Outdoor Lore and the Lure of a Good Cup of Coffee

Autumn … let that sink in for brief moment.

Dense fog and moisture in the air, dewy wetness on all things still green and those turning color too.Rusting leafy foliage falling away baring their now stark treed host. Dried corn plants shuffling their crinkly leaves await the harvesters blade and the pale early morning sky fuzzy misted over as the sun begins to burn through with a cool and bright effort. And pumpkins dotting this or that field or ornamenting this or that farmer stand or door steps.

Yup, it’s fallish out there folks.

And I’ve got a hankerin’ to be out there, to spend time in the thinning woods. Where green turns to rust and mushrooms show themselves off against the leaf littered forest floor, some pretty, some ugly and all of them fascinating.

Yesterday I gave in to that hankering and hunkered down the evening before to prepare my daypack for a short day trip into the local deciduous woods. The air felt fresher, the temperatures chillier and my step quicker so as to generate a bit more body temperature even though my wool mix hoodie kept me snug and warm.

It being a Saturday morning, the forest lanes and roadways (this is Germany and the woods are crisscrossed with ‘Waldwege’) were empty. I had the place mostly to myself. And as I often do, I wondered where the wild boars were. But most of all I was anticipating my first cup of outside coffee.

Clear Lake OR Camping 2012 ciaodarlingciao.wordpress.com

goodness (ciaodarlingciao.wordpress.com)

If you’ve ever made a delicious cup of hot coffee outside you may know the pleasure I speak of. No, not a cup of instant crap but the real ma-coy, boiling water poured into a coffee filter over a large cup. The result a brew so good that it nearly blends into the surrounding beauty. Ah ok, so the heady scent of a freshly brewed cup of java out there is kinda out of place as it were but it does the body good. If you prefer a good hot cup of tea would also do the trick I suppose but coffee is my choice for moments like that.

I spent some time looking around and gathering a bit of firewood, smallish bits and processed them into suitable sizes to accommodate my Bush Box multi fuel pocket stoves’ small size and then set to building the fire that would boil the water that would release the intense flavored coffee into my cup and then my mouth. It took a little while but the time spent doing the work was well worth the efforts.

Bush Box

By the time my cup was filled, the sun had begun to shine on the spot I’d selected for the coffee ritual.

I sat back and just liked being there.

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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 🙂

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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.

Three Days in Budapest & riding the retro metro

It was wet, grey, tiring and dingy in places. Not at all the way I’d imagined a January. I imagined it colder, much colder. However that is the kind of weather that awaited my wife and I on a recent short city holiday into Hungary. Budapest to be exact.

A cheapo Easy Jet flight three nights including breakfast at a reasonable price in a well situated and well appointed Hotel in the midst of that large city was just the thing.

Budapest as seen from a higher vantage point on the western side of the river Danube

Budapest as seen from a higher vantage point on the western side of the river Danube

Not that the weather where we live on the German side of the Swiss/French border was any better as we were herded through the airport gate like so much documented cattle. It could have been worse, much worse. The city could have been held in the frosty clutches of mean old man Winter. But it was not. And so a little bit of wet weather didn’t seem all that depressing when we stepped out into the Hungarian rain for the first time.

We arrived mid afternoon and  it being a Sunday and us not having planned anything touristically urgent as far as activities go, we located our hotel via our helpful little and later much used city/map book and my suddenly in demand sense of direction (albeit a bit confused with having to read/decipher a new language neither one of us was face with before). Then we set off and rather embarrassingly our very first jaunt  took us to a pretty big mall. Say no more, say no more.

January darkness fell more rapidly than we had anticipated and as the rain had let up a bit, we took advantage to look at the city lights from Margit Hid bridge over the dark Danube at the southern tip of Margaret Island. Nice.

View of Hungarian Parliament building on the bank of the Danube from bridge

View of Hungarian Parliament building on the bank of the Danube from bridge

going down to the retro metro on the transit escalator; we also went up these escalators towards daylight

Going down to the retro metro on the transit escalator; we also went up these escalators towards daylight

Very glad to have a guidebook/map along for this trip. Knowing and figuring out exactly where we were or exactly where we wanted to be/go wasn’t all that much fun all the time but it certainly made getting around easier. The locals we approached were very helpful when asked for assistance in either German or English. Thanks kindly you friendly Budapestians.

tourists looking at map books and waiting for transit salvation

Tourists looking at map books and waiting for transit salvation

There were tips on good eats in the guide booklet at several, actually two indoor market halls where various delectables from all over could be sampled and I had set my mind and stomach for an afternoon stroll of deliciousness in silly proportions/portions. I was really looking forward to the culinary experience and the usual list of local eats such as goulash and … well, goulash was the only culinary dish I knew of. But we were open to new things too. After wandering down a canyon of tourist shops lining the Vaci Utca;

One of the lesser shopping display along the Vaci Utca

One of the lesser shopping displays along the Vaci Utca

…pretty much all of them selling pretty much the same wares. Hmmm. At the end of that Utca we suddenly came upon the Nagycsarnok or Central Market Hall. Halleluja I thought; well maybe not thought so much as I felt something akin to that expression as we pushed our way through the heavy dirty darkish green woolen curtain flaps that separated the winterish outside from the warmish interior. Let the fun begin.

Inside the Central Market Hall where disappointment bit me in the ass.

Inside the Central Market Hall where disappointment bit me in the ass.

One stall sold fresh and colorful vegetables, the next sold honey, various sized bags of Paprika both sweet and hot along with different alcoholic souvenir bottles along with nuts, dried fruits and trinket sized wooden scoop spoons. Along the lines of ‘Souvenir’ accoutrement. Noted. The next stall sold meat: poultry, pork, beef, various cuts and meats in differing states of deconstruction depending on what the butcher was doing. These stalls also stocked huge supplies of the ‘Pick’ salami that I also was keen on purchasing to take back and sample in the comforts of home. These salamis came in different sizes and the different stalls appeared to apply differing prices for these same wares, depending on where they were located in the hall. The wife made note of that fact. Nevertheless we bought some. In a nutshell, a large market hall with many stalls but all stalls basically selling the same things. And upstairs arranged around the outer walls, more stalls with traditional embroidery and more tourist trickery. Bummer. The whole thing could have been condensed into four shops based on goods sold. Nothing for my belly other than a couple of excellent spicy dried snack sausages. We did not go into the basement for further my disappointment.

National Spice of Hungary is Paprika ... ok, so these samples had collected a lot of dust over the course of many years of being window displays.

National spice of Hungary is Paprika … ok, so these samples had collected a lot of dust over the course of many years of being window displays.

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Nope … didn’t eat here. Why not? Well, the name implied certain culinary danger. No matter that the hustler out on the street touted the menu to be “just like your mother home food”.

We did however stumble across the ‘Strudelhaus‘ on October 6 Utca. Wow, who knew Strudel could be so good. This restaurant also offers other traditional Hungarian fare but we spoiled our appetites with mouthwatering late afternoon goodness. Absolutely recommend this establishment for a delightful and very tasty visit.

Below is a sample of the sights and personal impressions:

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Parliament building besieged by constructionism

Solitary tower view point overlooking Budapest

One of the towers of the Fishermans Bastion overlooking Budapest

Bronze Aged Police

Bronze Aged Police on Zrinyi Utca/Oktober 6 Utca. Budapest

Wooden restaurant facade

Wooden restaurant facade on Vaci Utca

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Post christmas blues in the city

from there to here (camera viewpoint)

Rokford restaurant on the corner of Honved St and Szalay St. Didn’t eat there either.

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Seriously guarding the Hungarian Presidentat Sandor Palota

Looking across the Danube river  (beside the 'Chain Bridge')

Looking across the Danube river beside the Széchenyi lánchíd or Chain Bridge

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Detail of historical graphic context

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The unintended monumental asphyxiation of statues in an unnamed square somewhere in downtown Budapest

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Two tram cars as seen from Vemezo Way

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Yup Unicum … tastes exactly like ZWACK

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Still in rail service to the nation at Nayugati Railway Terminal

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Lonely morning street with retro VW bug

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Cool colors and wheels

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Dekagrams of decadent goodness

We can imagine how Budapest might look like in spring time.

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tired tourist feet

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Good’bye’ Budapest. Thank you kindly for the hospitality.

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wrong-way adventures on the M3 Blue Line to get to the airport

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Captain, please start this engine for takeoff

in the snow in Basel, CH

Going Somewhere from Somewhere

South side of Rhine River

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looking for images

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the iphoneographist looks