Barcelona … small pics of a big city

My wife and I went to Barcelona last week. We did a lot of walking and looked around. The sunnier and warmer than home weather was nice. And the coffee … I miss that already.

Check out what I saw.

In my next blog post I’m going to try and capture my new found like for that famously tasty and just a bit addicting Spanish ‘jamon’. You may have heard about it 😉

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A Peak into The Switzer Land

It’s been a while. The last time I laid eyes on real mountains. A long while actually, well over a year ago if you don’t count two or three short teasing ‘glimpses’. Yesterday I saw some real frikkin’ big ones. Up close. Made me feel small. Made me feel good.

explanatory mountain infographic

explanatory mountain infographic

The weather was … well it couldn’t have been any nicer … pure blue sky and sunshine. My face is red and the skin hurts to touch, a bit. I blame that on the sunshine and snow. Oh yeah … snow played a supporting role. The place was Grindelwald in the Bernese Oberland, deep in the Switzer Land. No, it didn’t smell like cheese nor look like chocolate although on a side note the super delicious Lindt chocolate easter bunnies were on sale in one shop at 75% of the usual not super cheap price. Scored and enjoyed 🙂

©iphoneographythis2014,©2014myronunrau

Temptation … yummi

My personal way back machine contains memory data of my having visited the area in my early teen years. This being a few years later and my interest and curiosity in the area still going strong, wife and I decided to head down there on a day trip. This we accomplished without using our car. Instead we made use of a very practical rail pass that can be purchased in advance for a specific date and what makes it oh so über cool is that you can travel with depth and breadth of the Switzer Lands by rail, city transit, water and cable car for one very cheapo cost (note: most cable car rides will cost you half the normal price and are generally not included as ‘free’ on the day ticket). Cost 40Chf per person = 32Euros = 50Cdn$ approx. Not a bad deal considering that rail travel in Europe is not that cheap. Doing the exploring of smaller countries in this fashion saves you wear and tear on your own vehicle, the stresses of navigating to new places and the near insurmountable obstacle of finding reasonable parking when you get to where you go. We hoped on the bus right in front of our place (convenience +), hopped off at the Badischer Bahnhof in Basel and this is where the fun part of the early morning began. You see, while I’d looked up various departure times from there to where we wanted to go, I neglected to also take a careful look at the multiple rail connections the various options had, i.e. times and track numbers as well as something as silly as which cities that we would have to get on and off the train and connections, hmmm.

screenshot of departures, sans specifics ... oops

screenshot of departures, sans specifics … oops

My wife was not impressed that I’d neglected that simple yet important factoid in planning … well that I’d not planned well enough. Ok, so that added a bit of stress but we managed to make the three connections without any real issues and didn’t miss any trains either, and that averted further stress. We also discovered that we could ride the ICE train in the Switzer Land without additional costs, coolio that. Note: the higher speeds this train is known for slowed to nearly a crawl in many of the more winding sections on our three hour trip. The speeds were ok from Basel to Bern.

riding the rains towards the  jagged peaks

racing on rails towards the jagged peaks

Swiss Train at Interlaken Ost Bahnhof

Swiss Train at Interlaken Ost Bahnhof

In Interlaken, (567m above sea level)  the Thuner See to the north and the Brienzersee to the south, we switched to the regional train that took us up through Wilderswil and on to Zweilütschinen. Instead of continuing on up to the town of Grindelwald (1034m above sea level), we hoped onto a bus for that (20minute) stretch as work was being done on that section of the rail line.

on-board windowsill graphic/map

on-board windowsill graphic/map

It was not yet noon when we arrived at our destination. What struck me most of all as soon as I got off the bus and raised my eyes to the view was the immensity of the surrounding mountains that ranged just west of the small valley; not a narrow valley but not that large either.

the Eiger, the town and the yellow bus

the Eiger, the town and the yellow bus

It felt good. Really good. I always feel good when I am in the mountains, when I can see them … feel them. My wife also has a similar reaction and adds that she feels like she’s come home when she’s in the mountains. These fuckers however made me feel small. Real small. It was weird. I’m walking around, looking at this or that chalet and taking in how people live here and then I look up and am blown away, overpowered by the magnitude of the towering mountain peaks right above my head. Overwhelming in the best possible sense. And to see that residents of this town had such spectacular backdrops to their everyday lives … very cool indeed.

this is the view someone has out of their kitchen window, of a quaintly solid chalet home. It's the Eiger

this is the view someone has out of their kitchen window, of a quaintly solid chalet home. It’s only one of most famous mountains on earth – the Eiger

And to the left of the spectacle continues to impress. One could spend days, nay weeks absorbing the wonder of it all.

on foot

feet

We decided to poke about a bit and set off on foot.

Wanderweg Sign

Wanderweg Signage. Eiger behind sign

we went left

we went left towards the Wetterhorn

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ferien wohnung rental accomodation

and hiked up narrow climbing paved roadways, past idylic chalet settings bedeked with small to large cow bells, and hillside pasture used by goats with jangling bells. We also saw several signs advertising ‘Alpen cheese’ for sale. This is where it gets silly. We packed a lunch, a good lunch because things are esspensivo in the Switzer Lands. Hell, we even packed a chunk of Gruyere cheese but then couldn’t resist the urge to buy more cheese at one of the local shops along with a Swiss air cured beef specialty to add to our packed lunch; of which we only ate the bread. On our meandering way back towards town and the gondola ride upwards to the First peak, we stopped and sat on a bench at a small old barn for a rustic lunch in the sunshine with a view on the Eiger.

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lunch spot

view towards Grindelwald from lunch spot

view towards Grindelwald

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more valley view

On our way back to town we heard some odd noise that clashed violently with the stillness of this alpine idyll, a loud reverberating roar that bounced out of the blue sky and off the mountainsides above and behind us.  Two Swiss airforce fighter jet aircraft were engaged in close  maneuvers, a tight circling airborne dance lest they fly or rocket out of bounds (Switzerland being smallish in size). The country has a strong and clear sense of defense. On our journey there we saw two individual soldiers in full gear including the rifle slung in front of the body with folded stock,a reminder that this folk is prepared, willing and ready to defend at a moments notice it seems. Actually we had wanted to hike up to the First peak (2168m above sea level) but were told that since the recent ski season had wrapped up not too long ago that conditions on the upper hiking trails were ‘difficult’ and for the most part closed. Ok, gondola time. With our special travel day pass we scored half price tickets and hopped into a small four person gondola for the (much to our uniformed surprise) half hour trip up to the peak from 1034m in Grindelwald.

gondoling up to the First from Grindelwald

gondoling up to the First from Grindelwald, Schreckhorn 4075m

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Eiger 3970m center image

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Finsteraarhorn 4274m above the valley floor

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Schreckfeld gondola station, turns 90º and heads up the last little stretch to the First.

author way above sea level

author way above sea level

We hung out a bit up there, soaked up the brutal sunshine, ate a few of our packed goodies, ordered something to drink and headed back down to the Bort gondola station at 1570m from the First  From there we decided to hike back down the rest of the way to town because it was such a beautiful day and after all we’d wanted to hike in the first place.

hiking down towards Grindelwald

hiking down towards Grindelwald

alpine spectacle

alpine spectacle

idyllic scenery

idyllic scenery

Edelweiss flower info The day after: our legs are a bit sore, our exposed skin got burned, our spirits are lifted and the memories rock. Go visit off season, it’s less busy 😉

The Switzer Land, it might be small, but it's really big too.

The Switzer Land, it might be small, but it’s really big too.

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Canadiana 105

I have a favorite ‘park’. Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC (Canada) It is a pretty cool park as city parks go. Every city has a park, well most of them do. They come in all shapes and most sizes from mini to huge.

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Looking towards Stanley Park from Coal Harbor, Vancouver BC, with North Vancouver in background.

I fell in love with it as a young boy the first time I visited it, I thought it a most splendid place to build a house one day. That was before I knew that Stanley Park in the heart of Vancouver (maybe it is the heart of Vancovuer) was in fact a park, no building houses allowed; not even tree houses.

The 1,001 acres/404.9 hectares that make up this urban park is almost entirely surrounded by sea water and boasts a few ponds, a large lagoon and a swimming pool right next the ocean. It’s all pretty lush what with all the rain that pours down on these parts of the wet coast.

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Stanley Park and the Lions Gate bridge seen from Brockton Point Lighthouse

The place is criss crossed with 200kms (give or take a few) of trails and roads and not a few secret trails only the homeless know much about. Some people guess that it contains half a million trees and the whole thing is encompassed by the sea wall, a paved 8.8 kilometres (5.5 mi) path that is used by approx. 2.5 million pedestrians and cyclists year round. Throw in a hand full of die hard roller bladders for good measure.

A busy traffic artery known as the Stanley Park Causeway, bisects the park and connects the downtown core to the north shore and North Vancouver municipality via the Lions Gate suspension bridge .

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Lions Gate Bridge and Float Plane

Officially declared open and appointed the purpose as a park 124 years ago in 1888 by some guy called David Oppenheimer, it was named after Lord Stanley of Preston, the Governor-General of Canada who had this to say when he actually saw the park – “I name thee, Stanley Park”. He was seen to throw his arms heavenward in an attempt to embrace the place while dedicating it to the use and enjoyment of peoples of all colors, creeds, and customs, for all time. Generous guy.

The park area is traditional territory of several different indigenous aboriginal tribes. Historically, the  Squamish had built a number of villages on the western and northern area, and in the southern area, the Musqueam used the area for collecting resources.

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Siwash (Slah-kay-ulsh) Rock, Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC, Canada

The popular landmark is “Slah-kay-ulsh” which means he is standing up. In their oral history, a man was transformed into this rock for his unselfishness by the three Transformer brothers

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Lifeguard rowboat and swimmer on Third Beach in Stanley Park, Vancouver

The park also has a few sandy beaches along its shore line and swimming is a popular warm weather option to those brave enough to brave the frigid pacific waters.

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Canada Geese in Pacific Ocean water

Wildlife in this park includes geese like those pictured above that poop everywhere, great blue herons, seagulls, bald eagles,  a burgeoning raccoon population, coyotes, skunks, possibly beavers, feral rabbits (decedent from house pets) and a thriving and at times inquisitive population of grey squirrels whose ancestry can be traced back to eight pairs from New Yorks Central Park.

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Third Beach, Stanley Park, Vancouver BC, Canada

The park at one time housed a zoo and is home to the Vancouver Aquarium. Established in 1956, the aquarium is the largest in Canada and houses a wide collection of marine life including dolphins, belugas,sea lions, harbour seals and sea otters.

In December 2006 a fierce winter storm tore through the park with winds gusting up to 115km p/h and laid waste to an area near Prospect Point.  Approx. 60% of the western side of the park was damaged; and it is believed that 3,000 trees were negatively affected.

All images ©myronunrau