CALIFORNIA COASTAL ZEBRA? It was a strange sight, travelling along California Highway 1— the beautiful coastal road. There, standing amid a herd of cattle was a zebra! I wondered for some time why a rancher would keep a zebra among cattle. A little on-line research provided the answer. It seems that cattle grazing with zebra actually gain more weight. In the wet season, grass grows fast. It gets tall, fibrous and unappetizing to the cows. The zebras eat these top shoots on the tall grass. That, in turn, causes regrowth of shoots at the base of the plant, nearest the ground. The fresh shoots are tasty to the cattle and they eat more, causing them to gain weight more quickly than fields without zebras. And, apparently, the cattle and zebra get along with each other quite well.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D300, 70-300 DX zoom lens at 70mm, f4.9, 1/250 sec, f25, ISO 1000 Copyright photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography.
CAFE CHAIR, FINSTERWIRT RESTAURANT, BRESSANONE (BRIXEN), ITALY: The map may say Italy, but most everything about this pretty town in northern Italy is Austrian. While formally called by its Italian name, Bressanone, it’s called Brixen by most of the people who live there. When we walked into the “Künstlerstübele Oste Scuro/Finsterwirt’ restaurant, we had no idea what to expect. It was a late summer weeknight and our choices were becoming limited as many restaurants in the old town were closed or closing. As luck would have it, Finsterwirt, as we’d learn later, was the number #1 restaurant in Bressanone as ranked on Trip Advisor. We sat on the semi-covered terrace at a table sheltered from evening rain and were given German language menus.
While my grasp of the language is not great, I was able to discern much of it. Or so I thought. The dish that caught my eye was beef, a green salad and potato salad. When our waiter next appeared, he had an English language menu for us. The dish I was about to order was “Calf’s head, tongue and cheeks with salsa verde and potato salad.” I ordered something else. My friend had the “Slices of cafl, stilt from the oven with rice and vegetables.” The meal really was terrific and Finsterwirt is likely the best resto in Bressanone. Fun Fact: Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, spent time in his youth nearby in the village where his mother was born. As a Cardinal he would often visit Finsterwirt during summer visits. One of his favourite meals there is venison filet with cold-stirred cranberries and roast potatoes. It is now a regular feature on the August menu. Click here to visit Finsterwirt’s website.
Shot Handheld with a Nikon D300, Nikon AF-S 70-300 lens at 82mm, f5, 1/10th sec. ISO 1250, photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
LAKE GARDA, ITALY: Lake Garda is in Italy’s famous Lakes Region. Lake Como is the probably the most widely known lake and it’s very popular with visitors from abroad. Italians tend to prefer Lake Orta, while Lake Garda is very popular with Germans and Austrians. Afterall, Lake Garda belonged to Austria until after WWI. The place still has a strong German feel and people there are just as likely to speak German as Italian. At 50km in length and almost 20km wide, it is the largest Italian lake. People have settled on and the near the lake since 2000BC. The Ostrogoths fortified a nearby hill and then a harbour was built. It came under Venetian control and those influences can still be seen. Much of the harbour was filled in and that is where many of today’s lakefront restaurants and hotels sit. The Giardinetto is a hotel and restaurant that sits just metres from the lake. Our meal started with a complimentary appetizer that included whole (heads, tails attached), deepfried sardines. I stuck with the calamari. I then enjoyed my main, a seafood pasta— lobster, so it was not local, but it sure was tasty. While we did not stay at the hotel, here is the Trip Advisor link to Giardinetto, Lake Garda, a very pretty place.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D300 and AFS 16-85 lens at 40mm, f29, 1/80 sec, ISO 1250. Photo by John Ecker, pantheon photography