Aggenstein – Germany

Aggenstein, germany

Photo: Moonlight silhouette of Aggenstein from Ostlerhütte, Allgäu, Germany. Oct 2012

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, You’d know that I was cruising around the Alps for a week.  And a week of absolutely fantastic weather it was.  If I actually had any idea of how good the weather turned out to be, I would’ve skipped renting a car and just done some long hut tours in the mountains.  But anyhow, I still stayed a few nights in the mountains in the Allgäu and Berchtesgaden regions.


Aggenstein, Germany

Photo: Climber on Aggenstein with Tannheimer Tal (Austria) in background, Allgäu, Germany.  Oct 2012

Budapest – Vienna – Alps – Heading West

Vienna opera house

Photo: Vienna Opera House.  October 2012

Sometimes I think I have bad timing in life.  Leaving Lofoten on Oct 8th, I was sailing across the Vestfjorden while watching the best northern lights I’ve seen in my life.  6 weeks above the Arctic Circle and the lights finally show up when I’m on a boat and can’t take any photos! I could have cried.

Though upon arriving in Budapest, I was happy to hear the news that a few friends I had met last year while traveling through the Baltic would be in town.  A couple more late nights were to result.  Budapest as a whole was better that I remembered from 6 years ago.  I look forward to returning again.  And though I thought that the city had been cleaned up quite a bit, it was good to know that you might still need to bribe some people to help you out:

I show up at the train station in Budapest about 30 minutes before my train to Vienna is supposed to depart. I walk into the office for ‘international’ tickets and take my number to be served; 408, currently serving 379. After 10 minutes they had gotten to 381. The 2 old ladies selling the tickets made the DMV look like a model of efficiency. It wasn’t looking good…

I begin to chat with an Aussie couple also in the same bind as me when a security guard comes up and asks where we’re going. After telling him he states the he might be able to help us as walks away. A minute later he comes back and offers that if he were perhaps to receive a little ‘tip,’ he could help us get on the train. with only 10 minutes to the train, or facing a 2 hour wait until the next, we figure why not.

So he points us to another office that also sells international tickets, but isn’t marked at all and had no line. We quickly head over and get the tickets as a few minutes before departure. Split 3 ways, it cost about $2 each for the help of the guard and at least we all got on the train…

The last few days I’ve been in Vienna, my 3rd (or well really 2nd) time in the city.  I like it here, but as last time, I haven’t really been out shooting much.  Perhaps the streets are just a bit too crowded for my liking.

Tomorrow (Friday) I’m on the train to Munich and then renting at car and heading down to the Alps.  Mostly I’ll just stay in the foothills around the German – Austrian border and try to find some nice light and color.  I’ve been wanting to take a trip like this for some years, so it’s nice to finally sort-of be able to afford it.  Though I’ll pretty much have to sleep in the car the whole time as I can’t yet afford both a car and a roof over my head, so hopefully I can avoid any grumpy German police who don’t like me sleeping in some parking lot on the side of the road.  I might try and make it up to a mountain hut or two though…

After a week in the Alps I’ll be heading to Regensburg for a few nights.  My favorite city in Germany, I haven’t been there since 2009; long overdue for a return…

Vienna opera house

Photo: Vienna Opera House.  October 2012

budapest chain bridge

Photo: Chain bridge, Budapest, Hungary.  October 2012


Overlooking the Danube river, Budapest, Hungary

Photo: Parliament building, Budapest, Hungary.  January 2007

I’m in Budapest for the week.  Was last here over the New Year of ’06/’07.  Not sure what to expect, but I’ll probably end up doing my normal wandering around the city all day looking for photos.  Hopefully I at least end up with a few better photos than last time.

From Budapest I head to Vienna, and then onwards to a rather busy social schedule that will see me crisscrossing Germany from south to north and east to west and east again.  Better pickup a good book for all time time I’ll be spending on trains…


Photo: Budapest.  December 2006

Leaving Lofoten

Haukland Beach sunset lofoten islands norway

Photo: Autumn sunset, Haukland beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Oct 2012

After two weeks on Lofoten, and 6 weeks in total north of the Arctic Circle since August, it’s now that time to move on.  Tonight I take the Hurtigruten ferry to Bodø, arriving at 2am.  A couple hours ‘sleep’ in the ferry station and then I’m on a 7am flight heading south to Budapest.

These past two weeks of Autumn, which by all accounts should normally be one of the wettest times of the year, have been absolutely brilliant weather wise.  Far better than when I was here in August.  And the color was the best I’ve seen of the 3 Autumns that I’ve been here.  Though by now the season is getting late and a majority of the leaves have fallen from the trees.  In my mind I had been looking forward to dramatic, stormy light sweeping over the islands.  Instead I found mild, mostly sunny days and ended up getting in some good hikes.  Although I didn’t always have the best timing for light while in the hills and ended up waiting around for a few sunsets that never showed up.

The above and following photo are from last nights sunset at Haukland beach.  Not a bad farewell…

The only thing really missing from this trip was a good display of the Northern Lights.  Had a few faint displays the last two nights, but nothing really special.

Haukland Beach sunset lofoten islands norway

Photo: Autumn sunset, Haukland beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Oct 2012

Stamsund Lofoten Islands Northern Lights

Photo: Moon and Northern Lights, Stamsund, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Oct. 2012

Hermannsdalstind Lofoten Islands Norway

Photo: View towards Hermannsdalstind, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Borgvåg – Lofoten Islands

Pøbel Borgvåg Lofoten Islands Norway

Photo: Abandoned barn, Borgvåg, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2012.

Borgvåg sits alone and isolated on the edge of the sea at the end of a gravel road.  Now mostly abandoned save for a few houses, the buildings stand as remnants of the past; waiting out their time until the day when the weather has finally taken its toll.  In 2008 two Norwegian street artists, Pøbel and Dolk, traveled to the islands to create art on some of these abandoned places.

Pøbel Borgvåg Lofoten Islands Norway

Photo: Borgvåg, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2012.

Pøbel Borgvåg Lofoten Islands Norway

Photo: Borgvåg, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2012.

Borgvåg Lofoten Islands Norway

Photo: Abandoned, Borgvåg, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2012.

Stormy Sea – Stamsund

Stamsund Lofoten Islands Norway

Photo: Waves crash over rocks at Stamsund, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Oct 2012

Some blustery weather passed over the islands yesterday.  At one point I went out to a cool part of the coast beyond the hostel here in Stamsund to try and get a few photos.   Lots of sea spray in the air so I didn’t stay too long.  But this also got me thinking more about an idea/invention I’ve had on my mind for some time that could possibly be quite useful to photographers like me who often shoot near stormy seas with lots of mist.  The problem is: by the time I’ve setup the camera, composed the image, maybe checked exposure (especially if using a neutral-density filer) my lens can be so covered in sea spray that I need to stop everything and clean it off, only for it to be quickly wet again.  I need a way where I can effectively set everything up, while my lens still remains clean.  Screw on filers are too slow and cumbersome, especially if working with one hand while keeping the tripod from blowing over with the other.  Something for me to work on when I get back to California next year.


Stamsund Lofoten Islands Norway

Photo: How close before my feet get wet? Stamsund, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Oct 2012

Last Days on Lofoten Islands

lofoten islands norway offersoykammen

Photo: Autumn light over Lofoten from Offersøykammen, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Oct. 2012

My time here on Lofoten is soon coming to an end.  Today is stormy, making it a good day for rest and a bit of reading and writing.  Overall, it’s been a good Autumn; pretty dry, with some good calm days.  On a few occasions I’ve found myself arriving on mountain peaks in just a t-shirt; though this is mostly due to the amount of sweat I create under the burden of all my camera crap.

Unlike previous trips, I’ve tried to be a bit more focused this time.  One of the main reasons is that I want to add more content to my other website I have about the Lofoten Islands:  Once I’m done traveling in mid November, I’ll have quite a few updates to make and a lot of new content to add.  It should keep me busy while hiding from the rain in what is forecasted to be a pretty crappy winter in the UK.

And despite having now spent nearly six weeks north of the Arctic Circle since late August, I’ve only seen one small display of the Northern Lights.  They’ve been occurring, but I seem to always find myself in a cloudy location.  Or on the few clear nights that I have had, the sky has been quite.  I have a few more days left for my luck to change, we’ll see what happens.

Two days ago, Tuesday, I finally hiked up Himmeltindan, the highest mountain here on Vesvågøy.  I was racing an incoming layer of high cloud as I made my way up the 964 meters (it may not sound high, but the parking area was at a beach) to the summit.  Like normal here on Lofoten, or at least with my luck, the clouds won.  Still a good day all and all.  I met some soldiers at the top, who’d taken the elevator – there is an elevator build inside the mountain to service the radar station built on top.  I half joked if I could get a lift back down, ‘No, sorry. That wont be possible…’ came the response.

Yesterday was one of those frustrating days where I was always 1-2 minutes too late.  The light was nice and stormy, as it should be here in Autumn.  But I found myself just driving in circles, never able to put light and subject together to create a decent image.  Finally, and partly out of a little bit of frustration of having spent 400 nkr of gas, I decided just to hike up the small peak of Offersøykammen and try and wait until sunset to see if anything would happen.  Well, the clouds decided to descend over the summit about 45 minutes before sunset.  There was some nice light in the process, but I then headed back down to the car, only to notice that I had chosen one of the few peaks in the area with cloud cover; most of the other summits remained free and clear.

In final thoughts, and as much as I like being here, after six weeks in Norway and Sweden I can hear the cries and protests of my bank account every time I enter the supermarket or pull up the the gas station.  It actually makes having 250 Euros stolen in Germany seem like not all that big a deal.  I think I prefer Norway in shorter amounts of maybe 3 weeks at the most – with at least half that hiking and sleeping in a tent so I don’t spend anything.  Now I can feel myself being too cautious with money; not renting a car if I don’t think the weather will clear up (I have a sort of deal worked out with one of the rental car guys that I can take a car only on the days I want it, but that still costs me 250 nkr/day + gas at 15.5 nkr/L – $10.26 gallon), so I’ve missed some good light on a couple days I didn’t think would amount to much.  And then when I do go with the car, I can sense that I’m putting myself under pressure to create something good.  And up here, it doesn’t work like that.

On Tuesday I fly to Budapest and see if the place still looks the same after six years.

Thieves In The Night

Festival-Mediaval campground, Selb, Germany

Photo: Campground at the festival, Selb, Germany.  September 2012

Selb, Germany.

1 AM Friday, Sept. 7:  I say my goodbyes for the night and leave the campfire and head back to my tent.  The hour was still early for a night camped at a German music festival, but my body was still short on sleep from the last couple days of travel.  I entered my tent and zipped the door shut to the cool night air.  Earphones in, sleeping bag cozily around my head, I was tuned out to the noise and festivities that continued on late into the night.

4 AM:  I stir from my sleep to the sounds of a few shouts and some distant yelling.  I don’t think much of it, probably just some people with a little to much to drink doing something stupid.  I’m soon asleep again.

7 AM:  I awake to the lightening sky on my second morning camped in the farmers field turned makeshift campground for the 3 day music/medieval festival that would be occurring over the weekend.  I unzip my sleeping and look to grab my pants to get dressed.  Hmm, they’re not there?  Maybe under my backpack? Nope.  Hmm.  Then I look up at notice my tent is slightly unzipped.  Hmm, I don’t think I would have left it like that, but did I?  Then I start to get a feeling of panic as both my wallet and passport were in the pockets of my pants.  I hop out of my tent into the frosty morning air and look around.  I spot my neighbor and tell him that my pants are missing along with my wallet and ask if he’s seen anything during the night.  Nope, he had gone to bed early with his kids.  Shit I think, not only is my wallet gone and passport gone, but that was my only pair of pants.

A few moments later I’m looking around a see a dark shape in the bushes about 20 feet from my tent.  My pants, minus my wallet.  Shit.  As luck would have it though, my passport and cell phone remained.  But still, shit!  My cell phone battery was almost dead, but I make a quick call to my brother to contact my dad to cancel all my credit cards, but as it was 11pm in California, there wasn’t much that could be done at the time.

I walk to the entrance booth and in my bad German explain what happened.  Yes, they already know, and there were several others standing around that also had everything from cash, cameras and cell phones stolen during the night.  A group of thieves, 3 or 4 of them had come across the field during the night and raided the campground full of unsuspecting festival goers.

The screams that had woken be up during the night were from a woman who’s tent one of the men entered.  This alerted others which led to a chase through the campground.  A tackle and swift elbow to the head led to one of the thieves being knocked out and taken into custody by the police.  Unfortunately he didn’t have anything on him.  The man was from [insert name of eastern European country starting with an S which borders Poland and Czech Republic] so he didn’t speak German for the police to try and interrogate.  At least they got one of the bastards, I though.  Too bad someone didn’t give him a few more kicks though.  And my wallet was still missing, which didn’t help my situation much.

Later in the morning one of the police inspectors showed up and I stood in like with nearly a dozen other campers who’d also had stuff stolen and gave my report.  They didn’t offer much hope that anything would be recovered.  I heard some comments that they had supposedly located a car associated with the men some 40km to the north, near Hof.  But of this I heard nothing further.

Now some hours later and my mood thoroughly soured I sat talking with my neighbor about the night’s events.  Then I saw one of the festival workers walking by with something that looked my my wallet.  ‘Mein Geldbeutel!?’ I ask. Yep!  He says to try not to touch it much as the police want to come back to try and collect some evidence from it.  I opened it enough to confirm to my great relief that all my credit cards, drivers license, and other items are still there.  Missing, about 250 Euros in cash.  But at that point, after thinking about how difficult it would be to try and get my credit cards and drivers license again (I’m traveling and won’t really have an address to ship anything to until mid November), I was actually relieved to ‘only’ have lost cash.  Still, I wouldn’t have minded if the police let me give a few comments to the bastard they had.

As it turns out, a woman found my wallet in her tent.  When one of the men came in she let out a scream, maybe the one I had heard during the night.  Perhaps at that point he tried to quickly get out of the tent and must have dropped my wallet in the process.  Or perhaps he had everything in a bag and it simply fell out.  All I know is that I’m glad I got it back.  It’s one thing to loose money, and it sucks.  It’s an entirely bigger pain in the ass to try and replace documents while traveling.

Friday afternoon the festival begins and I try not to let any bitterness get to me as I listen to the music and enjoy some good food.  As I go to bed that night, I make sure that my wallet is securely in my sleeping bag this time.  Not that the thieves would be back again…

Saturday morning as I’m walking out of the camping area to go to the bakery I see a few people standing around the entrance.  Then, one of the men with whom I’d had some contact with told me that the thieves had been back again during the night and stolen more stuff.  Shit I think….

Saturday night I had a party to go to about an hour away.  I packed up most my belongings in my backpack, leaving only my sleeping bag, mat, and a few other worthless items.  I wished my tent a safe night, but I can’t imagine that the thieves would be back again.

I hear the news from my neighbor while arriving back to my tent late Sunday morning.  They had been back again during the night…

Going to bed Sunday night I tie a few objects to the guy lines of my tent to make a bit of noise where they to be moved.  Unfortunately I had a rather early train to catch, or I would have liked to stay up a bit and wait.  Early in the morning I see the lights of a flashlight flicking off my tent.  I yell out and ask what’s going on.  Men had been spotted again trying to get into the camp.  Four nights in a row? Fucking Hell!

Now, the fact that the police were unable to catch a group of men who raided the same small area with limited access points for 4 nights in a row leaves me quite disappointed.  I understand not being prepared for the second night, not imagining they would be bold enough to return again.  But on the third and fourth nights, they should have been there.  And being a fairly small town, I doubt they had any other pressing matters to attend to.  When I’m back in Germany in a few more weeks I’ll give them a phone call to find out if anything has developed since, but I kind of doubt it.  And I wouldn’t even be surprised to hear that the man they have in custody had been released with nothing more than a slap on the wrist.  Probably using my 200 Euros to by a big screen TV from Saturn…

Being so used to travel, I think I’ve let my guard down a bit.  Prior to this, I considered the inside of my tent while I was in it as a ‘safe place.’  When sleeping in hostels or elsewhere, I’m always sure to keep my valuables well hidden, but I guess I was a bit lax in my tent security.  Also, as I’m usually a fairly light sleeper, I’m not sure why I didn’t hear anyone enter my tent.  Possibly because I had my iPod earphones in as well as having the sleeping bag fully zipped around my head as it was a rather chilly night.  And with other campers in such close proximity, it is also hard to distinguish the distance of various noises from within in the tent.  So perhaps if I did hear the sound of a zipper in the middle of the night, I would just have likely associated it with my neighbor opening his tent as opposed to imagining someone entering mine; something that was not anywhere on my mind as I went to bed that night.  From now on, I’ll trust nothing as safe…

Omnia Live at Festival-Mediaval 2012, Selb, Germany
Photo: Omnia Live at Festival-Mediaval 2012. Selb, Germany