Thursday, 9 June 2016


I feel I should probably rename the blog 'what I did on my holidays' or somesuch nonsense. The winter has been long and wholly lacking in inspiration, the spring has sprung equally uninspiringly and summer once again arrived. Time to get out of this country and see what else there is in this world. So we - temporarily - 'Brexited' (bleagh!) and a couple of hours after leaving Bristol found ourselves in the sizzling sunshine of the foothills of the Alps, on the edge of a small town called Bad Kohlgrub.

The scenery from our holiday flat was suitably grand - traces of snow on the distant mountains, rich green conifer forests on the neighbouring slopes and flower-bedecked hay meadows right outside - more on those later. The air was ringing with the songs of crickets and the mellow clonks of the cow-bells. More on these sounds in a later post.

Looking east across the Murnauer Moos (a whacking great valley bog, not a large deer) to the Alps

For the girls, the best point of all was that the railway line between Oberammergau and Murnau ran just below the house, so the hourly train was visible from the neighbouring bench or the edge of the balcony - not only that, but the existence of an unguarded level crossing just down-line meant that the uphill train had the decency to announce itself with a short blast on the horn a minute or two before passing, leading to wild cries of "Zug! Zug!" and an undignified scramble for the nearest viewing point, often up an unsuspecting parent.

We started out on the Sunday morning, not unreasonably, with some exploration of the immediate surroundings. The day had begun with a pair of Spotted Flycatchers zipping and twirling around the balcony catching sundry unfortunate flies, whilst a Black Redstart scratched out his song on the neighbour's satellite dish rim. A Cuckoo threw in a few exploratory notes just to emphasise the fact that we were no longer at home.

We took a walk along the road to see what the immediate surrounds had in store for us - it proved to be flowers. And what flowers! The hay-meadow just along the road was spectacular: a riot of buttercups, dandelions, Goat's-beard, Red Clover, Yellow-rattle and Marsh Hawk's-beard, spattered with Spreading Bellflower and Broad-leaved Marsh Orchid. Getting past that initial impression took a little while, but was worth it: below and between the immediate eyecatchers were Horseshoe-vetch, Yellow Rock-rose, Ragged-robin, Fairy-flax, Shrubby Tormentil, Kidney-vetch, thyme, Germander Speedwell, Hedge Bedstraw, Lady's Bedstraw, Oxe-eye Daisy, Chalk Milkwort, Thyme Broomrape, Salad-burnet and much, much more. That's without even mentioning the grasses, the sedges, the spike-rushes... We definitely weren't in England any more.

Lissa realising she has the wrong colour clothes on to blend with her surroundings. Yellow is by far the order of the day. In the background is the Hoernle... more below
After some parental brain burn-out (too many plants!), we split up: Na to take Lissa to the flat for her lunchtime nap, Bina and I to head off along a little loop around the back of the farm and see what else we can see. The flora proved equally diverse and interesting: wet field-edges garlanded with the salmon-pink bells of Water Avens, a dry bank with spreading mats of Mouse-ear Hawkweed and thyme, punctured with Heath Sedge and a solitary frond of Moonwort, a spring-head hazed purple with the spears of marsh-orchids.

Moonwort - Botrychium lunaria

Water Avens - Geum rivale

The afternoon was spent on the local hill: the Hoernle. We decided to brave the chairlift to take the effort out of the ascent. It certainly made our journey easier, though trying to pin down a wriggling two-year-old who's bored with the journey and wants to get off now, thankyou - never mind the drop, offers challenges of its own.

We were greeted at the top by a brisk breeze several degrees cooler than the valley below (to the surprise of the children), a neat welcome mat of One-flowered Fleabane and Spring Gentian, and a dramatic view across to the snowy summit of the highest peak in Germany, the Zugspitze. Underfoot were exotica like Hybrid Buttercup, Anemone-leaved Buttercup (cruelly white-flowered, so not offering a clue as to whether one might like butter), Monk's-rhubarb and bewilderingly foreign-looking dandelions - the latter offering some comforting sips to a majestic Swallowtail butterfly.

Spring Gentian - Gentiana verna

Alpine - or Purple - Coltsfoot - Homogyne alpina

Who cares about the view of the mountains...

...when this is clambering over your seat!

The lure of a refreshing Johannisbeerschorle got the better of us all, so we repaired to the conveniently-located Gasthaus, where we could shelter from the wind, sip our drinks and admire Nutcrackers - the bird, not the implement - at point-blank range. Almost cheating to see such goodies with such ease, but take 'em where you find 'em.
Bina's working her way through the European corvidae: just Alpine Chough and Siberian Jay to go now...

Just don't look down, whatever you do...

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