Noma in the sandbox which Hannes put together just for our visit to his beautiful home
After our working vacation in Slovenia, taking care of Quinn (nice work when you can get it), we extended our time off by accepting an invitation to join Emily and family at the home of an old friend of Jos' in southern Austria. Hannes and Tamzin spend much of their time in London, where they work as actors, some of their time in Vienna, where Hannes has an apartment, and the rest in Hannes' parents' home in the Austrian Alps close to the Italian border. It is just two hour's drive from Ljubljana. His parents are now too elderly to take care of this amazing place, but lived and worked here into their nineties.
Austria is completely landlocked, bordered by eight other countries: Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy. It isn't too far a stretch to imagine Heidi living in a chalet here with her good old grandfather, which is just how it seemed to me. (I pictured Shirley Temple as Heidi.)
Hanne's farm is located in a emerald green valley, surrounded by high peaks, with acres of land, bubbling brooks, a swimming hole and alpine trees in abundance.
The house itself is ringed by a fence to keep the horses out. Two, who belong to the family, wander freely outside.
Even though the temperatures were still quite high, the grass was lush.
We had met Hannes before but had never seen him in his native habitat. Here he starts a fire where later we will roast fish and lamb.
Tamzin is British and met Hannes in London. She was a wonderful hostess and served an entire house full of people meal after meal, dressed always in an assortment of lovely sundresses.
Hannes' 14 year old son Max was also there. We became very fond of him. When asked what he wanted to do when he grew up, he said he wanted to live here and would be studying to be a veterinarian. This did seem the perfect place to grow up.
Emily, Jos and Quinn stayed at Hannes and Tamzin's house, along with the McBurney family, Simon, Cassey, Noma and Teyo. Simon and Jos went to school together in Paris and co-founded Complicité, a theater company in London. Simon has acted in several movies you may have seen, The Last King of Scotland, Friends With Money and The Manchurian Candidate to name a few.
His wife Cassey is a gifted concert pianist. You can hear her perform here. She was in Austria to perform at the Salzberg Arts Festival. We had the happy opportunity to hear her perform at a nearby music school.
Cassey is also crazy about her own children and everyone else's, the three little ones followed her as if she were the pied pipper.
Feeding the goats in the morning was one of Quinn's favorite activities.
He also took advantage of a plastic bucket and sprinkler to cool off.
All meals were taken outdoors. It was a jolly group and a very relaxed few days.
Be sure to click on this photo taken at sunset one evening. It really is evocative of the long lazy days and evenings we spent there.
Although we spent our waking hours with the group at Hannes', we didn't sleep at the house as there were simply not enough beds for everyone, so we took a B&B room close to the lake, which is at the bottom of their mountaintop. The first morning when we awoke, I saw this beautiful mist which clung to the land.
We took several outings, as the entire countryside is extraordinarily beautiful. The view from one mountain gives a sense of the majesty of the alps, foothills and alpine villages tucked into grassy valleys.
One of our favorite adventures, was taking a boat ride from one end of the Weissensee Lake, to the other. This is a particularly unspoilt lake, with very little of its shoreline developed. Our cruise was over an hour long, providing magnificent views along the way.
Our pilot gave us a bit of a history and geology lesson along the way, which Jos translated from the German for us. Very little English is spoken in this part of the world.
The color of the water changes as one travels down the water. It is a narrow, but extremely long lake.
At the end we disembarked and had lunch at a lovely restaurant. I had good old fashioned hot dogs with mustard, a Austro/German invention. We were right on the water and Quinn could hardly wait to get on his swimming gear.
It was such a pleasant place for a dip. We all went in. Emily is beginning to show the progress being made towards growing Quinn's brother or sister, due to arrive on the scene early next year.
The lake near our B&B is less dramatic, but just as nice for swimming, and quite a bit closer to where we were staying. We went there every evening without fail.
Another day we went hiking at Die Garnitzenklamm, probably one of the most beautiful places I've ever been in my life. Miles of trails led though forested pathways, with the clearest mountain stream imaginable coursing past.
I loved the sign at the trail head:
And with good reason. The rocks in this part of the world are enormous and each winter more of them are displaced and pushed down the mountainside by ice and snow.
I have never seen water more clear and pure, nor rocks so beautifully arranged by the forces of nature.
this is another photo worth clicking on for a larger view. The various colors of the stones and the absolute transparency of the water make this a remarkable image.
I guess my idea of paradise is something like this mountain, with its bubbling river, splashing down its side. Of course in the spring this dainty brook turns into a raging force, able to toss boulders around as if they were rubber balls.
All along the trail, one saw little sculptures that a passing hiker stopped to create. The stones did invite endless play.
The beauty of the Austrian alps is supreme. As we drove back to Ljubljana to catch our flight home to Paris, we enjoyed our last glimpses of the charm of the countryside.
Next week I will bring you back with me to France.