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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Ending the winter in Calgary

Why not substituting a colleague while he was on holidays. Doing his job, from the office in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Could have been worse.

The first weekend was free, so I hit the road, with a nice, but surely over-sized Chrysler. I cannot even recall the model, except the colour: silver. But that's about it. The Banff National Park was close, really nearby, just a one hour drive, more or less. Streets were wide, curves elongated, not much happening while driving, kinda boring and it seemed the things on the horizon won't really get closer. Everything in sight is within reach, but still far away.

The Rocky Mountains, one of the places on earth of incredible beauty. And bear-less in winter. At least I didn't see one. The snow made it difficult to find the hiking tracks. I didn't even know if there were any. Some footprints made me believe I was not the first one. But I didn't get far - snow too deep, too cold, no appropriate equipment and running out of time. Enough for getting an impression.

Back in Calgary, I tried to discover the city as much as possible. Bur frankly speaking, there is not so much to see. Just as in every other American/Canadian city as well (my personal opinion). Downtown (or financial district) used to be quite dead in the evening, and the famous 17th Ave is definitely ok for a night out (or two) but that's about it. Or maybe I just didn't go to the right spots.

Thus, I spent time doing all the touristy things, such as Saddledome, Wonderland Sculpture, Calgary Tower, visiting those numerous shopping centres and and and... But when being in Canada, nature and wildlife is always on top of my list. And I did another road trip through the Rockies' Banff National Park.

Oh by the way, there is a good thing that should not remain unnoticed, a positive thing to be mentioned ;) NBA games could always be watched at suitable and comfortable times during the evening (no waking up in the middle of the night necessary) ...

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Iciness at Melchsee-Frutt

It's almost tradition - the yearly trip to Melchsee-Frutt in Switzerland. This year, it was supposed to be a skiing event again. And furthermore, a special one, with unforeseen occurrences about to happen.

After having the car parked (long ago since the car park was free of charge, small, uncrowded and unknown) I rushed towards the valley station to reach the gondola before it made the scheduled break to go up one last time for the day. I coincidentally met Karl on the way, and that made me rethink my plan which immediately changed to having a cup of coffee first.

No skiing for me at the first day. Wanted to rest a bit first, spare my old bones for the following days. I did some snow hiking, passed Tannalp and had to return a little later as no track was prepared and I sank in for more than half a metre. Impossible to go further, and probably not the best idea.

And then, getting ready for skiing again. A thing I just do once a year - pleasant anticipation. The thing just was the weather conditions. It was freezing cold, minimum temperatures of -23°C - during the day. Every once in while, we had to stop, somewhere inside, warming up again. Even the Swiss people didn't ski, it's simply not fun at those temperatures. But for sure, having a Jagertee at the bar is definitely not the worst idea.

The nights were so crystal clear. No cloud, but million of stars. Although I could not stay outside for long ...

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Relaxing days in Hofgastein

Some free days wanted to be used. And as everybody were out for skiing, we mostly stayed inside, enjoyed the 4 meals per day, got a massage, warmed up in the sauna and fell asleep like dead on huge and really comfortable couches.

The hotel personnel was quite funny to watch. It seemed some of them were still in their apprenticeship, didn’t really know what to do, how to do, or what to say. That made the entire process really interesting as you never knew if you‘ll get what you ordered.

Bad Hofgastein itself was disappointing. Not much was left from its former fame and reputation. Massive castle-like houses were dilapidated, shops and stores were closed and looked like they have been for quite a while. A few other tourists were walking around, and noticed the same, had the same expression in their faces. Hiking tracks a long the waterfalls remained shut during the winter and nothing else was inviting to stay longer than necessary...

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Finland's Independence Day

Last journey for this year, and what destination would be better than Finland? As it was the 100th year of independence (from Russia), many buildings were illuminated in the Nation's colours -  blue and white, e.g. the highest mountain in Finland or the Colosseum in Rome were shining in white-blue.

As Santa Claus is living in Rovaniemi right at the Arctic Circle, he usually ain't too far away and swings by regularly.

The huge firework exploded right in front of my hotel. From its Conference Center I had the perfect view in the first row. They started 20 minutes behind schedule, maybe caused by low temperatures at -10°C (although should be used to it), but in return, finished quickly by setting of the entire fireworks at once, as it seemed. N1ce!

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Incredible India

What a journey. To a country completely new, where I've not been so far. And I didn't really want to. The last years, I've been quite successful in avoiding it, but no way around or out this time. Incredible India!!! I've heard a lot of stories, things colleagues told me who stayed, lived and worked there for months. Now it was me stepping into their footsteps, luckily just for one week. 

First sop, Mumbai. 1 am. I walked along the corridors, signs navigated me to the arrival hall. But before getting there, passport checkpoint and entry control. Thousands of people, many many lanes, but no signs indicating which lane to take. I took the first best, finaly came to the counter more or less one hour later, and tried to communicate to the man opposite. The only thing I understood was "Counter 27"! And I was at the third! So all the way back. Meanwhile, 3 am. I decided to queue up at the "permanent residence" lane, with 10 people infront of myself, and waited another 2 hours before entrance was admitted.

Half past 6 am, next flight to Bhuj, domestic flight. The arrival hall looked simple, no shops or anything, and the arriving passengers only. The doorway leading out of the building, was surrounding by people holding up a scrap of paper with a name on it. I checked, from the right, and found a small guy at the back with my name on the board. He noticed I was recognising my name, and gave a sign to follow him. Without talking I entered the car. I just trusted that guy that he would take me where I needed to go. I couldn't explain him either, so I waited where I would end up.

It took another 2 hours, passing a few villages in the desert on bumpy streets, which sometimes are blocked by cows - herds of cows not moving a single centimetre although cars are passing real close, horning all the time. It really is like in the movies and documentaries.

Once entered the working area, there was no way out again. There would not have been anything I could go to, the next village or city was kilometres away, far out of reach. Instead, I stayed at the guesthouse, in a single room aparment. Well equipped, with a TV I never switched on, a bed with a 3 cm mattress where sleeping on the floor would have had the same effect. What else? A bathroom, kind of. There was a shower, but no curtain. The water was brown-ish. At least the food was good, a bit spicy though, but nice.

On the way back, it was later afternoon when flying into Mumbai. Heavy smog clouded the sight. Just when being low enough, it "cleared" and offered the view to the slums which are built as far as right to the airport fence.

All this is incredible India!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Paris' 18th arrondissement

One more time in one of the greatest cities: Paris. We stayed in the Hôtel Le Chat Noir, nice and cosy, with perfect french breakfast, right next to the Moulin Rouge. Unfortunately, no show available on short notice. Yeah well, there was, but for what price?

So we went through the city and trudged round all the sights. Mixed with a little bit of shopping here and there, for Antje at least, I followed and took a little rest meanwhile.

What else to do in France, after touristy sightseeing stuff? Right, food! And thanks to my French colleague we knew where to go. Really tasty and delicious stuff, sometimes we just were not eager enough to try out new and too specific things. But what we had was simply excellent.