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Archive for June, 2014

After spending the morning in the delightful Botanic Gardens, we needed some lunch, so we returned to the city centre on Bus 32, the bus designated ‘Zoo/Bot Garten’.

Outdoor eating; watching the world go by!

Outdoor eating; watching the world go by!

In the summer, eating places spill out onto the streets so it was not hard to find somewhere to sit and enjoy lunch and a coffee and just watch life in Augsburg go by. While sitting there, I  took the next photo as our bus returned once more from the gardens.

Tram and bus drivers need to be very aware of people in this "pedestrian zone"!!

Tram and bus drivers need to be very aware of people in this “pedestrian zone”!

The city has a well used “pedestrian first” centre, and, as pedestrians seem to have right of way, bus and tram drivers need to have their wits about them at all times. This photo shows some reasons why! The bus was slowing when two young ladies just walked across in front of it… Not behind!  They were the exception though. Most people were well aware of their surroundings as they crossed the road, like the two shoppers who took the opportunity of the bus braking to walk across as well.  A young man decided that crossing the road was a great time to light up! We couldn’t help but notice that so many people smoke, especially young people … and lots of them are young girls. On the street, it’s hard to get away from the smell of cigarettes. Many people ride bicycles although helmets are not required and rarely are they evident… But hanging off the handle bars is really not going to help much, is it?  We also noticed that mobile phones are not so much in evidence in the streets although owned by most. We did a count as we sat there, and only one in fifteen people were using a mobile or listening to music etc on ear phones… And those who were using their mobiles were young and on their own as they walked. But even they took note of where they were and looked both ways before crossing the street.

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Bicycles share the road with trams, buses and pedestrians.

Bicycles share the road with trams, buses and pedestrians.

In fact, although pedestrians share the cobblestone streets with buses, trams and bicycles, the system seemed to work remarkably well with not a pedestrian crossing in sight.

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Advertising the local brew on a tram!

Advertising the local brew on a tram!

Some of the trams have well aimed advertising on the sides. One of the well known products of Augsburg is its beer.

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A pedestrian mall.

A pedestrian mall.

After lunch we decided to explore some of the city streets.  Not all have trams and buses and are easy to wander in and enjoy. Much of the city was bombed in the war and has been rebuilt at least replicating the facades of the original buildings. Augsburg has a proud history of 2,030 years, although of course these facades are not of a period that old!

Part of the ceiling in the Golden Saale of the Town Hall

Part of the ceiling in the Golden Saale of the Town Hall

We called into the information centre and were guided by the lady to visit the town hall, an amazing reconstruction of the old town hall that was destroyed in the war. The people and businesses of Augsburg have worked together over many years to bring this building back to life, faithfully recreating not only its architecture but also the wonderful paintings and golden clad statues that decorate the Golden Saale on the first floor of the building. They are rightly proud of this community effort.

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Intricate and very old sculptures above the front door of the Dom in Augsburg

Intricate and very old sculptures above the front door of the Dom in Augsburg

Although the main church, the Dom, still has its original front facade intact, much of the church was destroyed and has been rebuilt in what seemed like a bit of a mix of designs. This was not an inviting church, cold and dark and we did not spend much time here.

Instead we caught the #2 tram back to Konig Square where all trams and buses meet.  We changed back to a bus for the ride back to our B&B. Unfortunately, we missed our stop… But that did not bother us one bit.  We just stayed on and did the whole route to the other side of town and saw a bit of the suburbs. The driver had a six minute break and then we returned, this time getting off at the right stop.

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Our B&B in a peaceful garden.

Our B&B in a peaceful garden.

Our B&B was a little unusual.  It was attached to a catholic women’s maternity hospital and in the grounds of the Diocesan centre. Unlike the Dom, this was a warm and welcoming place set in a garden. It was a great place to stay. We were in the tower block behind the main house. My guess is that they will expand the hospital into this wing but at the moment they use the facility for diocesan meetings and let out the rooms to guests like us when not otherwise used. Very sensible. Quite a few rooms had been let to guests like us.

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The hospital to which the B&B belongs.

The hospital to which the B&B belongs.

The view from our room was down into the garden in front of the hospital. There were quite a few nun/nurses around who wore the traditional outfits and small pleated white hats.

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Clematis in the garden.

Clematis in the garden.

And it was peaceful to walk in the gardens and enjoy the plants like this clematis.

 

More anon

Jennie and David

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Augsburg in Germany was not on our original itinerary but, thanks to a train strike in France, we had changed course and headed for Central Germany and This interesting small city. I chose it from the many other possibilities because I had read about its Botanic Gardens with a highly praised Japanese Garden and a well known rose garden. We bought a 7.40 all day transport ticket for two, to get us onto Bus 32 which has a destination of Zoo and Botanic Gardens. Easy!

Entry fee for the gardens was 2.50 each and it was well worth every cent of that fee.  Join us on our walk as I share some of my photos with you.

A formal side garden.

A formal side garden enhanced by fuchsias.

This avenue takes you through a long narrow piece of land from the car / bus park to the main garden site. To the right hand side of this avenue there are small garden rooms, each different, some formal, some very informal, each week designed.

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One of the pleasant side gardens inviting the visitor to stop and rest awhile.

A much less formal side gardens inviting the visitor to stop and rest awhile.

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A spiky Beauty; Eryngium bourgatii, a native of the Spanish Pyrenees.

Eryngium bourgatii, a native of the Spanish Pyrenees.

In this garden we found several of these spiky beauties.

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A tiny visitor!

A tiny visitor!

While taking a closer look at those beautiful veins, I noticed this tiny green spider.

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A waterfall in the Japanese Garden at Augsburg Botanic Gardens

A waterfall in the Japanese Garden at Augsburg Botanic Gardens

But the main reason for coming to these gardens was to see the Japanese and the Rose Gardens…. And we were not disappointed with either. A small covered seating area allowed us to relax and really enjoy the peace of this water feature.

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Another view of the peaceful Japanese Gardens.

Another view of the peaceful Japanese Gardens.

While sitting there in the shade and the peace of softly tumbling water, I took this scene as a video as well as a photo and it was here that I really began to appreciate the steady shot feature of my new Panasonic TZ 60. The video is excellent and I used no tripod.

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Another section of the Japanese Gardens

Another section of the Japanese Gardens

Further on in the Japanese Gardens the water feature becomes a shallow, pebble filled stream, winding its way besides a shady path… a delightful place to wander.

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The rose garden beyond a pond.

The rose garden beyond a pond.

The stream eventually ends in a pond,

and beyond the pond is the rose garden.

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Part of the Rose Gardens.

Part of the Rose Gardens.

Out from the shade and into a sunlit area, is the large and beautiful rose garden. It, too is designed around winding, wandering paths. There are many beauties here to enjoy.

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"Lilian Austin" Rose (1973)

English bred rose: ‘Lilian Austin’ (Austin 1973)

Many rose breeders are acknowledged here. This beauty, bred by the Famous English rose breeder, David Austin, was first introduced in 1973. While many people prefer Austin’s double roses, I think this one still holds its own amongst his later hybrids.

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A bee finds this yellow rose too hard to resist!

A bee finds this yellow rose too hard to resist!

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This bright orange rose changes colour as it ages and fades.

This bright orange rose changes colour as it ages and fades.

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Geraniums as border plants.

Geraniums as border plants.

Of course , there are many more areas to enjoy in these Botanic Gardens and we spent a few, very happy hours wandering and enjoying the plants and their flowers. That, for both of us, is one of the real joys in life.  We had seen plants such as geraniums in their native state as wild flowers in the mountain meadows in the early weeks of this trip, and now we enjoyed the horticultural versions, used to great effect as border plants.

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A small beauty.

Another purple beauty.

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A closer look.

A closer look.

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Waterlilies

Waterlilies

 

A large hot house of tropical plants included a pond filled with water lilies.

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These balletic blooms, named "Major Heaphy" are a Fuchsia hybrid developed in Great Britain

One of the many fuchsias on display.

Just before we left the gardens, we found a section dedicated to fuchsias. These beautiful balletic blooms, developed by a grower in Great Britain, are named ‘Major Heaphy’.  I couldn’t help but wonder about the suitability of the match between flower and name!

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A very old fuchsia

A very old fuchsia

These beauties had a much more suitable name… ‘Deutsche Perle’. They were introduced to the gardening world way back in 1874 and are still show stoppers!

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Much as we would have like to stay longer in these delightful gardens, we couldn’t find a cafe or restaurant for lunch and the morning had long turned into afternoon. So, we headed back into the city centre to explore more of the city of Augsburg.

More of that anon

Jennie and David

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We arrived in Brienz from Spiez at the early hour of 09h45 and trundled our bags up the hill to find our hotel where we were to stay for the next three nights.

P1030494  DY of jtdytravels

P1030494 DY of jtdytravels

Our very Swiss-looking Steinbock Hotel was built in 1787. It’s in a bautiful setting with mountains behind and Brienz Lake in front when looking in the opposite direction.

Our room was actually ready but we only took possession long enough to drop our bags before heading to the Brienz Rothorn Bahn for a very special ride on the Rothorn steam cog, or rack, railway.

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P1030496  DY of jtdytravels

P1030496 DY of jtdytravels

Waiting for us in the station was this cute little loco coupled to two red carriages which it was going to push up the mountain to Rothorn.

This miraculous railway defies most scientific principles (well it seems like it anyway) to climb 1588m in just 7.5km of track.  The maximum gradient is 1 in 4 (25%) on a track gauge of 800mm or 2ft. 7½ inches.

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P1030507 DY of jtdytravels

The loco shed had some engines lurking in the shadows and the 800mm gauge track with rack is clearly visible.

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JT of jtdytravels

JT of jtdytravels

As we climbed the first of the gradients, the views back along the amazingly blue Brienzersee were a delight.

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P1030572 DY of jtdytravels

The loco may be small in size but it is a strong machine capable of taking the severe gradients in its stride.

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P1030594 DY of jtdytravels

Like me, these men were interested to see just is is how it works.

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JT of jtdytravels

JT of jtdytravels

There were detailed drawings explaining the workings.

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JT of jtdytravels

JT of jtdytravels

These were the two gentlemen responsible for building this extraordinary railway.

The route was first opened on 17th June 1892 but quickly fell into financial difficulties carrying only 5000 passengers instead of the predicted 25,000 per year.  Services were suspended on 1 August 1914 due to the First World War but did not reopen when the war ended.  However, maintenance was carried out on the line and some timber traffic was carried in 1918.  The line was finally reopened in June 1931 but was not electrified as have other Swiss mountain railways.  It remains the only line to be fully operated by steam except during light periods of traffic or if steam engines are not available. Then diesel locomotives are substituted.

The locos use 350kg of coal per trip and about 2000 litres of water.

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P1030525 DY of jtdytravels

Top-up water is taken on at one of the passing loops.

The trip takes just on an hour to reach the summit station but cost us a staggering CHF84.00 (AUD99.22) each.  But at least we felt we were helping to keep this unique piece of railway history going. And the day was brilliant, hot and clear, so the mountains were at their very best and it was a joy to be able to experience this special journey.

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JT of jtdytravels

JT of jtdytravels

Looking back at the train line that cuts a swathe across the back of the first mountain ridge.

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JT of jtdytravels

JT of jtdytravels

The train line winds its way ever upward.  Walking trails also criss cross the landscape. This is a great hiking area and some people who went up on the train walked back down.

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P1030557 DY of jtdytravels

This panorama shot does not do justice to the actual view!

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P1030548 DY of jtdytravels

A truly breath-taking view back down to Lake Brienz, some 1588m below. As has been the case over the last few days, threatening clouds started to build up.

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P1030553 DY of jtdytravels

These clouds heralded some rain in the not too distant future, so we did not do the steep final walk to the very top but had a light lunch at the summit restaurant.

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P1030570 DY of jtdytravels

Two lovely birds with the one shot!

 

After enjoying that wonderful view from our table, we caught the train back down. It left at precisely 13h28.  Times are very precise as trains have to pass at passing loops on the journey. Trains in Switzerland run to precise times anyway… Almost always on time.

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P1030539 DY of jtdytravels

A couple of trains passing each other.

There are three passing loops that are used during normal service on the line.  Very little waiting time, if any, is wasted on the journey.

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JT of jtdytravels

JT of jtdytravels

As the train slowly made its way back down the mountain, we enjoyed seeing the many wildflowers beside the track…. but of course we couldn’t get out to photograph them. The flowers at this spot were mostly primulas.  The variety of flowers changed with the change in altitude … For example, Aquilegia near the bottom to primulas in the middle section to Gentians near the top.

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P1030615 DY of jtdytravels

This is the Panalp Loop stop where we got off to walk for awhile.  When Jennie was here last in 1999, she walked back down to the village from here… But not this time!

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JT of jtdytravels

JT of jtdytravels

Brienz is renowned as a wood carving area and this sculpture of one of the railway engineers had just been completed. It’s carved out of what remained of a fallen tree… The roots are still underneath. It’ s a great addition to this train stop.  After admiring this, we set off for our walk in the meadows first crossing a small mountain stream.

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JT of jtdytravels

JT of jtdytravels

The little stream looked invitingly cool on such a hot, humid day but we walked on up the hill in search of wildflowers to photograph.

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P1030583 DY of jtdytravels

These ‘Globe’ ranunculus created a stunning contrast against the sky.

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P1030566 DY of jtdytravels

White ranunculus

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P1030582 DY of jtdytravels

Yellow buttercups were everywhere, their bright faces always pointing to the sun.

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JT of jtdytravels

JT of jtdytravels

A froth of pink!  This Thalictrum sp. was very common in the meadows.

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JT of jtdytravels

JT of jtdytravels

Delightful little yellow vetch.

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Jar of jtdytravels

JT of jtdytravels

This one looked like a ballet tutu swaying in the breeze.

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JT of jtdytravels

JT of jtdytravels

These tiny blue flowers hid amongst the taller plants.

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P1030608 DY of jtdytravels

An old barn, covered with shingles, had seen better days but was still serving a useful purpose providing shelter during the long hard winters.

Just a little before the train was due to arrive, it started to rain but, as most of the trip was over for us, it didn’t really bother us.  And there was a clean toilet at the loop stop. Only in Switzerland could you be sure of finding a clean, well provisioned, flush toilet at a hiking stop in the mountains.

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JT of jtdytravels

JT of jtdytravels

The rain eased as we made our way back down through the forests to Brienz village. Thunderstorms seem to come and go with a lot of flourish and noise but don’t seem to last very long in these mountains.

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JT of jtdytravels

JT of jtdytravels

Back in our hotel, we were able to sit out on the balcony and enjoy the lake view as the clouds began to move away. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable day on the little train that took us to the summit of Rothorn and back down again.

More of our journey anon

David and Jennie

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Menaggio, Lake Como

Menaggio, Lake Como

It was a very hot summer’s day when we took the ferry from Bellagio to Menaggio, a small village on the northern side of Lake Como.

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Safe mooring in small marina.

Safe mooring in small marina.

This small Marina is near the centre of the village.

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Recycling centre on the foreshore

Recycling centre on the foreshore

Right beside the marina is a very interesting Recycling Centre. There are several different bins for different types of products to be recycled. Pressing down on the front foot platform opens the bin. The holes inside the bins correspond to the size of the product. The recycled waste drops down into larger bins below. Restaurants and businesses have keys to open the back of the bins for larger amounts of waste.  We thought this was an excellent idea.

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Clear instructions on each collection bin.

Clear instructions on each collection bin.

Clear visual instructions were given on the top of each bin. The message here was not to put bottle tops in with the bottles.

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The main square, Menaggio.

The main square, Menaggio.

Each small lakeside village has a square used for market days, for getting together for festivals and for restaurants.

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The main pedestrian street leading to the church

The main pedestrian street leading to the church

David leads the way up a short pedestrian street from the square to the main church.  In fact there are two churches in the street, both catholic but both quite different. It seemed amazing to have two churches just 50 m apart but I guess that allows for choice.  Church is such a very important part of life for the village people here and a visit to a village without a visit to the church, is not really a visit to the village.

We went first to the church on the right hand side …. the one with the rose window.

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Simple interior of church

Simple interior of the smaller church

We were pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of this church. We were also pleasantly surprised by the note from the Bishop welcoming us as tourists to enjoy the church. In other churches we have been told… don’t do this, don’t do that … no welcome at all.

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One of the two sculptures in this church

One of the two sculptures in this church

Churches in these old villages are wonderful museums of art and sculpture since churches were great patrons of both artists and sculptors. This sculpture of the Madonna was beautiful in its simplicity, the folds in the material particularly well depicted.

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The much more ornate larger church

The much more ornate larger church

The larger Church, further up the road, was much more ornate inside, but still welcoming.  Walls and ceilings are covered in murals or in beautiful Italian marble.

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The stoning of a sinner depicted in the mural above the altar.

Close up of the mural above the altar.

As in many old churches, some of the murals depicted horrific scenes.  I wondered if this one depicted the stoning of a sinner.  Or was it meant to visualise the saying that” he who is without sin should cast the first stone.”  Perhaps it can be either but it was obviously an important message of the time as it is above the altar.  I was left thinking of the recent news stories of the stoning of women in Muslim countries in this day and age.

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The ceiling and much of the walls are covered in murals.

The ceiling and much of the walls are covered in murals.

There were many more murals painted on the ceiling and walls

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A much more traditional statue of the Madonna and child.

Madonna and child.

This was a much more traditional sculpture of the Madonna and Child. Again the material and drapery are beautifully crafted. The surround was made of small gold and glass tiles.

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Marble font

Marble font

The font and several of the pillars are crafted from beautiful Italian marble.

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No-one around. Shops were closing for siesta.

No-one around. Shops were closing for siesta.

Back out on the street we are amazed to see there were no people. It was now siesta time and the shops were shutting up. But two small food shops remained open; one sold gelato and the other was a deli. We succumbed to the enticement of a cold ice cream on this extremely hot day. And then we checked out the deli.

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Any guesses what these are?

Any guesses what these are?

This is my abstract photo for the day. Do you know what it is?

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How do they get the pasta coloured like this?

Tagliatelle is the right answer!

How do they get pasta coloured like this?

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We had really enjoyed this short walk in one of the smaller lake side villages.  Next day we took the ferry right down the northern arm of Lake Como and just relaxed and enjoyed the views for a couple of hours.  Here are a few of my photos of this really beautiful lake.

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From the ferry... Lake Como

From the ferry on Lake Como

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Typical village scene ... Lake Como

Typical village scene.

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One of the many mansions that dot the fore shores of this lake.

One of the many mansions that dot the fore shores of this lake.

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This mansion is one of the grandest.

This mansion is one of the grandest.

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A house that made a bold statement.

A house that made a bold statement.

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My favourite house with its sweeping lawns and masses of blue hydrangeas.

My favourite house with its sweeping lawns and masses of blue hydrangeas.

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Every village has at least one church.

Every village has at least one church.

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The Lido or swimming spot is always a popular spot on a hot summers day.

The Lido or swimming spot is always a popular spot on a hot summer’s day.

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An impressive waterfront position.

An impressive waterfront position.

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Looking back up the lake.... Almost to Como.

Almost to Como.

We took one last look back up the lake before we moved on to the next part of our European adventure.  We still had two train rides to go that day to get to Locarno for the night and get ready for a special scenic train trip to Domodossola in the Italian alps.

More of that anon.

Jennie and David

 

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Bellagio on Lake Como has long been on my wish list of places to visit and now was that chance.  I have not been disappointed.

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Home on foreshore. Of Bellagio, Lake Como.

Homes and gardens on foreshore of Bellagio, Lake Como.

Looking at the lovely homes and gardens from the vantage point of the ferry was a good introduction to this very special place.  Noting how steeply the land rises from the lake was a lesson still to be learned!

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Imposing hotel on shores of Bellagio: not our hotel!

Imposing hotel on shores of Bellagio.

No, this was not to be our hotel. Anywhere on the foreshore, let alone this majestic place, is very, very expensive. This village is home to many very rich people and that is reflected in the prices here.

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Along the foreshore.

Along the foreshore.

Even smaller hotels such as these are expensive. So I had booked a small apartment in the very centre of the old town, not on the waterfront.

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Ferry jetty at Bellagio on Lake Como, Italy

Ferry jetty at Bellagio on Lake Como, Italy

A welcome entrance to the village.

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Part of the steps that lead to our little apartment.

Part of the steps that lead to our little apartment.

Little did I realise when I booked our apartment that it would be at the top of a long, very long flight of cobble stone steps! Poor David did a Herculean job of getting our bags to the top! It was a task not for the faint hearted or the unfit.

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Our apartment is above a pizza restaurant.

Our apartment is above a pizza restaurant.

Finally, amidst this maze of steep alleyways, we found our appointed place above a small pizza restaurant. When I say above, it was…. Two more flights of steep steps above! Hot and weary we were also hungry after a six and a half hour journey to get here on two trains and a ferry.  The pizza for dinner was good!

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View from our room!

View from our room!

No mountain or lake view from our room on this occasion… Just the roof of the restaurant. But the room was comfortable and in this very hot weather, was thankfully air conditioned.  Not that we needed it for more than an initial cool down. Windows opened and the evening air soon dried our clothes. This was a good washing stop!

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The church tower and bells.

The church tower and bells.

There was to be no sleep in on Sunday morning! The church bells of San Giacomo (St James ) Basilica, peeled loud and long near our room. It is thought that the lower part of this bell tower was part of this area’s defence system long before the church was built.

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The altar in the church, Bellagio

The altar in the church, Bellagio

A feature of this church are the murals made of tiny glass tiles.  The one above the altar is quite horrific in the scene it depicts. It’s one of those story telling art works that strikes fear into the heart of the believer.

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Glass tile mosaic in the church.

Glass tile mosaic in the church.

This mosaic is much gentler in its message.

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Very old naive marble sculptures on pulpit.

Very old naive marble sculptures on pulpit.

The age of this church is clearly evident in the naive style of sculptures on the marble pulpit. This Basilica was built from the end of the 11th to the beginning of the 12th centuries. It was decreed a National monument of Italy in 1904.

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Flower boxes adorn pebbled streets.

Flower boxes adorn pebbled streets.

Everywhere you walk in this area there are flower boxes on the pebbled streets. These streets have been paved this way for hundreds of years and have obviously stood the test of time …. but they are hard on the feet!

One of the main means of income in this area, apart from tourism, is horticulture. In fact our street, Salita Mella, was once known as via dei Fiori, ie. flower street.  There are about thirty family horticultural businesses in the Bellagio area. They grow mostly outdoor plants which are sold all over Italy and Europe.

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Starting the all down the steps from the apartment to the shore.

Starting down all down the steps from the apartment to the shore.

Nothing was open at our uphill end of town so we started the day early (08.00) by walking down to the foreshore to find somewhere for breakfast.

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And a bit further down the steps!

And a bit further down the steps!

It seemed to be a never ending set of steps!

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The bottom is almost in sight!

The bottom is almost in sight!

The end came in sight. David waited patiently for me to make my way down.

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Ferries preparing for a busy Sunday of tourist to Bellagio.

Ferries preparing for a busy Sunday of tourists coming to Bellagio.

It was 08.00, and still too early for any cafe to be open here,too… Well it was Sunday!

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Restaurant in the arcade along the foreshore

Restaurant in the arcade along the foreshore

So we went for a stroll along the waterfront while the tables were being set. This one looked a bit posh for breakfast! We’d find something a little simpler! A bakery maybe.

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The foreshore arcade at Bellagio

The foreshore arcade at Bellagio

The arcade is just one long line of restaurants so we would find something.  This are gets extremely busy as the warm summer days bring more and more tourists to the village.

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Markets on the foreshore.

Markets on the foreshore.

In the early days of the village, the arcade was where the markets were held.  Now markets are held in tents further along the foreshore.

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Varenna from the ferry.

Varenna from the ferry.

We found a delightful bakery cum cafe for breakfast along with many of the locals. It was good to sit and listen as people greeted each other and enjoyed a morning chat over a coffee and croissant.  After breakfast we set off for a longer walk of exploration before deciding to take a ferry trip on the lake. At least ferries are not exorbitantly expensive.

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Another view of Verenna.

Another view of Verenna.

The ferry took us first to Varenna. We had been in Varenna the day before on our way to Bellagio.  That day’s journey had taken us by train on a most scenic route across the alps from Chur, in Switzerland, to Tirano in Italy. From there, we took an Italian train to Veranna and then a ferry to Bellagio.

Map of upper Lake Como

Map of upper Lake Como

The map shows the train line down to Varenna with the purple locator. It also shows the criss cross of ferries that go between Varenna to Bellagio ( red) and Menaggio ( black).

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Menaggio from the ferry.

Menaggio from the ferry.

From Varenna we went on to Menaggio on the other side of the lake…. Another charming village but the day was becoming extremely hot and it was time to go back to Bellagio.

And after that, I was finished exploring but, after a short siesta, David set off to walk in the opposite direction from our morning walk. I stayed in the cool to watch the final of the French Open Tennis and to download these photos to share with you.

Below are a few of the photos from David’s walk.

Sailing is a popular pass time on the lake.

Sailing is a popular pass time on the lake.

There are many yachts on moorings in front of the expensive lake side villas.

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Small fishing boats on a pebbly shore.

Small fishing boats on a pebbly shore.

The arched timber frame on a couple of these small fishing boats were a feature of this area. They can be covered in inclement weather.

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Well kept cemetery.

Well kept cemetery.

Higher up the hill was the well kept village cemetery with lots of live plants on graves.

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Meadows have been cut for hay.

Meadows have been cut for hay.

Further on were the small farm holdings and horticultural plots. We have been watching hay making from the train as we have travelled and these rolls are the finally result ready for animal feed for the winter.

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A different view of the hotels lining the waterfront.

A different view of the hotels lining the waterfront.

And this was his view of the waterfront as he walked hot and weary back to the cool of our room and a well earned cool beer.

 

More of our journey anon.

Jennie and David

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After the rain cleared, the sun shone as if we had ordered it, just in time for our very memorable and scenic train journey into the mountains to Disensis.

A final look at the view in Brunnen.

A final look at the view in Brunnen.

We travelled south from Brunnen to Disensis by the express train that goes up into those very mountains and on over the Gothard Pass south towards Italy.  At almost the top of the pass, at Goschenen, the express goes on through one of the long tunnels that the Swiss are famous for engineering. But we took a different route… By cog rail up to the top of the pass at Andermatt. This is where the Swiss train lines that run north south and east west cross. Some passengers headed west to Brig and Zermatt but we joined a very small regional train for the scenic journey east across the Oberalp Pass to Disentis.

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Mountain scenery on Oberalp Pass.

Mountain scenery on Oberalp Pass.

This train too used the cog system for several of the very steep parts of the journey up and over the Oberalp pass.

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A mountain lake in thaw.

A mountain lake in thaw.

The route went by mountain lakes that were in the throws of thawing after the long alpine winter.  Along the right hand side of this lake is a snow tunnel  that just looks like a row of posts in this photo. It’s really a roof built to allow the train to pass this way long before the thaw. It’s almost invisible in the vastness of this scene but it’s there and our train was about to go through that “tunnel” giving some idea of the vastness of this landscape.  It is so hard to show the vastness of the landscape.

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Train tracks cut across the mountains.

Train tracks cut across the mountains.

The train route and the road look like cuts across the landscape.

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Looking back up at the pass.

Looking back up at the pass.

As we began to descend, it was hard to decide where to look…. Back up the pass we had just come across, or down into the valleys ahead. I managed to catch David,s fingers in the bottom corner of this photo. He was looking down the valley from his window, I was looking back. We virtually had the carriage to ourselves and were free to move around from window to window as the scenery changed. And the windows opened letting us see more clearly… And breathe in that wonderfully fresh mountain air.

This train line is part of the route taken by the very expensive ” Glacier Express” where passengers sit in designated seats. Ours was the much cheaper option of the small local train and it was a lot of fun. It cost us just $15 each on top of our normal train pass. Way to go!

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A narrow valley with golf course!

A narrow valley with golf course!

At one point, the train line ran along a ridge high above a narrow valley. We couldn’t believe our eyes. Down there beside that cluster of houses, was a golf course. It appeared to be be one fairway wide, the whole course running the length of the valley. I believe the area is used for cross country skiing in the winter.

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A mountain village

A mountain village

The further we went down the valley, more farms and small villages added to the beauty of this journey.  Always a church spire adding that point of interest to a photo.

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Our destination, Disensis.

Our destination, Disensis.

Finally, Disensis came into view, dominated by its huge monastery. We had reached our destination after a truly memorable and most enjoyable train journey.

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Disentis abbey or monastery

Disentis abbey or monastery

Disentis Monastery sits high on a hill above our hotel which was close to the station. We spent the afternoon climbing up there, finding a wide variety of wild flowers in the meadows that surround the abbey and enjoying exploring the interior of this amazingly large building for such a small village. It is in fact a very important monastery, the centre of life here for many in this isolated valley where the Rhine River begins its journey. Because of its isolation, it is one of the few places left where the Swiss Romanch language is spoken by most of the population and taught at the monastery high school. I have tried to make some understanding of the written language but am defeated most of the time.

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The interior of the abbey church

The interior of the abbey church

The interior of the church is sumptuous in gold and bright colours with very ornate  white plaster work. This is man’s creation and beautiful in its own way.

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Flower and Beatle in the Abbey meadow.

Flower and Beatle in the Abbey meadow.

Outside in the meadows beside the abbey, we spent a very happy time finding a wide variety of nature’s creations. And that’s an activity that brings great joy to both of us.

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Tiny but perfect

Tiny but perfect

And sometimes you have to look very carefully to find the tiny flowers amongst the taller, bolder ones.  Soon all of this meadow will be mown for hay but for now, the wildflowers have their moment in the sun.

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The view from our room.

The view from our room.

Back at our small hotel beside the train station, this was the view from our room up on the top floor…. Worth the climb up all those stairs.  And we could watch all the activity down at this small village train station. We would catch one of those trains next day but for now the sound of the cow bells across the valley, a tractor taking a farmer home after a day of mowing hay, the occasional bells on church and abbey and the hourly train arrival were all the sounds we heard as we enjoyed this delightful little village.

more of our journey anon

Jennie and David

 

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Leaving Bangkok airport is never really a trial as we can book in for a Thai Airways massage. I chose to have my legs massaged in preparation for the long night flight and David had his shoulders and neck done. We had an eleven hour flight ahead of us to Brussels en route to Zurich. David takes up the story:

“What a nice surprise there was in store for us when we boarded our plane which was to take us from Bangkok to Brussels.  It was a B777, listed as just the same as the one that took us from Melbourne to Bangkok.  The big difference between the two was their age; the first plane being 7.6 years old and the second one only 8 months old.  No real difference except the seats. We each had our own cubicle on the newer plane and the seat could be converted into a fully 180 degree flat bed.  Bliss for a better night’s sleep compared to flat beds at a sloping angle.  There’s no difference in price paid, so I’ll take the 180 degree flat bed every time.  And, sleep I did as it was an all-night flight which left Bangkok at half past midnight.  It had been a long day already!

The other obvious difference was the use of lap and sash seat belts.  These were to be used during taxiing, take-off’s and landings.  The sash part of the belt could be detached for the rest of the journey.  What a good idea and as this type of belt has been compulsory in motor vehicles for decades, why has it taken so long for them to be used in aircraft where the forces in extreme situations are even greater?

On arrival in Brussels, Immigration and Customs formalities were necessary as we were entering the EC for the first time on this journey.  We had a 2+ hour transit time between arrival and the change to a Swiss Air flight to Zurich. This time was spent in a lounge which was all but empty when we arrived at around 07h30.  Eventually, we boarded the last of our flights, but the ground crew, whose responsibility it was to load the belly of the aircraft with our bags etc., were late to arrive. We missed our take-off slot and sat around for an extra 30 minutes waiting for a new slot to be found by the guys sitting in the control tower.  It was good to finally get underway.

The most important thing to do on our arrival in Zurich was to get some Swiss francs and to activate our two month Eurail Pass.  This was all achieved with little fuss and with lots of help from a very friendly Swiss Rail adviser.  SBB really does provide an excellent service in every way.

We found the right train and headed for Zug which is where Jennie lived for a couple of years arriving in 1969.  We had to change trains there for our overnight destination of Brunnen, a half hour further south on the Vierwaldstattersee,  the ‘lake of the four states’.  Each area calls the lake their own and gives it a colloquial name!”

I’ll interrupt David’s story here for  a few photos taken with my new TZ 60 camera.

One of the lovely hotels in Brunnen.

One of the lovely hotels in Brunnen.

The 800m walk down to the lake from the train station, the Bahnhof, gave some insight into this small Swiss village.  It is not large or touristy and we were greeted warmly by locals as we wearily walked, pulling our bags and toting our back packs.

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Hotel Schmidt and Alpha in Brunnen

Hotel Schmidt and Alpha in Brunnen

And we were warmly welcomed at the hotel and shown to our room which has a small balcony ….The one straight above the main balcony. The cream hotel and the grey one are run as a joint family concern, with three generations of the family all doing their part to make the business flow smoothly including both B&Bs and a small restaurant.

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Our view!

Our view!

What a view from our room! It could be no where else but Switzerland… a restored paddle wheel steamer just leaving Brunnen pier and the first row of the Swiss Alps as the background. We just sat on the balcony and drank in the clean Swiss air and that view. It was well worth the long journey to get to this well remembered part of the world.  This area of Swiss lakes had been my home away from home in the late 1960s and I had returned many, many times over the years.  But I had never actually stayed in Brunnen before. I have not been disappointed with the choice this time!

Every time I return to the lakes area of Switzerland, one thing I really look forward to is a feed of lake fish. David continues:

“In an attempt to keep things simple, and after a long day, we decided to eat in the restaurant attached to the hotel.  Although we were confronted by a fairly comprehensive menu, we both chose a fish dish.  The young waiter, Patrik,  was able to tell us that our fish was local to the very lake our hotel is situated beside.  He told us we would be getting fillets of fish and that they would be served with boiled potatoes and that a mixed salad would precede the main dish.  The salad arrived dressed with a light creamy dressing – and was fresh and delicious.

Next, of course, came the main offering which consisted of five fillets of fish and three elongated yellow potatoes which had been tossed in finely chopped parsley.  On plunging a fork into the first fillet of fish it was obvious that the Swiss chef had found a way to bloat the fillets of fish to make them look very much bigger than they actually were.  I reckon these fish must be on the endangered fish list, either that or they are very thin fingerlings.  The only discernible flavour, I think, came from the oil the fillets were fried in!  The meal was nonetheless quite enjoyable, but we did decline dessert when we saw  one delivered to a neighbouring table in a large open glass stemmed dish. It appeared to consist of very little, with who knows what in the bottom, topped with oodles of aerosol dispensed whipped cream.  We tried a coffee instead… Lots of froth not a lot of coffee. Then came the bill. The meal was truly expensive by our standards, but then everything is horrifically expensive in Switzerland. We knew that. When Jennie lived here in the 60’s, one AUD bought five Swiss franks. Now it will not buy one Swiss frank.

The day had been overcast and during the afternoon the sky became even more menacing.  During our dinner the skies opened and down tumbled a heavy deluge.  The only thing missing was thunder and lightning. It was time to go to bed and sleep to the sound of rain and hope that it would clear by morning.”

Early morning view.

Early morning view.

And clear it did. This was David’s first view of the world very early next morning. Beautiful. He enjoyed it while I slumbered on.

It was still a little misty when I joined him, camera in hand. I decided to give that 30x feature in the TZ 60 a bit of a trial.

Small village on a plateau on the hill.

Small village on a plateau on the hill.

I zoomed out about 10 x on the nearest hill across the other side of the lake. It became clearer that there are a few farm houses and what appeared to be a largish building on the left of the photo.

A hillside monastery.

A hillside monastery.

At 30x zoom, the building could be identified as a monastery .

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The 'Weggis' at Brunnen Pier preparing for the day's first passengers.

The ‘Weggis’ at Brunnen Pier preparing for the day’s first passengers.

By the time I was showered and dressed, a few weak rays of sun were filtering through the mist.   The Weggis was already at the pier waiting for its first passengers of the day. We were ready to get out and explore but not by boat. The weather was forecast to turn wet again and these boats are expensive. We decided to leave venturing out on the lake for a sunny day and begin our day by exploring more of Brunnen on foot. Then we would use our train pass to take us first to Zug and then to Lucerne for David to experience two of my favourite places in this lakes area of Central Switzerland.

More of that anon.

Jennie and David

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