To Florence

Having visited the U.K. and got a tick in the box from doctors, dentists, banks,phone companies and of course friends and relatives, We set off southwards crossing the channel from Dover to Calais.  As we have visited France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany I will skip these apart from one photo taken on the way.

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He was such a brilliant looking bird he needed including but now we will skip to the Swiss border.

Having paid our 25 Euro near Basel to be allowed to drive on the Swiss roads we headed south and up.

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The Swiss are famous for many things but I didn’t know it was classic American Gas Guzzlers.  But this Plymouth and many more besides prove the drivers from the “Confoederatio Helvetica”  (That’s what CH on their number plates stands for!) appreciate the Chrysler Road Runner (Beep, Beep) and it’s ilk.

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We parked in several wooded and mountainous areas on the way.  (We had neglected to get any Swiss Franks out of the bank and had no choice!)

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Spotted these growing in a little patch of sunlight.

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With a considerable reputation for neatness to maintain, even a woodpile in the middle of a forest has to be just so.

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Now don’t get me going on cow bells.  The hauntingly beautiful tinkling of the alpine meadows.  Mmmmm…..Well if you want to fit Daisy up with the latest fashion in Bovine Campanology Here is your man.  Runs a market stall in Brunigpass with just about the biggest range of cow bells I have ever seen.

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Not an inch of Gortex on the man.

I just had to head for the Reichenbach Falls where Professor Moriarty the “Napoleon of Crime” met his well deserved end at the hands of Sherlock Holmes.  Made it to Meiningen Railway Station  before remembering about the franks…

Had to pose with the man though.  Below the statue is a plaque with clues to all of Conan Doyle’s major mysteries.

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I took a more sedate pose in keeping with the seriousness of the detective.  Not like Sheila who went all out for it!

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Sun on part of the Radlefshorn mountain.

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Glaciers on the Sustenhorn 3,500m high in the Alps.  We did get some spectacular views and fine weather for photographs.

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I have shown these before but it is always good to see a Nutracker.

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We had some considerable driving to do in Switzerland.  We went over the Susten Pass at over 2200 metres where the air is thin and COLD.  The van behaved perfectly though and all we had was a little smoke from the brake disks and pads and a little drop in our fuel economy.

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Sheila collecting the ingredients for a G&T.

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Loads of high performance bikes on the roads here.  Some unaccountably stuck to mountains.

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The man who lives just below these is a bit paranoid about  avalanches.

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We had a competition in the van to see who could spot the most cuckoo clockie house.

We left Switzerland via the Gotthard road tunnel.  10 miles of shortcut and not a single photo opportunity.

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We landed on the edge of Lake Garda.  The weather was so beautiful we stopped for another day, then another, another… Well a week then 10 days but we were not in a hurry.  We met a couple who introduced us to a convention they had invented.  They had a weekly bottle of Prosecco sparkling wine on what they named “Fizz Friday”.  I was so impressed I went straight out and invented “Sparkling Saturday”, Champagne Sunday” Moet Monday”, “Tattinger Tuesday”  then I fell over.

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Church tower of Moniga Del Gardo.

We stayed on a campsite just 10 metres from the water’s edge.  We cycled along the lake shore in both directions and found some superb scenery and wildlife.

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Hover fly caught in the act.

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Young Red Crested Pochard giving it some.

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Stick or carrot?

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Just  a tiny town but it had the most ornate church; Parrochia Santa Maria Assunta a Manerba Del Gardo. The detail in the sculpture and painting has to be photographed and enlarged before anyone down below can see just what the artist had achieved.

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Inside and out.

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Sunrise over lake Garda.

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We eventually had to leave Lake Garda and headed to Mantua and its Ducal Palace. 

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Part of the complex is an ancient house that was chosen by Verdi to be the home of the fool Rigoletto in his opera.   Well it had to be two old fools together didn’t it?

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I set my camera for a 10 second delay, lay it on it’s back in the aisle, step away counting down,  return after Zero and pick it up with a perfect picture of the ceiling and a curious look from the priest.

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But.  Just look at those paintings.  The detail around the frieze inside the dome has not been seen for hundreds of years. (Except of course by the cleaner riding on her broomstick no doubt.)

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Ancient clock with indecipherable hands and face.

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More unbelievable detail miles above your head.

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And plenty below your feet.  Its a good idea to take a snap of something with your location printed on it just in case you forget and need to write a blog.

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Crossing the mighty Po river.  I bet there is some good fishing there.

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Then to the Piazza Maggiorein Bologne and next door to the Piazza Del Netuno for a statue of Neptune stilling the waters.

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Another crazy look from the priest.

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How do you know which one is yours?  A solution to the overcrowded roads perhaps.

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The Torre degli Asinelli at nearly 100m tall is one of Bologna’s greatest landmarks.

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But nothing beats the Giotto’s bell tower of the “Dom”,  and the cathedral itself of Florence for its ornateness, decorated with patterns of white green and red marble.

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The cathedral and bell tower are so huge and hemmed in by other buildings that it is impossible to photograph from the ground unless you have a lens that costs more than a helicopter.  The best you can do even with “Photoshop Picture Merge ™”  is make up a sort of jigsaw of bits of photo. 

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Started works in the year 1296 and pronounced structurally complete in 1436 taking just 16 years to complete the dome and another 33 years to get the golden ball on top perhaps with the help of young Lennie; a promising young apprentice from Vinci.

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And here is Lennie.

The Arno river was bridged by the Romans but successive floods required the rebuilding of the bridge several times.  This bridge; the Ponte Vecchio, was completed in 1345.  It was threatened with destruction during WW2 as the Germans left Florence but as local rumour would have it, pleading by local Politicians made Hitler relent and so they just blew the ends off which have since been rebuilt.  

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Ponte Vecchio from downstream.

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This natty little runaround; the Pasquali three wheeled electric car was designed and made here in Florence.

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Another impossible to photograph building; the Pallazzo Vecchio pops a tower right up among more modern buildings, trolleybus wires, street lights and construction cranes.

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This alone is worth visiting Florence for.  Michelangelo’s David.  The original is now housed in a museum for safety but for many years it stood outside in the cold by the Palazzo Vechio where in 1910 a replica was placed.   The queues wind round Florence 3 times to get in to see the original but the replica is there for all to see.   Just to give you an idea, both the statue and the replica are over 5 metres tall and weigh 6 tons.  It depicts the biblical David with his sling, about to commence the battle with Goliath.

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Here beside David is Perseus with Medusa’s head of snakes.

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Some of the works of art are being renovated.  Here is: “Man with Hammer and chisel”.   Remember “All you have to do is chip away all the bits that don’t look like David”  (A popular joke attributing the quote to Michelangelo himself.)

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Here we leave Florence with the best bit for me; Michelangelo’s David with his pensive look out over the valley of Elah. 

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