Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Paleo in Nyon

This year was the 35th edition of the Paleo music festival at Nyon. While the festival itself is held up the hill from Nyon, the organisers put on a party in the town itself to celebrate its start.
I met up with some friends from work for dinner beforehand and at 10:30 when the main event kicked off we all went out onto the streets to watch the procession.
The show was a marine fantasy, with giant inflatable sea-life floating through the streets of Nyon accompanied by lights and music.
It was pretty cool to see the whole town out on the streets and to see such a large event being organised in what is actually quite a small town.

Hiking around Schilthorn

The other weekend I took myself up to Lauterbrunnen to do some camping and hiking.
I've been to this area a couple of times before with Linda and my parents so I'm quite familiar with it now, but it is also one of the most spectacular parts of Switzerland so worth returning to!
I decided to spend my time hiking around Schilthorn, which is a 3000m peak with (as is usual for Switzerland) a restaurant at the top. This particular restaurant is Piz Gloria, which revolves and was the setting for a James Bond movie!
On Saturday I got up quite early and caught the lift all the way to the top of Schilthorn, since the weather was clear and I was hoping to get a good view over the mountain range.
I then hiked down the mountain towards the Birg lift station, taking a detour to walk past Grauseeli and take pictures of the reflections on the lake there. It was a really beautiful calm day so I got some good photos.
Then I cut back towards Schilthornhutt with the goal of climbing to the top of Bietenhorn (2756m) which is indicated as a blue trail on the map (which indicates an Alpine path, supposedly trickier than a Mountain path). In fact despite being steep the climb wasn't that challenging.
I returned to Schilthornhutt for some lunch and to regain some energy after having already done a significant bit of hiking. The day was still really nice although I could see some clouds coming in and I knew there was rain forecast for the weekend.
Soon I continued down the mountain, and at what would have been the bottom of the ski lift run I found an amazing spot just off the trail, which I reached by walking over lush green carpet and ended in a natural balcony looking over the valley. Not for the first time during the hike I found myself saying "wow!".
The remainder of the hike down was not that eventful but for the fact that a storm rolled in and I got rained on heavily. I stopped at a restaurant for a coffee and cake until it lightened up and I finished the walk to Murren where I caught the lift down into the valley.
That night a huge storm rolled in with big winds and heavy rain, but my tent stood up to it very well and I had a nice, dry, night's sleep.
The next day I wasn't sure if I was going to do more walking as my legs were already feeling quite stiff but, after the rain of the previous night, the air was crystal clear and I couldn't resist getting some more hiking in.
This time I decided to hike from Murren (1600m) to the top (3000m) via Rotstockhutt, which meant I would see the North side of Schilthorn whereas the previous day I had been on the South/West.
This hike was really amazing, taking me up through the farming areas above Murren and Gimmelwald, into the Valley where Rotstockhutt is found (and where I had a delicious cheese sandwich). In fact I was a little dispirited when I reached Rotstockhutt and looked at my map and realised I had climbed only 400m and had 1000m of climb still ahead of me.
Anyway, walking past streams, waterfalls and rockfalls up to the ridge was amazing and being in the cooler air at the higher altitude was fantastic.
I finished the walk by hiking along the ridge to Schilthorn, which took me from 2600m to 3000m and was over some really interesting terrain - there was ladders and ropes in some trickier spots.
By the time I got to the top it was about 1:30pm in the afternoon and the clouds were starting to come in. After a bit of a rest I simply caught the lift all the way down to the bottom - I was exhausted!
People may wonder what motivates someone to climb up a mountain, but for me it was easy to answer this question after a weekend of hiking: it's simply one of the most enjoying and fulfilling things I've ever done. Of course, my legs were aching for days afterwards...

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Hiking at Leysin

Today (yes, it's a rare day that I actually blog something on the same day) I went for a hike at Leysin.
I wanted to really hike up a mountain and my little hikes up La Dole near where we live didn't quite fit the bill, so I found a walk from Leysin village (1200m) up to the shiny modern restaurant at La Berneuse (2048m).
I didn't start my climb until midday since Leysin is about an hour and a half from Nyon, and by then the sun was really hot and it was really humid from some recent rain so not long after setting off I was already hot and sweating. It was a really steep climb to the top and even though I felt like I was pacing myself I got to the top in only about an hour.
Once there I was quite exhausted and I grabbed a drink and some chips in the restaurant (standard stuff inside despite the shiny exterior) and followed this up with some "trail mix" while sitting on a rocky outcrop looking over the valley.
Feeling replenished I started the downward hike, stopping to take photos of some of the mountain bike riders following the downhill course.

I walked down to Lac d'Ai and took some more photos of the little cabins and the lake before continuing to Lac d'Mayen where I felt compelled to have a coffee at the refuge there to support the local economy.
After setting off again I quickly realised I'd taken a wrong turn but, considering how quickly my walk was going, decided to continue on for a longer hike.
I'm really pleased to have done this as it was actually a really interesting hike over the Brion area where there was some amazing rocky formations.
At some point, however, the clouds that had building during the afternoon started to make ominous noises and the wind started to pick up. I rushed to put my camera in my bag and put on my rain jacket. I then quickly hiked down the hill to Les Fers and sheltered under the eves of the restaurant there while the rain poured down.
Eventually I got bored of waiting and finished up hiking down the road to Leysin village where I was glad I had left the car parked underground allowing  me take off my wet jacket and shoes and socks before getting in the car to drive home.

I'd love to go back to Leysin and do some more hiking, although next time I might catch the lift up and do more hiking around the various peaks you can reach from there.

Saturday, 3 July 2010


Last week I met up with Linda in Berlin where she was at a conference for work.
Even though I was only there with Linda for a few days, and it was anyway quite busy during that time, we managed to see quite a large part of Berlin although I'm sure its the sort of city where you could live for years and still be discovering new things.
We saw most of the major sites starting, of course, by walking up Unter den Linden towards the Brandenburg gate.
Then we walked along the line of the old Berlin Wall towards the parliamentary area where we went onto the roof and into the dome of the Reichstag.
The dome is really impressive on the inside and puts an interestingly modern cap on the historic Reichstag building.
We also made sure to sample the local cuisine, such as the currywurst (not terribly impressive) as well as the famous Berliner jam-filled donut (which I was unable to find an optimal sample of). Aside from this the food was actually very good and surprisingly cheap. Even the coffee was unexpectedly good, and the large Turkish community meant we had a delicious Turkish dinner one night.
In Berlin you can't escape the history of WWII, and we did visit the Holocaust memorial which was as sobering as you expect, and we also visited the checkpoint charlie museum which was meant to have uplifting escape stories but again just made us quite depressed.

We didn't to go Berlin to be reminded of these difficult times, however, and we spent most of our time visiting more uplifting sights and museums.
We visited the ultra-modern Potsdamerplatz area, where large glass-fronted buildings and open squares have been constructed over what was a void between East and West Berlin.
We also went to the "museum island", where we visited the Pergamonmuseum and Neues Museum and saw some amazing antiquities from Egypt and Babylon.
And we went to the DDR museum, which is a more lighthearted look at life in Eastern Germany, including a Trabant, and a replica apartment from the time. This was actually quite interesting and fun, and even managed to illustrate some of the positive aspects of living in a socialist country that we don't often hear about.
We went up the TV tower to see the view (not that amazing and a pricey to go up), and went to the zoo where Linda happily watched the Bonobos for quite some time, as well as the big (and not so big) cats, and we were impressed by the nocternal display where bush babies bounced around the rooms.
We also tried to see the famous Knut but apparently he's been misbehaving lately.
While in Berlin we managed to share a beer in "the oldest beer garden in Berlin" with Stefan, a friend of Linda's from University.
And finally visited the flee markets at Tiergarten.
We had a really good time in Berlin. As usual we were surprised how much we enjoy countries in ways that we don't expect and I think we found Berlin a more relaxed and friendly city than we previously imagined (and of course being there during the Football World Cup while Germany is performing well probably didn't hurt!).