out of his windows

Fire in the old town of SolothurnAs I turned the corner into town I could see smoke billowing into the sky. At last the chance to capture an exclusive report with my camera which I always have in my purse As I grew closer to the smoke I reliased that the fire brigade were already there and had already constructed their ladders to the burning roof. I had missed all the action! This was pure excitement, especially as it seemed that it was the rooves of the shortly renovated old town houses. If one attic begins to burn, then it does not take long for the next attic to burn, and eventually you have a chain reaction of burning attics. The were naturally all made of wood, ideal for a nice bonfire.

I wanted a close up of the event of course, so got as close as possible. The firemen had more problems holding back the photographers than fighting the fire it seemed, but I continued undaunted. There was another problem. All those people with their telephones taking photos, I had to elbow a few out of the way, I had a real camera: not my DSLR but something better than a do-it-yourself telephone whch are really not suitable for such a spectacular fire. I shot many photos that day when my telephone rung. It was Mr. Swiss asking what had happened, as I had still not returned home.

I explained of the exciting events although there were really no real flames to be seen, just smoke. There was also a lot of water on the ground. Mr. Swiss muttered something about these things always happening to me. Of course another problem was I could not walk direct to the bus stop. I had to make a full circle around the outer walls of the town as the fire brigade had blocked all the streets with their fire extinguishing apparatus which was very annoying.

Fire in the old town of SolothurnI eventually looked back to town as I left, to make sure I was not missing anything, and could now only see the remainders of the smoke over the roof tops. Of course there was a full report in the local newspaper the next day, and even on the news on television in the evening with the headline “Fire in the Old Town of Solothurn”, but I was there. I saw it all, I was an eye witness and no-one bothered to interview me. You must realise that Solothurn was sort of founded by the Romans. It is one of the oldest towns in Switzerland. The even dug up the outlines of a Roman villa once. Now and again they find a few skeletons under the foundations of a restaurant, or on a building site.

There were three skeletons discovered just across the road to where I live in our village, but that was not such a sensation. The hanging tree was positioned where they decided to build a few hundred years later, which was a mistake of the local authorities If you want to build than be sure that it is not where they used to hand people, makes a bad impression if you want to sell the property.

Enough disaster for today, I now have to move on otherwise there will be a disaster if I do not help my feline, Tabby, to write her blog about a feline disaster.

Daily Prompt: Disaster

The Day MGM Came to Solothurn, Switzerland

Film poster

Where shall I start? I suppose in 1978 when MGM decided to produce a film about General Patton and his mysterious death. Although I do not know if it was really mysterious. A day before he was returning to the States after remaining in Germany at the end of the war, his jeep crashed into another car and his neck was broken. After two weeks he died peacefully due to a blood clot. He was buried in the Luxembourg American Cemetery. Was it or was it not an accident? One of the World War 2 mysteries.

So this film was being made in two locations in Europe: Germany and Switzerland. The Swiss locations were the Bernese Overland, Bern, Lake of Luzern and yes, my town of Switzerland, where I was living at the time. As you can see there were a few stars visiting our town . Mr. Swiss has now dowloaded the film onto our DVD recorder and this week I watched it again and it really brought back a few memories.

The storyline begins where there is a sabotage performed on a train in charge of the American army  in Germany carrying the Reichsgold. Many soldiers are killed and the gold disappears. General Patton is given the job of discovering who was behind it and where the gold is. The Russians are also interested.

The film continues and suddenly we see the first familiar building

A September Walk through Solothurn

the Saint Urs Cathedral in Solothurn.  Mr. Swiss and I decided to take a walk into town to see if there were any film stars and who did we see standing together and talking opposite the cathedral: John Cassavetes, Robert Vaughn and Max von Sydow. What a shame the digital camera was not yet in use, I would have loved to have taken a photo. Max von Sydow was the one I remembered most of all, a very impressive type.

Watching the film was interesting especially at the inside scenes in the cathedral. These pictures are particularly interesting, as since the film was made, there was a fire in the cathedral and some parts have been rebuilt and no longer exist as in 1978. There was a scene when Cassavetes was having a fight with a villain which started in the confession box, through the pews and eventually there was a treacherous climb up the stairs to the belfry, the villain being chased by Cassavetes and the bells ringing. As you can see it is quite a steep climb.

Steps to Tower, St. Urs Cathedral, Solothurn

Eventually Cassavetes won, the villain fell to the bottom of the tower and was lying dead in his own blood. The villain was actually a stunt man, and spent the next week or so in our local hospital recovering from his concussion and other various broken bones. Something must have gone wrong somewhere.

In the meanwhile Sophia Loren arrived in Solothurn. She was the leading lady playing some sort of Polish refugee, although she looked more like a Dior model. She arrived and our local newspapers took a photo. Unfortunately she only spent a few hours in Solothurn. It was then I discovered that having a double in a film is quite a good thing. You only do the scenes where your face is shown, otherwise the double does the rest. I think Loren spent only a few hours in Solothurn, hiding in the Hotel Krone, where quite a few scenes were shot, and the rest was done by the double.

A September Walk through Solothurn

This hotel is an institution in Solothurn, and even Napoleon stayed the night. On the right out of the picture is house belonging to the Von Roll Family where Casanova once spent the night. It seems Lady Von Roll fell for his charms. Opposite the hotel is the St. Urs Cathedral. You can see the stone steps and a statue on the left. Most of the scenes in the hotel were shot in one of the rooms on the first floor with a window view of the cathedral. There was also a scene of a conference with Max von Sydow playing the part of the chairman, being responsible for some sort of refugee organisation and this was also recorded in the hotel. When I was a working lady, I often attended various courses and lectures in this hotel, so I recognised most of the places used. Even the restaurant was used in the film, although the watiers dressed more in the style of the forties. I have had many coffees and a few meals in the hotel.

It was quite a week of excitement in Solothurn and unforgettable. I can only advise to watch the film “The Brass Target” if you ever have the chance: perhaps a download on your DVD which is what we did. The actual story line is very good. One of the last remarks in the film was that the Reichsgold stolen from the train was never recovered, although I am not sure whether that was just included to make the film more interesting, but it was probably based on some sort of fact.

I would add that after watching the film and writing this blog the character of General Patton began to interest me. I have now downloaded the book “Target Patton” by Robert J. Wilcox – the plot to assassinate General George S. Patton. Whether it was an assassination or not remains as a mystery. All photos used on this blog are my own, taken in the town of Solothurn, except for the poster of course – that is an Internet thing.

Daily Prompt: Stroke of Midnight – 3 years later, repeat prompt

Where were you last night at midnight? Would you have wanted to be somewhere else?

What an original question to ask on 1.1.2016, at least it would be if it had not already been asked on 1.1.2013 by the same Daily Prompt people. Yes it was another deja vue, one of many we have been suffering for the past year, at least I have.

Was I in bed, was I taking a walk in the crisp New Year air, was I at a rip-roaring party for golden oldies perhaps? No, I was at home in my armchair watching the TV.

“You don’t have to wait up if you don’t want to” said Mr. Swiss, noticing my eyes having a sort of far away sleepy look. It was 11.30 and so I decided what difference will 30 minutes make. I will do it, stay up until midnight. I was even too tired to read my new book.

I had finished my Swedish crime book, in german, “Die Menschen die es nicht verdienen” (the people that do not deserve it), by Horth and Rosenfeldt, the fifth in a row of stories concerning a police department in Sweden, particularly their criminal psychologist Sebastien Bergman. I have now read all five and enjoyed them. As far as I can see these books have not yet been translated from Swedish into English and so I have read them all in german and they are good.

I now have the choice to  read something new. My decision had been made in a reading group I belong to online, Bestsellers and Literature. They are having a group read on the book “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. Not really my sort of thing but it has been highly recommended. We are in the future world of gaming in 2041 when our world has nothing left because it is all disintegrating. I like a bit of sic fi, and so decided to try this. Mr. Swiss is absolutely not interested, not his sort of thing. I am still trying to encourage him to read something else, but he is a crime fan.

Anyhow I decided to download this book to my Kindle. My Amazon is the German group, .de, but no problem they have it all in english if you find it. Unfortunately now and again I do not find it and by error download the german version. I can read german with no problem, but if the book is originally written in English, then of course I prefer the english. I dowloaded the wrong copy, the german edition, and only discovered this error on the first page. There is no way to return, or undownload, the book and so I was forced to download the english version as well. Now I have it in two languages and am still trying to persuade Mr. Swiss to read it on my iPad in the original german. Anyhow I have read the first 30 pages and am convinced, this is going to be a good read.

I started the book yesterday evening, but as it was now near to midnight I shifted my concentration to the TV. One of this New Year German music parties was being shown, actors and people celebrating in the studio which was probably already filmed in Summer. I often wonder how people can dance a polonaise with heatwave temperatures and the sun shining all dressed in their New Year party clothes showing laughing and happy faces and toasting with their glass of champagne.

The scene changed on the TV and we were in a Swiss town where the bells were ringing. I looked at Mr. Swiss and said

“Isn’t that Solothurn?”, which is our local town.

“Yes it is, they are bringing the New Year from Solothurn this year.”

At last something worth watching, and so we saw our local cathedral, the streets of the town live at midnight, but almost completely empty, and everything in a pink tinged mist. They took us up to the belfry in the tower of the cathedral, which was very familiar to me as I once did the death defying climb up the stairs and of course took a few photos on the way. Happy New Year everyone, and WordPress please, please do not bring this prompt again next year. After 4 years of writing daily prompts I would like to see something different and original.

Belfry, St. Urs Cathedral, Solothurn

Daily Prompt: Stroke of Midnight – 3 years later, repeat prompt

Today is Asumption Day

St. Urs Cathedral, Solothurn

Those that are catholic know what I am talking about, those that are not might also know what it is all about. I live in a Roman Catholic area and so we celebrate all the Roman Catholic high days and holidays and today is one of them. It is something to do with the ascension of Maria I believe. Do not ask me more as I am not an expert. We even have our own catholic cathedral, St. Urs, which stands in the old town of Solothurn. The chief of the whole organisation is the bishop of Basel, although we are in the Kanton of Solothurn and his palace is in Solothurn: a building just along the road with all the trimmings. I do not know why he does not have his palace in Basel, but perhaps they did not have enough room to build one, or Basel was not so nice. I quite like Basel actually. The funny thing is that Basel is not a Roman catholic area, so hoards of Solothurn inhabitants are today all boarding the trains and their cars to perhaps go to Basel where the shops are open. It is just a quick jump across the border to Germany or France from Basel. Although Lörrach being the nearest town in Germany is also Roman Catholic so will also be closed.

Yes, that is the disadvantage of celebrating a catholic holiday, everything is closed.There is no possibility to go shopping for food or other necessities. I did my shopping yesterday in the local supermarket, being careful to remember everything, because today it will not be possible to buy. The locals were quite civilised in the supermarket and there was enough room to move and pursue the shopping tasks. There was no mass hysteria because today is closed. We Solothurn people are used to these days of closure, of no food buying possiblities and remain calm and cool.

Of course Mr. Swiss and I made a neat list and ticked off the items we needed for the week-end. It was only a few weeks ago when the Swiss National holiday, 1st August, fell on a Saturday, so we then had a rehearsal for today. Everything went well and we did not starve. However this time I made a mistake, almost a grave mistake. I decided too cook a veal ragout for Sunday lunch. I even told the butcher to give me three marrow bones to make a nice viscid sauce. Three bones because we are three people and it is a special Mrs. Angloswiss delicacy to eat the marrow from the bones with the meat. Everything was prepared and then I notice that I only had a thin layer of gravy powder left in the container. This is an important ingredient to my prize suspicious cooking method of veal stew. Not only the marrow bone, but the gravy powder is a crowning ingredient.

My son to the rescue. My No. 1 son decided to escape from the tranquility of Kanton Solothurn today and visit the town of Zürich, which is an hour’s train journey. Zürich is a Swiss reform church area, Ulrich Zwingli being the founder of the church, from the area around Zürich and so the Zürich people had a normal Saturday and gravy powder would be available. My son loves to make train journeys, especially on a free day. He is autistic, but has no problem is finding his way around. If he is given a quest, such as the search for a tin of gravy powder, he will find it (in between his visit to the Zürch MacDonalds and other favourite places in Zürich). He will be the rescue of the the Sunday dinner. I can rely on him.

In the meanwhile we have a quiet day at home. When I was a working lady I was glad for a religious holiday in between. Now being a golden oldie, it is not the same. I may even take a walk if the rain stays away, although come to think of it, everyone will be taking walks today. There is a danger of overcrowding on the forest paths.

As I finish writing this memorable blog I can hear the church bells ringing from the cathedral. This belongs to the day.

Daily Prompt: Idyllic and Wonky

What does your ideal community look like? How is it organised, and how is community life structured? What values does the community share?

Ideal communities are boring, everyone doing what they are supposed to do within set rules. Organisation is also boring, and does not work in any case and now to structure community life. WordPress have the solution, just repeat everything when the ideas are exhausted. I was really surprised that they dared to bring such a prompt and it would be a good idea if they took a leaf out of their own book and discovered the values we want on a daily prompt.

Chrummturm Solothurn

I was in town last week to pay a long due visit to the hairdresser. This visit was organised because I had to make an appointment. When I arrived I discovered a small community life of other victims waiting, as I, for a new look. On the way to the hairdresser I called in at the local town supermarket for a few bits and pieces and had to cross the river so naturally, armed with my camera I took a photo.

This photo shows the train bridge, the last bridge westwards in the town of Solothurn. It is the main line between Geneva at one end and Zürich at the other and you can see on the left our famous wonky tower.

This tower was finished in 1464 and was found necessary to ward off attacks from some sort of enemies which originated in France, so Wikipedia tells me. It is surprising that the tower is still standing. Did the architect drink too much mead when he designed it, or did someone push him as he was drawing the plan for the tower. There are many open questions. As I was standing on the bank of the River Aar planning my prize winning photograph a gentleman approached me, a few years younger than myself (which is not difficult today) and greeted me and said “you are taking photos” which was fairly obvious as I did have a camera in my hand.

“I am always taking photos when in town” I answered. I am a very social person and love to engage in conversations. Mr. Swiss finds I overdo this aspect of socialising some times.

“Do you know that the tower is not actually wonky?”

I answered “It looks very wonky to me.” and I was now ready for the explanation. The man was glad to have found someone showing interest in the history of Solothurn’s wonky tower and as he was a senior citizen as I am, probably had nothing better to do with his time.

“No it is not wonky” he continued “the middle point of the tower was put in the wrong place and when the side faces of the tower were completed it was noticed that the tower gave an overall impression of being out of proportion.”

There we have it, the baroque town of Solothurn has a wonky tower, known as “Chrummturm” in the local dialect and it was just a proportional mistake. I must admit it has been standing for many years, a local landmark, and unfortunately never reached the fame of the leaning tower of Pisa. I say unfortunately, as if it did, Solothurn would become famous. It would be a question in the general knowledge books “Which town has a wonky/leaning tower”, answer being Solothurn, Switzerland overtaking Pisa in its fame.

It seems that the ground plot of the tower shows an irregular pentagon based on a square area and the reason for the wonkyness is to be found due to the fact that four sides of the five sides of the tower are scalene triangles and thus it looks wonky. If you understand that, it is perfect, but I translated it myself from a German text and the word “scalene” is completely new in my vocabulary.

Anyhow it filled a boring prompt for today and if you want to make it suit the prompt, it shows that our community is wonky, but we talk to each other about it, especially if you are taking a photo.

I am now off to the River Aar, hoping to take a few photos of the high water levels we have after a week of Swiss monsoon rain. If I am not here tomorrow, I fell in.

Daily Prompt: Idyllic and Wonky

Carnival in Solothurn, Switzerland

Today was “shmutzige Donnschtig” (dirty Thursday) and the first day of our carnival season in Solothurn (Fassnacht) which ends next week on Wednesday. Solothurn is the town just down the road. It begins at 6.00 in the morning, so the people in our village have to depart at 5.00 in the morning to arrive in Solothurn in time. It is a very special sort of thing. Those taking part this morning have to wear a long white nightdress with a red necktie and a white nightcap preferably with a tassle. They carry anything with them that makes noise and they really make noise. This morning there were 6,000 people on the procession through the town. It is all very organised with the chief Chesslete man leading the procession and everyone following.

After the procession everyone visits the local restaurants, if there is still room, and eat flour soup and warm cheese cakes. It is all in the name of tradition. Me, as english person, had never known carnival. I am not a friend of it, too much noise and too much excitement, but those that grow up with it have it in their system. Anyhow here is a YouTube film of this morning’s procession with all the trimmings. You will not understand very much as it is all in Swiss German, but I am sure the pictures will be something completely different.

Daily Prompt: Hear no Evil

Tell us about a conversation you couldn’t help but overhear and wish you hadn’t.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us SECRET.

Fire in the old town of Solothurn

On 29th March 2011 I was on my way home after a visit in town to the dentist. I could smell the smoke and had to go through the main street. There is an advantage when you always have a camera with you, so I fitted in amongst the others, all busy with their mobile phones taking photos of the event.

“Looks like the fire started in the roof” said one man who had probably just left his desk in a nearby office, clicking away with his phone camera.

“Shame” said an elderly lady “those buildings are under monument protection.”

“That will cost a pretty penny to renovate” said another.

“Please get back, you are all in the way. We are putting out a fire. It could get dangerous” said a fireman who was organising a barrier.

I continued to click away with the others, hoping that the local newspaper might show a financial interest in my action photos. I only had my “normal” camera with me but saw out of the corner of my eye a very professional looking Canon camera with a long lens, so decided my photos would probably be classed as an amateur attempt.

I decided my work was done and made my way to the train stop.

“Where do you think you are going” said a fireman.”

.“To the train stop”

“Not this way Madam, this street is closed. We cannot have people walking around disturbing our work. This is not a public spectacle.”

I suppose he was right, it is not every day that we have a famous fire in the market town of Solothurn.

“You can take the back street.”

I did a detour of a few minutes along the cobbled streets. Being accident prone, I was not so keen on this as those cobbles can be a dangerous occupation walking over. I reached my station and looked back to the town to see a column of smoke still appearing over the centre of the town.

I arrived home.

“Guess what” I said to Mr. Swiss “there was a fire in town.”

“Were you hurt, did anything happen?” He always seems to think the worst.

“No, nothing happened, but I took a few photos.”

“That is in the main street, looks like the fire started in the roof” was his comment.

That evening it was even in the news on the television. Switzerland is a small country and sometimes they are glad to have something Swiss to report. The local newspapers and internet were full of photos, so I realised I had again been cheated out of a prize winning photo.

The reconstruction work on the buildings damaged is now completed, everything being restored to how it used to be.

I had a look in Internet to see if there was still some news around. It was interesting what I found and here is my translation from the original German into English.

“By the large fire in the old town, damage amounting to 5,31 milion swiss francs arose. Five attics were partially damaged. According to research, a technical defect in the electrical installation was the cause of the fire. There were no injuries to living persons.”

It seems that five ajoining buildings were affected. I also read somewhere that when the fire broke out it lasted thirty minutes until the fire brigade was called out.

“The alarm was called out by a person in a side street. This person was alone in the street and had no reason to know whether someone else had called the fire brigade.”

Apparently there were so many people taking photos and filming the event that no-one thought about calling the fire brigade. You see how cool and relaxed we Swiss are, even in the face of danger.

Daily Prompt: Hear no Evil

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Blogger Creative Challenge 244: Attention to Detail

Solothurn Clock

The clock had struck eleven some time ago. The tourist was visiting the town of Solothurn in Switzerland for the first time. She decided to have lunch at twelve. It was a sensible time, but she had a problem. The clock does not strike twelve in Solothurn.

A strange town. There is no midday and no midnight. Does the day have one hour less?

If you ever visit Solothurn, do not arrange to meet you friends at 12 o’clock. The will probably not arrive. Better to arrange to meet them in another town.

They just do not pay attention to such trivial details in the town of Solothurn. Or perhaps the clock manufacturer did not have enough golden numbers in “1” and “2” for the dial. After all gold is expensive.

On the other hand, they just might have spaced out the hours with a different system. Yes, of course, twelve hours were fit into eleven. Oh the genius of the Solothurn population.

Click here for more

Daily prompt: No thanks

Is there a place in the world you never want to visit? Where, and why not?

A September Walk through Solothurn

No, how could there be? If I have never been there, I could not judge it. Believing newspapers, television and reports from others, is not my thing. I like to see it for myself and make my own judgement. So much is distorted in the news we receive.

I have travelled enough myself, seen other countries, and they all have their own charm. Even the boring street photo above from our local town of Solothurn is not so boring as it seems. On the left a wall belonging to the seat of the French Ambassador to Switzerland some time in the 16th/17th century. Over the years renovated and improved and now a restaurant with outside garden. Further down the street on the right, the back entrace to our theatre. You cannot just look at the surface, but you have to scratch a bit to find the details. Oh, and part of the road surface was renewed with cobbles to match the town origins. One of the oldest towns in Switzerland, founded by the Romans.

So the word “never” does not exist for me. Try it out first and if it does not suit you, then move on.

Daily prompt: No thanks