Bruno Reichart the chef at the Hotel Gotthard in Lech am Arlberg, Austria.

Talking Taste: Bruno Reichart of the Hotel Gotthard in Lech, Austria

Bruno Reichart is the chef of the Hotel Gotthard in Lech am Arlberg, Austria. During a quiet moment in his working day we meet over coffee to chat about his influences and approach to cooking.

“I try to bring the most out of individual ingredients, instead of mixing them with lots of pepper and things…We like to source our meat, eggs and potatoes from local people and our fish from Zug [3km from Lech], from the local lake,” he says in a matter-of-fact manner.

“If a fish is fresh you don’t need heavy sauces. If it’s fresh you need a piece of lemon, salt and that’s it,” says Reichart with conviction.

The kitchen staff at the Hotel Gotthard prepare an evening dinner menu for guests who select the half-board option. The meals are served in the Lecher Stube dining room, which was renovated ahead of the 2014-15 winter season, Reichart’s third at the hotel. They also prepare regional and international dishes from the Gotthard Stube’s a la carte menu.

The dishes served in the Gotthard Stube include salads, dumplings, goulash as well as Austrian specialities such as Tafelspitz (boiled beef with horseradish) and Wiener Schnitzel (veal cutlet pan-fried in a coat of breadcrumbs). As winter takes a grip on the Vorarlberg game dishes such as Hirschbraten (roast venison), Hirschragout (venison ragout) and roast duck breast will be served.

So does he have a dish that he’d recommend guests try, I ask?

“I’ve travelled the world and enjoy everything. In South Africa I enjoyed mieliepap (a dish made from maize) with just a little gravy and in Mexico I liked the Mexican food. Everyone’s favourite dish is different,” he answers philosophically.

“If it’s Käsespätzle (egg dumplings in a cheese sauce and served with fried onions) we make a good mountain cheese mixture and Spätzle just with eggs. If you’re out working in the woods and have Käsespätzle there’s nothing better. If you’re lying in the sun then a piece of trout from the lake and a little salad is the best you can get. It all depends on what you’re doing that day and what you’re longing for. I wouldn’t say this is my favourite dish, this you have to try. I don’t want to push people into something, they have to decide themselves,” he answers.

“I’m a little old fashioned. I believe time is running faster than we can keep up with it. An apple needs the whole summer to grow on the tree. In my cooking I want to have the basics and take the time for the cooking. Hopefully the people will take the time to eat it and enjoy it, and really take it in instead of eating and reading the paper on the side,” says Reichart, who admits he is a fan of the slow food movement that has been gaining popularity in recent years.

“A carrot always gives 100 per cent. It’s up to the chef to take this out and give it to the customer. That’s what I try and what my people try to put on the plate,” he says.

Reichart hails from Germany. After initial training, he began his career in Dusseldorf. He’s also worked at the Swiss Centre on Leicester Square in London, the Sheraton in Edinburgh and spent time working in hotel restaurants in the South African cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria. While working on a cruise ship he was involved in a nasty accident.

“I was doing ice-carving. I chopped two fingers off. I was off work for one-and-a-half years,” says the chef as he reveals his hand.

He returned to work at the St Georg, part of the Benedictine Einsiedeln Abbey in Switzerland. During his time there he met a number of classical musicians, including members of the Hillard Ensemble.

“These guys are world class but they are happy, relaxed and thankful,” says Reichart. “That’s the thing, if you have a talent and you’re grateful for your talent that makes special people. Einsiedeln was a special place; living in the moment and being thankful for what you have and what you can do. I think it’s good to humble and hope that people enjoy my cooking,” he says.

Further Information

Bruno Reichart works at the Hotel Gotthard at Omesberg 119 in Lech am Arlberg, Austria (tel. +43 5583 3560 0).

Kaesespaetzle (cheese dumplings) served with deep fried onions at the Hotel Gotthard in Lech am Arlberg, Austria.

Kaesespaetzle (cheese dumplings) served with deep fried onions at the Hotel Gotthard in Lech am Arlberg, Austria.

The Hotel Gotthard in Lech am Arlberg, Austria. Photo by Stuart Forster.

Hotel Gotthard in Lech am Arlberg, Austria

With the 2014-15 ski season due to get underway, I head to the Austrian village of Lech am Arlberg for a couple of nights in the family-run Hotel Gotthard.

The hotel has been in the hands of the Walch family for more than 80 years and is currently run by Clemens and Nicole, a husband and wife team. Nicole originates from South Australia and like the Gotthard’s receptionists and waitresses, wears a traditional Austrian Dirndl while at work. Chatting in the hotel bar, Nicole tells me she moved to Lech 22 years ago and has been living at the Hotel Gotthard for 17.

“The hotel’s changed a lot. We used to have a 3-star B&B and Clemens was working full-time in the bakery but we bought the Gotthard in 2000 and completely renovated it. It went up to a 4-star hotel and is now a 4-star superior,” explains Nicole.

Clemens continues his active involvement in the Backstube Lech, the on-site bakery which produces between one and one-and-a-half tonnes of bread and pastries each day. His produce, including soda bread baked in a wood-fired in front of the hotel, is delivered to local shops and served in the Gotthard’s café and on the breakfast buffet.

“About 70 per cent of our guests come back every year. They’ve grown with us,” says Nicole. “We want guests to feel like they are coming home and are relaxed when they are here.

The hotel’s décor blends modern and traditional Alpine influences. I’m staying in a garden-facing, Comfort class double bedroom. The room is has wood-panelled walls, a flat-screen TV plus a mini-bar and a wooden balcony with chairs. Deluxe and Superior rooms and suites are also available.

I don one of the white gowns hanging in my wardrobe and head down into the wellness area. Fellow guests relax on loungers by the swimming pool. A couple of people work out in the fitness room. The area also has a family sauna in addition to the textile-free sauna.

I do a couple of rounds of the bio-sauna, the Finnish sauna and the steam room before forcing myself into the cold pool to close my pores. I grab a cup of rooibos tea and stretch out in the relaxation room before drifting into an unscheduled sleep.

The hotel’s Gotthard Stube dining room has been renovated ahead of the 2014-15 winter season. After rousing myself from heat-induced slumber I hurriedly dress and head into the restaurant to sample the evening dinner menu, available to guests who select the half-board option. The menu features locally sourced ingredients. I select a starter featuring lean looking venison served with a salad then order a main course of char, the succulent freshwater fish known locally as Saibling.

A selection of international and regional dishes are also available in the hotel’s Lecher Stube dining room. With a wood-panelled ceiling, patterned curtains and a tiled Kachelofen heater, most Austrian’s would describe the restaurant as gemütlich, a term evoking relaxed cosiness and tradition.

The savoury dishes on the Lecher Stube’s a la carte menu include Tafelspitz (a traditional Austrian dish featuring boiled beef and horseradish), Wiener Schnitzel, spinach dumplings and fondues. Kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancake served with apple sauce and a dusting of icing sugar) – a dish that was reputedly loved by Austria’s Emperor Franz Josef I – is among the desserts that may appeal to anyone who has built their appetite during a day in the mountains.

The hotel and the Gotthard’s staff make a positive impression but, unfortunately for me, the opening of the ski season is postponed by a week due to an unprecedented lack of snow on the first weekend in December.

“You’ll just have to come back here later in the season,” says Nicole smiling. I nod and head to the bar to order a glass of gentian schnapps before bed.

Further Information

See the Hotel Gotthard (tel. +43 5583 3560 0, Omesberg 119, 6764 Lech am Arlberg) website for information on room prices and availability. Accommodation is available with breakfast and also with a half-board option (including an evening menu served in the Lecher Stube restaurant).

The hotel offers a hiking guide during the summer season along with an option to walk to the Walch’s mountain hut, about 70-minute’s by foot from the Gotthard, where breakfast can be served.

Visit the Lech-Zürs Tourist Office and Vorarlberg Tourism websites for more information on the region, including activities and events during the winter and summer seasons.

Winter sport lovers will be pleased to learn that snow fell during and after my visit. The ski season opened a couple of days after my departure and is scheduled to continue until 26 April 2015.

The Lechstube dining room at the Hotel Gotthard in Lech, Austria. Photo by Stuart Forster.

The Lechstube dining room at the Hotel Gotthard in Lech, Austria. Photo by Stuart Forster.

Swiss mountain cheeses and regional white wine at La Maison de L'Etivaz in Etivaz, Switzerland.

Making Swiss cheese at La Maison de l’Etivaz

Every autumn the 70 Swiss families involved in the production of L’Etivaz mountain cheese learn how successful their year has been.

Their wheels of cheese, stored within the modern cellars of La Maison de l’Etivaz, are weighed and purchased by the cooperative controlling the production process. The texture, colour, aroma and external appearance of the cheeses that have been delivered throughout the summer are assessed as part of strict quality controls that help maintain L’Etivaz’s regional Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) quality certification. In 2013 445 tonnes of this hard cheese, which some people compare to Gruyère, was produced.

L’Etivaz is produced only between 10th May and 10th October, using milk from cows grazing on mountain pastures up at an altitude of between 1000 and 2000 meters. This factor influences the character of the cheese as Alpine herbs and flora help give L’Etivaz its distinctive flavour, which is a touch fruity and has a nutty undertone.

In 130 mountainside farms between Lake Geneva and Les Diablarets cows are milked each evening. Their milk is allowed to stand overnight, allowing the cream to rise, before being heated in copper cauldrons hung over wood fires. It’s a traditional process and one that would have been familiar to cheesemakers living in the Alps 500 years ago.

Many people visualize Swiss cheese as riddled with holes, technically known as ‘eyes’, formed by bubbles. L’Etivaz, though, is solid. The newly formed wheels of cheese are pressed overnight up in mountain chalets, helping to make the presence of eyes unlikely, before being delivered to the chalet in the hamlet of L’Etivaz, where 150 people live.

Cheese has been matured in the cellars of La Maison de L’Etivaz since 1934, two years after the cooperative’s foundation. The ripening process takes a minimum of 135 days. Some of the cheeses – which tend to weigh between 15 and 35kg – are matured for 22 months, becoming pale yellow. Around 800 to 1000 of the 17,000 to 19,000 cheeses delivered each summer are selected for extended ripening, lasting 30 months. These are eventually served as dry, intense tasting rolled shavings, known locally as rebibes.

When the white-coloured fresh cheeses are delivered to La Maison de L’Etivaz they are steeped in a 22 per cent saline solution for 24 hours, to provide flavor and help a crust to form. The cheeses, which have a diameter of between 40 and 65 cm, are then stacked on shelves for a week, where they are turned daily have salt rubbed into them. For the next 15 days they are then rubbed with salt three times a week before being left to mature. The cheeses are marked with a maker’s number, allowing the annual output of each producer to be tracked.

La Maison de L’Etivaz has a delicatessen selling regional products and runs tours of its cellars.

Further information

Find out more, including how to visit the cellars, on the La Maison de l’Etivaz website.

Visit the Lake Geneva Region website to learn more about this part of Switzerland.

Where to stay

The Hôtel de Ville (Grand Rue 70, 1660 Château-d’Oex, tel. +41 26 924 7477) has en suite, single to family-sized guestrooms and places you in the heart of Château-d’Oex. The hotel has a wood-panelled breakfast room and bar with leather sofas.

Wheels of mountain cheese ripening at La Maison de L'Etivaz in Etivaz, Switzerland.

Wheels of mountain cheese ripening at La Maison de L’Etivaz in Etivaz, Switzerland.

Doorman in a pith helmet at the lobby of the Danna hotel on Langkawi, Malaysia. Azrizan greets guests on arrival to the hotel.

The Danna Hotel on Langkawi, Malaysia

A doorman wearing a khaki uniform, a pith helmet and a smile and welcomes me to the Danna hotel on Langkawi, Malaysia.

The tall, arched windows of the airy, marble-floored lobby remind me of those in Colonial era buildings over on peninsula Malaysia and Singapore. A member of staff greets me with a tray bearing cool, floral scented towels and offers a glass of refreshing juice. I hand my passport to the receptionist and she bids me to sit down. A masseuse swiftly goes to work on my neck and shoulders. Five minutes later, when the welcome massage is complete, I’m handed my room key. The check-in process has proven unexpectedly pleasant.

I’m allocated one of the Grant Merchant Class rooms, up on the fourth floor. The spacious room has a king-sized four-poster bed; a romantic touch that’s also a reminder of the days when mosquito nets were a nightly requirement in this region. Standing on my balcony I look to the forested hillside then down at the shops within Telaga Harbour Park, adjacent to the hotel.

A retractable screen by the bathtub divides the bathroom from the bedroom. Pulling it back means I’ll be able to have a steep while watching live Premier League football on the 42-inch flat-screen television. Inside the bathroom I find his and hers toiletries by twin wash basins. There’s also a walk-in rainfall shower.

Down on the ground floor I head to Straits and Co for a tiffin lunch that includes traditional Malaysian dishes such as beef rending and steamed vegetables. The round, marble-topped tables and wicker-backed chairs are reminiscent of a Continental café. I learn this is also the spot to head for afternoon tea.

After lunch I decide to explore my surroundings and pop into the library, above Straits and Co. The neighbouring room hosts a games room with a selection of board games. I learn that in Sahibba, the Malaysian version of Scrabble, the letter A scores 11 points before entering the pool room. When I first heard about the Danna the idea of swimming lengths in the hotel’s 51.20 metre infinity pool was one of its chief attractions but picking up a cue to play a couple of frames is also a means of unwinding.

I continue my tour up on the fifth floor, peeking into the fitness room before spending a relaxing hour on a massage bench, allowing a diminutive masseuse to knead knots out from between my shoulder blades.

Dinner is served in the Planter’s, the restaurant overlooking the pool. I select a Malaysian-style chicken perchik curry, served in a halved coconut with steamed rice. I see the chefs at work in the open kitchen but feel it would be inappropriate to ask them how they prepared the dish.

After eating I walk past the poolside – where barbecue buffets are held each Friday evening, accompanied by live music and dancing – in order to take a stroll along the Danna’s private beach.

Before retiring I head the Veranda bar for a nightcap. The uniformed barman suggests a house special, based on the Mojito, and I agree. Sipping it, I watch a singer and a guitarist perform their set then head up to my bedroom.

Further information

The Danna (tel. +60 (4) 959 3288) stands within Telaga Harbour Park at Pantai Kok on Langkawi.

Getting there

The Danna is 11km north-west of Langkawi International Airport, a 15-minute drive by taxi. Malaysia Airlines flies twice daily between London Heathrow and Kuala Lumpur International Airport and offers connections to Langkawi.

Nearby attractions

Langkawi Cable Car, also known as the Skycab, runs 2.2km, over dense rainforest, to a viewing platform at the summit of Gunung Machicang, 700 metres above sea level. The Skycab’s base station stands within Oriental Village, which also hosts the Skydome, into which 3D films are projected.

A bedroom with a 4-poster bed at the Danna hotel on Langkawi, Malaysia.

A bedroom with a 4-poster bed at the Danna hotel on Langkawi, Malaysia.

A chalet at the Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa on Langkawi, Malaysia.

Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa on Langkawi, Malaysia

There’s something uplifting about waking up in the tropics, pulling back the curtains of a luxury bedroom and opening the door, stepping down from the veranda then wandering barefoot on a white sand beach in the early morning sunlight.

Other guests at the Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa on Langkawi were still, presumably, in bed when I sorteed out onto the still cool sand, meaning I had the kilometre long private beach to myself and, if I so desired, my choice of sun-lounger and hammocks. My aim, though, was to wander along the palm-fringed beach and stroll ankle deep in the sea. Even before breakfast the water of the Andaman Sea proved pleasantly, acceptably warm.

This 5-star resort is set on a 35 acre complex about a ten minute walk from Cenang Beach, a popular destination for evening shopping as well as dining and drinking in beachside cafes. The Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort’s chalets are built in the architectural style of Malaysian village and the reception area, housed within a high-ceilinged central hall made of dark wood, is strongly influenced by traditional Minangkabau design principles.

The breakfast buffet, served in the resort’s Spice Market restaurant, was extensive, reflecting the fact that Malaysians, Western tourists and visitors from eastern Asia all stay at this resort. Dishes including miso soup, okinomiyaki (Japanese savoury pancake), salads and fried items caught my eye but I plumped for the anytime-of-day local favourite, beef rendang, along with a dollop of chicken curry served with steamed rice and condiments. The same venue, incidentally, serves a la carte dishes and a buffet barbecue on evenings.

After allowing a suitable interval I took a dip in one of the resort’s two swimming pools. One, with a kids’ play area, struck me as being more obviously aimed at families while the other had an in-pool bar that was drawing custom well before lunchtime.

Travelling without a partner meant I couldn’t take advantage of the on-site tennis courts. If you’re feeling sporty – or guilty after a multi-course breakfast – you can make use of one of the two indoor squash courts or the gym, which has weights plus cardiovascular equipment. To pass the time there’s also archery, mini golf plus a games room with a darts oche and board games.

I strolled over to the beachside Cba restaurant for lunch, sitting in the shaded area of the stone-walled dining area, directly under one of the ceiling fans. As the waiter served my lobster soup she informed me that live music is performed in the restaurant on evenings, with the exception of Mondays. Asian and international dishes are served at Cba and I ordered a medium-rare steak for my main course, along with a refreshing lime soda.

Looking around I drew the conclusion this is a resort popular with families as well as couples enjoying breaks together.

Returning to the resort shortly after midnight, following a walk to shops at Cenang Beach, a lone couple danced arm-in-arm to live music performed at Pelangi Lounge in the main lobby. Romantics, no doubt, will find this place a treat.

Further information

The Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa (tel. +60 (4) 952 8888) is at Pantai Cenang on Pulau Langkawi. The 5-star resort has 355 rooms in six categories (Garden Terrace Chalet, Lake Front Chalet, Pool terrace Chalet, Beachfront Chalet, Pelangi Junior Suite and Pelangi Suite). A children’s club (KiKi Klub) is available to entertain 4 to 12 year olds from 9.00am to 9.00pm. Meeting and conference facilities are available on-site and the grand ballroom can accommodate up to 700 guests. Weddings are also held at the resort. The Pelangi Spa offers a range of therapeutic massages and treatments. See the Meritus website for more details about the Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa’s facilities and room availability.

Getting there

Langkawi International Airport is 10km from the resort, about a 15 minute ride by taxi. Malaysia Airlines flies to Langkawi and has twice daily services, in each direction, between London Heathrow and its hub at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Nearby attractions

Cenang Beach is a popular evening destination, with market stalls, shops selling souvenirs and clothing and places offering foot and body massages. Little Lylia’s beach bar, run by a Malaysian man and his English wife, is a popular, laid-back meeting place, serving snacks, drinks and shishas.

Underwater World, at Pantai Cenang, is one of Malaysia’s largest aquariums, hosting over 500 species of marine life in more than 100 display tanks.

See the Tourism Malaysia website for more on the attractions of Langkawi.

Beach Resort and Spa on Langkawi, Malaysia.

Beach Resort and Spa on Langkawi, Malaysia.

The Malaysian flag hangs from the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo by Stuart Forster.

Exploring Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Looking out from Menara Kuala Lumpur’s observation deck, 276 metres above the Malaysian capital, I’m surprised to learn that KL, the abbreviation by which locals know this conurbation, was awarded city status as recently as 1972. With the sun beginning to set, I’m at a prime location to appreciate this dynamic city’s evening skyline.

Eavesdropping on a tour guide’s informative speech I discover that, until the middle of the 19th century, the land below would have been carpeted by rainforest. Where foliage once swayed, sunlight now glints back from countless windows and the metallic façades of the 421.9 metre high Petronas Twin Towers, the world’s tallest building from 1996 until the end of 2003.

Improbable though it seems today, given the city’s modernity, Kuala Lumpur actually means ‘muddy confluence,’ after the spot where prospectors found tin at the meeting point of the Gombak and Klang rivers.

In the early years of settlement – after KL was founded in 1857 – only a trickle of Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and European settlers were drawn to the region. Last year, by contrast, more than 47 million passengers passed through Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia Airlines’ primary hub.

The cultural diversity initially brought by early settlers is still very much in evidence as I explore the city centre. In Brickfields, the area popularly known as Little India, I wander past shops selling colourful fabrics, saris, gold jewellery and aromatic food including roti canai, a popular snack consisting of flatbread served with chicken curry and dal and enjoyed by residents from all ethnic backgrounds. The Sri Kandaswamy Temple, more than a century old, impresses thanks to its gopuram, the ornate entrance tower, featuring stacked Hindu deities including, Ganesha, the elephant headed god. A series of decorated arches along the main walkway help give this thriving area an attractive look as well as an upbeat feel.

In Chinatown I look out for Colonial era shophouses constructed using bricks produced in the now dismantled factories that gave Brickfields its name. The distinctive, two-storey buildings feature shops on the ground floor with living quarters above. Their practical ‘five foot walkways’ still afford shoppers respite from both the monsoon rains and tropical sunshine.

“Would you like to try a tea egg?” asks a shop assistant as I wander past a store stocking speciality teas and handcrafted teapots. Tea eggs are, I soon learn, cracked eggs boiled in tea, which gives them a distinctive yet surprisingly pleasant flavour. One of the joys of visiting KL is the abundance and diversity of delicious, low-cost street food available from stalls and streetside diners. You’ll find delicacies ranging from fragrant, charcoal-grilled basted Malaysian chicken to sticky rice with meat or chestnut fillings and sold in environmentally friendly banana leaf parcels.

Unable to resist the temptation of Chinese style crispy roast duck, I choose to dine at a restaurant in Petaling Street, regarded by many people as the main artery of Chinatown. Traders work on market stalls in the covered street selling wares including watches, clothing, perfumes and shoes. Prices, I soon learn, are elastic; the better you can negotiate, the lower they’ll fall. The area has a palpable buzz, with energetic salespeople constantly calling out to tourists and assuring bypassers that “looking is free” and “this stall has best prices.” Yet counterfeit products abound and not all of the goods have the progeny that their labels might suggest.

That said, if you’re a keen shopper and in the market for genuine branded goods then few destinations can match KL, which is home to three of the world’s ten largest shopping centres. Nine malls, collectively known as BBKLCC and featuring more than 3,000 stores, are located in close proximity to each other in the Bukit Bintang district and city centre.

On the lookout for high quality, locally produced handicrafts, I head to the Central Market, which was established as long ago as 1888 and rebuilt with an Art Deco façade in 1936. For the past couple of years the covered, palm-lined Kasturi Walkway, which runs alongside the market, has been helping to draw greater numbers of visitors to this part of the city. After seeing me engrossed by the designs of hand-carved wooden masks and painted fans, one stallholder helpfully suggests that I take a look at the art gallery in the Central Market Annexe, where works by local and international artists are exhibited.

The city is also the home of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, where exquisite examples of calligraphy, jewellery and historic artefacts from the region are displayed. I visit primarily to learn more about factors influencing Islamic architecture, after noting how geometric shapes play a significant role in the designs of contemporary buildings such as the Dayabumi Complex and Petronas Twin Towers. The museum is just a couple of minutes’ stroll from the National Mosque, which dates from the 1960s and holds up to 15,000 worshippers. Between prayers the mosque is open to tourists.

Intrigued by what I’ve seen on the streets of KL, I also feel compelled to head to the National Museum to gain further insights into the country’s heritage and the factors that help forge Malaysian identity.

KL, it seems to me, allows cultural diversity to flourish while embracing modernity, making this a fascinating destination for a short break or a stopover when flying further.

Further information

See the Tourism Malaysia website to find out more about the country’s attractions.

Getting there

Stuart flew economy class with Malaysia Airlines from London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur. The flight takes around 12 hours 25 minutes heading east and 13 hours 40 minutes on the return leg. There are two flights a day in each direction on Airbus A380s. The in-flight entertainment includes on demand seatback movies and a selection of television shows.

Where to stay

Staying at the Hotel Istana places you in downtown KL, a ten minute walk from the Petronas Towers, three from the Pavilion Kuala Lumpur shopping mall and five from Changkat Bukit Bintang, a street renowned for its nightlife. The 23-floor, 5-star hotel has 505 rooms and three restaurants. Premier League football is shown in the Istana’s Sports Bar and there’s also a lobby bar with nightly live music.

Roti Canai served in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo by Stuart Forster.

Roti Canai served in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo by Stuart Forster.

'The Enchanted Cathedral and The Seasons', by Ad Lib Creations, at the Catharinakerk, during the 2014 Glow festival of light in Eindhoven.

Eindhoven hosts the Glow festival of light

From the 8th to 15th November 2014 the city of Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, hosted the ninth annual edition of the Glow festival of light, featuring 20 installations by Dutch and international light artists.

The theme of the festival was City in Motion. A 1.5km route led between the installations. The works on show ranged from the colourful son et lumiere The Enchanted Cathedral and The Seasons, by Ad Lib Creations and Christian Gimat, projected onto the twin-spired St Catherine’s Church (known locally as the Catharinakerk) to Figures That Wander, conceptualised by Van der Put-Roelants, featuring women with lights dancing behind the semi-opaque plastic flaps of a delivery zone by the railway station.

Visitors had the opportunity to see the first showing of work by Storybox in Europe. New Zealander Rob Appierdo spent eight days filming in Eindhoven ahead of the event, creating a series of short films with a visitor’s perspective of the city. The films were projected onto screens mounted on shipping containers. People were able to add their own photos and video clips to the project via the Instagram hashtag #cityloops.

Appierdo will return to Europe with Storybox in 2015 to participate in Lumiere Durham. Several of the installations displayed at Glow appear at the 13 other events – including Lux Helsinki, Light in Jerusalem and Singapore’s I Light Marina Bay – organised by members of the International Light Festival Organisation.

Once again, the free-to-visit event proved popular, drawing 650,000 people into Eindhoven’s city centre> This compares to 520,000 in 2013. The attendance figures have grown markedly since the inaugural Glow festival in 2006, attended by 35,000 spectators.

The 2014 Glow included an additional, ticketed event – a 15-minute work by Casa Magica – held within the St Augustine Church (Augustijnenkerk). Transcendent Flow was projected onto the vaulted arches of the Gothic style church interior, accompanied by music by Leon Boëlmann, Samuel Barber and Oliver Messiaen. “This is an adaption of a project we made for Cologne Cathedral…it’s not religious but it invites people to a meditative and spiritual experience,” explained Sabine Weissinger, one of the two members of the Casa Magica team.

Meanwhile an audio-visual installation called Stereo, by The Macula, experts in video mapping, could be experienced outside of the St Augustine Church.

“Each edition has its own theme and this year’s is City in Motion. All installations are on movement and motion but also logistics, distribution, change of time and the change of seasons,” commented Saskia van de Wiel, one of Glow’s curators.

Side events, including works by students and local children, were displayed in parallel to Glow. So too was Glow Next, which had a scientific, experimental edge. 18 installations by artists, researchers, choreographers and filmmakers featured in the Glow Next, whose theme was Fascination for Light.

The 10th edition of Glow will be held from the 7th to 14th November 2015.

Further information

Learn more about the event on the Glow Eindhoven website.

Find out more about the city via the This is Eindhoven visitor information website.

Where to stay

The Pullman Eindhoven Cocagne Hotel (Vestdijk 47, tel. +31 (0) 40 2326 111) is a smart, 320-room business and leisure hotel in Eindhoven’s city centre. The hotel has a fitness room and sauna area, conference facilities plus a contemporary French restaurant, Vestdijk 47. Rooms have Nespresso machines and Wi-Fi access is free of charge.

What to do in the daytime

Learn how Philips, the multinational technology company, played a major role in the development of Eindhoven at the Philips Museum (Emmasingel 31). The museum tells the story of the company, founded in 1891, and is located at the site of Philips’ first factory, where carbon-filament lamps were made. The artefacts on display come from a range of fields, including communications and healthcare products. You can also see a glove made for Michael Jackson, with technology allowing it to flash in rhythm to music. View the museum’s website for information on opening times, entry prices and temporary exhibitions.

If you enjoy football, take the short walk from the city centre to the Philips Stadion (Frederiklaan 10), the 35,000-capacity home stadium of PSV Eindhoven. The ground hosts a sizable club shop, a café and the club museum. You can even get your photo taken ‘with the team’ by sitting on a seat in front of a picture of the squad next to Caffee 1913.

'Figures That Wander' by Van der Put-Roelants, one of the installations in the 2014 Glow festival of light in Eindhoven.

‘Figures That Wander’ by Van der Put-Roelants, one of the installations in the 2014 Glow festival of light in Eindhoven.

Wouter Bijl, a founder of the Fenix Food Factory in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Fenix Food Factory in Rotterdam, the Netherlands

The Fenix Food Factory stands in Rotterdam’s Katendrecht district, on the south side of the New Meuse river. Benches are set outside, on the dockside of the Rijnhaven, allowing visitors to sit and look towards the Hotel New York and the skyscrapers on the opposite waterfront while socialising, eating and drinking.

Inside, you’ll find a bakery, a brewery and bar, a cheese maker, a butcher, a cider store plus a café and a grocery shop with a kitchen. The vibe is distinctly laid back and a touch alternative. At the centre of the Fenix Food Factory stands a piano plus tables and chairs. A swing hangs from the ceiling. Visitors are free to make use of them.

The building housing the Fenix Food Factory was previously employed as a warehouse. In its earlier incarnations it stored cotton, tea, coffee and, most recently, was a cold store. Fluorescent lights provide illumination. The building still has a raw look and feel. “Quite a lot of people compare it to Berlin,” says Wouter Bijl, one of the Fenix Food Factory’s founders and the owner of Cider Cider, the first dedicated cider store in the Netherlands.

We stand next to an arched, corrugated iron hut that Wouter jokes is his man cave. “We wanted to make something that was real, where people could enjoy and learn about food. We want to keep prices low and for people to come here, enjoy food, sit and grab a beer, cheese and meat,” he explains.

“People can buy a bottle of cider from me or bring their own wine. I believe that’s the new way of thinking. If you leave people free they’ll come and buy something anyway,” he says with conviction.

The Fenix Food Factory hosts regular live music events to draw visitors from beyond the local catchment area.

The Katendrecht district has undergone a significant clean up in recent years. “It used to be the place that sailors came to have a drink and for a good time. It had everything that God forbade. And after that it became a place you didn’t want to be. Ten years ago they started to rebuild it,” explains Wouter.

“We selected the entrepreneurs based on the quality of their products, how they think and passion for what they do. We want people who understand what they are talking about,” he adds.

“We believe in thinking about food and that the economy can be different. We’re not here to make tonnes of money. We’re here to do what we do and enjoy our lives,” he says with a shrug of his shoulders and a nod.

Rechtstreex, one of the businesses with the former warehouse, is run by Arthur Nijhuis and sells fruit and vegetables sourced from within a 50km radius of Rotterdam.

“Some are organic but all of them are local products. We’re looking for the best quality. We’re always preparing things for people to taste,” says Arthur and points towards Baz, his chef, who flashes a smile and places a cup of warm mushroom soup on the counter.

“From the bottom up I’m trying to make a difference, to show we can do things in a different way,” says Arthur. “We’re trying to shorten the food chain and go to the consumer directly. You have better products, the farmer has a better price and the products are actually cheaper because you have less links in the chain taking a margin.”

Farmers deliver food boxes on a weekly basis and people have the opportunity to taste before buying. Additionally, Baz gives cooking demonstrations and provides recipes. This is proving helpful for generating interest in unfamiliar ingredients, such as New Zealand spinach.

“Try coming back here on a Sunday for brunch and to enjoy the music,” suggests Wouter as I photograph him by the door and say goodbye.

Further information

The Fenix Food Factory stands at Veerlaan 19D, 3072 Rotterdam. See the website for opening times and information about events including food and drink related workshops and tastings.

Borrel bread (borrelbrood) at Jordy's Bekery in the Fenix Food Factory in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Borrel bread (borrelbrood) at Jordy’s Bakery in the Fenix Food Factory in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Kromkommer's three soups on a shelf at the head office in Rotterdam.

Kromkommer: consuming misshapen fruit & vegetables in Rotterdam

If you are in a shop or at a market and see a misshapen vegetable would you buy it or leave it, choosing in its place one that’s better looking? Many people select their vegetables primarily on looks, leading to food wastage.

Three Dutch women – Chantal Englenen, Jente de Vries and Lisanne van Zwol – have established the company Kromkommer in order to reduce food wastage and raise awareness of the issue. They met at university while undertaking research projects into food wastage.

“About 30 to 50 per cent of all the food produced in the world is wasted,” says Chantal when we meet in Kromkommer’s head office, within Tropicana, a former tropical leisure pool complex by the banks of the New Meuse river in Rotterdam.

“Between five and ten per cent of vegetables are wasted because they don’t look good according to the standards we expect these days, such as double tomatoes and two-legged carrots. They never get to the supermarkets simply because we think they are not good enough. At Kromkommer we think these are good enough to be eaten,” she says with conviction.

“We have contact with growers who have these and surplus vegetables, because sometimes demand is lower than production. That also leads to food waste. We have contact with growers and make products from these vegetables. We have beet soup, carrot soup and tomato soup,” says Chantal.

The soups retail at €3.79 and are produced cold – sugar free and without additives – in a factory in the south of the Netherlands. 14,000 units were produced over the summer of 2014 and Kromkommer aims to increase that to 100,000 in 2015.

The packaging introduces the company’s philosophy. The name Kromkommer is a play on words. ‘Komkommer’ is the Dutch word for ‘cucumber’ and ‘krom’ means ‘bent’ or ‘twisted’.

“We hope to make change in society and, in a few years, have these vegetables accepted as normal,” adds Jente.

“We want to show the food chain that a different approach is possible,” explains Lisanne. “We’re not pointing fingers at supermarkets or other food chain partners. By good products and a positive approach we hope to inspire people to think differently about what they eat and what they do.”

In marketing their soups and helping to distribute misshapen fruit and vegetables they may well be on the way to achieving that.

Further information

Find out more about the company’s philosophy on the Kromkommer website.

Kromkommer products are available within the Groos concept store (Schiekade 203, 3013 BR Rotterdam) which sells items designed and made in Rotterdam.

Kromkommer's three soups on a shelf at the head office in Rotterdam.

Kromkommer’s three soups on a shelf at the head office in Rotterdam.

Decoupage at the Museum of the Pays d’Enhaut in Château d’Oex, Switzerland.

Decoupage : Alpine art in Château D’Oex, Switzerland

Scalpel in hand, I hestitate before making my incision. “That’s it, cut along the line you’ve drawn,” says Corinne Karnstädt, encouraging my first attempt at decoupage, the artform at which she excels.

Exquisite, framed examples of decoupage are displayed around us – on the walls of the Museum of the Pays d’Enhaut in the small Swiss town of Château d’Oex – depicting idealised scenes of Alpine life. Their creators were clearly a lot more skilled with a blade than I am in cutting away sections of heavy black paper to create silhouette like shapes of trees, farmers, cows and chalets.

The real skill, it seems, is in creating a design on a single sheet of paper. The finished works are then mounted on a white background to show them off.

Corinne comes from La Tine and became interested in decoupage in 2008 after seeing the works of Hans Jakob Hauswirth (1809 – 1871) and Louis Saugy (1871 – 1953), recognised as leading exponents of the art. Their work is among the 60 or so works on display in the museum, which also holds cow bells, military artefacts and skis dating from the 14th century.

What started as a self-taught hobby has become a key part of Corinne’s daily life and she now gives decoupage courses. She’s one of around 500 members of the Swiss Association for the Friends of Paper Cutting and is writing a book on decoupage. Corinne is knowledgeable about the history of decoupage and explains that its origins within central Europe can be traced to the 16th century. It’s also practiced in the Balkans and in China.

This artform has close associations with the Pays d’Enhaut region. “Many works of decoupage from le Pays-d’Enhaut tell the story of the life of farmers going up the mountains with cows to make cheese – Poya – and when they come down into the valley in September – Desalpe – for the winter,“ explains Corinne.

So do the scenes have to be traditional?

“I find inspiration all around me. I observe a lot many things and after that I draw my motifs. I often use the internet. I love to represent fashionable ladies in my decoupage. I mix the modern world with Alpine life. In my work you can find some ladies with stilettos and mini skirts going up the mountain with cows and farmers,” says Corinne.

”To start decoupage you need a cutter, black paper and a pencil. You also need to learn the base technique of cutting and be competent in drawing. Drawing is the most important element in decoupage. When you’re finished drawing you need to cut away all the little pieces of paper and open it. There are no rules to make decoupage; each artist can do as they want, there are no limits,” she says.

Patience is also essential. I learn that it’s possible to glue errors but they’ll remain visible. As a consequence some practicioners of decoupage prefer to throw away damaged pieces. My cuts look jagged in comparison to the smooth lines produced by Corinne, who doesn’t count how long she spends on each piece and regards them as labours of love.

Each year she now participates in the valley’s Christmas market and creates pieces for calendars, postcards and diaries. She also creates bespoke works for a wide range of clients.

On a folded piece of black paper Corinne sketches a series of lines and then makes cuts using a scalpel, revealing a snowman and figures wearing scarves. Unfolding it reveals a symmetrical Christmas scene complete with mountains and a starry sky. She makes it look easy.

Further information

See the Pays D’Enhaut website for more information about Château D’Oex and the surrounding area.

To plan activities and a vacation, take a look at the Lake Geneva Region and MySwitzerland websites.

A demonstration of decoupage by Corinne Karnstädt, ecoupage at Château d’Oex, Switzerland.

A demonstration of decoupage by Corinne Karnstädt at Château d’Oex, Switzerland.