Monthly Archives: September 2022

Unclogging the gutter

I mentioned in my last post that we had to address a stopped up and overflowing gutter. It had started backing up the water onto the roof and going under the tiles, causing a leek in the living room. This gave it a sense of urgency, even though I had placed plastic bags and pans to catch the drips.

Now, if you live in a normal house, unblocking a gutter is a trivial thing. But, if you live in the centro storico of an ancient Italian village it becomes more problematic. The gutter is on the top of the house, of course. It is high above, on the edge of an ancient tile roof which is four floors above a tiny street. It is a very long pipe. I have no idea why they needed to make those bends which can easily clog up.

The thing is Italians deal with this stuff everyday. To us, it seems daunting. To them it is all in a days work. First, it was necessary to figure out what sort of company does this. And then learn a whole new and unfamiliar vocabulary. We found four companies who advertise they clean gutters. We reached out and three returned our calls. One said he had a job in Umbertide and he could come right away and look at our job.

Fabio and his sidekick decided they could go up a ladder from our terrace and then cross two roofs to get to the spot. But they first had to don harnesses and secure ropes to protect themselves from falling.

Putting on their harnesses so they wouldn’t fall.
They secured the rope through a window and around a door
Then, they climbed onto the roof.
The gutter is the one that comes in diagonally and connects to the down spout which has several bends which were probably clogged.
Arrival at the problem area.

About an hour later they were finished. Long story short they have unclogged the pipe for the most part. They said it was full of pigeon poop and dead pigeon parts. Disgusting. They said the leak should not happen anymore. The long pipe down to the street is still clogged…with pigeon poop they said. They will return to open the long pipe down at the bottom and unclog it from the bottom up.

Another learning experience. Now we wait for a nice hard rain to see if it actually fixed. we hope so!

Odds and ends. Final thoughts

We are settled back in now. It is raining steadily, day and night. This encourages the Tiber river to jump it’s banks. It is supposed to rain for most of the next week. It could get higher.

This is a kind of wrap up from our vacation. Best and worst. Some random pictures from my big camera. I have to wait to get home to off-load them. The first three are the Alsace. I adored that dog who knew how to chill. The last picture is of the alps in Germany covered with new snow.

See the dog?

Best and worst.
Best room — the apartment in Potschach
Worst room — Maison Bergdorf Interlaken
Best breakfast — tie between Herrsching and the last night in Slovenia.
Best lunch — tie between Gasthaus Obermühle and Osteria del Centenario in Locarno
Worst lunch — Das Pumpe, Klagenfurt (not awful, but awful for you!)
Best dinner — Hiša Franko
Best lake — Königssee
Today is election day here in Italy. I am sorry to read that the far right parties are predicted to win by a landslide. Anti-immigration. Anti-abortion. Sound familiar? You just can’t get away from it, it seems. The only ray of sunlight is that the coalitions probably won’t last and there will be a new election.😑

Trip Report – Part six – Kobarid, Slovenia 

Thursday, September 22
I got up this morning to see the lake and mountains shrouded in a thin layer of fog. Beautiful.

Goodness! What a ride today! We left Pörtschach at about 10:45. It was a nice and relaxing stay. The apartment was comfy. Everything was very low-key. I chose a route that took us through the mountains to get to our next destination. Oh my. It was thrilling, scary, and beautiful. We took an autobahn south out of Austria and into Slovenia. Then, when we got to the turnoff to Bled we exited. We had visited Bled once before. Very pretty lake with an island, and there is a castle high on a bluff.

The road headed up a long valley with high mountains and a pretty river. When the road got to the head of the valley we headed up up up. It was a very narrow paved road with many switchbacks. Many kilometers later we reached the summit at around 1,500 meters. There was a camp ground and a restaurant there. It was 12:30 so we decided to stop. Nice place which had some cabins and I am sure ample hiking. We had salads. Mine was roasted veggies, a fried cheese and lots of greens. We didn’t want to eat too much since we were destined for a nice restaurant for dinner.

We descended from the heights. At one point we met a tractor trailer coming upwards towards us. Where he was going up there I have no idea! There’s not much up there. I wasn’t exaggerating that the road was narrow. It was not for the faint of heart!  As we got lower there were a few more towns. Then we were in another valley. The mountains were spectacular. At one point we had to stop for cows being driven across the road. Here are a bunch of pictures! They are all shot from the car so none are great.

Luther wanted this one…guess why.

We arrived in Kobarid. It is the capital of its province but has only 4,400 people. There is a beautiful river called the Soca, which draws rafters. We found our destination, Hiša Franko, a Michelin 2 star restaurant. People checking us in were very nice. We have a nice room and our dinner is at 7:30. Wine on the patio after a long drive was just right.

I loved these chairs and tables. Woven textiles.

If you aren’t a foodie or person who likes food experiences, you should skip this part.

Where to start? How does one describe what is called what is called Reincarnation 2022? Hiša Franko has a set 14 course menu. They make changes for those who say they have food intolerances, or for those who have allergies…but they dont like it 🙂. We have none so they were happy when we went with the ”experience “. Instead of describing all the dishes I took a picture of the menu. Sorry it got a little wrinkled.

So now for the pictures…in order of the courses, except for anything I captioned.

My cocktail.

So — how did we like it? We really did enjoy the ”experience”. It was one-of-a-kind. I could happily go back. The people were great…if quirky. Actually the whole place was quirky. But it added to the fun. A bit of a blow-out for our last night on vacay.

Breakfast was amazing too. So many choices. Home made yogurt that you could drink. All sorts of fruit. Cantaloupe, blueberries and a whole bowl of other fruit. Granola, juice, bread, good coffee, cookies, honey, jam and butter. You could also order special things but we did not. It was nice.

Dining room and breakfast room.
Outside the reception area.,

Guess where we are now. 🙂 Yep. Back home in Umbertide. At our local market buying good things to eat. Our great house sitters have gone. We really appreciated them. They allowed me to have no worries for my cats while traveling.

Now it is time for all the chores that must be done in the fall. Stufa cleaning. Inspection of the caldaio. And we are trying to sort out a clogged up gutter. The gutter is high above Via Grilli which is very narrow. When it rains hard, it is like a waterfall into the street. What will this entail? Well, we aren’t sure but it looks like we need a cherry picker truck, an operator, and maybe a plumber. Oddly plumbers install gutters here. We have enlisted help from our friend and former real estate agent Jim. He knows alot, but he admits, this is all new to him too… stay tuned!

Trip Report – Part five – Pörtschach am Worthersee, Austria

Monday, September 19
Off we went to our next destination. Pörtschach am Worthersee, Austria. Raining steadily when we left our hotel with very wintery temperatures. Sad because this looks like a super lovely place to go. The hotel people assure us this is very unusual. All the high mountains around us are snow-covered. Odd that it was hot just a few days ago, and now cold.

Chairs in the garden of the hotel. Too cold to use them.
It was those two big rocks thrusting up i wanted to photo

2.5 hours later we arrived at our destination. The first part of the drive was on small roads over the high mountains. Very beautiful. We crossed the Germany/Austria border up high. Then we got on an Autobahn and the rest of the way was smooth sailing on the fast roads, except for a few construction zones. Along the way were castles and pretty scenery.

We arrived in Pörtschach at about 1:15. We parked and noted that we were very near our hotel. We found the Bad (spa) restaurant with pretty lake views where we had lunch. Very expensive but the wine we got was my favorite since the Franken wine we had. Here was our view from the table.

Our lunch view
The wine I liked

We walked and found our check-in place. I booked us into Werther Strandcasino. It is a building of apartments next to the resort also called Werther. We aren’t sure if they are affiliated. The man showed us our apartment which is on the ground floor for a change. Three of the hotels put us on the third floor, no elevators. I was happy to have no steps this time. The apartment is very spacious and very modern. Big walk in closet, separate toilet, bath with washer, big living dining room, kitchen with all you need, big bedroom. Also we are right on the lake with a pretty garden outside. The living room and bedroom have doors outside. One side has an outside sofa and table and chairs with sunshade. It’s really quite beautiful. The price is €135 a night. 

View from the living room
Our terrace
From the terrace.
In the garden right behind our patio.

OK, here’s something that doesn’t happen every day. Luther put his change on the table and this happened. That coin, on it’s edge, sat that way all night before we noticed it. Very unusual! Reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode, only in our case Luther couldn’t hear people’s thoughts. A little disappointing.😉

There are signs of autumn everywhere. There are piles of pumpkins and goods for sale along the roads everywhere!

We went out for groceries since we have a kitchen. We stopped in what was billed as a wine store. Mostly Italian wine. Hard to find the good Austrian wines here. I don’t get it. Austria makes great wine. Then we went to a small grocery. Bought stuff for breakfast and for 2 dinners if we decide to cook in. We are here three nights so we could cook twice and go out once. We will decide later.

Tuesday, September 20
Arose a little late. We only planned a walk around our town and along the lake today. We had spaghetti aglio olio (worlds easiest dish) for dinner last evening and sat outside afterwards. Nice.

We made coffee in our little pot and toast in the toaster, which is a little odd as it doesn’t accept a regular slice of bread all the way. Part of it doesn’t get toasted. Then we read and checked mail etc, and finally went out around 11:30. Pretty sunny day. The town of Pörtschach is quiet. Even though it is only mid September it looks like the season is done. There were few people walking the pretty promenade. Evidently this town used to be a real destination for the rich back in the 1880s. Brahms even stayed in this hotel. There are quite a few vintage buildings and some private homes right along the water are stunning. I found this one sweet little house which is rented out as an apartment. It is so cute and I love the perspective in this picture.

Sweet little house.
View along our lake walk.

After the promenade we walked into the wee town and looked in the few shops. Then stopped in the grocery for salt, which we didn’t think of yesterday. Next up, lunch. We went back to our hotel to try the on-site restaurant. Turns out it has both German/Austrian specialties and…Indian! Hah! I decided to get chicken curry as a change. It was only OK. I can make much better. It was super bland. But that figures. Germans/Austrians don’t like anything spicy. But the outside tables made up for that and we watched the small boats, and the big ferries which docked just next to the restaurant. 

One of the ferries from our lunch table.
Our dining companion.

Wednesday, September 21
The last few nights, while sitting outside enjoying the evening, we have gravitated to exploring different things we are both interested in knowing about. Using the internet of course. First we explored geology. We learned a lot about rocks and their formation. Last night we learned about Charlemagne and Barbarossa and their campaigns in Italy. There were so many characters. And so much conflict! Sadly I have concluded, humans are doomed to fight. Forever.

Up early and enjoyed our coffee and toast before setting off to visit and explore Klagenfurt. It is the capital of Carthenia, a region of Austria. It is a pretty sleepy place. Not that much traffic or activity. Luther commented that no one seems to be in a hurry. For a place with a population of 100,000 it’s very quiet.

We parked and walked into the Mitte. We visited the overly baroque church, and found the pedestrian area with lots of shops. Then we visited the Museum of Modern Art. It was a big disappointment. All of it was focused on architecture. Maybe if you are an architect it would be interesting…but somehow I doubt it. 

Baroque church — and how!!
Pretty passage
That entire roof is copper. It must be new since it hasn’t turned green yet.
The Rathaus.

Next we decided to sit in the warm sunshine and have a glass of wine. Very enjoyable. They put a little bowl of snacks out with the wine. There were what looked just like cheezits except they were brown. I tasted one…peanut flavored! Actual peanuts would have been better.

Then it was time for lunch. Luther had picked out Das Pumpe. Since the 1800s it’s been serving beer and food. It is definitely no frills. But lively and full of people. We sat and ordered two of the Puntigamer lagers. Really good.

Perusing the menu we decided we would both get the Berner Wurstl with fries and a green salad. We know what wursts are so we thought it would be light. Were we surprised when we got our plates! Two sausages that looked exactly like hot dogs, split and filled with cheese and wrapped in bacon, then cooked until crisp. A heart attack on a plate! Came with good German mustard and ketchup. The salad was typical. They couldn’t make a salad in Germany or Austria without all their jarred pickled vegetables. Pickled red cabbage, pickled beans, pickled carrots. On the bottom potato salad, and on top lettuce. We could fool ourselves into thinking it was offsetting the wursts. But that would be lieing.

Once done we found a wine shop Luther was looking for and he bought three bottles of wine. And we returned to the car, and then homeward to our hotel. It was a fun, if rather low key outing. 

Tonight we will eat in our apartment, and then tomorrow we go onward to our last stop, Slovenia for just an overnight and to try a restaurant there. We had booked this in June 2020 but as we all know, no one could travel then and the restaurant was closed. So since it was on our way we thought we would try again. Tschüs !!

Trip Report – Part four – Schönau am Königssee, Germany

Friday, September 16
We headed out to our next destination, Schönau am Königssee.  Just near Berchtesgaden and right near Salzburg in Austria.

It sprinkled rain on and off and there were momentary bursts of sun. The alps would have been amazing if the sun was shining. We chose a southerly route to avoid the Munich traffic. It was a beautiful road. 

We got on the autobahn and headed towards Berchtesgaden. It didn’t take long. We exited and drove along smaller roads. It was lunch time so we were in search of a Gasthaus. We came upon the Gasthaus Obermühle, a pretty building with flowers and blue shutters. The parking lot was next to a pretty brook and a field full of noisy ducks and geese.

Inside it was warm and cosy. The waiter was very nice. He brought menus. At last, there was Forelle on the menu! This is trout. And I have always loved Forelle Müllerin Art. We had a really lovely salad with pretty flowers in it and a nice bitter arugula with many crispy greens. Then the trout with tasty parsley potatoes. A totally satisfying lunch. Afterward, I was tempted by the honey ice cream. Made from honey from their bees. I couldn’t resist!

I almost missed noticing these tiny dolphins made from lemon peel.

We went on into Berchtesgaden and bought a little something for dinner and headed for Stoll’s Hotel Alpina. The weather was now sucky. Steady rain. Our room is comfy with a nice balcony. It will be perfect for our three day stay.

Saturday, September 17
Downright cold here this morning! They were predicting a high of 8C or 46F! Breakfast was typical German, and the place is crawling with them. 😁 This place caters to families (what was I thinking?) and there were a lot of kindern, running around madly. One group of Dads seemed to get ”Dad duty” yesterday. The Moms were nowhere to be seen. They had four little ones under four I would say. If they could harness the energy they have it would power the world! They even have a ”chill” area for the kids for them to let off steam. We passed by it and it was a madhouse! After breakfast we put on every warm piece of clothing I brought and set out.

Luther has always wanted me to go with him to the Eagles Nest. It was built by Adolph Hitler and was a sort of conference center for him where momentous decisions were made about war, and life and death. It sits way high on the tippy top of the Obersalzberg. There is an elevator made of brass which was drilled up through the mountain. It rises to what was “the summit of power” during the Nazi regime. It was built to impress. Evidently they had to blast a road out of a shear rock cliff to create the road that reached the elevator. It was 6 kilometers long and crossed the rock face twice with one switchback.

Today you drive to a parking lot and take a bus from there to the elevator level. There is a restaurant in the building now. It is one of the few buildings built by Hitler and the Nazis that wasn’t destroyed after the war.

Luther bought tickets online for the bus. We were to depart at eleven am. It rained through the night and was still raining when we got up. Optimistically we proceeded with the plan and had breakfast and headed out. It is only a 15 minute drive from our hotel. As luck would have it, it was not raining when we got to the bus departure point. It was also not raining at the elevator drop off point…it was not raining, it was snowing! They cancelled the buses. Too dangerous. Sigh. I really had looked forward to seeing it even if I wouldn’t be able to see any of the magnificent alps around it and the views.

We left in defeat. Returning to Berchtesgaden we parked and and walked along the Main Street in the town. It was cute with a big schloss platz with a pretty church and also prettily decorated buildings. We bought some sausages and meat and some wine in a couple of stores with Bavarian specialties. I found a great pair of boiled wool slippers! They will be perfect for the winter. It began to rain and was noon so we ducked into a small wine bar and had some wine.

Sadly, this very traditional gasthoff serves Chinese food.

We stopped in the grocery store for more cheese, grapes and bread. Also I bought mustard to take home. I have always loved the sharp German mustard. And we took a look to see if here they have the equivalent of zip lock bags. They did! So we bought some.
Later. This night we decided to try out the restaurant in the hotel. Turned out to be nicer than I expected. Good service and traditional German food. I like fish but I don’t order it often mainly because of how it is prepared. I like it simple. The way they prepare fish here in Germany is exactly how I like it. I guess that’s why I have been ordering it often lately.

I ordered the whole Char. It was served whole and grilled on top of a pile of roasted vegetables. It was delicious. It looks big, but once it is beheaded, de-tailed and the spine and bones removed you end up with two small filets. Luther fulfilled his wish to get a Wiener Schnitzel, which came with preiselbeere.

Sunday, September 18
The weather report was not promising. It was supposed to rain all day with a high of 50F. We went out to get gas, find an ATM and have lunch.

We left the hotel at around 12:15 and went first to get gas. Turns out they also sold the Vignette required in Austria so Luther bought that too. Then we found an ATM and got some money. Three things off our list so tomorrow we can just head for Austria. 

We went down to the Königssee. It is a small-ish lake cut back in the Jurassic by glaciers. It is only 7.7 kilometers by 1.7 kilometers at its longest and widest. But it gets as deep as 190 meters or 600 feet. It is Germany’s third deepest lake. It is surrounded by the biggest alps in Germany — 2,700 (8,900 feet). It is much like a fjord since the walls of the mountains plunge straight into the water. There are no paths around most of the lake because there is literally no room for one. The end with the small town of Schönau does have some nice lakeside paths and from that end you can take a boat tour of the lake. The water is crystal clear because since 1909 they have allowed only electric boats on the lake.

It was very beautiful.

We went to Echostüberl for lunch. Right on the shores of the lake. A slew of outside tables made me wish for a nice day, but it was still raining so we went inside. It was cosy, warm and very lively. Very Gemütlich.

On the way back to the hotel. After the filling lunch we decided we will eat in the room since we have plenty of food left. Tomorrow it is only a 2.5 hour drive to Pörtschach, Austria.

Trip Report – Part three – Herrsching, Germany

Tuesday, September 13
It was a drive across Germany this day. All on Autobahns. It was just as I remembered — parts of the road were light in traffic and had no speed limits, and then there were the staus (traffic jams) mostly caused by road work. It was around 4.5 hours. Luther did get the Giallo Angelo up to around 190 kph – around 120 mph – AND we were passed by cars going faster. A one of a kind thing, the German Autobahns.

Unable to find a restaurant we stopped in a rest stop to get something to eat. Then proceeded and arrived in Herrsching am Ammersee around 2:45. The nice lady told us to sit in the garden where we enjoyed a glass of wine while our room was being finished. We decided to reserve in their restaurant for that evening.

We wanted to stretch our legs a bit so we walked down to the lake, maybe a ten minute walk. There were a ton of people there. There is a path around the lake and there are a couple places to eat or get a drink.

The Alps to the south
Kur haus.

After showers and naps we felt ready to go again. We had a bottle of wine brought up and had a glass, then went down to dinner. I didn’t take pictures. The food was the second best on this trip. It has been a culinary disappointment so far. I had carpaccio and a tagliatelle with Steinpilzen. Can’t get away from Italian cuisine around here! Steinpilzen are the same mushroom as Porcini or Cepes. They are just being foraged out in the woods now as autumn is the season. If I see them I get them. Or order them. All was good. We retired to the garden and then to bed.

Wednesday, September 14
They have a terrific breakfast here. Wowie. And I was interested that not one single thing on our table was waste. Everything was in individual glass jars. We each had five little jars to choose from. They contained fresh fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, butter, or a fruit and cream dish. Then came the meats and cheeses and breads. Good German bread with many kernels and seeds. Confiture, jams, honey rounded it out. Oh, and fresh squeezed juice and not-too-bad coffee. It was perfect.

After breakfast we went for a walk to the lake and along the path that goes around it. It was lovely except for the weather. The wind was fierce and there was intermittent rain. But it wasn’t that bad that we didn’t continue. We watched the paragliders, and the wind surfers. They were in their element.  Returning to Herrsching we decided lunch was in order so we stopped in the Seehof Herrsching. It was right on the lake. We had fish with potato salad and a great wine from Franken (in very northern Bavaria). A wine we remembered from our days in Frankfurt. It is in a distinctive shaped bottle called bocks beutel — translates as a goats testicles 🙂. It was drier that what we had been drinking and much more to my liking.

We took a different route through town and made a reservation for dinner in Zum Post, near our hotel and it has a real beer garden. Should be interesting!
Dinner was exactly what we expected. A German dinner. In a German restaurant.  We had Augustinerbrau Oktoberfest beer. And Luther got his schnitzel and I had fried chicken with salad. Oktoberfest in Munich starts this Saturday. First one in 3 years due to Covid. I am sure it will be swamped.

Thursday September 15
After another fine breakfast we drove to the next lake over called Starnbergersee. First to the town called Starnberg. The day had changeable weather. Clouds, then sun, then spitting rain. But not too bad. We visited the Starnberg museum. It was a great exhibition of life around the lake back in the 1700s and 1800s. They had amazing pleasure boats that sailed the waters. King Ludwig came there regularly. There was an exhibit of old photographs from then. They showed everyday life. There were many schlosses along the banks of the lake. They had all sorts of competitions in boats like jousting, and racing. I took some pictures.

This is the house of the photographer. It was built in the 1400s. That door is shorter than me!
From the house to a nearby house and garden. Really old glass.
House from outside. Note the rocks holding the roof on. Very common in Germany and Austria.
One if the pleasure boats that used to sail the lake.
Model of one of the big boats. They were very fancy inside.
Starnbergersee. Alps barely visible due to clouds.

Then we drove down to the other end of the lake to a pretty town called Bernried am Starnberger See. Really pretty village. It was lunchtime and we found a place called Seeblick. Another very German but leaning more upscale than a Bierstub or Biergarten.  I had a very nice Zanderfilet that was grilled (for an change from fried) with lots of vegetables. Very nice. 

Tomorrow we head east to near Berchtesgaden. This is where Hitler had his Eagles nest. I hope the weather reports are wrong because it calls for rain all three days of our visit ☹️.

Trip Report – Part two – Alsace, France 

Saturday September 10
We checked out of Maison Bergsorf and headed north. It had rained overnight and there were still clouds but small patches of blue too. We waited until ten o’clock to leave so the race could get started up the mountain. The ride was uneventful. Once we got past Thunsee, the other lake beside Interlaken, it got ugly fast. People don’t think of Switzerland as ugly. There is not much pretty once you leave the Alps. We did pass through Ementaler, the cheese making region, and it was pretty.

It took around three hours to get into France. We tried to find a place to eat lunch but had no luck. We stopped in a small town called Ensisheim. There was a cute place but it had a function that evening so was closed for lunch. They directed us to the Boeuf Rouge. Another cute place but it looked like a beer hall inside. So many people. And they were full. So we tried our luck in Colmar. Hah! The place was awash in tourists. Things have changed since we were here. Way more tourists.

We gave up on lunch and drove on to Obernai, our destination. Way back in the 1990s, we lived near Frankfurt Germany. It is only 2.5 hours from this part of France. We spent many weekends here. And we love A La Cour d’Alsace, our hotel. It’s a small place and I had trouble getting three free days so this vacation kind of revolves around this location. Anyway, we drove in and parked in their nice parking lot and checked in. As we walked to our room I told the lady we used to come there long ago. Turns out she had been working here for 29 years, so she was here back when we visited. She seemed pleased that we had returned.

Our hotel

We relaxed a bit and ate the only food we had with us, olives. 🙂 Then we took a stroll in town. It is a really sweet town with a lot more in it that it used to have. Happily, it also seems not to be aimed exclusively at tourists. The shops were useful to the locals as well. There were a lot of restaurants along a new-to-us pedestrian street. I snapped some pictures. These are all in Obernai.

Back in the hotel I watched some of the tributes to Queen Elizabeth. William and Kate and Harry and Megan were greeting the crowds. She was well loved. And I watched a little of King Charles’ speech. He is no Queen Elizabeth! I wonder how he will do.

Later we had dinner in the winstube restaurant. The hotel has this one and a gourmet one. I like the more casual one. We had a good enough dinner. I wouldn’t give it high marks. I had snails and a chicken breast with spaetzle and vegetables. 

Sunday September 11
When I looked at the date I was reminded of the day and what happened this day 21 years ago. I won’t ever forget.

We planned to have breakfast in the hotel but the dining room was full. So we walked down the street and found a little place that served petit déjeuner. We had a half baguette with butter and jam and a café au lait. The latter was awful. No discernible coffee in it.

We drove off, top down, to explore La route des vins d’Alsace. It is the oldest wine route in France and has always been a favorite of ours. It winds through the small villages which are all rated Villes et Villages Fleuris. They give one to four flowers on a sign when entering the town according to how many flowers they have. The Alsace has a lot of flowers. They also grow more grapes than just about anyplace that we have ever been. Even Italy. Miles and miles, acres and acres of vines as far as the eye can see. Amid all this are the little villages all all painted vibrant colors leaning to peaches, terra cottas, yellows, but sprinkled with blues, reds and purples. The roofs are all terra cotta tiles. 

Stork nest on top of the gate. There are lots of storks.
Another stork

We drove as far south as Riquewihr. It’s a pretty walled village set in the vineyards. I was on a mission. Long ago, when we regularly visited the Alsace, I bought wine glasses of a certain type called Roemer. They have green stems that are thick and ridged. At home we are down to our last two glasses. Sad. So I aimed to buy some more. There was a store in Riquewihr that always had them. But no more. It seems these glasses are now “vintage” and no longer made. A major disappointment. I will keep an eye out while in Germany because they have these glasses too but their stems are not as bright green. I would still buy them. They are kind of part of our lives!

One of the gates into Riquewihr.
Riquewihr has always been popular with the tourists.
Love the blue building.

We had a mediocre lunch of Tarte Flambé. It is an Alsatian speciality. Similar to a very thin crusted pizza with cheese and bacon bits on it. But there are variations. I got one with chèvre cheese and ham. Luther got one with fontina. 

Chèvre tart flambé

Back at the hotel for catching up with our emails. And this journal. Tonight we wander into town and see what sort of restaurant we can find.
We decided to eat at La Dime. It is a traditional Alsacien restaurant with all the usual dishes. We know from experience that the portions are large so we just ordered an entrée. I got the entrecôte with frites. Luther got the cordon bleu. They were OK. It was a big place with a real crowd. Most people were locals, so I guess this is what they like. 

We walked back and sat in the garden at the hotel so Luther could smoke a cigar. The moon was rising. It was a nice night.

Monday September 12
We woke up a little late and didn’t go out for breakfast. I was able to make coffee in the room. At around eleven we walked in the other direction from how we had been walking towards the edge of town. Our mission – a wine tasting at Robert Blanck winery. It wasn’t a terribly long walk. There were shops to see along the way. I liked this dragon…

When we got there there was a lovely young woman named Valerie, daughter of the owner, who enthusiastically let us taste whatever we wanted. She spoke excellent English and we really enjoyed talking to her. She was so nice we bought six bottles of their wine. 

A very cluttered tasting room

The winery has 40 hectares of vines. And produces 120,000 bottles in a normal year. The property is spread around in small bits and pieces because the inheritance laws are set by the Germans. First you need to understand the history of the Alsace. They have flipped between masters over the centuries. Germany, France, Germany, France. The border, when Germany owned them was the top of the mountain range called the Vosges. When it was owned by the French, the border was the Rhine river. The region has its own language, Alsatian. It sounds much like German. Anyway, the inheritance laws allowed multiple heirs so the properties were split between them. This makes for smaller properties overall. The Blanck family owns acreage in a few different places nearby. The inheritance laws in France say the entire property goes to the firstborn son. So the property stays intact and the vineyards there tend to be large with the Chateaux for the owners. Except in Burgundy, but I won’t go there now. 🙂

So after that fun outing we walked back, left the wine at the hotel and went into town. There are no really highly rated restaurants in Obernai. We chose one but it was full. So we just went to the first place with tables free. It turned out to be good enough. Again too much food for me. I got the cod in a crust. It came with a lovely little tower of roasted vegetables, and a nicely done tagliatelle in pesto. I was craving pasta 🙂. Luther got the tart flambé again. This time with Munster cheese. The really stinky cheese they make here. 

The hours here don’t make any sense. The lunch starts at 12:00 and ends at 2:00. But the shops close from 1:00 to 3:00. At least in Italy the risposto jibes with the lunch hours!  So walking back to the hotel everything was closed up tight. Nothing to do be return to the room for naps

Lazy afternoon. We went out and bought a salad for dinner. We needed something lighter. We spent the evening on the terrace. We drank our newly purchased wines. Perfect weather. Tomorrow we head out to our next destination. Herrsching, Germany. A four and a half hour drive.

Stay tuned!

Trip Report – Part one – Lago Maggiore – the Italian lakes 

This is another trip report so please skip if you’re not interested.
This time I am doing something a little different. I am going to publish the report in separate posts along the way. The first leg was to the Italian Lakes. Specifically Lago Maggiore. And then a quick stop in Interlaken Switzerland.

Wednesday September 7
We left Umbertide at around 9:45. We had a long drive north. About six hours. Boring autostrade. Some not so pretty parts of Italy. We arrived at Lago Maggiore, our first destination. Our town is Oggibbio. Our hotel is Relais Villa Margherita. We arrived at 4:15. There had been an accident which made them detour all traffic off and through small towns to get back on. Probably lost 1/2 hour there.

Our hotel is lovely. These Italian lakes are surrounded by mountains which plunge straight down into the waters. This makes the towns have just one street along the lake. Very little parking. And then they build up the steep slopes some. Our hotel is up above the lake. The road up here is tiny. Not big enough for two cars to pass. We hold our breath up and down! Once up here the place is lovely. Pretty gardens, pool, lounge chairs and tables outside with views of the lake. The room is not so nice. Not pretty. No decorations at all. One chair for two people. No desk or table. There is a restaurant where we ate the first night. Food was good but not great.

After dinner we sat at a table at the bar where Luther could smoke a cigar. While we sat there a thunderstorm came through and took out part of the lights. We had to use our phone light to get back to our room.

A good beginning to our road trip.

Front garden of our hotel

Thursday September 8
We breakfasted. Pretty good spread. Not great. We had more thunderstorms through the night. So the morning was fresh and clean and cool. Really pretty. 

We decided to drive to Locarno Switzerland for a walk about and maybe lunch. The drive on the single road along the lake was very slow. But very scenic. We had some difficulty with parking. The street parking only took Swiss francs and we had none. We parked in a parking garage where we got stuck because the Casse wouldn’t take our Euros. We had to go to the store above to purchase something so we could get our parking ticket validated so we could get out. The benefit was we got our change in Swiss francs so we had some money.

We moved closer to the lakefront promenade and parked at the train station. It was already one o’clock. They eat earlier here than we do it Italy. Lunch starts at 11:30 and the kitchen closes at 2:00. So we had to hurry. We chose Osteria del Centenario. Primarily seafood. Nice lake view. As all things in Switzerland are, it was pricy. But that is ok. It is vacation!

My starter. Spiced watermellon.

We found a Bancomat/ATM and got some francs. And I got some insect spray at the farmacia. The mosquitoes are fierce on the lake. Returning to Italy the Giallo Angelo attracted the Italian border police. We had to show all our documents. They seemed interested in how much cash we were bringing into Italy. I guess that’s a big problem. 

Back at our hotel we kicked back and then went out and bought an excellent picnic at the local, itty-bitty Alimentare. Two hams, three cheeses. And a little bread. Perfect because we can each eat as much as we want.

There was nearly a full moon out. We sat outside again. It was beautiful.

Friday – September 9
We were headed for the middle of Switzerland today. Interlaken. The name is descriptive because it is between two lakes. The three big alps the Jungfrau, the Eiger, and the Monch nearby. 

The trip took around four hours with an hour break for lunch. We drove up a long valley from Locarno created by the Ticino river. This eventually reaches the Saint Gottard pass. They meter the traffic into the tunnel with traffic signals. Causes quite a back up but it’s better to be backed up in the outside than in the tunnel. The tunnel is 17 kilometers long. 

You pop out in the “real” Switzerland. You know, Heidi-land. So green. Beautiful pastures dotted with pretty Swiss houses and barns, all under towering alps. I snapped quite a few pictures for your pleasure.

We stopped in a little town on lake Vierwaldstattersee. We lunched in a little hotel with a restaurant on the lake. I had the lake fish and a nice salad. Luther also had fish. We decided to take the smaller scenic roads to Interlaken. It added about 45 minutes to our trip. But it was just beautiful, so worth it and top down weather.

We arrived at 3:45 at our hotel in Interlaken. Very quirky. I have no idea why I chose it! For one night it’s fine. There is a marathon tomorrow, from here to near the top of the Jungfrau — 4,158 meters/13,652 feet high. They are nutz!

Our hotel in Interlaken. Maison Bergdorf.

We took a walk into town to buy a picnic. I enjoyed watching the hang gliders landing in a big park. We spent the evening on the loggia watching the bats, reading, talking and having our picnic.

The ”salon”

When we checked out Luther mentioned we came from Italy and our hostess said the owners of the hotel were in Umbria now. In a place called Reschio. We had to smile. It is only 10 minutes from our house. A high roller enclave with rooms €1,000 a night. She said the owners were aiming for a place like Reschio. I guess they have another place they are fixing up. It sure could never be Maison Bergdorf! 🙂
Today onward — to the Alsace France.

Otto Cento 2022 — The finale

Saturday morning our normal kilometer zero market was in full swing. Luther was up at 2:30 AM and said the crowds were still out, mostly young people and most in costumes. We went to Montone for lunch with friends, which was nice, although it was a rainy day. We went to Erba Luna. First time in a few years. Still good.

Picture perfect Montone.

Back in Umbertide, the activities got started again at around 4 PM. The militia were out and making themselves heard! Shooting off their rifles, marching about, and charging across the piazza. I got this good action shot, even catching the fire coming out of the gun.

More soldier shots. The women seem to follow the soldiers. When they fell into formation and marched out, the women fell in right behind them. Camp followers? Wives? Not sure.

In the first picture here are a couple of the Briganti. In the next photo I liked the young man dressed in gray. Just random shots.

Amidst all of this hubbub there were three…THREE…weddings! Maybe bad timing. Maybe a memorable time? Depends I guess. I didn’t get pictures of them all. Just this one.

In the evening, I closed all the front windows to shut out the noise, and stayed away from all the action for most of the evening. During the night I checked whenever I got up. This picture is a little blurry, sorry, it is of the crowd at 1:30am. It looked like a mosh pit! The music and the loudspeaker talking stopped at 3am. The crowds slowly dispersed.

Sunday, domenica, dawned gray and socked in with fog. I looked out to see what mischief the Briganti had gotten up to after the crowds left. I decided to go down early and get some pictures before the day began. I have to hand it to the cleaning crews who come out as soon as things clear out, in the wee hours of three, four or five. Two street sweeper trucks and the big trash trucks. All the trash and mess is cleaned up and ready for a new day of festivities. First the town, quiet in the early morning after the parties.

The Briganti have erected their flag since they were the victors overnight. And I see they gave themselves 5,552 points on the scoreboard.

I took a tour of what the Briganti left for us. This group used to be very risqué, always doing something a little over the top crude. We have a new mayor. Maybe he told them to tone it down. The last two years it has been tame. Today I see they have set up a Briganti Pronto Soccorso for the casualties (emergency room). Typically there was a line of folks waiting to get in for treatment.

Accidents at work
This guy is the last in line, I guess he’s been waiting awhile.

I noticed, after I had dropped the trash off that I brought down…a little multi-tasking…that there was a car show starting up. I was a bit early, not a lot of cars had arrived yet, but I took pictures of the ones who had come. These are for you Matt 🙂. The first one is my favorite. I even went over, told him I was an American, and that I remembered that car! Bella machina!

The one below, is for Luther. Since we have a Porsche.

Well, the party’s over, it’s time to call it a day. My last Otto Cento from my ring-side seat. It’s been a good run. There are, and will be many ”lasts” for me. It is hard. But it is life, isn’t it? Time to move on.
So on a brighter note, we are off on a big Road Trip on Wednesday. Our house/cat sitters arrive tomorrow. We will pick them up at the train station in Terontola/Cortona. We are excited to meet them. We will try to show them all around our little town over the next couple of days and then we are off for places familiar from long ago. First stop Lago Maggiore in northern Italy, then an overnight in Interlaken Switzerland, next to the Alsace in France for 3 nights. Then south of Munich, then near Salzburg, then to Austria and finally an overnight in Slovenia and home. I will be doing a trip report in a couple of weeks.

Buona domenica a tutti!

Otto cento day one and two

I posted a picture of the Piazza before the festa began. Here is what it looked like on day one at ten PM. There was much speechifying and the unveiling of the statue of Garibaldi.

I peered down from my aerie watching the crowds, many in costume, surge down our little streets. Earlier in the day the Briganti, my favorites, stalked across the piazza to their lair. They are super flamboyant, wearing long black capes to the ground, hats, white shirts, black pants, boots, and black vests. They all carry rifles. They have a presence. I heard the gun shots that heralded their arrival. Their women-folk arrived with them, just as haughty as the men and all packing heat. What fun.

Friday — A quick giro around town at around 10:30. It is PACKED. Every table at every restaurant is full. The streets are full, the Piazza is full. Here are some pictures.

These are the militia of Garibaldi.
One of the costumes. Anyone can rent a costume. Or make one.
Just outside the piazza.
I loved all the little kids watching the show.
Piazza Forte Braccio.
Via Grilli. My street.
The Briganti restaurant.
Via Cibo
More costumes

Everyone is having a splendid time. Every restaurant and every table was full. There were lines waiting to get in everywhere. I am glad the festival is going so well. I admit, I felt very uncomfortable out in those crowds. If anything was a superspreader event, that was it. I probably should have worn a mask.

Stay tuned for my next post, probably on Sunday after the Briganti do their mischief.