Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hiking Cinque Terre

During our vacation at the beginning of September we spent a few days in Monterosso al Mare one of the five villages building Cinque Terre in Italian region of Liguria. The five picturesque villages became a UNESCO World Culture Heritage in 1997. The villages are more or less glued to the rocks like a eagles aerie surrounded by very step terraces were vineyards and olive trees are grown. There are several possibilities to visit the villages; for sure the car is the worst of them. To get from one village to another by car you have to take steep and winding roads. The road from La Spezzia to Levanto from where the access roads to the villages leave runs about 400-600 meters above the see.
Better ways to visit the villages are the train which is connecting all of them at least once per hour (one way ticket about € 1,50), the boat (watch for the sea condition, it is not running during high surf!) or hiking – all the villages are connected by a trail along the sea. For the hiking trail a admission fee has to be paid at one of the little booths, it’s about € 6 per day.

If you hike during the morning and noon you probably want to walk from east to west, the sun in the back gives a nicer light on the landscape. For the afternoon I recommend to hike from east towards west again with the sun in your back.


We stayed in Montorosso (the most north-westerly village) in a private apartment. We started our first hike on a late morning in Riomaggiore (the most south-easterly village) where we got to in about 15 minutes by train from Monterosso. The trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola is called the Via Dell'Amore ("Lovers Walk") and has an easy access at the train station, it is mostly concrete, totally flat and easily to walk for everybody even with a baby buggy. You need probably some 30 minutes to reach Manarola.

Entrance to the "Via Dell'Amore" in Riomaggiore

From Manarola to Corniglia the trail has some steps in, but it is pretty wide and there are no steep passages, this makes it another easy hike. After some 60 minutes you reach the train station of Corniglia. Walk along the train station and follow the signs to Corniglia. You will reach via a long stair where you have to climb close to 400 steps to get to Corniglia.

Stair to Corniglia

Knowing that the next leg to will take longer and will be steeper, we stopped hiking in Corniglia and took the train back to Monterosso.

Mystic situation at train station in Corniglia

On another day we started quite late at around 5:30pm from Monterosso towards Vernazza. This trail is totally different; it is narrow and steep, sometimes just wide enough for one person.

The small and steep trail from Monterosso to Vernazza

The trail leads to an elevation to more than 200 meters above the sea and is offering a great view back towards the bay of Monterosso. This part of the trail is by far less crowded as the convenient ones described earlier. You pass vineyards, olive trees and fruit gardens.

Olive trees give some shade for the hikers

Olive trees with nets for the harvest. The nets are spread on the ground when the olive fruits are ripe.

Take your time and enjoy the little details of nature: flowers, insects, spiders and lizards.

After a little more than one hour the village of Vernazza is appearing below on the coast. The whole trail from Monterosso to Vernazza takes about 1.5 hours.


We spent the evening in Vernazza in one of the restaurants, so we had a chance to enjoy the wonderful atmosphere of this village; with the boats in the main street and the little harbour.
The last train after midnight brought us back in a few minutes to Monterosso.

Boats in the main street of Vernazza

Harbor of Vernazza by night

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hiking along the Aletsch Glacier

Aletsch Glacier

The Aletsch Glacier is the biggest glacier in central Europe. It builds together with the world famous summits of the Bernese Alps (Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau) and the Bietschhorn the Unesco World Heritage Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn.

We stayed in Fiesch, a touristic center popular for skiing in the upper Rhône valley. This part of the Rhône valley is also known as “Goms”.

Our first hike leads us from the top station of the Eggishorn aerial tramway to the summit of the Eggishorn (2934 m). From there we went down to the Märjelen-Lake and the border of the Glacier. We returned to the middle station of the Eggishorn cable car. If you take your time to enjoy the great views, the fauna and flora and if you spent some time taking pictures you might take 4-5 hours for the hike. The signs in the area show shorter walking times!

Trail to the summit of the Eggishorn

From the top of the Eggishorn you have a fantastic view on the Aletsch Glacier and you see on the horizon most of the summits with more than 4000 m of the alps, including: Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau, Aletschhorn, Finsteraarhorn, Monte Rosa, Dom, Matterhorn, Weisshorn and Mont Blanc.

Aletsch panorama view (click to enlarge)

Details of the glacier surface

The way down to the Märjelen-Lake is accompanied by great alpine nature.

The Märjelen-Lake was formed in the 18th and 19th century when melting water was retained by the Aletsch glacier.

The edge of the glacier is quite impressive. Parts break down during the summer month.

Note the persons in the center right part of the pictures

On the way back to the middle station of the cable car you have a nice view towards the Fiesch Glacier, the second biggest glacier of the Alps.

Fiesch Glacier

The second hike on the other day started on the mountain station of the aerial tramway from Mörel to Riederalp, we spent most of the time in the area of the Aletschwald and returned to Riederalp.

The Aletschwald (Aletsch forest) stretches on the northern slope of the Hohfluh and Moosfluh mountains between 1600 m to 2200 m. Which are a part of the same range as the Egishorn and Bettmerhorn.

The forest includes some of the oldest trees of Switzerland, old larch trees and Swiss stone pines. The trails offer great views down to the lower part of the Aletsch Glacier whose glacier tongue is as low as 1700 m.

Summer vacation Switzerland and Italy

Recently we spent around ten days on a trip through Switzerland and northern Italy. Our stations were the upper Rhône valley, called Goms in the Swiss canton of Wallis, where we visited the Aletsch glacier. Then we drove south to Cinque Terre on the Italian cost of Liguria and finally we visited Treiso, a little wine village in the Langhe region of southern Piedmont.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Some photographic highlights from Hawaii

As written earlier, we spent around two weeks end of 2008 and early 2009 on the Hawaiian Islands. Four days on the Big Island, eleven days on Maui and two days on Kauai.

Some of the photographic highlights were: Lava on the Big Island, whale watching and the road to Hana on Maui and a helicopter flight in Kauai.

Lava on the Big Island
South-east outside the Volcano National Park the recent lava stream meets the Ocean. The county keeps a street with parking lots towards the lava fields. The parking lot opens every afternoon weather permitting. You actually cross several times newer lava streams. A marked trail leads from the parking lot over lava fields to a spot were you can observe how the lava meets the ocean. When we were there the trail was about 300 meters (my guess). Tip: to go there you should wear some closed shoes and bring flash lights if you got there at dawn.
During the day you see a huge cloud of steam arising, sometimes some rocks that are hurtled in the air. And some times little tornados leave the clouds.
During dawn and night you can see glowing rocks and lava spraying in the air. The explosions happen when the lava is getting hard by the contact with the water but is not building slid structures. With new lava adding the fresh structures break.
I used my Sigma 70-300 mm lens, a high ISO and a tripod for the pictures at dawn and night.

The Hawaiian Lava Daily-Blog of Leigh Hilbert might be useful for planing you trip to see some glowing lava.

Where lava meets the ocean, steam arises...

...and glowing rocks fly through the air

Whale watching on Maui
From December through March numerous humpback whales visit the sea between Maui, Molokai und Lanai. Pregnant female whale come here to give birth, while the other whales come for mating. We could watch whales almost every day from the Maui coast, none the less a whale watching tour brings you really close to those giants of the ocean. We did a tour with the Pacific Whale Foundation starting from Lahaina. Impressive was the hydrophone they put into the sea to listen to the whales during the tour.
I did most of the pictures of the whales with a focal length from 200 to 300 mm, again using my Sigma 70-300 mm lens. Be careful with exposure times, although the whales are moving relatively slow, they are still moving and the boat is a bit shaky.

Whales of Maui

Road to Hana on Maui
Rumors say the road to Hana has more than 400 turns, I didn’t count them! The road passes waterfalls, jungle, wild coast and lots of beautiful viewpoints. Start early and take your time to make plenty stops.

Road to Hana with plenty of beautiful places

Helicopter flight in Kauai
The impressive Waimea Canyon, Na Pali Coast and other Kauai sights are a fantastic surrounding for a helicopter flight. We did the flight with Blue Hawaiian.
If you are into photography during a helicopter flight you might want to consider the following points:
The windows of the helicopter produces reflexions and flares, there are several possibilities to avoid them. The easiest: take a doors-off flight (we didn’t). If you take the more convenient flight with doors, wear dark clothes (reflections usually come from light coloured things in the helicopter e.g. the people inside the helicopter) and use a polarizer filter, although it has a negative effect of rising the exposure time!
The recommended focal length is 15 to 70 mm. Use exposure times higher than 1/250 second, the helicopter is sometimes moving fast and you have some vibrations from the engine and the air.
The seating in the helicopter is based on the weight; lighter people are seated in the front or on the windows, while the heavier ones sit on the back middle seats.

Waimea Canyon

Na Pali Coast

I prepared a slideshow with more pictures from Hawaii that includes more waterfalls, orchids, Haleakala Mountain, sea turtles and many other impressions from this beautiful islands.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Tokyo and Hawaii Galeries

I created two galleries with a collection of pictures from my recent trip to Tokyo and Hawaii.
The photos were taken with the Pentax K100D and the following lenses
Pentax SMC-DA 1:3,5-5,6 18-55 mm AL,
Sigma 1:4-5,6 DL 70-300 mm,
Sigma 1:2,8 105mm EX Macro.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tokyo - Shinjuku, Akasaka and general tips (Day 4)

We spent the last day of our trip to Tokyo in the district of Shinjuku and at the Hie Shrine in Akasaka.

Some general information and advices for travelling to Tokyo:

Where we stayed: Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka, which we can recommend, as long as you get a good rate (we paid around 100 € per night, booked at The hotel is located in the center of Tokyo and a subway station is located in front of the hotel. This offers a quite good connection to all places of interest. The Limousin Bus Services is connecting the Hotel directly with the Narita Airport, this bus is a very convenient way to commute between Narita and the city, a ticket is 3000 YEN..

Were we dined and wined: Most of the places didn’t have their names written in Latin, so it’s hard to recommend one precisely. The food quality was in general good and not to expensive compared to Germany. For two persons we paid between 2000 and 5000 YEN. Remarkable was the sushi in a restaurant around the fish market and the food in the restaurant of the museum located in the New Tokyo Forum.

Guide books we used: We used for the preparation and while exploring the city three German guide books on Japan and Tokyo. I did the short summery of this guide books in German.

Marco Polo Reiseführer Tokyo: Wir empfanden das Buch sehr nützlich, um einen schnellen Überblick zur Planung der Tage in der Stadt zu bekommen. Die aktuelle Auflage ist eben erst erschienen und lieferte aktuelle und präzise Informationen. Auf den 140 Seiten wird freilich kaum auf Details eingegangen. Aber auch beim Erkunden der Stadt ist der Reiseführer ein guter Begleiter mit einem guten Stadtplan und Metrokarte, der auch in die Jackentasche passt. Marco Polo Reiseführer Tokyo bei Amazon

Tokyo mit Kyoto und Yokohama: Dieser Reiseführer beschreibt viele Details und eignet sich gut, um sich intensiver mit einzelnen Sehenswürdigkeiten und mit der Geschichte und Kultur zu beschäftigen. Tokyo mit Kyoto und Yokohama bei Amazon

Vis a Vis, Japan (DK): Der Dorling Kindersley Japan Reiseführer wartet mit den bekannten dreidimensionalen Zeichnungen auf. Wie so oft bei DK empfinde ich den Reiseführer als zu oberflächlich. Er ist nett anzusehen, aber punktet nicht beim Informationsgehalt, außerdem ist er auf relativ schwerem Papier gedruckt, was ihn nicht zum optimalen Reisebegleitet macht. Letztendlich haben wir diesen Reiseführer kaum genutzt. Vis a Vis, Japan (DK) bei Amazon

Useful links:
Japan Guide
Airport Limousin Service
Tobu line leaving Asakusa station for Nikko

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tokyo - Emperors palace, Asakusa and Ginza (Day 3)

It was December 23, the emperor’s birthday, a national holiday and one of two days of the year when the inner palace garden is open to the public and we missed it! We missed it because we tried to enter the palace by a closed entrance and all the guards didn’t really speak English, so instead of going directly to the only open gate we walked from one to another just to learn that the next one was closed too. At least we had a chance to take a look at the regularly open gardens later the day. The garden of the palace is not overwhelming and there are for sure more impressive gardens in the world, but it has some nice details and even end of December it surprised us with some colors.

Tradition meets modernity once more

Fall is still greeting



Camellias blossom in wintertime

We spent the afternoon in Asakusa, where the quarter close to the Sensoji Temple (also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple) was very populated that day.

Popular Sensoji Temple

Traditional clothes are not so rare here

Colorful Tokyo

City signs. Tokyo is full of colorful signs and banners, advertisement, directions, ...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tokyo – Fish Market and Nikko (Day 2)

We started the second day in Tokyo with a visit at the Tsukiji Fish Market, which is the biggest fish market in the world. The access is open to everybody, you want to be there early in the morning. The fish auction starts around five in the morning and the markets business continues ‘til 10 o’clock or even longer. From the Tsukijishijo metro Station or Shimbashi train station you can easily walk to the market. Before you enter the actual fish market, you will pass some small streets with stands that offer everything from fruits and vegetables to household goods, in between some sushi places. We selected one of this sushi places after visiting the fish market for a sushi breakfast, which was excellent.

The fish market is unbelievable busy and as a visitor you should respect the people and their work, it’s not a show, it is hard and serious work!

Some rules that you should obey
  • Waer closed shoes, its slippery and wet.
  • Be there early.
  • Do not enter areas restricted to authorized personnel!
  • Do not obstruct traffic!
  • Do not take flash photography during the tuna auction!
  • Do not bring small children or pets!

Selection of all kind of seafood

Blocks of ice…

…are crushed with this old machine.

These carts might hit you!

Tuna deep frozen…

…and freshly prepared

Strengthened with the sushi breakfast we went to the Asakasa train station to hit a train towards Nikko. The city of Nikko offers a group of beautiful temples which are protected as a UNESCO world heritage. And a Japanese saying is “don’t say awesome, before you have seen Nikko”. Nikko is about 2 hours north of Tokyo. Unfortuneatly it started to rain on the way to Nikko and the temperature droped by some 10°C.

Impressions of Nikko, due to the clouds and the rain, the pictures are by fare not as colorful as the reality.

One of the famous Nikko masterpieces: the three apes