Dr Jason's Travel Blog in Italy, Germany and the UK
Warm greetings from chilly Northern Europe. We spent most of the month of November in a large stone farmhouse, high in the mountains in the Abruzzo region of Italy.
Our temporary home was almost directly east of Rome, across the Apennine mountains, above the Adriatic Sea. Abruzzo is dotted with many ancient villages on the tops of hills and the sides of mountains. The elevation was traditionally a strategic advantage for defending the ancient towns; today, it makes for strong leg muscles and adventuresome driving. Taking the little car to the markets was a biweekly adventure, with one lane winding roads on the edges of gorges, and roundabouts at every intersection.
The region is a major wine production area, for bold reds called Montepulciano de Abruzzo, and Arnica’s favourites, pink Ceresuollo and white Pecorino. A few bottles were sampled.
At the beginning of the month, we enjoyed the warm November Italian sun and the vistas of the mountains topped with early season snow. Our old stone villa had a nice orange tabby cat named “Tom”, who was a delight to take care of, and liked going with us on walks through the olive groves. He would always tire out on route, however, so Arnica’s biceps got strong lugging our adventure cat back to the old stone house.
I spent many days studying on my laptop, with Tom curled on my lap and the fire cackling in the fireplace (mutually beneficial attempts to stay warm in a very cold stone villa.) Thanks to Tom's help, I finished my last course on Gastrointestinal herbal medicine with flying colours (94%), and am now taking an advanced Traditional Chinese herbal; medicine course for Dermatology and Immunology.
My vet skills were required for a brief moment when Tom had a cat bite wound and swelling on his front foot after an overnight tussle. See his "I have a sore paw" pose above. A quick visit to the human pharmacy to pick up the correct antibiotics fixed the problem - they took my google translating into Italian and obvious familiarity with tend drugs as a “good enough” prescription. It was interesting to see that pet medications were all readily available at the human pharmacy, and like in France and Germany, being given a herbal remedy for common ailments is more common than being prescribed drugs. It’s a much more holistic approach to human medicine.
In late November we headed north to Germany for the early Christmas season. Before our children arrived and for a few years while they were young, my wife and I hosted numerous exchange students. In Weinheim we stayed with one of our beloved exchange students Jule and her family, eating hearty German fare and exploring the nearby Heidelberg. We visited the pharmacy museum, and it was so interesting to see many of the herbs we use in Pandosy Vilage Veterinary Hospital today, used routinely in pharmacies hundreds of years ago. Once again I sprang into vet action, doing a pawdicure and prescribing supplements to help our hosts’ Briard with split toenails.
We then took the train even further north to spent a few days with my wife’s previous host family in Northern Germany, a little town called Gifhorn near Wolfsburg (of VW factory fame, where Arnica’s host dad used to work.) Arnica stayed with them as an exchange student when she was 17, and they’ve been part of the extended family ever since. If you have not been in Germany during the Christmas season, it is one of the most special places to spend the holidays. Each town and city has a Christmas market where there are children's rides, vendors selling sweet and savory snacks, and lots of warm beverages to drink including mulled wine. Even though Arnica and one of our daughters have been to visit her family frequently, it was my first time back in 20 years, and I enjoyed it immensely.
On November 30, we took the train through the Chunnel and settled south of London for the Christmas season.
Speaking of Christmas… my hope for your families is a warm and loving holiday spent with people and pets you care about. Thank you for your patronage in 2022, and for trusting our hospital team with the care of your loved ones. We appreciate you all so very much.
My journey will continue in England in the New Year, and then we will have a brief stay in Morocco before being back in the country back to work in early February. Happy Holidays, Happy New Year!