Easter-getaway to Germany

After a trip to Kuwait and a visit from a good handful of friends from Denmark, April had already provided lots of experiences and good fun – but more was in store! With the extra holidays provided by Easter, my girlfriend and I had also planned to visit some friends living close to the Bodensee in Germany. I had driven past it on a few of the summer-holiday trips south I had been doing with my family many years ago, but had never really had the chance to do more than that – which proved to be a bit of a shame, as the area is absolutely stunning!

We stayed on the northern shore of the lake, and started out with a very nice walk through the many flowering fruit-plantations. The weather was amazing, with sun, warmth and clear blue skies, and a bit of elevation provided for some amazing views across the lake, and into Switzerland. It was even so clear, that we could see the top of Säntis (which we could also see back when we were on one of our winter hikes – just from the other side).

After a quick pit-stop, tasting some of the local wine, we walked back along the shore of the lake, enjoying the sunset. A very cozy evening and morning later, we were on our way back to Zürich – taking the ferry across the lake to Konstanz, just to really get the last part of the holiday enjoyed as much as possible.

Visit from home!

Sometimes, one of the things I miss from Denmark, is the extra week of holiday. But luckily, my friends back in Denmark still have that – meaning they once in a while have time to come visit! This was the case during the week of Easter this year, so I took up the task of making sure they got a good taste of what Switzerland has to offer.

Having spent the first two days in and closely around Zürich, I was finally able to take a day off work – so we rented a car, and went on to find some real mountains! First trip was a hike at the eastern part of Vierwaldstättersee – a very beautiful area with mountains, forests and a large lake spreading across numerous valleys (regular readers may even recognize some of the scenery from previous hikes – in particular my Schwyz hiking post from last year ;). The plan was to drive to the small town of Bauen, take the ferry to Rütli, and then hike back. This proved to even be educational, as Rütli is where the original oath of the Swiss Confederacy was sworn, and much of path we would be hiking was part of the “Weg der Schweiz” hiking route – with a stage for each of the 26 cantons.

Apart from being educational, the hike obviously also offered absolutely fantastic views – and with a quick detour to a local cheese shop, my friends definitely got to experience a good bit of Switzerland :)

On the following day, with slightly sore feet, and not feeling like spending too long in the car, we opted for a less demanding route closer to Zürich, and headed to Einsiedeln. With a first stop at the impressive monastery, we had a nice walk along the shores of the Sihlsee (learning a bit about the creation of it along the way), before enjoying a nice piece of cake at a local konditorei, and then taking a quick detour to visit Rapperswil on our way back.

My friends had another day to spend, and enjoyed some even realer mountains near Interlaken – but sadly without me, as I was back to work. All in all though, a very enjoyable week – great company, mostly great weather (especially after the first day being rainy and cold), lots of Swiss experiences, and just generally a very very good time! Now I’m hoping that they’ll go spread the word, so that I can get some more visits from home ;)

Kuwait

I’m still going strong on my quest to visit a new country every year – so when my girlfriend asked me if I wanted to accompany her on a combined work/mini-holiday-trip to Kuwait, I was intrigued. Obviously mostly at getting to spend a week together a bit away from the daily bustle in Zürich, but also about seeing a part of the world that I’d never visited before.

So – off we went! Going in early April, the weather was pleasantly warm – 20-25C, with quite a bit of sun – a welcome change from the still somewhat unpredictable Swiss spring weather. My girlfriend had a concert to play on our second day there, so the first two days were mostly spent relaxing at the pool, and rehearsing. Our contact in Kuwait (who was also playing in the concert) was a great host, and both made sure that everything went smoothly, and that we got to see a few sights afterwards also.

The concert went really well (to the point where they ended up with a big picture of them on the front page of one of the local newspapers!), and with that well over, we could focus a bit more on the sight-seeing part. This included the iconic Kuwait Towers (designed by a fellow Dane), the bustling Arab market, the first performance of a jazz-gospel-opera, and a visit to the impressive Al-Hashemi-II – the worlds largest dhow (a traditional Arab type of ship) – which was placed in a dry-dock right next to the hotel we were staying at, and currently housed a just-as-impressive ballroom.

All in all, Kuwait was definitely an interesting place to experience, even though much of our time was spent relaxing at the pool-side with delicious lemon-mint lemonades ;) (…and obviously also taking pictures!)

From summer to winter…

It’s been a while since my last post here – so the change from the summery photos in the last post to this, may seem a bit abrupt ;) The last six months have been busy for me though, and while I have been able to get out with the camera, I’ve rarely been able to get enough good shots to warrant a complete post.

With winter having arrived in Switzerland though, and a couple of Saturdays to spare, my girlfriend and I decided to head out for a bit of hiking in the snow. We opted for the “easy” solution, and went for prepared hiking trails without deep snow, where you can go without any fancy equipment. Instead, we brought along the cameras!

First trip was to the western part of Graubünden, where we hiked from Mundaun to Lumnezia. The weather forecast had looked a bit suspicious, but it turned out much better than we could have hoped for. Blue skies most of the time, and the clouds that we had, mostly just served to make the photos better – so except for some slightly lacking signalization of the hiking trail at times (giving us an hour of extra hiking down ski pistes and deep snow), all was good!

Next trip went to the Toggenburg area. The weather was even better, the path better marked, and absolutely wonderful. Through forests, large patches of untouched snow, and with clouds rolling in for the sunlight to play in, and all the time majestic mountain vistas on both sides. Couldn’t have been much better!

Summer at Vesterhavet…

Like most other places in Europe, Denmark has had a crazy summer too – weeks upon weeks of sun, warmth and blue skies. This luckily didn’t change much for the 1½ week I had planned back home during my summer holidays. My parents had rented a summer-house on the Danish west coast, only a few minutes of walking distance from Vesterhavet (the sea, for those not familiar with Danish geography (or language ;) ).

Although we usually get out to see and experience things while on vacation, this time we ended up mostly just hanging out at the house and on the beach. This was due to a combination of most of us apparently just needing some time to do absolutely nothing, the addition of a 10-month old (and absolutely adorable!) baby to the family, and also of it being too hot to really do anything else. The only thing I ended up with pictures of, was thus basically the beach at sunset. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, because as motifs go, sunsets on the beach are quite beautiful! And especially when you’re a Dane spending most of your time in a place without any seaside, beaches or saltwater (not to say that Switzerland isn’t beautiful either – but it just hasn’t really caught up with the idea of seasides yet…).

So while the pictures below may seem a bit alike, I hope they’re still enjoyable to look at :)

If it ain’t broken…

I had been quite busy in the weeks leading up to this year’s summer holiday, and with the weather in Switzerland potentially looking a bit dodgy, I dragged out actually planning what to do in the holiday for quite a while. In the end the holiday began, and I still didn’t have a plan. Not wanting to sit at home spending a week trying to figure out something new and exiting to do, I went for the easy solution, and repeated what had worked so well last year – and booked a hotel for a handful of nights in Lugano.

I’m usually not one for repeating plans like this, but here it made sense. There was still things I wanted to see in Lugano and the area around it, the weather forecast looked good, and I knew that I had some good places where it should be possible to just kick back and relax – which was probably what I needed the most. So off I went, and had a bunch of great days!

Hiking from Monte Tamaro to Monte Lema, checking out the Buskers Festival, spending half a day in Morcote (which I’d only had about an hour in last year), eating great food (tagliatelle with porcini as one of the highlights), and just relaxing at the hotel pool and on the nice little balcony that my room had. And obviously also spending a bit of quality time with my camera, trying not to shoot too many things that I had already done the year before…;)

Hiking in the Canton of Schwyz x2

It’s summer in Switzerland – and you’d be a bit daft if you voluntarily spend all of it inside. Thus I’m doing my best to get out of the apartment and taking in as much as possible of the wonderful scenery that Switzerland has to offer. By coincidence, this has until now meant two hikes in June in the Canton of Schwyz, basically in neighboring mountain areas. Normally I don’t put photos from separate events into the same post, but seeing as these two hikes were close together in both time and location (and as I’ve been busy and ended up processing the photos at the same time in any case), I thought it’d make sense here…

The first hike was with my parents visiting – weather forecast was a bit so-so with possible thunderstorms, so we made sure to find a route that wasn’t too far from Zürich, and that wasn’t too high up or too exposed. A route around the town of Brunni, in the shadow of the peaks of the Grosser and Kleiner Mythen, seemed to do the trick, so off we went. After a good, initial climb, we ended up on a nice route with fantastic views to the Vierwalsstättersee and the area around it – including the peak of Rigi, which incidentally was also the destination of last years hike with my parents. The weather played along nicely too, with no signs at all of any thunder or even rain.

Second hike was arranged by one of my colleagues, who had the location and route all planned out, and invited me and a good handful of additional colleagues along. Starting from the town of Stoos, it was located less than 10km south of Brunni – but with the mountains of Switzerland, that’s still enough to give a completely different experience! (although admittedly, the views were somewhat similar ;) An extra perk of the hike was that to get to Stoos, you have to take the new funicular, which at up to 110% incline is the steepest in the world – and made with nice rotating carts, to keep passengers from rolling around inside during the ride. For a bunch of engineers, that’s obviously almost on its own enough to make the trip worthwhile… After marveling a bit at the technical achievement during the ride, we arrived in Stoos, heading directly for the initial climb up to Klingenstock, from where we’d then walk along the ridge to Fronalpstock. A beautiful trail with fantastic views to both sides. Weather was pretty great too, although, being in almost 2000m height, it was a bit chilly – and with the occasional cloud passing quite closely over us too – but that mainly just made for some more interesting photos.

All in all, two great hikes – and pretty fun to be able to look towards an area you’ve been in before from afar ;)

The Rheinfalls in Full Frame

As teased in my last post, after many careful considerations, I have very recently gone ahead with a slight upgrade of my trusty Nikon D7100.
(Warning – camera tech-talk coming up – skip to the next section if you just want to read about the waterfalls ;)

After that disclaimer, back to camera-talk! My D7100 has served me very, very well, but I was getting a bit annoyed by the optical quality of my 18-200mm lens – even though the flexibility definitely is amazing, I started to often feel limited by the lack of sharpness. After having looked around a bit, I couldn’t really find a new lens that seemed like a good substitute on the crop-sensor D7100, and since I had also toyed with the idea of going full-frame, I ended up getting a Nikon D750 with the 24-120mm lens. Having read a bit around, the 24-120mm was obviously not the optically best lens available, but it sounded like it did pretty well for its zoom range (which would definitely make it better than the 18-200), and was even a bit wider at the wide end – something that I’d also wanted (although the difference isn’t huge…). And obviously, the full-frame D750 would be a good step-up from the D7100, seeing as even though the resolution is basically the same, the sensor in the former is more than twice as big – meaning more light captured, thus lower noise and more sharpness. At the same time the camera itself is basically the same size, and has the exact same button layout, so switching couldn’t really be easier. It also uses the same battery, is supported in my existing editing software, and, since it’s a couple of years old now, was available at a really good price.

So – fast forward to the new camera having arrived back home with me, and my fingers itching to go give it a decent spin. With four consecutive days off due to the Ascension holiday (and me having moved my labor day holiday from last week), I decided on heading north, to the canton of Schaffhausen – more precisely to the Rheinfalls. 150m wide, 23m high, and with a summer average of 600m3 of water per second constantly passing through, it’s rather impressive! Numerous platforms have been placed at the sides of it, to allow visitors to get really close to the action – and interestingly enough, without really getting wet! After having spent the early morning trying to get a good bunch of different pictures of the falls (seeing as it’s the main motif, it took some work to not get all the pictures looking the same ;), I went for a nice hike in the backcountry also. This was mostly through woods, which weren’t as photogenic as the falls though (thus the rather obvious lack of pictures from that part of the day). After the hike, I went back to the falls for a cup of coffee and some more pictures (now with afternoon sun – and a good heap of extra tourists) – before catching a train back to Zürich after a day well spent.

Looking at the pictures at home, it seems I definitely got what I expected – even though it’s probably not visible from the low-res versions of the images here, the shots are a lot sharper – and the dynamic range is insane too – lots of extra data to work with from the image files. All in all – a great day, and some new equipment that is working well :)

Four cantons, one lake, summery weather, and a bunch of great views…

In Denmark, when you head south to enjoy some warmer temperatures, people will often tell you to bring back a bit of the warmth – which rarely works though… However, ever since I came back from my recent holiday in Spain, weather in Zürich has been more or less amazing. It culminated last weekend with lots of sun and temperatures in the high 20s – which is pretty good, considering it was still only April! In that kind of weather I didn’t want to just stay inside, so I consulted the internet for some hiking routes around the Vierwaldstättersee (which I had visited the year before on my trip up Rigi) – which is not only a really nice area, but also quite close to Zürich – and found an interesting half-day hike up a hill on the south-western part of the lake.

The weather proved to be as nice as anticipated, and with spring having really arrived, had flowers and green plants everywhere. Can’t really imagine how it could have been better! After a really nice hike, I ended up spending the afternoon in nearby Luzern afterwards – which I thought was about time, after almost two years in Switzerland ;) I wasn’t the only one with that idea though, and had to share the space (especially around the iconic Kapellbrücke) with throngs of other people. For some reason the very nice area around the old city fortifications were almost deserted in comparison though, and provided a nice finish on a great day!

Looking back here a week later, I almost feel a bit nostalgic also – as this trip may be the last one documented with my trusty Nikon D7100. After more than 4 years of good use, I’ve ended up going ahead with a slight upgrade – more on that in a future post – until then, enjoy the pictures here :)

Kickstarting the holiday season

Even though spring has been preparing its approach for some time now, you can never really be sure when it’ll finally manage to send winter on holiday. Not in Switzerland, and not in Denmark. Thus a bunch of my Danish friends had been contemplating a quick getaway to somewhere that should be guaranteed to be at least a bit warmer than either – and invited me along too! So off to Spain we went, to spend a week in a pretty awesome mansion – relaxing, eating good food, hiking, sightseeing, and everything else you usually do on a holiday.

Being late March / early April, the temperature obviously hadn’t gone to extremes yet, but the 15-20 degrees and, more importantly, almost constant blue skies and sunshine, provided a pleasant change from the “have-some-snow!” approach to spring that weather had taken in Denmark and Switzerland.

In the way-too-short timespan of a week, we managed to see both Valencia and Alicante, go to the picturesque village of Guadalest on the top of a mountain, hike along rocky paths to the top of Penyal d’Ifac, eat lots of icecream, and I even got to make my very first paella (which turned out pretty successful :).

And as usual, I brought along my camera also…