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We’re just back from a fortnight in Russia. Sadly that doesn’t sound nearly as exotic as it would have twenty years ago —  but it’s still going to take me more than a few days to process a mindful of impressions and a cameraful of photos to share those with you.

So meantime, some small joys from before we went….

 The Storks.

It’s the second year the storks have come back to Altenrhein.  When Mani was a boy, there were storks here – but in the past seventeen years he’s been here over summer, the storks have been absent – till last year.

We often see one, or a pair, staking out a paddock for frogs, mice and insects.

Storks sky-spiralling above Altenrhein

Last month, there were six over our house, starting the process of gathering for migration.   Almost certainly we missed their leaving – so let me share the photo from last year, when thirteen had gathered on the airport (yes truly) to do their flight-preparation.

Last year, thirteen storks gathered for a pre-take-off planning meeting

 The Frogs.

It has been a great year for frogs (just as well, given the hungry storks!).  We must have had a mass metamorphosis event down in a neighbour’s fish-pond, because suddenly the garden was alive with little frogs.  A couple took up residence in my compost bin, feasting on the fruit-flies.   One left cold footprints over my bare toes while I was farewelling guests.  Then, just as suddenly, before I got round to taking a photo, they were gone.  Most of them will have made it down to the Old Rhine, where those that don’t make a meal for the herons will, I hope, have a raucous life.

But most raucous of all are our resident Laubfröschen. These tiny tree-frogs establish a shouting-rights territory, and have tremendous evening contests.

We’re sure the one in our kiwi-fruit vine uses the hollow pipe vine-prop as an amplifier.

Bellows inflated – mine’s bigger than yours!

The call is half-way between a laugh and a duck-quack, and absolutely contagious. We can’t help but join in.

Frogs also featured at a party recently.  Inge is making a serial-celebration of her 90th birthday, so we gathered for more festivity.

Those frogs got everywhere!


I love the way they do festivities in Switzerland, with flair – and often with fire.  During one of my early visits here,  we went to  a nephew’s wedding. The wedding-feast was in the rittersal (knight’s hall) of a hill-top Habsburg castle. That was special enough for this colonial girl.

But then, we trooped down into the courtyard, and lit long sparkler-type fireworks attached to white balloons, made a wish for the newly-weds, and let them float off over the countryside in a procession of lights (that’s the balloons, not the happy couple – though they may have felt like doing a Chagall-like drift.)

For Inge’s party, someone had got a set of lampions– tissue-paper balloons with a platform that you light.  We wrote our wishes for her on the balloon-paper, and let the night-air waft them towards the lake.

Many years ago, from just the same place, Mani and his boy-hood mates wrote anti-Hitler messages on lampions and floated them into Austria as heroic lads pursuing their war-effort.

Same place, same action – but such different times and sentiments.

Launching lampions into the night

Lampions over Thal and heading for Bodensee

Now to down-load the next batch of Russian photos…..