I recently had to do a work trip to Pennsylvania in the US – and as I was planning the trip, realizing that I’d need a rental car in any case to get to the slightly rural setting of Lititz, flying to New York and driving from there quickly materialized as a workable option. Or well, doing that, just flying in two days early and spending the weekend in NYC was the actual option I was thinking of ;)
Cue plane landing in JFK, and me heading toward Manhattan for a quick revisit of “the city so nice they named it twice”. The setting was slightly similar to last time I stopped by – as in that it was still in the darker months of the year, and still bitterly cold. But as the snow had been exchanged with Christmas decorations and throngs of people (it was the weekend after Thanksgiving after all), it still provided a very different experience. All in all I had less than two days, but still managed to see the Frick Collection, have waffles at the Christmas market in Bryant Park, see Central Park without snow, do a nice walk down the High Line, and see lots and lots of Christmas lights (although I’m still a bit confused as to the connection between Christmas and the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs-themed decorations that Saks Fifth Avenue had spent a lot of effort putting up in their windows… ah well…).
I could easily have spent a couple of days (or possibly months ;) more in the city, but even so, still a great weekend!
On my quest for getting as much out of the wonderful autumn as possible, my next stop was in a part of Switzerland that I hadn’t yet visited – to the west, around Lake Geneva. I didn’t go all the way to Geneva though, but instead opted to stop in Lausanne. I had gotten a few tips from one of my co-workers who knows the city very well, so armed with that, I got on the train early in the morning. Having arrived, I did the same thing once more – got on another train (although for a much shorter ride!), to Grandvaux, just outside Lausanne, but within the large World Heritage Site of the Lavaux vineyards. The weather was perfect – slightly chilly (it was October after all), but with blue skies and wonderful autumn sun.
I had a good walk through the vineyards, learning a bit about the history and processes along the way, before ending up in Lutry, and taking the train back to Lausanne. After strolling around the city, I visited the Palais de Rumine which had an exhibition by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. I’m normally not that big a fan of contemporary art, and initially, I didn’t really get the point of most of the pieces exhibited. When I finally got around to have a look in the accompanying booklet though, the added context and explanations turned it into a very interesting experience – especially with my recent trips to Beijing in mind.
Next stop was the Lausanne photography museum, but as I found out when I got there, it was currently closed as they were putting in a new exhibition. Ah well… I took a walk in the nearby park, and came upon the Olympic Museum instead. I wasn’t really prepared to do a full tour, but they had a special exhibition on Sports Photography, which seemed kinda relevant to me ;) And it was really good! Some fantastic and very varied photos, and some really interesting stories behind them also.
After the museum, I took a stroll along the waterfront, found some dinner, enjoyed a spectacular sunset, and then headed back to Zürich after a day well spent!
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;).
For some reason, I can find it difficult to find inspiration when trying to ‘force’ doing photography – for instance during photowalks and similar, especially in places I know well. When Johannes, one a of my friends and co-photographers from my local church, arranged one here in Zürich though, I kinda had to tag along. And it actually went pretty well! I got a good handful of interesting, different shots from places I thought I knew well, and had lots of fun during it all.
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 :)
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!
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!
In May, I spent close to two weeks in Beijing for work. Even though the pictures from that trip may suggest otherwise, there was actually work involved also ;) To be precise, we were doing the first rehearsals for the show “2047 Apologue”, which was to be shown at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (or NCPA) for three evenings in June. So – early June, I went back to Beijing for quite a bit less sightseeing, and quite a bit more work. The show was a concept theater, directed by the famous Chinese director Zhang Yimou, that seeked to investigate the future relationship between people and technology, by combining traditional Chinese performing arts, with state-of-the-art stage technology. And at Verity Studios where I work, we can provide good amounts of the latter ;) Our main competence is doing drone-shows – for instance a large fleet of small drones with lights, flying around in complex patterns – more on this later! In any case, since it’s a bit hard to explain everything in pictures only (luckily I got a few!), I thought this trip was worthy of a slightly longer write-up…
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Having to travel for work can be annoying for some, but I usually quite like it – especially when being able to go to places like Beijing, as I just did for the past almost two weeks :) Spanning two weekends, there was luckily a bit of time for relaxing and having a look around also, so I tried to make the best of it. Amongst others, this included visits to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, a few of Beijings traditional ‘hutongs’, and also the Great Wall of China.
As most people, I had heard about the Great Wall, but seeing it, and realizing how it follows and tracks the landscape across mountain ridge after mountain ridge, was nothing short of breathtaking. Curving along, and going up and down (rather steep in places!), it seems to have just been built in place as they went along, rather than having been subject to lots of planning beforehand. But then again, with thousands of kilometers of wall to build, that was probably the easiest solution. Impressive none the less! Main problem was that it quickly became a bit challenging to figure out ways of not making all the many pictures I shot look just totally the same :)
One of the things that surprised me the most, was the amount of trees scattered all across the city. Usually when hearing about Beijing as the city, it’s about the massive size, immense amounts of people, and air pollution – so seeing basically every single street and avenue lined with trees was a positive surprise – and made for a very different impression than the concrete desert that I had somehow subconsciously expected. The air was still bad though – luckily not so bad to be much of an issue, except for a single day, where a sandstorm in a nearby region covered the city in a yellowish fog (classified ‘Hazardous’, with pollution levels as high as 900 – ‘Unhealthy’ is hit at 150, and can be compared to the about 15-30 we usually get in Zürich). With convenience stores stocking masks for such occasions, we geared up, and luckily survived without more problems than a few irritated throats.
All in all though, it was all part of the experience ;) – and made for a very interesting trip!
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!