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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.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Mittenwalder Klettersteig

Something else has been on the list for a long time. But it had never worked out so far. But now it did, together with a colleague and his son. We want to Mittenwald, and found perfect parking spot to enter the hiking track easily, right towards the Mittenwalder via ferrata.

Being fully packed with a backpack containing different stuff for almost all weather conditions was making it quite difficult for the way up. Small breaks were necessary. But we reached our first accommodation before dawn, the kitchen was still open, served dinner and cold beer.

The night hadn't been the best. We slept in a five bed dorm - or better said, 5 mattresses have been placed right next to each other. Myself in the middle, snoring to the left and right. Not so easy to sleep through the night.

The view out of the windows has changed dramatically compared to the evening before. Fog, grey in grey, clouds heavy with rain. Not so motivating to move on. Even the waitress didn't recommend to walk forward. Bad conditions would make it too difficult. We didn't listen, of course, and went on.

The track itself got smaller, steeper and more slippery. But still we made good progress and reached the Obere Karwendelspitze in time. The it started: Mittenwalder via ferrata. For a few kilometres, we've been right on top on the Karwendel, climbing up and down steps and stairs and following the track directly on the summit. As we've been surrounded by clouds, the view wasn't far, but therefore mystical and special.

We spent our second night in the Brunnsteinhütte. Finally, they offered and served Kaiserschmarrn - so delicious. As this cottage was fully booked, the night got even worse compared to the previous one. One room, bunk beds, 20 persons. What a night!

And finally perfect weather on the last morning. Time to enjoy and relax at the top, Brunnsteinspitze.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Back to the port of Rotterdam - Maasvlakte

Six years have passed since I’ve been here the last time. Of course, I wanted to come back, to visit again. And finally I did. Too bad the work was too time-consuming again. I chose a hotel in Rockanje, going through Brielle, and everything looked still the same, house made of red brick strones, house boats everywhere as they haven’t been moved a single millimetre for the last years. To the contrary, the Europort has changed a lot. Much bigger, Maasvlakte is not the end anymore. They have enlarged the peninsula, built complete Maasvlakte 2, constructed new hangars – huge areas. Where formerly the North Sea waves where splashing, there is nowadays sand and even more steel, moving up and down, left and right, 24/7, 365 days a year…

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Tracing the Roman Empire

It has been on the list for a long time. But never done, until now. Finally! Rome! Have heard some many thing about this city, a must see; Rome, my beloved. It now was time to see myself.

Luckily, there is a direct flight from Nuremberg. Which makes it so comfortable and convenient, if there would be the flight, the first that day, almost in the middle of the night. But ok, it's just that way, let's do it.

The hotel was like really close to the Vatican, a 10 minutes walk. Too bad, and a bit of bad luck, we have chosen the breakfast over being the first in line for the Vatican Museum. Couldn't help, there needs to be priorities. During the first waiting hour we were exposed to direct sunlight. At least some people were selling water to survive. And around the corner, shade was awaiting us. Which wasn't shortening the other 2 hours. But an improvement, a little.

The museum itself was impressive. And too much to see for one day. And you had to look carefully at the things you wanted to see. Once passed, there was way back. The mob was pushing you forward, with constant speed. And even if there was a chance to jump 10 metres back to have a closer look, you wouldn't do it twice. Just go with the flow - astonishing enough. Amazing what people are capable of creating.

Being on the feet all day, walking around, in the heat, that made us deserve a good dinner. And a beer, and a wine, a bottle, after that day - finished, day was over, lights out!!!

And one thing shouldn't be missed - yeah right, the Colosseum. This time, more clever. With the Roma Pass we were allowed to skip the line. Do what certain people tried to sell us, organised, official companies, more than on a Turkish bazaar. And they somehow reacted allergic to sentences like: "We already got tickets!" The Colosseum was fantastic, and impressive, and it really felt like being thrown back in time.

View from the Palatino

Fontana di Trevi, squeezed in with thousands of other people

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Being stuck at the summit!!!

What has happened?
I arrived at Rifugio Teodulo the previous night.
I had an ok-4-course-dinner.
I went to bed and had a good sleep before the alarm went off the next morning.
So far all normal. I tried to have a look out of the windows. To see how the outside conditions are. But nothing to see. The glass was blurry, ice crystals at the outer side. I went down, opened the door and found myself in a winter wonderland.

Snow storm, temperatures had dropped to -5°C or so. View of 10 metres, if lucky. That made me get stuck directly on the Italian-Swiss border. No way back, no way further. I spent the time reading a book, drinking coffee or having a chat with hikers/climbers who experienced exactly the same thing.

The next morning, it was much nicer. Blue sky, the Matterhorn clearly visible. A clear view under those conditions often goes hand in hand with freezing cold temperatures. So it did this time, too. And I was so not prepared for this. How to get out of this?

I have put all cloths on I had carried with me, two pair of trousers, T-shirt, 2 two jerseys, sweatshirt, rain jacket, 2 pair of socks and a third one on top of my cycling gloves, to cover the finger tips as well. A French couple had come up with  another idea. I borrowed his spikes and them on, overy the click pedal cycling shoes. Must habe looked so hilarious.

I followed four hikers (wanted to make sure not to go down into one of those crevasses) until we reached the skiing track. From there I would make it on my own. Bike riding the glacier was not that much adventurous, but so much fun. The snow was soft, so even if crashing, it didn't really hurt.

1000 m decline before the snow was gone. Most of it I was the first person trying to find the path. And sometimes, sheep have already found it.

The rest was easy going. I passed Zermatt and went all the way down to Stalden, dismounted my bike, put it back in the car and went home. I have to say, one of the heaviest tours I did in the Alps.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Rain, every day all day

8 am at Rifugio Tournalin. Things are packed, ready for breakfast. I could take my time, it still was raining cats and dogs. Another bread, another coffee. Clouds everywhere and I harfly could see the oposite mountains. Italian hikers told me there might be a gap and the rain might stop between 9 and 11. They seemed to be convinced and started walking. I did the same, passed Col di Nana and Col des Fontaines. Right after that, the time was over. Heavy rain and thunderstorm started, me in the middle. Shortly after Cheneil I was forced to stop, found a shelter and tried to dry myself and my clothes by using a hot air hand dryer in the lavatories of a picnic area where, luckily, the door remained unlocked.

I used the waiting time for my lunch break - fresh bread with Italian cheese and Salami. Then I went on, half wet but not hungry anymore. The street led me to Breuil-Cervinia, a skiing mekka just consisting of hotels and restaurants/bars. Again I took the lift which, to my surprise, didn't go up to the very top. I had to try my luck, not sure if I can make it. Weather changed again and snow aggravated the whole thing.

I walked 10 m and had to rest for a while. Catching breath at those heights ain't that easy too. I saw the Rifugio Teodulo for quite some time, but it seemed I wasn't really getting any closer. What a struggle! Somehow I made it to the top at 3317 m. And the view was stunning!