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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Oct 11

Catching Up

Posted on October 11, 2018 at 3:32 PM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

We’re enjoying a day of rest along the shores of Lake Como. There is so much to share from our travels through Switzerland, southern Bavaria, Austria and now northern Italy. Aside from the incredible beauty, I couldn’t help but notice the focus on conservation employed by all the towns, hamlets and cities. 

Hotel showerheads that turned off automatically reminded us of what we refer to as “Navy” showers—just long enough to get wet, turn off, soap up and then pull the cord to rinse off before the water flow stopped once again. My son, daughter and son-in-law laughed as we contemplated the mechanism controlling this concept for home use. There are some reluctant grandchildren who would find this idea a surprise!

Water was not the only thing being conserved. In our hotel rooms, we had to insert door key cards into a special slotted mechanism to attain electricity. This would be the same key card we’d need to take when leaving the room, thereby ensuring the electricity would be off. The one downside of this feature is it made it difficult to charge our cellphones if we went out for a short duration. 

rolling green in Bavaria
 Rolling green in Bavaria

 ivy geraniums
 Ivy geraniums at Lake Como
The bucolic rolling green hills in southern Germany’s Bavaria looked as if they could support large herds of cattle; however, there were never more than a dozen cows contentedly grazing at each home. Did I say home? The houses were spread some distance apart, and yet the cows nestled down in the sun very close to the beautiful homes. The themed decor of gardens in the area were the window boxes filled with masses of colorful red, pink or white pelargoniums. The sun-drenched windows sported what we know as zonal geraniums; their thick hair-like leaves retain water and protect the plants from direct sunlight. Meanwhile, the north- and east-facing window boxes were equally decorated with gorgeous smooth shiny leaves of ivy geraniums. It is no wonder the gardens were above grazing level with cattle roaming freely!

Rows of espaliered apple trees grew along the roadways, followed by rows of grapes. Terracing was common through the regions of the Dolomites, where town gardens sported fruit trees, vegetables and herbs in very small yet bountiful spaces. The soils appeared to be rich and healthy, supporting microbes that naturally feed the plants. The abundant produce was a testament to the work local gardeners put into feeding the soil. 

Visiting my cousin’s garden in Oleggio, Italy, my grandchildren were thrilled to see the variety of fruits such as kiwi growing there. The healthy, fruit-laden trees were scattered throughout a garden in what at first seemed no particular order. The pattern, however, was in the hydrozones where they were placed. My eye was also captured by the beautiful Exbury azaleas in bloom—this in October when I had only known an Exbury azalea to bloom in spring.

We plan to stay another week in Italy before returning to the US, so I expect to have even more to share. The experience of travel is rich, but the greatest gift is seeing my grandchildren embrace their heritage, explore their surroundings, and grasp the beauty found in the people of this world.


Anonymous User
October 14, 2018 at 4:07 PM
Charlene - I'm so enjoying your tales of your travels, and aren't you lucky to be traveling like that with members of your family! I'd love to read more about that - or even better hear it directly from you when we finally get together for a long overdue lunch. Why don't yoy give me a call when you get back and settled in, and we'll schedule a time to get together. I would certainly like to see you. Jess (707/939-7873)

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