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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Far north in Finnish Lapland hunting the Northern Lights

Whenever there is a slight chance to see the Northern Lights, I am in. I joined my cousin for a few days to go to Kittilä / Levi, even more north than the Arctic Circle. We had a cosy little apartment, small sauna included. The couch I crashed on overnight was not the biggest one, but fairly big and comfortable enough. When done with some grocery shopping, the sauna needed to be heated up. Test run! And found to be good!

To cool down again, you always come up with stupid ideas if a couple of shots are involved, we decided to go downhill sledding, Of course we had no sledges at all, even nothing similar. We found some paper boxes, unfolded them and used those likewise. Lying down on the back was working surprisingly well. We speeded up that much we totally lost control over the self-made sledge and mostly crashed heavily.

A road trip was planned on the next day. We passed Husky and reindeer farms and stayed for quite some time at the snow village. Although I would not spend those prices to sleep in beds made of snow at temperatures far below 0°C it’s always impressive to look at those icy art sculptures and buildings.

The formerly village Sirkka is now known as Levi, named after the mountain which you can ski downhill in almost every direction. Since Finland has never been the cheapest country and skiing isn’t a low budget activity anywhere in the world, prices were as high as expected. But it’s still fun, we have rented stuff for 3 hours and rode maybe almost every slope. I could already feel my old bones after that, needing a little rest and warm up in the sauna.

After dinner, we finally would be able to hunt some Northern Lights. The weather forecast was predicting clear sky for the night in the north east of Finland. Although it was still snowing, we decided to go towards Inari. After a while, the snow stopped and the sky really got clear, with a heavy temperature drop to minimum -28°C!!! A few stops later the lights were revealing themselves, in different colours, moving around at the entire sky. A fantastic thing to see.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

All the way from Fort Saskatchewan to Brooks

Everything needed to be real quick once again. Booking a flight, getting everything done, running through 6 different safety courses in form of webbased trainings. One of them took me several hours, and it happened to be finished on Saturday evening before taking the flight on Sunday morning. No access to the Converter Stations granted if I do not have them.

I had stopovers in Frankfurt and Toronto from where another 4 1/2 hours flight took me Edmonton. Travelling in Business Class was making up for this. It helped a lot to kill some time, but you just can't spend all of it on watching movies. When leaving the aiport, it was much warmer than expected, temperatures over plus were making me checking if I have been travelling to the right destination.

But obviously I had been right as my colleague drove by to pick me up. Since it has been 9 pm already (6 am the next morning in Germany) we paid no attention to Edmonton and went straight to the hotel in Fort Saskatchewan.

Winter was back the next morning. The last days’ rain froze overnight, not visually at first glance (a thin snow cover made it not easy to detect), but noticeable when walking to the car and suddenly slipping. I had absolute no control over both feet, but somehow managed not to trip and fall.

After finishing the work at the first station, we had a little car ride ahead of us. We tried to start as early as possible to travel while it’s still bright. It didn’t go that well. On the way south I notice once again the remarkable street architecture. All streets are manufactured in perfect order – in a rectangular way (1 mile east to west orientation, 3 miles north to south orientation). That means when travelling towards, in my case, south direction, it’s just a few right and left turns before going straight for the other 4 ½ hours. Despite some bison the ride was quite monotonous and not much happened.

Brooks itself had not much to offer either. The only thing worth mentioning is the hotel. I have made a single room booking and got a single room. So far, so good. The first hotel in Fort Saskatchewan had two double bed in it, the one this time had three. Three king size double bed. I didn’t really get that but didn’t ask for details either.
On Thursday the job was done, too late to take a detour through Calgary. Damn it! I had to skip that also. Maybe next time. But at least one highlight was still awaiting me. The flight was following the route north and when looking out of the window, the northern lights could be discovered almost permanently during the night.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

First class wellness action in South Tyrol

Way up Klausberg, near Kristallalm, snow guns already in service

As it has been Antje's present from her parents for graduating from university, I was the lucky one being invited as well. All five of us in one car (Multivan, so comfortable journey still) with North Italy as our destination. Arriving right on time (1 pm as earliest possible arrival time) opened all options for the first day - literally starving we started with having the welcome lunch before checking out the spa and wellness area (and having a little nap of course).

Family Milker photo shoot on the Klausee

Let me tell you something about that dinner. Because this one was just as delicious as stunning. At a point, I stopped counting the courses. The salad only should have been enough, then there was another starter as apetizer, a soup, the main course to pick out of three, a dessert and cheese after this.

View from the hiking track toward Breite Rast

Somehow I still must have looked hungry because I was asked if I wish to have another main course. I don't really why I have said yes, but I did. Which has been too much, by far! With the result of not being able to move anymore. And the worst part is, it has been the same the following evenings.

Leaving the Ahrntal, shortly before Prettau

When eathing that much, you have to do things in order to stay active. On Friday, we took the gondola to the Klausberg mountain station with a bunch of other people, walked around a bit until reaching the Klausee, before taking the icy hiking trail back to the station.

Friends on the way

Spa and wellness was offered to a great extent. Outside as well as inside pools, chillout areas, jacuzzis, fireplaces invited for a little rest. The best thing was the roof top sauna with a widespread view right over the valley. The farmer opposite might be lucky sometimes when using the binocular.

Crystal clear mountain water

When bikes are offered, they should be used. I did on Saturday. Fully wraped up in winter cloths I followed the Ahrtal until the regional street became a narrow hiking path. At 2000 m the temperature dropped below 5°C.

Almost at maximum height, Tauernalm

On my way back, I stayed at that altitude for quite some time. The view was amazing, the higher I looked, the more changed the colour from green to yellow-brown-ish and further to white. Since I didn't expect the tour to take 5 hours or so, I didn't take any food or drinks with me. Okay, almost no drinks. The only thing which kept me alife was my flask, filled with cranberry liquour.

On the mountain path near Waldner Alm

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Bilbao in Biscay, worth a next visit

Bilbao sights in the city centre ...

No thank you, this time, no tourist guide is needed. Everything worth a glimpse is marked and highlighted on these maps. A special thanks goes to my Spanish co-worker and friend, who is originally from the Basque Country and Bilbao. So who else should know the must sees and does in the city?

... and in the surrounding

Together with a colleague, I arrived on Monday afternoon. Thus, plenty of time to discover the attractions along the route quickly. Everything's in walking distance and easy to reach.

Roof tops of Bilbao's old town

In the old town, narrow streets are criss-crossed, bars and pubs around small market places invite for drinks or little snacks. The Guggenheim Museum in the new town is an eyecatcher with its metallic copper surface. Unfortunately not enough time to check the inside, so we just strolled along, carefully, because massive spiders were blocking the footpath.

In front of the Guggenheim Museum

Getxo and Algorta, in north west direction, were on the list, too. So was the chapel San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, built on a rocky island close to the shore, only reachable via a stony staircase.

Hermitage on a lonely island, connected to the main land, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Monday, August 29, 2016

Having a little job to do

Today I took my private jet for a little ride and city hopping. Nuremberg - Frankfurt - Oslo - Sandane - Sogndal. 12 hours only! The last two flights were a bit bumpy. Strong winds and an airport with a short landing strip surrounded by high mountains were demanding great airworthiness from the captain.

The wooden cabins I am staying in (Vesterland Feriepark) are comfortable, fully equipped with everything I need. Three German television channels (ZDF, 3Sat, KiKa) are more than enough. The restaurant dishes superb dinner (delicious and cost-intensive reindeer), but unfortunately shuts down its service at the end of August. Then, I need to catch the fish myself. It turned out to get even more difficult than I thought it could be. Not practically, but time-wise...

Most of the time I got stuck at work. Frankly speaking, I was waiting to start my job which I have beent sent for. Finally, on Thursday at around midday I commenced with the measurements and exchange of the primary equipment parts so that everything could be finalized in the early evening.

Later that day I had the chance to explore the surrounding area a bit. Kaupanger is the village located closest to the cottages where we were staying. The most famous sight throughout the year is the Kaupanger Stave Church which is believed to be built back in the 12th century. It's the third-oldest in stave church in entire Norway.

As the off-season has already begun, the Sogn Fjord Museum was shut, no people around, the street were deserted, just the ferry was putting the water back in motion every now and then.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

First time in Magdeburg

View from Sternbrücke towards Hubbrücke and Magdeburg Cathedral

I have never been in Magdeburg yet. This should change that particular weekend. And additionally, on top, the more than overdue Tobi visit could be ticked. Temperatures were way too hot so we took the whole thing quite easy. One by one, slowly slowly. Ice cream here and coffee there, we drifted through the city centre in slow motion.

Hubbrücke crossing the Elbe river

For dinner, Tobi was preparing high class BBQ beef steaks. 500g each, approx. As I am not the fastest eater it took a while and the meat got cold before I was even halfway. What a pity! But delicious!

Section of the Berlin Wall

Another highlight and must see is the crossing of the Mittelland Canal and the Elbe. A bridge (Trogbrücke) is leading the canal over the Elbe - a massive construction with a length of more than 900m, the largest canal underbridge in Europe.

Lonely island in the Atlantic Ocean

You always can get things working. I don’t know why always being that late. When booking the flight tickets to Madeira, the Portuguese island in the Atlantic Ocean, only 2 days has been left before the designated departure date. And all that although we had scheduled our holidays for that particular week quite some months in earlier.

Anyways, the flight was okay, too long though, and quite bumpy when approaching the Funchal runway. Strong winds were making the landing pretty much challenging. From left to right, up and down – the pilot must be accurate preventing to overshoot the too short runway. He managed perfectly.

We picked up our checked in luggage and went to the rental car counters. As we have placed an order just the previous day, we now noticed it has been refused. It was high season, and we were not the only ones asking for a car those days. Luckily, we found a car dealer having one left, overpriced for sure, but better than nothing.

The first days we have booked a half pension countryside hotel. Not too bad and well located – everything in the east could be reached within 30 minutes maximum. Fisher villages and rugged coastlines were inviting for hiking or walking tours, just to wander around a bit.

The trip to the highest mountain (Pico Ruivo) was almost a bit too much. The track was going up and down all the time, stairs and loose stones made it even more difficult than the midday sun alone. But on the other the landscape offered great views, cliffs, gorges and deep and widespread valleys.

We spent 4 more days at the west coast as well. The hotel (O Farol Residencial) at the most western point, the light house, was located far off anything else. It was family-run and people were really friendly although some language barriers. The food was just excellent (the tuna especially) and talking to a French couple was made it even more fun, with or without the local drink Poncha. Really cool and relaxing time, a bit of everything.