If I had one outdoorsy regret of 2017, it would be that I didn’t get to spend much time outdoors. While I did get to visit New Zealand last year, the summer months were fairly weak in terms of getting outside. 2018 fortunately saw a better start, and I was looking forward to getting out into the hills and mountains in some really, really remote islands.
The weather forecast for my first full day in the Faroes was supposed to be pleasant, so not much encouragement was needed to get me out the door and on the road. The roadmap produced by the Faroe Islands tourist board is really quite good and includes a “buttercup” icon that represents scenic spots or roads. I picked one that climbed above Tórshavn, coming across a wind farm after a few minutes of driving. It only took opening the car door to see why this form of electricity production is so pervasive in the Faroes — it’s never not windy!
They call Singapore a “little red dot,” a reference to how it looks on some maps as being no bigger than a pinhead south of Malaysia. There’s an archipelago, however, whose locator dot nearly obliterates the islands from the map; halfway longitudinally between Norway and Iceland, north even of the Shetland Islands, are the Faroe Islands. More or less centered around 62° N latitude, this remote cluster of dots is supposed to be a hidden treasure in the North Atlantic. Eager to explore destinations laughably impractical from the US while I’m still in Europe (n.B.: Singapore, of course, is not at all laughably impractical), I set out northbound from Munich the day after I arrived back from my work trip to China.
Travel in 2017 ended not with wistful excursions to Nice and Riffelsee but rather with the standard home trip to the US. After a month without much snowfall, I left the Allgäu in the middle of a snowstorm and left myself plenty of time to get to Zurich Airport. It turns out I planned in too much time, as I arrived before the parking garage opened. I decided to circle the arrivals area, but I forgot I was in Switzerland; of course they would charge drivers to pick up arriving passengers. I drove to the garage after 5 CHF paid for my fifteen minutes of shame, turned on my blinkers, and stubbornly blocked one entrance to the parking garage until I could enter, thinking I had left the snow behind until I got back to the Allgäu in January. Boy, was I wrong.
2017 has been a varied year for travel. Although I ventured as far away as New Zealand, I didn’t wander far often, and I certainly didn’t feel like I was all that active at home, either. But there is a huge expanse behind where I live, and though I can’t see it from my windows or when the weather turns moodily misty, there is plenty to be photographed in my increasingly-native Allgäu, too.
I have a bit of a confession: my motivation to visit Nice was perhaps not just based on practicing French. I could have gone somewhere remote and unfamiliar with the English language to force myself into one week of intense immersion. I am maybe just a bit amorous with another country that borders Germany, though, and it just so happened to work out that flights to Nice were cheapest from Zurich (parking, however, was not — shhh!). After touching down in Zurich, I popped in the arrivals lounge for a quick lunch and an espresso, and headed south. The next morning, I was once again alone at The Lake, watching dawn break to a blue-grey sky and a frozen lake against a backdrop I’ve come to know all too well.
After experiencing Verdon earlier in the year, I thought a long road trip through l’Hexagone would be a good test of whether my rusting French was loitering in the background or if it could be restored to its former sheen simply through daily usage. To my luck, Germany decided this year to observe both the last day of October and the first of November, so I took bridge days on both sides and rolled up my sleeves in preparation for practicing my first foreign language again. Only… like my London photos, I never got around to planning any such road trip, so a couple weeks before I was due to leave I started looking at how else I might get in a dose of French before the calendar flipped to 2018. It turns out flying to Nice on Swiss was cheaper booked on Lufthansa’s website than on Swiss’ own (for the same booking class, even), so I ended up with a road trip through Germanic countries into the German-speaking region of another. But a short flight over cloudy Alps later, I was where I could practice French at long last.
If a holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday in Germany, or at least in Bavaria, there is a tendency to use the day between the holiday and the previous or following weekend as a “bridge” day in order to create a four-day weekend with just one vacation day. Normally, such a weekend is spent in the Allgäu, storming summits and chasing contrails. This year seemed wetter and most weekends were busier than normal, so a good number of trips fell over those deceptively-short weekends. On one such weekend, maybe the warmest one this year, I ended up in England instead of the Allgäu.