My bike ride from Mommenheim to Regensburg

Two weeks ago I returned from a 2-week-vacation during which my wife and I did a bike ride from Mommenheim in Rheinhessen to Regensburg at the river Danube, where my sister-in-law lives: 620 km.

Schloss Johannisburg in Aschaffenburg
"Schloss Johannisburg in Aschaffenburg"

We basically followed the river Main from Mainz to Wertheim, where the mouth of the Tauber is located, then followed the river Tauber up to Rothenburg o.d. Tauber  and from there through the Altmühl Valley to Regensburg. The Altmühl Valley is one of the most famous biking routes here in Germany and indeed it has been beautiful.

It took us three days to get to Wertheim and another 2 days to get to Rothenburg. In between we visited a friend who lives in Lauda at the river Tauber. In Rothenburg we spent one day exploring this beautiful middle-age town, before we started our ride through the Altmühl Valley. Weather was mixed during the first week but much better than forecasted. One heavy thunder storm we survived in a wooden buildung located at the river Main, and our ride to Rothenburg had been a bit wet as well, but from then on weather became much nicer. Thus we spent one day in the Altmühl Valley to enjoy one of the beautiful lakes there and another day with canoeing on the river Altmühl. In Regensburg we spent another three days together with my sister-in-law and her husband and did another short ride to the Walhalla memorial.

Am Markusturm
"Am Markusturm" by axel_magard.

Photos from this incredible trip are here on my flickr account.

Crossing the Tramuntana Range on Majorca

Last week I have been travelling to Majorca again, this time together with my wife, to do a more advanced hike than I did last year there: the crossing of the Serra De Tramuntana from the Southwest to the Norteast, from Andratx to Pollenca in 6 days.

My Wife Alex and I arrived early on Majorca on Sunday, May 22nd since our flight had been leaving Frankfurt quiet early in the morning at 05:50 am.

Kathedrale in Palma De Mallorca
"Kathedrale in Palma De Mallorca"

We met our mountain guide at the airport – Jaume Torte – whom I hiked with last year already. He organized our transfer to our first hotel in Esselencs, where we would stay for the first 4 nights, a nice little hotel in a nice little Spanish mountain village with a great view out to the ocean at the North coast of Majorca. Since we have had plenty of time we basically just handed over our luggage to him and took the bus to Palma De Mallorca to use the day to visit the main city of the island.

We wandered through the old town, visited the huge cathedral on a hill with excellent view over the Bay of Palma and spend a relaxing day in cafes and in the narrow streets of the town. In the afternoon we took another bus out to Escellencs where we met our group and had our first dinner all together.

Our group consisted of 11 hikers. The oldest was a small 76-year-old lady who was in an amazingly good shape. She skipped a few parts of the hike, but I really would call myself lucky when being in that good shape at that age.

Abstieg vom S’Esclop
"Abstieg vom S’Esclop"

On the first hiking day a bus brought us to Andratx, a little town near by the Southwest cape of the island, from where we started the trip. We climped on top of a mountain called S’Esclop (928 m) and then descended back to the coast and to our hotel in Esscelencs. The hike had started 09:00 am in the morning and it took us until 05:45 pm to reach the end of the first stage of the crossing. We started to get a feeling what “Advanced” means in the description for this tour and Jaume promised that the next two days would be even longer.

On day 2 we left Esscelenc at 08:30 am in the morning and hiked to Esporles which we reached late in the afternoon. Already exhausted we realized we would have to cross another two mountains to get to Valldemossa, the end of stage 2. We got there at 06:00 pm, after having to climb a total of 950 m. Since it also has been quiet hot, a bit too hot for this part of the year, we also had to carry and consume a lot of water. The bus ride back to Escellencs took more than an hour, thus there was not much time left to quickly jump into the pool before dinner. Boy, you won’t believe how good the first bear tastes after a hike like that !

Die Gassen von Valdemossa
"Die Gassen von Valdemossa"

The next day we drove back to Valldemossa, which to me has been the most beautiful of all the villages we visited during that week. We have had some time to explore the narrow streets and old buildings and to buy some food, before hike 3 started with another climb to another mountain. The view from there over the North coast of Majorca was absolutely breathtaking. We found a nice resting place on the top of a stone wall above the little village of Deià and enjoyed water and food from our back packs and the brilliant view into the valley and out to the ocean. After the descend to Deià we walked to the lovely small bay there with crystal clear water and even we started again running out of time we spend there 30 minutes to jump into the refreshing waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The hike was not finished yet, our target for this day had been Sóller. For an hour or so we followed the coast line, before we climbed another 250 m to a mountain path leading to the valley of Sóller, which we reached at 07:00 pm. After another long bus ride back to Escellencs there was no time anymore for the pool, just for a shower before enjoying again the good cooking of the hotel and lots of drinks to re-fill all the liquid we had lost during the day.

Blick von Biniaraix nach Sóller
"Blick von Biniaraix nach Sóller"

On the next day we checked out from the hotel. A bus took us to Sóller where we started hike # 4 and would pick us up later at the Cúber Lake, the fresh water reservoir of Majorca. After spending half an hour on the main square of Sóller we started our hike out of the hot valley towards the top of L’Ofre ( 1093 m ). It was hot again, but luckily on this trail we found plenty of water springs near by our path. From the summit we had again a great view and saw the Puig Major, the highest mountain of Majorca, the Cúber Lake and the Massanella (1365 m), our mountain for the next day. After getting back to the valley we had to do another 1-hour-walk or so around the lake to reach the road, where the bus was waiting for us. It took us to the monastery of Lluc where we would stay for the next three days in spartan but clean and quiet rooms, with a great restaurant providing lots of cheap drinks and lots of excellent food from Majorca. It didn’t take long until we felt very comfortable with this elementary and peaceful place.

On day 5 the bus took us back to that lake, we crossed the Massanella, the 2nd highest mountain of Majorca, and descended back to the monastery.

Pollenca, wir kommen, früher oder später !
"Pollenca, wir kommen, früher oder später !"

The last hike during day # 6 was again a mountain crossing and a very long hike. It took us to the Puig Tomir ( 1104 m ) from where we could see the three capes of Majorca in the East, and then a partially steep path through lots of vegetation and rocks has been one of our many challenges during that week to finally reach Pollenca and thus the end of our crossing.

Part of my tour description sounds like this has been a quiet strenuous endeavor – and actually it was, but the challenge is part of the fun. My way of spending a vacation is not to relax at the beach, but to do some from of exercising for the body, which usually is parked in a chair in front of a computer most of the time. I want to explore new places and the best way to get there is on my own feet. And believe it or not, even our days have been packed with long hikes it has been relaxing for me, especially for my mind and soul. I believe I did not spend a single minute thinking about work, career or anything related.

We have been a great group, we have had a lot of great moments and laughs, views and new experiences. After three days of work I could right away start another hike like this. And as a matter of fact, my wife and I are planning a 3-day-hike on the Rheinsteig for the upcoming long weekend.

More photos from that tour are here in my “Mallorca 2011” flickr set.

My favorites for week 2, 2011

Something to talk about: my favorite quote of the weekabout being critical

How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.

I know I am critical very often, though I hope I am still correct in what I say. Nevertheless I agree to that quote: it is much easier to be critical than to be correct.

Big GrinSomething to laugh: my favorite comic strip of the weekabout the “big picture” guy

A nice fit to this quote is this Dilbert comic strip about the "Big Picture" guy:

 

NerdSomething to watch: my favorite video clip of the weekabout "Little Red Riding Hood"

Here is the fairy-tale "Little Red Riding Hood" ( "Rotkäppchen" in German ) told in a very different way:

 http://player.vimeo.com/video/3514904

Slagsmålsklubben – Sponsored by destiny from Tomas Nilsson on Vimeo.

  Something to enjoy: my favorite photo  on flickr under a Common Creative licenseabout Klatschmohn

some corn poppies || etwas Klatschmohn
"some corn poppies || etwas Klatschmohn" by Tobias.

Winter is not over yet on the northern part of our planet, most of us are still struggling with snow, rain, light-less days. Thus, time to look at some colorful pictures to do something good for our eyes and mood. “some corn poppies || etwas Klatschmohn” was taken in July last year by Tobias, but just uploaded to flickr this week under a Creative-Commons License.

Cool Something to discover: my favorite bookmark of the weekabout The Power of Saying "I Don’t Know"
The power of saying “No!” is a key to a proper work life balance. Why saying “I don’t know” actually is more of a strength than a weakness is nicely described by Janine Popick in “The Power of Saying "I Don’t Know"”.

My favorites for week 1, 2011

Big GrinSomething to laugh: my favorite comic strip of the weekabout change

Since I ended last year with a comic strip from Garfield, let’s start the New Year with Garfield as well:

 

Change is not always good, and change does not necessarily mean progress. Anyway, things are changing permanently, the entire world is changing all the time, whether we like it or not. So, why not better liking it ?

Keep in mind that when you type a date into some document nowadays you have to write 2011 instead of 2010 ! Change is everywhere. And as soon as you got used to it it will … change. 2012 is not too far away.

Surprise Something to surprise: my favorite "I really didn’t know this" of the weekabout the automobile

Did you know that

  • the motorcar will celebrate its 125th anniversary this year,  
  • the first car built by Carl Friedrich Benz in 1886 came with 1 horse power, electrical ignition, water cooling and a crank shaft,
  • many people attacked this vehicle and perceived it as violent and dangerous technology. If asked what they want, they said: “Faster horses”, according to Henry Ford, who started manufacturing cars in high volume using conveyors in 1913,
  • 2.4 billion cars have been built since then on our planet.

Source: “ADAC Motorwelt 1/2011”, a German motorcar magazine. Photo from wikipedia.

NerdSomething to watch: my favorite video clip of the weekabout Windows XP

How would The Matrix run on Windows XP ? See by yourself in "Matrix Runs on Windows XP ".


Embedding doesn’t work for this video ( and doesn’t work in WordPress anyway ), thus you need to head to this youtube page to watch it.
I personally think that WIndows XP has been one of the best Windows releases. I wonder how The Matrix would run on WIndows Vista ?

  Something to enjoy: my favorite photo  on flickr under a Common Creative licenseabout Mantas in Bali

Manta Point
"Manta Point" by Francesc Balagué.

Manta encounter in Bali. Lots of nice scuba diving and other photos from Bali in this photo stream under a CreativeCommons license by Francesc Balagué.

Something to talk about: my favorite quote of the weekabout decisions

Hmmm, I can’t decide whether this makes sense or not
Anyway, have you decided upon your New Year Resolutions yet ? I haven’t, since I usually don’t come up with any.
You can read here “Why Your New Year’s Resolutions Are Doomed to Fail”.

Back from hiking on Majorca

 

Pirate Watch Tower
"Pirate Watch Tower"

Last week I have been on Majorca, the largest island of Spain, located in the Mediterranean Sea and belonging to the Balearic Islands, two flight hours away from Frankfurt, Germany. I have been traveling on my own since this year my wife has to safe a few vacation days for an extra education she is taking and thus I was free to do something on my own. I booked six guided tours organized by the German Alpine Club.

We stayed in a good hotel in Port de Sóller in the North of the island behind the mountains, located at the coast. If you visit their web site you see as a first photo the old part of the hotel with a massive stone tower. That’s where my room was located. The hotel was fully booked and thus I got this room which was a bit difficult to reach through a very narrow spiral stair case, but quiet calm and very special. This building actually is from the 16th century when pirates from Algeria attacked Majorca attempting to kidnap members of rich families to bring them over to Africa as slaves and only returned them after their family had paid a huge amount of money.

Bay at Cape Pinar
"Bay at Cape Pinar"

Many people never returned to Majorca and inhabitants of Majorca tried to protect themselves by building watch towers and houses like fortresses. That’s why I spent my vacation in such a watch tower, which has been an interesting experience. The hotel itself was nice and offered a large swimming pool and excellent breakfast and dinner, good wines and a good location; only 3 minutes walking distance to the harbor.

Our travel guide was a Majorcan who had worked as a druggist many years ago, thus he know very well about all the plants you find on Majorca. But he also knew a lot about animals, geology, history and culture and shared a lot with us while a bus took us to the starting points of our hikes each day.

We climbed on top of two mountains, the Galatzó (1027 m) and the Massanella (1365 m), the second highest mountain on Majorca. The highest one is the Puig Major (1445 m), but this one is protected by Military.

Olive Trees
"Olive Trees"

We did several coastal hikes with the opportunity to enjoy the 20°C cold water of the Mediterranean Sea, we visited a few of the small mountain villages, tasted a lot of olives and fresh orange juice and discovered the old stone trails  built by Arabians. We also explored a cave used in former times to hide smuggled tobacco, and we hiked the Canyon Torrent De Pareis with 300 m high walls, the highlight of the week, and a bit more than just hiking.

Great week with a lot of walking, but much better than hanging in front of a computer all day long, I tell you. A bit strenuous for the body – not too bad; they called it easy hikes and I would rate it as moderate hikes – but relaxing for the mind, for me a better way to relax than just doing nothing during my vacation days. I simply love this mixture of sports and discovery with a little bit of adventure. And I love to be a hiker, not just an ordinary tourist.

Now, back to work, waiting for the next nice trip Wink.

Back after 5 weeks

You think a 5-week-vacation is a long vacation ? Yes, it is, for most of us. No, it isn’t if you become aware how many beautiful places there are in this world to discover and how many exciting things to do. Nevertheless, no matter how long a vacation can be, at some point of time it reaches its end.

Auckland
"Auckland"

So did mine, thus back to work. My first Monday started with 400 e-mails and a surprising calendar entry: a class starting on that day at 09:00am for the entire week, every day from 09:00am to 01:00pm, a class about Cognos 8 Framework Manager my boss has sent me to, not because I need it right now, but simply because it is available. The class is interesting but challenging and slows me down a bit to catch up with things like e-mails, blogging, capturing the status of my current project. 

So, what did I do during the last 5 weeks ? My wife and I traveled to New Zealand and explored both the North and South Island for 3.5 weeks, then flew over to Fiji and spent another 5 days there to relax at a beautiful beach of a little island and do some scuba diving. Roughly 4 days were needed to fly around the world, that’s why we ended up with a 5-week-vacation.

Urupukapuka
"Urupukapuka"

In New Zealand we started our trip in Auckland, visited the War Memorial Museum especially to learn a bit about Maori culture, and explored this largest city of New Zealand where roughly 1 of the 4 million kiwis live. in Auckland we also picked up our rental car, a Ford Territory, and drove to Pahia, from where we did a boat cruise through the Bay Of Islands. Two days later we drove over to the West Coast of the North Island to do a hike through the Kauri forests. Then we headed south and to the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula with wonderful bays and beaches, and the famous Hot Water Beach where you can dig for boiling water directly at the beach. Also we hiked to the Cathedral Cove and then continued our journey to Rotorua, to visit the two thermal areas there: Whakarewarewa and Wai-O-Tapu, to see geysers, mud pots,  steaming and colorful lakes and boiling springs. Next stop was Lake Taupo. We then headed to the Tongario National Park, but again, like 9 years ago when I was there the first time, the volcanos were hidden behind clouds and thus we continued our trip right away to Waitomo to visit another natural feature: the glowworm caves. After that we travelled further south to New Plymouth, where we stayed for two nights and some mountain hike at Mount Taranaiki. The weather was nice now and we even could see the Tongario mountains far away.

Picton and Queen Charlotte Sound
"Picton and Queen Charlotte Sound"

Now it was time to get to Wellington and take a ferry to the South Island. When we got there it took us 4 hours to find a room and finally we ended up in a village called Lower Hut Valley I never had heard about before, simply because New Zealand tried to qualify for the soccer world championship and played against Bahrain and thus all rooms were booked in the Wellington area.

After a nice ferry trip over the Cook Strait and through the Queen Charlotte Sound we ended up in this little village Picton, where we spent our first night on the South Island. From there we traveled to the Abel Tasman Nationalpark for a beautiful day hike along the Coast Track, from Bark Bay to Marahau, where we had booked a chalet for two nights and a water taxi to get us to Bark Bay in the morning. Another spectacular hike we did in Nelson Lakes Nationalpark afterwards: around the Lake Rotoiti in 8 hours. After that we got to the West Coast of the South Island and visited the Pancake Rocks, another awesome geological feature of New Zealand. So far the weather had been just great, not really warm, lots of winds most of the time, but lots of sun as well. This changed when we got to the Franz Josef Glacier, nevertheless this area is well known for its many rain days.

Mitre Peak in Milford Sound
"Mitre Peak in Milford Sound"

So we stayed there just for a short hike and continued our trip southwards. We reached Wanaka, a nice and peaceful alternative to busy Queenstown, and decided to stay there for two days to do another great hike: the Rob Roy Glacier hike in Mount Aspiring National Park. After a quick stop in Queenstown we drove to Te Anau, the gate to Milford Sound, the only of the 14 sounds in Fjordland Nationalpark you can reach by car. A trip to and through Milford Sound is always a highlight, especially if you have as nice weather as we had. A ship cruise took us through the sound, which actually is a fjord, out to the Tasman Sea, and back to the head of the fjord. On the next day we drove to Dunedin and visited an Albatross colony there. North of Dunedin is Moeraki with the famous Moeraki Boulders, another must-see in New Zealand.  And then we reached Christchurch, our final destination in New Zealand.

Matamanoa Island
"Matamanoa Island"

From there two flights took us back to Auckland first and then to Nadi on Fiji. From the main island it was a 1.5 hour boat cruise out to this little beautiful island Matamanoa, where we spend the next 5 days with relaxing, snorkeling and some scuba diving. The journey back home afterwards was a 38-hour-trip: boat tour back to the main island, transfer to the airport, flight to Los Angeles, wait on airport, flight to London Heathrow, wait on airport, flight to Frankfurt, Taxi ride home.  It took us almost 1 week afterwards to overcome jet lag.

It has been a fantastic trip with so many awesome impressions and more than 2.300 photos I took. Some of them can be seen on my flickr account: here is my set of New Zealand photos and here is the one with photos from Fiji. Or simply watch a few photos in my slideshow attached below. Our more detailed travel diary will be published in my German blog, so if you can read German you might want to check this out; I plan to publish this day by day in the next weeks.

Two events to celebrate yesterday …

  1. Germany : Turkey = 3 : 2. Yeah ! Not a great game but a great fight, and thus Germany qualified for the finale of the European Soccer Championchip. What I liked most was our third goal, not only because it finally catapult our team into the finale, but also because it was shot by Phillipp Lahm who I think is the most dedicated player in the team, whether it comes to attack or to defend, he is always there to do a good job. OK, in this match he made some stupid mistakes, but actually it has been said that he participated in 5/6 of the goals shot by the German team, thus he really deserved to shoot his own !
  2. Alex and Axel are married since 20 years. Unbelievable ! These are the flowers I got from my wife ( besides some bottles of one of my favorite white wine ) …

and these are the flowers she got from me. We celebrated by watching the soccer game ( see # 1 ) and emptying one of the bottles. smile_regular