There has been quite a major change on the home front here when himself retired at the end of May. One of his long held wishes was to go on a rail holiday in Europe to celebrate and that's what we have just done. Starting off in Amsterdam we then travelled on to Berlin, Prague, Bratislava (a last minute destination instead of Budapest), Vienna and finally Frankfurt before arriving back home on Saturday evening.
We have some absolutely fabulous memories including seeing the finishing stages of the Berlin Marathon as the runners came through the Brandenburg Gate, walking around the enchanting city of Prague, and in Vienna visiting the jaw- dropping formal gardens at the Schönbrunn Palace as well as watching the Lipizzaner horses train at the Spanish School of Riding.
However we've taken away some most poignant and sobering memories too of groups of refugees gathered on the concourse of the main railway station at Vienna. Their numbers included some family groups but what was particularly noticeable were the significant numbers of apparently single young men, most of whom were travelling with very little in the way of possessions. On our departure from Vienna for Frankfurt on Friday morning, several of their numbers were waiting for the same train as us and we were asked several times for confirmation of the train's destination.The journey started but for many of them ended prematurely at Passau on the German border. Here a number of police officers walked through the train to check whether they had visas to enter Germany, explaining that without these they could proceed no further. The outcome of this was that a number of refugees had to leave the train. We're sure what happened next - our last sight of our fellow passengers was as they were shepherded into an queue on the platform. The experience certainly put any small worries I have into perspective and reminded us of just how fortunate we are.
On a lighter note although we only visited one garden as such during the trip, I had to make several compulsory pit stops to gaze at gawp at the displays outside florist' shops. My 'vase' this week is one that caught my eye in Bratislava. In the pumpkin were asters, a dahlia, a sunflower, various hips and berries, richly coloured leaves, a couple of ears of sweet corn, hedgehogy cases spilling out sweet chestnuts, crab apples as well as what looked liked sprigs of herby goodness. Being a rather clumsy I dare not risk getting close up to peek to see how the contents were secured in case I disturbed the rest of the display. I did not have the energy yesterday or have had time today to come up with my own vase and take photos but thought that this is one that is calling out to be shared. With thanks as always to Cathy over at 'Rambling Over The Garden' who came up with the brilliant concept of 'A Vase On Monday'. Do call in and wonder over vases from near and far.