New life 

No story here, just some new fern fronds standing out on all their fresh greenery 


Planes Trains and automobiles – but not in that order

I hate early starts as much as going back home. Or leaving. Just to make it perfectly clear. Up at 5.30. A coffee prepared by Cousin Peter accompanied by a piece of bread was breakfast, and off to the train station.

The good with leaving by train is that once you finish waiting for it, the boarding and farewell is over in seconds. So a quick goodbye to Auntie Gerti, Uncle Herman and Peter and off.

Two and a half hours and one train change later I arrived in Frankfurt. Hop onto the Skyline Monorail (yes Melbourne, another airport with a railway) to get to the departure terminal, followed by luggage check-in and some more waiting in the lounge.

The overnight flight was uneventful. Moscow was not visible due to cloud and the vast desert regions of China’s Xinjiang were crossed in the dark, to arrive at dawn in Hong Kong. A few more hours in the lounge accompanied by a generous G&T and the final leg back to Melbourne and winter again



Towns and Castles

The morning after was relaxed with a traditional German breakfast of fresh rolls, cheese and cold sausage. This was followed more or less immediately after by an equally relaxed lunch at the Schwäbisch Gmünd Market square just outside the 900 year old Johannis Church. Yes there did seem to be a focus on food. And yes there was beer with lunch.

After my cousin Peter and I went to walk some of it off by walking up to the Hohenrechberg Church and the nearby ruined castle. The church was a simple country church in a baroque style. The 800 year old castle was in use until the early 18 hundreds until it burned down after a lightning strike, and was still in possession by the von Rechberg family until 1986. Some of it has been restored, some of it in the throes of restoration. As a lot of it is constructed of sandstone, which does not exist on the hill it is built on, it would have been a massive job over the years to build and extend it.

On the way back we stopped past in my Cousins cute little Grünhalde property where he grows a lot of vegies. This has been in his family for close to 100 years and has a 1 room brick shed, for the want of a better word for it.

So apart from another back verandah talk and packing the suitcase to capacity, the following day would see me on the way back.



Autobahns and Astras

Another day, another drive. First a final walk around Fürstenfeldbruck for a few photos and a coffee. The town lies on the banks of the Amper River and has many parklands. Then it was back into high gear to drive to Lindach to drop of the car and to visit the relatives there properly. I did stop off at a Kramer Megastore, which is a large equestrian outlet. Everything from bridles, saddles, boots (human and equine) to lots of clothing. Only went to look but walked out with a flymask and a towball cover.

The car and I made it to Lindach along a couple of hundred kilometres of Autobahn in one piece, with the Astra traveling between 120 to 140 km/h. Mostly. I kept on hearing that Kraftwerk tune in the back of my head. Wir fahr’n fahr’n fahr’n auf der Autobahn.



A day in Munich

A day with a chauffeur meant I could look out the window at other things apart from the road ahead. Bit of a walk around Fuerstenfeldbruck, then off to visit the Jagdmuseum (Hunt Museum) in Munich itself.

This was a lot more than just a museum about hunting. It included displays about animal habitats including fishes, as fishing is a form of hunting. The displays of hunting weapons, including aristocratic weapons, ranging from crossbows and various types of firearms was outstanding. The intricacies of the inlay work and engraving on the 18th century items just wouldn’t or couldn’t be done in this mass produced era.

I also enjoyed the trophy displays ranging from huge 18 ended antlers to a 12kg trout and everything in between. There were also mounted skeletons of the 10,000 year old extinct cave bears and giant deer with antlers 3 meters wide.

After that a quick look inside the renowned Frauenkirche with its baroque styling. This made it seem a lot brighter inside. It was less ornate than some of the other churches I had seen, but still beautifully decorated.

After that a visit to the local Wildlife park in Poing. This had impressively large areas to house the various animals. These included Brown Bears, Lynx, Foxes, Wolves and various deer and goats, as well as a display of flying raptors like falcons and owls. It was possible to handfeed most of these with specific feed purchased on site. For obvious reasons feeding the wolves or bears was off the menu.

A farewell dinner and drinks with relatives followed. A short slideshow of my photos of the trip was forced onto my captive audience, as well as a showing of my Antarctica and Patagonia photos.



The Dolomites in South Tyrol, UNESCO World Heritage, Northern Italy

The last two days on the Grossglockner went exactly to plan, even though the views on top weren’t quite there. That meant I had a couple of days up my sleeve and went for an additional item to tick off the bucket list. The spectacular Dolomites in Italy.

They were actually a fairly short drive away so was there by lunchtime. It was quite distracting to be driving into a ruggedly mountainous area. Once I finished driving up a steep and winding toll road to the Auronzo Hut, the full beauty of the limestone Dolomites revealed themselves through the clouds around their jagged peaks. The clouds added an air of mystery to them. I decided to walk around the Drei Zinnen (Three Tines) which is signposted as a 4 ½ hour walk.

The Dolomites were declared a UNESCO World Heritage area in 2009. It is spectacular with the sharp Limestone peaks reaching over 3000 meters. A Mecca for climbers. And photographers, not to mention thousands of tourists that come for a casual walk. The area seemed a lot drier than the other Alpine areas I had been to in previous days. I finished the 10km walk in 2 ½ hours including photo stops and a quick look at the 2 crowded huts I passed on route.

A clarification here. Huts in Europe are usually large with café areas and often some basic overnight accommodation. Once back at Auronzo hut for a real Italian cappuccino before heading to my hotel next to Lake Misurina, another incredibly scenic spot full of tourists. Dinner of course had to include an authentic Italian Pasta washed down with some nice red. After breakfast, with another coffee, I headed off back towards Germany and Munich. This meant driving across the whole of Austria and the Brenner Pass. Having said that, it is Europe and not Australia, so got to my Uncle’s and Aunt’s place by mid-afternoon for a refreshing drink on the back verandah.



To the top of Austria, summit day on the Grossglockner

4.30am and there was movement at the hut. After a night of intermittent movement at the hut, I did take notice of this one and not try to fall back asleep. The skies outside my window were a lighter shade of black than the other times. I had to be packed, dressed, booted and harnessed for a semi alpine start before 6am if possible. Breakfast 2 slices of bread with jam and Nutella (yum) with coffee, don’t hold the sugar.

It was crampons from the start today, like just out the front door of the hut. Whilst we weren’t the first to start, we made good progress and passed the occasional party on the steep snowfield before getting to the rocky spur. This was a new experience climbing over icy rocks with crampons. You had to place them carefully and trust the sharp points held on to the irregularities of the rock.

Every now and then it was safe to stop and look around and take the occasional photo. The other groups made good models to give scale to the landscape. We climbed the Großglockner via the standard route over the little Glockner, back down over a very narrow spur and then up the final spur to the summit. As we were the third team up we had time and room for photos before heading back down. Passing teams heading up was a bit tricky at times, as was down-climbing the rocky spur. We were back at the hut in time for a second breakfast by 8am. A 2 hour roundtrip, apparently a very good time. My fitness training and ability to cope with the altitude all good.

Whilst the view from the top could be described as cloudy, it did add atmosphere and meant we weren’t cooked by the sun. Once further down it was pretty special as you could see all the way down the valley to the Lucknerhaus. Once the rocky spur from Adlersruhe (the other name for the Erzherzog Johann Hut) was negotiated, the rest of the walk down the glacier was quick, even though we were still roped up. We did unrope once we past the steeper part of the glacier. The snow was softening and had totally disappeared towards the Stüdlhut, and we were left to walk on rocky moraine fields. By that stage the crampons were off also.

10am at the Stüdlhut and a third breakfast, an excellent goulash soup and a beer. I said goodbye to Armin and walked down the valley taking the occasional photo of the flowers and the spectacular scenery. By the time I got to the car it was close to a 2000 meter drop in altitude. Back to the Maria Theresia Chalet and a rest, well actually a small walk after dinner on flat ground to relax the legs.