Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Bill is back in Nairn for the summer!

Well, I returned home to Nairn last Saturday, but since then I have been quite busy 'reintegrating' into a domestic existence here; boring things like dealing with a certain amount of mail, disposing of a lot of 'junk' postal items, putting stuff in the refrigerator and coping with a dog who is now quite an elderly lady and who has, in the last few weeks, begun to show her age in a number of ways; more about that in a subsequent post.

Since my last post on 13th April, when I was roughly half-way up France (about 60 Km south of Lyon) I had an enjoyable overnight stay with friends who live in the Vosges area of Lorraine in north-eastern France. The small village where I stayed, Vioménil, has a population of roughly 160 and I suppose one of its main 'claims to fame' is that the source of the River Saône is located there; naturally I had to have a photograph!


Bill at the source of the River Saône - 15th April 2007
(Vioménil, Vosges, France)


Click here to see a larger image.


Apart from this, the Vosges is known for its 'sources' (springs from which water is bottled for sale) and two of the better-known French bottled waters come from the towns of Vittel and Contrexéville which are located not far from Vioménil. Broadly-speaking, Vittel is a water low in minerals which, according to the 'blurb', flushes the impurities out of your system whereas Contrexéville is pretty high in certain minerals and is supposed to aid in 'slimming', although you are not advised to stray too far from a lavatory if you drink a lot of it! I like both of these waters, for the record, but not all waters are the same and it is just as well to be aware of the different effects they can have on the body.

The following day I travelled on to the Netherlands, the last part of this stage of my journey home to Scotland, where I spent five days staying with my brother and sister-in-law in the small village of Sweikhuizen (a short article about the area, in English, is here) in the South Limburg region, having travelled through Luxembourg and Belgium; the day was gloriously sunny (and hot!) and there is some marvellous wooded scenery along the way; my last two journeys through Luxembourg were both in the winter (last January when I travelled down to Spain and some years ago when I was en route to visit the European Parliament in Strasbourg) and whilst it remains beautiful when snow-covered I much prefer it in warmer weather. Soon after my arrival in Sweikhuizen in the late afternoon on 15th April I was sitting in the garden of the local bar in the village enjoying drinks with family and friends - glorious!

One of the excursions I was taken on during my stay in the Netherlands was to a place called the 'three borders point' where the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium meet. In fact in the early 19th century it would have been the 'two borders' point, because in those days Belgium was still a part of the Netherlands (it became an independent country only in 1830) and indeed Germany did not exist either - so the two countries involved were the Netherlands and Prussia (which later formed an important part of the unified Germany under Bismarck). However, it did become a 'three borders point' even then because of a dispute between the two countries over the zinc ores found in the area near the town of Kelmis (or 'Calamine' in French, after which the sunburn lotion Calamine Lotion is named - the active ingredient is a compound of zinc oxide and iron oxide); as a result a tiny territory called Neutral Moresnet was created by the Congress of Vienna in 1816 and continued to exist until 1919 when it was abolished and absorbed into Belgium as part of the post-First World War Treaty of Versailles.

Well, how could I not have a photograph taken at such a place which has such a curious history!



The 'Three Borders Point'
17th April 2007
- Bill stands in Germany and faces into the Netherlands


An amusing sign in a restaurant window

Click here to see larger images.


The last leg of my journey home began last Friday when I drove to Zeebrugge with my mother (who had been in the Netherlands for a few weeks with my brother) to catch the ferry for Rosyth, just north of Edinburgh, where we arrived around lunchtime on Saturday and by 5pm that day I was home in Nairn - somewhat fatigued, but happy. I've been spending the last five days resting after my journey and doing the various mundane things an absence of three and a half months involves. I come back, of course, to the final stages of the Scottish parliamentary and local election season which will culminate in the elections to be held on 3rd May, just one week away. I received my postal vote ballot papers today; I shall be writing about the elections in the next few days.

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