Stockholm

Jude and I have just returned from 2 weeks away, visiting Stockholm and 3 different parts of Finland.  We flew to and from Stockholm partly because Easyjet didn’t fly from Geneva to Helsinki, but mainly because Jude was looking forward to sailing between the 6,700 islands which constitute the Åland islands that lie between Sweden and Finland.  (No, I didn’t know about them either until we organised this trip).

Anyhow, below is a summary of our time in Stockholm where we meandered the streets, visited the Skansen Park area in Djurgarden (which has a replica village from the late 1800’s and a small zoo) and visited the National Museum.

Before going we’d read that it was very difficult to spend actual cash in Stockholm.  So we didn’t take any and easily got by with just a pre-loaded Debit card.  (I still don’t know what a Swedish Krona note or coin looks like).  Be aware though that Stockholm is quite an expensive place to visit, though the above two attractions are both free.

Below, in a slight departure from my usual posts, I’ve included three separate photo galleries – the first is of the City then Skansen and thirdly the National Museum.

Skansen:

National Museum, Stockholm:

Val de Rèchy Walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

I’m quite often pleasantly surprised when I go out for a walk and last Thursday was no exception.   Although I didn’t manage to capture a picture of Cynthia’s fritillary, which is quite common in this remote valley, I did get some, albeit long range, photos of 3 different birds.  (I’ve made my best guess at each, though I’m sure there is at least one person out there who may be able to identify them for me…?)

One of the reasons I missed the Cynthia’s fritillary was because I was distracted by a herd of over 20 yaks, with no apparent shepherd looking after them.  As you can see from pictures 17 to 21, I managed to overtake them as they headed to the nearest watering hole.

Most of the butterflies were just by the roadside where I parked my car!

 

Tour du Wildhorn, Switzerland (Day 2 of 4)

Although we had only 18km (11 miles) to cover, Pete and I knew that, with over 2,000m (6,500ft) of ascent, our second day would be the toughest (at least in terms of effort*).  Most people stop at Iffigenalp, but we chose to continue and do the Wildsrubelhutte variant.  So an early start was called for.

After a morning of lush green meadows, we had a short climb up to the Tungelpass and into the Iffigtal, passing the impossibly turquoise blue Iffigsee (pic 17).  We then stopped to catch our breath and a quick drink at Iffigenalp before setting off on the 1200m (almost 4,000 ft) climb to the hut.  As you can see from the pictures below, the terrain changes quite dramatically once you get above 2,500m (8,200 ft).  The only thing spoiling the views were the stanchions which supported two cable car lifts, which ran from Iffigenalp to the Wisshorelucke.  From what I heard, these were not for skiing as you might expect, but for use by the Swiss military.

*Days 3 and 4 would have their own challenges, but I’ll get on to them tomorrow… 😊

Again, Pete’s pictures are suitably watermarked.

Ferpècle Glacier Walk

It’s almost a year since I went up to the head of the Ferpècle valley to check on the state of the glacier ‘hole’.  So, yesterday, I caught the bus up to Ferpècle and walked up to the Bricola Hut, to look down on the glacier, before walking back home again.

The images from the 2 posts are not directly comparable as the pictures below are taken from above, but it does look like the glacier has remained in about the same position.  There is, however, a lot of water gushing down the river.  Certainly I’ve never seen it flowing so freely, though that could be due to the late snow we had in April (and that which fell a few nights ago to around 2,000m).

It was a beautiful walk in bright sunshine and I was delighted to see lots of families, with some very young children, no older than 3, also exploring the valley.  You’re never too young, or old for that matter, to enjoy the countryside. 🙂

Note that the first picture was taken while waiting for the bus in Evolène, though it does also show the glacier, so I felt justified in including it!

 

Swiss National Route 6, Gruben to St Niklaus (Day 3 of 3)

Unusually, I was up at the crack of dawn for the last day of my walk.  Well, the hotel bar shut at 10pm, so what else was there to do but got to sleep and even I can manage on 8 hours!  So it was that I set off well before the ‘Brits’ (see previous post) and, if you don’t count cows or birds or butterflies, I never saw a soul until I got near to the Augstbordpass, where I espied someone on the horizon.  (I later caught them up on the descent – see pic 17).

The weather was dry, but rather dull, with high cloud, so not great for photography,  The highlights on the ascent were spotting and capturing (on camera, that is) 3 birds – one I knew, one I thought I knew, but didn’t, and the other I have no idea… (Help!?)

The descent was ‘interesting’ shall we say, as there was still a lot of snow around and I’m not happy walking across, especially sloping, snow in what are effectively trainers – oh yes, and without walking poles.  (Although they are useful in some circumstances, like 1% of the time, I’m not a fan of poles as, to my mind, they are extra baggage and they get in the way when things get a bit bouldery and some scrambling is required – which it was on this trip).  Anyway I survived about 5 or 6 short(ish) sections and my leg only disappeared once up to the knee.  I should have taken a picture – there was already a big hole and now there are two… 🙂

Later, the sun started to come out and the last section down from Jungen was a joy to behold, with butterflies everywhere.  I was being teased by Apollos and even a Swallowtail fluttering around my head but, when they landed, they were out of reach and I would have needed to hang off the cliff face to get a picture.  I saw more Marbled Whites than I’ve ever seen in my entire life (and that’s a few – well, maybe 12) and a host of others, not shown below, simply because they either didn’t land or I have no way of identifying them and there’s enough in this gallery anyway.

I couldn’t leave this post without highlighting two flowers…

Pic 12: I’m 99% sure are called King-of-the-Alps.  They look like Alpine Forget-me-nots, but they only grow to a height of between 1 and 6 cm (unlike their look-a-like, which grows to 5 to 15cm).  My book describes them as “Rather rare” and I think it’s the first time I’ve seen them, certainly posted a picture of them.

Pic 27: Has the delightful name of Swiss Treacle Mustard and if that’s not a name to conjure with nothing is.  🙂

Exhibition Walk to Lac d’Arbey

For the past 3 years the Tourist Office/Commune have organised a series of pictures along the path from Farquèses to Lac d’Arbey.  We’ve had Tibetan images, a Belgian artist and Derib, a cartoon artist.  This year it’s some black and white images of the annual winter Carnival.

I have to say, I wasn’t that impressed with the photos, so I’ve supplemented the gallery below with a number (possibly too many) photos of butterflies.  Well, there were quite a few around, so it was hard to ignore them. 😊  Indeed, Jude has suggested that I should propose to the Commune that they display a series of butterfly pictures next year.  I’d welcome your views…

I will admit that the last 2 images were not part of the walk.  They were taken later in the day from our garden.  I know that they are not great photos, but the subject matter might interest one or two bird-lovers out there and I figured that they would not get posted otherwise!

As always, I’ve made my best guess at identifying the butterflies and flowers and my apologies if I’ve got any of them wrong.  (Please feel free to correct me).

Inn Way to Northumberland (Day 1 of 4)

Regular readers may recall that my mate Colin and I walked 4 days of the Inn Way to the Yorkshire Dales in 2017 and the Inn Way to the Peak District last year.  This year we were joined by our friends, Pete and Liam, to walk most of the Inn Way to Northumberland.  As you will see below, the weather wasn’t kind for our first day, heading north from Alnmouth to Seahouses.  But at least the going along the coast was relatively flat, if a little damp, as the rain fell, on and off, for most of the afternoon.   Thankfully, conditions did improve over the next 3 days…

 

Camino de Santiago, Triacastela to Sarria (via Molino de Marzan Albergue)

I couldn’t spend a week staying on “the Camino” without walking some of it.  So, last week, I set off to walk from Arthur’s gallery, which is just beyond Triacastela (if you turn right there, rather than left to Samos) and about 130km from the finish in Santiago de Compostela.  My goal was to get to Sarria, where I would be picked up late in the afternoon, but I reached there at 11:30am.  So I carried on…

One of the big attractions of the Camino is that there are signposts at least every 500m (I’m told) and usually at any junction, so you don’t need to carry a map or be very good at navigation.  Also, I realised afterwards, there are no gates to open, or stiles to climb over, (on my section anyway), which makes for a slightly smoother journey.  Many people don’t even book their accommodation ahead, so that they are free to stop, or carry on, as the fancy takes them.  Though this does mean that there is a tendency for quite a few people to set off at the crack of dawn (which must be delightful for other guests or walkers staying in the same albergue or hostel – not to mention people trying to sleep below a gallery on the Camino).

Clearly there are other advantages too, like it’s a good walk with some nice scenery and you will get to meet, or pass, looooaaaads of people.  But that, for me, even though I consider myself a very sociable person, puts me off doing the whole thing.  (I also get quite competitive, as nobody walks passed me!)   There’s quite a lot of road, or next to road, sections too, though they are often fairly quiet back roads.

For info also, I noticed quite a lot of cyclists taking on the route and I saw some specific signs in the road, so there must be a cyclist’s variation.  This must get you from A to B somewhat quicker but, then, you may miss a lot (of the point) of the journey.   In addition there are a few alternative routes to Santiago de Compostela, like one along the north coast of Spain and another up through Portugal, which you might like to consider to be a little ‘different’.

Anyway, I managed another 8km (5 miles) beyond Sarria before I turned back, covering the same ground, which made my walk about 30km (18 miles) in total.  Though I have to say, just in case you have a mind to do it in reverse, it’s not as easy to navigate as you might think – given that the signs are geared towards pilgrims on the normal route.  (And I think you will be fed up of saying “Ola” or “Buen Camino” to thousands of people).

Birds of a feather…

No sooner had we arrived at our friend Arthur’s place on the Camino de Santiago, near Triacastella, (N. Spain), he announced that he had a blackbird’s nest in the bush clambering over his terrace and that there were two wrens building a nest in the palm tree only 2 to 3 yards away from his kitchen window.   Not only that but we spotted a family of young blackcaps ‘playing’ in the elderflower bushes to the left of the terrace.  So this is their story…

Let me first ‘set the scene’ with a (very poor) panoramic picture below of Arthur’s terrace – the palm tree is on the extreme far right, the (dark) green ‘blackbird’ bush is also to the right and the elderflowers to the left. (The glass of wine was mine! 😊)

0 Terrace

The Blackbirds were clearly well advanced as they all fledged and disappeared within a few days of us arriving.  But I did manage to capture the one picture below of at least 3 beaks (at the centre of the image).

1 Blackbird beaks

The Wrens were having a hard time of it.  Their first nest had been destroyed (I forget how now), but they were busy building their second towards the bottom of the dead brown leaves hanging down from the palm tree.  Unfortunately a storm blew up and hail (yes, hail – in June!) knocked it to the ground.  Undeterred, they carried on building another nest further up the tree.  One can only admire the determination and industry of these tiny little birds!

Last, but not least, the Blackcaps entertained us all week with their presence.  Rather than fly away when we approached the corner of the terrace, they simply hopped behind a leaf or onto the next branch.  This allowed me to get a few good pictures, including a very interesting series (see pics numbered 9 to 14) where the male parent returned with a berry and offered it to 2 of the 3 chicks, but then gulped it down itself.  It was as if the parent was saying, “Take a good look, this is what you should be out there looking for, now get going…!”)  Alternatively, or as well, the ‘teenage’ young, were looking suitably grumpy and saying “Not berries for dinner again!”).