churches, Italy, restaurant reviews, road trips

Food and wine in Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein… part five

Meandering around Modena…

I mentioned in the previous post that Bill had decided against visiting Bologna on this trip, mainly because parking can be tricky there. Bologna has an area where it’s strictly prohibited for non-residents to park their vehicles. The areas supposedly aren’t well marked, and fines are steep. So, since Modena also looked like an interesting place, he decided we’d go there.

Modena, which, like Parma, is also located in Emilia-Romagna, is on the south side of the Po Valley. It was about a 40 minute drive from our castle accommodations, which took us through some areas that reminded me a little of Mississippi. Probably the most traumatizing thing about our drive to Modena was when we passed a roundabout where there were cop cars. There were dozens of shattered wine bottles on the road, because a guy in a truck went too fast around the corner and lost about half his load. The police were sweeping up the glass and directing traffic as we passed. I wasn’t prepared to take a picture, which is just as well. It was a very sad sight indeed.

Modena has a huge parking garage outside of the walls of the city. From the parking garage, it’s easy to access the town with a short walk. Modena is known for its balsamic vinegar and expensive sports cars. Ferrari, De Tomaso, Lamborghini, Pagani and Maserati are either based there now, or were in the past. Lamborghini has since moved from Modena to Bologna.

Again, because of COVID restrictions, we didn’t have any big plans to see anything specific. Our goal was to get a feel for the city, have lunch, and people watch. One thing that I noticed and liked about both Parma and Modena, but especially Modena, is that the town did not seem touristy, at least during our very brief visit. I didn’t hear any Americans at all during my visit to Modena.

Maybe it seems wrong to write this, since I am myself an American, but it really is nice to be in a very authentic Italian town where there aren’t shitloads of my countrymen milling around, talking too loudly, and being obnoxious and obvious. On the other hand, I remember being that way when I was a lot younger and less aware of myself. But anyway, if you like places that aren’t catering to tourists, Modena is a good bet. And there’s plenty to look at and smell while you’re there. Modena was the one place on our entire visit where I routinely caught the aromas of things that smelled heavenly. I think it was mostly pizza, though…

In the photos, you might notice several young people wearing garlands on their heads. I’m not sure what that was about, but I got the sense it had to do with graduation. Modena has a university that was founded in 1175.

Here are some photos from our visit…

Right after I took a picture of the anti-dog poop street painting, we discovered our lunch spot, La Brusca Caffe, which happened to be near the pizzeria take out place that was giving off such heavenly aromas. This little hole in the wall was nothing fancy, but offered good food at inexpensive prices. We took our time and sat outside, enjoying the atmosphere of “the real Italy”. By that, I mean this is a place where you can get an authentic feel for Italy.

As for the food… it was okay. I would say it was nothing to write home about. Looks like some people on Trip Advisor agree. But it satisfied us and didn’t cost much at all. And they had decent wine. If we ever go to Modena again, we will make a different restaurant choice.

We walked around a little bit more, then made our way back to Torrechiara. We stopped briefly at a rest area outisde of Modena, as we both had to process lunch. I note that when we stopped, mask rules were still in place. And, as is the custom in Italy, in order to leave the building, we had to walk through the food and gift store. On the way back out of Italy, a few days later, we stopped at the same rest stop. At that point, masks were over.

The next day was Wednesday, the 26th of April. It was time to move on to Florence. More on that in the next post.

Standard
The Netherlands

We went Dutch for MLK weekend 2019! Part two.

 

Off to the Netherlands!

I had let our hostess, Nel, know that we would be arriving sometime between four o’clock and five, since we needed to check our APO box on post.  Bill is going to be out of town for the rest of the week and I can’t be arsed to go to Clay Kaserne to check the mail.  I don’t even have the combination to our mailbox.  That turned out to be a good plan anyway, since we had a few chores to do before we could head for the Autobahn.  From Wiesbaden, Viljen is about a three hour drive, but most of it is on high speed highways.  And unlike Stuttgart, it appears the the Autobahn up here is pretty well appointed.  There are probably more people here than down there, but traffic isn’t as bad.

We had a mostly uneventful, yet beautiful, drive to the Netherlands.  Here are a few pictures I took on the way.

As we got closer to Aachen, I noticed these signs on the side of the Autobahn.  They were names of trees and years.  My German friend explained that they are “trees of the year“.  The count started in 1989 and every year, a new tree and year is erected.  On the Autobahn, you can see the signs from 1989 to 2014, although I saw no evidence of actual trees planted there.  However, they are planted at the Berlin Zoo.  Since 2010, a German “tree queen” is also elected to represent the project.


Another tree…

 

I also noticed this interesting truck, which had artistic depictions of the Crusades painted on it…  

The art was pretty cool looking, although I wouldn’t be surprised if some people were distracted enough to have a wreck at the sight of it.

We stopped here for a little late lunch.  This rest stop has a Nordsee, which had pretty good food.  Since we had the dogs with us, we ate in the car.

I always enjoy the reading material on the stall doors in German rest stops.  They’ll let you charge your phone, but you still have to pay 70 cents to pee.

Thanks for being there, Serways.

We arrived in the Netherlands at about 3:40pm and arrived at our apartment less than 20 minutes later.  Our hostess was waiting for us.

I like how some places have a canopy of trees formed by lines of them on either side of the road.

 

Pretty country on the way in, with rolling hills…  this is the most “mountainous” part of flat Netherlands.

One of the reasons I like border towns is that you can see how countries change.  You cross the border and the signs change, the language changes, and the laws change.  In the Netherlands, I noticed a difference in architecture, with many brick buildings and painted shutters.  And yet we were really just minutes away from Germany.

I remember enjoying our first trip to the Netherlands in 2015 and wanting to go back there, but it was so much easier to go to France from Stuttgart.  Now that we’re in Wiesbaden, I predict a lot more trips to Benelux, where the beer and the chocolate is better.

Below are some photos of our accommodations, which were very reasonably priced.  I paid just 336 euros for three nights in this two room apartment in rolling farmland.  We also paid 9 euros taxes in cash on the way out today.

The living room area… note the very steep stairs.  Our dogs had a little trouble with them at first, but then got used to them.  The bathroom is on the first floor, which makes our middle of the night pees a little less fun.  We left a light on in the living room for safety, although there is a hall light, too.

A washing machine, but no dryer.

The master bedroom has what I presume was a queen sized bed.  This room also has a TV.

These are two twins pushed together, I think.  There is no TV in this room.

Steep!

It’s a little like climbing a ladder.

The dining area is adjacent to the living room and kitchen.  It does not have a traditional oven, but there is a microwave that has a convection setting.  There’s also a dishwasher.

Another view of the bedroom.  It was a bit chilly during our visit, but the bed linens were warm enough.

 

There is a TV in the living room and a broken DVD player.  The are also a few board games like Rummikub and Yahtzee.

This was a hit at our family reunions when I was growing up.  Nice to know the Dutch like it too.

 

But probably my favorite part about the accommodations was the big fenced in paddock.  Our dogs were welcome to run around in the paddock to their hearts’ content.  They were also allowed to play with Nel’s dog, Yogi, an adorable Shiba Inu.  These Japanese dogs look just like foxes and are bred to hunt birds.  Yogi is just eight months old at this writing and she had a good time getting my 9 and 10 year old dogs to play with her.

Nel also has chickens, which were kept very safe from the dogs and foxes, and she offers boarding for two horses who made Zane and Arran bark.  In warmer weather, we could have walked a route around town, stopping at different restaurants and bars for refreshment every few kilometers.

We decided to stay in on Friday night after Bill made a quick run to the grocery store.  After a good first night’s sleep, we did some exploring on Saturday.  More on that in the next post.

Standard
Uncategorized

Poland… artist heaven!

Back in 2008, when we were still living in Germany, Bill and I decided to take a trip to honor our sixth wedding anniversary.  We had been wanting to go to Dresden, thanks to a Powerpoint presentation one of my husband’s friends sent him.  We also wanted to go to Prague.  I had found an interesting looking hotel called The Blue Beetroot while researching places to visit.

The Blue Beetroot was run by a British couple of Polish descent.  They had purchased a dilapidated barn for about $4,000 and fixed it up.  It’s now a thriving boutique hotel.  In 2008, it was still getting started and it sounded like a really neat hotel, albeit in a place called Bolaslaweic.  I didn’t know that Bolaslaweic was the pottery district in Poland, even though I owned a couple of Polish pottery pieces.

The price was right to stay at The Blue Beetroot, so I booked a couple of nights in Dresden, five nights in Poland, and a couple of nights in Prague.  What I didn’t know was that besides great pottery, Bolaslaweic was home to some great artists, notably Dariusz Milinski, a fascinating painter, and the Borowski glass factory, which is notable for its glass sculptures.  I’ve linked to the Borowski studio in Germany, but Bolaslaweic is where the factory is located and you can get your hands on some beautiful pieces at a fraction of the cost.  Below is a chameleon that I bought at the factory for about $650.  In America, it sells for over $1500.  I have two other sculptures as well– a hippo and a “gonzo” (bird).

Bill and I came home from Poland loaded down with art, including three glass sculptures and two sketches by Milinksi.  I wish we could have bought one of Milinski’s paintings, but we visited the glass factory first and spent a lot of money there.  Please click this link and look at the paintings if you’re interested in art.  His work is amazing.

We had an interesting experience in Milinski’s gallery.  His parking lot was empty and he had a big dog tied out front who seemed kind of mean.  We went inside and there was art everywhere… paintings, drawings, sketches, and sculptures.  Nothing had a pricetag.  Milinski himself wore pants made of the American flag and a ripped up t-shirt.  He looked a little like Charles Manson and spoke no English.  My husband’s rudimentary German sufficed for communication purposes.

He made us coffee, turned on some music, and watched us as we looked at his work.  I saw several paintings I wanted.  Unfortunately, he only wanted cash and we were low on cash because we had just spent a lot of money at the glass studio.  It would have required going to an ATM and there wasn’t one close to the gallery.  I saw one painting that he wanted about $600 for.  It would have been a steal, really.  We ended up leaving with a couple of drawings.  We were disappointed and I think he was, too.  If we ever get back to Bolaslaweic, we will go back and buy a couple of his paintings… if we can still afford them!

Milinski’s puppet theater
Sketches by Milinski.  All of the people depicted in his work were inspired by people he knows from his village.  Must be quite a place!

Back in November, we went to Scotland and while we were visiting Edinburgh, we stopped in an art store.  I was quickly attracted to one specific artist’s work.  It was by Matylda Konecka, yet another Polish artist.  I regret not buying a large print or two.  Instead, we purchased a small framed print that fit in our luggage.  If we ever get back to Edinburgh, I’m going back to that art store for more.  Click here for Matylda Konecka’s Web site.

When we were in Florence, we ran across a street musician playing guitar so beautifully it made me weep.  It turned out he was from Poland…  Piotr Tomaszewski is an award winning Polish guitarist who makes his living selling CDs on the streets of European cities (though according to YouTube, he seems to favor Florence).  We bought two of his CDs for 20 euros and that music was easily my favorite souvenir from Italy.

Two videos I made of our trip to Italy in 2013.  I used Piotr Tomaszewski’s music as background.
And a few years ago, Polish-American dancers Anna and Patryk were featured on America’s Got Talent and actually brought tears to my eyes.

After pondering all of this, I’m thinking we’ll have to get back to Poland and the Czech Republic at some point.  Eastern Europe is fascinating… with so much undiscovered art and music to be had at such affordable prices.  I didn’t find Poland to be the most beautiful country I had ever seen, but there is still much beauty there.  I want to explore more of it.  Poland is full of hidden beauty…  You might not necessarily see it in the scenery, though I did manage to find a couple of beautiful scenes; but you can find it in the art, music, and dances of the people.  It’s well worth a first visit and a repeat visit!

Polish landscape near Karpacz, a ski resort area…
Standard