Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Great Hyperlink Project

I've decided for some reason that it would be a good idea to go back over my posts and put some hyperlinks into places, things and people I've mentioned. I've done about half so far, and although I've tried to mainly link to websites that I've actually used while researching places I want to go, some for them are just from Google or Wikipedia searches. I might also link back to my own posts if I mention something that I've blogged about before. That'd be like what those proper blogger people do! I'll try to continue adding links as soon as possible!


Well, it's happened again: Too much has happened in the time between my last post and now; I can't even begin to remember everything. I suppose the main event that I haven't posted about (although it actually happened before my last post, but in the interests of continuity I decided to post about stuff in chronological order, foolishly believing that I'd get around to posting again in a day or so!) Oh well. Zermatt was excellent, Toni and I were so glad to get out of the sometimes depressing confines of this little room I've been living in for the last few months. And Zermatt, with its incredible views of the Matterhorn, and the vast, hard-to-fathom vistas on offer at the top of Gornergrat, was the perfect antidote to the slight cabin fever that can build up when you're living in a small room, with no private living area.
I suppose the original idea was to stay in the cheapest place available; a hostel or something similar. But, when we started looking up places to stay, "the cheapest available" got progressively more luxurious - the conversation went something this:

"Well, for a few more francs, we can get our own room"
"Actually, if we're going to do that, we might as well get the room with the balcony and the view of the Matterhorn"
"And it would be nice to go somewhere with a spa, you know, when we're tired after a long day's walking..."

So we ended up in a fairly nice (although is has to be said, it still was definitely at the cheap end) hotel. The room was nice and big and it did a decent breakfast, although the Jacuzzi etc was a bit of a let down.

Zermatt exists solely due to tourism thanks to the Matterhorn; you might think this is a terrible thing, but in reality it's quite pleasing to be able to get any kind of food, and anything you need, in a place where everyone speaks English and isn't bitter doing so. We were there in the off season, although some of the ski slopes had begun to open. It was fairly busy, although in a month or two it probably would have been much worse. I didn't really take many pictures of Zermatt itself, but here's one or two:

Zermatt is all about the Matterhorn; there's not really any other point to the place. But when you see it, you see why.

These horses were in the employment of some fancy hotel - Zermatt is car-free, so horses or electric vehicles are the only sources of transportation. Sadly, most have take the less interesting option.

We didn't really do much the first day - we went for a short walk but unfortunately the evenings close in fast at this time of year. We were going to have to have a few early mornings if we wanted to get the most out of the trip!

The next morning we got the Gornergrat Railway to...Gornergrat, suprisingly. This was included in the price of our tickets, as there was a special offer on at the time. It normally costs about 80 francs! The Gornergrat railway is a steep railway track, that goes up to a high point of about 3200 metres - that's pretty impressive. It takes 1/2 hour or so, and the view from the top was...

Well it was..

Ok, here goes. The view from the top of Gornergrat was...

Feck it, just see for yourself:

There. I hope that gives you some idea of what it was like.

The highlight of the day (and probably of the whole trip) was walking from the top station, down to the one below. It's actually a snow shoe trail, and it was completely, absolutely deserted. The snow was not too thick, but thick enough to cover nearly everything, and it was a lot of fun to walk through. It was perfect.

Toni grew a lot while we were there. Must be all that mountain air...

After this trip, we were exhausted, as you can imagine. Tired, but definitely happy.

The second day, we went for a big long walk around the woods surrounding Zermatt. Unfortunately a lot of the trails are closed for the winter (for good reason, we were to find out. We walked up one trail until it was too dangerous to go any further - it was covered in extremely slippy ice, and on one side of the narrow path, there was a sheer drop of a couple of hundred feet down to a gorge!) The mountains were very peaceful, we even managed to see a bit of Switzerland's shy and very elusive wildlife.

I don't really have the energy to write any more (or the memory, really!) It was an incredible trip, though.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Zurich Zoo

This was aeons ago at this stage, but just before Toni came over, I went to Zurich Zoo with some of the others. I don't really have much to say about it; it was an enjoyable but uneventful day - and at this stage my memory of it has faded anyway. So it's going to be another picture-heavy post. Probably for the best anyway! Anyway, I'll throw up some pictures, and then a quick comment at the end. Have fun!

Actually, although it was good fun taking pictures, I did feel a but bad at the Zoo. The animals are so far removed from their natual habitats - they mostly seem to just lounge around all day looking depressed. It's nice to be able to see all these different animals, but I can't help thinking that some of them - the larger ones at least - are really, really not suited to being in a zoo.

I don't really have mcuh to say about Zurich itself, we pretty much went straight from the station to the zoo and spent most of the day there. At first glance however, it didn't seem like the most interesting city.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sunset & night pictures of Geneva

Another largely picture only post: This is because there isn't anything really to tell with them. I went for a wander around Lake Geneva a few days ago with my tripod, and took lots of pictures.

There's a lot of boats in Geneva, but strangely enough no yachts: something I would have expected from such a rich city. They must not be able to fit up the river or something.

I don't know the building I'm afraid. It's taken from the 'Jardin Anglais', that's about all I know.

The increasingly elusive Jet D'eau. It hasn't been turned on since Toni arrived - I've heard that it's either the wind blowing the wrong way, or maintenance. This photo was taken from the top of St. Pierre's Cathedral, in the old town.

The top of the spire of the same church, taken from the tower as well.

The stairs leading up to the tower in St. Pierre's cathedral. It's quite narrow, usually only enough room for one person.

Geneva by night

Geneva by night - again.

I quite liked this one, so I gave it a border and a name and everything. Expect more of this kind of nonsense in the future.

The building in the centre is St. Pierre's Cathedral.

And that's about that. I was lucky, the weather worked out really well for me that day. I must do that sort of thing more often!


After going to Mont-Blanc, I really felt like going somewhere else to try and take some better photos - something I haven't been able to manage in a while. I had wanted to go to Bern anyway, so the next Monday I packed up and headed off: it was a bit of a last-minute decision! I really have to stop wandering off to places without telling anyone - I'm getting a bit of a reputation. The journey to Bern took less than two hours, quite a relief after some of the marathon train journeys I've been on recently.

Bern apparently has one of the largest (if not the largest - I'm too lazy to ask the internets) authentic medieval town centres left in Europe - Switzerland was saved from the bombing most of mainland Europe saw during World War II, which destroyed the medieval town centres in places like Frankfurt, for example. It's pretty impressive: The streets are cobbled, and the entire middle of the city is filled with almost identical, old-looking buildings, complete with huge cellars that have openings on the street (and are now mostly used for shops)

The old town in Bern

I have one gripe with the city, and actually most big cities in Switzerland in general. The public transport is excellent, but the down-side of that is that every street in Bern is criss-crossed with a spider's web of electric cables that are used to power the numerous trams and buses. This spoils what would otherwise be a beautiful city centre. I think it's a high price to pay for progress. Here's a couple more pictures of Bern: These are mainly views from one of the bridges crossing the river that almost surrounds the centre of the city.

I was just playing around with the settings - it made this picture look really fake!

The weather was again, unfortunately, cloudy. I seem to be getting really bad luck recently!

Next I went to another of Bern's attractions: the Bear Pits. This is basically two large sunken holes, with a couple of Brown bears in each. I'm not sure I liked it - the bears seemed less than happy. Also, I think that they should have been hibernating at this time of year. They've obviously given up as they've realised that they get enough bits of sandwiches thrown to them from tourists to easily last them through the winter.

"Please sir, may I have another sandwich?"

Looks like he's having great fun, doesn't he?

Lastly I went for a fairly long walk along the river to the zoo. It was getting late, and the light was failing so there was no point actually going in, but you can see some of the zoo without actually paying to go in. I got a couple of pictures of flamingoes:

Not the most practical of birds, are they...?

After this, I got the train back to Geneva - as usual!