Sion to Sierre bike ride

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I might have to get out my bike if I was going to get any exercise and, today, I did just that.  My road bike may need a little tlc before it’s roadworthy, so I opted for my mountain bike, even though I would be cycling on flat, smooth tarmac (at least for most of the way) alongside the river Rhone.

When I was planning the route, I noticed that there was a small lake, a monastery and a ruined chateau near Sierre, so that became my target – about 16 km (10 miles) away from where I started, after unloading my bike from the car in Sion.  Along the way I took a few short detours to capture some of the other small lakes nearby, as well as a few pictures of the Sierre golf course.   I hope you enjoy the ride… 🙂

Krakow – Art Galleries

As I mentioned yesterday, I was looking to visit some Art Galleries while in Krakow.  However, there are many ‘Museums’ in the city and it wasn’t clear which would have what I was looking for.  So I popped into the Tourist Information Centre, where a young lady swiftly put 5 crosses on one of her free maps. (The map was upside down so I was very impressed with her knowledge of the city – especially when I subsequently discovered that each one was precisely marked!)

My plan was to visit 2, maybe 3, so I set off for the furthest away, which was the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow (or MOCAK for short).  There I discovered a particular exhibition of sculptures by Krzysztof M. Bednarski entitled Karl Marx vs Moby Dick.  (Now there’s a match you don’t see every day).  I’ve shown only a few of his items below, but what that man cannot do with heads of Marx and metal shapes representing a whale is not worth knowing about.

Note that I’ve split this post into the different galleries that I visited, so don’t forget to page further down…  🙂

Next up was the National Museum.  Here there were a number of different themes, including some Henry Moore sculptures, various arts and crafts and an extensive collection of works by the prolific Stanislaw Wyspianski.

I still had some time to spare so I wandered along to the Jozef Czapski Pavilion.  Here I was a little disappointed.  There are one or two paintings on display, but the building is a sort of annexe to the Emeryk Hutten-Czapski Museum.  It houses an important collection of Polish coins and medals, which is OK if you like that sort of thing…

Just around the corner was, perhaps my favourite of them all, the EUROPEUM or Centre for European Culture.  This was to be the last I visited.  (The 5th is above the Cloth Market or Sukiennice in the Main Square in case you ever decide to visit).  And, I think it’s perhaps fitting, given the reason I went to Krakow, that the last image is of the inside of a Tavern!  🍻 Cheers!

 

 

Krakow, Poland – Old Town

Most people who visit Krakow pay a visit to Auschwitz or the Salt Mines, or both.  However, I was looking to do something a little less moving and I’m sure the Salt Mines are impressive, but…  As many readers may recall, I like a good Art Gallery, but they were all closed on Mondays, so I had to content myself with a wander around the Old Town.

There are several impressive buildings in the centre of Krakow, not least of which is Wawel Castle and there are many, many churches.  With plenty of time to spare, I popped inside a few and you cannot fail to be amazed at the awe inspiring décor.

 

Mont d’Orge, Sion, Switzerland

Sion, (pronounced Cee-on, as in Sea-on, by the way), is the capital of the Swiss canton of the Valais, which is in the south west, french speaking, part of the country.  It has around 30,000 inhabitants and a football team in the Swiss Super League.  Due to its position in the fertile Rhone valley, it has a rich and wonderful history going back to Prehistoric times.  It’s perhaps best known now for its two 13th century hilltop fortifications – the Basilique de Valère and Chateau de Tourbillon.

However there is a 3rd hill close by, called Mont d’Orge, which also has a ruined castle or chateau on top.  It can easily be reached from the railway/bus station and, for added interest, there is a small lake to the north, which teems with wildlife in the summer.  (See information sheet, pic 21, for a list, in French, of some of the creatures found thereabouts).

I’d read about this walk some years ago in a Rother walking guide, but had never done it, until yesterday.  Sadly the skies were a little dull for good photography, but I’ve done my best.

Those clever Swiss people have made best use of the geography by setting out a fitness trail up and around it’s sides.  (See pics 4, 15, 16 & 17 below).  I also stumbled across a yellow flower which my research suggests, (please let me know if I’m wrong), is either a Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem or an Early Star-of-Bethlehem.  If it’s the latter, then this is a very rare flower in the UK (where it’s also known as the Radnor Lily) as it only grows at Stanner Rocks in Radnorshire, Central Wales.  They believe that there are only 1,000 plants, of which only 1% flower each year.  However, it is quite widespread across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Last, but not least, I spotted a signpost with a plaque (pic 29) which shows that I was on one of the Swiss links to the famous Way of St James or Camino de Santiago de Compostela.   That makes it a little over 1,900 km to my good friend Arthur’s house. 😊

 

Kunsthaus Art Museum, Zurich

Regular readers and some people who I follow will know that I like a good painting.  So when Judith spotted that our hotel was just around the corner from the Kunsthaus and that entry was free every Wednesday, we just had to pop in for a browse around.  As you can see from my not so random sample of photos below, they have a wonderful selection of paintings and exhibits on display.

 

Place Fell Walk, English Lake District

For our second walk we chose to drive over the Kirkstone Pass to Patterdale in the north east of the Lake District.  Often smaller peaks give you a much better all round view of the distant hills and Place Fell at 657m or 2,156ft did not disappoint.

Our route started from the car park in the village and ascended to Boredale Hause, before turning left (north) to the summit.  From there we turned north-east and descended around High Dodd to the east side of Ullswater.  An undulating path then returned us alongside the lake to Patterdale.  In total the walk was 7 miles long with an overall ascent of 550m or 1,800ft.

Imagine our surprise when we (well, Jude) spotted 2 Alpine Club plaques on the side of a building next to the school – one of which was Swiss!  It seems the former school canteen, which subsequently became Parish Rooms, have been turned into a bunkhouse.  It was officially opened on 4th October 1975 and named the George Starkey Hut, after a former member who had recently passed away.  It has 20 beds and can be hired by recognised clubs and organisations.  For more information read here.

Windermere cruise, English Lake District

A visit to the Lake District wouldn’t be complete (for Jude anyway) without a trip on a boat.  And since the forecast for the day was a sort of cloudy grey, we opted to catch a ‘steamer’* from the aptly named village of Lakeside to Bowness-on-Windermere.

*Our outward journey would be on the MV (Merchant Vessel) Tern, which was built in 1891, but I’ve since learnt that it’s not driven by steam at all but is motor powered.

After a little retail therapy and a nice lunch, we returned on the MV Teal, which was built in 1936.  (See pic 8).

The boats link up with the Lakeside and Haverthwaite railway, which is only 3.2 miles/5k long but, during the season, (broadly April through to the end of October) mostly runs steam trains to take people back and forth, as you will see from the last few pictures.

A perhaps little known, but useful piece of information here, (for keen UK quizzers or maybe those who holiday in exotic locations by the sea) is that all British owned ships must fly a flag with the Union (Jack) flag in the top left corner.  The remainder of the flag is either red, indicating a merchant vessel (as with the Tern and Teal); white, together with a St George’s Cross, for the Royal Navy, or blue for other ships, which have a special warrant from the Admiralty.

For more information on Windermere Lake Cruises, check out this Visit Cumbria website.

The Old Man of Coniston, English Lake District

One of our main goals for our week in the Lake District was to walk up to the top of the Old Man of Coniston (@802m or 2,631ft).  We were staying in the village of Hawkshead, which is only a few miles away, so it just had to be done.

On our way there we stopped off at the northern end of Coniston Water to take a few pictures, as the scene was so calm and peaceful.  It’s easy to see why Sir Donald Campbell chose Coniston Water for his water speed record attempt on 4th January 1967.   Almost unbelievably, even today, he averaged 297.6 mph on his first run, before his ill-fated return pass.  Read more about Sir Donald Campbell here.

We continued through Coniston village and up to the parking area on the Walna Scar Road.  There were only a handful of cars and we weren’t to know that it would become probably one of the busiest days on the Old Man ever.  Thankfully we chose to ascend via one of the less well trodden routes alongside Goat’s Water.  However, at the summit there must have been at least 50 people and 100 or more either ascending or descending the main path below.  We therefore didn’t get a ‘selfie’ at the top, but I hope I’ve avoided a few of these ‘extras’ in the pictures below.
(Note to self: Never go to the English Lake District during Half Term again!)

On the way back to our cottage, we stopped off at Tarn Hows to take advantage of the late evening sunshine.

 

Via Ferrata, Evolène

For those of you unfamiliar with the term Via ferrata, let me briefly explain…

It literally means ‘Iron way’ and it provides a means of climbing up a rockface with ‘protection’.  By that I mean there is a fixed cable to which you can attach yourself, so that you don’t completely fall to the ground.  You wear a climbing harness attached to two short ropes which you then clip onto the cable.  In Switzerland, there are often metal rungs or plates or even sometimes ladders to help you climb.   In the Dolomites, (where many via ferrata were built during the First World War to aid the movement of the troops to protect the frontier), the climbing is more often on the rock, but the cable is always there as a safety mechanism.  At various points along the cable, it’s firmly fixed to the rock, so you have to unclip from one section to move onto the next.  Having climbed to the top, you simply walk back down a path to the start, as there is no need to climb back down again. (Indeed you shouldn’t, otherwise you might block the way up for anyone climbing up behind you).

We are lucky enough to have a Via ferrata route here in Evolène and Malcolm, one of our guests this week, was keen to do it.  Both he and I haven’t done it for over 4 years, so I know that I’ve never posted anything about this before… 🙂  I hope you’re not scared of heights!