Hallstatt: the return to romance

“To every beginning there is magic,

that protects us and that helps us to live!”

Hermann Hesse

 

It is the dawn of a cold September. I leave home very early. Three trains and a boat separe me from my final destination: Hallstatt. Raindrops make wet my face. It will be a long long trip. I am not alone. A lot of thoughts come together with me and fade in my mind one over each other. Heraclitus was saying that everything changes and nothing stands still but sometimes everything changes to not change at all. So many unexepcted things happened along this last year but nothing seems changed right now. Time flies crazily but sometimes you find yourself at the same point you were one year before….

The train runs fast through the fog, it looks like November and I feel like I am travelling in time and somehow it will be like that.

Hallstatt is considered to be the oldest still inhabited village in all of Europe. The charming landscape fascinates visitors since the very first moments when they come to this area. The mountains hug the village while Hallstätter Lake shows proud its glassy water and lazy waves. I can see beautiful reflections on the lake. My mind is stolen by the landscape…

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Situated in the region of Salzkammergut (lots of salt in German), Hallstatt will tell you many stories. A well known Bronze Age settlement with a huge prehistoric cemetery (so far they’ve found over 1400 burials, including 2000 individuals). The town gives its name to “Hallstatt Culture” the main European culture of Early Iron Age Europe from the 8th to 6th centuries BC. Home to the world’s first salt mine it has always been a wealthy town and would have been a thriving centre of trade. It wasn’t until 1928 that a road was constructed to reach the village, leaving it in near isolation for over 2,000 years since it’s founding in 1311 as a market town below the salt mines. Today the salt mine is still active while the town has flourished with tourism. Hallstatt is so beautiful that people travel from across the globe to see it! I have been talking to people from South America, Japan or Southafrica! All of them come here to contemplate the untouched beauty of this place.

I decide to dedicate the evening to visiting Hallstatt. It is noon and I catch the bus to Obertraun. Here I want to visit the amazing prehistorical Dachsteinehöhle ice caves, hidden in the mountain, halfway to the summit at 1500 meters in altitude. Surprisingly, the outside temperature does not really influence the caves. Their temperature actually stems from the amount of precipitations received in a year, which determines how much ice melts or accumulates wear layers of clothes. I decide to climb until it under the rain and meanwhile you may get sweaty climbing the Alps, the temperature in the ice caves goes as low as -3°C. Trust me on this one there are only a few places on Earth where tourists can easily access huge ice caves and Hallstatt has one of the most beautiful!

These caves were used in 2012 as a test landscape for experimental spacesuits and instrumentation systems that might someday be used by humans on Mars. The Dachstein ice cave was chosen because ice caves would be a natural refuge for any microbes on Mars seeking steady temperatures and protection from damaging cosmic rays. There’s something magical about ice caves. Thick walls of ice. Beautiful shapes and colors. I had never seen anything like this before.

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The tour in the caves ends. I take the cable car down to reach Hallstatt where I will spend the night. Again she looks so beautiful to my eyes. I let myself walk by her narrow streets, maps are not necessary here. I take the footpath that leads me near the waterfall overlooking the whole village. Colorful houses, small cafés and a picturesque architecture, the peaceful lake, the towering mountains….

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The autumn weather makes it even more romantic with its carpet of clouds and its melancholic fascination. It is evening. Daily tourists are gone. The village is so peaceful, I feel like the time has stopped. It is a real postcard right in front of me…

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Only it is reality… It is impossible for me to describe the beauty of this village. It seems to me to be in a fairy tale. The atmosphere is so calm and so incredibly romantic altough something is missing and my hand is cold but still my heart is touched from her beauty. It is midnight. I go back to my hotel. The sky opened a bit. I can see hundreds of stars above me. I will always remember this night.

The night seems longer than usual, the time perception here is completely different. Finally daylight comes. I have a huge energetic breakfast so I can start full of energies this new day in Hallstatt. It is raining but I don´t care. I take the funicular up to Salzwelten Hallstatt to explore the world’s oldest salt mine. This mine is how Hallstatt became famous 7,000 years ago, and why there is an entire era dedicated to Hallstatt – the Hallstatt era (400-800 BC). The tour itself takes about 70 minutes and you’ll want to enjoy learning about its vast history.

There’s even a giant wooden slide included in your tour, which is what the miners used to get from one level to another. It  is the longest wooden slide in Europe, and makes you feel like a little kid again!

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The tour ends and coming out of the mines this mesmerizing landscape opens to my eyes

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I go down for one last tour through Hallstatt. I don´t want to leave this beauty without seeing her again. I come down the hill fast fast fast!
At my arrival an asiatic couple is taking pictures after their wedding. It is the second time this summer. Just two months ago I have seen the same scene in a nother unique location, the Iceberg lagoon in Iceland. Is it a sign from the sky? Who knows?
Sunset comes. It is time to go back home. Arrivederci Hallstatt! I will come back for sure.
Hallstatt won my heart seriously…a few place in my life stole my heart as this one…everything tells about romance and once again I realize how romance needs to be a normal part of our lives if we really want to be happy and we want to make our life a special one.
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“If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.”

William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

With Love,

Marco

 

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Pico Ruivo-Pico do Arieiro: Stairway to Heaven

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
Martin Luther King
Days like this one don’t come around so often. They cannot be planned. They just occur. Mine has just occurred and I wasn’t expecting it.
14th May 2016. This morning we rise before the sun. According to the locals, in fact, the weather in the mountains of Madeira tends to be nice in the morning and deteriorates throughout the day and we want to make the most of the views. Be prepared for everything if you decide to go up there!
Time to have a good recharging breakfast in our small hotel in Sao Jorge, a small village located in north east of Madeira island, prepared by our host Teresa. She is very friendly to us and treats more like family members than guests. Our first night sleeping in Sao Jorge we met a very nice and funny old couple from England. They talk to us about their big family and we can see clearly how much they still love each other after so many years spent together. They kindly offer to bring us to the starting point of our daily excursion with their car and we accept so we can start earlier.
Madeira is stunning. Views can be compromised at times by very dense vegetation that resembles southamerican forrests, but everytime there is a view, I can tell you, it’s magnificent! And today I want to watch the world around Madeira from God´s perspective, the highest one!
One of the main reasons I came to Madeira is the high trail than runs along the ridge between Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo. It has been ranked as one of the most wonderful hiking paths in the world! And now I know why…
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This formidable high-level traverse links Pico do Arieiro (1,818m) the island’s third-highest mountain, and Pico Ruivo (1,862m), the highest one. It´s famous for its stupendous drops and panoramas on all sides. I must admit there is an immediate sense of exposure. If you suffer from vertigo, this place is not for you!
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The easiest way to access the trail is by driving from Santana, up to the car park in Achada do Teixeira. The drive itself was interesting as most of the time we had to navigate through thick clouds and narrow, winding roads. Everything around looked grey and silent like a thrilling scene from a horror movie. Once we stopped the car on the side of the road, I could hear nothing but the deep silence. There were no birds tweeting, no other cars, no humans along the road. I was standing in front of a thick forest covered in cloud and creepy mist.
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After about 20 more minutes of driving uphill, the cloud cleared out completely. By the time we got to the car park, the sun was coming out, I couldn’t believe only minutes ago we were making our way through the cold, damp fog.
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Pico Ruivo can only be accessed by foot after a strenuous hike. The continuous uphill hike was challenging and it did require a few breaks here and there. The path was well defined all the way to the top. The moment I reached my first viewing point, I could admire the island in all its beauty from coast to coast. Beautiful green cliffs were rising up from the white clouds, forming a wonderful landscape. There were moments where I hiked on narrow paths, and both sides would reveal the vastness of the ocean and floating cloud. Even for the most experienced hikers these outstanding views could make your knees tremble a little.
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For most people, clouds range from being something annoying spoiling a sunny day to an unfortunate daily reality. But up here on this trail clouds take on an entirely new dimension. They may lie in valleys, enormous and recumbent, resembling lakes. They may run after each other a in angry hordes or they can surround you and you walk through them. There’s a never ending variety to be discovered and each is more intriguing than the last making this experience one of the most impressive of my life.
Our first impression of this place is already great and the best is yet to come!
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Besides the fact that you just don’t stop seeing some of natures most spectacular scenery like the rugged red vulcanic rocks, the green valleys down in the precipices and the blue Atlantic Ocean in the background, you also get a chance to see some endemic birds to the island and also the most endangered seabird of Europe, the Zino´s Petrel of freira. Some species can be observed only in Macronesia islands and Madeira.
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Finally you can admire also the oldest heather forest in existence. Just before Pico Ruivo, landscape gets suddenly so dramatic and surreal looking at these ancient heather trees that are many hundreds of years old. They were already here when the explorer Zarco landed on the island first time in 1419, starting the portuguese colonization.
It looks like a painting scene….
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We walk up and down so many times! And we start passing through small tunnels where definitely a flash light is recommendable.

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Tunnelblick auf den Pico Ruivo (1862m)
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It is only a matter of seconds, you simply go round the corner and you are suddenly completely surrounded by thick clouds! It is incredible!
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A few hundreds meters and again the sky is blue. Unbelievable!
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Bizzarre rocks formations I can see…
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Doesn´t it look like a dog´s head??
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And here it comes my favourite parts of this amazing trail, that would make you speechless all the time wherever you look around.
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The red colour shines so brilliant along the path!
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The summit of Pico do Arieiro is visible from afar thanks to the gigantic white globe of the military radar. We are getting there but more stairs are coming!
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Infinite numbers of stairs. We go up and down, up and down all the time. Our knees start suffering a bit.
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The clouds come once again to hide the peaks and the trail!
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We can finally see the top of Pico do Arieiro not so far anymore.
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The colours are so much intense along this part of the ridge in the midday sun!
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The longer I walk on this trail the more I feel like I am living a trascendental experience and I am not anymore on planet Earth. Seen from distance the radar on the top looks like a small planet and the small human figures below it look like astronauts discovering it.
Isn´t it like being in a dream when your eyes see something like this?
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I have heard this path originally formed part of a packhorse route from one side of the island to the other, but who would take goods over the torturous peaks of the highest mountains? Oh my God, cannot believe it!

I can truly say that this was the most beautiful and inspiring route I have walked in my life. I’ll never forget about it! The scenery looked not only stunning, but also diverse, and the dramatic shifts in elevation let me experience a wide variety of ever- changing panoramas, terrain, weather, fauna and flora.
Sure it has been ranked among the greatest walks of the world with the paths and tunnels hidden and cut in the volcanic rocks, the stairways rising to the sky and the views spacing until the Atlantic ocean!
One song will be associated to this place forever: Stairway to Heaven from Led Zeppelin. It will echo in my mind the rest of the day.
“Death and love are the two wings that bring man to heaven”
Michelangelo Buonarroti
With Love,
Marco

Ponta de Sao Lourenco: the end of the world in Madeira

 I wanna feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair.

Messy. Sometimes life is like that. Like my hair today walking along this wonderful ridge in between the ocean and the sky. The salty ocean wind that slaps my face and fill my lungs, the effort of climbing up and down, the light of the blinding sun, the dark clouds coming. Life can be messy. Things don´t always go as planned. The wind constantly changes direction every single day, just like our lives. In the blink of an eye, in the time of an exhalation, the course of our lives can get different. Things supposed to last forever but they didn´t. England voting for Brexit, Trump elected as new US president. Who was expecting that? Noone! We live in the chaos and we must embrace it.

8th May. Today the sky is blue and the air is windy. We leave Funchal direction east. We go to the edge of Madeiran world! Ponta de Sao Lorenco: we are coming! The bus runs cove after cove, curve after curve, until we reach Machico, the old Madeiran capital. Then Canical bay comes from where whale hunters were once leaving searching for their Moby Dick until finally we can see this narrow, irregular and curved peninsula, shaped from the marine erosion. Sao Lorenco! What jumps to our eyes is the scarce vegetation and the brownish-red colour instead of the brilliant green that you can see all over the island. Here you get the volcanic origin of the island.

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For the first time during our visit we can see as far as the Ilhas Desertas (Deserted Islands), a small archipelago 25km to the southeast of Madeira. My desire of freedom after so many days in the city found an outlet in this narrow crazy stretch of land that goes for 8 kilometers up and down in a vertical drop reaching 350 meters on the ocean. From these huge cliffs, that locals call sea mounts for their huge size, you feel like flying in this privileged location between the sea and the sky. You walk through beautiful scenery that rises quickly and then goes down and never get bored because the scenery is so majestic, large and full of beautiful surprises.

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 Walking east along the footpath we soon discover how spectacular and dramatic the landscape of this narrow strip of ocean-battered land actually is.  Atlantic panoramas in all directions, huge waves crashing on hundred meters high cliffs, sea stacks carved from colourful volcanic rocks. The views so different from anything we’ve seen on Madeira so far, but equally beautiful and enchanting.

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Freedom. This is the first word i can think of when i remember visiting Ponta de São Lourenço. The thing is, the blending of elements such as water and air in form of sea and wind there, combined with the solitude of the place, far from so many useless alienating human inventions, brings an easy regenerating feeling of freedom to the soul.
For one moment i didn’t think about anything, I just enjoyed being alive. And it was truly awesome!
Certainly it wouldn´t be so for those who suffer vertigo in some parts of the trail, especially today that we must struggle and put a lot of effort to stand against the wind that is getting stonger and stronger every step we get closer to the end of the peninsula. We look behind us and we see the rest of the island just stretching from here towards west. Breathtaking!
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wow! Many clouds appear suddenly on the horizon. They are coming here! Even the dark clouds don’t bother us this time. Rather they contribute to the rugged beauty and mysterious atmosphere of Sao Lorenco!
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Ohhh but now it starts raining and the wind gets stronger and stronger! We repair ourselves in Casa do Sardinha, this small house that looks really like a small oasis in this wild wild place!
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It stops raining. We want to go to see the ocean and the islands and the peninsula from the very top of the ridge . The last effort resisting the strong wind that hits us and here we are! We made it! When you arrive at the end of the peninsula, after a tiring climb, you rejoice. You feel away from all, surrounded by green lawns, the blue sea and the brown tones of the rock. Nature surrounds you completely.
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Weather is changing again. It is getting sunny again. So coming back to civilization we can appreciate once again the wonderful colors of Sao Lorenco!
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Also a little gecho comes out to enjoy this warm amazing sun.
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We live in the chaos and we must embrace it. There are moments you need to look at life from a different angle to find yourself again and to realize what was wrong. Go through the ebbs and flows of life with a calm mind and heart. At the end of the day everything will be ok.
With Love,
Marco

The island of eternal spring: the arrival

“Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart” ~ Victor Hugo
The day has finally come! The day we leave Munich to discover Madeira! Like love at first sight, one day it just happened unexpectedly. I was in a big sportshop and completely by chance I took part to an exhibition about this beautiful island. I fell in love and decided I should have gone there and seen that paradise with my eyes!
They call it the land of eternal spring. Madeira is an island located in the Mid-Atlantic and is about 1000 kilometers south west of Portugal and 600 kilometers west of the coast of Morocco. The weather is described by the locals as being the most perfect climate in the world. It’s never too hot, never too cold, with temperatures between 16 and 25 degrees. It’s perfect for adventurous road trips that is what I am looking for and it is rich of contrasts between its huge rocky coasts, the green mountainous landscape in the interior part of the island, the blue of the ocean and the brown volcanic areas in the east.
Here, iridescent waterfalls crash over narrow roads, dreamlike flowers shine through a mist of rainbows and exotic fruits come down from ancient tree limbs. The flora is so exotic it almost seems you are not in Europe anymore.
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We are flying over Portugal. The famous Lisbon bridge is below us. Ocean Atlantic is in front of us finally!
No direct flight to Madeira and we enjoy some delicious and tasty Portuguese sweets in Lisbon airport waiting for next flight. We don´t have to wait too long until we finally flies to our final destination. Oh…the immense ocean space… my eyes try to look as far as they can to find what they are looking for.
Here it is! Terra! Terraaa!! I can see the land!!! We can see the land after so much water below us! I feel a bit like Christopher Columbus that actually came around here some years before his most famous trip and married the daughter of a plantation owner on Porto Santo.
Getting closer to Madeira, the first thing you notice it is the striking scenery of Ponta de São Lourenço, a narrow, irregular and curved peninsula on the eastern side of the island. It is an impressive example of volcanic cones that have been shaped by erosion from the sea. The sky is cloudy and reddish but super brilliant sun rays come down touching the ocean like lightfalls.
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The excitement is growing and growing at the idea of touching new exotical lands. It is 19,40, finally the plane gets ready for landing.
The landing is exciting! The airplane gets so close to the sea, closer and closer, wow! Someone close to me is a bit scared. I feel more excited than scared. With an unusually short runway, rocky hills on either side and a sheer drop into the ocean the airport is recognized by pilots as one of the most difficult to land. The runway is also susceptible to strong winds and turbulence and so the pilots must have a special training for landing in Madeira.
We touch the ground and we wait for our huge backpacks. No trolley admitted this time. Just adventure! We will explore by foot, taking bus and hitchhiking, moving from place to place all around the island. 4 nights in Funchal, 2 nights in Jardim do Mar, 2 nights in Porto Moniz, 2 nights in Sao Joao, 2 nights in Santana and we are considering to spend on the beach under the stars the last night before flying back to Munich!
We catch the aerobus direction Funchal and the first thing capturing my attention is the color. Wherever I look I see green and this color will be a constant for all the trip.
Madeira is the greenest thing I have ever seen in my life! Emerald lush forests contrasting beautifully with bright blue sky.
In 15 minutes we are in Funchal, Madeira´s capital. Walking in the city you cannot avoid to notice the beautiful Jacarada trees that originate a purple explosion with their flowers in May.
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We head to the hotel that is very central, we rest not more than one hour. We want to go out and enjoy the local atmosphere. It is so peaceful, so relaxing and the air is warm and calm. It smells of spring all around. The lights, the ocean and us. It is just perfect…
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We buy an icecream in an italian place and we sit in front of a pirate galeon in the harbour breathing the sea and watching the stars.
The beginning is so promising! It is just day 1 of a beautiful roadtrip in the island of eternal spring. The best has to come still!
“We all end in the ocean. We all start in the streams. We are all carried along by the river of dreams.” 

Dolomites: the reawakening

“Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.” – Edward Abbey

It was February. I had never thought it was finished. That is why that Autumn I had put so much effort to have it back and I was right. Everything was going in the right place again and was about to restart the same way it was in the very beginning, two years earlier. I was feeling new energies inside me, so I decided that moment should have been celebrated with something special. Since so many years I have been thinking about going there. Now it´s the moment. So I call a friend, we book everything in one night and two nights later there we go: Val Pusteria, Val Fiscalina and Cime di Lavaredo. I wanted to go up there in full winter to experience the beauty of those mountains in perfect solitude. I wanted that just for me, only for me. It´s a cold Friday evening, it is snowing in Munich and on the way to the Alps it snows more and more. The sky is red, the road is white, my hope is green. We go south. Led Zeppelin sing on the radio with their legendary hypnotic music: I’m gonna give you my love, Wanna Whole Lotta Love? We cross the border with Italy. I am home, it is just a few km beyond the borders but I can feel it. There is something familiar. Noone is around, the snow falling softly makes everything silent and so perfect. It is midnight when we arrive in Dobbiaco. It will be our base to explore the white paradise during the following days. I go to bed but can´t sleep. Too many energies flow in my body. I wake up when it is still dark and I wait for that. The sun comes up in the sky, I open the window and the village shows to me its most beautiful white dress. The day can start!

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We head south until we reach  lake of Landro, located in the homonym valley. We can´t go beyond. We stop immediately our car. What our eyes see looks like a dream. We jump out of the car!
The lake is completely iced. We walk on it to get closer to this breathtaking view of Cristallo mountain range that looks like an immense giant in front of us, shining as gold in the misty morning atmosphere. Oh God. Oh God. It is so beautiful and immense!

500px Photo ID: 160621867 - “There’s a sunrise and a sunset every day, and you can choose to be there for it — you can put yourself in the way of beauty.” This is a view of Cristallo mountain range from Landro lake in Dolomites. The sun began to pe

Our trip must go on! So we go back to our car and we reach Lake of Misurina. It is the largest natural lake of the Cadore and it is 1,754 m above sea level. Our eyes can space until the other side of the lake but not farther since the lake is closed by a huge bareer: the south east slopes of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo and the Cadini, Sorapiss and Cristallo massifs in the heart of the UNESCO Dolomite Heritage area.

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The particular climatic characteristics of the area around the lake make it famous all over the world for its health-giving air that is particularly good for those who have respiratory diseases. The air is so light and so pure…

After filling our lungs with pure oxygen we finally reach our destination, Auronzo di Cadore. It seems we must say oh and oh and oh all the times today. I didn´t know such beauty could really exist on Planet Earth. It is just perfect!

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We start walking through the woods. We go up, up and up through the white path. And marvelous Cime di Lavaredo come closer. Don´t be so impatient, baby… Tomorrow I will be there with you!

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We want to go to the top of Monte Piana (2324 msl). This area tells the story of the tragedy of the First World War, a high plateau which is now a veritable outdoor museum. And there we are finally.

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The colors are so brilliant, the ice blinks in front of us but the sky is divided in between shining blue on one side and dark grey clouds on the other side. The weather makes somehow even more dramatic the atmosphere, reminding us all those poor men fighting each other in the barricades built up here. So many thousands died because of the most stupid human invention called war.

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Everything is energy. Your thought begins it, your emotion amplifies it and your action increases the momentum. Let your emotions come out!

With Love,

Marco

The legend of King Watzmann

“In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is the king.”

It’s a clear beautiful winter day, one of those that make me go out looking for a new adventure and today I decided to take a long trip to meet the king Watzmann.

Weather was gorgeous the previous days – sunny, crisp, frosty and blue skies. With temperatures hovering around zero it´s a great day for going to Bechtesgadener Alps. And here I am in front of king Watzmann with his beautiful shape towering over Berchtesgaden. Watzmann has a perfect beauty. That´s why it appeals to the climber and its surroundings, valley, town and lake, appeal to anyone interested in nature at its most sublime.

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The majestic Watzmann seen from Berchtesgaden looks like an image from a fairy tale.

Actually there is a famous legend about this mountain that makes it even more fascinating.

It´s the story of King Watzmann. Many thousands of years ago, the region of Berchtesgaden was ruled by King Watzmann, a man known and feared for his cruelty toward farmers. The king liked to force his serfs to draw their own plows themselves instead of allowing them to use their oxen. One day, a farmer called Hois, who had had nothing to eat for three days and was weak with hunger, stumbled over a stone. As he struggled to right himself, a small man no bigger than his thumb appeared at his side. Signaling to keep quiet, the tiny man climbed into the serf’s pocket. That evening Hois rushed home and, taking the little man from his pocket, demanded to know who he was. “I am Heinzel, and I have come to help you avenge yourself of King Watzmann’s tyranny. Gather your farmer friends together and I shall tell you what to do.” Heinzel’s plan was that each farmer gather pebbles with which to ward off the King’s dogs. Though the farmers were by nature suspicious, early next morning, they filled their pockets with stones. A few hours later, one of the serfs happened to stumble. Before the hounds were able to attack, however, the farmer reached for a stone. To his amazment the target was struck dead. Encouraged, his companions began to pelt the king and his dogs with stones. Soon the oppressor Watzmann and his animals lay dead beneath a mountain of stones. The farmers, freed from torment, lived long and happy lives and even today we can admire the Watzmann mountains near Berchtesgaden, under which the king was buried all those centuries ago together with his wife and children.

There is  a strange light on the mountain right now that makes the atmosphere a mystic one. I am ready to go and meet you!

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The great size of the Watzmann is in no doubt. The highest mountain contained entirely within Germany, it makes a part of the alpine border with Austria. The beauty of the mountain and the rest of this part of Bavaria has long attracted visitors. Some come to climb the slopes; others to see the town and other sights at a somewhat lower altitude.

Watzmann is a popular climb for mountaineers. The north approach tends to be less difficult than the east face, which has long had the reputation of a particularly rough climb.

Looming almost 2000 meters above the green waters of Koenigsee, Watzmann’s graceful mass provides a postcard-perfect backdrop to the city of Berchtesgaden, in Bavaria’s southeastern corner.

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Among the German summits Watzmann is one of the most important mountains; impressive from all sides. But from each side the character is quite different: from N it is the classical shape, from S a steep and prominent tower. Due to the configuration from E and W Watzmann looks like an enormous, expanded wall. It is not a solitary summit but a ridge of about 3 km length with 3 tent-shaped elevations
N-summit (Hocheck 2651 m, Middle (and highest)summit (Mittelspitze 2713 m),
S-summit (Suedspitze 2712 m – in former times also called Schoenfeldspitze). Since 1909 then on over 100 people have died on Watzmann. So never underestimate difficulties here.

Just a little lower than the great heights of Watzmann are several very picturesque lower peaks. These mountains, called Walzmann’s Wife and Walzmann’s Children, derive their names from the myth of the evil king. This is my target today!

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It´s getting dark. I can go home satisfied. Today I met the king and it was such a great experience!

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Plansee: the first day of snow

“How did it happen that their lips came together?
How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill?

A kiss, and all was said.”

Victor Hugo

 

Yesterday was the first day of snow, my favorite day of the year. And so I decided to leave early this Sunday and to go to Plansee, a beautiful lake in Austria. Like usual on the first day of snow, I went out into it, letting the falling snowflakes fall against my skin. In the meadows of the sky I could see thousands of them making their way to earth. I could feel the pull of winter in the air.  I fell in love with the winter long time ago. In Rome snow is definitely not a common event and I cannot forget what happened when I was 10 years old. It was the epiphany day, I woke up, looked out of the window and everything was white and so was for nearly one week. We didn´t go to school, we had longer Christmas holidays playing with this white magic thing. It was then that my love for snow started. Now everytime it snows,  it always brings me back to my childhood and the older we get the more we realize that being a kid is actually the most magical time of our lives. I put my nose behind the window and can spend hours watching snowfall. It makes me so relaxed! There is a kind of warmth in winter coldness.  It has a particular way of painting and hugging the land and all of its human beings in a familiar embrace.  The snow makes everything more beautiful.  I feel safe under the heaviness of the clouds that carry snow. They close in around these mountain towns and create a sort of intimacy even among strangers. People run into coffee shops and buy their hot chocolate.  Fires crackle in the background of conversations.  It feels like Christmas all year long.

Finally I take the train, outside the wind is blowing and snow is falling making my train like a Transiberian running through it. I can´t avoid thinking about you meanwhile I listen to our song. I call it magic when I am next to you. My mind flies away. I wish you were here with me….

I pass Garmisch, most tourists drop out there, then Ehrwald just in front of king Zugspitze and more people leave the train. Finally I am the only human being dropping out of the train here in Heiterwang-Plansee, my final destination. It´s the second largest lake in Tyrol and it has a beautiful fjord-like landscape since it is just nestled in the heart of the Lechtal Alps and the Wetterstein and Mieminger mountain chains. The lake is characterized by outstanding water quality and its colors range from moss-green to dark black blue green.

When I leave the train noone is around, total silence, the snow is quite deep but the sky is blue again after the intense snowfall. I walk for 3-4 kms in deep snow and finally I am here contemplating mountains reflecting in the lakes. Today this spectacular gift from Nature is just for me, for noone else!

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I enjoy the landscape for a while but then mother Nature reminds how fast can change her mind. Clouds cover the sky again, wind starts blowing stronger and stronger and it starts a snowstorm! I must leave this beautiful place before it gets too bad! Visibility is decreasing fast, I can barely see in front of me.

 

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This reminds me that life can be so unpredictable and you never know what is coming next. Change can come in many forms in our lives. It might come forcefully like a huge ocean wave, or coming along incrementally like a glacier. You never know and most of the time you are not ready for it.

The snowstorm is getting stronger, I run back to the station and stop in Garmisch for lunch. I have a walk in the old town under the snow and I end up in the city park inspired to Neverending Story, a famous fantasy novel written by Michael Ende. My mind goes again back to my childhood inside this park.

It´s getting dark. I go back home. It stopped snowing, I can even see the sun rays painting in red the landscape on this mountain river.

 

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“Nothing is lost. Nothing is created. Everything is transformed.” Antoine Lavoisier

With Love,

Marco

Rappensee: searching for a reason

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.”

(Walt Whitman, Leaves of grass)

We live in a turbulent and unstable world. What was yesterday isn’t there today anymore, the volatility of climate change, the stock market, terroristic attacks, relationship problems, work, traffic, health and the environment can easily make you so much stressed. Sometimes life seems to be an assault on your mental health.

But it´s finally weekend. Mountains are calling me and I must go. I woke up at 4 am in this unusually cold October morning. It´s dark outside, Munich is sleeping, I am ready to take a new adventure. I need something challenging this Saturday. I need to get out of the city searching for a reason. As usual I have an abundant breakfast and then prepare all the staff I am going to need for my daily mission in the nature. Music in my ear and ready to go. The travel is a long one from Munich to my final destination. It will take 3 hours and half but I know the reward will come later in the day. It´s going to be a very adventurous day on the Alps. 2 hours and half and finally I am in Oberstdorf, a lovely village liying within a valley, 815 m above sea level in the middle of the Alps in the Allgäu. It is surrounded by mountains which are up to 2,600 m high, and the three different altitudes make Oberstdorf very attractive. I really love this place and I have so good memories from the beautiful vacation we had here last Easter that I feel the need to go there once again to explore further this beautiful area. I still haven´t reached my final destination: Birgau in beautiful Trettachtal valley, I need a bus and I am getting impatient waiting for it.

I step out of the bus at the edge of the Trettach river that gives the name to this beautiful valley. Fresh autumn air fills my lungs. Different air. I can smell the conifers. That´s what I was looking for. I let it fill my lungs to their bottom and my blood carries then products around my body and I feel a part of life here as the smells are taken into my being. Allgau Olfactoryscape.
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Everytime I take a journey to mountains is always a kind of checkup on where I am as a human being and as a man. Something is changing in my life and must be open to this change. When we explore the world with an analytical mind, we explore ourselves. We try to find out what we like and what we don’t like, what we stand for and what we are against. We can see where we are, our strengths and our weak points. This poses the problem many of us are faced with at this very moment: do we improve, get stronger and truer to ourselves, or we lose ourselves trying to adapt to society? I want let myself changed by this stupid society, happens what it happens. I don´t really care!
I keep on walking and little by little the path gets completely white. It has been snowing a lot here recently. There is 15cm of fresh snow on the ground.
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I smell the air and how it changes as each step towards the top I make, open standing water, trickles over the ice, all changing the air enough for me to sense it. The smells carried on the wind, birds flying over me. I can hear the falls,  water over the surface, water under the surface, water falling into a hole.

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Amazing! Perfect ice! Perfect temperature! And all of this suddenly after a neverending  summer. I am without any other humans. enjoying this treasure alone! But somehow I feel observed, I can hear some noise above me time by time. Now I can see I am not alone….
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I am a person who climbs. It is what I do. I climb through my life, I never had an easy one. Always moving upward to a new perspective. I do this because I have learned to meet the challenges life presents and I accept them with passion to come to a good resolution. This makes suffer but also brings growth. Like the forest trees I am growing and climbing upward supported by nature. My climb as a man often requires stillness and physical solitude. But then I release my self concept which is precisely what changes when I grow. I become a different person.
Wow! So beautiful is up here! Two huge peaks just standing in front of me and the sun shining high! So brilliant! I feel incredibly big and incredibly small all at the same time. Big in the act of climbing these tall creatures confidently and the perspective that each step rewards me with wonderful views. Yet I feel small because of the grander of the landscape.
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The path is getting steeper and steeper. I reach a difficult spot in the climb.
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I slow down to consider the solution to the problem. There is silence as I concentrate. There is fear, so I change it to respect. It wants me to climb over to the left so that is where I go. When I move over, all becomes easier again. Peaceful. I reach my highpoint for the day. Now my eyes can see all the peaks around, all the valleys. It was not easy but I am thankful I am here,
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The walk down from my high point requires great care. The snow is perfect for snowmen. I roll a ball down a slope and it creates a big wheel. The solution is patience and awareness. I concentrate on each step I take in this exposed place and I take the needed time to carefully craft my descent with my crampons. But here it is a problem, directions are wrong. I must go up again to Rappensee and go down on the other side. Damn! It´s already 15,30 and I have not more than 2 hours daylight! I must rush even if I am tired. My breath gets shorter, I can distinctly hear my heart beating faster. I am up again on the Rappensee just in time to enjoy this last beautiful view. Sun is painting the mountains in red with its rays.
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It´s late. I must rush and take some risks running down the mountain. I arrive at the bottom much faster than I thought it would have been possible, the training I had last month helped me a lot, I wouldn´t been able to make it otherwise.Now I am finally relaxed.
I walk back along the path next to the river. I lost the last bus bringing me back to civilization. I see a tractor carrying huge trunks along the road. I cross the small river very fast and I attract driver´s attantion. I climb the trunks and just sit on them until Oberstdorf. The funniest and craziest hitchhike I had so far in my life.
High above me are all places that I have been so lucky to travel on today, the peaks, the falls, the woods. I feel enriched in my experience. I discovered what this mountain was today and what I am today.

At this moment I realize that my person is not what I have but what I have done and what I will do with my life. Knowing this brings me serenity.


With Love,

Marco

Autumn in Bavaria: all the flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of today

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” Albert Camus

Everyone is usually complaining about Autumn. The days become shorter and colder, the trees lose their glory, and summer’s life starts to decay toward winter’s death, many people get melancholic. I will show you how horrible this season really is. Here are some shots I took last year in Schliersee, a lovely lake in Bavaria.

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Terrible season, isn´t it?

Too often we are afraid of the dark and we löve only the light, me first. When we watch trees losing their leaves in fall, we remember that Nature’s cycles are mirrored in our lives. But Autumn is a season of great beauty and is full of promises. Seeds are planted and leaves are processed since earth prepares for next green rise in spring. So life processes and seeds us the same way autumn does to the earth. That´s how possibilities are planted in us even in the most difficult times of our lives.

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Because we live in a culture that prefers the easiest and obvious solutions to the complex ones, we have a hard time when we have to handle opposites together. We want light without darkness, the happiness of spring and summer without the demands of autumn and winter, the pleasures without the pains in our life.

Looking back, I can see how the job as a medical researcher I lost several years ago pushed me to find a new direction, a complete different work that was mine to do, how the road closed sign turned me towards an unknown path I’m happy I traveled, how much love I have found when I abandoned my stupid fears towards the stranger, a different culture from mine. In these experiences, I felt like something was dying, but silently and intimately the seeds of new life were giving their fruits in my life.

So Autumn is not such a bad season in the end, right?

Which artist would paint a sad melancholic scene with these vibrant colours? It’s such an ugly time when all the leaves turn red, golden-yellow and brown. (shots taken 3 years ago in Schloss Nymphenburg park, Munich)

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Who wants to go for a walk with me when it’s so dark the season outside?

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“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.” Hernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast.

With Love,

Marco

Samaria´s Gorge: from the white to the blue

“Drink! Live like the Greeks! Eat! Gorge!” Plautus (comic playright at the time of Roman republic)

It was last July when we were in Crete that one day we decided to hike through the Samaria´s gorge. If you’ve never visited Crete before, you definitely should. It’s the largest of the Greek islands and many people, especially Greeks, say it’s also the most diverse and interesting! And if you are looking for more than sand, sea and sun but also for history and wildlife and beautiful scenery, you won’t have far to look in Crete. In South-West lie the stark White Mountains, through which the spectacular Samaria Gorge cuts like a knife through butter. Samariá Gorge (Greek: Φαράγγι Σαμαριάς) is a National Park since 1962 and is a World’s Biosphere Reserve. It was created by a small river running between the White Mountains (Lefká Óri) and Mt. Volakias. With 18 km lenght it´s arguably Europe’s longest gorge, competing for that honor with the Gorges du Verdun in France (that are slightly over 20 km in lenght). It starts at an altitude of 1,250 m at the northern side of the plateau ending at the shores of the Libyan Sea in Agia Roumeli, which is only accessible on foot through the gorge or by boat. This is what it makes this hike a unique experience, exploring so many different kind of landscapes and so much you will appreciate the crystal clear water of sea at the end of a long tiring day in the hot greek sun!

We were based in Chania, one of the oldest cities in Crete, with a rich and tumultuous history. Today it is the second most populated city on the island, a city which has preserved its traditional architecture and most of its monuments from Venetian and Turkish times. The trip to the gorge would have taken us a while having to reach the White Mountains, that is how is called the chain that separes North from South of Crete. Our main worry was the temperature since the hike through the gorge is a very long one and high temperatures can make a bad experience out of it so we left Chania before the sun was rising. The bus made countless switchbacks as it made its way up and through the mountains. Still It was beautiful seeing the early morning sun over the Aegean Sea, casting its rays of red and pink on the blue waters! The drive to the start of the gorge was spectacular as we wound up through the White Mountains and we began the walk at about 8:00. Now we know why they call it White Mountains, the landscape looks likes the same colour of the moon!

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I love the feeling of the fresh air on my face and the northern wind (they call it meltemi here) blowing through my hair. That´s how we start our adventure! The first thing any hiker (experienced or not) notices is that this hike is all downhill. Although it sounds like easier, let me tell you this was one intense hike. The gorge begins at the very top and the first 4-5km are incredible steep and you must put attention since you walk on the rocks all the time! But no pain no gain! Despite the terrain, the views were breathtaking. Standing on the top, we couldn´t know how far down we were going to travel, and the greenery and landscape were stunning, from the hillside trees to the white-washed gorge rock.

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Moreover, you can see many flowers growing on the plateau like peonies, dragon arum, anemones and irises. And sure expect to meet wild goats (locals call them kri-kri) and if you are lucky to see eagles flying above the gorge.

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We suddenly could hear running water and we crossed a small stream passing over rocks that we were required to hop across. This is one of the things in life that never stops to excite me, crossing a small river or stream on rock steps! And the water is so clean! I want to swim! But I have to wait, we still have a long way in front of us until our final destination!

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The abandoned village of Samaria that gives the name to this area marks the halfway point through the gorge and makes an ideal resting point. From there the walls of the canyon gradually close in, forming a section called the ‘ Iron Gates’ (locals call it Portes), the most spectacular part of the hike! In places the trail is only about 0.6 m wide and the red walls rise up 500 m towards the sky, providing us with incredible vertical views and perspective looking back as it enlarged. You feel really a small human being in front of these huge walls and everything, the space, the time is like crystallized, everything is so silent. Suddenly you cannot hear anything but the wind blowing through the Gates. We are somewhere sometimes!

“What we call imagination is actually the universal library of what’s real. You couldn’t imagine it if it wasn’t real somewhere, sometime.”

Impossibile to get sick of these incredible views!

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We were also pretty fascinated by the trees growing out from the gorge’s walls. Amazing how nature can adapt perfectly to every condition that you would never think about it would be possible!

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After about 5-6 hours of hiking, we reached the end of the gorge, only to find that we had not finished the hike. To get to the only nearby town, Agia Roumeli, we had to walk 3 more km. We even celebrated the supposed end of the hike with a picture. So disappointing! Let’s just say that by this point, our feet and knees were a little painful from the downhill trek, and the thought of another 3km under full sun made me somewhat delirious and I ranted and raved as we continued walking down to find the real end of the hike. Thirsty, hot and tired we couldn´t believe to our eyes when we finally could see in between the moutains the fantastic blue of Lybian See waiting for us. It was like a mirage on the horizon, I rubbed my eyes, it was real! It´s blue, it´s blue! That sea was one the bluest things I had ever seen in my life!

After a long hike there is nothing better than being able to take off your hiking shoes, your t-shirt and jump in the beautiful crystal clear water of Lybian See! Splash!!! We are in paradise!!!!

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“Wherever you go, go with all your heart”. (Confucio)

With Love,

Marco