Thursday, May 31, 2007

Brocken Harz

Although "Brocken Harz" may sound like "Broken Hearts" if you mispronounced it, the two things are in no way related. The Harz Mountains is a region in Sachsen-Anhalt (one of the 16 German States), and the Brocken is the tallest mountain the mountain ranges, and also in all of northern Germany (1142m). Apparently the world's first television tower was built on the Brocken in 1935, and the Brocken also housed a Russian Army Base after the end of the second world war. Apparently the whole summit used to be surrounded by a concrete wall (this was the East German side, after all) that was 3.6m high.

The Brocken is also famous because Goethe (famous German writer who has an institute named after him that teaches German) described witches and warlocks flying to the Brocken on Walpurgis Night for some crazy funky shit, and also because he climbed the thing a number of times. And because of this, the Germans flock to this location to follow in the footsteps of Goethe. This would be kinda like us flocking to somewhere because Banjo Patterson once took a piss there..who really cares?!?!

Anyway, B and I started our 6.5km trek from Schierke to the top of the Brocken at around 15:00, and we eventually reached the summit 2 hrs later. This is no world breaking performance by any stretch of the imagination, but this also isn't the world's easiest hike up the mountain.
Once we got to the top we had about 2 mins of lovely weather and view before the weather closed in, it started to rain like all hell, and got totally covered in fog. But even with the shit weather, the climb was still worth it. Luckily there is also a steam train that runs to the summit, so we took that back down to Schierke.

Would have been a lot easier to take this up, and then walk back down

But the 'Brush conquered the Brocken anyway...

Oh, and Bel too...

But just remember not to drink the water that is found in the boiler of the steam engine...

Earlier that day we also went through two underground caves in the region. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take photos in there, but the staleg-dings-bums formations in these caves were amazing - especially when you consider that a stalegmite/tite that is the thickness of your finger grows 7mm per year. Said another way, it would take 200 years to grow one the size of your thumb...and we saw some that were 3m tall!
My question is though - why must everyone touch everything? I mean, we were told in the first of our tours, right at the beginning, that if you touch them then they will not grow anymore due to the fat on our hands preventing the calcium being able to bind with the existing deposits. In the second tour the lady neglected to mention this, so a whole heap of ppl were touching the bastards, not realising that they are destroying 100s or 1000s of years of nature in 1 sec.

Oh yeah. Is anyone here scared of the dark? I ask because when we were in the caves they turned the lights out for a few seconds to show ppl how dark it was for one poor guy who got stuck in these caves for 3 days with an extiguished lantern. There were some chicks in the tour who started freaking out (we were in a cavern that would have been 30m across, and 8m high), and we had to ask ourselves "how do these people sleep at night?". The other stupid thing was that the lady running the tour had a torch, and if that failed, then we all had mobile phones which could light up to see the walls. Add to that the fact that like 30% of all Germans smoke, so someone was bound to have a lighter that we could use to find the way out!
Here are some other sights from our weekend in Wernigerode and surrounds:

The town hall, with a pretty sweet looking wooden facade from 1498.

Bel getting her hand consumed by one hungry Pferd before taking a carriage ride up to the Castle.

What has to be the prettiest pizza shop in the world.

This house is crazy old (originally build in 1300s and rebuilt in the 1600s), and was originally perfectly upright. The house then sunk down to the bedrock, and the roof leans out 1.2m over the foundations. This is more crooked that the tower of Piza!

The stairs in the castle in Wernigerode. We spent a bit of time here waiting for the rain to bugger off so we could go back to the town.

And that is the castle.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Gruß aus Kanada, eh?

Greetings from Canada, eh?

Currently writing this blog from the 19th floor apartment of J-Man and Evelyn in downtown Vancouver, after getting back from walking completely around Stanley Park. Gotta say that the views from here suck. I mean - who needs to be able to see the ocean, snow capped mountains, and Stanley Park from their's just too much. :P

Flights on the way over were not too bad. A little long, but not too bad. The first leg was 8hrs from Frankfurt to Montreal, and I managed to get myself an exit row seat with nobody beside me - SCORE! Downside to this seat (and this aeroplane) is that they don't have individual entertainment system screens, but just that big one in the middle. From my seat it was a tight angle to see the screen, so I got a bit of a sore neck. Oh well.

Flight from Montreal to Vancouver was better, as each seat had it's own personal entertainment system. The system was touch-screen operated too, which was sweet. I managed to check out 2 films on this flight, one of which was good, and the other was Hollywood trash. The good film was "The Painted Veil" with Edward Norton, and I would recommend checking it out.

Bad part about this flight was that they don't give you food on the internal flights with Air Canada. This isn't the end of the world, as you can buy food on the flight...if you have Canadian Dollars...which I didn't. :( 5.5hr flight with no food was a troubling prospect...
When the hostess came around offering food I asked her if they took credit card, or something other than CAD, but the only other alternative was USD, which I also didn't have. Luckily the Air Canada airline hostesses, although old, are quite nice and one of them offered to change my Euros for CAD so I could buy some food. The other bonus was that I already knew the exchange rate off the top of my head due to wanting to order my GPS thing from Canada, so we made our deal, I got my food, and everyone was happy.

Anyway, that's enough from me for now. Stay tuned to more later.