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Archive for November, 2006

sad-sub-lj-06-jw.jpgToday I had my first Subway meal in nearly three years,…well almost.

Almost, because it failed to reach my expectations, no, the actual standards that I, and every Subway-munching fan hold dear and it is most unfortunate that it is happening in Ljubljana, Slovenia that is a new and emerging market for this product. This is the reason I’m bringing it up here on XYZone.

I know that you can never beat the way the ol’ black mama’s do it in America’s “deep south” like I had in New Orleans, man, you can’t beat that for the world. They put so much heart and enthusiasm and ‘Southern hospitality’ into your sandwich that you feel you are eating in their own kitchen. They jam so much filling in it you almost max-out the paper rapping it’s so full.

In the Chicago area they are nearly all run and owned by Continental Indians and the expression “Indian giver” seems appropriate. I found myself thinking twice before ordering there knowing I wouldn’t get much more then a ‘happy meal’ in my foot-long sub, but being a loyal Subway fan I did anyways, reluctantly.

The fundamentals however are the same, namely the trademark way they (should) put on the cheese triangles in a zig-zag formation on the bread (not to mention the standard 3 cheeses to choose from, Swiss, American and Cheddar) and heating up the “meal packs” of the typically hot meals, like “Steak & Cheese, “Meatball Marinana” and “Chicken Teriyaki” before putting them on the bread regardless if you want it toasted after or not.

This was far from how they did it here, they just had one kind of cheese (probably just local Gouda) and put it on haphazardly then just dumped cold steak packs on it. I ended up with a cold ‘adolterated’ crumbly sandwich that should have been a deliciously hot ‘Stake and Cheese” wonder-sub. It’s not that they did not care, the girls were very professional, but sadly ill trained.

Now I do not like being a whiner so I ate it and tried to enjoy it what I could. I do not believe in making a western-style scene complaining to the staff in front of others, but I do not like the fact that locals are paying good money and getting the complete wrong idea of a product. Would you like to buy Nike shoes with the insoles put in wrong? Or a Big Mac with a cold burger or with the cheese on the bottom? There should be certain rules, you’d think an International franchise would, (thankfully they did have imported jalapenos) that are applied even in developing countries.

They deserve just as much care and attention as demanding westerners, even if they do not know any better, it’s called service.

Next time I’ll just get a burek.

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Recently I’ve been talking to many people and we talk about many different things. Naturally they want to talk about where I come from, what brings me here to their small country etc, and I want to know about them, their country and culture.

Conversations sometimes also turn to faith and I’ve been amazed at the regularity with what comes the reply that they believe in “nothing”. I’m not one for organized religion and church and that is never really the question I ask. I find that Slovenian’s even more so then their Slavic brothers lack spiritual aptitude.

I am well aware of the events of the last 50-plus years and that the socialist teachings play a big part in this but it has been 15 years since, Isn’t that enough time to start thinking? I know many middle-aged people who one way or another have drifted back or whole-heartily embraced the faith of their forefathers and the Catholic Church in either word or deed, and find a measure of peace and that is great, but what about the youth?

I know many of my generation here who are disillusioned with the Catholic church for one reason or another, be it hypocrisy, scandal, political involvement, or what have you. Knowing what you don’t like is only half of the thought process.

Slovenia is a new country (as far as being free and independent) and has the unique opportunity to start anew and give their citizens the best political, social, and moral based society possible.

When it comes to faith I see that many young people ( aged 15-35) need to ask more questions, one thing I think they inherited from socialism is the inability to rationalize and they just take things at face value and lack the ability to really ask themselves and their society the hard questions like why am I here, what will I do with my life, where am I going.

The youth are the future of this country, if they do not find these answers personally and then address them on a national level this country will be like a rudderless ship drifting in the ocean  and in the next few decades will run aground of it’s own doing and will end up like much of the western world with a moralise society that took hundreds of years for them to accomplish.

I remember back in 2001, I was in Croatia and I was hanging out with a friend of mine and it got cold walking in the park so we went to a small bar to get something warm to drink.

When we ordered hot tea, the waitress asked “fruit tea, or mint”? As this was a small bar so they only kept two types of tea in stock to choose from.

I thought it was a bit odd and told my friend Jasmina that if this was the case in my country people would simply walk out if they did not have the flavored tea they wanted, even I had more tea choices then that in my kitchen. She said that this is how it has always been here and you simply learn to like fruit or mint tea, get warm, and be happy.

While I admire that kind of contentment and keeping life simple it did start making me think. I looked around more and saw this for myself in other areas too, especially reflected in the consumer market in this region that until the last few years and globalization hitting the supermarket shelves, there were little more then two choices of a product to chose from of anything. Usually a state-run industry product and an import and then it were usually just a matter of simple economics.

We’ve radically altered the shopping experience, but are we still as limited in our faith?

In this case the “fruit or mint” is Catholic or atheist. I think people have been kind of unfairly divided into two camps, those that feel any need for the spiritual have to be Catholic and those that don’t are atheist. The two choices system has turned many “would-be customers” away simply because it is a little harder to acquire a “taste” for these ideologies then tea.

I am not a religious scholar or have any formal education on the matter but I know that faith (not religion and tradition) plays a big part in my daily life. It is not hinged on the faith of my ancestors, my education, or what my parents expect of me, but from my heart.

I can say I have found inner peace, a purpose for living, and belief in an afterlife. Those are fundamental beliefs of many different religions.

I have looked at religions and philosophies, visited ancient religions of the east, read the Koran (in English), and the book of Mormon. I have rationalized them all, I even ruled out the possibility of a God for a time, but the important thing is He never did, and He’s made himself abundantly clear to me and has given me faith.

I talked with a guy the other day in his twenties here in Ljubljana and he said that he was born in socialism and was given no faith, so today he has no faith. I find that a pretty lame excuse. If his dad would say he can borrow the family car to take his girlfriend out if he can find the car keys he’d do everything in his power to find them.

The same goes for faith, we can find it if we are willing and desperate enough to look. The problem is so few people seem to be looking, be it for lack of time or interest.

I think one thing that has contributed to this in Slovenia is the fact that the transition to independence went relatively smoothly and that before religion was ‘discouraged’ rather then ‘outlawed’ making it less black and white then it was in other socialist states like the U.S.S.R and China. War and opposition bring out faith in people, Slovenia has not had that testing in recent times and faith has not been awakened either in many people.

Like the saying goes “if you don’t stand for something, you fall for anything”, their sure seems to be a falling for capitalism and momentary happiness in material things here at the moment. What if all that is suddenly gone? All we’ll have left is our faith.

What faith?

This site encourages all constructive comments, criticisms or alternate views on these writings. Please feel free to express your feelings on this article for other readers by leaving a comment, thank you. -Author

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Slovenia might have more billboards then population, it sure seems that way some times. It’s just amazing the “creativity” in which billboards are mounted on any surface possible here.

Ugly concrete walls, construction barriers and overpasses are a great uses of space. Hayracks are innovative, though in some places are just adding to the over-crowed feeling I see in some parts of urban areas.

Today while walking along the Ljubljanica (Ljubljana’s jewel river) I came across this sight that was a little disheartening to see.

At first I thought ‘oh good people are working on restoring another riverfront building’, as there were workmen on a lift and what looked like a first coat of new plaster on patches. I took a picture thinking this would make a good story on how the town is improving the old buildings in the off season. There are places in the old town that are, but this is not one of them.

lj-signs.jpgI was in for a shock when I walked by there again an hour later and I saw what they were really up to, argh!

Instead of fixing the wall they were putting a giant metal frame and plastic advertisement up, covering the windows and nearly half the side of this old building for the placard that has nothing to do with history, culture events or this city.

Personally, I think there ought to be laws about this, if people don’t have the respect and courtesy themselves for their own historical parts of town.

If the riverfront is not sacred from this blatant commercialism what is? Will they start putting ads on the castle hill next? Or in the Postojna caves for that matter. If it’s just money life is all about, why not get in the big leagues. Imagine the premiums you could charge advertisers.

As a visitor to this wonderful city when I come here I want to see the city, even if it is not all fully restored or run down in parts. I don’t come here to see ads, that’s what the highway is for.

Imagine if more old houses start doing this? What memories, videos and photographs will visitors be bringing home with them? Will it just be that Ljubljana center is a sell-out for commercial profits? Is that the “postcard” the city wants visiters to bring home with them?

I have the privilege of being here longer and knowing otherwise, someone who just visits for days or hours doesn’t have that benefit, unless they see it from the start. Only time will tell.

I happen to love advertising and think it is an important medium of our time for communicating with the masses, but it has to have its place. This communicates negatively.

For every person there is that will buy the product from seeing the ad here, there is equally as many tourists walking away, disillusioned.

It all comes down to priorities.

This site encourages all constructive comments, criticisms or alternate views on these writings. Please feel free to express your feelings on this article for other readers by leaving a comment, thank you. -Author

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Today I went out to try to shoot footage for a video-blog report on Ljubljana’s “Kolizej”.

Kolizej is an old building that is in Ljubljana that is more then two hundred years old, but might be knocked down for to put up a modern shopping and cinema complex.

I won’t elaborate on it now as that is what that report is for and I will post it once I edit the video and add the narration etc.

In going around town getting video footage for this I came across many neat things, as I seem to do every time I go out here, it is just amazing to me some times how I run into wonderful opportunities. There are many stories to tell but I’ll have to keep it to some of the main ones for this post.

Ljubljana vinska pot (Ljubljana wine event)lj-vinska-pot06-jw.jpg

While getting footage in the old town I noticed little booths set up along the rivera. Having had such a good time last week for St. Martin’s day I was game to try some from this events ‘new wine’ too. I finished my filming and research, which took me all the way to Plečnikova hiša (the famous late Sloven architect Joze Plečnik’s home, now architecture museum) but unfortunately it was just closing time so I didn’t go in.

I desided to make my way back to the center of town and find myself a glass.

It was interesting to see how different tables generated different crowds, from intellectuals to high-society types each gravitating to different booths. They might have known the winemaker, but generally I think it was just the bar they were in front of.

I am neither intellectual nor high-society so I found another stand that had a mix of people, from locals to visters, so I added a blogger to the mix.

These were superb new white wines apparently grown in the Northern part of this country in the Maribor region (Svečina, specifically). I learned all this while making conversation with the gracious Ana, who was the wine connoisseur at this booth.

It was just a lovely day today; I know I’ve been saying this for weeks now but it is amazing how the weather is and that it was still 17 degrees today in mid November. I’m sure the cold and snow will come but one more weekend with wine in my hand on the Ljubljanica, you just got to love this place.

I get to into seeing and doing everything there is here that I often need a few minuets to regroup and I’m glad I caught this event for that reason. I’m sure it did me a lot of good.

There defiantly are good wines here and it is really a pity if they are not getting more international attention. The wine tourism board should never let a bottle out of the country, only samples. That way you’d have everyone in the world wanting to come and visit Slovenia and get more.

I’ve never been one for wine, but I’m getting converted. One glass or fair at a time.

To learn more of this particular wine and wine maker visit here. I don’t know them, but I know their product so I recommend it as tried and proven by XYZone.

national-gallery-slovenia-j.jpgNarodna galerija (National Gallery of Slovenia)

I happened upon the National Gallery by accident, I ended up taking the wrong street and found myself staring at this most amazing structure.

What caught my eye was the vast metal and glass structure lodged in-between two old stately buildings that would otherwise be typical of this part of town.

I could not help my curiosity so I went in and asked the bookshop clerk what on earth landed in Ljubljana.

Well, not quite like that but with all the glass and two story space and orange pumpkin shaped security desk in the lobby it felt a bit like a study of how it would be to be in a giant empty fish tank.

Ilj-art-gal-jw.jpg quickly learned what this building was and that it happened to be free admittance today, my lucky day! I found my way “back to earth” in the form of the two houses on the sides that were full of amazing and old art collections.

Most were oil paintings from 1600 – 1700 a.d, from such renowned artists as Peter von Kessel and many other europian and Sloven artists I’m am not very fermiliar with yet. There were also sculptures and wood carvings.

I found this neat room filled with wood and cement sculptures dating to the 1400 – 1500 a.d. The detail and craftsmanship put into them was great but I noticed that they all had on their nameplate “anonymous”, I guess they did not expect for them to be around so long or didn’t listen to there teacher tell them to put their name on their work.

Come to think of it woodcarvers then probably never learned to write at all.

That did not keep them from doing something, and we celebrate them for it now. How many great things are lost or not contributed to society by those who feel they have nothing to give, inadequate education or whatever. Look at Edison, look at middle ages wood carvers.

You can do your part. You can make a difference to someone.

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After descending the mountain and a celebrity drink back at the bottom we were back on the road for a drive to Šempetar to stay the night with a friend of A.J.’s. Being that November 12th is here a Catholic appointed day of St. Martin and it also falling on a Sunday this year we thought it best to not travel all the way back to Ljubljana for two reasons. First there were a lot of police checks testing people’s alcohol levels (it is 0.5 in this country) and sure to be many people on the road that might do harm to themselves or us due to over-drinking. Secondly we wanted to experience this event relaxed and be able to get some rest after before traveling back. This turned out to be a great plan and prompted the most amazing evening.

Our drive took us through the lower Soča valley and we had a quick driving tour of the town of Kobarid. Like much of the trip we learned that many if not all the hills and locations were used for wars and defensive fronts during the World Wars.

Unfortunately it was already dark so we could not see much out the car window but it was fascinating to hear as we went by. And the Italian and Austrian built roads that we drove on were a modern-day reminder of the influence and scale such wars have on a landscape. What were once tactical supply lines and military transport routes that today is still the fastest road for us to take on this trip.

Once we got to our hosts place we decided to stay in uniform and do a little drill for them and their evening guests. Officer Klement instructed us “new recruits” in some German words like “Hault” (stop) “Links” (left) and some others, some of which we used up on the lake but being late, us all being tired, and explaining things in three languages we just simplified it and our host performed an “inspection of the troops” in his courtyard and a short display of us to his guests.

It was not long before we all found ourselves as guests as well and a table spread before us of all the warmest Slovenian hospitality and most delicious home-made cuisine one had to offer.

We were officially welcomed to his house with a shot glass of the traditional drink Rakija at the door, some of which our host had made himself, we soon learned that his hobby and passion is winemaking and he had the most amazingly delicious blend I’ve ever tasted. He is now recently retired so will have even more time to devote to this.

We were then served urdervs and their last year’s blend of both red and white wine. Being St. Martin’s day and the company of IR-17 visiting they had their local perish priest come to ceremonially bless the new “young wine”. This took some time but it was an interesting experience being in this amazing wine cellar they had and doing our “drills” again before the priest blessed the new white wine, some written prayers were read by other visitors and then the keg was declared “open” and everyone verified that it was indeed wine.

We then went on to our main meal and more drinks and conversation at our table. It was amazing how well some of our group’s English seemed to come back to them once we all had a few drinks and we really had some good laughs and fun conversations over the course of the night.

Well, duty called once again and now it was time to make the “juice into wine” again in the form of the red wine vat. This followed a similar procedure and it was just a matter of time before the red one too was declared “open” and “tasted” before we were again ushered into the dining area again for yet another warm dish.

It was not till around 1:00 am that we had a round of coffee and the other guests and part of our company (that had a designated driver) headed back home, this prompted a long set of goodbyes and warm greetings.

We may have all come there strangers (and in the case of Rob and I, foreigners with a language barrier) but left as friends from this unique event and chance evening that brought us all together for warmth, friendship and wine on this, St. Martin’s night.

Note: I later looked this up on the Internet and did find this page explaining more about St. Martin, however I did not find anything about this having to do with blessing the wine on this day. The real day is November 11, and corresponds with the day he died. He was a Bishop who lived a life of poverty and solitude around 300 a.d. Officially referred to as St. Martin of Tours and is the patron saint of soldiers.

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krn-slo-hut-jw.jpgToday I had the opportunity to participate in the 9th Krn lake dedication. What was better is I had the privilege to be embedded in the IR-17 re-enactment group, giving me the opportunity to cover this event for XYZone in a unique and original way. This was not my original intention when setting out on this trip but I’m glad that this opportunity came along.

We were running a bit late due to the many stops we took along the way but made good time getting into uniform and learning how to wear the different belts, side-bag, riffle and apply the leg raps to make our outfits complete. I must say that a lot of care and detail was put into clothing then, and the replica clothing we were using for this exercise was made with the same care and detail in mind.

krn-slo-we-jw.jpg Next, there was no more excuses, no other way to get to the lake then to walk, walk, and walk some more.

The terrain of the paths and mule trail that we followed to get up the mountain was mostly potato-sized rocks with some small boulders often covered in a blanket of autumn leaves making the footing sometimes slippery other times just unsure and a lot of rock movement making the walking slow going. The trail varied from narrow steep alleys and widened to small road-sized paths (that no doubt were used for supply trucks) and with no warning or reason would switch back and forth.

Again I was so impressed with the fitness and resilient determination of everyone I saw going up and my team as well, they both were prepared and understood how to ascend a mountain, something I clearly did not. My short bursts of energy interspersed between slow arduous steps one after another just to keep face with the rest of our team was not the right way to do it, kind of like trying to sprint a marathon.

Surly if I had not had made a conscious note to do my uniform proud and the people’s appreciation and interest in us wearing them once we made it to the top, I would have just fashioned a wooden cross, laid down somewhere in an embankment and never gotten up again.

The Žiri hike I went on was a longer walk and probably more km but this was like walking on a vertical train bed without rails and in a full uniform not exactly tailored for mountain hiking. We did make it and I am glad to have this accomplishment and the overall experience surely overshadows any momentary discomfort.

krn-slo-log-jw.jpg Once we made our way to the mountain top lodge nearly everyone of the three hundred or so had already made it to the top and preceded to the lake but we took a few minuets to regroup have a drink and catch our breath.

One of the men in our “regiment” offered me a warm cup of hot red wine that he had brought with him in a thermos that was just a complete lifesaver in helping me deal with the much cooler mountain temperatures now that we were not vigorously walking anymore. We also drank the tea prepared by the lodge staff that is a tradition among visiters to this point that was also great in helping us quench our thirst before making our way to the lakefront.

krn-slo-dedication-jw.jpg By the time we made it to the lake the event had began with fireworks over head and we made our way to the side where we drew a large amount of interest, the day though belonged to the event itself for which we were just guests and the local officials and dignitaries gave various speeches and a few local men’s singing groups played and sang traditional songs that from what I understood seemed to be about the mountains and their great love for them etc, not surprising, they were very beautiful and having this big lake of near frozen water way up in the mountain was very unique and stunning.

There was another re-enacting group as well and so once the formalities were finished many of the other mountain hikers turned to us and it was a bit of a surprise the almost celebrity status these uniforms brought us, not as individuals but the respect and historical interest everyone had and were like live manikins walking out of a museum set to them.

I guess it was real interesting for me too the first time I saw A.J. Potočnik and others in uniform in Žiri but in all my distraction of getting myself up to the top I had not really thought much of it except a few funny old ladies raving about us on the way up that I thought at first was an isolated case, it clearly was not.

We were not even dressed as national Slovenian soldiers, that I imagine might mean more to them, we were just reenacting first World War infantry men under the then occupiers the Austrian-Hungarian army, sure many of the enlisted men were Slovene but the commanders were manly German and Austrian, that did not matter, today was not about politics, this was history and everyone wanted a picture of or with us to bring back home and we were there to play the part for them.

That is really what these re-enacting groups are about, they are not war-playing, gun-touting mavericks, they don’t want to ‘inpersonate’ or ‘pretend’ to be the brave men of this time for themselves but to serve as walking history ambassadors for others who may never go to a museum but they did see us and others that I think will have a more lasting effect on them and hopefully arouse and interest to go to the museum or the Internet and learn more, perhaps then we might be able to one day learn something from history.

One of our company took time out to talk with one boy and explain different things about his uniform to him and time period with him, who knows who that boy may someday become, a future president, a Noble Peace lariat? One thing for sure is he left a little more knowledgeable of the first World War era first-hand. That to me is what re-enacting should be all about, and I’m glad to say my day with this regiment was.

We then made our way back to the lodge and partook of a small picnic lunch prepared by Brane and Tina, two members of our company that had graciously packed and carried this lunch all the way up with them. It was complete with homemade bread, hams, cheese, pickles and even a homemade pastry desert; they were just two of the wonderfully thoughtful and generous people I was honored to share company with in IR-17.

Being so high up on the mountain it started to get dark around 3:30 in the afternoon, at least an hour earlier then normal for this time of year so we had to make our descent before it got totally dark, thankfully it was relatively uneventful, we found it went much faster yet we still had unsure footing due to the small rocks and autumn leafs that made it a bit treacherous especially with my liability of big clumsy feet that resemble duck feet rather then the hooves of a nibble mountain goat.

We made it back to level ground again around 5:30 pm making our whole mountain adventure about 5 hours long. We stopped off for a quick celebratory beer at the lodge located at the foot of the mountain with other climbers before going on to our next adventure of the day, yes after all that it still was not over yet…

…we were off to St. Martin’s vines.

If you want to see more wonderful pictures of this event from today visit this link.

To learn more about IR-17 visit here.

krn-group-ir17.jpg

IR-17 plus the “foreign imports” of Rob and this blogger (center) at the lakefront with modern-day Slovene army looking on.

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I went on a trip today to the Slovenian Lake Krn. On the way there we drove through much of Slovenia’s North-Western countryside, alongside the Julian Alps and through the upper and lower Soča valleys.

It’s just amazing and like so much of Slovenia if you’re not restrained by being on the express way you are almost pulled off the road at every turn by all the beauty, old towns, churches and monuments that you come across. You really have to have a lot of time or a lot of self-restraint to get to where you originally planed to go without getting thoroughly distracted.

I fortunately had a great time-manager and guide in the form of Mr. A. J. Potočnik and was able to enjoy some of the wonderful things, stop at some highlights to get pictures and still get to our destination in reasonable time.

To me this country is a bit like a giant history and nature amusement park. You see from the catalogs and maps, like a big Farris wheel the “star attractions” of this land stand out and get your attention and get you running out to see them. Then once you set off and get on ground level you start to see all the smaller things that are equally as interesting and you really want to experience all the smaller “rides” along the way as well.

I can’t possibly do that all in just a few outings but it still doesn’t stop me from trying. Today I almost felt like a kid needing to be pulled from the rides for the sheer lack of time.

Many kids dream of living in Disneyland, I get to live in Slovenia.

If I had it my way I’d get a motorbike and tent I’d hit the road 9 nine months of the year till every rock is turned over, every story told and anything photographed to share all this wonder with others. I can’t get enough of experiencing everything there is to see here firsthand and share on this site.

That did not happen today but I did get to see just enough to satisfy some yearnings and still keep my insatiable hunger for more well in tact.

Here are some of the places we pit-stopped at today.

Russian Chapel (Ruska kapelica)

russian-chapal-slo-06-jw.jpg

This monument chapel is located on the Vršič pass. It is remembering all the Russian POW’s that worked on this roadway pass and the many that, well, never left. There is a small cemetery located near by and this chapel done in the Orthodox way.

If your familiar with this image or seen other pictures in tourist books it is usually a darker brown wood but this April they have just re-done the wood so it is yellow in color now till time and weather has it’s way again. Very nicely done and a peaceful tribute nestled in the forested hillside.

For a vertual tour of the chapel grounds visit here.

Prisank Mountain

prisank-slo-06-j-w.jpg

This is one of the most amazing mountains here in that it has two openings in the mountain called “windows”. In the picture you can see the highest window and “the face” located about half way up (see red boxes). The top window is approximately 40 x 80 meters large and there can be mountaineering trips arranged that include climbing through the hole. This is an interesting account and photo from someone who has done so.

This mountain is billed as a big attraction, and it is a stunning and unique rock. However at the foot of the mountain (where i took this picture) there is only a information board in Sloven and on the Internet there is no reference, history or explanation about the face and only very poor pictures (mostly from visitors from outside) of the windows, tourist books I have don’t even mention it at all.

Clearly, if this is a national treasure that it is, then it deserves more and better representation then it is currently getting.

 

Soča river

soca-rvr-slo-06-jw.jpg

This beautiful water-scape is one of the most pretty rivers I’ve ever seen. As it snakes through the countryside with it’s turquoise blue water and white rocks. It’s like a neck-tie on a suite making this beautiful countryside even more distinguished and unique.

In the picture the water is not very high given the lack of rain so far this time of year but the water level really fluctuates and no doubt once the winter snow melts it serves as a natural canal too and the rocks are obviously “polished” all the way up from rushing water torrents, it has been known to wash out small bridges too during high times.

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