A Festa to end a journey/’n Festa vir die einde van ‘n reis

A Festa to end a journey/’n Festa vir die einde van ‘n reis

The journey was almost over. Wallonia was dismal and melancholic that morning. Dark clouds rolled over the faded yellow stubble of the wheat fields. Somber villages with church towers slid past. The forests here and there offered no solace. We rode around Leuven on the circle road. We weren’t visiting the lovely old inner city today. Rather we rode past it. At Willebroek the rain came down hard and we had to stop suddenly to pull on rain gear.

Why must it always rain when we are completing a journey?

At Temse we crossed the new bridge over the Schelde which was darker today. Riding too fast and not really looking, we know the road so well by now. Every time we reach Temse we know that the journey is already done.

The last kilometres go through the Waasland with its bends around creeks. Past the old willow tree, little houses on the polders, rows of Canadian poplars on the dykes along the way to Meerdonk. Through all the green. The trees straining under the harvest of pears. Past sheep, cattle and horses which don’t lift their heads.

We pulled up at Polderstraat at noon. I made a calculation before we dismounted.

“Anuta, we did 7519 kms.” Multiply with Silver and Blue and it’s from Cape Town to Cairo and halfway back again over 72 days.

Behind those words and 72 days lies a wealth of impressions. People. Landscapes. Hardship. Addresses. Arrivals and departures. Borders. Amazement. Cold. Heat. Rain. A mild attack of ‘flu. Only one delay along the way when Silver’s generator grew tired. And then our angels, that happy cavalcade that never lets us down.

Anna was waiting jubilantly on our arrival. Her raddled children were safely home. The pots were simmering, aromas filled the little blue kitchen and the cava’s cork popped and bubbled over into glasses. We were informed that the farewell feesje, a real Festa Italiana this year, was to take place in three days’ time. A long table for 42 guests. With candelabras. Flowers. Silver and fine tablecloths. She had been cooking, baking, shining silver for days already. The invitations were out and the guests would vary from gardener and shepherd to aristocracy and intellectual. Poems for recital had been selected. Stockenström, Breyten and Krog. Music would be made. Arias would be sung. And her playlist was already loaded on Spotify.

The menu was prepared.

Festa Italiana menukaart
22 Julie 2017

14:00 in de living
Koffie en thee in de living, met een koekje van polenta
en pijnboompitten en
walnoten

15:00 in de outdoor kitchen
Cava met
Bruchette met Basilicumpesto, vijgen met geitenkaas
Ciabattatoast met gebakte aubergineringen
Toastjes van Frans brood, met olijfpasta-tapenade
Humus van kikkererwten/citroensap/olijfolie/sesamzaadpasta/
look  met toastjes
Rode Paprikas,  geroosterd, gevuld met Mozzarella, in de oven gebakken
Watermeloen salade
Gazpacho

17:00 Hoofdgerecht in de tuin
Vegetarische saus met  zuiderse groenten en champignons in een  romige
Linguinepasta
Groene asperges en  spinazie met Farfallepasta
Pennepasta  met een tomaten/ Vodka -roomsaus
Quiches
Gevulde courgette met vegetarische gehakt en mozzarella
Gemengde icebergsla
Gebakte rode bieten

Nagerecht
Siciliaanse Cassata met ananas en pistachenoten
Tiramisu
Gebak

Koffie, thee, Rooibosthee

 Anna set us to work. The yard had to be cleaned. Tables carried. Chairs transported. Rugs rolled out. The kitchen became a battlefield. The little blue kitchen became too small for all the bodies. And Anna cooked with passion, tears, expansive dramatic gestures, laughter, and fury. Vegetable peels flew in all directions. The rubbish bin overflowed. Tempers too. Empty bottles were simply flung through the window. Everything was sticky. She was focussed and steamed and perspired as she cooked ahead. The cleaning up would follow later.

But, come the hour, the duchess of the polders, all made up, appeared through the kitchen door. Her eyes flashed as she took stock of everything. Adjusted a last vase or platter. Gave an order. The feast could begin.

‘n Fees vir die einde van die reis

Die reis is amper verby. Wallonië is triestig en melankolies vanoggend. Donker wolke rol oor die ougeel stoppels van die tarwelande. Somber dorpies met kerktorings skuif verby. Die woude hier en daar bied geen troos. Ons ry die kringpad om Leuven. Gaan nie vandag na die mooi ou binnestad kyk nie. Ry liewer verby. By Willebroek begin dit hard reën en ons moet stilhou om reënklere aan te trek.

Hoekom moet dit altyd reën as ons ‘n reis klaarmaak?

By Temse gaan ons met die nuwe brug oor die Schelde wat vanoggend donkerder is. Ry te vinnig en kyk nie eintlik nie. Ons ken die pad al so goed. Altyd by Temse weet ons die reis is byna verby.

Die laaste kilometers is deur die Waasland met sy draaie om die kreke. Verby die ou wilgerboom, polderhuisies, die rye Kanadese populiere op die dyke tot by Meerdonk. Deur al die groen. Die bome wat vol pere hang. Verby skape, beeste en perde wat nie hulle koppe oplig nie.

Op die middaguur trek ons in by Polderstraat. Ek maak ‘n som voor ons afklim.

“Anuta, ons het 7519 km ver gery.” Maal dit met Silwer en Blou en dit is van Kaapstad na Kaïro en weer halfpad oor 72 dae.

Agter daardie sewe woorde en 72 dae lê ‘n oorvloed. Mense. Landskappe. Ontberings. Adresse. Aankoms en vertrek. Grense. Verwondering. Koue. Hitte. Reën. ‘n Ligte griep. Net een vertraging langs die pad toe Silwer se dinamo moeg geword het. En dan ons engele, daardie vrolike kawalkade wat ons nog nooit in die steek laat nie.

Anna wag jubelend op ons koms. Haar gehawende kinders is veilig tuis. Die potte prut, geure vul die blou kombuisie, en die cava se prop skiet en borrel oor in glase. Ons moet ook weet die afskijdsfeesje, vanjaar een egt Festa Italiana, is oor drie dae. ‘n Lang tafel vir 42 gaste. Met kandelare. Blomme. Silwer en fyn tafeldoeke. Sy kook en bak, vryf op, al vir dae. Die uitnodings is uit en die gaste wissel van tuinier en skaapwagter tot adel en intellektueel. Voorleesgedigte word uitgesoek. Stockenström, Breyten of Krog. Musiek word gemaak. Arias word gesing. En haar speellys op Spotify is opgestel.

Die spyskaart is gereed.

 Festa Italiana menukaart
22 Julie 2017

14:00 in de living
Koffie en thee in de living, met een koekje van polenta en pijnboompitten en
walnoten

15:00 in de outdoor kitchen
Cava met
Bruchette met Basilicumpesto, vijgen met geitenkaas
Ciabattatoast met gebakte aubergineringen
Toastjes van Frans brood, met olijfpasta-tapenade
Humus van kikkererwten/citroensap/olijfolie/sesamzaadpasta/look  met
toastjes
Rode Paprikas,  geroosterd, gevuld met Mozzarella, in de oven gebakken
Watermeloen salade
Gazpacho

17:00 Hoofdgerecht in de tuin
Vegetarische saus met  zuiderse groenten en champignons in een  romige
Linguinepasta
Groene asperges en  spinazie met Farfallepasta
Pennepasta  met een tomaten/ Vodka -roomsaus
Quiches
Gevulde courgette met vegetarische gehakt en mozzarella
Gemengde icebergsla
Gebakte rode bieten

Nagerecht
Siciliaanse Cassata met ananas en pistachenoten
Tiramisu
Gebak

Koffie, thee, Rooibosthee

 Anna laat ons werk. Werf skoonmaak. Tafels aandra. Stoele aanry. Matte ooprol. Die kombuis word ‘n oorlogsone. Die blou kombuisie raak te klein vir almal se lywe. En Anna kook met passie, trane, groot dramatiese bewegings, lag, en drif. Skille spat in alle rigtings. Die vullisdrom loop oor. Humeure ook. Leë bottels word sommer deur die venster gegooi. Alles is taai gevat. Sy is gefokus en kook stomend en swetend voort. Opruim kom later.

Maar kom die uur, kom die hertogin van die polders, opgeshmink deur die kombuisdeur. Die oë vat al flitsend hier en daar vas. Skuif ’n laaste vaas of bord. Gee ’n bevel. Die fees kan begin.

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We spent a night with Jean-Pierre near Liege. Two Bangladeshi girls embroidered for two whole days to complete this cloth. They sell it for 5 Euros! JP presented this and the red one next to him as gifts to us. He spends three months each year to build houses there for the poor. His passion. What a good man.

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JP’s wife, Fany, gave us an amazing breakfast in their garden to see us on our way.

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You know you are back in Belgium when you see clouds approaching. We drove directly towards the darkest clouds…

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When you see the creeks, polders and rows of Canadian Poplars, you know you are home.

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Anna and the late Jo welcomed us home! We had kept one bottle of Christine’s beer for our homecoming celebration. Picture of Jo playing in a Thomas Bernardt play, Minetti

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Anna doing what she does best – conjuring up a feast of vegetables from the garden for our first meal.

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Recipe not available – a new creation every time.

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Anna had hoped the wild flowers would last until our return. We did see the last of them. To attract bees, the local municipality supplies the seed

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One of many creations by Gerard for the Festa tables – all the materials from the garden

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Gerard just couldn’t keep the flowers in place – the wind was really strong!

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Ag nee wat, the wind ruined all his creations…

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Preparations ran over three days!

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Signal from Anna: Let the feast begin!

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Anna Dullaert is Anna’s right hand. Anna forced Anuta to wear her hair loose. Under much protest

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Gerard neatened up the backyard to accommodate the snacks and bubbly. He found the rugs rolled up in the ‘kot’ and discovered the original name board of the theatre which Jo and Anna ran on the property. Silver and Blue is stored in the ‘kot’ behind the black door.

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Amongst the guests were some old friends with whom we have built up a good relationship over the years: Magda, a fine poet, and Jaak, a retired professor of drama

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Kristof, Anna’s son, in a serious discussion with Johan de Vos, the ex-Director of Culture for the Waasland, and a prolific author

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Our bar lady checking the lable

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Every now and then the rain chased us all indoors. During one of these interruptions it was speech time.

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Anna reading poetry (Afrikaans) to her guests

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Guests tucking into a vast array of snacks

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An assortment of some of the main course dishes. All vegetarian

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The wind dropped and the rain stopped and fortunately the guests could move to the lower garden for their main course under the trees.

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Old silver and fine linen. Check the raindrops on the tablecloth

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Johan brought two litres of the very best of Montepulciano wine for us to enjoy.

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Could the picture be more Italian than this? Anna’s Italian teacher, Kirsten Bracke, dead centre

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Carlo tends to Anna’s garden and vegetable garden for the sheer pleasure of getting his hands dirty!

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The cows became curious and came to take a look.

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Sheer pleasure to listen to intelligent conversations

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Erica de Cuyper with her son, Anton van Assche. She organises the St Niklaas City Poet Outreach for Children each year.

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From l to r: Anna’s daughter Joanna, son Kristof holding Joanna’s baby Sophia, Sophia’s aunt Hilda (Jo’s sister), Kristof’s partner Sirri

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Thank goodness I am allowed solids! The beautiful little Sophia who brings everyone so much pleasure

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The Splendour of Spring

The Splendour of Spring

A visit to Pierneef à La Motte

From the days of the hunter-gatherer to the latest culinary trends, foraging is part of both traditional and modern cuisine. When European recipes landed in the Cape in the 1600’s, they were adapted to the new conditions. Classic recipes incorporated the magnificent produce from the Company Gardens and soon the rich biodiversity and natural vegetation of the Cape made its way into those early-day kitchens.  Chefs and home cooks experimented by adding spices from Batavia en route back to Holland, local fynbos as well as edible plants.

The beauty of fynbos is best appreciated in Spring and La Motte explored the abundance and beauty of Spring with delectable fynbos-inspired Modern Cape Winelands Cuisine.

Chef Michelle Theron was joined in the Pierneef à La Motte kitchen by celebrated food personality, Sarah Graham and together they treated guests to a fynbos-inspired meal accompanied by Cellarmaster Edmund Terblanche’s selection of award-winning La Motte wines.

We were the guests of La Motte on this beautiful Boland spring day. And, as always, a visit to La Motte makes you feel special. From arrival to departure you are treated with special care and greatly spoiled. Everything is exquisitely executed, chic and the atmosphere always relaxed.

We were welcomed by the sound of violin and cello accompanied by La Motte’s MCC and a virgin gin cocktail. And then followed the delicious meal and good company around the table.

Photographers: Charles Russell & GS

The Musicians

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The drinks
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The Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant

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The Flowers – by Heike le Cordeur van Fleur le Cordeur

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The Guests

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With dear friends: Edmund, Michelle and Hetta

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Greg Landman, Ryk, and Hein Koegelenberg CEO of La Motte

The Chefs in Action – Michele Theron and Sarah Graham

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Hein Koegelenberg with Sarah (left) and Michelle (right)

 The Food and Wine

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Mosbolletjies with farm butter, quince and buchu salt

 

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Tomato, honey bush and goat’s cheese, roosterkoek, 2016 La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc. 2017 La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc

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Fragrant Cape seafood curry with lavender, lightly smoked mussels and banana chutney. 2016 La Motte Chardonnay – single vineyard, Franschhoek

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Waterblommetjie and samp risotto, Karoo lamb sout ribbetjie, pulled lamb belly, bone marrow, red jus. 2015 La Motte Cabernet Sauvignon

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Poached citrus salad with rosemary salted caramel, brandy milk punch blanc mange, milk tart semi-freddo. NV La Motte Straw Wine

 

The Westcoast: A weekend without flowers or clouds/Die Weskus: ‘n Naweek sonder blomme of wolke

The Westcoast: A weekend without flowers or clouds/Die Weskus: ‘n Naweek sonder blomme of wolke

The West Coast has its own disarming character. Wind-swept dunes and threadbare shrubs. Dry, drab plains clawing their way to the sea. Dissipated fisherfolk. Washed up remains of a crab, a crayfish. A seal’s skull. Or a piece of driftwood, perhaps the remains of a fishing boat

Everything bleached to bone white. Even the sand.

Owing to the drought there aren’t flowers this year. Also no sign of clouds.

But somewhere a heart still beats against all the rust and erosion. Against the flaking salty air. Heat and aridity. The unapproachable of the elements.

And when the mist rolls in from the sea, it becomes a landscape of wonder and amazement. Through the wisps of mist you see old seafarers sailing into the bays with billowing sails. The ships drift in the light with silver outlines.

And when the sun sets it brings a golden bewitchment. The night. The milky way and delicate stars.

And early morning, even before the sun breaks day, your footprints mark the fresh beach. And when you disturb the mistiness along the water’s edge, it becomes a poem.

White is the country
of old days forlorn
a poignant waltz
the sea at dawn;
dew on the dunes, no breath stirring besides,
only a kestrel that calls as he glides, as he glides…
(WEG LOUW)

*

Along with a couple of bon vivant friends we installed ourselves in a house near the lighthouse nearby St Helena Bay. Dune house. Sea house. Spacious and luxurious. With a wooden walkway onto the beach. We laughed and chatted for hours. Silly at times. Very silly. And at other times, serious. Very serious. When we became quiet we listened to orthodox church music, or to the deafening crash of the waves that blew into the house when the wind turned.

We drank French champagne that Lizzie brought along, ate palm-sized mussels picked from the rocks by Anuta and Elsabe, John barbequed meat. Ilzebet oversaw operations. For breakfast there was also milk tart. For coffee time Elsabe brought a decadent carrot cake with dates and banana to light. Lizzie shamelessly read the Huisgenoot. Because she could.

We set off to visit the village of St Helena Bay where Vasco da Gama set foot ashore and named the place for Saint Helena, mother of Constantine the Great – Bahia de Santa Helena. We drifted aimlessly between old fishermen’s cottages and visited the Whittaker family. There is such a wealth of character and simplicity in their poverty.

Graveyards always have an attraction. There is one in the bay, almost on the beach. Anuta and Elsabe deciphered old stories and constructed family trees. Days and dates. Births and deaths. It is a place to wander about. Almost until the sun set.

The drought remains. No flowers this year. No clouds. Only the mist pushing in just for a moment.

Naweek sonder blomme of wolke

Die Weskus het ‘n eie weerloosheid. Windgestroopte duine en dun gewaaide bossies. Droeë-vaal vlaktes wat afkruip na die see. Verloopte vissermense. Uitgespoelde reste van ‘n krap, ‘n kreef. Die skedel van ‘n rob. Of ‘n stuk dryfhout, dalk oorblysel van ‘n vissersboot.

Alles verblyk tot beenwit. Selfs die sand.

Met die droogte is daar vanjaar nie blomme nie. Ook geen teken van wolke nie.

Maar iewers klop ‘n hart teen al die roes en verwering. Teen die soutlug verskilfering. Hittes en dorheid. Die ongenaakbaarheid van elemente.

En wanneer mis van die see begin inrol, word dit ‘n landskap van wonder en verwondering. Sien jy deur die slierte ou seevaarders die baaie invaar met bollende seile. Die skepe dryf in ‘n ligtheid met silwer omlynings.

En wanneer die son sak kom die goue betowering. Die nag. Die melkweg en die fyn sterre.
Saans sprei die branders waar hulle loop
in wit pousterte, sterre oop.
(Elisabeth Eybers)

En soggens vroeg, nog voor die son die dag breek, trap jy spore oop op die vars strand. En wanneer jy die dun mistigheid breek wat strandlangs rondhang, word dit ‘n gedig.

Wit is die wêreld
van outydse wee,
en ‘n treurige wals
is die vroemoresee;
dou oor die duine, geen windjie wat waai,
net ‘n vaalvalk wat sing soos hy draai, soos hy draai . . .
(WEG Louw)

*

Ons en ‘n paar bon vivant vriende betrek vir ‘n naweek ‘n huis langs ‘n ligtoring digby St Helenbaai. Duinehuis. Seehuis. Ruim en luuks. Met ‘n houtpad tot op die strand. Ons gesels en lag vir ure. Soms laf. Baie laf. Dan weer ernstig. Baie ernstig. As ons stil word luister ons na ortodokse kerkmusiek, of na die branders wat oorverdowend by die huis instoot wanneer die wind draai.

Ons drink Franse Champaigne wat Lizzie aandra, eet handgrootte mossels wat Anuta en Elsabe van die rotse pluk, John braai vleis. Ilzebet sorg dat alles reg verloop. Vir ontbyt eet ons ook melktert. Vir koffietyd onthul Elsabe ‘n dekadente wortelkoek met dadels en piesang. Lizzy lees die Huisgenoot skaamteloos. Sy mag mos.

Ons vat die pad na die dorpie St Helenabaai waar Vasco da Gama voet aan wal gesit het en vernoem is na die Heilige Helena, moeder van Konstantyn die Grote – Bahia de Santa Helena. Ons dwaal rond tussen ou vissermanshuisies en kuier by die Whittiker-familie. In hulle armoed is daar ‘n rykdom van karakter en eenvoud.

Begraafplase trek ons altyd. In die baai is daar een wat byna op die strand staan. Anuta en Elsabe ontsyfer ou verhale en bou familieregisters. Dag en datum. Geboortes en dood. Dit bly ‘n plek van dwaal. Tot die son byna sak.

Die droogte bly. Geen blomme vanjaar. Geen wolke. Net die mis wat vir ‘n kort rukkie instoot.

The welcoming

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A welcoming dance in black by Lizzie, Elsabe and Ilzebet

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Another welcome

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Bon vivant friends

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John in relaxing mode

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Lizzie’s source of information

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Elsabe listening to old and new stories

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Lizzie has been part of our lives for decades

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What are they talking about?

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Where Lizzie is… always making new friends. Even in a bottle store…

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The wind! Keer die wind!

Lighthouse

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One is constantly aware of the nearby lighthouse

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Beach and dunes

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There are many, many oyster-catchers. Once on the red data list. You hear their distinct call day and night.

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Food

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The catering department

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I am the champion!

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The best carrot cake ever!

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‘n Braai sonder braaibroodjies is nie ‘n braai nie… A barbecue without sandwiches on the fire is not a true barbecue

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Anuta and Elsabe on their way to pick enormous mussels

Cemetery

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Whittaker family

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The humble fisherman’shouse of the Whitteker family.

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“And remember to bring me some love story books when you come again.”

Harbour

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Other

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Oor berge en in dale…/Highs and lows…

Oor berge en in dale…/Highs and lows…

Dit was dae en dae en baie kilometers van berge, bergpasse en hier en daar ‘n diep vallei met afgronde. Dit is mos Silwer en Blou se kos. Om stil te hou en net die suisings van die dieptes te hoor. Die dun lug in te asem en tot in die ewigheid te sien.

These were days and days and many kilometres of mountains, passes and a deep valley here and there with steep drops. Just what Silver and Blue like. Stopping and hearing only the sighs from the depths. Breathing in the thin air and seeing to eternity.

Simplon

Tussen Italië en Switzerland, in die Ossala, is die Simplonpas. Ons het nogal gepaniek dat die GPS ons deur die 19km lange Simplontonnel sou stuur en nie oor die berge nie, want as jy eenmaal op die verkeerde dubbelbaan beland is daar nie omdraai nie. Maar toe ons weer sien is ons op die gewenste roete met goeie paaie en geen tornantes nie.

The Simplon Pass runs from Italy into Switzerland, through the Ossala region. We were concerned that the GPS would send us through the 19km Simplon Tunnel and not over the mountains, because once you are on the wrong double highway you cannot turn back. But, the next thing we knew we were on the route of choice with good roads and no tornantes.

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The dramatic entrance to the Simplon Pass

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Half way through the mountains. We had to stop to take in the grandeur of the mountains.

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The soberness and simplicity of the Swiss architecture came as a bit of a shock after weeks in Italy.

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Our first view of the Alps with the Matterhorn on the left. What a view!

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We met author Isa Konrad for coffee en route.

Zermatt

‘n Wonderlike voorreg wag ons in. Ons vriendin Beatrix Castellote-Iselin nooi ons vir ‘n paar dae na Zermatt waar sy in die buitelug opvoering van Romeo und Julia am Gornergrat speel. Switzerland en die gemeenskap kyk mooi na hulle kunstenaars. Vir die speelvlak van vyf weke kry sy ‘n heerlike tweeslaapkamer woonstel en ander voorregte. Hoe kon ons nee se vir so ‘n uitnodiging.

A wonderful privilege awaited us. Our friend Beatrix Castellote-Iselin invited us to Zermatt for a couple of days where she was acting in the open air production of Romeo und Julia am Gornergrat. Switzerland and the community cares very well for its artists. For the run of five weeks she was provided with a lovely two bedroomed flat and other privileges. How could we turn down such an invitation.

 

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The view of the Matterhorn from our bed in Zermatt

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Alpine welcome at the Zermatt station

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Our accommodation with Beatrix

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Zermatt street scene

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At 3 100m, Gornergrat. We felt very old and unfit at that altitude.

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One of the receding glaciers. The helicopter gives perspective on the size

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One can see clearly how the glacier tongues are fast receding.

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Melting ice on the underside of the glacier results in river-like paths

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The Monte Rosa lies roughly behind the mountain in the middle of the frame

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The Alpine crow which inhabits high altitudes. Very tame and unfazed by proximity of photographer

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We have so few photographs together that when a Chinese girl insisted on taking a pic, we agreed.

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Walking down from one station to the next where the play was to be performed

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The Matterhorn’s face is constantly changing as the clouds drift across her face.

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Tissues offered to audience for those emotional moments in the play

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What a backdrop!

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The priest in the play descends the mountain to join the other actors on stage

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The timing of the final scene to coincide with the last rays of the sun was perfect

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In the cemetery for mountaineers who have died in their attempts to climb the Matterhorn

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Anuta and her instructor descending towards the landing spot

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What an amazing experience

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Furka en Grimsel

Vandag is dit ondenkbaar hoe ons al die jare sonder ‘n GPS gereis het. Ons mis egter die kaarte, maar soveel verdwaal, rusies, tyd en moeite word ons nou gespaar. Maar nou en dan laat hy ons tog in die steek, soos die dag met die Furka en Grimsel. Dan vergeet jy maar jou mantra: it’s not about the destination, but all about the journey. Want hierdie dag stuur die GPS ons na ‘n verkeerde destination

Today it’s unthinkable that we travelled all those years without a GPS. That said, we miss the maps, but we are spared so much getting lost, arguments, time and effort. Yet, now and then, he still lets us down, like the day with the Furka and Grimsel Passes. Then you forget your mantra: it’s not about the destination, but all about the journey. That day the GPS sent us to the wrong destination…

 

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Where two passes meet in the valley, the GPS sent us to the Furka Pass – the wrong route.

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The masses of motorcyclists from all over Europe riding the passes on a seemingly perfect day

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Nearing the top of the Furka Pass – one of the most challenging and scenic passes we have travelled

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The Rhone glacier which is fast disappearing

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The Furka from across the valley

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Here we can see that the Rhone glacier has all but disappeared, leaving bare rock behind

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Note the cyclists’ names painted across the road of the steep pass

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The strange colour of the glacier lakes

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Looking back towards the split of the two passes

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Possibly the highest altitude we have achieved on Silver and Blue. We could feel it by the diminishing power of the engines.

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And then the shock when we dropped over the summit…

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Sometimes the sharp bends make it almost impossible for the buses to continue. Then you back up and they do a three point turn.

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The Eastern part of the Furka

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At this altitude many Alpine flowers are still blooming.

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The return journey via the Furka to find the right pass

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Now it was the right pass, but the mist remained… Really cold

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One of the dams along the Grimsel. Surreal, milky grey-green colour that doesn’t remind one of water at all

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At last, a couple of hours late for our next appointment, we reached the Brienzersee which has the clearest turquoise water of all the lakes we have seen.

Schynige Platte

Ons vriende, Peter en Daniela Sommer van Bern,  mag ons nooit verbyry nie. Tydens die meeste van ons Europese reise word hulle harte en deure vir ons oopgemaak. Gelukkig is daar ook terugbetaaltyd as hulle na SA reis. Daar wag altyd vir ons ‘n verrassing en vanjaar was dit ‘n dag met die rattrein na Schynige Platte, oorkant die Jungfrau.

Friends, Peter and Daniela Sommer from Bern, may never be passed over. During most of our European travels their hearts and doors are opened to us. Fortunately there is also pay back time when they travel to Southern Africa. We are always assured of a surprise with them and this year it was a trip to the Schynige Platte, near the Jungfrau, by cog train.

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We have visited the Jungfrau a couple of times and instinct made us look to find her – between the railway cables.

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Immaculate cog train heading for the Schynige Platte

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Here we could also see receding glaciers

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Grindelwald in the centre of the pic

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The Lauterbrunnen valley

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Picnic lunch at the top

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We spent hours in the botanical gardens where there are 650 flowering Alpine plants. This attractive seed head could be seen all over.

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Daniella was so excited to see the Alpenrose that her grandmother was so fond of.

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Edelweiss

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Scabiosa, which we know in the Western Cape as well

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The steam engine with its impossible angle adapted for the steep incline

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Even Swiss precision can be the victim of power failures! We spent hours waiting to return. We didn’t mind – the views made up.

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A last view from Schynige Platte

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Daniela and Anuta got the window seats

Grand Ballon, Alsace

Ons verlaat Peter en Daniela vroeg een oggend en 25km verder in Biel staan die woorde Welkom Silwer en Blou in die pad geskryf – voor die huis Christiene Klinger-Coetzee, voorheen van Kaapstad Ballet. Vinnig na haar bierbrouery gaan kyk en toe heerlik koffie in haar tuin gekuier voor ons weer in die pad moes val.

Ons is weer in die Alsace en op die Grand Ballon-roete. Die laaste bergreeks wat ons moet oor. Nogal hartseer om van berge afskeid te neem. En toe, na baie hard en ver ry, is ons ‘n dag of twee later in die Ardenne. Die einde van die reis is in sig.

We left Peter and Daniela early one morning and 25km further the words Welkom Silwer en Blou were chalked across a pavement in Biel – in front of the home of Christiene Klinger-Coetzee, previously attached to Cape Town Ballet. We quickly visited her brewery and then enjoyed delicious coffee in her garden before we had to continue on our way.

We found ourselves in the Alsace again, on the Grand Ballon route. The last mountain range we had to cross. Rather sad to take leave of the mountains. And then, after a long, hard ride, we reached the Ardennes after a day or two. The end of the journey was in sight.

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…we followed the chalked arrows to our parking spot.

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So good to see each other after three years

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The brewery on the old city square of Biel

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The forest on the way to the Grand Ballon. A very steep (17%) climb

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The Rhine and the Black Forest in the distance

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Our second visit to Redu, a book village in the Ardenne. The oldest on the continent. There are 25 book shops filled with books to the ceilings.

 

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Lunch break next to a canal

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…a long story, but here in Moyen along the Semois is where our airbnb failed to materialize and strangers stepped into the breach.

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An unexpected invitation to join a party n the community free space

 

 

Festa Polenta in Anzino

Festa Polenta in Anzino

That was a happy evening. The Festa Polenta with the Minetti family in Anzino. Maria-Paola Minetti cooked for hours. Antonia saw to wine from Piedmont and Montepulciano. The first course was proscuito with antipastas and crusty bread. With much laughter, gestures, steam rising from the dishes of food and languages of the heart, the tender potroasted beef with its slow sauce was served with the first round of ripe yellow polenta. After more fun and chatting more polenta was served with ragu which had been gently bubbling for hours, and even later Maria-Paola brought in sausages in a pan. Still later came a creamy gorgonzola with polenta yet again. Pap with blue cheese! And more laughter and conversation.

We felt like true Italians.

The visit with the Minettis in the tiny village of Anzino in Ossala became the culmination of our Italian visit. Mountains, medieval villages, bells, rivers, wonderful food, stone streets, churches, history, saints, sincere joyfulness, unpretentious warm-hearted people… All under the watchful eye of a Mother Mary and the village’s saint, Anthony of Padua. And in rhythm with the bells that ring out over the Bannio Valley and echo against the mountains.

The young man, Matteo Minetti, an actor from Milan, became our concierge, waiter, guide, interpreter and company. He lead us through the gates and doors of the little village and revealed Anzino’s rich and long history to us – something he is passionate about. We walked down the uneven stone paved alleys which wind between houses like a labyrinth. Around every corner and turn awaited a date against a wall or carved into a beam, which reminds one that here was a refined civilisation even before a refreshment post was established in the Cape of Good Hope. And every house has a story which Matteo traces a long way back. Long before our ancestors were born.

What makes the village exceptional is the frescoes against the outside (and inside) walls of houses. Matteo knows the background of every one and could point out the characters and symbolism. Here religion and rituals have been a way of life for centuries.

Later we walked the Stations of the Cross in pouring rain – the Via Crucis di Anzino. We didn’t mind because we had never experienced a representation and guidance like that before. The upright shrines stand in a circle on the outskirts of the village betweeen orchards and trees. A place of true spirituality. Effort is made to maintain everything in a good condition. The annual procession in June to follow the stations route in adoration is a long-standing tradition.

We also visited the wash house on the edge of the village which is fed by a stream of mountain water. The women still use it today to wash large items like blankets and bed covers.

Today there are only 60 inhabitants remaining who live in ancient stone and wood houses, with the odd villa inbetween which lend a little colour. We were accommodated in the Minettis’ guest house Casa Quaroni. A very old Ossala stone and wood house dating from 1641 in which the last of the illustrious Quaroni descendants lived till recently. Everything five star quality. The bed was made up with the most beautiful old linen and one couldn’t help feeling the luxury of the linen between your fingers.

The richly decorated church was unlocked for us. Matteo accompanied us to every altar, statue and painting and filled us in on the background. Some were sent from Rome, others were recently discovered in the attic and have been restored. We wandered about between the wealth of irreplaceable treasures. Later he took us to the organ gallery, unlocked it and played on the organ with its 864 pipes which was built by Alessandro Mentasti of Novara and because of the outstanding workmanship has never needed restoring since 1891. Matteo is the organist on Sundays. He fills the church with rich, deep notes. Later he changed to the bellows and Anuta turned the handle hard to fill every niche with sound.

On a bright morning we rode to Domodossola, the capital of the region. This is where Agatha Christie went to search for her husband who was holidaying with his mistress there. The city didn’t interest us much and we sought out the mountains and Sacro Monte Calvary. A really impressive church complex where the Stations of the Cross are commemorated with individual chapels, each filled with larger than life figures, sometimes growing from frescoes, depicting the various scenes. Next door are the ruins of the original fortress and it is here that Matteo will soon be acting in Macbeth in the open air.

Vogogna, also in the Ossala region, is considered one of the best preserved medieval towns in northern Italy. It is small and we completed our visit quickly after having our bread with cheese and meat and tomatoes on a bench in front of the church.

We had to get back, along the winding road, sheer drops and forests, because the Festa Polenta was waiting.

Festa Polenta in Anzino

Dit was ‘n vrolike aand. Die Festa Polenta by die Minetti-familie in Anzino. Maria-Paola Minetti het vir ure gekook. Antonia het gesorg vir wyne van Piedmont en Montepulciano. Eers was dit die proscuito voorgereg met antipastas en krakerige brood. Met baie lag, beduie, stoom wat uit die kosbakke opstyg en tale van die hart word die murgsag gestoofde beesvleis en ‘n stadige sous met die eerste rondte rypgeel polenta opgeskep. Na meer vrolikheid en gesels kom meer polenta en die ragu wat vir ‘n paar uur geprut het, en nog later bring Maria-Paola onder groot gejuig ‘n pan gebraaide wors. En nóg later word ‘n romerige gorgonzola ingebring met nog meer polenta. Pap met bloukaas! En nog meer gelag en gesels.

Ons voel soos volbloed Italianers.

Die kuier by die Minetti’s in die klein dorpie Anzino in die Ossala word die kulminasie van ons Italiaanse besoek. Berge, middeleeuse dorpe, klokke, riviere, wonderlike kos, klipstrate, kerke, geskiedenis, heiliges, lewensegte vrolikheid, onopgesmukte warmhartige mense… Alles onder die waaksame oog van ‘n Moeder Maria en die dorp se heilge, Anthony van Padua. En in ritme met klokke wat oor die Banniovallei beier en teen die berge vasslaan.

Die jonge Matteo Minetti, ‘n akteur van Milaan, word ons concierge, kelner, gids, tolk en geselskap. Hy lei ons deur die poorte, hekke en deure van die klein dorpie en ontsluit vir ons Anzino se ryk en lang geskiedenis – waaroor hy passievol is. Ons stap met die ongelyk klipgange wat soos ‘n labirint tussen die huise kronkel. Om elke hoek en draai wag ‘n datum teen ‘n muur of op ‘n balk uitgekerf wat jou herrinner dat hier al ‘n fyn beskawing was nog voor daar ‘n verversingspos in die Kaap van Goeie Hoop was. En elke huis het ‘n storie wat Matteo ver gaan haal. Lank voor ons voorvaders gebore is.

Wat die dorp verder besonders maak is fresko’s teen huise se mure. Matteo ken elkeen se agtergrond en wys vir ons die karakters en simboliek uit. Hier is godsdiens en rituele al vir eeue lank ‘n lewenswyse.

Later stap ons die Stasies van die Kruis in gietende reën – die Via Crucial di Anzino. Ons gee nie om nie, want ons het nog nie so ‘n voorstelling en begeleiding beleef nie. Buite die dorp in ‘n soort parklandskap staan die regop kappelletjies in ‘n sirkelroete tussen boorde en bome. ‘n Plek van ware spiritualiteit. Moeite word gedoen om dit in ‘n goeie toestand te hou. Daar is ‘n lang tradisie om elke jaar in Junie ‘n groot prosessie te hê wat dié roete in aanbidding volg.

Ons besoek ook die washuis aan die rand van die dorpie wat met strome bergwater gevoed word. Die vroue van die dorp gebruik dit nog om groot artikels soos komberse en dekens te was.

Vandag is daar net 60 inwoners oor wat in oeroue klip en hout huise bly, met hier en daar ‘n villa wat die dorpie ‘n spatsel kleur gee. Ons self gaan tuis in die Minetti’s se gastehuis Casa Quaroni. ‘n Baie ou Ossala klip en houthuis van 1641 wat tot onlangs deur die laaste van die roemryke Quaroni afstammelinge bewoon is. Alles is 5-ster gehalte. Die bed is met die mooiste antieke linne opgemaak en kan jy nie help om die weelde van die linne tussen jou vingers te vryf nie.

Die ryk versierde kerk word vir ons oopgesluit. Matteo neem ons na elke altaar, beeld en skildery en gee die agtergrond. Party is uit Rome gestuur, ander het hy onlangs in die solder ontdek en laat restoureer. Ons dwaal rond tussen die rykdom van onvervangbare skatte. Later neem hy ons na die orrelgallery, sluit dit oop en speel op die orrel met sy 864 pype wat in 1891 deur Alessandro Mentasti van Novara gebou is en nog nooit gerestoureer is nie vanweë die goeie vakmanskap. Sondae is Matteo die orrelis. Hy laat die kerk vul met die ryk en brëë klanke wat die hele sfeer en ruimte vul. Later skakel hy die orrel oor na die blaasbalk en Anuta pomp lug vir die vale om elke holte met klank te vul.
Op ‘n helder oggend ry ons na Domodossola, die hoofdorp van die streek. Dit is waar Agatha Christie haar man gaan soek het waar hy met sy minares vakansie gehou het. Die stad interesseer ons nie veel nie en kies rigting die berge in na Sacro Monte Calvario. ‘n Heel indrukwekkende kerkkompleks waar die Stasies van die Kruis ook in kappelle rondom die klooster gebou is. Vir die eerste keer sien ons die uitbeeldings in drie-dimensionele beelde wat soms uit fresko’s bevry word. Teen hierdie agtergrond gaan Matteo binnekort in Macbeth in die buitelug speel.

Vogogna, ook in die Ossala, word as een van die bes-bewaarde middeleeuse dorpies in Noord-Italië beskou. Dit is klein en ons draf dit vinnig deur nadat ons sommer daar voor die kerk op ‘n bankie ons broodjie met kaas en vleis met ‘n paar tamaties eet.

Ons moet terug, met die kronkelpad, afgronde en woude, want die Festa Polenta wag op ons.

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The Loce river runs through the Ossola Valley. During WW11 it was the seat of a small partisan republic. It lasted only 40 days.

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One of the picturesque villages near Anzino

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We were the guests of the Minotti family in Casa Quaroni. The building on the right is the dining room.

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A memorial to the Quaroni family, the former owners of the Casa Quaroni

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Views from Casa Quaroni

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Festa Polenta

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Slow roasted beef with polenta

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Ragu and sausages with polenta

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Who would think;  pap with creamy gorgonzola…

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Matteo is serving breakfast. Maria-Paola baked the apple cake to the left, which became our padkos.

Walks through the village

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Matteo is passionate about his village

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The village washhouse where Maria-Paola still does some of her washing

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This chimney dates back to 1653

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Just wood and stone

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A little bit of colour comes as a shock

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Gates to the village

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It will take many hours to cross the valleys and mountains to the next villages

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Pigeon holes

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A welcome message for the pilgrim

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Hidden on the outskirts of the village, another church

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Here and there are painted villas which lend some colour to the village

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A chapel at the end of an alley

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The stone pathways – it helps to slow down the flow of rain water

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One of many frescoes on private homes

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A cluster of painted villas

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Beautifully decorated

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After the rain

In the church

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The richly decorated church of Anzino

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Each work of art has a story

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One of the dates against the church wall

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Until the Napoleonic times people were buried inside churches

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Valuable paintings everywhere

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The vestry

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The organ with its 864 pipes built in 1891

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Matteo is the organist as well. He switched the organ to manual mode and Anuta is pumping the bellows

The Stations of the Cross

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A picture taken in the 1930’s of the annual Via Crucial di Anzino procession

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Domodossola

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The capital town of the Ossala region

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Ruins of the huge castle overlooking Domodossola

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Sacro Monte Calvario – the church complex with its Stations of the Cross chapels

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We had never seen it before- – the ancient 3D artwork

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Vogogna

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Lunchtime! Local bread and regional cheese

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The little Vogogna is one of the best preserved medieval villages in Northern Italy

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The last morning

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At last we could see the majestic Monte Rosa from Anzino – the highest mountain in the Alps and Western Europe. The main summit is 4634m. It forms part of the border between Italy and Switzerland.

 

Hy wat nie reis nie…/He who doesn’t travel…

Hy wat nie reis nie…/He who doesn’t travel…

Florence het ons binne ‘n paar uur gedaan gehad. Ja, oor die grootsheid en die indrukwekkendheid wat op al jou sintuie inwerk. Maar meer oor die duisende en duisende mense uit al die windrigtings, veral die Ooste, wat op dié geduldige stad toesak. Ons het mekaar omtrent vertrap. Soms het alles tot stilstand gekom en moes jy wag om die volgende tree te gee. Nee wat, nie vir ons nie.

Gelukkig was ons vroegoggend op ‘n Sondag al op die keisteen piazzas en in die nou straatjies. Met die nareuke en rommel van ‘n besige Saterdagaand. Ons besluit om by ons eerste indrukke te bly van jare gelede. Ons wil nie die skoonheid van die oorspronklike Dawid met duisende ander deel nie. Ook nie die Botticelli’s nie. Toe stap ons maar in versengende hitte al om die geboue, kyk mense en hulle eienaardighede, ry met Silwer op na die koeler Piazzale Michelangelo en gaan rus na ‘n uitputtende dag. In die vreemde verblyf tussen olyfbome so 8 km buite die stad.

Teen skemer is ons terug na die Piazzale om die son oor die Tiber, die brûe en die stad te sien ondergaan. Die son wou daardie aand nie ondergaan nie. Die skemer het in alle oorryp kleure bly draal.

Die lekkerste was die terugry in die donker. Die ou Via Europa is leeg en kilometers lank. Toe trek ek Silwer se petrol oop tot 80km per uur en ons lag. Lag oor die koelte, die helder klokke wat deur die dag gelui het, die vryheid van ‘n oop pad, en later oor ‘n ander koelte tussen die buitewyke se olyfbome. Lag omdat dit soos ‘n movie voel. Twee oumense op ‘n skoeter wat in die nag deur ‘n stad jaag en lag.

Die volgende oggend is ons vroeg in die pad en stoei vir twee ure deur die oggendverkeer om by die skoonheid van die Monte Cimone bergreeks te kom, die hoogste berge in die Apennines. Ons is weer in ons element soos hoogtes en vertes verbygly vir die res van die dag.

Ons gaan in ‘n klein nedersettinkie naby Parma tuis by twee jong Russiese neuro-wetenskaplikes wat in ‘n 16de eeuse plaashuis woon. Vir die eerste keer moet ons ‘n nogal duur airbnb huis met mense deel en dis nie vir ons lekker nie. Die mooi omgewing maak op vir die ongemak. Ons staan vir een dag oor en besoek die omliggende kastele van die 10de eeu.

Tussen Parma (met prostitute in die woude) en Bergamo staan die blou-groen mielies so ver as wat die oog kan sien 8vt hoog – seker Monsanto genetiese monsters? Waterkanonne met dik strale water besproei die lande.

En toe kom die wonder van die bergpad, Strada Provincial 36, met sy 18 genommerde tornantes – skerp terugdraaie. Die een op die ander. Elke tornante het die naam van ‘n kampioenfietsryer. Die pad was nogal besig met fietsers wat hulle kragte inspan teen die steiltes, of die berg teen verbysterende spoed afkom en die draaie wyd gooi. Daar is ook snobistiese motorfietsryers van die hele Europa wat hulle nekke omtrent omruk oor Silwer en Blou, ek in kortbroek en plakkies, maar darem met stylvolle handskoene.

Toe bewandel ons die hemelse weë van die Parco delle Orobie Bergamasche. Kyk af op oeroue dorpies. Kyk op na bergspitse. Luister as die klokke lui. Ry deur woude en die ou dorpies. Ruik veldblomme. Hou piekniek onder bome. Alles is salig. Ons klok in by ons volgende verblyf, in die bergdorpie Serina. ‘n Hartlike familie verwelkom ons en ons praat die tale van harte. Die kinders help met die bagasie na ons tuinwoonstel. Die bure roep almal Buon Giorno! Lewendige ouma Teresina kom groet. Sy is 88 en klim nog elke dag die berg uit na haar diere. Vir haar is werk die lewe. Labore e Vita! roep sy uit.

In die heerlike blyplek is daar teen die mure woorde opgeplak: Il mondo è un Libro en chi non Viaggo legge solo una Pagina – Die wêreld is ‘n boek en hulle wat nie reis nie, lees slegs ‘n bladsy.

Ons sit laatmiddag onder ‘n wisteriaprieël voor die woonstel. Op die dorpsplein langsaan speel jong manne ‘n antieke balspeletjie – tamborello. Die meisies is uitgevat en paradeer op en af. Ou mense staan in klompies en gesels, stap aan en gesels verder. Pa’s stap met hulle kinders. Die kerkklokke begin lui. Eers die gewone aftel van die uur, daarna ‘n klokkespel van deuntjies wat teen die berge vasslaan. Ook teen my hart. Dit is toe dat ‘n rewolusie in my losbreek. Hoe kan ons terug huis toe waar daar nie vryheid is nie. Ons is nou lank genoeg hier om te besef in watter beangsde, skewe en skitsofreniese samelewing ons tuis lewe. Ons lewe al meer en meer na binne en hoor nie meer die klokke lui nie.

Die volgende oggend kom groet Teresina. Sy het ‘n bos blou blomme by haar. Sy gaan dit nou op haar man se graf sit. Soos sy al jare lank elke oggend doen.

Ons roete vir die dag tot by Como is gesluit. Geluk by die teleurstelling. Die ompad is die moeite werd – die bekende San Marcopas neem ons tot op ‘n hoogte van 2000m. Die roete is in 2007 vir die Gyro d’Italia gebruik – ‘n pad wat al in die 16de eeu gebou is. Ons klim en ons klim tot bo die boomlyn. Ons balanseer van die een tornante na die ander. Dan gooi jy jou lyf en strek jou been uit om regop te bly. Later lê die hele wêreld aan ons voete. Blou berge skuif oor mekaar. Elk in ‘n ander skakering. Die vryheid wat hoogtes bring is onbeskryflik.

Die afdaal na Como vat aan ons. Dit is remtrek vir kilometer op kilometer dat jy later voel jou hande en arms kan nie meer nie. Ook die een draai na die ander maak ons lighoofdig. Ons sluit die enjins af en gly draai op draai geruisloos na onder. Anuta kan later nie meer nie en voel baie vaak. Ons konsentrasie begin ook afneem, wat uiters gevaarlik is met die draaie en afgronde hier reg langs jou. Onder lindebome in ‘n woud val ons neer en slaap die slaap van baie moeë reisigers.

Ons bespreekte verblyf op Comomeer is in die mooiste dorpie, Gravedona ed Uniti. Met Silwer en Blou vleg ons deur die nou gangetjies tot ons die adres kry. Die nogal duur plek is ‘n teleurstelling. Dit is in die solder van ‘n gebou en verder sal ek swyg. Sal net noem dat ons byna beswyk het van die hitte, en omdat dit op die dorpsplein staan is ons verswelg deur technomusiek wat elke aand tot middernag so hard was dat ons binnegoed op elektroniese maat peristaltiese spasmas gekry het.

Ons skoeter op en af langs die meer. Comomeer is werklik so mooi soos op die tjoklitbokse. Geel en amber dorpies stapel uit die water op teen die berge. Elk met ‘n kerktoring. Herehuise staan in groot tropiese tuine tot op die water. Ons besef aanmekaar hoe bevoorreg ons is om so te kan reis.

Saans gaan sit ons op die promenade en verkyk ons na die meestal netjiese plaaslike jongmense, die smaakvolle Italiaanse vroue en die rooi gebrande Hollandse families wat kom roomys koop. Die soel lug is ‘n gelykmaker. Almal is in ‘n vrolike vakansiestemming.

Op ‘n Sondag vind ons ‘n klein stil strandjie op Luganomeer en span die hele dag daar uit. Swem en lê onder die bome. Dis mos nie ons styl nie, maar immers ontvlug ons die hitte.

Die laaste aand gaan sit ons met ons heerlike snye mortadella, broodjies en ‘n slaai onder bome. Die beloofde donderstorm kom en trek verby die berge in. Die son slaan teen die wolke vas en die aand begin gloei. Ons staan en kyk hoe dit terugslaan op die water. So neem ons afskeid van Comomeer.

Die volgende dag is die dag van die drie mere. Ons kyk vir oulaas na Como voor ons die berge uitry na Luganomeer waar ons ontbyt met koffie en croissants. Toe kuslangs tot by besige Lugano waar ons wegdraai na Maggiore. Dit is hier waar die volgende donderstorm ons inhaal en ons vir ‘n halfuur onder ‘n vyeboom moes skuil.

Toe weet ons, ons is nie meer reisigers in Italië nie. Ons is deel van die donder, bliksem, asemhaling, ritme, en hart van hierdie land.

He who doesn’t travel…

Florence exhausted us within a few hours. The scale and the impressiveness involving all your senses played its part, but it had more to do with the thousands and thousands of people from all wind directions, especially the East, that descend on this patient city. We really crowded each other. Sometimes everything ground to a halt and you had to wait to take the next step. No, no, not for us.

Fortunately we were already in the narrow alleys and cobblestone piazzas early on that Sunday morning. Along with all the aftersmells and rubbish of a busy Saturday night. We decided to stick with our first impressions of many years ago. We didn’t want to share the beauty of the original David with thousands of others Neither the Botticellis. So, we walked instead all around the buildings, watched people and their oddities, rode up to the cooler Piazzale Michelanglo on Silver and finally went to rest after an exhausting day. In our strange accommodation between olive trees about 8km outside the city.

By sunset we were back at the Piazzale to see the sun set over the Tiber, the bridges and the city. It was as if the sun didn’t want to set that evening. The twilight lingered for a long time in all its over ripe colours.

The best part was riding back in the dark. The old Via Europa was empty and kilometres long. Then I pulled back on the accellerator and pushed her to 80km per hour and we laughed. Laughed at the coolness, the clear bells that rang through the day, the freedom of the open road, and later about another coolness between the olive trees of the outskirts. Laughed because it felt like a movie. Two old people racing through the city at night on a scooter, laughing.

Early next morning we were on the road and wrestled through the morning traffic for two hours to reach the beauty of the Monte Cimone range, the highest mountains of the Apennines. Again we were in our element as the heights and vistas glided past us for the rest of the day.

We stayed in a tiny settlement near Parma in the home of two young Russian neuro-scientists who live in a 16th Century farmhouse. For the first time we had to share a rather expensive airbnb house with people and we don’t like that. The beautiful environs made up for the inconvenience. We stayed over for a day and visited nearby castles from the 10th Century.

Between Parma (with prostitutes in the forests) and Bergamo the green-blue maize stood 8ft tall as far as the eye could see – probably Monsanto genetic monsters? Water canons sprayed dense arches of water over the fields.

And then came the wonder of the mountain road, Strada Provincial 36, with its 18 numbered tornantes – sharp switch backs. One after the other. Every tornante is named for a champion cyclist. The road was rather busy with cyclists testing themselves against the inclines, or coming down the mountain against unimaginable speed and taking the bends on the outside. There are also snobbish motorcyclists from all over Europe who do a double take at Silver and Blue, me in my shorts and slops, but at least wearing stylish gloves.

And then we followed the heavenly paths of the Parco delle orobie Bergamasche. Looked down over ancient villages. Looked up at mountain tops. Listened when the bells rang. Rode through forests and old towns. Smelled wild flowers. Had a picnic under trees. Everything perfect. We booked into our next accommodation, in the mountain town, Serina. A warm family wlecomed us and we spoke the languages of the heart. The children helped carry our luggage to our garden flat. The neighbours all called out Buon Giorno! Lively grandma Teresina came to greet us. She is 88 and still climbs up the mountain to tend to her animals every day. For her work is life. Labore e Vita! she exclaims.

In the wonderful accommodation these words are inscribed against a wall: Il mondo è un Libro en chi non Viaggo legge solo una Pagina – The world is a book, and those who don’t travel, read only a page.

Late afternoon we sat under a wisteria pergola in front of the flat. On the parking area next door which doubles as a sports area, young men were playing an ancient ball game – tamborello. The girls were dressed up and paraded up and down. Old folks stood in little groups and chatted, walked on and chatted some more. Dads walked with their children. The church bells began ringing. First the usual countdown of the hours, then chimes to a tune which echoed back from the mountains. Also from my heart. That was when a revolution erupted inside of me. How could we return home where there isn’t freedom? We have been here for long enough to realise how anxious, skewed and schizophrenic the society is that we live in. Our existence is more and more inward-looking and we don’t hear the bells any more.

The next morning Teresina came to say goodbye. She had a bunch of blue flowers with her. She was going to place them on her parents’ and husband’s graves. As she has done every morning for many years.

Our route for the day to lake Como was closed. But, with the disappointment came luck. The detour was worth while – the well-known San Marco Pass took us to a height of 2000m. This route was part of the Gyro d‘Italia in 2007 – a road which already built in the 16th Century. We climbed and climbed till we were above the tree line. We balanced from one tornante to the next, shifting our weight and stretching out one leg around each sharp bend to keep upright. Later on the whole world lay at our feet. Blue mountains shifted in front of each other. Each another shade of blue. The freedom that comes with heights is indescribable.

The descent to Como was demanding. Pulling brakes for kilometre after kilometre until we felt our hands and arms just couldn’t do any more. Also, one bend after another made us light-headed. We switched off the engines and glided silently around the bends to below. Anuta just couldn’t stay awake any more. Our concentration began to wane, which is very dangerous with the turns and drops right next to you. We fell down under lime trees in a little forest and slept the sleep of tired travellers.

Our booked accommodation on lake Como was in the prettiest little village, Gravedona ed Uniti. We wove our way through narrow alleys on Silver and Blue until we found the address. The place wasn’t exactly cheap and a disappointment. It was in the attic of a building, but I won’t say any more. Will mention, though, that we nearly died of the heat, and because the building stood on the village square we were tormented by very loud techno music until midnight every night (weekend) – so loud that our innards had peristaltic spasms to the electronic beat.

We scootered up and down along the lake. Lake Como is really as beautiful as on the chocolate boxes. Yellow and amber villages and towns are stacked from the water’s edge up against the mountains. Each with a church tower. Manor houses stand in huge tropical gardens right down to the water. We realised again and again how privileged we are to be able to travel like this.

In the evenings we sat on the promenade and watched all the mostly neatly dressed local young people, the tastefully dressed Italian women and the sunburnt Dutch families coming to buy ice-cream. The balmy air is an equaliser. Everyone was in a jolly holiday mood.

On the Sunday we discovered a small quiet beach on lake Lugano and just relaxed there all day. Swam and lay under the trees. This isn’t really our style, but at least we could escape the heat.

On the last evening we sat down under trees on the water’s edge with delicious slices of mortadella, bread and a salad. The promised thunder storm came and passed over towards the mountains. The sun caught the clouds which began to glow. We stood and watched the light reflected back onto the water. And so we took leave of lake Como.

The following day was the day of the three lakes. We took in our last views of lake Como before we crossed the mountains to busy Lugano where we had coffee and croissants before turning away towards lake Maggiore. It was there that the next thunder storm caught up with us and we took shelter under a fig tree for half an hour.

Then we knew that we weren’t just travellers in Italy, we had become part of the thunder, lightning, rhythm, and heart of this country.

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Silver carried us to a parking spot very near the Ponte Vecchio

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We managed to fit in a little culture.

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The masses that crushed us…

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The view from the Piazzale Michelangelo

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David extinguishes the flame (moon)

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One medieval mountain village after another in the Monte Cimone mountains

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This chapel had the lovely name Cento Croce

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You get better views along the smaller, less travelled roads

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Medieval castles near Cavandola

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We stayed over in this 17th Century farm house

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12 of the 18 serpentinas on Google maps

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North of Bolzano it’s just one lovely mountain village after another

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Young men playing ancient game of tamborello in Serina

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The daily rituals include washing and reading up on the news and emails. Under the wisteria in Serina

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A typical dinner for us

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In the evenings after 9 everyone gathers outside to “kuier”

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Grandmother Teresina saying goodbye on her way to the cemetery

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Grandma Teresina’s house where we had the garden flat

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Between Serina and Como

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Early morning bliss

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Must we really travel through that gorge?

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GPS picture of our winding approach to San Giovanni Bianco

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San Giovanni Bianco’s old bridge

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The start of the San Marco Pass

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Tornante number 5 of many

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We wound higher and higher

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The balancing act at tornante number 8

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Speeding cyclists always a danger when both scooter and cycle have to take the bend as widely as possible

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Above the tree line the road continues to swing back and forth

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At full speed

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Our first view of the alps

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We made it to the crest at 2000m

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And then the difficult downhill started

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Sleeping like a baby

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Is this our front door to the right? On Lake Como

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Gravedona’s waterfront

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Gravedona’s restored 12th Century church

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The community gathers after 9 for an ice-cream and a chat

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Our attic was under the satellite dish, above the noisy music events

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The thunder storm

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…and afterwards…

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The after glow

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Lake Lugano

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A relief not to be driving through another closed tunnel. One was 3.3 km long.

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Good old fig tre which sheltered us from the heavy storm

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And what are the Scholtzs having for Sunday lunch? Bread, cheese, salami and tomatoes. No wine or beer on the job…

Toskane in uitgewasde somerkleure/Tuscany in washed out summer colours

Toskane in uitgewasde somerkleure/Tuscany in washed out summer colours

Hierdie somer is die kleure van Toskane uitgewas. Oor alles lê ‘n wasigheid. Asof in ‘n droom. In hierdie droom dwaal ons van heuweldorpie tot heuweldorpie. Hou stil en laat die magtigheid van die landskap oor ons spoel. Ry deur poorte. Loop op ou klipstrate. Sien spatsels kleur. Luister na kerkklokke. Sit in die koeltes van ou kerke. Loop soek-soek in begraafplase vir onbekende datums en name. Verkyk ons na die wolke. Olyfboorde en wingerde. Sipresbome in gelid.

Ou bekende plekke word opgesoek. Onthou dorpspleine, waterfonteine, monumente. Ons woon in ‘n ou kliphuis van die 17de eeu langs ‘n kasteel en ‘n kerk. As die klokke soggens begin lui word ons wakker. Vir die laaste gelui staan ons stil en luister. Memoriseer dit. Weet dat nog ‘n dag verby is. ‘n Somerse dag in uitgewaste kleure.

Op ‘n dag gaan soek ons na ‘n bergdorpie met ou mense waar ons eenkeer was. Ons neem verkeerde pad. Maar hou aan ry. Die pad word nouer. Later net ‘n gevaarlike gruisspoor. Dit daag ons uit om aan te hou. Hoër en hoër. Oorkant ons lê Amiato, die berg wat oor Toskane heers. Links lê Radicofani se toring. Tussenin is dit heuwel op heuwel somerskleure. Toe kom die 15% afdraend en Silwer begin gly. Anuta weier om verder agterop te ry en begin stap. Ons eindig by La Foce se herehuis, wat in die Tweede Wêreldoorlog skuiling aan Suid-Afrikaanse soldate gegee het. So eindige elke pad vir ons met ‘n storie.

Ons het eintlik na Toskane teruggekeer om ‘n reis op te tel wat ons nooit klaargemaak het nie. Un viaggo non incompiuto…

Tuscany in washed out summer colours

This summer the colours of Tuscany are diluted. A haziness hung over everything. As if in a dream. In this dream we wandered from mountain top village to mountain top village. Stopped and allowed the mightiness of the landscape wash over us. Drove through gates. Walked old stone streets. Saw splashes of colour. Listened to old church bells. Sat in the shade of old churches. Searched old cemeteries for unknown dates and names. Stood in wonderment at the clouds. Olive groves and vineyards. Flanks of Cyprus trees.

We visited old familiar places. Remembered town squares, fountains, monuments. We lived in an old stone house from the 17th Century next to a castle and a church. When the bells started ringing in the morning we woke. We stood still and listened to the last bell. Memorised it. Knew that another day was over. A summers day in washed out colours.

One day we were looking for a mountain village with old people where we were once. We took the wrong route. But we kept on riding. The road became narrower. Later just a dangerous gravel track. This only served to challenge us to keep going. Higher and higher. Across from us lay Amiato, the mountain that reigns over Tuscany. To the left lay Radicofani’s tower. In between just hill upon rolling hill in summer colours. Then came the 15% descent and Silver started slipping. Anuta refused to ride pillion any further and began to walk downhill. We ended up at La Foce’s manor house, which had offered shelter to South African soldiers during WWII. And so, every path we take ends in a story.

We returned to Tuscany to pick up on a journey we had never completed. Un viaggo non incompiuto..