Monday, September 28, 2015

Sista helgen i September

I naturen laddar jag mina batterier. I går gjorde vi något så ultra Schweiziskt som att gå en lång och skön söndagspromenad. Känns underbart att ha tillgång till sådan här vacker natur precis kring husknuten. Vackra små grusvägar längst med fält och små fina skogsvägar.
Det är något så rofyllt och skönt för själen att få gå och ströva i skogen. Känna doften av skog och se hur bladen virvla i luften när det kommer en vindpust. Även om det är slutet på september så är det fortfarande ganska grönt i skog och mark.

 En hel del majsfält runt om oss. 

 En sådan där skön dag med riktigt vackert höstväder. Även om kvällar och morgnar börjar bli kyliga så är det fortfarande så att man har varma sköna eftermiddagar med ca 18-20 grader under dagen.

I lördags var vi på inflyttningsfest hos ett svenskt-amerikanskt par. De har hyrt ett vackert litet hus längre bort i vårt område. Vi kunde cykla dit på ca 10 minuter. Vi hade en supertrevlig kväll hos dem. Det grillades och minglades både inomhus och utomhus. 

I torsdags var jag på en vinprovning av Spanska och Portugisiska viner. Jag gillar dessa vinprovningar som ordnas av några av de större vinhusen med olika teman. Kul att få prova lite nytt och så blir det alltid så att man köper med sig ett par flaskor hem.

 Man betalar ca 100 kr i inträde och så får man en lista med vinhusen och deras viner som finns på plats och ett glas. Ca 50 olika viner som man får chansen att provsmaka. Nu orkar man ju inte prova alla så det gäller att välja ut några intressanta favoriter från listan. Fanns både vita, röda och cava på listan. Jag plockade ca 10-12 olika röda som jag provide.

I lördags tog jag och C en liten promenad ner till stan. Blev en liten fika i eftermiddagssolen. Hela 22 grader mitt på dagen i lördags. Hösten är skön och fin här. Garderobsmässigt befinner man sig just nu precis på gränsen mellan sommargarderob och höstgarderoben. September och oktober är jättefina här. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Monte Perdido National Park

The last part of our days in Spain and the second and last national park that we visted was the national park of Ordesa and Monte Perdido.
Monte Perdido meaning the "Lost Mountain" was where I found a beauty that I never expected. The nature is so splendid and grand here. I found the first national park very beautiful but this last one just opens up to another dimension of megabeauty. This is truly a place where nature shows you a piece of what heaven must look like (at least to me). This is where the Pyrnees really take your breath away. 

This was our last full day in Spain and we had the choice of heading towards Barcelona to explore and spend a few hours there or do a hike here. To us the choice was very clear and simple. We wanted to stay here and explore this. This is a place I simply must come back to. I just wished that we had had more time here to do some more hiking even if we did a pretty great hike on this day.

The very first rays of early morning light making everything golden and shimmering. You almost feel like you are somewhere in the South West of the USA. Monte Perdido is like a cross between Zion national park and the Grand Canyon in the US. 

Drops of dew in the grass glittering like small dimanonds in the morning sunlight. The early morining mist being lifted from the ground. There is something magical about early mornings when everything feels so fresh and un touched.

The water in the creeks was so clear! It is hard to believe that it can be this clear. This is just a snap shot I took as we crossed a small wooden bridge. Crystal clear gets a whole new meaning here. Clear but also very very cold!

Like a dragon's back the limestone peaks reach up towards the sky. The highest peak is Monte Perdido itself at 3348 meters. This is the third highest peak in the Pyrenees. 
We picked a hike that would take us along the ridge of the mountain at a pretty high altitude giving us some fantastic views. We had gone by the tourist office in Torla and picked up maps and suggested hikes routes the day before. Again communicating in Spanish made this all so much easier.

First part of the trail was a set of steep switch backs. Sweaty and out of breath we managed to complete this demanding first part of the trail in about an hour. Felt pretty darn good have done a climb of about 750 meters in that time. The big reward was reaching above the tree line and getting the full view over the valley.

The hike and path along Faja Racon and Circo de Cotatuero takes you along spectacular high level paths on the north flank of the Valle de Ordesa. We walked part of the GR 11 trail. When we reached Faja Racon we decided to continue a little more. A little more turned out to be a lot more. As we decided to go on there were more switch backs and more climbing. What possesed us to go on was the pure beauty of nature. You just want to go on and keep going to see more and more. 

In the end we ended up doing about 2000 height meters and a total of 18 km in about 7 hours. I feel pretty proud over that accomplishment.

A little photography break every now and then was a perfect way to catch my breath and get some water.

Deep canyons slice down from the high ground. Most of them were once carved by glaciers. 

The landscape constantly changed making it all even more fascinating and spectacular. Our first climb passing the lush forrest, next the trail took us to this place where we were surrounded by these compact and very dense little green bushes. The trail went along the ridge of the steep mountain wall.

Sometimes you just had to stop, pause and admire. A narrow trail that kept going up and down following the ridge very closely.

Such a diverse trail. First the compact little bushes we passed on the climb up. Then you have this that almost looks like prarie grass slowly swaying in the wind. 

Popular area for many climbers as well. We were lucky enough to spot the two small figures against the mountain wall on their climb up. We heard them before we actually saw them. This is actually nothing that I would like to try. You just feel so tiny again these awesome mountain walls.

The weather can be unpredictable and you therefore always have to be prepared for extreme conditions. Making a longer hike like we did of 7-8 hours actually requires that you  bring more supplies than we did. Next time a little bigger backbacks with more clothes, more food, first aid kit in case you get stuck somewhere for a while if the weather suddenly changes. Good old faishoned maps in case the batteries of your phone die. 

We saw numerous waterfalls. Some that we passed close by like this one and others that we saw in the distance. The sound of water is ever present around you. Deep down we could also catch glimpses of the river crisscrossing the valley.

This is what it really looked like. I have not enhanced or worked with the pictures posted here in any way.

The path sometimes turned quite narrow and tricky. One one side you have the seemingly endless canyon abyss. You got to stay on the path and keep focused. I understand why these trails are not recomended during early spring. At times when it is wet and there can still be patches of snow or ice or even rocks falling off from above. 
All of this beauty that just captures you to the very core. As you turn around it is almost unbelivable to realize that you just walked a long the entire ridge of the other mountain on the other side. 

It is so amazing how the landscape keeps chaning. As you reach the lower elevations you suddenly find yourself in a lush and bright green forrest. 

Private veihcles may not enter this park either during Easter week and from July to mid September. There are shuttle busses leaving from Torla (the main gateway town) from 6 in the morning to 9 pm. There are some 6000 km of trail to hike in total in the Pyrenees both short and long distance  trails. The optimum time for hiking is between mid June to early September and the trails tend to get more crowded in July and August during the peak summer and vacation months. It worked really well with the shuttle bus. It was a little hard finding our trail at first from where we were dropped of by the bus. Trails could have been a bit better marked but since we had a map and the gps on our phone it worked out well. This is a place that we will make sure to come back!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

En vanlig helg i September

Innnan jag tar sista biten om Spanien kör jag lite update från helgen. Det var ostadigt väder på lördagen med regnskurar så begav oss mot Bern och besökte ett museum som jag länge velat besöka. Paul Klee (1879-1940) är en av de stora kända Schweziska konstnärerna.  De hade en jättefin utställning över hans verk tillsammans med Kandinsky som han var samtida med från Ryssland. Jag föll personligen mer för Kandinskys konst som var lite mer färgglad. Abstrakt med ofta förekommande olika geometiska figurer där man lämnas att fritt tolka in vad man tycker. 

Stackars C som  nu blivit släpad runt av mig på olika konstmuseer i olika länder. Toulouse-Lautrec i Frankrike, Dali i Spanien och nu Klee och Kandinsky här. Nej jag tar tillbaka att jag tycker synd om honom. Det gör honom gott att få lite allmänbildning av lite kända konstnärer. Jag tycker det är trivsamt och mysigt att gå runt och se på vacker konst.

Precis utanför museet låg detta jättefina gammla trähuset i äkta Schweisk gammal stil.

Lite blandat på väderfronten som ni ser. Det börjar sakta bli höst. Men efter en lång, varm och skön sommar välkommnar jag hösten och lägre temperaturer. Känner mig redo för hösten.

 Ömsom sol, regnskurar och mörka moln.

Det var fint på fredagkväll så vi fick till en god grillmiddag och hade Aaron vår amerikanske vän över på middag. Sorgligt men sant så flyttar han snar tillbaka till San Fransisco med sin fru Carol och deras dotter Lilly. De kommer vi naturligtvis att sakna massvis.

Bästa händelsen under helgen var den här leveransen av nybakade varma kardemummabullar. Min svenska bagarkompis Anna från The running baker bakar ju det mest fantstiska brödet och denna gången bakade hon även en sats med kardemummabullar. Vilken lyx och lycka att få dessa levererade till dörren. Visst skulle jag kunna baka själv men en hel sats i kombination med de små frysar som man har här i Schweiz funkar inte så det blir helt enkelt inte av att man ställer sig och bakar själv. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Spanish Mountain Villages

The small Spanish villages are full of charm. There are some real gems when it comes to old and beautiful mountain villages. Few reigons can actually rival Arragon for this. Most are built in sturdy stone typical of the region, with terracotta and slate roofs. Their settings against a backdrop of the Pyrenees or hidden in isolated corners make you feel like you found a little jewel when you come across them. Some of the most pitoresk ones are Ainsa, Alquezar, Daroca, Sos del Rey Catolico and Albarracin.

We spent a couple of days at the town  Alquezar located about 20 km north of Barbastro (the capital of the Somontano wine region ).We came here because we had booked the Canyoning tour and were both captured and suprised by the beauty of this hill top mountain village.
I find the landscape of Arragon facinating. It is very arid, kind of a semi-desert region. Olive trees and small bushes neverless make it green. The rivers cut through the landscape having formed many dramatic canyons over time. 

 I loved the narrow cobble stone streets and the stone houses. All the pretty balconies with flower pots. Similar in ways to small country villages found in both France and Italy but yet so very different. Time and history, present and past is ever present here.

 It almost feels like time has stood still here.

Alquezar turned out to be a busy little town. Drawing quite a bit of visitors even though it was  early September so we did not manage to find a hotel room there on short notice. We did find a small hotel more like a Bed and Breakfast in the neighboring village of Buesca. Located at the end of the street in this sleepy little town. The family dog doing his job by keeping an eye out about what was going on. 

I did get to use my Spanish. In these parts of rural Spain it is very helpful if you know the language. The owners of the little hotel spoke nothing but Spanish. In Arragon and  Catalona, Catalan is spoken. It shares similarities with Spanish but yet it is very different. Even if you speak Spanish you don't understand Catalan when it is spoken. I am happy I got to pratice my Spanish beacause it proved to be very useful and helpful. I can also tell that it was very much appreciated that I could speak the language even if it was not perfect. Knowing and being able to speak the language just opens so many doors.

We were the only guest at this hotel and here we also got to expirence the typical Spanish breakfast. Coffee, juice, two slices of toasted country bread, a plate with cheese and large slices of jamon, olive oil to drizzle on top of the jamon and some kind of sweet pastry to finish the breakfast. 

The Spanish siesta in the afternoons is still praticed here in the smaller villages. Shop close at 1pm and open again at 5 pm. Inbetween those hours are the quiet time. Then in the evening everything fills again with life. Dinner time is definately later in Spain than in other places around Europe. No one has dinner before 9 pm in Spain. The first few days we came into resturants around 8 and 8.30 pm and we were the only guests. Most resturants don't even open before 8 or 8.30pm. 

Deep ravines and impressive bridges. Traveling a long the quiet country roads was fantastic. Many turns and curves up and down the mountain sides. We made stops here and there to take a picture and admire the landscape. Even if the distance between places was not so long it still took time to get from place to another due to the curvy roads.

These ravines and gorges are so deep. If you are lucky you can catch a glimpse of the river at the bottom. Sometimes you just here the sound of water deep down below. Water that has helped to create holes and caves in the lime stone rock where eagles and other birds have built their nests.

 Drivning towards the Pyrenees that you can see in the far distance. The landscape here is just so very differnt from the landscape around the Alps we have here in Switzerland. 

 Another very charming and cute medevial village is Ainsa that sits on a hilltop. We only had time for a very breif stop here on our way back towards Barcelona. This is one of Arragons gems when it comes to beautiful mountain villages.

 It gets pretty crowded in summer but now in September the streets were quiet and so pretty.