Last night, I returned from a long weekend spent with my sister at our Uncle's and Aunt's place. They live in a big old house in a picturesque village about 1 1/2 hours by train from here. The house originally belonged to a baron but then changed hands (and inhabitants) several times, until my Uncle bought it some years ago. Restoring it to its former glory plus allowing for all mod cons has been their task ever since - successfully, I may add, although it is the kind of work that is never really finished.
The village is by the way the same one mentioned on my blog here and here; the house you'll see in a few pictures now, which was the view from my window, is the one where Ruth Ozan's Aunt Sofie (mentioned in her book "Forget-me-not") used to live until she died a few years ago.
On the day we travelled there, much of the snow had already gone in our home town, but there was still quite a lot left out in the country, as you can see in this view from my room:
Can you spot what I saw when I looked out of my window on Saturday morning?
It's Mauz, one of three cats living with my Uncle and Aunt.
We went for a walk on top of the hill behind the house you see in the second picture. About half way up, you come across the former school house (today the village hall) and the rectory.
On top of the hill is a small church, built in the 19th century on the site of an 11th-century one.
The church is surrounded by the village's cemetery, enclosed by a wall. On the wall, his back facing the beautiful view across the countryside, sits a hooded figure:
He represents Death, of course - but although the skeleton legs and arms may appear scary to some, he is actually a very touching character. His upturned head (with no face inside the folds of his hood, just a deep golden shine of polished bronze) is supposed to mean that the souls of all dead go "upwards", and nobody really needs to fear him.
Come inside now:
Two Christmas trees, a huge nativity scene spreading all across the floor, and angels in the air above it all - you could tell this place means a lot to the community from this village and the surrounding hamlets.
Do you remember that I posted about, quite by chance, having come across part of St. James' Way? (That post is here.) Well, El Camino de Santiago leads through this village, too, and the church is an important stop for pilgrims. This shell, the symbol of St. James, is in the middle of the floor between the nave and the altar:
A house next to the church is dedicated to pilgrims, who can stay the night there.
Going down the hill on a narrow path behind the church, this is what you find:
But that is not all. Climbing down the steps to the pond and turning round, you find yourself in front of a "Lourdes grotto", built in 1886 as a shrine to Mary. I was never Catholic, but I remember well how fascinated I was of this pond and the grotto when I first saw it as a child, on a summer's day when my cousin showed me what looked to me like a secret, overgrown path into the shadowy dark green forest, and sparkling shiny bits of glass worked into the grotto's walls. Now, with the eyes of an adult, I must admit I find it rather ghastly.
The forest is as beautiful in the snow as it is in summer:
Not a tomb in the woods, but - I think - a marker for those who come this way for religious reasons.
Walking back down the hill, I found a frozen rosebud too beautiful to pass without taking a picture. The Christmas tree stands in front of the village shop.
You can see the church on top of the hill as we made our circular way around the bottom of the hill until we reached the house again, and saw the church from the other side.
In the afternoon, it started to snow again. Our Uncle took us to the nearest town (about 10 km away) to visit a museum. On the way there, the roads were still clear. When we had been inside the museum for a while and happened to look out of the window, we could hardly believe what we saw: everything was white again!
Thankfully, our Uncle is a very good driver, and took us home safely in spite of the world having become all white, with nearly no distinction possible between roads and fields, ground and sky.
I took this picture from my room as soon as we arrived:
We were seriously thinking about what we'd do if it was going to keep snowing at this pace; maybe we could not get into town the next day to take our train home. But when I woke up the next morning, this is what I saw:
It was no problem to get to the train station, and now I can look back at this cosy, snowy weekend with delicious (and plenty of) food, interesting stories, two museum visits and some walks.