Diary, October 25, 1797 (A Mystery Story)

A very strange thing happened to me yesterday, which I cannot explain. And I still wonder what happened! That’s why I’m going to write it down here. Fortunately, in the folds of my dress, I always have my notebook, pen and a small knife to sharpen it or cut herbs.

This morning I woke up in a cave. It was cold, I felt the hard stone under my back, everything hurt somehow. After a while I got up, very slowly, more mechanically. It took me a while to really feel something. I wondered why I was in a cave, why I had slept here. I couldn’t remember.

I tried a few steps, it went quite well, slowly the stiffness left my body. And suddenly I remembered Quartus. Where was he? The memory came back gradually. I had followed him, wanted to find him. He went yesterday to find out what was strange in the cave. And he didn’t come back. I wanted to know what he found there. And it occurred to me again that he said that there was a sweet smell at the entrance and that the smell made you sleepy. Of course, I had forgotten or dismissed it as nothing, since when do you get tired of a sweet scent? I always get hungry when I smell sugar cookies. But I don’t get tired of it. I thought. And then I called for Quartus in the cave and suddenly felt very tired. And now I remember the sweet smell right at the entrance. I then hid in a niche and actually fell asleep. But how long?

Anyway, I then went to the cave entrance. I couldn’t remember the many boulders in the entrance area. And also not that everything was overgrown in front of the cave. I had to work my way through thick bushes. My dress tore at the hem, the ribbons of my bodice got tangled again and again, as did my waist-length hair. Why hadn’t I just braided it in the morning, as Mother had told me?

Then I discovered something strange outside. The forest looked different, apart from the dawn. I immediately thought of mother, who was certainly afraid that I would stay away for so long. But was also completely amazed by the strange dirt road, which no longer looked like dirt road. It looked like a black stone poured over it. Since I didn’t see anyone, I went and carefully touched the ground. It felt like a soft stone, somehow strange. I had never seen anything like it. It would be easier to drive here with a cart, I thought right away. But I saw no one and no cart either.

I walked alongside it for a while, it didn’t change, seemed to drag through the forest. When I saw the same path that led home, I was really relieved. At least something familiar. When I walked through the undergrowth I thought of mother, who must have been afraid that I would stay away for so long.

It was dark now, the moon was faint. Our house appeared in front of me. I already had the impression that it looked different and yet somehow familiar. Still there was something strange about it, undefinable.

I went to the back of the house, the darkness enwrapped everything because a large cloud had moved in front of the moon. But in the last light I noticed that the herb garden seemed much smaller. Mother’s herb garden, which gave us a modest wealth. Mother who is a healer, I learned from her, how can we heal and survive without enough herbs? If there were any problems, they looked for Adelina or her daughter Gerlinde, me, I am in no way inferior in knowledge. But at that moment, I pushed the thought away. I was hungry and thirsty and wanted to go inside to tell mother that everything was fine.

I found it strange that everything in the house was dark. I called for mother, but I didn’t get an answer. Only the cry of the old barn owl seemed normal. Which calmed me down a bit. I fumbled for the key on the upper ledge and found it, and unlocked the door. I opened it carefully, everything seemed scary right now.

The room was pitch dark, so I didn’t notice anything at first. I reached out on the left to the wall to go to the table. I knew there was the oil lamp and the lighter so I could turn on the light. The room seemed cold to me, dead silence in the house, I shivered, and not only because I was cold.

I had only taken one step and moved my hand a little further when I felt a bump under my fingers. Unusual, the wall was very smooth. We had plastered it just a year ago. I pressed a little to feel the bump, and then the room suddenly became bright as day. I froze, my heart stopped. When I think about it now, I still catch my breath. The fear blocked me, the moment I felt cold and hot in one. Even more: I had never seen the room before. It was not our home. Where was mother ??? And why did it suddenly get as bright as day in the middle of the night? I carefully turned my head to the left, looked at my hand, my fingers. They were still on the bump on the wall. I only moved two of my fingers very lightly and suddenly it was pitch dark again. I heard a slight ‘click’ this time. I panicked, didn’t know what to do, what was going on here. What saved me from a panic attack was my rational thinking. Because there are no miracles, mysteries maybe. I have never believed in magic. Everything has an explanation. So this, too, I just had to find out. When I moved my fingers once more, everything appeared bright again.

I tried this several times, again and again the soft ‘click’ caused a change between light and dark. I saw that the bump consisted of a disc and a kind of button. What was that? I still don’t understand it, but I am now convinced that it is harmless. A square button that brightens when pressed on the lower end and darkens when pressed on the upper part. It is not in my head. And at the same time, I’m totally fascinated by the idea that I can make it light when it’s dark.

After a while I relaxed a little, dropped to the floor, and leaned against the closed door. Where was I? What was going on here? Where was mother ?And where, to Saint Vitus, was Quartus? Wasn’t he back yet? Was it still October 25, 1797? A thousand questions. Not a single answer. I looked around the strange room and then I saw the sign on a drawer: „Forest Museum, the house of St. Gerlinde, opened October 18, 2017“

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Flourless Italian Almond Cookies – Spumini Abruzzesi

Every region in every country has its own typical dishes and desserts. I am always curious to know the ones especially from Italy. This time I have tried some typical cookies from the Abruzzo region.

A friend of mine sent me the recipe of typical cookies from the Abruzzo region. The cookies are called spumini abruzzesi and are almond cookies. The best is that they are naturally flour-less – like many Italian dishes by the way.

The recipe is super simple, has only five ingredients and the cookies are ready within one hour with nearly no work.

The egg whites with the sugar are the meringue to hold the almonds together but they are also the already christmassy looking top of the cookies. The cookies are fast and easy to prepare and perfect with tea or hot chocolate. Or for a coffee-pause. You can store them in an air-tide container for a pretty long time – in case they should last so long. Because everyone will love them and after the first there will be a second and third for sure 😉

I did the test, I brought some spumini abruzzesi to my friend (who is from the region!) and she approved them completely! She asked when I will do the next batch. Better than that ….

Hope you like them like I do. Perfect to prepare and store for the moment friends are showing up for the unexpected coffee pause!



Buon Appetito!

Spumini Abruzzesi
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
12 cookies 15 minutes
Passive Time
1 hour
Servings Prep Time
12 cookies 15 minutes
Passive Time
1 hour
Spumini Abruzzesi
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
12 cookies 15 minutes
Passive Time
1 hour
Servings Prep Time
12 cookies 15 minutes
Passive Time
1 hour
Ingredients
Servings: cookies
Instructions
  1. Put the oven at 90 °C.
  2. Transfer the chopped almonds in a bowl and add the lemon zest and the cinnamon and/or vanilla.
  3. In another bowl beat the egg white until stiff. Then add slowly the granulated sugar. The egg white should be stiff and shiny.
  4. Add 3/4 of the meringue to the almonds and incorporate slowly with a spatula. It should be a uniform dough.
  5. Put some parchment paper on a baking sheet and transfer the cookie dough on the parchment paper. Form into a 2 cm/1 inch high rectangle and coat the whole with the rest of the meringue. Cut all in 12 pieces, separating them from each other.
  6. Put the baking sheet into the oven and let the spumini dry for one hour. They have to dry, not to get color!
  7. After the time switch off the oven and let the cookies cool out in the oven, with the door open lightly (I put a wooden spoon to hold the oven door a little open).
  8. Serve and enjoy!
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Lakes and Waterfalls in the Caves of Stiffe

Dripstone or limestone caves formed in millions of years. They can be amazingly huge. Some of them became show caves, open to public. The caves of Stiffe are one of them, with waterfalls and little lakes. A ‘must see’ in the Abruzzo region.

Clearly the mountains in the Abruzzo region in Italy are full of caves. Small caves, large caves, used by humans for storage or even living, caves open to public and caves where animals get shelter during the winter time. One of the most interesting show caves in the area are the Grotte di Stiffe caverns.

Caves are natural voids in the ground. I think they should not be mixed with grotto, which would be smaller, often behind waterfalls or even artificial. People who are studying caves are known as speleologists. There are many different caves formed by glaciers, wave work, erosional caves, by fracture and many more. The Grotte di Stiffe are called karst caves and are the most common here in Italy. They are formed in millions of years. Exploring the cave they found evidence that already in the Neolithic period people were living here.

The caves, located right above the little homonymous village, are the resurgence of a little underground river. It has so much power that in the beginning of last century a hydroelectric plant was constructed right where the river comes up to the surface. You can still see some remains as it was destroyed during the WWII.

Inside the cave is a constant temperature of 10°C/50°F. The guided tour will take 1 hour, maybe 45 minutes going in with around 6 stops, two points only where you are allowed to take photos, 15 minutes of fast walk out. There are two cascades, the last one has even in late summer a lot of water.

Entering the grotto you first stop in the Hall of Silence, named this way because it’s the only place where you can’t hear the waterfalls or stream. The Hall of Cascade has a beautiful waterfall. Going up some stairs to the next lever you will find the Black Lake and really beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. The last stop is in front of a 25 m high waterfall. Very suggestive.

Outside there is also a little museum, I haven’t been to it, though.

Did you know that there are show caves since the late 8th century? The first seems to be in China. In Europe there are some more than 800 years that they are displayed to visitors. And the first ‘authorized’ cave guide was a German in 1649. Electric lightning is a key-attraction today but has to be done with cooler-temperature LED lightning. Otherwise it would be easy that unwanted algae would grow in the normally flora-free cave.

I have seen a few caves in my life. My first ever was in Mallorca, the Cuevas del Drach. In Italy of course I have been to the Blue Grotto in Capri as I lived most of my life in Ischia. While living in the Marche region I visited the Frasassi Caves, an incredible experience.

Visiting the Grotte di Stiffe was a nice experience. The guide was good, though very sever. I had a few problems wearing a mask in the cold and damp environment. Breathing became an issue to me. Also the gloves were tricky, managing the camera and smart phone was slippery and difficult. But in the end I did it and enjoyed the tour very much. The price of 10 € is OK. Important is to call some days ahead in order to get a place for the guided tour. I don’t know if they have limited visitors per tour because of the Corona/Covid or always.




Abruzzo/Italy:

For further information:
Abruzzo Tourism
Their webpage Grotte di Stiffe with mainly blog articles (in Italian)


Posted in Abruzzo, Europe, Italy, ON TRAVEL | Tagged | 2 Comments

Exploring the Region of Abruzzo (IV)

Italy has the most interesting history and an incredible variety of landscapes, traditions, even languages and more. The greenest region is Abruzzo. Located in the North of southern Italy it has a lot of forests, deep gorges, high plateaus, lakes and rivers. Most of the region is protected nature, the biggest national parks you find here. The longest bicycle path goes along the coast. Inside there are hundreds and hundreds of hiking paths, in winter you can go cross country skiing. in the mountains you can still count the stars on a complete light-pollution free sky. Here nature is the protagonist!

On my many drives through the countryside I took a lot of photos. Some of them I want to show here in order to tease you to plan your next vacation maybe in this beauty.

Let’s see!












Abruzzo/Italy:

For further information:
Abruzzo Tourism


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A Peaceful Retreat – The Hermitage of Saint Venantius

Just more than a boy, the fifteen old Venanzio was tortured and killed because he believed in another God than most of the people of his time. In his honour a hermitage was built in a most suggestive spot above a little stream near to L’Aquila in the Abruzzo mountains.

There are several hermitages in the Abruzzo area. They are always built in very particular places of course, as they once were hidden away from the rest of civilization. Though today civilization is much more near than hundreds of years ago. San Venanzio in Raiano was right on our way.

Venantius was born and raised in Camerino in the Marche around 245 AD. It’s a little mountain village near to the Umbria border. At a young age he had known Christianity and converted to the new belief. But at 15 years of age he was discovered with the little community he was living with and was asked for changing back to the mainstream belief of the time. He didn’t. Nor did the others. They were captured and tortured. He managed to escape and hide in the woods near to Raiano. He was captured again, tortured again and then finally killed.

If you read about what happened to him, it sounds crazy. No one would ever survive all those tortures. It seems a list of all kinds of torture of that time. After such a torture to have the strength to escape and then even to walk 200 kilometers seems really crazy. Why not a hiding place nearby, why not with people helping you. And how did they find him in a thick, huge forest so far away? Was he that important already that they came after him?

Nothing happened after his death. But a thousand years later someone made him a martyr and the cult started. His day is the 18th May (the day he died). He was buried near to Camerino where a few hundred years later was constructed a church. Pope Clement X was a former bishop of Camerino and contributed to the spread of the cult.

The hermitage in Raiano is built over a little stream, the Aterno river. In the middle of a forest. It was constructed in the 12th century and is since then a pilgrimage church.

We entered the little church which shows in the center balustrade. The following stairs lead down to a kind of grotto right over the river. There should be his imprint where he prayed. There is another big hall and at the side of the church there are a few rooms, looked like kitchen, and bedrooms.

In any case you should climb down to the river mainly on the front side, passing the little kiosk (where you can get a coffee, a cold drink or a little snack). If you go on the other side of the stream you have a beautiful view on the arches above the river. In summer it is possible because there is little water running, in winter I guess it will be anyway closed here.

Nearby there are more exciting places like hot water springs, a Roman street carved into the rocks and wall paintings in a cave from the Neolithic period. It could be a day-trip. I have seen only the church.




Hermitage of Saint Venantius, Raiano, Abruzzo/Italy:

For further information:
Abruzzo Tourism
Here the homepage of the Gorges of Saint Venanzius in the regional nature reserve


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