Saturday Highs and Lows

Saturday started with a nice walk up Brown Hill with Alex, featuring views over the city and an excited dog.

And ended with watching the 36ers being demolished at home, where I also did not get close to catching a packet of noodles from cheerleaders led by a giant chicken.

Technically it ended with a Zooper Dooper and Luka highlights with Tim, but I didn't take a photo of that.

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The woman with the fake tan stepped into my office, sat across from my desk and lit a cigarette.
At least, she would, sometime in the next 20 minutes. Smelling the future has advantages, but precision isn’t one of them.

Where Am I?

The last week of September has been the kind of unrealistic spring weather you dream about in winter. Sunny, warm enough to wear shorts, but not so hot you can't go outside. Basically perfect, if you don't suffer from allergies. I've been riding my bike into town when I'm not working from home. Drinking coffees in the sun. I can't help being fascinated by flowers and the lifecycle of plants.

On the weekend we went to the Barossa to dog sit, and took Nash along for the ride. This presented more opportunities for enjoying the weather. We did the full Kaiserstuhl walk after having to cut it short last time due to injuries. I ate cereal, fruit and yogurt on a log in the morning light watching the birds before striding on up the hill and it felt like this was what my body was made for.

While in the area I also tried award winning bacon (it tasted like bacon smells like) and visited Greenock Brewery for a tasting paddle. I also walked around a lake and took in the golden canola fields.

The second brown snake spotting made us to decide on cutting the trip short, and we packed the second dog into the car for two more nights of dog sitting back in Adelaide.

I feel like I will finally sleep well tonight.

The Hidden Life of Trees

How can you understand the lifecycle of something that lives for hundreds of years? Do trees have brains? These questions and more are asked in The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, a book which I read in about three days this week.

I love trees. They're tall and stoic, so I relate to them. Like Peter, I too feel a sense of serenity and belonging when walking beneath an ancient forest canopy and that is not just because most ancient forest canopies I've walked under have been adjacent to a thriving craft beer industry. There was a day in Switzerland last month where we walked through a forest ever so briefly and it reminded me of the endorphins of hiking in the forests in the Pacific Northwest. Nearly every chapter in this book also gave me that feeling.

In Hidden Life, Wohlleben summarises the results of many studies into trees and tree "behaviour". Do trees have a sense of taste and smell? They can react in different ways to different predators. Can they remember, and count? They respond to stimulus in different ways after being conditioned, and seem to know what time of the year it is. Do they have friends and enemies among their forest neighbours?

The answers are fascinating, though simplified from what I am sure are rigorous scientific experiments. However at times I did worry that the author may love trees too much. A lot of his narrative seems to be personifying natural selection, biology and physics as thought, knowledge and memory. Surely trees don't have brains. What they have is really just chemical reactions and electrical impulses.

Which, I guess, is actually how my brain works as well...

Perhaps the real problem here is that I have personified myself too much.

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European Sensations

Shuffling through Italian border control like level 99 on Nokia Snake

Cowbells jangling in the cloud cover at dawn.

Strong coffee poured from a moka pot onto microwaved milk in a tiny kitchen in Naples.

The smell of alpine forest. Rounding a bend to see the peak of the mountain Pitalus, and the steep meadows bathed in sunshine.

The colours of Venice after the sun gets low.

The cold, sweet water dispensed by the water fountains suspended on the cliffs along the Path of the Gods.

Removing my hiking boots after ascending and descending the hundreds of steps from Amalfi to the Valle delle Ferriere.

The view of everything from the top of Arc de Triomph where a hazy, grey sky turns the muted, symmetrical avenues of Paris into an infinite sphere of amazing views.

The contrast between the bald, muscular Italian man overtaking us at 120km on the freeway and the tiny smart car in which he is seated.

Tucking the lower half of my shirt up into my backpack straps so that my exposed abdomen can leak off some heat into the humid atmosphere.

The shower in Amalfi with its warm, heavy water falling from directly above in a glass cubicle of perfect proportions.

Cheesy dance music thudding as the crowd dances beneath the eaves and shutters of 500 year old buildings, while lightning flashes overhead.

The surge of the Paris metro 4 line accelerating from one station to the next.

The heat of the sun in Rome being instantly extinguished by the massive shadow of the colosseum.

The taste of the puddle of butter in the centre of a French, buckwheat crepe.

Standing between the monumental size of THE CORONATION OF NAPOLEON on the equally immense Louvre palace.

Sitting still in the Luxembourg Gardens under a stormy sky.

Naked and wet in the middle of Qatar airport.

Before... After

Life's a High Altitude Beach

Switzerland is totally extra.

It's extra amazing, and every time something great happens there's an additional something that collaborates to makes it even better.

Like, cable cars take you up mountain, and then there's another cable car for even more mountain. This one with 360 degree views.

Medieval watch towers you can actually climb up, and then when you come back down there's pigs and Highland cattle.

Trains take you kilometres through mountains, and there's 5G coverage the whole way.

Lovely hotels with free apples and free binoculars for the views.

Mini golf courses in the alps with amazing views in the background, and with mini horses.

Mini Viennetta on a stick! For like 50c each. Just minutes from a huge sculpture monument of a dying lion where there's a park so you can eat them in the shade.

Lakes, in between mountains, with beaches you can swim in and drink a beer at.

Beautiful sunsets that last for over an hour.


The cost of living in Switzerland is ridiculous. It's .75 Francs for a cold half litre of beer at Aldi, and another Franc if you want a fresh pretzel to go with it.

After an evening of admiring Pilatus from a distance, this morning we ascended the mountain via a series of cable cars to stunning views of Switzerland from such a high place that it actually made the rest of it look flat.

Even the short walk we did halfway up the mountain past a few fields of wildflowers, and through forest, to a view of a tiny cow shed beneath an immense rock face was one of the best hikes of my life despite it only being a kilometre each way.

After Pilatus we took a cogwheel train down to Alpnachstad and then a boat over Lake Lucerne, each mode of transport an incredible experience on its own. The only challenge was the trek back up the hill to the hotel under alternating torrential rain and blinding sunshine. The steam curled like snakes on the steep stairs. More forest, and the aforementioned beer, helped get through the experience. Then there was nothing left to do but enjoy the hours of sunset as it coloured the mountains, hills and lakes. The cost of living in Switzerland, it seems, is that you'll never want to leave. And also the impact on your knees.

Unfashionable in Milan

I do have doubts about some Italian customs. For example, eating a late dinner and restaurants not even opening until 7pm, and yet there being a long line of hungry diners waiting outside at 6:59.

It was very warm in Milan today. An unpleasant, humid 30° that was only slightly better endured by noting that the max temperature back in Adelaide was 14°.

We didn't schedule much for our full day here, having already had our fill of giant cathedrals, sculptures and baby Jesus over the last two weeks. Lake Como was an appealing location just a 30 minute train ride away, so the plan was to head there early, hike, do a lap of the bottom half of the lake on a boat, then go back to Milan for dinner.

Unfortunately our only day for Como was a Saturday, and one big lesson for European holidays in June is to keep Saturdays pretty cruisy because they are by far the most hectic days based on my experience in Rome, Amalfi and Como. Let's see how Paris goes... Como was quiet when we arrived at 7A.M., but after the hike the beautiful lake side was packed with people and every fast and slow ferry for the day was sold out.

I at least found a wee castle in the forest.

We took the train back to Milan early and had a nap. This was likely the best possible use of time as the heat was grande by that point. Later in the evening we did walk through downtown Milan to the massive cathedral, as well as Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which was a mall but it also had cathedral vibes.

One last giant cathedral for the road.

Clothes are very fashionable in Milan shops and very expensive. Yet another Italian custom I'm not convinced everyone is onboard for. Due to all the forest walks and the cobbled streets I've been wearing hiking boots and hiking socks nearly every day, and my shorts haven't seen a washing machine in this hemisphere of the Earth.

After a burger for dinner (at 7:30) I went to the rooftop terrace of the hotel to drink a Milano-Torino and watch the sun set in Italy for a final time. No one on the terrace with me was eating.

Amalfi to Florence

We said goodbye to Amalfi with just a short 300 metre climb to Pogerola this morning for a final breakfast in the clouds. And more steps down...

When I was planning the Europe itinerary I didn't see the day travelling from Amalfi to Florence as being a highlight. But after the first eight days of this holiday and how packed they've been, I found myself looking forward to some downtime in the form of a ferry ride to Salerno followed by a four hour train ride in business class.

I booked the business class tickets back in March because due to a promo they were actually cheaper than regular tickets. About 30 euros to go about 500km, including seat selection and a free snack box.

Unfortunately I learned before the snack box could even arrive that Italian business class seats - like Italian beds and Italian ferry toilet cubicles - are too small for me to be very comfortable. The scenery was nice though. And we arrived in Florence successfully and crossed the Arno for the first of many times. And bought yogurt for our next breakfast for not the first of many times.

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