Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.
Jurong Bird Park in Singapore is an entire zoo filled with nothing but birds. That sounded pretty interesting, so on July 14th I decided to try it out. On the way there I stopped for lunch at a Chinese dumpling place. Bad idea! More on that later. For now, let’s see what I could do with the 18-200mm VR and my D90!
The Birds & Buddies show, which I caught just after arriving, was awesome. I could do a whole article about that, but for now I’ll settle for a few photos. First up: did you know that birds can play basketball? First one to sink 4 shots wins!
The next birds were just too fast. Even with ISO 1600 (above which it gets too grainy for me), they were still a wee bit blurry with wide-open aperture.
The birds-of-prey show had a bit more light. This show was also fantastic! They used fake baits (like a mock-rabbit with a piece of meat in it, and this rubber snake) with the trained birds.
Tropical birds ruled the park. There were more brightly-colored fancy-birds than anything else. Lots of fop-and-dandy avians like these preening pretty-boys…
And now one for the ladies among my audience. I waited a long time to get the perfect pose of these two black swans with their white-feathered baby. I didn’t know that was possible!? Maybe the little tyke is adopted.
This is one bird for the catwalk. Natural sequins, and such stunning eyes! She was so tame, too; I was about four feet away when taking this photo. Make a turn, baby… show us the back of that dress!
These two were getting friendly. And I must admit, there were children watching… two or three others, besides me.
About this time, I was feeling unusually tired. On the bus ride home, it only got worse. Let’s just say, I don’t recommend the dumpling place I tried near Lorong Stangee and East Coast Road. Something I ate there caused a few hours of serious distress.
Because of the dumplings, I postponed my plans to visit the Night Safari. But rest assured, awesome shots of animals at night will be coming up soon!
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Posted 2 years, 9 months ago at 3:12 pm. Add a comment
One of the destinations I plan to visit on my round-the-world trip is Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands. By lucky coincidence, I got in touch with a local resident who volunteered to write a guest post about this fantastic island: Jake Garrett from The Villas at Poipu Kai. Currently [month of Mar 2010] they are offering a promotion for a free helicopter ride to Waimea Canyon. On to Jake’s post, which includes details on a great hike I’ll definitely do!
In 1866 Mark Twain travelled to the Hawaiian Islands and gave the secluded tropical paradise a real place on the map. He was on assignment from the Sacramento Union and wrote 25 letters documenting his journey. During his time he never made it to the Garden Isle of Kauai, yet Kauaians are anxious to claim him as part of their history. The legend goes that when Twain visited the Waimea Canyon he dubbed it the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Well, the story is false, but it doesn’t require a folk hero to see that the title is well attributed.
The Waimea Canyon stacks up the Grand Canyon quite well in beauty and history. Two natural processes have formed the island over the last 5 million years – natural rainfall from the wettest place on earth and the collapse of the islands’ primary volcano. Centuries of cataclysmic events and continuous erosion give sightseers a breathtaking experience. The canyon is 10 miles long, 1 mile wide and 3,600 ft deep. The displaced sediment over the years forms the entire plain of the southwest portion of the island.
All these facts make Waimea Canyon a must see when visiting Kauai. You can make the trip to the canyon one day long or a week long. If you are going to make it a day trip be sure to bring a long sleeved shirt. The temperature up the canyon is 10-15 degrees cooler than the rest of the island. Also, you should go on at least a small hike. While the lookouts are nice and the vistas spectacular – there is nothing like walking down through this immense canyon and forest area. There are a number of hikes that you can choose. A great day hike is on the Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls. The trail is 2.4 miles one way. The trailhead starts at the Pu’u Hinahina lookout between mile markers 13 and 14 on Waimea Canyon Drive. The hike should take 2-3 hours depending on how long you linger.
The stories that you will be able to tell will give Mark Twain his biggest regret – not visiting the Grand Canyon of the Pacific!!
Thanks for the great post, Jake – this canyon is somewhere I’ll definitely spend a few days during my trip in May!
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Posted 3 years, 1 month ago at 7:39 pm. 6 comments
The snow this winter isn’t that bountiful, so I’ve been quite often to nearby glacier ski resorts. I’ll give a few details later about the charming town of Lanersbach in the Zillertal valley. But first you have to see the temperature at the top of Hintertux Glacier on our first day:
“Heiter” usually means fair, clear, or bright. But in this case the sign was WRONG. Outdoors it was cloudy, snowing lightly, and the wind was blowing at 40-50km/h (up to 30mph). –22C equates to –8F… and the wind chill, well, that was around –38C (–37F). Keep in mind that’s before accounting for the speed we were moving downhill (directly into the wind). I got a bit of frostnip on my ears, so I wore a liner cap under my helmet on the following days. “Gefrorene Wand” was quite accurate on this trip: Frozen Face!
It wasn’t all snow and frostbite. One evening we went to Kleine Tenne in Lanersbach, and found that Captain Morgan Austria was there with the Captain Morgan Twins and their bikinis! Paul was kind enough to pose for a photo with the twins.
Good music, a kicker (foosball) table, and Zillertal Pils made it a great night, although we were a bit too tired from the cold to party like rock stars. We made it back to the Kleine Tenne one more night, when the Bavarian party band Chari Vari was there… although none of our group was a big fan of the folky-rock style with double accordions.
The rest of the trip was all about skiing and snowboarding. Here is a choice view from the quad chairlift above Sommerberg, where you can see the neighboring T-bar:
And, on the last day, this beautiful view of Hintertux greeted us upon arrival. You can just see the moon over the peaks toward the left side of the picture.
Getting to Lanersbach:
- Here’s a Google map of Lanersbach. I highly recommend Lanersbach if you’re going to Hintertux for an extended trip. It’s about 10-15min drive to the mountain base by car or ski bus, and you have a much wider selection of nightlife and restaurants than in Hintertux itself. The town is about 2h drive from Munich, and a little less from Innsbruck.
- There is a Spar grocery store in Lanersbach, but beware, in Austria the stores close very early (6:00pm I believe).
- Restaurants are plentiful, and we went to several on the one-way street (north of the main street). Hermanns Klause restaurant (associated with a bed & breakfast) had tasty food, but was smoky. The restaurant at Hotel Jaeger had a non-smoking area, salad bar, and excellent food. As one of our party was sick at home, they even made a “to-go” entree and gave us a real plate & silverware with it. Of course, one night we went up the hill to Madseit to our favorite: Alte Huette at Hotel Berghaus. I had a fantastic lamb schnitzel, a dish I’d never seen before.
- Kleine Tenne had a good number of people on both Friday and Saturday nights. We were lucky that it wasn’t too smoky, but don’t expect a non-smoking nightclub in Austria. There was another nightclub next door that we didn’t try out, so clearly there is some party potential in Lanersbach if you’re there on the right week/weekend.
- Skiing possibilities abound: you can ski Eggalm right in Lanersbach, try Rastkogel or Finkenburg a few km down the valley, go up the valley to Hintertux, or even drive 20min down to Mayrhofen for a larger-town experience (and Austria’s steepest prepared ski slope “Harakiri” with 78% grade!).
If you give Lanersbach a try, I hope you enjoy the trip, and come back here to tell us about it!
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Posted 3 years, 2 months ago at 1:09 pm. Add a comment
If you’ve been reading for a while, you probably saw my post about Hintertux just as this winter began. In past years, I’ve only gone there when the other areas didn’t have enough snow. But this year I went back mid-season and found piles of the stuff, way deeper POW than the other resorts at lower altitudes.
Here are a few scenic shots:
The clouds were quite amazing at times on Sunday, as a storm cleared off.
In my last Hintertux post I mentioned extreme weather. Well, here’s the result when it’s –15C with snow in the air. Oh, let’s not forget, the whole top of the mountain was in a cloud.
After I melted all this ice out of my beard, I gave up and put on my neoprene facemask. Heh.
Pictures are all from my trusty Canon SD1000. That little camera has gone more vertical miles in my pocket than any other piece of electronics I own. And despite my taking the occasional hard spill on an icy slope, it’s still unscathed!
Since I love these shots, and don’t have any particular “favorite photo” (how would one choose?), the frozen beard goes out to Wendy from down under!
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Posted 3 years, 3 months ago at 11:00 am. 4 comments
Recently I visited the BMW Museum in Munich. I’d been putting this off because it’s a bit pricey at €12 for adults. But as I’m a car lover, I can say I really enjoyed it! There’s a lot of motoring and motorsports history tied up in this brand.
Let’s start with motorcycle sidecar racing. What the heck is this thing?
I found a short video that explains better than I possibly could with words. Let’s just say: the sidecar rider is the master of disaster.
Next up: a beautiful BMW 328. To be more specific, the 1939 328 Mille Miglia.
Here’s one of my favorite cars of all time: the Z8, as driven by James Bond. “Moneypenny, would you like to go for a ride?” . . . “Oh, James!” You can see Pierce Brosnan’s previous Bond car in the background: the BMW Z3.
Here’s a little number I never saw in the States, though I’ve actually seen a few of them on the roads in Germany. In active use! See the door handle? That’s right… the front of the car, including the windshield, IS the door. And yes, it only has three wheels. But there IS a luggage rack. (if anyone leaves the comment “how cute” I may either buy you one, laugh myself silly, or become ill… I’m not sure which)
This one I have to include, if only because I have this car: the Z3 M Roadster, in Estoril Blue. Mine’s from the US, was bought used, and I didn’t pay as much as you’d think. But, really? I chose a car that’s museum-worthy? Sweet!
This last car was in the special exhibits section, which as of Jan ‘10 contained concept cars. The skin of the car is made not of metal, but of fabric which moves with the car’s wire frame! And the tailors, ahem, engineers did a fantastic job of making this car look alive. I’m not sure what scares me more, the double eyes or the flaring nostrils as it gets ready to accelerate toward me.
Let me say, the lighting in this room was very strange. I actually thought the car was light brown, until checking for more info on this blogpost about the GINA. (which has great pics of the doors opening… you’ve gotta see it!)
Finally, I’ll leave you with a short clip of the very cool engineering art piece / kinetic sculpture at the entrance to the museum.
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- Google maps link to the BMW museum. Get there by car or by U-Bahn (U3 Olympiazentrum).
- Admission prices are a bit steep, €12 for adults, though there are discounts (kids, seniors, families, groups of 5+, etc).
- Check the BMW Museum website for the latest details.
- What else you’ll see: F1 cars; rally cars; the M1; many “series” cars; the first BMW car model; lots of motorcycles; rooms full of airplane motors, car motors, and racecar motors; art cars; etc… if this sounds exiting to you, go there. But it’s NOT for everyone.
- Right next to the museum is the free BMW Welt = BMW World, which is half displays and half showroom. You can always see the latest model BMW cars and motorcycles there.
Posted 3 years, 4 months ago at 5:25 pm. 13 comments
On January 6th, Germans celebrated “Heilige Drei Könige” – Epiphany. I had an epiphany of my own when I visited the racetrack in the town of Steingaden, where crazy people race around an ice-covered track on motorcycles with 1″ spikes on their wheels. Here’s what I saw at the 12th ADAC Eisspeedway races!
Each race was under two minutes, only a few laps. Here’s a YouTube video I took of one race:
There were 20 races for the day, with an additional 2 tiebreaker races and one special race (I didn’t understand what that was for; maybe to celebrate that no one was injured?).
Below, I got a lucky shot of the motorcyclist on the right just as his bike hit the hay-bale wall sideways! Fortunately he was OK and kept riding.
And here’s one of the closest finishes of the day. The rider on the left of the photo took it…
…and you can see him celebrating here, and winning the ever-prestigious “Dave’s Wheelie of the Day Award!” Just imagine doing a wheelie on a motorcycle. While wearing a leather snowsuit. While it’s -5C and snowing outside. While riding on a track made of crushed ice. Then, standing on the seat. With one leg. Yes… that takes cojones.
Finally, my little experiment with background motion blur: I believe this was at 1/100, ISO 1600, pretty high zoom on the Nikon 70-300 VR lens. To do this I just tracked the motorcycle as best I could, keeping it centered in the viewfinder. If only I’d had a press pass to stand in the middle of the oval, hehe. Next time!
Here is a full gallery of the Eisspeedway Rennen photos (even more wheelies!). If you want to experience snowsport craziness on your own, check out some other events on the MSC Steingaden website, listed below. Next up seems to be Skijoring, “where skiers are pulled across the ice/snow by motorized vehicles.” I assume that also requires spiked tires, mu-hahaha!
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- Steingaden can be found here on Google maps. I believe the track is north of the town center, but you’ll see signs for sure. It’s about 1.5 hours from Munich.
- Here is the website of the MotorSportClub Steingaden.
Posted 3 years, 4 months ago at 4:22 pm. 4 comments
Here’s a quick update from Vienna (Wien, auf Deutsch)!
Go to the Christmas Markets if you’re here before the 24th of December. They are fantastic! Lots of great food, drink, and crafts (for those into that kind of thing). Here’s the view of the Rathaus (city hall) from the city’s main Weihnachtsmarkt / Christkindlmarkt, although there are many others as well.
The Natural History Museum by Maria-Theresienplatz (where there is also a Christmas Market) is very cool. Though I warn you, it’s huge. If you follow the normal path you’ll pass halls full of minerals, meteorites, exhibits about the planet, dinosaurs, then up to Level 2 for… (I only had 10min left for this part after spending 2+h on Level 1) microorganisms, insects, reptiles, birds, and mammals. There is a stuffed version of EVERY (former) LIVING THING in this museum. Vegetarians and taxidermy-haters, this is not for you. Finally, at the moment there’s a cool Darwin exhibit (very scientific, and not very creationist), and a small vivarium with fish and a few lizards.
Here’s my pick from Natural History (I only took a dozen photos). Jurassic Park will start its first location in Vienna, with the city’s collection of amber-ized bugs:
Seriously, I think in the mid-1800’s they just got bored and decided to collect one of everything known to man. Rocks, fossils, taxidermied this and that… unbelievable how big this place is.
Lastly, if you need a REAL deep cleaning, better call ASS. Their website URL speaks for itself… doesn’t it? No, it’s not what you think. It stands for Anlagen Service System. This really is a mobile service for (I think) pressure washing and building cleaning.
Restaurant pick: Asahi Restaurant (Japanese), Burggasse 18, 1070 Wien. 01/522 71 40. 48a St. Ulrichsplatz or U3 Volkstheater. Tasty sushi, and among the cheapest sushi I’ve found in Europe. Octopus salad for 5 euro was a bit chewy but otherwise good, and sushi / sashimi / maki combos for 8-12 euro are a steal.
If you want some tourist advice, I recommend the guidebook brand that my parents brought:
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Posted 3 years, 5 months ago at 11:20 pm. 1 comment
Snow fell in Munich in mid-October this year. Now the glaciers are open, and my favorite Austrian glacier ski resort has excellent conditions: Hintertux glacier! The resort is only a 2h drive from Munich in good weather/traffic conditions. Austria cleans the roads quite well, so is even possible to reach if it has recently snowed (though the final bit of road is a bit steep and windy; you could take a bus for the last several km if nervous about this).
There are three sections at Hintertux:
- Top 1/3 = down to Tuxer Fernerhaus
- Middle 1/3 = down to Sommerbergalm
- Bottom 1/3 = Talabfahrt (exit to valley)
When I was first at Hintertuxer Gletscher this year in mid-October for 2 days, only the top 1/3 down to Tuxer Fernerhaus was open. This includes the glacier section that’s open 365 days a year, right near the top. This past weekend (Nov. 7th), the next 1/3 was also open down to Sommerbergalm, although it was a bit icy with thin cover in parts. Let’s see how it is this weekend, as I plan on going again.
Here’s a view of the slope on the back side, the “Schlegeis Gletscher” area:
This slope on the back usually gets bumped up rather quickly, but is great snowboarding if you are there early(or on a quiet day…).
Here’s a view from the exit of Gletscherbus 3, the cable car that takes you to the very top at 3,250m (10,660′):
For those who read the earlier post about pictures of my snowboards, I’ve now tried out the Virus X-Treme Carver Premium 162… this board rocks. It holds well on ice and carves like the piece of fine engineering it is. I have yet to test it head-to-head against my F2 Speedster SL 158, but my impression is that the Virus board suits me better. My sliced fingertip can also testify to the sharpness of the Virus factory edge… watch out!
Getting to Hintertux
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- If going by car, you will need to get a Vignette – the Austrian highway toll sticker which you put in the upper left corner of the windshield. 10 days costs a bit over 7 Euro, though you can also get a 2-month-pass or 1-year-pass if you’ll be skiing very often.
- Hintertux on the map: it’s basically at the end of the road running through Zillertal / Mayrhofen. Exit from the A12 is Wiesing.
- If you want a fantastic restaurant after your day on the slopes, I recommend the Alte Hütte in Madseit, at the Alpinhotel Berghaus (Madseit 711, A-6294). The grillteller with 3 kinds of meat, browned potato wedges, and all-you-can-eat salad bar really hits the spot.
- Lodging: I can highly recommend this Pension (Bed & Breakfast) right across from the Alte Hütte: Mehlerhof has a very rustic look, but well-equipped and quite new interiors.
- Weather warning: if it’s cold and snowing in Tirol, Hintertux will have some of the worst weather in the Alps. High winds, whiteout conditions, and fog/clouds on the slopes. So be aware: if the weather is poor, this resort may be your worst choice. This snow forecast website has excellent data for Hintertux by altitude.
Posted 3 years, 6 months ago at 11:36 am. 5 comments
As promised, here’s the second post in the Lenggries series! To read the first in the series with “getting there” info, see my Hiking at Lenggries post.
On the way back to the car, we caught this fantastic moonrise over the mountains:
Moonrise at Lenggries
Moonrise at Lenggries
Along the fields on the way back, we saw this sign, which cracked me up.
Cow says: "And I'm supposed to feed on that?" Underneath: "Unsoiled pasture - everything's in the butter"
After leaving the Jägerstüberl restaurant, we heard heavy-sounding music and saw fire off to the north. This demanded investigation. It turned out to be a free open house evening at the Lenggries Falkenhof – a falconry park! (Tourism site link with a bit of English). Now I want to go back and see the falconry show during the day sometime.
All photos are 1.0s, f/11, ISO 1600 except for the fire breather. That one is 2.0s, f/20, ISO 800 to avoid overexposure while still getting a long shutter speed. These fire spinning and twirling photos are my favorites from about 60 shots.
Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Show
Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Show
Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Show
Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Show
Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Breather
One thing is for sure: I’m going to check out next year’s Falconry Spectacular and evening fire event! This year it was in October (postponed from September), so I’d check for it on the Falknerspektaculum website next summer.
Hope you enjoyed my photos, and that you have the chance to make it to Lenggries for a beautiful summer hike — or snowboarding in the winter.
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Posted 3 years, 6 months ago at 1:00 pm. 2 comments
Lenggries is a fantastic destination near Munich for hiking in the summer, skiing in the winter, and riding the gondola anytime (if you don’t fancy sports). The main touristic peak is called Brauneck (1556m), although there are many other hikes in the area. Let me just say: the scenery is fantastic at Lenggries. Rarely is there such a great mix of panoramas and paragliders, even in the Alps!
What I love about Europe is the amazing things you see by coincidence in just one day. I have to split this day into two posts, because we happened upon so many beautiful sights and awesome events. Paragliders, plane flybys, mountain sunsets, moonrise over the trees, and finally a medieval fire show after dark… how could it get any better! Read on to find out more…
View from the path up Brauneck
The gondola takes you to the Panorama-restaurant near the top of Brauneck, although we hiked there. Service was slow, but the food was fantastic and the views were even better. Here you can see our goal in the distance: Latschenkopf, at 1701m.
View toward Latschenkopf from Brauneck
Here’s a beautiful panorama of paragliders circling on the thermals. I can’t count how many layers of mountains one can see from the Panorama-restaurant!
Paragliders over the Alps
This is one of my favorite fall dishes in Germany: pumpkin cream soup, or Kurbiscremesuppe. They really know how to garnish, too! Lecker… I also recommend Obatzda, a kind of soft cheese you eat with a pretzel.
Kurbiscremesuppe - pumpkin cream soup with tasty pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil!
Just a small hike up from the Panorama-restaurant is the actual peak of Brauneck, where many paragliders launch:
Paraglider takeoff from Brauneck - I walked down the slope a ways to get this shot
Here’s a short YouTube video of a paraglider takeoff:
Leaving Brauneck, we headed toward Latschenkopf, and went on a small side path. (photo with polarizing filter)
We took a short path that involved some scrambling... there were easier ways than this.
After a long ridge hike without so much climb, we reached Latschenkopf. Note, there are also opportunities for Klettersteig (rock climbing) along this ridge. Plus an old Junkers (a German manufactured plane) did a flyby of the ridge.
If I'd only had the tele lens on... haha. Beautiful view of layered Alps behind the plane!
At one point on the way to Latschenkopf, I stopped and took tele photos of all the crosses I could see from where I stood. There were SEVEN. Why this obsession with putting a cross on top of everything? It’s quite opposite from the US. Just watched a funny clip on The Colbert Report about a lawsuit in the States regarding a cross that was erected in a National Park as a war memorial. Well, you won’t have that kind of BS lawsuit over here in Deutschland. Here’s a (rare) self-portrait:
Cross at Latschenkopf - the Germans like to put a cross at the top of everything.
Now, on the way back we took Panoramaweg. Actually, I do not recommend this if you’ve parked at the gondola, as we did. After reaching the bottom, we had to walk another 4km (2.5mi) along fields and roads (in the dark) to get back to the car. I don’t know the total distance, as unfortunately the maps all list walk times in hours instead of distance in km/mi. BUT I suspect it was about 15-20km total for the day. Up Brauneck, across to Latschenkopf, down long and winding trails on the Panoramaweg, and another few miles back to the car.
We took the long Panoramaweg down, passing many huts along the way.
Now, there’s still more: the nighttime photos! That will be a separate blog post up in a few days. I promise you, the medieval fire-twirling photos (taken with a long exposure on the Nikon D90) will blow you away. If you want to be notified when the post is up, sign up via email or RSS with the orange links on the left sidebar.
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- Plan your hike here at the Brauneck website (summer hiking list, unfortunately just in German)
- Print a summer hiking map here. We took 9 to Brauneck, 2 and 3 to Latschenkopf, then 3, 4, and 10 down to the bottom. You can see the long, flat path from Draxlstuberl back to Alte Mulistation — I don’t recommend this way! We walked from 11:15am until 7:30pm with maybe 2-3h of breaks for food + photos.
- Park at the Bergbahn lot where the gondola starts: Google maps link
- Stop at huts along the way for tasty food and drinks. I recommend a Radler (half beer, half lemon-lime soda) to keep your hiking strength up without having too much alcohol. It’s not considered wimpy in Germany: Radler is a nice way to get a taste of beer mid-day without too many ill effects.
- Eat at the inexpensive and very tasty restaurant, Jägerstüberl (also Jaegerstueberl, hehe). It’s right near the gondola, you’ll see it from the large parking lot at the base. I had a huge steak (12-16 oz) for about €14.
Posted 3 years, 6 months ago at 11:34 am. 4 comments