Tag Archive: outdoors


Day 59: Jungfraujoch

I had never heard of Interlaken before going there, so it was all thanks to Ari that I even made it there in the first place! It’s almost a given that if you go to Switzerland there are going to be mountains, and big ones none the less, so I wasn’t surprised when Ari informed us that just an hour from Interlaken was one of the highest train stations in Europe.

The station is called Jungfraujoch and it stands 3,454 meters high or 11,333 feet.

The night before we had asked one of the employees at the hostel, which day was going to be nicer. She told us immediately to go on Monday, because the following day was going to have horrible weather.

Monday morning, after a fitful night of sleep (mostly everyone in the room was snoring that night), we woke up to a bright day. There were a few clouds in the sky that covered the mountains, but even before we had finished breakfast they had begun to clear away.

There are multiple ways to reach Jungfraujoch. All throughout the little valleys there are a number of small villages, all of which are connected by train. Admittedly, getting to Jungfraujoch was pretty expensive (over 100 swiss francs), but we got to ride on the train the entire way up and none of the destinations points at the top cost any money. However, not everyone who visits Jungfraujoch has to take the trains all the way up. If we had had more time in Interlaken, hiking part of the way up would have been wonderful. There are plenty of hiking trails around the area that make it pretty simple, but as it was, we traveled by train all the way up, from Interlaken, to Lauterbrunnen, switched trains to Kleine Scheidigg, and finally boarded one last train to Jungfraujoch.

The entire journey from bottom to top is amazing and breathtaking. At first we were low in the mountains and our view consisted of rolling hills overshadowed by giant craggy cliffs, but as we climbed up the side of the mountain the world began to unfold around us. Suddenly we could see hundreds of peaks stretching out and many small villages tucked safely inside the valleys.

Looking back down the hill from where we came, all we could see was bright green grass and trees, but looking ahead, the landscape drastically changed and suddenly all I could see was snow, crumbling rocks and barren land.

About half way up we were able to spot the end station, it’s so high and yet it still doesn’t reach the summit! On the right of the Jungfraujoch station is Jungfrau at 4,158 meters or 13,642 feet. To the left of the station is Mönch, which is a little shorter at 4,107 meters or 13,475 feet.

Once we reached Kleine Scheidegg the train basically dissapears into the mountain and the rest of the way up we had no view. There are, however, two spots where the train stops and we were allowed to leave the train to see the view. One of the stops was called Eigerwand (Eiger Wall) and the other Eismeer (Sea of Ice).

View from Eigerwand.

As we climbed it was easy to feel the difference in temperature, luckily the train was heated, although the one before hadn’t been. After about an hour and a half of riding we finally arrived at Jungfraujoch. The tunnel we arrived in was long and dark and as I stepped out of the train, it hadn’t quite hit me just how high up in the mountains I was.

At Jungfraujoch there are a number of things people can do, but in general people stick to the “guided” tour. I say guided, but really there were only signs telling us where to go. After exiting the train we had to walk down a long tunnel until we came to the Jungfrau Panorama. Basically this is a giant room with wonky projector screens that show you what you’re going to see outside. It was kinda cool, but at the same time I would have liked to keep the view a surprise. However, the projections of the view, as you can probably imagine, are nothing like the actual view itself.

To get to the very top of Jungfraujoch we had to take an elevator to the Sphinx. The Sphinx is the platform outside on the mountain. It has a inside viewing area with two levels and then an outside viewing area with a large deck. It was one of the most amazing and absolutely freezing views I have ever experienced. I had dressed appropriately for going to Switzerland, but I hadn’t realized that we would actually be going so high into the mountains and I forgot a hat or a scarf. Despite my lack of hat and scarf, when I stepped outside I completely forgot about how cold I was.

The Aletsch Glacier

Standing there I felt so insignificant, just looking at the Aletsch Glacier and imagining the sheer power it must take to carve through mountains. I took so many pictures of the same view that my fingers were beginning to hurt from the cold and I could already feel my ears turning red and my cheeks stinging, but we must have stayed out there for at least twenty minutes. We had been completely lucky and there were barely any clouds in the sky, so we could see for miles and miles on end. It was the perfect day.

From the Sphinx we were apparently suppose to be able to see France, Germany and Italy, although I was all turned around and really couldn’t tell which way each country was.

A helicopter far off in the distance. There were also a few jets flying overhead. They would circle the mountain and then come around and fly over Jungfraujoch, probably showing off for the tourists.

On the opposite side from the glacier. One of my favorite things was the low-lying clouds hiding in the valleys.

After we had officially all frozen into icicles we decided to head back inside and check out the rest of the area.

Exiting the Sphinx, the tour signs led us down a long hallway that came out in a room with a giant snowglobe. This part of Jungfraujoch is called Alpine Sensation. Basically, it was a long tunnel full of lights and music, and some history.

The giant snowglobe that would change from day to night and then through the seasons too.

The second thing I was most looking forward to at Jungfraujoch, after the view, was the Ice Palace. To enter the palace we had to walk down a flight of stairs and then step into a very long tunnel completely made of ice. It was really exciting and fun to slide around on the ice with our shoes and walk through little tunnels made completely of ice.

The entrance to the palace.

A small ice tunnel that I could basically touch the roof of with my head if I stood up straight.

An example of the ice sculptures that were placed throughout the palace.

After goofing around in the ice palace we headed to the last stop on the tour, the Plateau. The Plateau is off to the side of the Berghaus, or the main building, and it allows people to walk out onto the mountain. There were ropes on either side of the Plateau, but it was actually a little precarious walking out there, because it was so slippery. Right outside the door the snow sloped up to the Plateau, so we had to shuffle our way inch by inch until we could reach flat ground. It was hilarious seeing so many people shuffling along up the hill. Luckily no one slipped.

The small hill everyone had to climb to reach the Plateau. It wasn’t actually that steep, but ice makes everything tricky.

After we took some photos Ari and I decided to have a race down the hill, so we both sat down and using our hands pushed ourselves down the hill on our butt. It was a safer and much more fun way of getting down.

Completely frozen and exhausted from the altitude, we decided to get lunch at one of the restaurants in the Berghaus. We were lucky, because after we were done eating the Plateau was closed, maybe because it was too icy.

We ended the day by traveling back down the mountain. This time we went through Grindewald instead of Lauterbrunnen, because Ari and I wanted to explore some of the smaller villages. We stopped for a half hour in Grindelwald, giving us just enough time to walk down the main street and enjoy the disappearing sun.

Walking the small streets of Grindelwald.

We arrived back at the hostel late that night and thanks to a special deal we had with the hostel we were served a three course meal at one of the local restaurants called Des Alpes. It was so delicious that we decided to return the following night. For one of my dinners I ate Rösti, which is a traditional Swiss dish made out of potatoes, onions, cheese and bacon. Yum!

All in all our trip to Jungfraujoch was a day that fell perfectly into place. We got lucky with the weather, we were able to walk out onto the Plateau before it closed, and we were served a cheap and delicious dinner.

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As a part of our program we have to do some community service work. Lucky for us, the Institute has some good connections and Friday we were given the chance to work in a vineyard run by Josef Regner.

We woke up early that morning so that we could catch a train that would take us about 45 minutes outside of Vienna to the Weinviertel, which means wine quarter. It was promising to be a good day, but we were all a little nervous about what we would be doing. From what I’ve heard, harvesting grapes is a delicate process and so I thought that perhaps we might only get to watch as the professional workers picked the grapes.

As soon as we arrived, I realized that I had been dead wrong. In a rush, we all piled into a van, which was driven by Josef’s wife Anita and co-piloted by her dog, Lila. She drove us directly to the field. Right as we got out we were given clippers for the vines, quickly shown how to cut the grapes and then we were off!

The first field we worked in.

It was one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a Friday. The sun was shinning, we had a wonderful view, and every once in a while we were able to taste the delicious grapes. All around us were other workers, some were from Austria, but others were also from Slovakia and Hungary. We ended up working for about two hours straight and probably got around six rows done. It was really soothing to stand out in the sun and cut grapes, just working with our hands and not really thinking about much else.

By the end of the first session my hands were completely covered in grape juice and super sticky. Everyone piled around the van and we all took turns rinsing off our hands with water from a bucket.

All the grapes we picked! With everyone working together we must have gotten at least three wagons full of grapes by the end of the day.

We all had to pile into the back of the van, which was really dark and had a tiny lightbulb in the corner that lit only a portion of the van. While we drove, I talked to a couple who lived one town over. They were really interested in the wine grown in Oregon and also about our stay in Austria. Soon we arrived at the Heuriger, which is a small specialized tavern in Austria and serves new wines. When we arrived Anita had cooked us pumpkin soup, lasagna and a variation of vegetable salads.

Below is only a portion of the Heuriger. There is a house to the left and also a little shop out of sight. The actual dinning area was quite large and could have probably fit 50 to 60 people, but we were all able to fit at one table. They also had a little garden with pigs in a pen.

After lunch we headed back out to work, this time we worked up on a hill, which gave us a wonderful view of the entire valley. While we worked, Anita’s grandfather kept us company, telling us about friends and family he had in America and also scaring us with a giant grasshopper. He was the perfect example of a cute old Austrian man. He wore a little hat with a feather in the side and he was a little hunched from all the long years working in the fields.

From our vantage point we could see a little bit of Vienna off in the distance, but mostly our view consisted of rolling fields of grass and pumpkins.

After another hour or two of work we headed back to the Heuriger, finished with the day’s work. We had a delicious cake for dessert and afterwards, when everyone else had left, the grandfather was kind enough to show us around the town. We walked up the one hill in the entire town, passing by the school (which is apparently where he was born) and headed towards the wine cellar.

To get to the wine cellars all we had to do was walk down Kellergasse, which means cellar alley.

When we arrived the owner of the vineyard, Josef, was a little busy cleaning the cellar, so the grandfather led us around the back. As soon as I rounded the corner I felt like I had been placed on the set of The Hobbit, we were led up a small pebbled trail towards a tiny door placed in the side of a hill. Once we went inside we walked down steep stone steeps to go down into the cellar.

The entire cellar was made completely out of dirt. I touched one of the walls and it was moist and earthy. The tunnels leading to each individual cellar we small, long and dark, only lit by little bulbs at our feet.

We were led through the different sections of the cellar, one had fermenting tanks, one with barrels full of wine, one was a room with a giant table, a fireplace and a cool midlevel looking chandelier and another had bottled wine just waiting to be tasted. Eventually, we reached another flight of steps leading back outside and I was surprised to find that we had basically walked through the entire hill.

  After entering the cellar at a completely different spot, we came out of the ground using the door through the second house on the left.

We then got to taste test Sturm, which is wine stopped early in the fermentation process. Sturm is one of Austria’s specialties. It is low in alcohol content, looks a little foggy, and can either be sweet or sour. While we drank we watched the grapes we picked go into the cellar.

After test-tasting we thanked both Josef and the grandfather and headed to the train station. To our surprise it was already 5 in the afternoon! We were all exhausted, but full of delicious food, Sturm, and the satisfaction of a hard day’s work.

Day 44: On Top of the World

Our second day in Prague was another day of touring around. Our plan was to ride up to the Prague Castle and then slowly meander our way back down.

Riding to the castle, we were able to catch one of the old street cars. They are probably one of the cooler ways to get around the city, Vienna has some of these too, but the ones in Prague were very different. It seemed to me that these particular trams were made so that no one would have to interact with anyone else. There was only one seat next to each window while the entire middle of the tram was completely open. Everyone in our group found it very amusing and to me it seemed a little unpractical, but the rattling trams really brought life to the city.

Once we reached the top, the view was amazing! Even though it was a little cloudy, we could still see most of Prague and to the left we could see St. Vitus and the Prague Castle.

Before arriving at the Prague Castle, standing to the right of Castle Square, is the Schwarzenberg Palace. The entire building is black and white and the patterns on the wall are all carved. It was really impressive, but also confused my eyes, which wanted to make the triangles and blocks three dimensional when in reality they were flat.

A closer look at the amazing detail.

As we walked up to the castle, honestly I was a little disappointed. It seemed small in comparison to some of the other palaces or castles that I’d seen, but the Prague Castle actually hides it’s size. It might look small from the front, but once we walked through the gates, I realized that inside there is a huge courtyard surrounded by three other sides.

Outside the gates were two guards dressed in blue, they didn’t move an inch while we were there and the poor guards had to endure about a million people taking photos of them. They were there for the protection of the President who uses the castle, or at least a section of it.

This castle like many of the buildings in Europe has gone through a number of restorations. One of the most important or interesting facts about it is that this is the castle where the 30 Year War started, with the Defenestration of Prague or Prager Fensterstruz in German. Defenestration literally means the act of throwing someone out a window. In this case, emissaries of the Habsburgs were thrown out of the windows by Protestants, who did not like the counter-reformation that the Habsburgs were backing. No one who was thrown out the window was killed, but it was one of the sparks that set off the 30 Year War.

Inside the castle there is also a very beautiful hall called Vladislav Hall. It was often used for tournaments with knights and they would actually bring their horses inside the building to compete. This is why the stairs leading into the room are not actually stairs, but more like a ramp.

Unfortunately, there were many places inside we were not allowed to take photos, so if you would like to see more click… here.

Just behind the Prague Castle is St. Vitus Cathedral. It is a Neo-Gothic cathedral and one of the more amazing cathedrals I have seen. As soon as we excited the courtyard it was right there, dominating the entire sky. I love Gothic (or in this case Neo-Gothic) churches, because of the attention to detail and intricate handwork. There’s no comparison to the dedication it must have taken to finish such a building and it amazes me even more that this was built 600 years ago!

The side of St. Vitus. This church completely Gothic, the green cap is Baroque.

Inside the cathedral it was packed with tourists, but that didn’t take away from the overall feeling of the church. The ceiling was incredibly high and seemed to go on forever, while the light that filled the church from the windows made the entire place glow.

There are many important Bohemian kings buried inside the church. Below in the royal crypt rests Charles IV and Rudolf II.

One of my favorite parts of the church, and probably one of the things that really sets it apart from other churches I’ve seen, were the stained glass windows. The colors and stories were just breathtaking and they really made the church come to life.

There were a number of different windows all done in different styles, my favorite is the one below. It was created by the Jugendstil artist, Alfons Mucha. In the very center is a depiction of St. Wenceslas and his grandmother St. Ludmila.

Once we reached the very back of the castle, we walked behind the church and found Golden Lane. This is one single, very small, alley. It has cute one-roomed houses along the left side.

Originally, it is thought that this lane was called Goldmaker’s Lane, because it was housing for goldsmiths. However, there is a legend that Emperor Rudolf II housed alchemists here, hence the name, Golden Lane. This legend could possibly be true, because it is said that Rudolf II was more interested in the arts and sciences than anything else.

Just an example of how small the houses were. Even I had to duck to get inside and I’m only five-foot-three!

This is a wreath outside one of the cutest stores on Golden Lane. It was all handmade ceramics with very detailed and original designs. Just a fun fact, Franz Kafka lived on Golden Lane.

After exploring the castle we headed back into town, this time by foot. Although it looks life a very long walk, it actually didn’t take too much time before we arrived at Charles Bridge.

The road leading down into town.

We had the rest of the day off so we decided to go up the Old Town Hall Tower, which has the Astronomical Clock below. From above we could see the entire city.

It was funny seeing how many tourists were looking at the clock. Just the other day we were apart of that crowd, waiting for the clock to ring.

Somewhat of the same shot, but with the rest of the city stretched out on the horizon.

Looking towards St. Vitus and the Prague Castle.

Church of Our Lady before Týn

Old Town Square with a monument to Jan Hus in the middle. He was the leader of the Hussite movement.

Day 23: Touring Venice

The next day we decided that we were going to see all the tourist sites around Venice, but that didn’t mean that we wanted to be surrounded by tourists, so we got up early.

Venice is divided into six districts called sestieri. They are, San Marco, Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro, San Polo, and Santa Croce. There is also a small sliver of an island called Giudecca separated from the rest of the island by Canale della Giudecca. While we were in Venice it became obvious that San Marco and San Polo were the districts with the most tourist and many of the famous buildings.

At eight in the morning there were still quite a few people out on the street, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the day before, so we were able to stop by the Rialto and see the bridge before all the shops opened and the streets filled up.

What the Rialto bridge looks like when all the shops are opened and all the tourists are out and about.

Basically our apartment was in the San Marco district so we didn’t have to walk very far to reach Piazza San Marco.

Piazza San Marco has quite a few attractions, the most noticeable being St. Mark’s Campanile, the bell tower, which juts up into the sky. It looks out of place compared to the low white buildings around it. To the left of the Campanile is the Clock Tower, which rang while we were there and filled the entire square with music. Directly behind the tower is the St. Mark’s, which was very beautiful and an interesting contrast to the rest of the city.

The entire Piazza

The Piazza about halfway to St. Mark’s

The very top of St. Mark’s Campanile

The Clock Tower

While most of Venice is rundown and very old, St. Mark’s is clean, white, and covered in statues. The grandeur of the church really didn’t match the rest of the city. The church has four domes, huge arches and painted murals above the doors. Compared to a lot of the other churches I’ve seen it was a lot more chaotic, with many colors and statues.

Front of St. Mark’s

The right side of St. Mark’s, where we were standing and waiting to get in.

The outside of St. Mark’s was impressive, but inside was even more amazing. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed inside. In fact, a lot of things were restricted inside the church.

Before going in we had to wait in a long line for the church to actually open. After a half hour we finally reached the door, but there was someone there turning away anyone who wore shorts, a large backpack, or a shirt that didn’t cover their shoulders. Lucky for us, Addison knew that this would happen so we were prepared and the line moved quickly as almost every other person was turned away.

Inside, the entire ceiling was gold, it seemed almost sad that such a wonderful and luxurious church was surrounded by so many crumbling buildings. We also made it into the treasury, which had some amazing swords, goblets and stones, from many different times and places.

When we walked back outside I immediately noticed just how many pigeons there were. Although the winged lion represents St. Mark and is Venice’s symbol, I would argue that pigeons are probably the unofficial symbol of the city. They filled the sidewalks, they sat on the sills of every building, they flew through the sky and they slept on every statue they could possibly find. There was more than one time where I had to duck, because a pigeon literally flew right past my face. Although pigeons are in general dirty, I found that they added to the charm of the city.

I noticed that some of the birds were unnatural colors, the one I was able to take a picture of was green, but I also saw blue, red and purple pigeons. I suspect that people catch and dye the pigeons, however I have no idea what it symbolizes, if it symbolizes anything at all.

After the church, we decided to go up the tower. About ten people had to cram into a tiny elevator for the ride up, but the view of the city was worth the awkward ride. To look out over Venice and be able to see the entire island from one spot was breathtaking. All the buildings looked so tightly packed that it was impossible to even see the waterways. From above it was also very easy to tell just how old Venice was, there were no modern buildings and all of the buildings were more or less the same height. Looking down on the city I felt like I could have been standing in Venice hundreds of years ago.

Three of the Four Domes of St. Mark’s

One of the possible views from the tower.

When we returned to the bottom of the tower the Piazza was suddenly teeming with people, so we decided to head away from the San Marco district and explore Dorsoduro. Immediately we noticed how much quieter the streets became and at certain times we were the only people out on the street. It was a very different Venice from the one we’d seen earlier that morning. The buildings weren’t grand, but they had their own special touch to them and the suddenly Venice seemed a lot more like a city than just a tourist destination.

We ended up walking all the way to the tip of Dorsoduro, where the church Santa Maria della Salute is. While we were there we sat on the steps and ate our lunch.

We were basically the only people down on this street, although there were some children playing.

Local children playing soccer in the street.

Soon after we headed back to the apartment, but on the way we encountered a persistent gondolier, who gave us a “discount” on a ride. I say, “discount”, because I really doubt he was giving us a special offer, but he seemed to want to convince us that he was. Usually I would try to avoid such an expensive and obviously overpriced boat ride, but we were in Venice and when would I ever get to ride in a gondola again?

The ride actually ended up being pretty relaxing and it was fun to be so close to the water. The gondoliers are incredibly good at navigating the waterways and I couldn’t believe how close they would get to the walls. Sometimes they even pushed off the wall with one foot to keep from hitting it.

The Rialto from the water.

That night we went out to dinner at a place along the water and we had some authentic Italian wine and lasagna.

Day 21: Hiking in Vienna

After our usual classes on Thursday, we were taken to the 19th district of Vienna. To reach the 19th district we went by UBahn, so I was surprised when we came out of the underground and found plenty of trees and small little houses. It was a completely different Vienna. Our guide, Bergit, told us that the 19th district is a very expensive place to live and I can understand why. All the houses are very cute and bright. I felt like I was in a separate little town nowhere near a large city. All the houses had yards, which was the first time I’ve seen a yard since Dorfgastein.

I immediately felt at home in the 19th district. It reminded me a lot of Portland and the actual hike was almost exactly like Forest Park, with unpaved roads and thick dense trees. Everyone was really friendly and it felt great to get away from the fast paced life of the city.

Our hike took us slowly, but surely up a hill towards a place called Kahlenberg. Compared to the hiking we did in Dorfgastein, this one was nothing and we all agreed that Dorfgastein hadn’t been a vacation, but boot camp to prepare us for all the walking we would be doing in Vienna. The hike was actually very relaxing and once we got to Kahlenberg, there was a great view of Vienna and a place to stop and eat. We didn’t stay there long though and instead headed further up the hill to Leopoldsberg.

Leopoldsberg provided us with an amazing panoramic of Vienna and the Donau. It was really interesting to see the difference between the Neue Donau (on the left) and the Donau (on the right). From above it was pretty obvious which one was cleaner. We tried to look for landmarks to see exactly where we were staying in Vienna and we were eventually able to see what we thought was Karlskirche, which is somewhat close to where we are all staying.

After the hike we headed back into town and went to a little *”restaurant” called Schwammerl Wochen. Inside was an open courtyard where there were picnic tables and an open buffet. It was a really cute place and very relaxing after the hike.

My snack was bread with bacon and a Radler. I was a little queasy at the thought of having bacon after a long hike, but it was one of the only foods I recognized and I didn’t feel very adventurous that day. It actually tasted really good and what I couldn’t finish, the others were more than happy to eat.

Soon after eating we made our way back to the UBahn, which would have been a simple ride home if it wasn’t for a group of 100 men, what we assumed were soccer fans, all trying to cram into one single, and already full, train. While they all boarded we had to wait at least 15 minutes and also listen to them sing and bang on the train. We knew it was getting serious when the police also boarded the train and stood at the entrances with their bulletproof vests and helmets. Miraculously, everyone made it onto the train and nothing more happened.

That night I ate a quick dinner and packed my backpack for a four day trip to Venice the next morning. I was so excited that I didn’t even mind that I was going to have to wake up at four in the morning to catch my flight.

*EDIT 9/24/12

I finally figured out what these restaurants are called in German. The place we stopped at is called a Heuriger. A Heuriger is like a small tavern where people sell this year’s newest wine.

Day 7: Badgastein

We took the bus from Dorfgastein up to Badgastein.

Badgastein is known for its healing waters, Bad meaning Spa. In the middle of the town there was a fountain with Thermal Wasser. It was a very intricate fountain with water pouring out of multiple spouts. Almost an abstract work of art rather than a “drinking” fountain. Out of curiosity we tasted the water and it was very warm and brackish, nothing that I would ever drink a full cup of and yet there were multiple people walking up to the fountain and filling their water bottles to the brim. I’m not completely convinced of its powers, however, I had a sore throat, but now after the water… I’m feeling better. Coincidence? We’ll see.

Our main point of destination was the waterfall, but while we were there we realized that the small town has a lot more to offer. Badgastein is still a small town, but compared to Dorfgastein it’s a bustling city! If you are just passing through Badgastein it’s hard to tell that there’s really anything there, because the road curves away from the town and heads further up into the mountains. However, if you take a left at the fork you are immediately surrounded by fairly large and impressive buildings like the Casino and Hotël Mozart.

The town itself is placed on a hill so each “row” of buildings is a little bit higher than the next and all the roads are narrow and winding. This made for a really beautiful view of the town on the side of the mountains.

The waterfall runs straight through the town and there are a multitude of bridges that you can wander onto that look over different sections of the waterfall. At the top of the falls, from the high bridge, there was an old building covered in moss with the windows shuttered and broken. Everyone in the group immediately agreed that this waterfall must be from a fairytale. Walking around Badgastein it was easy to see where writers such as the The Brother’s Grimm got their inspiration. I could almost see the evil witch, or Hexe in german, poisoning the apple for Snow White behind shuttered windows of the crumbling house.

Lower Falls

Upper Falls

We also saw two beautiful churches in the town. One was positioned right at the front of the town. It was short and small, but had a great view of the valley below.

Further down the road was St. Preimskirche. In the jumble of buildings, it was the one that stood out the most with its high dark red steeple.

One of the aspects of the town that most surprised me was the combination of old and new, clean and unkempt, modern and classic. Throughout the town there were plenty of old buildings, such as the churches, that were kept in perfect condition, but there was also a new modern feel in some places. For example above a small fountain there was a whole wall of very modern looking mural. Most of the town was taken care of, but sometimes we ran into places that were rundown and unused. This mishmash of so many different time periods and so many cycles of creation is really what made Badgastein come to life. In many ways Europe itself is like this little town.

New and old, abstract and realistic come together.

Summer Photography Trip: Moab

I’m really late posting this, but I took some photos over the summer in Moab, Utah. While my mother and sister were off on their own adventure my father and I decided to go somewhere specifically for photography.

We couldn’t have chosen a better place.

I’ve seen pictures of the desert and high plateaus, but if you really want to experience them, go there yourself, because there’s nothing else like it in the world. While we were driving to our hotel we were literally right up against a plateau. It was beautiful and unnerving at the same time. Car-sized boulders were strewn all over the side of the road and I constantly tried not to think about what would happen if one decided to tumble down the cliff and land on top of us.

The horses at the ranch where we stayed were impressive. I have no idea how they went out into the heat twice a day with someone on their back. During the day when they weren’t being ridden most of them just relaxed under the shade, but really in 100 degree weather the shade isn’t going to be much cooler.

* Fun fact: Apparently the plateau in the background of the picture above has been used to film a lot of music videos (Blaze of Glory by Bon Jovi) and also some car commercials where they had to helicopter the car in pieces up to the top. While my father and I were there we also met a group of people who were there working on the new Lone Ranger film with Johnny Depp. Sadly, we did not get to see Johnny Depp himself.

While we were there it was over 100 degrees every day. I felt like the water was being sucked out of my skin by the sun and I literally felt weighed down by the air. It was a rough climate and one that I had never experienced before. My father and I wanted to do as much as possible while we were there so that meant going outside in the middle of the day.

We went rafting, which was one of the highlights, but we also made our way around Canyonlands, Island in the Sky, Arches, and also the Fiery Furnaces.

Each place had its own “feel”. Canyonlands, Island in the Sky was more panoramic. You could see for miles and miles on end. The landscape reminded me of an abstract work of art and I can only imagine how long it must have taken for the river to carve its way through the land to make such beautiful cliffs.

As you can probably see I was having fun with the fisheye lens. The sun also seems to be a big theme in my pictures, but really how could it not be? It was basically impossible to escape. Both the photos above are ones from Dead Horse Point.

Arches National Park, obviously had a lot of very impressive arches and rock formations, but it also felt a little more closed in. Unfortunately we didn’t make it to a lot of arches, but we did get to see Delicate Arch from a distance.

My favorite place was the Fiery Furnaces. I love to go hiking in caves and this place was very much like a cave without the roof. The entire place is a maze of rock columns and because of this we decided it would be best to have a guide. In one place we even had to climb through a crevasse using both hands and feet. This was extremely difficult with a camera in hand. One minute we were walking on a sandy path and the next we were climbing up a steep and slippery rock face to get to a cliff. It’s now one of my favorite places in the world. I’m glad we had a guide who knew where to go, because otherwise I don’t know if we would have come out.

The pictures above and below are basically the same photo, but on the one below I tried experimenting with the levels a little. I was going for more of a desert theme, trying to bring out the hotness I felt while walking around under the sun.

Day 4: High Above Dorfgastein

Today we went on another great hike.

All throughout the mountains of Dorfgastein there are hundreds of trails and roads that are great for hiking and sightseeing, but instead of hiking all the way up to the top, which I think is probably a day long adventure and only for the most intense hikers, we took cable cars. On the way up we could see the entire town of Dorfgastein and a few of the towns around it.

At the top lift, called Bergstation, Berg meaning mountain, we could see out across the whole valley. Although it was cloudy while we were at the top, we could still see most of the mountain range streached out in front of us. The view was made even more spectacular by the deep blue reservoirs that sat on some of the smaller hills below.

On the ridge it was very cold and windy, but it was a great place for paragliding. Throughout the week we’ve been able to look up into the sky and see at least four or five brightly colored paragliders spinning around in the clouds. Apparently, on this hike we also saw the brother of a very famous Austrian skier strapping on a helmet to go paragliding.

From the top the hike was all downhill. We started out along the ridge, which allowed us to see on either side of the mountain.

On the left we could see Dorfgastein and on the right we could see further into the mountain range and also a few little homes here and there. All along the path there were also signs that talked about Yin and Yang. In one spot, the sign would tell you to leave all your negative thoughts and energy behind and then you would walk over to another, more beautiful, lookout and there you would think only positive thoughts. It was refreshing to let all my worries go while standing on top of the world!

After only a half hour or so, we made it to a crossroad. One path continued up, while the other turned down and went back into the valley. The path that went up eventually went to the halfway point and also the highest peak in the area. On the very top we could see a large cross.

We decided to head back down and go towards another Alm where there was a hut for eating and drinking. I’ve come to realize that in Austria the only “true” meal as Americans would see it, is dinner. Breakfast so far has consisted of bread, cheese, meat, and chocolate cake (which I very much approve of) and your choice of orange juice, vitamin juice, coffee or tea.

Lunch is also very similar to breakfast and usually very light.

So far the only food I’ve had for lunch is a small sandwich and a peach. Even after all the hiking we’ve done and all the traveling, I haven’t found myself searching for more. It’s been surprising how much extra food I consume when I’m just sitting at home in front of the TV.

Before heading down we stopped at a small cabin, which turned out to be a shrine. There we took a break and made sure to put on a lot of sunscreen, most of us having woken up in the morning with a sunburn from the day before. From there we headed down into the Mushroom Field. I never actually saw any fields of mushrooms, but dotted here and there in the woods were some large Mario Kart looking mushrooms. The winding trails and thick trees reminded me very much of the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. Halfway down we also wandered onto a logging road and I felt at home.

Whenever I’m walking or hiking I would probably say that I would rather go down than up. After hiking down to Dorfgastein this has changed. We hiked down some of the steepest trails and roads I’ve ever been on and they were not very forgiving on the knees, legs, or butt. We were all hurting so much by the end that soon we all just decided to run down the hill, both because it was easier on the knees and because it would get us back to the pension faster.

It was definitely worth the pain.

Photography is one of those hobbies that can be taken anywhere. As long as you’re willing to carry a camera, you’re good to go! Inspiration is everywhere, which is why it’s been difficult choosing some of my favorite places for photography.  Let’s see what I came up with!

Below is a map that I made of all the places I talk about. I’m not sure why it’s not showing up, but as soon as I figure it out, I’ll get it fixed!

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=205942413160147369089.0004bf8ef0c30b2e7a307&hl=en&ie=UTF8&t=m&ll=43.987152,-122.868542&spn=3.159639,3.106464&output=embed
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Oregon is a beautiful place. It has forests, multiple mountains, quite beaches and gorgeous rivers. I’ve seen a lot of Oregon and yet I still can’t get enough.

Probably one of the first places that pop into my mind when I think about Oregon is Portland. Portland has a lot to offer photography-wise. There are plenty of buildings, markets and people to keep any photographer on their toes. The Chinese Garden is a great place to take pictures too and it never hurts to stop by and grab Voodoo Donuts on the way out.

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Mount Hood is another great place to visit. If you want to get out of the city and see the wilderness, Mount Hood is the place. Not only does it have great skiing, but it also has a multitude of hiking trails.

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Multnomah Falls is a great waterfall for pictures, considering that you can walk right up to the front of it. There is also a trial the goes up to the top of the falls. A little less known is spot is Oneonta Falls. This waterfall is especially fun for pictures, because of its high walls and the logjam right at the beginning. However, be sure to bring a waterproof camera bag. You might have to swim.

One of the most diverse places for photography and probably one of my favorites is Bend. Bend has everything to offer: mountains, rivers, fields made entirely of volcanic rock and forests. Every season, Bend has something different. It’s an overall great place for photography.

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Tired of the snow and high elevation? Oregon has plenty of wonderful beaches to offer. Most of the time the beaches are empty and often you can spot seals, pelicans and whales just off the shore. Basically any beach in Oregon is going to offer you a good time, but one of my favorites is Gold Beach, where the Rouge River meets the ocean.

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So there you go! Now you have plenty of reasons to go out and enjoy the sun, take a little break from life and maybe end up with some great pictures. Feel free to leave a comment about some of your favorite places! I’m always looking for new adventures!