Tag Archives: Mountains

Lakes and Peaks-Euro Style!

At the end of the summer, I ventured off on my last road trip of the season, this time to visit the lakes and mountains of Italy that I hadn’t explored in the past and a revisit of the German Alps.  When I did my Italy country tour in 2014, I was too tired at the end  of the trip to properly visit the lakes region in northern Italy, so this was my first stop and I was not disappointed with the stories I heard of mountains spilling into beautiful lakes. 

Part 1- Italian Lakes and Mountains

Lake Orta

Lake Orta with the San Giulio island glowing at sunset.

 

San Giulio

A lone fisherman works in the early morning next to San Giulio Island.

 

Orta San Giulio

The town of Orta San Giulio with small alleys and a beautiful lakeside plaza.

 

The lakes region is comprised of several much larger lakes including Lake Maggiore and the famous Lake Como. While I visited these lakes, I didn’t get the same intimate feeling as I did at Lake Orta. I did however get to experience a very nice sunset at Lake Maggiore while camping for the night. This photo is un-retouched so you can imagine the intense colors. 

 

Maggiore

A glowing sunset on Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy

 

After a visit to Lake Como and Bellagio (beautiful town but too commercialized and crowded with tourists for my taste), I ventured on to the mountains of the Valle d’Aosta region and the Gran Paradiso National Park near Cogne, Italy. This is one of my favorite locations in Italy, right next to the French border behind Mont Blanc. It really is a great location for hiking and monumental views. 

 

Paradiso

A huge bolder sits beside a stream in Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy.

 

Sunrise

The morning light hits the mountains and glaciers in Gran Paradiso National Park, Cogne, Italy.

 

After a couple of days hiking in Gran Paradiso National Park, I still couldn’t leave Valle d’Aosta without a couple more stops. I went over to Gressoney, which was located in another small valley shooting off from the Aosta valley. 

Gressoney

A tranquil setting in Gressoney, Italy.

 

Gressoney

A castle near Gressoney, Italy appears to sprout out from the pine trees.

 

D'Aosta

A small village seems to be clinging to the mountainside in Valle D’Aosta, Italy.

Then it was time to head out and work my way to Hungary. I got this surprise in the morning after driving in to a camping area at night. 

Bleiburg

Steeples appear out of the trees near Bleiburg, Austria.

 

After spending 5 days in the lakes and mountains of Northern Italy, I raced off to Sopron Hungary for a weekend of running with some friends. Sopron was a very nice town and will be included in the future when I visit Hungary more extensively. Following this, I quickly stopped in Vienna and then off the Alps of Germany

 

Part 2-Bavarian Alps

Having lived in Munich for a couple of years when I was in college, I was familiar with Bavaria’s beautiful mountain region. I used to go skiing there and felt I needed to return to discover some sights I hadn’t seen before. The area has some striking mountain scenery and some famous locations as well.  First stop on my visit was to the town of Berchtesgaden. It was above this town that Hitler had a special mountain top home built as a gift from his staff. Being a fan of history, I wanted to visit this former home, now turned restaurant and visitor’s center. While it was beautiful, I constantly had the reminder of the evil that it contained. At least now it is being used for a more peaceful purpose in a beautiful setting. 

Berchtesgaden

Hitler’s mountaintop home called Eagle’s Nest near Berchtesgaden, Germany.

 

While it was interesting to see this famous house, I am always distracted by mountains and ended up doing a 1 hour hike above the home and discovered some beautiful mountain landscapes. 

 

Berchtesgaden

Some sharp mountain peaks above Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden, Germany.

 

Berchtesgaden

A storm appears to be brewing in the clouds above the mountains.

 

After this quick visit to Berchtesgaden, it was off to my next stop, Germany’s highest mountain, Zugspitze, located near the town of Garmisch. It was here that I used to ski while in college in Munich so I was looking forward to some fond memories.

 

Garmisch

The endless mountain scenery above Garmisch, Germany.

 

Zugspitze

A panoramic view from the top of Zugspitze mountain.

 

For my final stop on this trip, I ended up meeting up with 25 other VW California owners for a weekend of camping and drinking champagne in the Champagne region of France. It was great to visit with these folks from several other countries, all with the same fondness for our VW’s and champagne!

 

VW

This photo (by another VW owner) shows our campground in the town of Valdieres, France.

 

Champagne

Champagne vines next to a plowed field appear surreal.

 

That wraps up this mini trip that I did in September. It was going to be longer but was cut short by one solid week of rain, which is not much fun when you are living in a van and running out of dry clothes. Overall, the trip ended up being almost 4,000 kms (2,485 miles) with lots of great scenery, delicious food and new friends. Now it’s time to work on 6 months of photos and start planning next year’s trips.

Happy Trails to all!

 

Trip

A Google Earth view of the route taken on this trip.

 

 

 

Posted in Alps, Germany, Italy, Mountains, VW Also tagged , , , |

Poland Part 3!

In this blog post, I’ll wrap up my tour of Poland. After Warsaw, I proceeded north to the port city of Gdansk. Gdansk is famous for having started the Solidarity movement with Lech Walesa at the helm. I highly recommend taking a half day and visiting the Gdansk Solidarity Center. A very well done exhibit that helps tell the story of Poland’s break from Communism.

Gdansk

The Gdansk Solidarity Center with the Fallen Shipyard Workers Monument in the Foreground.

 

Following a couple of days absorbing the sights of Gdansk, I headed eastword with a quick stop at Malbork Castle, a very serene location normally but the day I went was an annual festival that was a bit too commercial for me. I did this find this pleasing scene off from the crowds though.

Malbork Castle

A tower reflecting in the pond at Malbork Castle.

From there, it was on to a historical location called the Wolf’s Lair. This was Hitler’s Headquarters for almost 3 years during the war with Russia on the Eastern Front. Really an amazing place with concrete walls 8 meters (26 feet) thick for protection from possible bombing raids. Walking the paths and seeing the buildings where so much history was made was interesting. The Germans did demolish as much as they could when they left and now nature is taking over and reclaiming this place.

Wolf's Lair

Bunker 13, the personal quarters of Hitler, had 8 meter thick concrete ceilings.

After all the cities and historical visits, it was time to catch some nature. I headed off to an area called Masurian Lakes, a beautiful part of Poland in the northeast with rolling hills and beautiful lakes. It was really some nice driving and looking at the bucolic landscapes and pretty flower fields.

Masurian Lakes

A peaceful morning dockside at one of the Masurian Lakes

Yellow Daisies

A field of yellow Daisies with bees a buzzing!

 

As you drive around Poland, one animal that you see plenty of is the Stork. Poland has 25% of the world’s storks and you see them nesting in almost every village. They stick around in Poland until August at which time they all head down to Africa! Nothing wrong with going where the sun is!

Storks Nesting

Storks nesting on an abandoned building in the Masurian Lakes region

A huge nest built by a stork in the countryside of Poland

A huge nest built by a stork in the countryside of Poland.

 

I wrapped up my visit to Poland by visiting the mountains in southern Poland near the town of Zakopane. These mountains have gorgeous hiking trails and border the country of Poland and Slovakia. It’s highly recommended that you wear sturdy soled hiking boots and the trails were very rocky and caused for some sore feet.

Zakopane

Hiking in the beautiful mountains of Zakopane, on the border of Poland and Slovakia

 

Nearing the top of my hike after 4 hours (hiking from my campground) I was within 100 meters of the cross. However it was here that there was a traffic jam requiring a one hour wait to get to the top. Most of the people took a cable car up and did a one hour hike and were not really in shape to make this last section. I didn’t really feel like waiting around so continued on.

Mt Giewont

The cross on top of Mt Giewont is a very popular destination for Polish visitors.

 

In the final blog post of the Poland Tour, I work my way home with an unexpected stopover in Austria. Please come on back and enjoy the next update! Thanks!

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Les Alpes and more!

Well, it’s been a busy Spring…as many of you know, finally graduated from Academy of Art University in May. Took 5 years chipping away at it but was well worth the effort and a great school. Glad I had the opportunity to this with the GI Bill. Following that, I took off to the Alps (about 5 hours away) to shoot my friend Bob Thompson’s bike company Far and Away Cycling (http://www.farandawaycycling.com/) tour of the French Alps. Great fun and great people, hats off to these hard core riders, day after day on those hills

 

 

 

After we finished up Bob, Chantal and I went up for a couple of days in Chamonix, at the base of Mont Blanc. Gorgeous area. We had to wait a day for the weather to clear but when it did, we took the cable car up to Aiguille Du Midi and saw some incredible mountain scenery. Really was worth the visit up.

 

Aiguille Du Midi above Chamonix France with sun ring caused by ice crystals

 

High icicles

Icicles on the side of the Aiguille Du Midi station above the clouds near Chamonix France

Panorama

A panorama view of the French Alps from the Aiguille Du Midi station near Chamonix France

Chamonix mountains

Cloud cover on the mountains above Chamonix France.

 

 

After that, I had a couple of separate visitors for a total 2 weeks and now I’ve started the planning for my big Scandinavia trip. I’ll be taking off this Friday for a little over 2 months visiting Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland with an on the way stop in Amsterdam to have some parking sensors put in the rear bumper of the VW. Really looking forward to taking off and seeing this part of the world I have yet to visit. More frequent blog updates will be happening from the trip. Cheers! Laurent

 

 

 

Posted in Alps, Chamonix, France Also tagged , , |

Aconcagua-the Queen of the South

So there I was….ready to conquer  the second base camp of Mt Aconcagua (highest mountain in the Western and Southern Hemisphere at 22,841ft, located in the Andes about 70 miles northwest of Mendoza). Thought it would be simple, hike to the first base camp at approximately 11,000 ft, camp overnight and get acclimated. Then the next day, do a quick hike to the second base camp at 13,500 and back to base camp one in the same day. Well…a couple factors I didn’t consider into this equation. One, I’m now officially a flatlander. No more of this acclimatized Colorado lifestyle which makes small peak summits way easier. Carrying the backpack with tent, food, water, and camera gear got my attention.  Two, snowstorm during early summer Argentina (December for us but June down south here). I got there, started setting up camp and it started snowing. It didn’t stop all night, even in my tent.

Frosty Night

Sitting out the snowstorm, waiting for the morning

Three season tent, no fleece, and some interesting intestinal problems and I’ll leave it at that. So, I woke up to 3 inches of snow, spoke to the ranger who said more snow on the way and made the command decision to GTFO (acronym for boogie on back down the hill). Was able to knock out some pictures (including some panoramas which I’ll work when I getback. Here are a few pictures just to show the beauty. If you haven’t been down here, Argentina has the some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the world. And some incredible wine which will be the subject of the next post. Salud!

Sunset-at-Confluencia.jpgAconcagua-Valley-View.jpgArgentine-Mule-herders.jpg

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