Monday, July 27, 2009

Beyond Germany Into Italy

My last morning in Germany I received this good-bye from a goat I passed every morning on my walks. He and his companion would come out of their tiny hut to say Guten Morgan in goat talk. Come to think of it, it sounded much like goat talk in the states...
Our friend Voelker who was kind enough to let me tag along on his way into Italy. At first I was a bit disappointed that I wasn't going to take the train and was still unsure I'd made the right decision as we pulled out of Tom & Cynthia's driveway. But just a few miles into the drive of 8 hours I knew this would be a wonderful trip. Voelker is a sweet, smart man and we talked of many things on our day together. He was a careful driver and made the trip over the Alps incredibly pleasant and informative. We spent the better part of our first 4 days in Italy in Voelker's company and it was good company indeed.
The Alps. There were times during our drive where I was brought to tears by the scenery. Alpine meadows full of color, mountain streams with 200 foot waterfalls, snow capped mountains, tiny villages with churches and tiled roofed houses. The air was cool and so very clean, maybe the best air I have ever inhaled.
This is the top of a submerged church steeple in a town in the southern Alps/northern Dolomites where the Italian government decided they wanted to build a power plant. They relocated the inhabitants of the village and then built a dam and flooded the town. It is a huge lake and Voelker said the entire town lies submerged in the bottom of it. Kinda' eerie in a way.

A mountain pass where we were held up. We went through so many of these tunnels, some of them a mile or so long directly through the mountains of the Alps.

A castle in the Southern Alps. There were many of these and they all seemed to be perched up the side of the mountain. How did they get the materials up these steep mountain sides?

Ahhhh, the town of Marostica. We ate gelato and drank espresso here quite a few times. A walled city with 2 castles-one up the mountain (which you can see in this pic) and one down. In the town square, where I was standing when I took this picture, there is a giant chess board painted. Every other year in the Autumn, they stage a chess game with people dressed in period costume and horses (also decked out) as the chess pieces. It is incredible to see-of course I have only seen pictures.
This picture is a bit out of sequence. This is a tree we saw in Germany. Scott and I were taking pictures of the lake below and I spied this tree with our initials carved into it. How sweet!

Scott and Tom in the square of Marostica on one of our gelato/espresso stops. Marostica was on the way from the town where the Laverda rally was held and Bassano del Grappa, where Tom was staying and where we rode the motorcycle quite a bit up in the hills.

Once again, a pic way out of sequence...our last night in Germany, Cynthia and Tom had a great bar-b-q. Cynthia manned the grill. It was so much fun as all the folks that were traveling to the rally with us met at Tom's and we all got to eat dinner and visit until the wee hours.

Believe it or not, this is Napoleon's cannonball embedded in the side of a building in Vicenza. I mean it is not his PERSONAL cannonball, but it was from a battle fought in Vicenza by his invading armies. Last year while in Vicenza, we were shown this by Piero Laverda and I was impressed (I am a cheap date). So today we walked there again and took pictures (ahh, American tourists). So, I guess that is it for now. We are at an internet cafe called GameOver. Quite a young crowd in here-most of them gaming. Scott and I are trying to catch up on our mail and such. The computer at our temporary place of residence is not working correctly, so we had to find an alternative. Cheap enough really and it is air conditioned!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Some Pics

Just started going through pics, so thought I´d post a few.
France was beautiful and our hotel was at the edge of Annemasse and Ambilly, two adjoining villages. It was incredibly easy to get around and we walked town every day. This house was directly across the street from our hotel.
Our last day in France we took a train to Annecy, a town on a lake about an hour south of Annemasse. It was definitely a tourist town, but kept up so stunningly with flowers everywhere. Town was packed, but we didn't care. We had a lovely lunch at a Creperia, the best crepes I'd ever eaten. And then the rains came! We walked around getting soaked to the skin so happy to be in France, together, in the rain. We finally did buy umbrellas. This was a stream going through town. We stopped in a bakery, so we could ohh and ahh. Scott bought a small myrtille tart (kinda' like blueberries) and I took a picture.This was late afternoon and the shelves were almost empty. The Europeans love their bakeries and rightly so. The superiority of their goods are legendary.
The next day we got up early as we had an 8:45 train to catch. I ran down to the bakery on the corner and picked up a few pastries for breakfast along with a loaf of bread for lunch on the train. On the way to the train station I took this picture of a flower bed. It was very typical of the gardens we saw in France. Beautiful flowers with some salad greens mixed in. This one included some golden chard.

One of my very favorite things about traveling over here are the trains. I loved trains as a kid and I have never outgrown them. The longer the trip the better as far as I'm concerned. We sit back and read or I write in my journal or we take pictures out the windows or we sleep. Sometimes we just sit and whisper sweet nothings into each others' ears and giggle. Trains inspire romance in that kidding! I know-it makes me sick, too...sometimes. This was our lunch on the train from Geneva to Zurich.

Some really good dry sausage, a loaf of crusty whole grain bread (the kind that leaves crumbs all over your lap) and a hunk of cheese, in this case-gruyere. We ate every last bit and washed it down with a bottle of Pelligrino bubbly water. Now, in Germany, I have the best of all tour guides in Cynthia (some pics of Cynthia and Tom in the coming days). She could have been a history teacher. I have learned so much and things I've heard for years now make sense thanks to her. Yesterday, we all went to the towns of Bregenz and Lindau. At one point on the way there, Tom pulled the truck over to the side of the road at an overlook. We all got out and gazed down at a quaint town below us at the edge of a huge lake (the largest in Europe!!!). This was the town of Bregenz, Austria. On the other side of the lake connected by a small bridge was an island-Lindau, Germany (where we spent a good part of the day-pics of Lindau later) and at the far side were some spectacular mountains-The Alps of Switzerland. It was a breathtaking moment. We first visited Bregenz and walked the promenade that hugs the lakes' edge. The weather was sunny but not hot and the breeze felt so good. There were vendors selling jewelry and other goods, musicians ( a phenomenal guy on a harp!) and even a guy painting pictures with spray paint! Sounds crazy, but what this guy could do with a spray can was amazing. At one point we came upon a giant chess set with two games in progress.

Today, being Monday, Cynthia had to get up and go to work. She took half a day off so, while the guys took the bikes out for test runs, we could go to a neighboring village to play tourist. She showed up from work with lunch for us before we all went our separate ways. This is my kind of lunch! Oh...but I do love Germany!
The bread, loosely translated is pretzel bread and was it ever good. The sausages were very much like pepperoni, but a bit softer. Cynthia told us that they can just hang in the cellar for quite a while and they get drier and drier. We had gouda cheese or cream cheese or butter with the bread and plum crumb cake for dessert. Yum!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

4 Days

Can it be that we have only been away 4 days? We are sitting in Simmerberg, Germany at the kitchen table at Tom & Cynthia´s house. We had a great dinner prepared by Cynthia-black and white rice, gulasch (the german spelling) and a great salad. Much wine with dinner and coffee with brandy and capuccino cake and pudding for dessert. Whoa!! It poured rain and was actually cold here (remember this is coming from a gal that less than a week ago left a drought and 100 degree temps) and as soon as I got in from the train station, Cynthia grabbed an umbrella and my arm and said, "We are walking to the bakery 200 meters up the road." The bakery...OMG, the bakery. I asked Cynthia if I could take pictures and was told to wait until morning when the shelves were full. We saw the sun for about 15 minutes after dinner and now it is clouded up again and getting dark. The guys are talking motorcycles, Cynthia´s petting her cat, Moon Unit and we are making cracks when we get the chance about the guys and their obsession. This place is GREEN! And the trees are BIG. Scott gave me a primer on the German language on the train from Geneva to Germany. "It´s phoenetic, so it´s easy." I laughed when I looked at my train ticket and it had 2 separate words on it that were about 15 letters long with 2 or 3 vowels. I thought French was easier.
Our 3 days in France were like a lifetime. Quiet time, lots of walking, INCREDIBLE food. Annemasse is a very sweet small town-very easy to get around and flowers planted everywhere. Not outrageously expensive. Safe and clean. We slept each night with the windows wide open (no screens) in our room. We took LOTS of pics and I will post some in the next few days (hopefully).

Monday, July 13, 2009


We leave in the morning for 3 weeks in Europe. We fly into Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday and will cross the border into France (a whole 12 miles) and stay in Annemasse for 3 days just to decompress and relax a bit alone before the socializing times begin! On Saturday we travel by train through Switzerland to Simmerburg, Germany which is on the border of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. We'll be staying with our friends Tom and Cynthia for 4 days. We met Tom last year in Vicenza at Piero Laverda's home and he and his wife Cynthia visited us in Texas last Autumn. Tom, Scott and a few other buddies are riding bikes over the Alps into Austria and then onto Vicenza, Italy where we will spend the next couple weeks. I think I am taking the train from Simmerburg to Vicenza, although there may be the option of driving down with someone else in the group (in a VAN, not on a BIKE!). I am leaving that option open. I believe we are all spending the night in Innsbruk, Austria on the way to Vicenza. It's funny because, looking on a map it seems like all these places are SO FAR APART. But in reality they are very close. I mean the entire country of Italy is about as big as Florida and Georgia combined (and kinda' the same shape, yes?). Trains go everywhere and are so inexpensive and they are such a joy. I use the time to catch up on my journaling and watching the countryside go by.

I just returned from 2 1/2 days in Connecticut as a surprise for my mother for her 75th birthday. My sister Doreen, who lives in Florida flew up also and we had a great time. Mom was surprised to say the least. We all decided that we want to age like mom is aging...she can outrun us all! The weather was incredible -unseasonably cool even for New England- and I was chilly the whole time! What a refreshing break from the trecherous summer we've had in Texas! We visited the houses we lived in throughout my childhood and I took pictures. Driving north to south -from the Long Island Sound (we lived in Old Saybrook for a year) to mere miles from the Massachusettes line in about an hour and a half! So different from Texas!
I was showing Scott the pics of the houses we lived over the years. This is where we lived when I was born:

Look at that lawn!!! Behind this house and up the hill is where my dad had his worm of the 7 Wonders of my Childhood. My first memories of life are in this house, like when I played with a razor blade I found beside the kitchen sink...the sink was full of water and as I played with the razor blade under the water beautiful ribbons of blood swirled through the water. Unbelievably, it didn't hurt at all and I was enthralled with the colored trails I could weave under the water. And then my mother walked in the kitchen and saw me perched on a chair by the sink. I think she screamed when she saw the water, but what I remember most was that the cuts on my hands REALLY hurt when she pulled them out of the water! It wasn't bad really, nothing that a few band-aids couldn't fix. Weird, huh? Then we moved to this house when I was about 3:
I loved this house! My grandparents lived in a house directly behind us on the same lot and behind them was our orchard. Rich with apple, pear and crabapple trees. My great Aunt Lucy lived across the street and I spent lots of time with her in the old apartment house she ran. She seldom had boarders, so we roamed the big old house constantly. We then moved to West Suffield on the Massachusettes border, but I don't have the pic of that house. But quite a few years later (after a move to Florida and back) we moved to Old Saybrook, a beautiful village on the Long Island Sound. We had a great house there. This is the pic I showed Scott:

He stood there with his mouth open. I let him drink it in before I told him..."Nah, we didn't live here, this was the Inn at Cornfield Point. But we did love to sneak in and wander the halls!" This was actually our home for our first 2 months in Old Saybrook:

And then misfortune befell our lives and our circumstances changed drastically. I didn't get a pic of the house we moved into after this house because it had been bulldozed!!! And believe me, it deserved to be! It was just a few blocks from the Inn at Cornfield Point and a block and a half from the beach which was nice, but it was a tiny summer cabin and we lived there in the winter. Very close quarters for mom and 4 kids! You know they say, "You can never go home again" and I do believe that's true. I like having these photos of the places that formed me, but I am not so crazy about the memories that come with them. My other sisters felt the same way. There were some incredibly difficult situations that we, as a family, found ourselves in. Much of it was unpleasant, rough and sometimes downright scary, but we made it through. We all turned out reasonably sane (I know this is debatable, but really, I don't want to hear it!) and are stronger for it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Our First Chicken Meal!

Last night I roasted a chicken for dinner. The first chicken we've had in a month. Yes, one of the chickens we butchered on June 1st.
Here it is ready to roast:
It was one of the smallest, so about 4 1/2 lbs. To be honest, it looked pretty scrawny. I didn't brine it as I always do with poultry for two reasons: 1) I didn't have time and 2) I wanted to see if I could tell any difference in the meat. Here it is after roasting:

Lotsa' garlic in the pan, huh? It's great on EVERYTHING! So here's the verdict on the home raised, home butchered chicken: No Difference. Well, really there were differences, but as far as taste went, it was the same as always. Scott said it wasn't a fair comparison because I always brine and this one wasn't, so next time I will brine and compare again. I did notice much less fat in the pan after cooking. And, because I KNEW where the meat was raised and HOW it was raised, I felt better about eating it. And it was really good, but I enjoy chicken, so it most always tastes good. I really expected a phenomenal difference like with the grass fed beef, but really it wasn't that dramatic.

Lily turned 21 today! They had a party for her at work and here is the cake:

Boy, did they get the right cake! Tie dye and a peace sign! She was thrilled and thought it was the coolest cake ever!
So July is here already and in less than 2 weeks we leave for vacation. Instead of picking up the 27 Days in Italy blog from last year(, I think I will just write the posts here. I am looking forward to going to France because I've never been, but mostly I am excited about our apartment in Vicenza, Italy. It will be so nice to be in the same place for almost 2 weeks so I can go to market every day and cook. We can ride bicycles to town and we will take day trips to Venice and Milan on the trains (the trains are so wonderful!) as Vicenza is so centally located. More on that later.