I’ve long preferred sunrise to sunset, and being a morning person never had to force myself to reconcile the difficulties in waking up and stepping outside before the first light strikes the horizon with the beauty and stillness that embrace the early riser. But waking up early, even in the middle of winter when the shadows are at their longest, doesn’t come easily, and sunsets sometimes offer the more attractive solution, especially when the ski lifts stop humming and the pistes are empty but for the snow groomers. The Riedberger Horn brims with activity during the day, but during either twilight a beautiful silence descends on its slopes.
After the August trip, I wasn’t sure I would make it to Zermatt another time this year. I had plans for a few weekends in September already, and the weather wasn’t pleasant the others. October was going to busy as it was, then I had another trip in November that I was sure would take me up to the first snows. But the weather one weekend looked promising, and I thought I might be able to get away. So flee I did — and I probably don’t even need to mention to where.
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!
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.
Being behind on blog posts affords the benefit of having more time to contemplate my experiences but adds the risk of forgetting nuances. Blowing the dust off a three-month old trip and the thousand photos that accompanied it is a bit of an endeavor, but this post starts another month and a half before that. In January, I had a business trip to China that began with me watching the sun rise from business class, a perk of work travel while on a German contract.
The trip was short and didn’t leave much free time to ponder. The last time we saw blue skies was just before we descended into the industrious smog, but on our last day rains the previous evening washed away enough particulate to allow the sun to poke through just after sunrise.
Less than two months afterward, I would watch a sunrise coming into the same airport (albeit from “poky” economy class), this time, though, en route to a destination where the forecast predicted no smog but rather enveloping fog.
I thought my 2016 travels would end with Vienna, but any remaining frugality gave way to a lingering hunger for the high mountains. It started with a landscape photographer‘s exhibition in nearby Isny; after seeing his photographs I wanted a panorama that I myself could print two meters wide and knew exactly which scene I wanted for that hanging. Or, perhaps, it started with my awoken mountain fascination in 2007 and was thereafter stoked with my discovering Zermatt in 2011. But so it was that I forwent Thanksgiving 2015 and borrowed a set of snowshoes to take that panorama of a lake I had photographed nearly a half-dozen times. The mountain pass was frozen and closed, so again I took the car train under the mountain and to my lost valley. Different year, different month, different car; same inexplicable thirst.
Going to China used to be the “big” vacation trip of the year, not only because it was usually around a 24 hour one-way journey that required at least three flights and a visa but also because it used up just about all of my vacation days for the year. Germany’s vacation policy offers far more than ten vacation days, so this year again I could head back to my birth country without the weight of vacation planning on my mind. With a nonstop flight from Munich to Beijing, the flight logistics also weren’t an issue, so how rough could the experience be?