Schwartzsee

A short train ride or couple of miles walk outside Kitzbühel is the Schwartzsee (“black lake”). It’s full of minerals washed down from the mountains that give it the glassy black effect. Normally in the summer you can swim there, but there had been heavy rain for the past few days, and so the water was too cold and I settled for a walk around the shore instead.

The lake was also surrounded by alpine meadows. I learnt the German word for meadowsweet that day (the yellow flower in the foreground)- turns out to be the straightforward Mädesüss. The Mäde part is to do with it being used to flavour mead. (Or Honigwein as they also like to straightforwardly call it in German). Since I spend a lot of time in rural Austria and Germany, I’ve been trying to build up my vocab of wild plant names in German.

Under attack!

Even train stations in the Tyrol are picturesque.

Knock Three Times

Two children climb a fence to get away from an evil grey pumpkin

(Illustration by Margaret Tarrant– from the original 1917 publication, and included in the ebooks)

Knock Three Times is not a well-known book, which is a pity. As you can see from the illustration, it involves children being menaced by an evil grey pumpkin. Molly and Jack write to their aunt asking for birthday presents- Jack would like some art supplies, and Molly some jewellery. The parcel they receive does include a box of paints, but Molly receives an ugly grey pincushion shaped like a pumpkin because it’s more “sensible” than a bracelet. Annoyed, she sticks some pins in it, and puts it on a shelf. In the night the pumpkin grows huge and rolls away into the woods. The children follow, and end up going through a secret door into another world.

There they discover that the pumpkin is public enemy number one, known for the sadistic curses he puts on anyone he touches, and for basically heading up his own cult. The children sign up to help hunt for the magic leaf which will disable him. It’s basically a strange cross between the Wizard of Oz and North by Northwest. Two children making their way across a remote landscape of heaths, forests and lakes, trying to work out who they can trust of the people they meet in isolated cottages, and always looking over their shoulder for the slow rumble of a pumpkin behind them. It’s a children’s book, but a very eerie one (although a quick read). The back of my copy says “This eerie tale of high adventure has an enduring appeal to all who love to have their blood deliciously curdledRead more

Torbole

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After Malcesine, Limone sul Garda and Riva del Garda, I present to you Torbole. I went to Torbole just because the boat from Riva del Garda to Malcesine stopped there along the way, and I’d never been there before. It was a weird little place. Like Riva, it used to be in Austria until 1918. Everyone except the staff of the restaurants seemed to be German, and really into intensely staring at you in the street. The light and the way the water looked along the harbour front was beautiful though, and I spent most of the hour before the boat back sitting on a bench soaking it in. I don’t think this is a real place, I think it’s a screen from one of those new-age computer games from the 90s like Myst.

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Riva del Garda

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So far I’ve shown you Malcesine and Limone sul Garda. I also took the boat to Riva del Garda at the northern end of the lake (which is also in a different province- Trentino). It was raining all day, so I figured I might as well go to the colder, rainy end of the lake and visit the museum, and save the outdoorsy stuff on the southern end like archaeological sites for a sunny day.

From 1815-1918 Riva was actually in Austria, and although it’s typically Italian in many ways, there’s a definite alpine influence there (and a lot of German and Austrian tourists). I had been there once before, in about 2000. A little while ago I dug up some photos I’d taken on a disposable camera then, and posted them here.

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Limone sul Garda

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In my last post about Lake Garda, I showed Malcesine, where I was staying. Now I’m heading over to Limone sul Garda on the other side of the lake. I didn’t spend much money while I was in Italy, but a hefty chunk of the (tiny) budget went on ferry tickets. Boats constantly criss-cross the lake to all the towns, and it’s the most scenic way to see the area. If you’re in a hurry, you can take the bus on land, but I was on holiday, so by definition, not in a hurry.

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Malcesine, Lago di Garda

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At the end of May I went on a last-minute trip to Italy by myself. I had given up my tenancy in London, because I was fed up of paying a small fortune to a landlord who was unwilling to fix the serious leak in the ceiling that was probably going to bring the plaster down sometime soon, and a relative asked me to house-sit. The house-sitting date then changed, but it turned out to be cheaper for me to visit friends in Yorkshire, and then go on holiday for a week than it was to extend my tenancy, which shows how ridiculous the prices are in London now. As it was a last minute thing, I had to go on my own. I don’t mind travelling solo though, I used to do it regularly for work, and travelling alone is better than going on holiday with someone who doesn’t want to do any of the same things as you. (In my case, wandering aimlessly for hours and hours, taking hundreds of photographs and eating a lot).

I considered going to Crete, because I wanted to see all the Minoan archaeological sites, but it was hard to work out where stay, and which places were Magaluf style budget party towns (not really where I wanted to go). I asked my Greek friend Ellina, but it turns out she’d never been to Crete either.

So in the end I booked a deal to Malcesine on Lake Garda. Malcesine was the first place I visited in Italy when I was 12 or 13. Throughout my teenage years I visited Italy 2-3 times a year after the budget airlines started doing £20 tickets to Pisa and Brescia, and after I graduated I did some teaching work in Northern Italy, and I’ve seen most of the country now bar the furthest three southern regions (Apulia, Basilicata and Calabria) Sardinia and Sicily. Although I had been to some other towns on the lake since (I’ve got some disposable camera photos I took around the turn of the century that I dug up here), I hadn’t been to Malcesine since that first holiday, so I was really interested to see whether it had changed and how much. While I was there I started writing a zine about the trip, and also about Italy in the 90s/early 2000s and now. I haven’t finished it yet though. I wrote in more detail there, so my blog entries will concentrate more on images.

While I was on Lake Garda, my biggest expense was ferry tickets. I took the ferry each day to a different place around the lake. As the scenery is stunning, I took a lot of photos. I’ve whittled them down to around 10 shots or so per place, but I’ll post them gradually, so you don’t get overkill of views of water and the Alps.

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