My 2022 calendar is now ready – you can order calendars and prints of the artwork here.
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.
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.
Recently I was looking up something on a map, and my eyes were drawn to the Kerguelen Islands at the bottom. They seemed quite substantial, yet I’d never heard of them. It turns out they belong to France, are uninhabited except for a few scientists, and are full of penguins and cabbages. Sailors used to stop off there to have a grim cabbage feast to fend off scurvy. Here is a lonely penguin in the cabbage fields. I will never have another reason to draw that. The picture is available as a print and various other items on Society 6.
On the way from Niederösterreich to Vorarlberg I stopped off alone in Salzburg along the way. I had to change trains in Vienna, and after a week of hearty, dairy-laden alpine food I was very, very thankful to eat some dhal and chapattis at the station. I really, really liked Salzburg and would gladly return there. I don’t know what it is about the city, but it just had a really nice atmosphere. I arrived at about 5pm, found the hotel really easily, and dumped my stuff and went for a wander. It’s an old university town, with a castle perched on an outcrop of the mountain looking down. There is a stereotype in Austria that people in Salzburg are snobby, but I found them friendly enough.
While in Kirchberg-am-Wechsel we were given a tour of a disused church perched up on the mountainside. It has suffered a lot of misfortune over the years (if you can read German there is a wikipedia article here), it burnt down and was rebuilt twice, and is furnished with all kinds of leftovers from other churches, which makes it more interesting.
While in Kirchberg am Wechsel I also got to go on a tour of Hermannshöhle with another teacher. It’s a series of caves inside one of the mountains, with lots of stalactites and a bat colony. Usually the tours are at set times and only in German, but we got a private tour in English, which was really nice.
Last Summer I spent a week working at the junior school in Kirchberg am Wechsel, a tiny mountain town on the eastern end of the Alps on the border between Lower Austria and Styria. It is essentially one long street between some mountains, with “Lower Austria’s finest stalactite cave” (more on that later) and a yearly Wittgenstein festival. As mountains go, by Austrian standards they are pretty tame, mostly being below the tree-line. When I said something to the kids about the mountains they basically went “what mountains?” and when I pointed out of the window they went “oh yeah, those, there are much better mountains in other places”. Still, I like any kind of mountains, and the Wechsel is still 1,743m high, so it’s hardly a hill. Mountains/hills and water, that’s what I like. I wouldn’t do well somewhere like Kansas.
I spent a lot of last summer travelling up and down the Alps by train. Here are a couple of pictures I took out of the window. Taking photos from the window of a moving train can be very frustrating, you see a spectacular view, but by the time you have taken a photo something like a fence is in the way. I like long-distance solo train trips, especially ones with spectacular scenery and no stress or time pressure when it comes to connections.Both of these pictures are somewhere near the Austrian/German border. Interestingly German for nightmare is Alptraum – “Alp dream”. That alp is a night time incubus type thing, not the mountains, but it gives a strange mental image if you’re an English speaker. An Alp dream would probably involve frolicking with goats in a sunny mountain pasture. I clearly read Heidi too often when I was younger.