On a Beach Walk: No. 40

foot stepson grey sands with waters nearing it

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

After arriving, unpacking, grocery shopping, and a supply trek to Costco, today is my first full day of our respite as snowbirds.

It’s good to return to life as my alter ego – the time without appointments – a time of minimal commitments – a time without the feeling that I have to do something – a time when I try to leave my daily burdens behind. I’ve carried some of life’s baggage with me to this place – that’s what life does – but it’s different than a year ago.

It’s good to see the fine, off-white sand from the balcony for the first time since a year ago.

It’s good to see a seemingly endless vast view of water that will help me discover metaphors for future walks.

It’s good to have the first struggle with the fine, soft sand on my way to the water’s edge.

It’s good to feel the packed sand at the water’s edge that will serve as my pavement for the weeks to come.

It’s good to begin my daily walking routine as I move eastward for the first walk. On most days I will get over 10,000 steps before noon. I hope for a day-long trek before leaving.

It’s good to see the string of shells marking high tide. Each year we’ve focused on different shells, but because we have enough, we will give preference only to the unique shells we encounter.

It’s good to feel the water moving across my feet. It’s a bit brisk at the moment, but I’m confident a truly refreshing temperature is approaching.

It’s good to see my first group of sanderlings – the small birds with the fast-moving legs in their ongoing hunt for food at the water’s edge. Their presence always makes me smile.

It’s good to hear the sounds of the beach – the water coming ashore – the whistling of the steady breeze – the squawking seagulls – and even the air traffic from the nearby naval air station.

It’s good to smell the freshness of the sea air – that hint of salt with a skosh of marine life – a different scent than the air of my inland home.

It’s good to see the pelicans effortlessly gliding just about the water’s surface, then redirect upward only to turn around to dive after unwilling prey below the surface.

It’s good to know that some days I will see a group of dolphins passing by on their hunt for food.

It’s good to know that the sea will probably show me many emotions on its face – those emotions varying from placid calm to raging anger.

It’s good to start the process of letting the sand jettison the old skin from the bottom of my feet. If the past is an indicator, by the end of the stay my feet will have a warm glow.

Let the exfoliating begin because I like walking the beach for it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

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On a Return Home

Greetings from my home in Cincinnati. We recently returned from a 6-week stay as snowbirds on the Alabama coast, the place where I kept my little corner of the world in full swing. Travel time returning home (Friday and Saturday) is the reason for not having a weekend concert and for my absence – but Aretha is still schedule for this coming weekend … and the opening song is set!

That my walking beach to the west (and 2 miles/3.2 km to the rocks)

 

The weather during our stay wasn’t the best – but as I always say, no matter how cold it is in Alabama during our stay, it’s warmer than home! January had cold, but that was when Cincinnati (and many of you) were gripped by bitter cold. Plus, the only snow we saw was on news reports. Of the three years in Alabama, this year was probably the worst – and the first year without a good streak of sunshine – but hey – the overall weather was better than home.

Glad I captured the storm cloud

 

I always say these 6-weeks are for my alter ego – a time with minimal obligations – a time away from normal routines – a time when I can focus on walking the beach as much as possible. How much did I walk during the 43 full days? Here’s the tale of the tape:

  • 911,867 steps covering an estimated 405.3 miles (652.3 km)
  • 21,206 steps averaged per day
  • 17 of 43 days over 10,000 (but less than 20K); 24 of 43 days over 20,000 steps (but less than 30K), and 2 days of 43 over 30,000 steps

 

I was hoping to lose some weight during the 6-weeks south. Then again, I know we will go out 2-3 times per week. Good news is that we were able to limit the snacks that my wife’s father enjoys. Bottom line is 8 pounds lost and my waist feels smaller.

Walking also means composing more beach walks. I don’t have a final count on the number of drafts, but it may be the most ever. I think over 40.

I love sunrises, but given the weather, I didn’t see many achieving the wow factor.

 

On the worst weather days, we like to go to a theater. This year we saw Vice, The Upside, and The Wife.

TIP: When at the beach, if you see something interesting, take a picture and then send it to a marine biology department at a local university.

Outside cylinders of tube worms

 

My wife is a prolific reader – but I read two books this time: both by diplomat Madeleine Albright – The Mighty and the Almighty and Fascism: A Warning. Reviews in the future. I’ll post reviews in the future.

On one of the questionable weather days, we visited the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. It’s very well done – and free. Compared to the US Air Force Museum in Ohio, it’s much smaller.

For the record, we only dance a few dances one evening – so it will take some time to regain ballroom form.

Outside our front door looking to the north at the intercoastal waterway

 

We were pleased with the gas mileage of our Subaru Outback. Over the 2800+ miles (4510+ km) covering 6 weeks, the Outback’s gas mileage was 31.4 miles per gallon.

As after arriving at home Saturday afternoon, Sunday provided a small dose of snow, Monday deliver the first of a two-day punch of frigid, plus I ordered my first hearing aids, AND began prep for Tuesday’s colonoscopy. Such a great way to return home! Hooray – no polyps! Next colonoscopy in seven years!!! – but a busy return has slowed my blogging presence.

We enjoy the Flora-Bama – truly a regional institution with national acclaim. (past post) The bios of some of the musicians are impressive. For instance, the only way we know Neil Dover is that he proceeded our favorite duo – so we typically only heard 15-30 minutes each time. Interestingly, his degree is in opera! He’s written a great song about this quirky musical palace. The lyrics and the video are perfect. Enjoy Neil Dover with FloraBama Time.

On Lake Bled (Slovenia)

About 34 miles (55 km) northwest of Ljubljana, Lake Bled is a lake at the edge of the Julian Alps. Surrounded by mountains and forests with a medieval castle on a rocky face high above the lake and a small island within the lake, this setting is very picturesque. The large lake, 6,980 feet by 4,530 ft (2,120 m by 1,380 m) is without motor boats.

Water from multiple natural springs feed the lake. The bluish-green water is clear, tranquil, and smooth as glass. Lake Bled is large: 6,980 feet by 4,530 ft (2,120 m by 1,380 m), and without motor boats.

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Our morning ride to Bled Island was on a plenta – a flat-bottomed wooden boat seating 20 passengers propelled and navigated by an oarsman. In 1740, Empress Maria Theresa granted 22 families exclusive rights to transport people to the island, and that tradition remains today.

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Bled Island is small, large enough for a church and several buildings. The church is a popular wedding site and has several traditions. It is good luck for the marriage if the groom carries his bride up the 99 steps before ringing the bell inside the church and making a wish. The wish will come to true if the bell rings three times on one pull of the rope.

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After returning from the island, we walked the 3-mile (5 km) paved path circling the lake. The walk provides beautiful views of the island, the castle, the town, hotels, and relaxing views across the calm water. Along the way we passed the Slovenian Olympic Rowing Training Facility. Lake Bled has hosted the World Rowing Championship 4 times.

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High on a cliff above the lake sits Bled Castle – a medieval castle that protected the people since 1004. Today, the castle houses exhibits, a museum, restaurant, wine cellar, chapel, banquet hall, and a printing shop – but it also provides outstanding views of the lake, the island, the town of Bled, and the surrounding countryside.

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Enjoy this very short video (17 seconds) of Bled Castle at night.

 

We were told that Lake Bled is very busy in the summer months. We were fortunate because our visit was in early October – the crowds were down and the weather was excellent. The boat ride, the walk around the lake, the hike to the castle, lunch at the castle, and a group meal was a delightful way to end our Rick Steves’ Europe tour – but, for us, our vacation was not over! Meanwhile, enjoy the 2-minute video about Lake Bled by Rick Steves.

Next Stop: Trieste

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On Ljubljana (Slovenia)

Ljubljana – pronounced lube-lyee-AH-nah

Ljubljana (population 2880,000) is the capital, cultural, educational, economic, political, and administrative center of independent Slovenia (since 1991).

Ljubljana – Like much of the region, under Habsburg rule for 500 years until the end of WW1. Following WW2, Ljubljana became the capital of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia, which was part of Yugoslavia.

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Ljubljana – the city center built around Ljubljana Castle, a medieval castle sitting atop Castle Hill. Due to time constraints, we didn’t visit the castle, but the top of the Ljubljana Skyscraper’s 13th floor is a great place for a wonderful view and a drink.

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Ljubljana – whose city symbol is the Ljubljana Dragon symbolizes power, courage, and greatness. The dragon is found on the Ljubljana Castle’s tower, the city’s coat of arms, and at the Dragon Bridge.

 

Ljubljana – with Prešeren Square serving as the city’s main square and a popular meeting spot. Look at the beauty around the square.

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Ljubljana – bisected by the Ljubljanica River with numerous bridges, including the famous Triple Bridge (not pictured).

 

Ljubljana – with many pedestrian streets (some cobblestone) flanked with shops, restaurants, and cafes. Toss in Riverside Market, Old Town comfort is at hand. Even saw my first outdoor vending machine selling fresh milk. While strolling, stop by the cathedral (Church of St. Nicholas) whose doors tell a story about Slovenes. Recognize anyone on the door?

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Ljubljana is not big enough to feel overwhelmed, but it’s large enough to be cosmopolitan. Besides, I love Old World ambiance. To me, urban relaxation is a fitting description. To learn more about this hidden gem, below is almost-6-minute video from Rick Steves.

Next Stop: Lake Bled

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On Rovinj (Croatia)

Rovinj – (pronounced RO-veen) – or Rovigno in Italian – a Croatian city of about 14,000 located on the northern Adriatic coast.

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Off Rovinj’s coast is a 19-island archipelago. Actually, our hotel was on one the islands – well, the hotel is the only thing on the island – but we had access to a ferry trip to/from the mainland. Directly behind the hotel was a smaller island for sunning and walking. A walkway connected the two. Yes, a difficult place to stay.

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The Venetians settle Rovinj, which remained part of the Venetian Republic for 500 years. Although in Croatia, walking the town has a strong feel of being in Italy – that is given the narrow, winding pedestrian streets, hidden courtyards, and comfortable feel. Most of the streets lead to/from the church at the top. Some of the homes along the water define waterfront property.

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With a seaside setting and with culinary Italian roots, how is this setting for lunch? Yes, I had pasta.

 

Both evenings here, Rovinj treated us to super-outstanding sunsets.

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Our time in Rovinj was our vacation from vacation. Rovinj offers a beautiful setting and a chance to sit back and relax. To close this post about this seaside resort, here’s a 3-minute video from Rick Steves.

Next Stop: Ljubljana

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On Budapest (Hungary)

Click for some background music while you look and read, enjoy Hungarian Dance No. 5 (Johannes Brahms)

 

BUDA-pesht – is how they pronounce it – not BUDA-pest

Budapest – the capital of Hungary with a vibrant population approaching two million. It was also a co-capital of the Austria-Hungary Empire.

Although we hear about the Danube separating Buda and Pest, we forget that Óbuda was the third city joining in the union forming Budapest in 1873.

The Buda side of the river is hilly and Buda Castle (Royal Castle) sits atop a hill along with Matthias Church and Fishermen’s Bastion. These structures and a few statues and monuments amplify the skyline. Buda’s streets are narrow and the buildings echo with history.

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The hills of Buda offers wonder views of the Danube and Pest.

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The Pest side of the river is flat, newer, vibrant, and a grand display of architecture of Art Nouveau, Baroque, Classical, Neo-classical, Romantic, and Renaissance providing a grand visual treat. St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Parliament, Hero’s Square, Liberty Square, National Theater, Great Market Hall, parks, spas, shopping, entertainment, and more. Numerous pedestrian-only streets make Pest very walkable.

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Hero’s Square celebrates 1000 years of conquest by the Magyars. Whereas the other countries on the tour were Slavic, Hungary is not – and it’s language is more similar to Finnish and Estonian instead of being close to any of its neighbors. Before this tour, I had no clue about this. Hero’s Square celebrates the seven Magyar tribes of Central Asia that came to the region. The square includes statues to labor, war, knowledge, and glory along with a few early national heroes.

 

A short walk beyond Hero’s Square, Varosliget (a 302 acre city park) also celebrates the 1896 millennium with galleries, museums, a thermal spa, and more in a beautiful park setting.

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If you visit Budapest, make sure you take a night-time cruise on the Danube River because the city lights provide a great show.

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Of the places we visited on the tour, Budapest was the biggest and the grandest. It’s a vibrant, beautiful city and worth at least at least 3 days – if not more. The excellent 6-minute video below showing Budapest is done by a group of travelling friends. Enjoy

Next Stop: Plitvice National Park (posted)

Next Post: Rovinj

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On Eger (Hungary)

After our morning at Auschwitz, it was a long ride to Eger (EH-gher) – a city of about 53,000 in northern Hungary. The next day we had the morning to discover Eger on our own before two scheduled activities.

Nestled in the hills of the Bukk Mountains, humans have lived here since the Stone Age.

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Eger Castle sits above the town center – and this place is close to the Hungarians heart because here, the Hungarians defended the castle from the invading Ottomans in 1552. Istvan Dobo is a legendary hero for his leadership.

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During the 1600s, the Ottomans built a minaret in Eger, which is one of three minarets remaining in Hungary.

 

Eger has a variety of grand buildings, but the pedestrian street with Baroque architecture is a pleasant stroll and a good place to eat or enjoy a beverage.

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After our independent time, the group gathered together for an activity – attending a junior high school where we met with a teacher and her students in their English class – and then had lunch in the school cafeteria. (We were pleasantly surprised.)

 

Eger is the center of one of Hungary’s productive wine regions. One of the popular wines is known as Bull’s Blood – a dark red wine blend of three grapes. The legend is that the wine was dark because it was mixed with bull’s blood, which gave Dobo’s men strength. So after the school, it was a short trip to a winery where the wine flowed, the music played, learned a Hungarian dance, and who knows how many times we toasted in Hungarian – Egészségedre!

 

Eger is a charming small city. For us, it was a good stopover between the gut-wrenching in Auschwitz and the grandness of Budapest to come. Time at the school and the winery helped make the day wonderful. Below is a 4-minute video (set to appropriate music) showing many of the sites we saw in Eger. Enjoy.

 

Next Stop” Budapest

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