Hiking

2x Summer holidays

Since moving to Switzerland, I’ve usually spent a week or so at home in Denmark during the summer – visiting family and friends, enjoying the seaside, and eating lots of sild. My girlfriend, originating from Bulgaria, is more or less used to the same thing, just in, well, Bulgaria. Wanting to spend the holidays together, we thus opted for doing a small tour of Europe: 15 days, about 4000km by plane, 2000km by car, 250km by train (and maybe 15km by bike) and 7 different places to sleep, in first Denmark, and then Bulgaria…

We started out enjoying some time in a summerhouse with my family near Ebeltoft, generally just relaxing, and enjoying the salty sea-water that Switzerland still hasn’t caught on to. During the last days we managed to go sightsee a bit in Aarhus, and then visit friends in Odense, before heading off to Bulgaria.

There we started with a crash-course in navigating very wet Bulgarian roads in the dark, before arriving in the Rila mountains, where we spent the first two days. Those were used to visit the very beautiful Rila Monastery, the fascinating Stob Pyramids, and 5 of the 7 breathtaking Rila Lakes. Afterwards we went on to Stara Zagora, for sightseeing, family visits, and a trip to the Shipka Memorial (and the Memorial Church), learning about the history of Bulgaria in the process. The last couple of days were spent relaxing at the beach at the seaside.

All in all, we had a fantastic time – with lots of amazing people, great weather (mostly), beautiful sunsets, views and places, quite a bit of very good food, and some photography also. The only problem was that, as always with holidays, you could always use a feeeeew days more ;)

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 ;)

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!

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…

Calendar says March…

…but apparently the Swiss weather doesn’t really care too much about that. After a week of bitterly cold temperatures, on March 1st I woke up to Zürich being covered in a beautiful blanket of fresh powder snow. With temperatures still well below 0C, the snow even stayed real snow, and didn’t transform into the annoying slush that is otherwise the only “snow” we’ve seen in Zürich this season – which was also the reason that I hadn’t really been able to get any half-decent wintery pictures yet.

So when the snow was still there on Saturday, and the weather forecast said that temperatures would stay in the freezing region at least until noon, I got up early and went up to good old Uetliberg, hoping for some somewhat interesting views and motifs. Down in the city it was cloudy, and the top wasn’t really visible, but I hoped that all this was below the top – and I was more or less right –
even though there was still a thick layer of clouds above, it was otherwise clear at the top, with the cold weather providing excellent views to the real mountains in the south. Having cheated a bit taking public transport to the top, I managed to get there while there was still a bit of morning light, providing for some really great views.

Afterwards I hiked back down, taking care not to be run over by the many sledges out getting the last fun out of the soon-to-be melting snow – and of course also getting in a few more shots of the snow-covered forest. And in the end, my timing was good – in the afternoon on the same day the temperatures rose, and the snow started melting. Maybe the weather managed a look in the calendar after all ;)

Amazing Autumn

Back in 2004 I spent August to December in New Zealand – and I think that may be a reason why I enjoy autumn as much as I do. Being on the southern hemisphere, the seasons are reversed, so I traded the typical Danish late-summer-autumn-early-winter sequence for a late-summer-winter-spring-winter sequence instead, and essentially missed a complete autumn. The year after, being back in Denmark, I remember suddenly enjoying the autumn much more than I had done in earlier years – and ever since, despite the often not-so-great weather, the autumn season has had me marvel at the fantastic colors whenever outside.

This year is of course no different. Last year I did a nice bike ride which took me along the river Sihl, and the forests it runs through – I thought that could provide another good way to spend an autumn Saturday, so I climbed on my bike and set off early (or well, early for a Saturday;) in the morning. Got a great ride with some amazing morning light along the Sihl, and stopped at the Sihlwald, where I had a good hike in the forest – all the way up to the Albis Hochwacht lookout-tower. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was certainly surprised by the view from the top! It’s not that far from Uetliberg, but its more southern location means that there’s an unobstructed view of the Zugersee, with Rigi right behind it. Sadly it was a bit hazy though – on a clear day, it must be absolutely amazing…

I totally got what I came for though – awesome colors, fresh air and fantastic views. And the fact that the rear tire on my bike was flat when I got back from the hike didn’t manage to ruin a thing (especially since the pretty great Zürich public transport system had a train station right next to where I’d parked;).

A ski resort in the summer…

If you have even been skiing in the alps, you’ll also have noticed some of the billboards and commercials around the various resorts, that do their best to get skiers to come back during the summer, with pictures of fantastic scenery with lots of mountain flowers and nice green grass – a slight contrast to the snow skiers are usually looking for. Living in Denmark most of my life, and usually going to places with a beach during summer, I’d never actually seen a skiing resort up close that wasn’t covered in snow.

That changed last weekend though, when I, late Friday evening, finally found out where to go hiking the next day (in Switzerland, such a choice can be quite overwhelming for newcomers!). I set out Saturday morning, taking the train to Unterterzen, and then a set of ski lifts up to Maschgenkamm, about 2000m above sea level. Sure, taking the lift up could be seen as cheating by some, but it meant that I could concentrate on enjoying a great hike around the area, instead of having to spend all my energy on going up and down ;)

Being more or less surrounded by mountains, the views were not as impressive as for instance Rigi, but being able to walk for basically hours without seeing cities larger than a couple of houses, definitely has its charm too! On top of this, the air was fresh, the weather was nice, and the main noise was caused by the bells from the large number of cows wandering around on the hillsides (and often on the hiking trails too…).
All in all, a pretty good hike! – and nice to see finally get to try a ski lift during summer also :)

A different side of Switzerland

Two well-deserved weeks of summer holidays were approaching, and I had been planning to do a multi-day biketrip around the Alps close to Zürich – staying at cozy mountain hotels, eating lots of cheese and all that stuff. However, due to a last-minute problem with my bike, that ended up as a no-go, as it required some repairs that couldn’t be done in time… Hmm…

Luckily though, Switzerland is nicely positioned in the middle of Europe, which means that you can jump on a train, sit there for two hours, and then get out in something that’s pretty close to Italy – in my case, Lugano. Situated south of the Alps, between tree-covered mountains, right next to the Lake Lugano, with language, cuisine and weather that is definitely inspired by the southern neighbor, you can’t really get closer to Italy without actually being in Italy.

I had found a very nice hotel right at the lake, close to the city-center, and was prepared for about 3 days of relaxing, hiking, photography, and eating pizzas – ended up a success on all accounts :) From enjoying just sitting in the city park reading or enjoying the sunset, over hiking in the nearby mountains (followed by well-deserved stints in the hotel pool), to great pizza, pasta, risotto and ice cream.

It was basically just what I needed to throw myself into holiday-mode – and I think it’s not that last time I’ll be doing that!

Spring hike to Rigi

Back in May, my parents came to visit me in Zürich. The weather was fantastic, so apart from enjoying it in Zürich itself, we also decided on finding somewhere to go do something that is widely available in Switzerland, but pretty impossible to do in Denmark – hiking up a mountain! The nearby Rigi massif looked interesting, surrounded by a number of lakes, and according to my dad who’d been up there shortly on a work trip many years ago, the views should be quite good too. So we drove to Weggis at the shore of the Vierwaldstättersee, and at the foot of Rigi, applied a couple of liters of sunscreen and off we went. It started out nicely, going through forests, the very impressive Felsentor (basically a small portal through a couple of very big rocks), and fields with cows (it was Switzerland after all…). We were aiming for lunch at Rigi Kaltbad around halfway up, and after the last part (which was tough – steep paths, rolling gravel, and a blazing sun), we agreed that the rösti and bratwurst was well-deserved. I nearly didn’t make it further, slightly tempted to just stay at one of the very nice looking Spa resorts in Kaltbad, but in the end we did take the last part too up to the peak – Rigi Kulm. The views had been great during most of the hike, but at the top, they were absolutely fantastic. I had of course opted for lugging along my camera, so I was able to capture a bit of the views – even though it only partly can capture the feeling of being on top of the world (ignoring the much higher alps in the horizon of course ;). Slightly exhausted, we took the train and cablecar down – and especially the cablecar was almost worth a trip on its own – again great views, and lots of whooooaaa moments when going over the sides of the mountain :) All in all, a great day!

Easter hiking

With the whole week around Easter off work, I figured it was time to get out and discover a bit of Switzerland. The weather was looking to be really nice (~20 degrees and sunny!), so a hike sounded like something that would fit the bill. It’s a bit daunting to start out with that in Switzerland though, as the amount of places you can go is overwhelming – and selecting where to head out can be a bit of a challenge. Looking around some maps, I spotted a limestone cave open to visitors near the Thunersee, close to Interlaken though – and as I’ve always had a thing for limestone caves, that seemed like a good idea, especially as there was a nice hiking trail passing by it.

So, armed with my camera I headed off to the train station (very…) early Monday morning. Everything went smoothly though, and soon I was hiking down towards the Thunersee. The route was clearly marked with numerous signposts, so finding the way around was easy (in any case, just following along the shore of the lake would probably have worked too ;). Passing through deltas, forest, by lake shores, up mountains, through small charming villages – and all in wonderful sunshine – I made it to the Beatuscaves. Situated halfway up a mountainside overlooking the Thunersee, and with numerous waterfalls coming out from inside the caves, the location was pretty amazing by itself. And the caves were really nice too – running almost a kilometer into the mountain, and with lots of waterstreams thundering through it at places, it was quite a bit different from other limestone caves I’ve visited.

The rest of the hike to Merligen went well too, got on the bus, and ended up spending the evening in Bern – wandered around the old town centre, and found a nice place to have dinner before heading back to the train station to make my way back towards Zürich. All in all, a pretty okay way to spend a day!

Snowshoeing at Mutteristock

Even though Zürich hasn’t really had much winter (as in, snow, ice and temperatures below 0) since January, some of the higher-located places (as in, the mountains) still have plenty of snow. And you don’t even have to go far – about 50km from Zürich, the area around Mutteristock apparently got a nice new cover of snow during the week – so together with two of my colleagues, I went snowshoeing. Starting in 900m above sea level, heading up to about 2200m and down again, over about 14km in total, it was quite a hike. We expected to maybe have to wear the snowshoes about half the time, but as soon as we went from the parking lot onto the trail and started sinking in pretty deep, we realized that we should probably just put them on right away. As we got further up, the snow proved to be completely untouched in most places – and basically a good 40-50cm of the finest powder! All in all, it made for a pretty great hike – although my legs complained a bit during and afterwards ;)

Walensee Hike

One thing you kinda have to do when you live in Switzerland (apart from eating cheese and chocolate), is to go hiking. And with the abundance of lakes, mountains and forests, spread all over the country, it’s easy to see why. I hadn’t really had much time to really get started with this though (except for my numerous trips up Uetliberg), so when some of my colleagues proposed a company-hike, I obviously didn’t want to miss it. Even though the weather forecast didn’t look that good, we ended up heading to Walensee, about an hour away from Zürich – and it ended up being a good decision, as Zürich had rain all day – and we didn’t get a single drop during the hike :)
It was a beautiful tour too – starting out at lake-level at around 400m above sealevel, then heading 300m further up, down again to the lake for lunch at a lake-side restaurant, and then heading a good 400m upwards again, before heading down to lake-level for the trip back to Zürich. The path was mostly through autumn-coloured forest, had almost constant view over the lake, and the extra elevation on the hills provided some good views too. All in all a pretty good way to spend a Saturday in November!