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

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

Lofoten Islands – Germany – Kungsleden Trail – 2012 Europe Travel Plans

Summer twilight over mountains of Lofoten islands, Stamsund, Norway

Photo: Twilight over Lofoten Islands, Stamsund, Norway.  July 2010

I’ve finally finalized my travel plans for Europe for late summer and autumn.

First stop: Lofoten Islands.  I fly north of the arctic circle to Bodø, Norway on August 20th.  From Bodø I’ll catch the late night ferry to Moskenes, arriving to Lofoten in the early morning of the 21st for a 2 week trip to the islands.  I’m traveling a bit later than I had originally planned, but the summer has been pretty cold and wet so far, so I don’t think I’ve really been missing much.  Hopefully I’ll get a few days of decent weather so I can get up a few mountains and maybe a few nights camping on the coast.

In early September I leave Lofoten for a quick trip down to Germany to see a few bands play at the Festival-Mediaval in the small town of Selb, in northern Bavaria.  I was there in 2010 and had a good time.  I can already taste the Flamkuchen and Käsespätzle.  Should be good fun.

Next I’m flying back north of the arctic circle to Kiruna, Sweden for my second journey along the northern section of the Kungsleden trail.  Lasts there three years ago in 2009, I’m looking forward to another week wandering among the rugged mountains of the Swedish arctic.  Hopefully the weather is a bit warmer than my last trip; fingers crossed.  I was originally thinking of heading into Sarek national park, but I’m going to be a bit short on time, so that will have to wait till another year.

After a week or so on the Kungsleden, I’ll head back over to the Lofoten Islands for another 2 weeks to photograph the autumn color; again, weather dependent.

By mid October I’ll be looking to head south again.  Here things aren’t so planned out.  I love Stockholm in the autumn, so might head back there for a few days.  I also have Gotland on my mind as well.  I almost went there way back in 2001, so maybe it’s finally time.  Otherwise, and if the weather is cooperating, I might spend a week or so in the western fjords region of Norway, trying to get a bit more autumn color.  As usual, the best plan is no plan.  Will have to wait and see how the weather looks once the time gets a bit closer.

All and all, I’m excited.  I think it’s a bit strange for me always to head north during the time all the birds are heading south to warmer climes.  But ehh, bad weather makes good photos …sometimes.  Mostly it’s just bad weather and I get to complain about how much I don’t like the rain.

In the next weeks I’ll make a few post about the gear I’m taking.  I’ve changed things up a bit in the last year and will try a few new things all in the hopes of shedding a few more grams from my backpack weight.

Faun Festival Mediaval Germany

Photo: Faun live at Festival-Mediaval, Selb, Germany.  September 2010


Kungsleden trail, Lapland, Sweden

Photo: River flows through mountain valley, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  September 2009


Dramatic light over mountains and coast, Maervoll, Lofoten islands, Norway

Photo: Stormy light, Maervoll, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Octover 2011


Nuremberg christmast market 2011

Photo: Nuremberg Christmas market. Dec. 2011


Baltic Sea – Germany

Baltic Sea, Germany

Photo: Baltic sea, Warnemuende, Germany. Nov 2011

Gray November along Germany’s Baltic coast.  Probably not the best time to go for a swim, but there’s still a few interesting things around.

Forest trail, Warnemuende, Germany

Photo: Coastal forest, Warnemuende, Germany. Nov 2011

Germany – Frankenjura Bouldering Day 2

Frankenjura Bouldern - Franenjura bouldering

Photo: Bouldering, Frankenjura, Germany. Nov 2011.

…Continuing from yesterdays bouldering pics.  Here’s fotos from day two.  We found a cool looking boulder, that while not especially difficult (though conditions were crap), made for some good photos I think.  Again, I used an off-camera flash most of the time, which on a few pics almost makes it look like a nice sunny day instead of cold and misty.


Frankenjura Bouldern - Franenjura bouldering


Fränkische Schweiz forest landscape


Frankenjura Bouldern - German Bouldering


Frankenjura Bouldern - German Bouldering


Frankenjura Bouldern - German Bouldering


Frankenjura Bouldern - German Bouldering


Frankenjura Bouldern - German Bouldering



Germany – Fränkische Schweiz Bouldering

Frankenjura Bouldern


In the final days of November I found myself back in the old familiar landscape of the Fränkische Schweiz.  Once my back yard, the rock towers, lonely valleys, high cherry orchards, and dark forests still remain familiar to me after the passage of the years.  The days were short and cold, a heavy gloom coating the land.  German Gray I once called it, and I still keep this opinion.  Anyone who’s been there would agree that this is an appropriate description.  More than just a color, it is a feeling that fills the land in the cold months.

I was lucky to be with a few friends and head out to shoot some bouldering sessions on a couple days.  Here’s a few images from the first day, near Pottenstein.  Light in the forests was pretty much non-existent, so I had to use my SB-800 as an off camera flash to add a little light to the scenes.


Frankenjura Bouldern


Frankenjura Bouldern


Frankenjura Bouldering


Frankenjura Bouldering


Frankenjura Bouldering

Travel Updates – In Wales

Northern lights lofoten islands october 2011

Photo: Northern lights over Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Oct 8, 2011

It’s been quite a bit of time since my last post.  I’ve been on the road for the last 2.5 months in northern and eastern Europe.  I really tried to get some blogging done, but every time I pulled out the crappy little netbook that I had, I felt more like throwing it in the ocean than trying to get any work done.

The trip started with 2 weeks on the Lofoten islands, with a spectacular display of the northern lights on my final night.  I next spent 25 hours on 3 train to reach Stockholm.  Then I took the overnight ferry along with hoards of drunk Finns to Helsinki and immediately took another ferry to Tallinn, Estonia.  I had meant to travel through the Baltics about 5 years ago, so this part of the trip was long overdue.  I spent 2 weeks heading south via Riga, Klaipeda, and Vilnius before an epic bus ride to far south east of Poland.  In Poland I hiked around the Biesczszady and high Tatra mountains, taking advantage of an unusually warm and dry autumn in Europe this year.  After Poland was a journey through the Czech Republic, visiting some old favorite cities of Olomouc and Cesky Krumlov.  Finally it was another 2 weeks in Germany visiting old friends and a bit of bouldering.

I’m in and around Wales for the next couple months.  Will make a journey out the the Western Isles for the new year again and maybe another journey in late Jan out to Orkney.  I’m also working on possible plans for a Lofoten trip in Feb.

The blog should more or less be back to normal now (not that many people read it anyhow) and I’ve lots of photos and stories to post from the last couple months.

Tallinn, Estonia

Photo: Main square, Tallinn, Estonia


High Tatra mountains, Poland

Photo: High Tatra mountains, Poland


Frankenjura Bouldering

Photo: Bouldering, Frankenjura, Germany

2011 Tübingen Stocherkahnrennen

Tuebingen stocherkahnrennen punt boat race

What do you get when you cross a historic German city, a river, punt boats, some creative costumes, a bit of friendly competition, and lots of (somewhat drunk) Germans?  The Tübinger Stocherkahnrennen – The Tuebingen punt boat race.  The race draws thousands of spectators who fill the city to the brim.  Lining walls, bridges and riverbanks all to watch the race, and chaos of the day.  Once things are over, it’s time to head towards a river side biergarten for some afternoon shade and some yummy käsespätzle

For 2011, the race occurs on Thursday, June 23.  Events start at 12:00 noon.

I advise arriving a bit early to try and get a good position.  Eberhardsbrücke is a good place to watch from and is the center of most of the action as the boats try to circle the bridge.

Tübingen is located in the center of Baden-Württemberg, on the banks of the Neckar river.  Numerous trains run daily from Stuttgart (45 min – 1hr), Reutlingen, Munich, Freiburg, and other larger cities.  By car, Tübingen is about 45 minutes south of Stuttgart.

My images are from when I was there in 2008.

Tuebingen stocherkahnrennen punt boat race

Tuebingen stocherkahnrennen punt boat race

Tuebingen stocherkahnrennen punt boat race

Tuebingen stocherkahnrennen punt boat race

Tuebingen stocherkahnrennen punt boat race

Pottenstein Germany Light Festival January 6th

Pottenstein light festival germany

Photo: Fires of the Ewige Anbetung light festival above Pottenstein, Franconia, Germany. Jan 6, 2009

As the light of a cold January day fades into night a thousand fires are lit, illuminating the hillsides surrounding the town of Pottenstein.  The fires are part of the Catholic celebration of the Ewige Anbetung (Eternal Adoration)  which occurs in Pottenstein on the 6th of January every year.  The light and fire festival attracts thousands of visitors who line the hillsides and fill the streets, braving the cold and watching a display that can only described as spectacular.  To see the Lichterfest in person would be a memorable moment of any winter holiday in Germany.

Pottenstein light festival ewige anbetung

Photo: Burg Pottenstein and fires of Ewige Anbetung Lichterfest, Pottenstein, Franconia, Germany.  Jan 6, 2009

Thursday, January 6th 2011
The festival begins around 5pm as the sky gets dark.  Be sure to arrive early to find parking.  The fires will burn for a couple hours into the night.

Pottenstein is located in wonderful countryside of the Franconian Switzerland (Fränkische Schweiz) region of Upper Franconia (Oberfranken), Northern Bavaria.  By car, Pottenstein is approximately 1 hour north of Nuremberg or 30 minutes south of Bayreuth; 10 km west from the A9 autobahn.  Postcode 91278.

Pottenstein, Franconia, Bavaria, Germany

There are also several other light festivals of the Ewige Anbetung celebrated elsewhere in the Fränkische Schweiz region in the weeks preceding the festival in Pottenstein.  CLICK HERE for more information and dates (in German)

Pottenstein light festival ewige anbetung

Pottenstein light festival ewige anbetung

Pottenstein light festival ewige anbetung

Pottenstein light festival ewige anbetung