150 Jours en Suisse

We’ve had a plan for a few years to go to Europe for a lengthy stay after we retired. So, having done the retiring part, we have put the plan into action. We can do this for such a long time because we both have European passports, which is one blessing. Then home exchange seemed to be a good idea, and in what seems to be a further beautiful gift from heaven, this offer from Lausanne came our way for the second half of 2014. Now that we are here, we kind of can’t believe it, as the house, the house owners and the town of Lausanne are all, as Goldilocks would say, “just right”.

Our house

This is day 6 of 150 days in Switzerland (Suisse in French). We have some things planned, but these first two weeks are for settling in and just enjoying. Later we will trip down the road to Chamonix and Mt Blanc, and do the small trip to Interlaken and its beautiful mountain walks. All od these are only a matter of hours away here. Also planned is a trip to London next week to see the British bit of the family (Hello J&A!), a road trip to Cologne and to see Uncle Rudolph and family in Germany, and a biking cruise in Croatia later. The rest is to be planned and a lot of it will be just around here where there is so much to enjoy.

Lausanne is a smallish city on the Lac Leman (Lake Geneva). It has many linked villages and suburbs and the town centre has quite a number of old buildings, the most prominent of which is the medieval Notre Dame Cathedral, a Reformed Church Cathedral, despite the seemingly Catholic name (John Calvin country here). There are World Heritage-listed vineyards and villages not far away, the beautiful lake with its classic boat trips and France is just ‘over there’. So France, here we come – quite often!

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Good food

Peter’s mother, our grand Grandma Elisabeth, being from southern Germany, gave Peter (and me) a love of the food in these parts, so Peter is in food heaven this week. The first things we found were the fresh raspberries and the red and black currants growing prolifically outside the back door. Then the big fresh stone fruits in the supermarkets, then the fact that Movenpick is a place right here, with its icecream easily at hand. You know all this …. the local bread, the local wine, the boulangerie …… all that European temptation. All Good!

So this is week 1. Tres bien!
M

Autumn in Lausanne, the last weeks and farewell

Autumn is more noticeable here in Europe than it is in Queensland, probably because autumn is not very evident in Queensland!

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Here in Switzerland, people put wreaths on their doors and decorations about, to celebrate this time of year. It gets colder gradually and the leaves change slowly into the yellows and reds. It feels like a time of slowing down and accepting that life can be limiting, as the rain and cold arrives and life is a little more constricted, a time of looking inward a bit more after the beauty of summer. At the same time it still means doing life anyway, so you rush in and out of the car after dark at the shops with everyone else and you cope with all the people on the bus as you can. Soon Christmas is coming and already some trees and Christmas lights are apparent.

For us, visitors from the tropics, it’s a bit of a novel challenge, quite enjoyable as long as you have a warm hearth to meet you at home. The two of us are here only for a bit longer and we are still enjoying it, especially in the changing forest here at Mont-sur-Lausanne. We continue to go trek up the hill to see the trees change; to sit at that special spot and watch the horse stud and the farmers there keep doing what they do; to walk the long tracks through the forest; to meet the people with dogs and the people with horses. “Bon jour! Bon Jour!”. We can also see the mountains across the lake changing, becoming covered in snow and looking glorious and so close!

The lake is a magnet right now too, as the tourists seem to have gone and we can wander down there freely, wrapped in coats and scarves, walking or reading a book and contemplating the lake’s expanses.

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This last week is sad and happy. We are soon going to spend time with our fine family in UK and their new and flourishing life. We are going home then, to our own place and the rest of our family, who have increased in number since we left and are bubbling with new life and life together; and there are many others too who we will be glad to see. At the same time, though, we are leaving a place which has given us a lot and which we wish could remain. We have met and become friends with memorable people and have enjoyed a special sabbatical year when the many stresses of life have been left behind, but in which time we have gained so much both personally and between the two of us.

 

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150 days in Lausanne has been a beautiful retreat from real life, a hermitage on a hill. We have felt it as a wonderful gift of beauty, refreshment and enrichment. However, life doesn’t work if you just stay in the resort and the swimming pool or the big comfortable house on the Mont. So it’s time to get back to real life now.

This is it: additions and subtractions, giving and receiving, seasons for everything. This year has been one of the blessed seasons and we’re grateful. Thank you la Suisse; thank you God :)))!

Taize, Beaune, Beaume-les-messieurs and Lyon

TAIZE

We have known about this place for about 30 years and were pleased to be able to visit it finally in November.

The name belongs to a small village not far from the old Cluny site in Burgundy, but it’s best known for its modern-day monastic community of the same name which was started in 1940 by  a Protestant minister, Frere Roger and some others, who spent the war assisting refugees, especially Jews, to find safety and protection, and continued in similar work from that time onwards. These days its outreach is to thousands (and thousands) of young people from throughout the world who seek some spiritual insight and renewal, and come to stay in the community each year. Adults like ourselves are also welcomed if there is room. At mealtimes there, as we queued for our food, we met all sorts of young people and adults of varying degrees of religious fervour and experience, some very serious about finding truth and others who were there to have a space to think and reflect. It was lively, free and freeing.

The story of the beginnings and the current-day Taize can be found on http://www.taizecommunity.fr It is a story worth researching as the fruit of the lives of these men, for reconciliation amongst Christians and others, is significant.

Our weekend was wet and rainy and like everyone else we were housed in quite basic accommodation and offered very basic meals. Along with this we were made welcome to join in the monastic prayer times several times a day in the Church of Reconciliation and also join in a discussion with a small adult group in the mornings. A peal of bells was the call to these activities – loved them! The rest of the time was ours to use to pray, reflect and whatever else seemed appropriate, in the naturally gorgeous area of the village and the community property. The communal prayer is based within the beautiful music that Taize is known for, with prayers and readings in at least three languages.

So, in this charming place we were able to have a very special weekend which was an important part of our own pilgrimage time in Europe. In brief, this was an experience that reinforced many aspirations we have had about faith in our own lives, both in what was said, what is evident in the people there and the life the community leads. Being there was a great refreshment and affirmation.

Books about this we have read since:
Olivier Clement (1997). Taize: A meaning to life. GIA Publications, Chicago
Bro. John of Taize (2012). Friends in Christ. Orbis Books NY

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Village church

 

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Some farm buildings

 

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The bells

 

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Dormitory and communal buildings with tents for overflow. Church in background.

 

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Old farmhouse where we stayed

 

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View from verandah

 

 

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Praying with everyone

 

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Church from the back

 

BEAUNE
This charming town is in the centre of the wine country in Burgundy and makes for a very pleasant stop. The wine is one of its major attractions and we noted as we arrived that a party of visitors in our hotel had returned from a day’s outing with at least 50 cartons of wine! Unfortunately, we did not get to know them better that week! However, we were able to enjoy a reasonable tipple in some of the very nicely styled restaurants through the visit.

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The town is small and easy to wander through and it is also very attractive, with interesting old buildings and flowers everywhere, so a day spent there was enjoyable: town square with coffee houses, modern and quaint shops, old buildings and old centre well-maintained and the fully restored old hospital for the poor which had been opened in 14th century by a wealthy grandee and which continued to be used into the 20th century – this was worth the tour to hear the history and see the fine example of local architecture.

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BEAUME-LES-MESSIEURS

This is a small, classical French village close to the French-Swiss border. It’s in a steep, narrow valley and its earlier claim to fame was its abbey which is now a hotel.  It’s been written up as the most beautiful village in France and it is certainly untouched, with gorgeous old buildings and a lovely natural environment.

On the autumn day we visited the major thing to enjoy was the waterfall which continuously flows out of the side of the mountain.

Burgundy countryside on the way from Beaune to Beaume:

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Beaume

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LYON

Lyon has it all: Roman history, modern history, food, beautiful piazzas, old ateliers, catacombs and a cathedral on a hill!  It’s known as the gastronomic capital of France and certainly has many, many restaurants to prove this.  Some of these are modern and sleek, but many reflect the old culture of this part of the world with interesting menus that sometimes include such things as la tete du chat (head of cat) and other such inviting items.

These ingredients reflect the history of Lyonnaise cuisine, which includes the story of ‘les meres lyonnaise’ or the mothers of Lyon, who, from the mid -1900s began to work as cooks, using their own local produce and serving their own particular dishes.  Their tradition has continued in Lyon and today many restaurants proudly proclaim their link to it.

We enjoyed a couple of days in this beautiful town just across the border from Lausanne.

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Cathedral

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Cemetery of the noble families

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Church of St Iranaeus

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Place Bellecour

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Cathedral

 

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Cathedral doors!!

 

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Plaque at St Iranaeus Church

 

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One pleasant memory of lyonnaise hospitality is when we were feeling the evening cold a lot and yet could not find a restaurant open.  So we knocked on the door of a wine bar and they immediately took us in, sat us down and served us a beautiful entree of fresh bread with truffle and jambon carved from the bone.  This was accompanied by a very fine glass of wine.  So good!

 

 

 

Bisse de Nandaz

This is a walk high up in the snow areas above the town of Sion. We reached it going up and up the mountain on a switchback road and finding quite a big town at the top.

A bisse is a channel made by locals to direct water from the mountain to wherever they needed it. The track runs beside it, so the sound of running water tinkles beside you as you walk. Also next to the track are many, many chalets which seem to be holiday homes.

Walking up through the trees, looking across the valley, listening to the cows, bonjouring to the people, you could feel quite Swiss for a little while.

At the top of the track, we find a convenient hotel which provided a snack to all of us endurance walkers (7k!). A very pleasant walk up and down.

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The weather was looking good last weekend so we bundled up and headed for the Matterhorn. Our host had told us that this was the must-see-and-experience of Switzerland, so we were keen to get there. As it happened, the weather was more than good and locals compared it to a summer weekend.

We drove up through Valais and caught a train to Zermatt, the no-car village below the mountain where we found that our apartment had a direct view of the Big M itself (well done Mountain Peter!), and Sunday saw us jumping in and out of the various cable cars which eventually took us to the very top. We were surrounded by people from everywhere – French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, American, Swiss….. – all keen to enjoy the final weekend of the summer season, and many there to ski.

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The top! The panorama was 360 deg. and with the day as clear as crystal, we enjoyed what was for me the best view of mountain tops I have seen.

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Later in the day, having cabled our way down again, we caught a furnicular train up another stretch to Gornergratt. This is a single large hotel about a century old, which sits alone above the snowline looking across to the Matterhorn and its companions. It is clearly a model for The Grand Budapest Hotel (Ralph Fiennes et al., 2013-ish?), though someone had some money for this one, and we found an internal world there of restaurants and large terraces full of people eating food described in expensive menus. The temptation to stay was strong, but we had committed further, and forced ourselves to leave its warmth and comfort to explore the walking tracks down the mountain.

It was heading for sunset as we began, so the light had a subtle glow about it, but what was more than special was the silence. We had mountains all about us, some with snow and some very bare and rocky, and just a few people about. Otherwise, no wind, no birds ….just us, walking. A completely fabulous and memorable moment.

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Interlaken
Day 2 found us driving down from Zermatt/Tosch and heading for Interlaken and its adjacent valleys. We’d been there on one of our first European adventures many years ago, but now, with more experience, we were still amazed by the classic beauty of this area.

However before we arrived, we had a different tunnel experience from the usual (there are many, many tunnels in Switzerland). We were to go through particular long tunnel under the Jung-Frau and we eventually found the entrance, but wondered why this one seemed so complicated.

Stop. Pay a big toll. Wait in a queue. Follow everyone over a fairly rattly bridge. Stop again. Turn off the engine while parked in a very narrow alley still on the rattly bridge. It took us a couple of minutes to realise that we were actually on a train which would take us through the tunnel, and as it started we found ourselves in complete darkness for an indefinite (for us) period of time. Ho hum! What had we got ourselves into?

Suddenly, though, after about 20 minutes, we emerged and found ourselves in the sort of classical Swiss valley that they make sure are on all the posters: gorgeous green pastures, villages everywhere, mountains on both sides, cows (of course!), pretty, pretty…… It is another version of Swiss beauty, a little more intensely ‘Swiss’ than the farmlands nearer to Lausanne, and the high mountains we have also experienced…. and it went on for miles until we reached the lake, Thunsee, another beautiful sight.

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Then to Interlaken. It was gorgeous to look out of the hotel window and see the beautiful mountains, and watch the paragliders jumping off the mountains to the greens in the town, with the rain showers making it all glisten in the afternoon sun. For me it was the sort of beauty I love and can relax in, so it was a perfect final overnight as we enjoyed the great hotel and a bit of the town before heading up the valley.

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Lauterbrunnen is known to many, as it is one of the enchanting villages up the valley from Interlaken, through which the train takes you up to the Jung-Frau and the Eiger, and it includes some stunning walking trails. This time we drove and firstly enjoyed a coffee in the crisp air outside a homely cafe in the main street overlooking the village.

Later, we went exploring at the waterfall, and again around through the village and the cemetery where the local gardener was renewing the gardens at the graves (I love the way the German people look after the graves so beautifully).

The weather was closing in with snow imminent, so we did not walk too much, but caught the cable car up to Murren for a better view. Wow again!

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It was a shame to leave as we knew that the snow would be lovely to enjoy, but with no winter tyres on yet, we could not risk our host’s BMW (!!!) and took the route back through Valais to our warm and cosy home in Lausanne. It had, however, been a significantly good weekend!

** Valais is a long river valley, surrounded by mountains, through which runs the Rhone river (with ^ of course!), which then flows into the top end of Lake Geneva.
M

MOUNTAINS WEEKEND

We did a short trip into Germany just before the autumn.

We went to Cologne – beautiful and leafy – picked up N & J’s bikes from Kristy’s good friend’s house; her family had stored them faithfully for a few months. Then we visited the cathedral which was huge and VERY high.

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Cologne

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Triptych Cologne

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We visited Heidelberg to see cousins Isa and Tarek (missed you Ziad!) and enjoyed their warm hospitality and dinner in the old city.

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We rode bikes along the Mosel and enjoyed the completely German feel of Cochem and its surrounds. Thanks J&N!

Cochem, Mosel Valley

Cochem, Mosel Valley

Cochem, Mosel Valley

Cochem, Mosel Valley

Cochem, Mosel Valley

Cochem, Mosel Valley

Mosel Valley

Mosel Valley

Cochem, Mosel Valley

Mosel Valley bike ride

Mosel Valley bike ride

Mosel Valley bike ride

Mosel Valley bike ride

Mosel Valley bike ride

We stayed again with Uncle Rudolph and Ilse in Kehl. Ilse’s cooking is as excellent as ever, and we enjoyed their welcome as we have before.

Rudolph & Ilse's

Rudolph & Ilse’s

Rudolph & Ilse's

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Rudolph & Ilse's

Rudolph & Ilse’s

Then we crossed the border into Strasbourg to see my favourite cathedral and catch the shopping again ….

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Strasbourg

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Strasbourg Cathedral

Strasbourg Cathedral

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Strasbourg

….and finally, we drove at great speed along the autobahn (fun!), to the Swiss border where we slowed down (sigh!) and continued driving at a moderate pace back to Lausanne.

Mosel Valley bike ride

A little visit to Germany

 A short cable car to Scex Rouge and suddenly you are in a different world! We fortified ourselves with a hearty Goulashensuppe and went hiking in the snow for 6 klms across a glacier to Quille du Diable, had a hot chocolate and hiked back again.

Kransky dog’s Swiss cousin was out for a walk as were many others. We threw snow balls, luged down the mountain and invented new yoga moves to help Gio with her new patented snow yoga discipline named SNOGA. Can’t argue with that!

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YOGA WITH SNOW!

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Fun in the snow at Les Diablerets

The other side of the lake

EVIAN-les-Bains, where the bottled water comes from.   It is opposite Lausanne across the lake and we can see its lights at night. We had a pleasant afternoon there after boating across, not doing much, but looking a little, enjoying an ice cream and taking in the action on the foreshore, where flowers were everywhere and the lake and the boats were a peaceful provocation to just sit.

The best thing was the traditional wood sculpture of which we saw only a few,  as it seems to be something that is produced on a large scale around Christmas and in the winter. It is quite impactful though as they are so large and expressive. Here are some of our pictures and a few others someone prepared earlier……..

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Evian Wood scultures2

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Evian wood sculptures

YVOIRE is a town closer to Geneva, just along the Lake from Evian. It is a beautiful, well-preserved medieval town with a boat harbour and a very scenic outlook (is there anything here that doesn’t have that??).

On a later day,while driving all around the lake, about 100kms, we had another wandering and looking afternoon in this cute town. We shopped this time (lots of attractive temptations….) and then had the best rum and raisin gelato I have ever enjoyed! Lots of talk about ice cream here, I am noticing!

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Thinking about crepes maybe…. or shopping ….?

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Ice cream?

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Flight paths overhead

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Boats – you begin to think most of Switzerland owns a boat …..

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Location, location, location….

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Flowers .. and the old lady at the door

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Flowers and greenery

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Flowers and no cars (a pied/on foot)

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Flowers – gorgeous!

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Some more flowers

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The local whales in the park

So it had been a long drive to this part and to go back to Lausanne required us to drive through central Geneva, which we found ourselves doing with impeccable timing at 5:45pm, along with everyone else going home from work.   We had plenty of time, therefore, as we sat in the traffic (an hour), to enjoy the quite elegant buildings all around us and the vast range of people either rushing home or finding a way to ride, skate, scooter or sail on the lakeshore.    Another entertainment was ‘Find the UN Buildings’.  A slow end to a longish journey …….

Music shows

We’ve had fun at a few free concerts recently.

For the first,  we travelled deep into the mountains to a picturesque village called Chambray for their little market day festival. At lunch time, while eating the local barbecue offering (large European sausage, bread, mustard and potato salad ) and drinking their beer of course, we listened to a local jazz band in the market square. It was lively, professional and terrific, and the percussion was particularly innovative and great to watch. Peter was sure that the lead singer was channelling our friend Phil L. – or Phil has a Swiss cousin – he certainly had that look!

They played like they had been doing it for years with a very easy style, and were obviously enjoying themselves.  For us it was an idyllic moment of being entertained with great music and with mountains all around us on a balmy afternoon.

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Last week there was a concert on the shore at Lutry, the charming old town not far from us on the lake. Gio was with us and the three of us found our way to see a band called Pamplemousse, which means grapefruit in French.   They were a chirpy, frenchy band with a mixed style of jazz and pop. Note the pink accessories.

So again we sat in an informal crowd, this time on the stone wall at the marina and among the old town’s villas, and enjoyed the local red wine from the pop-up bars, while Pamplemousse sang and people danced and the sun went down. Children were included and there was a sweet row of them sitting on the ground at the front watching enthusiastically.

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Frenchy pink legs

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Good company!

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The children loved it too!

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Cruisin’ Dalmatia

The Dalmatian Coast is the southern coast of Croatia, full of islands and beautiful gleaming limestone cities.

We joined a boat/bike cruise leaving from one of these cities, Trogir, just out of Split. The boat was called the Romantica, and about 30 Australians, Germans and Kiwis spent a week cruising in the boat and riding bikes each day across the islands. We were hosted by a couple of smart, bright young Croatians, Tony and Katerina, who led us wherever we went, changing tyres, finding refreshments and giving good advice whenever necessary.


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Tony and Kate

 

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After the uphill one day

 

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It was charming! The coast here is very beautiful and we were told by those who know the Med well that this is the most beautiful coast in the whole Mediterranean. It certainly looked that way, especially as we rounded islands and approached the city of Sibnik from a long channel.

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Sibinik

Later, we arrived in the little village of Skradin – very tiny and tucked away, but popular with the glamour boat people whose toys we had to admire.

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We also saw the Krka National Park with its long water falls, revived old-time village and lush forest walks, something that the Croatian government has created since they became independent and done very well!

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To further help us along, the cruise complemented what we were seeing with some guided walks with historical information at some spots if we wanted to go.  Some of it was very moving, because of the effects of the recent wars on the towns and the people.  Bullet holes in buildings bring it to life clearly!

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Overall good camaradie was apparent, despite some language barriers between people, and Peter-of-the-many-skills extended this with his helpful knowledge and table conversation in German. (He is a great help in most of Europe with his good German and quite OK French! We are just a bit short of language in Italy …!)

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On the last night, back in Trogir many of us danced in the old town square as a band of old rockers from Germany entertained the crowd for the last night of the summer holidays.  Nicely easy on the soul!

 

Random photos ……

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Trogir tour

 

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Village

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Lecture on great Croatian honey and the needs of bees.

 

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Musical space in ????

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Krka National Park

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Croatians are very keen on fresh fruit and vegetables

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