Sweden – A Treasure for Sailers and Nature Fans

The beauty of the Swedish "Schären" is unique to this world.

The beauty of the Swedish “Schären” is unique to this world.

From Berlin and Sylt, the Woodpecker summer tour continued to Sweden.

More specifically to Gothenburg and Stockholm, two equally interesting cities in amazing water settings.

When travelling, I always look out for the “special” in a city, in a country, in a region or in the people.

The unique thing, that makes this part of the world un-exchangeable compared with other spots.
That is why I typically prefer small and old spots in less developed areas over large “modern” cities. The former, due to their history and specific circumstances, mostly have something unique to them, the latter are becoming more and more similar in today’s globalised world, especially if they are young cities, lacking the flair of more diverse past times.

So, how does Sweden fit in?

From a pure city-and culture view, it has a medium attractiveness I would say.
The country of Sweden does not have a very long history compared to other, more central or southern parts of Europe. For very long stretches of its past it has been a poor agricultural country with low infrastructure. Thus not many ruins, old castles, medieval cities or something.
Both Stockholm and Gothenburg show obviously a few exceptions, and they have great settings on the sea, but they are not able to compete to larger German cities (like Berlin, Munich), not to talk of Vienna, Paris, Prague, Florenz, Istanbul, etc.

Sooo....how does the "Black Pearl" from Pirates of the Carribean compare to the stern of "Vasa"? Like a paddle-boat I'd say. :-)

Sooo….how does the “Black Pearl” from Pirates of the Caribbean compare to the stern of “Vasa”? Like a paddle-boat I’d say. 🙂

Swedish cities are more…american. To me, this is a bit less interesting, because with american cities there is seldom anything “unique” to explore. All is very tidy, clean, ordered…and a bit more boring than the chaotic places in the world.

But now enough of the criticism, let’s see what is great about Sweden:

For me, as a maritime lover, it is the Vasa-Museum in Stockholm, a three-hundret-year old sunk ship that was preserved in the harbour mud and makes the”Black Perl” look like a rubber boat.

And it is the “Schären”, an island archipelago typical at the Swedish and Finnish coast and outright unique throughout the world. The Schären were produced by glaciers in the last ice-age and form a labyrinth of thousands of small and larger granite islands along the coast.

It is just amazing to ship through this natural wonder, I just wished I had a sailing-boat instead of using the system of public ferries!

We even stayed a few days in a hut on one of this islands and it is just amazing how beautiful nature is there.

Woodpecker clan's hut on an Schären island. Of course on water, washroom or other mollycoddled stuff!

Woodpecker clan’s hut on an Schären island. Of course on water, washroom or other mollycoddled stuff!

You can stroll for hours in the beauty of the islands forests (Sweden has the most lovely forests in the world, open, green, full of food to pick), you can climb round granite rocks and jump in fluffy, knee-deep pillows of moss. You can explore lonely little bays and take a swim in ice-cold but crystal clear water.

Thus, if you go to Sweden, I recommend to see it from the nature side, preferably in the “Schären”.
Go out, rent one of this secluded huts, and explore the beauty of this unspoilt nature.

Relaxation guaranteed!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

Berlin and Sylt

Sylt - A bit too busy for my taste, but no doubt a beautiful island.

Sylt – A bit too busy for my taste, but no doubt a beautiful island.

This year’s Woodpecker clan’s family trip is taking us around northern Germany and Scandinavia.

After about 8 weeks of heat wave – Munich slowly becomes a mediterranean climate – we already had our share of swimming and late nights outdoor. So we decided that the risk of bad weather (normally a downturner when doing holiday with small kids) is quite acceptable this year.

The first station (only for Mr.Woodpecker) was Berlin, to meet up for a large european gathering of wonderful people from an international exchange association I joined recently.
Berlin is a good spot for such a gathering, as it vibrates a very international flair these days. And still it is, compared to other „hip“ cities, relatively cheap. Weather was great also, so we enjoyed a great time there.
The only thing that struck me is how much Berlin changed in the last 15-20 years. I considered myself to be quite a Berlin-expert in the late Nineties, but did not often return in the last 10 years.

What a change the city made!

In the Nineties, Berlin was a slightly “run-down” and a bit shabby but very sexy and very special city with a unique frontier atmosphere that only its former isolated location was able to produce. The only cities in the world that also were able to form (a bit) of this special flair were other former communist cities, like Prague or Riga.
In the Nineties Berlin, you immediately knew if you were in the west or former east. In the former east, streets were VERY shabby, pavement full of potholes, lights broken, houses all in gray from the coal fireplaces. But also this areas very VERY sexy, full of great student and subculture live taking place in huge old houses that you could rent for an equivalent of 3 EUR per square meter or less. I had quite a few great parties there, the only mess being to carry up the coal for the ovens 5 stories from the cellar where my hosts stored a whole ton of it for the winter. Stranded Soviet soldiers were selling out their equipment and uniforms to tourists. There was the Loveparade. There were countless of barely legal clubs, parties and all sorts of alternative ideas and living.

In other words: The city gave you a sense of adventure in the Nineties.

All of this is gone.

Berlin now is a modern, bustling and in most parts clean and tidy city, flooded by tourists and WIFI-access everywhere.
It still is fascinating, and it is much more international than back then.
But it also became much more exchangeable with other western capitals.
There is no talking around it, it’s greatest days (for people who seek the special) are over. Fortunately, people who still come there in the search of the special have no idea what it has been BEFORE.
But well, that is the course of history – a very special time is only special when it finally is terminated.

Having said that, Berlin still is very much worth a visit. Go there, see the monuments, party and feel the history. Make your own experience of this unique city in the heart of Europe. Multiply by 10 and you have an idea of it’s past wild days.

The Woodpecker clan then re-united in Hamburg. Apart from Munich my favorite city for living in Germany. I am a sailor and a mountain fan – what the Alps are for Munich, is the sea, the harbour and the river to Hamburg. Great place!

Walkway through the dunes.

Walkway through the dunes.

Later we continued to the Northern Sea, to the island Sylt.
I love the Northern Sea and it’s islands, as they have a special atmosphere due to the climat, the strong tides, their dune-character and the „Wattenmeer“.

I have never been to the island Sylt before though.
Actually it is considered to be a „posh“ destination, very en vogue among “the rich and famous” (or those like to think they belong to this group).
That typically is a downturner to me, as it often means unfriendly or arrogant people focussed on money and a general materialistic atmosphere.
Anyway, we were curious, because the Nature is still considered to be marvelous and there is a lot to do and see.

My judgement so far:
Nature is very nice, but there is indeed way to much people, cars and buildings on the island.
Thus, Nature seems pretty much under pressure and it is not easy to find a spot without many people. Beaches are beautiful of course, the sand is – like on any north sea island – the best in the world, much softer and sweeter than anything I have seen even in the Caribbean or elsewhere. Actually you want to bath right in the warm sand, roll around and never stand up again! (… and that is exactly what the Woodpecker body did each day…including filling our car up with this nice sand…)

People (as expected) are pretty much boring, and lack what I would call “authenticity”. As many people here feels somehow „special“, many carry their noses a bit too high. Not too much room for occasional chat, joke, or beer with strangers. These posh people somehow seem not like to get into contact. Even not among themselves to my observations. Probably chatting with strangers is too un-cool.
Also the pace of life on the island is much higher than it should be. Everybody – while being in this relaxing and beautiful surrounding, still seems a bit stressed or busy. Probably because they always have to watch out who watches them or who is there to watch. Or something like that. A down-turner was a e.g. a place called Wonne-Meyer (I prefer to call it Wonne-Kasper. A Kasper is someone who makes a joke of himself), where posh people pile up for a sun-downer, food is bad and expensive, and it was stressful crowded not in a positive party-way, but in the negative 1000-cool-people want to relax at the same spot.

Anyway, no comparison in relaxation to other German islands, like the Ostfriesische Inseln or (my relaxation favorite) Hiddensee in the Baltic sea.

The captain of our Pirate cruise during the kids' attack on the sister ship...my boys were convinced that he has been a former real pirate, and I tend to agree!

The captain of our Pirate cruise during the kids’ attack on the sister ship…my boys were convinced that he has been a former real pirate, and I tend to agree!

Good thing ist hat Woodpeckers of course picked the camping place for their stay. And all the proms of course make a big circle around the camping place, and so do all the would-like-to-be-poshies. So at least in the daily routine (and even at the beach stretch next to the camping), the atmosphere is much more relaxing than in general.

And there are areas (especially in the North) were Nature ist still magic, and you can have wonderful evening hikes or bike tours. Plus we made a Pirate-Cruise from List. Very much recommended with kids, one of the best value entertainment I have ever seen.

Recommendation: For a week of camping, or maybe in the off-season, ok. For the real experience, go for the smaller and less prominent islands.

Cheers,

Woodpecker

Pics: Click to enlarge.

The Power of being Alone or: Are Efficiency and Competition your Enemies on the Way to Happiness?

The creek "Partnach", on its way down from Germany's highest peak, the "Zugspitze"

The creek “Partnach”, on its way down from Germany’s highest peak, the “Zugspitze”

Oh boy, time flies past these days.

It’s more than three weeks since the last post!

The weather this year is just way too good to spend it in front of a computer. However, today it is that hot in good old Munich, that staying inside is fun again.

Last weeks have been loaded with nice grill events, family time spent at the nearby lake (Hooray, even three-year old small Junior Woodpecker is able to make it with his bike now!), a multiple family trip to the nearby medieval festival and all sorts of other social events.

 

The gourge "Partnachklamm". Belief it or not, this is Bavaria, not Middle-Earth!

The gorge “Partnachklamm”.
Belief it or not, this is Bavaria, not Middle-Earth!

In short:

Social dividend rolled in big these days, seeded in the past by spending as much time as possible with PEOPLE and FRIENDS, and not in office maxing out your cash-flow, or with wasteful “modern life maintenance” activities.
Actually it rolles in so big that I get used to having so many friends and am more and more surprised by the fact that most people seem to have much less social contacts! If you are still in the latter group, no need to despair, but start doing something about it! All can be changed by investing time, time, time and also care and niceness. Not once or twice, but over years and years you have to prioritize friends over career…and you will build a powerfull community around you.

Woodpecker also got a new job (will report in another post). Of course I choose carefully not to get hit by the crazy modern times workaholics-hammer 🙂 , but still I am currently a bit more busy than usual with office, too.

Anyway, Woodpecker is now at a point where the great plenitude of social contacts makes something else a quite rare thing in his life:

Solitude.

Of course I do not mean the negative but the positive side of solitude:

Being able to be only with yourself. To concentrate on your own mind, thoughts, body.
To think things through clearly and without distraction.
To empty your mind from the constant swirl and chaos of thoughts, external demands and constant attractions around.

Thus, Woodpecker decided to go on a solo two-day mountain hike.
With the explicit goal to see as few people as possible.
To NOT make acquaintance with anyone (not easy for me, haha).
To speak as little as possible.
To be in nature.
To have a demanding physical challenge, and of course:
To be without cellphone.

So off I went to a tour in the close-by Wettersteingebirge (the mountain massive that also holds Germans highest mountain, the “Zugspitze”).

And what should I say?
I think for me it was the first time since 10 years (!) that I spent a full two days out of house without any company or meeting someone I know.
Plus, as a bonus: I did not bring any clock with me! 🙂
Two days I had no idea what time it was, and did only what my body (and nature) were telling me.
A rare experience these days.

And all of this in a majestic, or even magical, nature surrounding, as you can see from the pics (taken by my good old 3kg heavy Nikon camera, not by cell-phone…).

View from one of my "perfect" resting places. Location: Secret ;-)

View from one of my “perfect” resting places.
Location: Secret 😉

I made an interesting observation:

If you do hiking, you might know that your body picks its own speed, if you do not have to care about others, or about time. It picks the speed it needs to operate optimally, and to make you endure a long stretch of way.
In Woodpeckers case (and that seems to be a synonym for my whole lifestyle, now that I think about it), the marching pace turned out to be very high and energetic, but then I also needed frequent and long breaks in beautiful surroundings to replenish.
So it was maybe two hours tight marsh, then spending a long time to find the perfect spot e.g. at a creek (or any spot with some energy, if you know what I mean), pulling out loads of food, water and a book, and resting, reading or snoozing for one hour with nothing around than the sound of rippling water.

The thing is, normally, if you go with others, you are not able to follow that body rhythm. You have to do some compromise or you would not see each other the whole tour.
Which is fine.
But it was also great to experience the fantastic feeling of your body operating exactly at its own pace. And the energy it can muster if allowed to follow that pace.
A feeling that is long-lost in todays super-planned and scheduled world.

In the end I was surprised how easily I managed the challenging tour overall, so that I even had to add some 500 extra hight meters as I did not feel yet exhausted.

What I also did several times:

Marching tightly, and then just do a totally useless detour to explore a waterfall spotted in the distance and completely off the track. Or take a more difficult and clearly longer way, because on the map it showed to pass a spring and I felt like a drink from a spring.

Exploring the interesting creek down there took me one hour de-tour...and was worth every minute!

Exploring the interesting creek down there took me one hour de-tour…and was worth every minute!

Long life inefficiency!

Despite what I thought in the past, I more and more get the feeling that inefficiency – and not efficiency – brings the highest pleasure to life…if you are able to let go of maximization, of optimizing, of comparing and of competition. An insight I admittedly do not yet manage to life up to often in day-to-day life.

I am surprised myself, but the more I work on stage four of Maslows pyramid, I am slowly getting an enemy of optimization, efficiency and competition. Maybe these things are not needed anymore on the upper stages of the pyramid?
Maybe optimization, efficiency and competition are fine to safeguard provision of basic needs but are in your way once you start looking for the higher goals, like true happiness?

I tend to think so.

Well, that’s all I wanted to say today.

Excuse the little bit confused post, but that hike was a great experience and started a load of new trains of thought as you see.

Recommended for copy! And will repeat myself, next time for three days minimum.

Cheers,

Woodpecker

ps. Forgot to say. Total cost: Transport by car 25 EUR. Night in hut 18 EUR. Luxury food 20 EUR. Good value I’d say. 🙂

Arrived at the mountain hut. A bit crowded for my taste, but what can you do? Sleep according to your body clock. Around 8am in my case. And everybody of this competitive achievment hunters had left to climb "Zugspitze" already! So I had the whole place ALONE in the morning! Crazy world.

Arrived at the mountain hut. A bit crowded for my taste, but what can you do? Sleep according to your body clock! Around 8am in my case… and everybody of this competitive achievement hunters had left to climb “Zugspitze” already! I don’t care for ticking peaks, and thus had the whole place ALONE in the morning! Crazy world.

A Short Trip to Nördlingen or Belonging to Something Greater

What a nice medieval town!

What a nice medieval town!

This weekend was a long one, thanks to our ancestors who fought hard to make May, 1st into a holiday, the “day of work”, downshifters day to think of how to work less. 🙂

So dear grandma looked for the kids, and Mr+Mrs Woodpecker have been on a short trip to a little town about 100km away from Munich, called Nördlingen.

Weather was quite miserable, but in good old Woodpecker tradition this did not discourage us from having a good time, but on the contrary helped to keep other tourists out of our sight while enjoying history.

Like Rothenburg that we visited last year (gosh, forgot to write a post on that one!), Nördlingen is surrounded by a complete medieval wall in the form of a perfect circle (yes, you can surround it on the wall day and night, takes around 45 minutes).

On the minus side, Nördlingen has a bit less of medieval flair to offer than the infamous Rothenburg, but on the plus this comes with cheaper prices and much less tourists hanging out there.

The town is located in the impact crater of a 1km meteorite that hit south Germany 15 million years ago.
This makes it a geological unique location and there is a quite interesting museum on meteorite impacts located in town. That bloody thing had so much speed that the whole 1km-block vaporized during the impact, leaving basically a sea of molten rock – what a mess. Next impact a bit further away from Munich, if you please…

Castle Harburg

Castle Harburg

As always when travelling Germany, there is a lot of history to be found. In the case of Nördlingen it shows how a then very important town went into decline after a huge fight that took place in the 30 years’ war in 1634.

Castle Harburg

On our way back we discovered a great castle along the way: Castle Harburg.
As Woodpecker is a bit Castle-Fan, we stopped by for a guided tour, that was very interesting.
Only 15 km away from Nördlingen, that Castle was the seat of their enemies, the Öttingers and shows how amazingly small-sized the power-structures of those time were.

The castle is well worth a visit if you are around.

Harburg4

History – Belonging to Something Greater

More than only being entertaining, I love history because it can give you the feeling of belonging to something Greater. That you are part of something that spreads out beyond your own more or less unimportant and short live.
That in fact whoever and wherever you are, you are the today-living part of an endless chain that leads back into the fog of history and until the beginning of man-kind.And a chain that hopefully will as well lead forward into the fog of the far future of man-kind. A future that all of us cannot imagine, as little as the Harburg rulers could imagine the tourists running around in their castle with smartphones.

I think the feeling of belonging to something greater is an integral part of happiness, and next to family, friends, worthwhile projects, your history is a strong source of belonging.

Think about it!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

 

Turning a simple package tour into an adventure – Turkey south coast example – Part 2

What a view!

What a view!

This is the second post to our recent Turkey trip, part one see here.

Antalya

We also did a day trip to the old town of Antalya.

It is a nice stroll around more or less old Anatol style buildings, all very cleanly renovated and in great shape.
And admittedly, the setting of the city on a cliff at the see and close to the Taurus mountains is indeed spectacular.

However, to be honest, overall we were slightly disappointed:
Although the beauty of the city is widely known (and it is beautiful in fact), it misses something very important, that other Turkish Cities can offer:

A kind of “air” or “authenticity”.

The thing it, that the old part of town makes the impression of a museum or Disney park. Everything is a bit too clean and polished, too many tourist places, and actually the local life and the buzzing of the native population it completely missing, as the actual city live takes place outside of the old town.

This is much different in other cities we have seen in Turkey, like Istanbul, Sinop, Safranbolu.
And for Woodpecker, this “air” is one of the most important factors of a true must-see city.

Recommendation: If you are around, give it a visit, but half a day is enough I’d say.

(Click to enlarge, hover for captions)

 

Now we come to the undisputed highlight of our trip:

Selge

We took a drive to a nearby canyon for a nice climb-down to the cool and wildly rushing river and throw stones with the kids (you can do rafting there too) and then decided to proceed to the ancient city of Selge, a secluded place a lofty 1100m above sea level.
It was quite a challenging drive. A few clowns we met actually used Jeeps to get up there, which is unnecessary, because the pavement of the road was quite fine in all steep sections, the problem was rather that the road is very suspended and without guard rails, so sometimes the mountain just dropped off into 200 meters of void next to the road.
In a word: You should not suffer from vertigo there.
However not a problem for Woodpecker as an old mountaineer, thus I’d say we were considerably faster than the Jeep-Clowns. 🙂

When we finally arrived, I was in full awe of the beauty of the place.

THIS IS A HELL OF A SPOT.

Boy, these Greek and Roman chaps sure knew how to pick great spots for their cities!

Full 10/10 Lord of the Ring score and
9/10 Indiana Jones score.

A true magic place, like you would not expect to find it outside a film, and only 90 mins away from a busy tourist area.

See yourself:

(please enlarge by clicking to get the full experience! hover for captions)

 

Aspendos

Aspendos was another spot we visited.

This one is an “A” spot, thus there is a guard, an (significant) entrance fee etc.
However, the theater there is among the best preserved worldwide and even hosts a music festival (like Verona), which must be incredible to join.

The secret tip here is to go the hilly excavation site uphill from the theater, which is typically not visited by groups (too much walking), and quite interesting.

Lord of the Ring Score 4/10.
Indiana Jones Score 4/10.

You think anything your country is building these days will still be that spectacular like this theater 2.000 years from now?!

Hm.

I will never complain again about the waste of public money on prestige buildings, provided one precondition:

Dear politicians and leaders! Build if you want. Spend our money. Build it big and beautiful. But please, please, build massive. Build in STONE. So that Woodpeckers 50*Grandsons can enjoy the place 2000 years from now!
Thanks.

Sillyon

Last excursion was to Sillyon, a totally undeveloped place on a table mountain.

There is not too much to see, but strolling around the location is fun anyway, as cows are grazing between the ruins and you find nice examples of ancient cities biggest enemies: Stone looting for constructing other houses.

Lord of the Ring Score 6/10.
Indiana Jones Score 7/10.

 

All in all, this package tour turned into some good adventure thanks to only a little additional own initiative.

Btw., it was a great mixture for the kids as well. Exploring, climbing, beach and a bit of swimming in the pool and the indoor pool.
Parents know that it can be difficult to combine the needs of young kids and your own activity needs from time to time.But it is doable, there is no need to hang out two weeks exclusively in a plastic paradise of a “family hotel” or in a hyper expensive Disney-World.

This trip might serve as a blue-print!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

Turning a simple Package Tour into an Adventure – Turkey South Coast Example – Part 1

A trip back in history. Turkey, south coast.

A trip back in history. Turkey, south coast.

Winter finally is gone, and it is about time to leave your sofas, go out and explore the world a bit.

This is what the Woodpecker clan thought, when some weeks ago we checked the internet and found a very pleasantly prices package tour to a tourist resort in southern Turkey (apparently all the russian tourist are missing there, so price was incredible low).

But then you might guess our next thought:

A package tour? An All-inclusive tourism resort?! Hm, not really the thing the Woodpeckers are typically into. Sounds too much like fat-bellied ever-beer-drinking average consumer chaps in the main stream hotels and hard-working rat-racers with their mobiles always on in the golf clubs next door.
Not seeing the country but feasting on “international” (i.e. boring) food, buying overpriced carpets, demanding “Schnitzel” or Burgers in every restaurant and complaining if Turks only speak Turkish.

All not really what we are looking for, as we traveled Turkey a total of 20 weeks before individually and far off the beaten tracks, two times even with our own car that we brought there all the way from Germany, one time a full eight weeks in a row during parental leave (different story).

Anyway, the price included accommodation, flight, food, kids care, pool etc and was so good that it was hardly beatable by anything we could compile ourselves, plus we had an advantage:

Most people going to the area around Antalya rely on their tour operators on what to do, and miss out the chance that there are actually a lot of places to discover and a lot of non-mainstream things to do, provided one thing:

Your own transportation and a bit of trust in your own ability to cope with local traffic and sometimes “challenging” road layout, e.g. in the mountains.

So we decided to go for it but do it the Woodpecker style:

The booked AI hotel should only serve as our comfortable and cheap home-base and we rented a car with a local company that I can wholeheartedly recommend especially to Germans, as they are specialized on german customers: Say Automobile. It is a hands-on rental company, friendly and cheap (we paid 30 EUR per day for a compact car plus ony 3 EUR per child seat and day, delivery and pickup included. Prolongation of rental period was settled by phone and simply leaving 30 additional EUR in the car when parking it in front of hotel for pick-up).

So, we arrived and where all puzzled by the fact that someone with out name on a sign was already waiting to pick us up at the airport, everything was prepared, we did not have to care for anything, etc.
Not need to organize something themselves – obviously what most tourists are looking for.
But after two days of hanging out at the pool and walking from one AI food station to the next – as expected – it started to bore us (can’t understand how people are able to spend a full two weeks in the resort without their brains getting mash), so we started our excursions:

And South Turkey (or all of Turkey to be precise) is just perfect to go out and explore. People are extremely friendly and helpful, especially outside tourist zones, and especially if you have kids and do not behave like a superior asshole. Turkey also is cheap, food is great, landscapes are diverse and fascinating, and the best is:

Ancient cities!

Woodpecker loves ancient cities, especially if they are not boring ordinary ancient cities, but if they fulfill two criteria:

1) A great setting, what I call a “Lord of the Ring setting”, giving you that “Fellowship of the Ring travels the empty lands of Middle Earth” feeling.

2) As few other visitors as possible and as little signs of modern culture as possible. Giving you what I call “Indiana Jones discovers magic place no Westerner has seen before” feeling.

Thus, the perfect spot would be an ancient city, half buried under vegetation, barely digged out, no signposts, fences, guards or paved walkways, sitting in a secluded, quite and spectacular landscape, not really visited by a lot of people.

And belief it or not: Turkey is full of this places! Even as close to touristic hot-spots as the Turkish Riviera.

However, to max out your chances to be there alone, follow the classical four rules of anti-cyclical tourism:

Go there when:

  • Time is odd, off-season, or early in the morning or late afternoon (or night for the pros)
  • Weather is bad (this is a big secret tip to enjoy so many places that are otherwise crowded)
  • You have to exert effort to get there. A long hike necessary? Perfect. A difficult drive not doable for tour busses? Great.
  • Choose the second tier. This ruins may be a bit smaller, but this is more than off-set by being able to be there alone and really feel the thousands of years of history plus the magic of the place (holds true as well for mountain peeks, churches, cities, basically all places that gain from being empty).

Termessos

The first tour took us to Termessos, an ancient city in the Taurus mountains, set on a spectacular mountain valley quite close to Antalya.
It is not fully clear when it was founded, but certainly before 500 BC. Termessos was under siege by Alexander the Great in 333 BC, but Alexander finally had to give up and conquer half of Asia instead.

It is a difficult drive though and a long sweaty walk to get to the ruins, thus the place is not crowded. At least not in April and with weather being on our side (i.e. cloudy, cold, some rain). A few people running around but if you go to the fantastic necropolis (the city of the dead, an extra 30 min walk uphill) you are alone again.

This is what we got. The theme of the this location was mountain grey.

Lord of the Rings Score 7/10.
Indiana Jones Score 6/10.

(Click for large version, hover for caption)

 

Lyrbe

Being fascinated by Termessos, the real surprise came when we discovered Lyrbe (incorrectly called Seleucia, even in Wikipedia), a quite unknown place, not much written about in the guidebooks.

But what a magic setting, so quite and secluded in the middle of a pine forest. NO ONE in the whole area there except the Woodpecker clan. Bird chirping and wind being the only sound around to disturb the sleep of centuries.

Lord of the Ring Score 6/10.
Indiana Jones Score 9/10.

Difficult to catch this special atmosphere in pictures, but I tried. Note the lovely greenish atmosphere in the forrest.

(Click for large version, hover for caption)

 

 

But then, a few days later, Woodpecker really was swept off his feet by another excursion.

This one – Selge – was so spectacular that it deserves a separate post – stay tuned!

 

Cheers,

Woodpecker

A Good Fight with Mother Nature is Something no Money can Buy

A glorious morning in the Bavarian Alps (Tegernseer Hütte).

A glorious morning in the Bavarian Alps (Close to Tegernsee).

One week ago, the annual old boys gathering with people from Woodpeckers home town was due again.

As we were going to meet at lake Tegernsee close to Munich, Woodpecker and one guy who lives here too decided to prolong the gathering by an extra night on a hut close to the lake, a ca. 3 hrs / 1.000 height meter hike up on to mountain top.

The hut was assumed to be pretty booked but the week before our trip a huge autumn storm hit Germany. So one day prior to our departure the landlord called me up and strongly recommended not to go, as +1 meter of fresh snow had fallen in the mountains, with a lot of wind to produce snowdrifts, the ways not cleared and the storm still raging outside.

Well, if you ever fought your way uphill through the mountains in 1 meter of fresh snow you know that this is not quite an easy task.

However, the next day was calm, the mountains glazing in the sun (so the webcam told me) and after a second call to the landlord and a check for the avalanche situation we decided to start anyway. We rented out a couple of snow-shoes for the flatter first half of the hike, and packed avalanche shovels, snow trousers and all the other winter gear plus enough schnapps for the steep upper half.

Sunset.

Sunset.

The first part was easy-going through a fairy tale snow-white and untouched winter forest, crisp air and nobody else walking around. The snow-shoes served us well and soon we reached a hut half-way up.
That was where the real fun started. The inclination got too steep now to use the snow shoes efficiently and the snow was so soft that they were sinking in anyway.
So the only way was to bulldoze our way up, sinking in up to the hips with every step, with snow everywhere, taking turns every 50 meters. Fortunately we were good on time, and a jigger of booze every half an hour gave additional energy. 🙂

Woodpecker did some similar (although shorter) tours before, but again and again it is amazing to feel special atmosphere and the quietness of the snow-covered mountains. It is also fascination to observe the different textures snow on a mountain face can have. From soft powder to sticky, from unstable to compressed by the wind, or with a hard icy surface that makes you hope it can hold your step until you break in and have to fight your boots out from below the ice cap.

And it is always amazing to feel your senses and your body absolutely awake and at maximum alertness once they feel a challenge is more real than the ones they encounter in their daily office routine or in front of a computer game.

The night creeping in...

The night creeping in…

Your mind feels the thrill once it notices you will not make it during sunlight, your body chemistry reacts once the shadow of the night creeps in, when the temperature starts to drop quickly, and the wind catches up icy closer to the top with your muscular energy level going to reserve. You perception gets sharper than you think possible when you look out for a weather change, for signs of avalanche danger or for the optimal route through the hillside. No small noise or crackling sound goes un-noticed, every small change in the tone of distant howling wind is recognised. In other words: You can barely feel more alive.

Obviously all of this was not actually dangerous and I would not have done it if it was, but still, the hike was a challenge and far out of the typical comfort zone of us modern humans.

But that is the point:

The true reward, the kick of mountain happiness comes only if you have a prolonged moment of suffering on your way up.

A moment where you curse it all and wish you would have stayed at home on the sofa. This moment then is followed by complete emptiness of the brain, where you just fight on step by step. And only then you will be rewarded later by an overwhelming flow of happiness once you reach the top. Something all the flip-flop cable car riders will never experience.

Every mountaineer, every climber and generally every sportsman will confirm.

And what a reward we got! Reaching the hut when the last bit of the twilight faded with a last look on the mountain range of the Alps under the stars. Finding ourselves the only guests in a normally very crowded hut. Drying in front of the cracking fire, a good Bavarian beer and some hearty food at hand.

And at the break of dawn this view:

Sunrise, 6:50 in the morning. For some reason, no alarm clock needed, the body clock woke us up in time.

Sunrise, 6:50 in the morning. For some reason, no alarm clock needed, the body clock woke us up in time.

 

Boy, this was a good tour.

Something no money ever can buy.

Any similar experience to share? Let us know!

 

Cheers,

Woodpecker