Two days in Bologna, Italy

A part of traveling is meeting new people from diverse backgrounds who enrich your self-being and refresh your sense of the world. The only downfall is we all move on to new settings, we grow, we change, our paths take us down individual roads, some easy to navigate and some winding with tricky obstacles to overcome. But we find ways to re-connect through penciled greetings, phone calls full of reminiscing or PJ face times. Eventually, friends will always find a way to catch up.

I called Austria home for a year and a half. Staying in one place for so long allows time to connect with people some of which I still call friends today. Keeping in touch after leaving can be hard when you’re living separate lives and my way of remaining linked is to plan an international catch up in Bologna.


Why Bologna?

Usually, when I decided to visit a new place it’s because of the architecture, the history or because it is so beautiful I need to see it with my own eyes. This time, however, our motivation was each other. We combed Google flights for quick and cheap options and came up with Bologna.

Who are you when you’re at home?

A city of grit and elegance with lofty colonnades, Bologna has an edginess fused with a medieval grid of tight passages leading to piazzas full of buskers and fashionistas escorting photographers carrying glamour weapons.

The nicknames bequeathed by the local’s service to describe the city wholly. La Grassa (the fat) is one of three monikers which refers to the cities rich food culture. ‘Grassa’ alludes to the variety and abundance of cuisine and not the calories. This I can attest to. Typing into our phones to ask the all mighty google search for the best places to eat was unnecessary. The city holds a tagliatelle of restaurants for you to choose from.

On one of the uncountable narrow streets is Marsalino. A snug bistro painted blonde with a semi-circle bar to hang out at. We grabbed a bite to eat here settling into one of their mint green doubled up tables. Our chosen dishes from the brief menu filled our bellies with tasty nutrition and greek cheese.

A vegetable plot of trendy sprouts, wired in students and seasoned artists lounging in a former zoo that housed two lions in the ’80s to become greenhouses which were abandoned, and now a cool restaurant and co-working space called Vero. We discovered Vero through another Bologna visitor named Azizzi. The food prepared in the kitchen is harvested from the greenhouses and garden. There something very appealing known exactly where your food has traveled from. The interior is a co-working space by day and dinner service by night. I recommend reserving a table as the restaurant can only accommodate a small number.

The ice cream dessert was handmade fresh by Chef Lulu who is originally from Germany and moved to Italy to learn how to make ice cream.

Italian gelato is famous and I can understand why. The flavours are as vibrant as the colours of this creamy dessert. Cremeria San Francesco is one in a herd of gelateria around Bologna. Behind the array of silver pots lies the kitchen where the gelato is freshly churned, a welcome change from boxed ice cream of home.

La Rossa

The second of three nicknames the city is branded with is La Rossa (the red). Climb high above the rooftops to unveil the archaic terracotta buildings embossed with miles of porticoes. It is also because of their partiality for left-wing views.

La Dotta

La Dotta (the learned) refers to Bologna’s university – whose Latin name, Alma Mater Studiorum, means ‘nourishing mother of studies’.
It was founded in 1088 and is the oldest university in continuous operation.

Garden Giardini Margherita

A hub of activity with everyone indulging in the open space for cycling, skateboarding, balancing acts and intoxication.


Park and Garden Parco di Villa Ghigi

You can reach the park by bus or lumbering up a vertical hill sharing the route with passing vehicles. It has been open to the public since
1975 and managed by the Villa Ghigi Foundation since 2004. Home to many exotic trees including downy, oaks, black hornbeams and a centuries-old Himalayan cedar. If not for the landscape then for the views is reason enough to make the journey.

The discovery of a bee farm. They warmed around the beehive opening, their buzzing like music coordinating a symphony of movement.

Basilica of St. Francis

Not just a Basilica but a favoured hangout for locals just across from Bar De’ Marchi, a beloved bar in the city. As told by a local ‘ If you are looking for someone, they will probably be there’.

The Pincio stairway 

The spectacularly sculpted stairway to the Montagnola was designed by Tito Azzolini (1837-1907) and Attilio Muggia (1850-1936). The stairs are decorated by sculptural reliefs and statues inspired by the history of Bologna.

Bologna is a small city will a lot of life. There are plenty of sights to occupy your time and the people of the city are especially friendly. The city resides along a train line to Florence, Milan, and Venice, the perfect base for Italian exploration.

Jess x

Free to explore, grow and be rejected

A number types across my head.

A number increasing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and on forever,

or appearing to inside a mind that fears the meaning behind it all.

Two hundred and sixty-nine another number with the same meaning,

Am I to be held hostage by this number and my own self-doubt?

I hope not… 

For the past 8 months I have been trapped in a limbo, directionless and scared. I became redundant from a job that I loved and my creative outlet, gone. The trail was pulled from under my feet; I felt lost.

It wasn’t an immediate fall into despair, at first I viewed it as an adventure spent and now, I can move on to new things, possibly better things. But like the stages of a breakup it moved into questioning, did I make the right decisions, where do I go from here and then please god take me back! And finally, acceptance or do you ever really accept it?

For the first three months of returning to the UK, I caught up with old friends, got back into the swing of being in a full-time relationship again.  After that, I started the search for a new job, specifically in Scotland, then when nothing came of that, the rest of the UK. I found even with the experience I had racked up working with a huge company, it still wasn’t enough to get me interviews or opportunities. It was disheartening, it was frustrating.  I thought this definitely has to give me a leg up but no, back to the beginning of the career game.

I continued applying for more jobs similar to my last, then jobs that were still in media, then social media, then fucking anything that was at least appealing. I got a few interviews, completed tasks, multiple interview stages, presentations all to be rejected in the end. This was really hard to swallow. I felt like I had a lot to offer but that slowly turned to, do I? Self-doubt is a slow disease working its way through the body until you can’t move. Overly dramatic? Well its how it felt to me…

I missed having a schedule, it was my timekeeper my speeding clock, a loss I found hard to replace. When I made myself a schedule I felt like it didn’t amount to anything because I wasn’t working and for me, it had no outcome. Terrible way to look at it, I know but when you feel useless and unwanted the mind can be a devilish character.

A war is being raged in the corporate world, a battle of applications and the weapon of choice; uniqueness. How do you show that on a piece of paper? The final engagement takes place in a small office with three chairs when nerves are at there highest and you may not shine the brightest you have inside of you. Is that your only chance? Have you lost? Back to the drawing board.

After shacking awake my confidence I came to the realisation that I wasn’t in the worst position. I had somewhere to stay, I had friends and I had choices. I could continue to wrap my whole being around the idea of working in media or I could consider other options. That isn’t to say I am giving up on my career path, no, no I love visual media, it just means I am considering other roads.

I have always enjoyed photography and capturing the world around me. Through UNI and work, I have had the opportunity to learn how to edit motion images and I gathered familiarity with Photoshop, so I am using my time to improve and create new images, my own images. It might be just a hobby or a new future source of income, I don’t know, it all depends on whether people like what I have to offer enough. If not I have also begun writing a book and poetry, other mediums that could possibly pay for the food in my fridge and the shoes on my feet. But I honestly don’t know. If anything they are conduits to feed my everlasting flow of expression.

Close up Shop

A smile hangs across her skin,  an expression that is mimicked.

Light beams from her eyes, a reflection that is blinding.

Within darkness lurks an invisible force waiting impatiently for its delivery. 

With eager hand’s, it tightens on the reins.

The rope bleeds poison, all strength is lost.

It seeps through every vein overwhelming the soul, all will is lost. 

What is left is the shell, a cocoon of sorrow knocked upon by scrutiny. 

The echo mocks the effort, as nobody is home.

In the shadows, existence buzzes with life but the poison must run rivers before life can be replenished. 

Eventually, joy will be remembered because the alternative is an abyss.  

 

Natural Beauty washed in turquise : Almbach Gorge, Austria

If you haven’t had a chance to read my last blog, I am currently revisiting some of the places I have travelled to in Austria. I wrote about Fuschl am See, with its magical lake and the remarkable views from the top of Schober mountain. My next stop on the Austrian love train is Almbach Gorge. The gorge is actually in Germany but it is on the border of Austria and is close to Salzburg where I was based for work. I guess this is an Austrian, German love train. All aboard!

Almbachklamm

The Almbach gorge (Almbachklamm) formed after glaciers melted. This resulted in the separation of the contiguous land surface of Ettenberg and Maria Gern. The outcome of this event is the beautiful Almbach gorges streams and many waterfalls. A human-made trail has been running through the gorge since 1894 and includes a tunnel, 29 bridges and 320 steps.  One of the entrances into the gorge is at Hammerstiel. There is a little booth that fits one soul who takes your money and allows you entrance. The entry fee is around 6 euros but is cheaper for children. During the winter it is closed because of the possibility of avalanches, ice and snow. The trail has been repaired a few times due to the weather which is why I really don’t mind paying for such a beautiful places upkeep if it means others and myself can continue to enjoy the trail. We drove there but if you don’t have access to a car, you can hop on the 840 bus from Salzburg. The bus leaves you about a 5-minute walk from the car-park and the entrance.

Which trail is the trail for you

There are different routes you can take. One is at the end of the Almbachklamm to the Theresienklause (what they used to transport logs, see it in the video at the end of the post) and then on to Ettenberg. This trail takes about two and a half hours.  Another trail you can take is from the end of Almbachklamm to Maria Gern and back which takes about 3 hours. We took the route from Almbachklamm to Ettenberg, but instead of walking back the same way we continued on around the gorge through the forest path until we came back onto the trail and doubled back from there.

Throughout the entire gorge, you are surrounded by rock. The raw sound of the rushing river water echoes off the rock and blocks everything else out. You are completely taken out of city life and left inside this wild place. The landscape itself is a natural art sculpture created by the movement of the earth. The colour of the water is a wonderful turquoise making it utterly tantalising. The walk along the trail isn’t difficult but some of the steps and paths are wet and can be slippy so I would suggest wearing shoes with good grip. In some parts of the trail, the water is deep enough to swim in.  Anyone brave enough for a quick dip? That’s one way to build up an appetite! hmmm now that we are talking about food,  if you feel a bit peckish there is a restaurant on one of the trails you can stop off at Gasthof Dürrlehen is a lovely little place where you can take a break and have a bier before heading back or continuing on the trail. The restaurant is situated at the beginning of a beautiful open valley.

Some sections of the gorge are dryer and perfect picnic spots or just nice points for a quick break.

Think you are brave enough to jump from where we are sitting into the water? Well, I wasn’t… I guess I won’t be applying to enter any cliff diving competitions any time soon. It’s no doubt a big NO to jump into the water here anyways so probably not a good idea.

There are so many of these small waterfalls along the way. You can get close up and personal, that’s if you can handle the cold!

In the below image it looks as though the entire right side of the gorge has slid down to great the other side. Don’t worry! You can’t really see it but the path veers around to the left so the boulder doesn’t block your path.

I said we weren’t brave enough to jump in but we were bold enough to walk in… Probably not the best idea to do it in your clothes though… Oh well ! next time I’ll pack a towel.

I am literally a walking advertisement for Red Bull in these photos…

Want to see more of this wonderful gorge? Check out the video below and take a stroll with my friends and me along the Almbach Gorge trails.

Jess x

Take Flight

I try to hold my ground but they fight my will.

A secret flutter inside the cage, the evidence of weakness. All it takes is a swift charge towards life’s opportunities.

Scared of the release but the lock is broken and the swarm is free.

Wings soar around the living, following the footsteps of those still trapped inside.

Escaping the net that tries to catch them, it cannot bare the bliss they carry.

Their kin call to them and they obey.

 I watch as they escape as I stand waiting for my own.

A weekend away to Ardbrecknish House: Dalmally Scotland

As I sit typing, snow whirls around the street outside and bangs at the window like an intruder trying to invade every crack of the city. It is the first time in 5 years that I have seen snow like this in Edinburgh. It makes the city seem like a completely different place. The dense ice crystals cloak the landscape from view, walling its citizens in. It feels as if it was to list and the sky was to clear it would reveal a new vastness with no end.

Perfect excuse to sit in and write about my weekend away to Argyll. My friend Ben is flying off to fulfill his dream of joining a J-pop group. Nah I’m kind, he is moving over for a year and as a farewell, he organised a trip away with a few friends before he leaves.

The drive is supposed to take 2 hours and 40 minutes but It took me and my road trip companions about 4. This was mainly because we stopped for coffee and chippy in Inverarary.  And I can report the local chippy provided a sizable tray of chips.

 

Ardbrecknish House

Although the Ardbrecknish is described as 17th-century tower house, there are maps and a map dating back as far as 1590. According to architectural historians, the saddleback tower and wall thickness suggest medieval origins. To me, it looked as though it was from two different times.  One side medieval and the other Georgian. Ardbrecknish remained as one unit until the house was converted into a hotel in 1930.

Like most houses that have stood for more than one century, it has its stories and its ghosts. One tale is of an elderly lady who is said to rise late at night to check that the laundry stored in the east wing is all prepared for the morning. In more recent times a team of craftsmen were working inside the house on a structural project. They heard a call summoning them for tea. When they made their way to the kitchen no-one was there. Whilst the team waited for the kettle to boil and contemplated who may have called them, the internal wall on which they had been working, collapsed without warning. Creepy but also I prefer these kinds of helpful ghosts that the kind in the movie Insidious. The house is not easy to get too and you will most definitely need to drive unless you want to trek from the nearest town which is Inveraray.

*Quick note, Inveraray is the nearest town with a supermarket, restaurants and an ATM.

 

The interior of the house was old-fashioned and basic. The rooms were clean with thick covers which kept me nice and warm on the cold nights.  The section of the house we stayed in had many adjoining corridors connecting the rooms to the kitchen area and living room. The bathroom like the rest of the wing was clean. They do not provide towel so that is something you will need to add to your packing list. This was a bit annoying as its something you expect most places to supply. The view from our wing was striking. You could see the mountains and lakes from the main room with a large window for viewing. I was up before anyone else. I find it hard to sleep in, in a new place so I usually am the first to rise. It was really nice getting up and sitting with a cup of tea just enjoying the scenery.

The house has a bar attached which you can get rach through the maze of corridors in the house. The bartender was also the owner of Aedbrecknish. She was a lovely woman who told us that she had been there for 19 years. It was great having the bar as it had a pool table, darts, and booze, all the makings of a good night. Usually, there is a restaurant but as it was off season it was closed. The rooms are dog-friendly and cheaper offseason. It cost us 315 for two nights with an extra 25 for our doggo. companion.

If you want to see more photos of the house click on the link.

Loch Awe

Loch Awe is the third largest freshwater loch in Scotland and is famed for its trout fishing. Salmon pass through the loch, coming past the barrage in the River Awe and continuing into the River Orchy. At the northern end, it has one of the most photographed castles in Scotland, Kilchurn Castle which I saw on our journey back but wasn’t able to pull over to have a proper look. I really want to visit the area again and see that Castle close up.

We decide to rent a boat and explore the lake. During the summer season the lake is full of fisherman and other tourists but as this was off season we had the pick of the boat fleet. There were a few options from motorboats with or without tops and rowboats. We chose a boat with a top as from afar you could see dark clouds sweeping over the mountains towards the lake. The boat allowed a maximum of 5 people and cost 25 to rent and an extra 5 pound for every additional hour. Make sure you bring cash as they don’t take card payments.

If you want to learn more about boat hire for the lock follow the link: Boat hire.

Inishail is distinguished by its distinctive grassy surface, which is probably why it was giving the nickname “Green Isle”. There are fragments of the walls of a small building, enclosing a space choked up with stones. A larger space is protected by an iron fence. Which I have no idea why its there. Maybe the used to have animals on the island?

The island is full of colour, green moss, reds, yellows animate the terrain with lichen springing from the branches reaching out into the fresh country air. It felt alive and safe on this tiny little island.

If you go looking for the other ruins down from the cemetery be aware and then prepare for a lot of fun surfing the marsh. We went searching for more ruins and got our wellies stuck in the waterlogged earth. When we moved our feet while submerged it created a mossy wave. Make sure you wear wellies or expect your shoes to soaked through.

Possibly a Knights tombstone? I can’t be sure but my imagination runs wild all the same.

On the way back to Edinburgh we decided collectively to stop off in a few places on the way. We all made our way to Inveraray first. Inverary is a town in Argyll. It is on the western shore of Loch Fyne and it is also the retirement home for the Vital Spark. The Vital Spark is a fictional Clyde puffer. I had to google what that is and apparently, it a steamboat that is run by a coal fire and only has one mast. This particular boat came to fame on a BBC TV show written by Scottish writer Neil Munro. The Argyll brewer Fyne Ales, situated close to Inveraray produces a beer called Vital Spark in tribute to the series.

Some of my group went to the Inverary jail while two of us decided we would rather not pay the £11.50 entrance fee and instead visited the castle. The Inveraray castle took 40 years to construct and the work was designed by Willaim Adams and Roger Morris. The building gives me Wizard of Oz vibes. An emerald Castle that hides a powerful wizard inside. Who dare walk the red brick road?

After Inveraray, our group parted and went their separate ways. My party of three plus a little pooch made our way to view Loch Tay from the hills. There are impressive newly built houses situated along the hills of the lake and in the summer season, many people use the lake for fishing, swimming, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding. But as it is winter the lake was quietly resting to reenergize before the warmer seasons.

We went to Kenmore,  a small village in Perthshire located where Loch Tay drains into the River Tay. If you go bring duck feed witness an army of webbed-feet, waggles along the lake’s edge. The ducks swarm visitors looking for a tasty snack and will happily get in your personal space to get one.

Next, We stopped off at Killin, a village which lies at the western head of Loch Tay in Stirling. The moment you step out of your car you are welcomed by thunderous roars of the rushing water. This ferocious river drew a lot of curious travellers.

I would absolutely recommend visiting Loch Awe. There is so much landscape to explore in the area and just a drive away that is if you can drive, if not make friends with people who do. 😂

Want to see more? Press play below and follow me to Loch Awe. ⇊⇊⇊⇊⇊

Hiking up the camels back: Ben Lomond Scotland

As I stand on the edge of the world,
a speck on a grander scale,
I see my heavy footprints in the dirt but the scale feels no weight.
As I stand on the edge of the world,
the view below is a ripple in time, yet I see no change.
As I stand on the edge of the world,
I ponder these questions.
If my steps alone are small, is the measure of my existence insignificant?
or are we one giant foot crushing the planet into a flat conspiracy?
Does the weight of us all tip the balance or break it?
I ponder…

It is universally known how goddam gorgeous Scotlands landscape is. Whenever you read lists like top 10 countries to visit or most astounding landscapes in the world, Scotland is always high up in the rankings. I have been living here on and off for 5 years now and it is just not acceptable for that I haven’t seen more of this country. Luckily I have friends who feel the same, friends with cars and full licenses so we can visit all of the places not easily accessible by public transport.

Ben Lomond is just over two hours from Edinburgh. It is located at Loch Lomond in Stirling. As Ned Stark famously said”Winter is coming” so we left before sunrise to arrive nice and early to Loch Lomond. The drive isn’t a snore fest. It brings you along small country roads that cut through farmland and small villages, (best to keep the windows closed for this section of the road trip).

The Kelpies

The Kelpies represent the lineage of the heavy horse of Scottish industry and economy that shaped the geographical layout of the Falkirk area. There are mini replicas of these sculptures at the Edinburgh airport and St Andrews.

Ben Lomond or in the Gaelic “Beinn Laomainn” (Beacon Mountain’) is 974 metres in elevation (3,196 ft). It lies on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond and is the most southerly of the Munros. Since 1995 the area around Ben Lomond, including the mountain summit, has been designated as a war memorial, called the Ben Lomond National Memorial Park. The park is dedicated to those who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars and was created out of the former Rowardennan Estate with the support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. Apparently, on a clear day, you can see Ben Lomond from higher ground in Glasgow, across Strathclyde and even from Ben Nevis 40 miles away. Might be why it is named the Beacon Mountain. If you aren’t up for a hike, the Loch is a great place to walk around or picnic.

5 minutes down 295 to go…

We started at the car-park (charge) in Rowardennan. There are toilets but during the winter season, the toilets are closed until February so be prepared to relieve yourself in natures toilet. We took the route clearly marked behind the closed toilets. This route takes you along a forestry path first before it opens up. We passed through a gate, crossed a track and continued uphill. Not long after that, we crossed a small bridge over water and from there it opened up giving you wonderful views of the Loch below. Perfect photo opportunity/ disguise your desperate need for a break. Secrets out!

Hidden behind these smiles is pain…

We met some of the local wildlife grazings along the hillside. I think this breed of cattle is called Galloway which is native to the area. If I’m wrong and someone out there is a cow aficionado please feel to comment and correct me. Whatever they are or not, they are absolutely adorable and have no interest in hikers.

After passing the cows that refused our attention (the rejection still hurts) there was an open valley with a long thin eroded path that moved towards the peak and up along its back. It looked like a scar on the mountains head that never really healed.

From here the path zigzags up the hump of the mountain. Along the hump is a great spot to take a break, refuel and enjoy your surroundings. Here you can see the other sections of the mountain and the other mountains huddled around the area. Absolutely breathtaking. It also blocks the wind a bit so you don’t get too cold. Eventually, the trail levels off and veers to the left around the rim of the mountain (more superb views).

From the peak, you can either retrace your route or you can go down a rockier Ptarmigan route. We, unfortunately, didn’t venture that way this time although I did attempt it. The descent was covered in ice and snow. It was also very steep. It was hard to keep a grip on the rock to lower my body down. I was already on my way down before I thought “This was a bad idea”, but I also thought well you are already doing it so you might as well keep going. I made it past the hard part and was chuffed with myself that I was alive, I looked back to see how the others were doing.  They had not followed my daring (or stupidity). Seeing how difficult it was for me they decided against following which was probably a really good idea.

 Ben Lomond Top Tip

Wear appropriate shoes. Some of my friends wore trainers and found some parts of the hike more difficult because of this. Trainers give no ankle support and little protection from the elements. I recommend walking boots or at least trainers with good ankle support. The sections with loose gravel and rockier terrain are made easier with a good pair of boots. I did quite a bit of research before purchasing mine. When I found the ones I wanted, I shopped around for the best price and in the end, got them for 50% off the original price. I never had to break them in and they are very comfortable.

The dog below was having the time of his life on the mountain. He was running around the top playing in the snow and seemed to love a view just as much as we do.

On our way back down the sun was setting. The light made the mountains glow orange. Hiking at the end of Autumn is like standing in Four Seasons. The blues, skies, powerful sun, leaves that are still green fighting back against the Autumn colours and snow covered peaks.

Want to see more of our hike? Check out the video below!

Jess x