Sunflowers at Flat Rock

11 Oct


Today after doing my run-walk around Cornell Plantations, I read a couple chapters of my mystery and made my way down to Flat Rock, which is part of Fall Creek and runs alongside the gardens. On the way across the road, I picked up a Wooly Bear caterpillar that will freeze during the winter and later become a Tiger Moth.

I have been trying to figure out how to take pictures of the blue heron chicks that I have seen their parents superintending every day but today when I walked by. I took a picture of these sunflowers instead.

More of Bern, More of Aare River, University of Bern

28 Sep

Coleman looking casual. He’s my nephew-in-law, having married Anna over a year ago. He’s pretty much unflappable. All the way through the trip he helped my mother into our rented van. Sometimes he actually lifted her in.


Hannah and Joe are two of Gwynne’s colleagues at the University of Bern. Hannah is from Norfolk, England and Joe is from Australia. Joe visited with Barth and Rhonda for Christmas in Ithaca, New York last year, where he was able to enjoy wearing the same pajamas everyone else wore.   Gwynne is getting her doctorate in Linguistics.


Gwynne Mapes’s Office–We all wanted to see where my oldest niece worked.


This is a picture taken last winter of Gwynne in her office.


My nieces Rebecca and Meghan are looking at the view outside Gwynne’s Office.


Library at University of Bern


Evangelical Reform Church with Tower, View from Gwynne’s Window


Closer View of Clock Tower

Soldier on Tram


Mom and Me in Bern

Drain in Bern.jpg

When we went shopping in Old Town, I stood on this center drain in the middle of the street.  I had never seen a drain in the center.  I could hear rushing  water beneath my feet and wondered if the Aare was underneath the city as well as around it.



Gwynne and Rhonda, my sister-in-law, walking in Old Town


Upper View of Buildings in Old Town


Rebecca in Munster Cathedral


Coleman and Rhonda in Munster Cathedral


Munster Cathedral in Bern


Munster Cathedral in Bern 2


You can’t have a capital city called Bern without Bern (bears). I haven’t decided exactly how I feel about bears being in a zoo, but these bears–there were about five–have a good set-up. I noticed that the caretaker placed food around the small park they live in to get them to move around for the tourists. I’d be curious to know if they live longer in zoos or in the wild. Because of bear hunts, it isn’t an easy question to answer.


More bears!


This is a picture of me with Bern in the background. After we saw the bears, we took a short hike  to the top of a nearby hill.


Picture taken in same spot.


Same spot. You can see the Aare River.


Probably best picture at this site.


This is the spot outside Bern where everyone relaxes after going swimming. There are two swimming pools and a diving pool. Evidently, the Swiss have fewer hang ups about nudity because men and women are together in the changing rooms and no one pays any attention.
If you look at the lower right of the picture, you will see my party near the greenish-yellow umbrella. Mom is reading. The others are in swim suits
The two large pools are well laid out, which is in keeping with the emphasis on order I observed in the rest of the country.


Same area, pointing the camera a different direction. You can see the Capitol Building (Bundeshaus or Federal Palace)  in the background.


Swimmer in Aare River.  Note the railings on the right-hand side of the frame.


Another Swimmer in Aare River.

A weekend activity that residents of Bern are drawn to is swimming in the Aare. The idea is to jump in and navigate to the middle where there are fewer rocks. The water speed is very fast (at least faster than any rivers I’ve been in ) and the water temperature averages around 62 degrees. That is very cold. To give you a frame of reference, Cayuga Lake, next to Ithaca, New York where I live, is 72 degrees right now, and while you can still engage in water activities,  most people would choose not to.  Many swimmers hug onto beach balls or sit on rubber rafts. Six or seven sets of stairs are located on the left-hand side of the river. When you get tired, you are supposed to grab the railings and pull yourself up the stairs on the bank.

When I jumped in, I immediately realized that it is was too cold for me. After about twenty feet I swam to the side and scrambled up the bank, asking for help. A woman came and gave me a hand.   Sometimes I think it’s good to know your limits. I love swimming, but I did not love the temp. I had huge scrapes on my left leg the rest of the trip.



Bern, Focus on Gurten

22 Sep


Gurten is located just below the lower left-hand corner of the map. It is directly south of Bern. My niece,  Gwynne, has marked off a number of places, including the restaurant where we had dinner with Hans and Ulla.
>Michelin map



The Aare River is probably the most striking of all Bern’s fantastic features due to its unreal shade of green and awesome speed.  The average temperature of the water is 62 degrees. The houses with their terra cotta roofs are not unlike those we observed in northern Italy.  I would call Bern picturesque if it were not for the river, which struck me as unearthly and powerful.

Anna at Bern Restaurant.jpg

I love this picture of Anna.  She looks so pretty and it is a typical pose of hers. 

Hans and Ulla Olsen came from Denmark via Zurich to see us and they were in the restaurant, Lötschberg, that night.  It was probably the most expensive restaurant we went to, which brings up one problem in Switzerland, the high cost of dining out. Actually the time I ordered a second carafe of wine might have been the most expensive meal.  :>)

Hans is our former Danish exchange student through the Rotary program and a good friend of my brother, Barth.  Mom insisted that he sit next to her.  Hans is often the life of the party so that was a good choice.

Hans and Barth enjoyed many adventures across the U.S.A., including almost getting run over by a beach machine in Nantucket at a beach where they stayed overnight and staying fed in Las Vegas by partaking of the free food at the casinos.

Mom and Hans

I sat next to Ulla, who was quite entertaining.

Ulla Olson, Rebecca, and Rhonda

The next day the twelve of us took a hike up Gurten, a hill or what Mom referred to as the “small, old-looking mountain,” which looked squashed like one of the Catskills, outside the city.  Because of the arthritis in my knees, I was often behind my family on other hikes, so I appreciated the fact that Ulla stayed with me.  I thought we might run out of topics, but we seemed to do fine discussing banking, Swizz farming, and such.


I mentioned in another blog that the Swiss are very neat farmers–their grass is closely cropped and well-sculpted.  This farm was a more contemporary farm with John Deere-type machinery.  I wish I had taken a picture of one machine to make my point.



At this point in going up the hill, I turned to look back at Bern.  Even though it is only 2,815 feet high, I came to feel every single one of the feet by the time I reached the top. The Swiss refer to what you can see close up in this picture as the Bernese Oberland (the higher part of the Bernese canton, south of Bern.)

About halfway up we came across a dairy farm. The curious thing for someone like me with relatives who were farmers was the lack of any farmers to talk to or actual farming taking place. It looked like a model farm, the kind you play with as a child. The smell of manure wasn’t even that strong. Of course, these are heifers.



Dairy Farm on Gurten 3.jpg

You can see my family way up the road. The thing I couldn’t quite compute was the cylinder of what looked like wet hay to the right in the picture.

Sean Petting Cat on Gurten.jpg

We all stopped to pet a kitty, including Sean, Gwynne’s boyfriend. Gwynne was not around to observe him. My oldest niece is definitely a dog person.


Ulla Olson on the clim up Gurten.jpg

Ulla, my hiking companion, is always decked out in the latest fashion.  When I first met her, in Ithaca at a fancy restaurant, she had on a very short dress and boots.


Anna claimed I looked like Paddington in my sun hat.


Nearing the Top of Gurten


My niece Rebecca looking stylish (note the stripes), her father and my brother, Barth, talking.  They are standing near the gondola that Mom and Hans, always a gentleman, took with her both ways.  I took it going down.  Everyone complained about the downward trip, making me thankful I’d chosen not to walk downhill.



This is a picture from the Bern Tourism website.

The Gurten, a belvedere or summer house at the top of Gurten is quite striking, but what really made us interested was the wedding with its fifties theme: the girls in poodle skirts and pony tails.

Santorini in August: looking for solitude in a crowded beauty

17 Sep

“Santorini in August”: say that to a savvy traveller and he will probably get a headache from rolling his eyes too hard. The island, ten times smaller than Las Vegas, receives nearly two million vi…

Source: Santorini in August: looking for solitude in a crowded beauty

Jeizinen, Swiss Chalet in the Alps

17 Sep

Located at Gampel-Bratsch, Switzerland, Jeizinen is the cluster of Swiss chalets where my oldest niece, Gwynne,  made us reservations for our last two days in Switzerland.  Again, Barth had to drive the nine-person van up a road with tight switchbacks.  This time, however, we had beautiful weather.  You can see from looking at the road why a driver might be nervous about oncoming traffic




These first two pictures of the palominos were taken by my sister-in-law, Rhonda Mapes.  There’s barely enough space for two cars and then you have horses on top of everything else.  It was pretty neat to come on them without warning though.


View from Porch attached to Shalet

The stone wall of our Swiss chalet is on the left. I took the picture from the porch.

This view is the same one from a slightly different angle. Weiss Horn is in the background between the two closer mountains.

One of my regrets is not taking interior shots of the Air bnbs where we stayed. This one was the most attractive of the three, but also the most compact. Clicking on the following URL for Jeizinen will enable you to see our exact interior:

Rebecca, Anna, and Coleman had headed back to the states, so we were  down to six people.  On my right when I walked in was a chest of drawers with a marble top that I determined to be Early American or Early Attic depending on the lineage.  The wood was a honey-colered yellow.  Maybe they have an Early Swiss.  The first thing I noticed was the stairway of wrought black iron and wooden steps that that led up into the second floor.

The upstairs consisted of two bedrooms, one with its own door and a double-sized futon where Barth and Rhonda slept.  The bigger room contained about six single-sized futons with special Swiss coverlets made of a brushed corduroy on top of them–this is where Gwynne, Meghan, and I slept.

Mom slept on a sectional sofa downstairs.  We knew that having her climb the stairs would be a major mistake.  She slept under a gray blanket, similar to the heavy blankets one can buy at L.L. Bean.  The living area consisted of another antique-looking chest of drawers, the sectional and a dining room table.

The remaining pictures were all taken on a hike I took around the periphery of the camp.





Small Waterfall


Back down the hill to the chalet.


The Swiss build drains differently from Americans.  This one looks ingenious.


Light and Shade


Finally, moutain spring water!


Meghan, Gwynne, and Rhonda

I felt oddly that I was on the inside of the mountain looking at my family on the outside.



The Mapes and the Mountains

14 Sep

In this first set of Switzerland pictures by my sister-in-law, Rhonda Mapes, Barth was driving us into Switzerland from Italy and toward Bern, where we would be staying several days.  Gwynne, my oldest niece, had considered going the route that consists of a long tunnel from Italy into Switzerland, but when Barth decided not to take the tunnel, he inadvertently chose the scenic route.  He has a fear of heights and  had eight other people besides himself in the van for whom he was responsible, so he was under pressure.  At first we were driving on flat land, but then, all of the sudden, we were climbing a mountain.

During our car trip and later when I returned to the U.S., I tried to figure out why I was given such a fright.  I have driven switchbacks in the Catskills, in Pennsylvania when headed to a conference in Towson, Maryland, and in the Rockies, especially in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, but also in various National Parks.  In addition, I drove Highway 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco during the night.   The Highway 1 drive was nerve-racking, but I couldn’t see the ocean.  The Alps are taller than the Rockies.  It’s also true that American highway engineers often try to design highways that have longer loops.  The switchbacks we experienced were unusually tight.  However, people who drive through the tunnel miss quite a lot.



The pictures are beautiful, but they only suggest our height above the valley floor because of the smallness of the farm buildings.  In actuality, we were thousands of feet above the farms.  I think the railing makes the valley look closer  than it is.  Jim Gwynne could  probably explain how a painter creates the illusion of depth that the railing tends to dispel.


At one point, Barth started to sing “Edelweiss” in an attempt at gallows humor.  Apart from Rhonda, everyone was nervous.  I was afraid to take pictures because I had the sensation that if I leaned to the left the car would be more likely to flip, although I knew intellectually that was not the case.  Gwynne, who was sitting in the front of the van, said she was pressing her foot against the floor every time we went around a bend.  Rebecca said that her worst fear occurred when we encountered fog on our way down the mountain, which was, in fact, pretty scary.  I actually can’t relate how Coleman felt because he was lost in the American West of Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, by way of earphones no less. If intentional, it was definitely a smart way to depart the scene.

The view, however, was spectacular.  It is an “awful scene,” as Shelley describes it in  his famous poem about one of the Alps, Mont Blanc :

Thus thou, Ravine of Arve—dark, deep Ravine—
Thou many-colour’d, many-voiced vale,
Over whose pines, and crags, and caverns sail
Fast cloud-shadows and sunbeams: awful scene,
Where Power in likeness of the Arve comes down
From the ice-gulfs that gird his secret throne (12-17) .
Shelley uses “awful” in all its meanings–the viewer of the Alps has both a sense of wonder and a sense of terror when  viewing the greatness of nature in all its splendor.



Barth said that he was grateful he had ordered a rental van that was standard shift, because he thought it gave him better control.  Every time he came to a bend he downshifted.  Of course, with an automatic car,  there would be a natural tendency to ride the brakes, which is definitely not as safe.


This picture indicates a comforting scene with trees one almost feels as though one could touch.  However, a hurtling car would definitely plunge through them.  Part of what makes driving in the Alps scary is the lack of knowledge of the drivers who are coming toward you.  We tried to look ahead for oncoming cars, so Barth could pull over on the shoulder when he knew that someone was coming.




The last two pictures suggest the depth of the view more concretely.  In the very last picture you can see the road we had covered (in the background).  The viewer immediately grasps the beauty of the stark scene, made more evident by the interplay of the dark and light clouds.

The Tram, Train, Boat, Train, Walk to Trümmelbachfälle

6 Sep

On August 9 we took a day trip from Bern to Interlaken and then on to Trümmelbachfälle.  Gwynne had her hardest day in terms of buying tickets and organizing our journey because of all the different vehicles we traveled on.

Boat to Interlaken Slide 1

Boat to Interlaken Via the Thuner See


This map contains a portion of the Aare River Watershed. You can see how the river goes through two lakes. We took a boat ride to Interlaken via the Thuner See (Lake). Interlaken literally means between lakes and that’s where it’s located on the map. The Aare is part of the Rhine. It is contained within Switzerland, although the Rhine is obviously much bigger.

Boat to Interlaken--Slide 2
Continuation of Journey


Boat to Interlaken--Slide 3

As Gwynne reminded me, we took a train from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen and then walked along the valley there to the falls.  We left Mom back at a hotel in Interlaken.  This was the one time that it was hard for her not to come with us.
Interlaken to Trummelbachfalle

Alps on Walk to Tummelbach

Alps on Walk to Trümmelbachfälle  Coleman, my nephew-in-law, said he was reminded of El Capitan at Yosemite.  I would say that the cliffs were like those of Yosemite, but without the tour buses.

Rhonda and Kathy --trail to waterfall (2) A

Kathy and Rhonda–Trail to Waterfall

Rhonda Taking Picture--Walk to Tummelbach Falls

Rhonda Taking Picture at Aare River.  The unearthly green of the river is due to the fact that it is composed of glacial water that has material suspended within it.

Road to Tummelbach Falls 4

Sheer Cliff on Trail with Waterfall.  The valley we were in is called the Valley of Seventy-two Waterfalls.  Out west we refer to the kind of waterfall you see here as a bridal veil falls.  It’s a kind of waterfall that is long and slender.

Road to Tummelbach Falls 5

Road to Tummelbach Falls 6

The hang gliders look incredibly beautiful against the rock cliffs.

Road to Hummelbach Falls 7

You can see the closely-cropped green here and the small huts that are typical in the landscape.  This hut looks like a small version of the Swiss chalet in which we stayed.

Walk to Trummelbach--Slide 8

I tried to focus on the landscapes and take pictures of my family in restaurants, but you see that they are in the lower right of the picture.

Walk to Trummelbach-  Slide 9

We talked to a couple of the guys when they landed.  Naturally my guy was from Minnesota.

Walk to Trummelbach--Slide 10

I wanted to take a picture of a woman who was shifting grass with a pitch fork, but she looked like a pretty tough customer, so I decided not to ask her permission.  Much of what I saw and heard was like the stereotyped view of Switzerland: the cows wore bells, the farming I witnessed was an older version, there was quite a bit of terracing, and the fields often looked like golf courses because they were cropped so close.  It was funny–this was the one time I wished I had a guide.  Of course, if dad were still alive he would have been able to explain the farming to me.


Tummelbach--7th level


I went up the inner elevator with the rest of the family,  stepped out on what is referred to as level 6, and did a Jimmy Stewart.  In other words, I experienced vertigo.  Luckily, I was able to take the stairs up one more level and see a portion of the falls inside the mountain. There are ten glacial falls inside.

Mitchell, his wife, Sean and Mitchell's mom. Sean and Gwynne

At the end of the day, we met Sean’s family in Interlaken at da rafmi (name of restaurant).

Of course, this was the day’s highlight.