Swiss Trip to the South-East (Part 1)

For our first full day in the Engadin, we decided to walk from Maloja along the path which runs by the side of Lej da Segl or the Silsersee to the village of Sils Maria. Jude was keen to see what it looked like as Colletts Mountain Holidays have (or at least would have, had it not been for COVID-19) started running holidays there.

Quick aside here: I first met Jude while on a Colletts Mountain Holiday in the Italian Dolomites in 2004. Jude was the chalet host. The rest is history as they say… 💕😊

Anyway, even before we’d left our apartment, we’d noticed some people, running in pairs towards the lake. Only the day before, Jude had read about an event called the ötillö, which required a team of 2 people to run, swim, run, swim, run, swim, etc. for a total of 45km. (39km of this is running and 6km swimming across the 2 lakes in the Engadin). One of the rules is that the 2 competitors should never be more than 10 metres apart, so they are tied together with a piece of rope. (The madness of the human race never ceases to amaze me!) On the plus side, if there is a plus side, they are allowed to use paddles on their hands and floats between and on their legs. (In the second picture below you can see the 2 competitors had them on their shins, but not everyone had them). Of course, these had to be carried during the run sections. All I can say is, it’s not an event you’ll catch me doing!

We stopped at the rather quaint village of Isola on the way for a coffee, where there’s a huge cascading waterfall. Sils Maria itself was quite charming, with restricted motorised transport from what we could see. It’s clearly a great base to explore some of the excellent walking routes and attractions in that area. (But it’ll never beat the Val d’Hérens of course! 😉)

We returned to Maloja via a small ferry boat, which criss-crosses the lake to pick up passengers. Apparently it’s the highest operating ferry in Europe, at an altitude of 1,797m or 5,896ft. Swiss facts – Jude has them all! (It’s no wonder I married her! 😍)

Swiss Trip to the North (last part, 5)

As you may recall we chose to go to Schaffhausen as it’s very close to the Rhine Falls, which is the largest waterfall in Europe. OK, it’s not as high as the Angel Falls, nor as wide as either the Niagara or Victoria Falls, but it’s impressive nonetheless. As with the Tinguely fountain, a static image doesn’t really do it justice, so today you have not one but TWO videos. I spoil you.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, since you are possibly wondering where all the big mountains have gone, I’ve included some photos of our journey home.
From Schaffhausen we headed east to the small town of Arbon, which sits on the shores of Lake Constance, or the Bodensee, just a few miles from the Austrian border. After lunch we headed south, through Glarus and over the Klausen and Furka passes back to our beloved Rhone valley. During our trip, we travelled through 16 of the 26 Swiss cantons.

It also seems someone has found a new and potentially much more useful role for “Mr President”. (See pic 15 in the second gallery).

Swiss Trip to the North (part 4)

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s nothing my wife enjoys more than being on a boat. So when she discovered that you could take a boat up the river to one of, if not, THE best preserved medieval towns in Switzerland, it had to be done, even if it did involve wearing a mask en route.

Above the town sits Hohenklingen Castle. We hadn’t planned to visit it, but when we discovered there wasn’t a return boat at 15:30 and the next one was at 5pm, well… It’s only a 200m/650ft climb and there is a café/restaurant at the top so, it just had to be done. It was worth every step of the way though for the views from the top of the tower – and the refreshing beer of course! 🥵+🍺=😋

South West Coast Path, Day 5, Isle of Portland

On day 5, Pete and I had the pleasure of walking without our rucksacks as we did a circular route around the Isle of Portland.  As you can see from the map (pic 22), the ‘Isle’ is not really an island, because it’s connected to the mainland by a causeway, created by a rather incredible coastal formation called Chesil Beach.  The beach is 18 miles (or 29 km) long and is up to 50 ft (15m) high and 220 yards (200m) wide in places.  It’s made up of shingle or pebbles, which increase in size from north west to south east.   Behind the beach is a shallow tidal lagoon, called the Fleet.

South West Coast Path, Day 1, Poole to Swanage

I’ve just returned from a week in the UK, walking the first (or last) part of the South West Coast Path with my very good mate, Pete.   The full route is around 640 miles (1,030 km) long and goes from Poole in Dorset to Minehead in Somerset (or vice versa).  Long time followers may recall that the 2 of us and 4 other friends did the other end of this long distance path in 2015.  (Though I now see that nobody ‘Liked’ that post, so maybe I should call a halt here… 🤔 … Er, no way…!)

With 6 days available, our ultimate destination would be Abbotsbury, though I had an extra day before flying home, so I also walked ‘back’, away from the SW Coast Path, to Dorchester.

Pete had selected this particular section of the path for 2 reasons*, the first being that he had spent 4 of his summer holidays as a child in Swanage and he was keen to re-live those happy memories from the past.  So it was with great excitement that we set off on the short ferry crossing from the Sandbanks area of Poole to Shell Bay, around 1pm, to walk the 6 or 7 miles (10 or 11 km) to Swanage.

*I will divulge Pete’s 2nd reason later in this series.  (Oh, the suspense…)

Logistical footnote: Pete had travelled down that morning from York , by train, London Underground and train to arrive in Bournemouth (rather miraculously, on time) around 12 noon.  By contrast my journey had been by Postbus, train and plane (by the wonder that is Easyjet to Bournemouth airport), again arriving around 12 noon.  I then caught a taxi to Sandbanks, picking up Pete on the way.   As George Peppard, or ‘Hannibal’ Smith, if you prefer, often said in the A Team “I love it when a plan comes together.” 😊

 

Malta – Various

Below some more photos taken during my recent trip to Malta, which didn’t quite fit into the other 3 categories already posted.  This includes a trip to the north east coast and the National Aquarium at Bugibba, which also had a few reptiles.   (At least they kept still while being photographed!)

Last but by no means least, as mentioned in my first post, there’s a picture of me presenting a copy of my dad’s book “Bobbing Along”, to the FWA (Fondazzioni Wirt Artna) at their offices in Notre Dame Gate.  It contains a whole chapter on his time in Malta and will be added to their archives.

Gozo

With the Malta Challenge Marathon being off my agenda due to my injury, I had more time to explore than I expected.  So I took the ferry over to Gozo to check out some of the places that Jude and I had visited 3 years ago.  I knew that the Azure Window had collapsed, but I wasn’t expecting to see the San Blas beach completely covered in seaweed.  To show you the contrast I’ve included images from 2016.

As I drove along I was also lucky enough to spot the Ta Pinu National Shrine.  The interior and mosaics outside, which appeared to have been done by people from all around the world, were very impressive.

Valletta and the 3 Cities, Malta

As mentioned in my post yesterday, “The Gut” or Strait Street in Valletta was a place my dad occasionally frequented just after the War.  The street is aptly named, as it’s very narrow and it was famous for having many bars.   Despite his best efforts, my dad never did manage to have a drink in each one, going from one end to the other.  So, during my visit, I had to investigate it further.

I can report that most of the bars are now long gone.   I think only 2 remain and I was tempted to “have one for my dad” in Tico Tico’s, but 10:30 in the morning is a little early even for me!   The street is now a mix of posh offices (mainly solicitors as the Law Courts are down there too) and derelict, dusty, locked up doorways.  But, walking down it even now, you can sense what an atmosphere there must have been with hundreds, if not thousands, of sailors coming ashore.  George Cini’s book, Strada Stretta, has interviews with the people who lived and worked there in it’s heyday and is well worth a read, if you have an interest in this historic island.

I’d also read that the “3 Cities” of Senglea (aka Isla), Birgu (Vittoriosa) and Bormla (Cospicua) were well worth a look and so I popped over the Grand Harbour on one of the ferries.  The sandstone coloured streets of Vittoriosa were delightful and extremely quiet at this time of the year.

Southern Finland

The remainder of our holiday was spent on the Finnish mainland.  After catching the ferry back from Brändö, we drove up the west coast via the beautiful, UNESCO World Heritage town of Rauma and then on to Yyteri beach, which is one of the longest sandy beaches in Scandinavia at around 6km.  From there we turned east to our base for the next 4 nights, which was a self-catering wooden lodge, or chalet, next to Lake Vesijako.

We returned to spend 2 more nights in the delightful city of Turku, which is the oldest town in Finland, with stops en route at the towns of Lammi and Hämeenlinna

Some other things I learnt during this trip (which you might also like to know):

  • As well as having thousands of islands, there are 100’s if not also thousands of lakes in Finland as well (and the Finns take great advantage of these by having weekend lodges close by).
  • There are a huge number and variety of mushrooms and toadstools in the woods. (During one walk, I met a man and his wife foraging.  They had collected at least one big bucket load of one particular type).
  • The woods are not all conifers as I imagined they might be.  There appears to be an equal number of deciduous trees as well.
  • The people are extremely welcoming and friendly.
  • The Finnish language seems to specialise in very long words, which often include double A’s, E’s, I’s, K’s, M’s, N’s or U’s.  The longest word I encountered, which I don’t think is exceptional, was 25 letters long.
  • I don’t know the significance, but many (most?) street or track names end in ‘antie’, ‘entie’, ‘ontie’ or ‘untie’.
  • The peak summer holiday season is from mid-June to mid-August and, before and after that period, you may find some things are not running or closed.  (Though the ferries appear to run all year round – when it’s not completely iced over of course!)
  • In the depths of winter, when conditions allow, it’s possible to drive over the ice to some islands. (No doubt special tyres and a brave or trusting nature are required for this).
  • Last, but by no means least, the beer in Finland (and Stockholm) is pretty good.  They certainly know how to make a tasty IPA. 😊 Cheers! 🍻