Hiking Razor, Slovenia

Hiking Razor, Slovenia

What does it take to get large blisters? Not very much, besides mesmerizing mountains, some determination, and lots of naivety.

South-east view from Razor towards Triglav.

It’s 0:30 a.m. when I faintly recognize my alarm clock. It takes a moment until I realize what’s going on. I get up, briefly change into the uncomfortably cold clothes, put on my hiking boots, shoulder my 10kg bag, and step in the vast valley below the starlit sky. It’s chilly at this time of day and I put on gloves and a scarf, although I know this will change only a few hours from now. Where am I headed? Toward a nearby mountain, which is yet so distant.

5.48 a.m. – waiting for the sun to rise.

At the heart of the Julian alps there is Razor, a distinct peak barely reaching the 2600 meter threshold. Several routes are possible; I am taking the shortest and steepest one, from Soča Valley 1400m uphill towards Pogačnikov dom, and then another 600m altitude to reach the summit.

Why do I start so early? Because I want to be in time for the rising sun. Because I want to re-experience what I witnessed last year (twice): feeling on top of the world, as the world itself still seems asleep.

South-west view from Razor into the Soča valley.

The beginning goes smoothly; as always, nature is mysterious and the eerie sounds and schemes of the forest drive away the last tiredness. I look into the dark and pairs of glowing eyes look back, attached to invisible bodies. Although I am confident in my stamina, the long winding ascent becomes more and more strenuous. I swiftly reach the hut after 3 hours but I feel that my legs are getting heavy. In hindsight, being so fast on the first part was maybe one of my mistakes to begin with. After the hut, the path first winds along grassy slopes before leading through large screes as it gets steeper and steeper. Some sections are secured with fixed ropes to clip into. After reaching Ganja pass, a last steep ascent awaits. Then, I have defeated the 2000m vertical elevation; in roughly five hours, and an hour before sunrise.

The mighty mountain itself: Triglav in the heart of the Triglav national park.

Due to the height difference, this route is often considered to be a two day trip with a sleepover in the hut, potentially also linking other summits. And while the ascent on its own feels fine for now, the way back down will teach me otherwise.

Now, at 5:30 a.m. the morning light just settles in; the hills in the distance are plunged in a deep and profound glow with a color palette ranging from pitch black to lavender to saffron yellow. Colors I have never seen anywhere else besides when being on a mountain top at this time of day. An astounding show the sun and atmosphere prepare every day, and that far too few people ever witness. The elegance of nature has the power to amend the human heart.

Distant views towards Austria, shortly before sunrise.
Hazy valleys deep below.

I relish the brief moments, well aware how quickly they pass by; the sun appears and transforms the landscape. It rises in the distance and brings the long awaited warmth. It also brings a new palette of colors, contrasting the ones from the hour before: pastels all around.

And already, I head back again. Normally, I am rather quick going downhill, but this time is different. The path feels like it never ends and the daylight reveals what I could only suspect a few hours before: it’s steep, it’s long, and there are endless hairpin bends. My legs hurt, and a particularly unpleasant blister gets worse and worse.

Getting back down takes me longer than getting to the top, but it was worth every second.

I would do it again, right away.

Trapped

Trapped

In Germany alone, every single second 20 chickens are murdered. Tick-tock, 20 chickens dead. Tick-tock, 40 chickens dead. When you finished reading this post 2.400 chickens will have died. Tomorrow at this time it will be 1.700.000 million. It is absurd. It is grotesque. There is no excuse; the only reason is our own pleasure, our greed, our arrogance.

Pigs are among the most social and intelligent animals we know; they are comparable to dogs in terms of their social life and cleverness. In the next 24 hours, 150.000 pigs will be slaughtered: in Germany alone on a single day. How can this happen? I doubt I will ever find the answer. And: for most of them it will be the greatest relief of their life after they have suffered in cages that are so small they cannot even turn around. Imagine how our western society would react if this would be dogs. What the outcry would be, the outrage and disgust. But there is no difference, the despicable act stays the same: The murdering of innocent beings after robbing them their only existence they will ever have. Their only chance to enjoy this earth. Writing this makes me despise us; the presumptuous human.

Animals do not belong in captivity. They do not belong to us humans. They belong to themselves. They always have and they always will.

Yet we sometimes visit wildlife parks because animals are fascinating after all, aren’t they? We visit mostly those parks that try to do the right thing: raise lynxes to release them into the wild; save bears from their chains in the circus. But is this any better? Saving them from a small cage to put them in a large cage? Is it the lesser evil?

I wish for a future where this won’t be necessary. Where we are not trapped in such a dilemma. Where bears are not trapped in such a dilemma. Where they roam the forests in Scandinavia and Canada and most people will only dream of seeing a bear in real life.

Besides: you should go vegan. Even if it’s for only 80%, it will be the best decision of your life. Not only for the animals, also for us. Going vegan has a significant impact on climate change, we won’t run into troubles by wasting powerful antibiotics in factory farming, we will have more food to feed all the humans, the amazon rainforest will be around for a little longer, and you will be healthier. Going vegan is probably among the most impactful decision you can easily incorporate into your daily life to bring this world onto a better path.

Untangled

Untangled

The alarm clock goes off at 5 in the morning. Fortunately, in anticipation of my morning mood, past me already crammed everything into the backpack yesterday evening so I can get started right away. Why today? Because the forecast promised heavy fog for the whole morning. So, despite the apparent lack of fog at this early time, I hop onto my bike, and drive off into nature. All trust placed in the forecast. I have visited this wood many times before; last time in late winter when everything looked naked and cold. So how about today? It’s a different world:

The fog appears as the sun rises. First, it lingers on the fields and streets, but then it slowly creeps into the forest. And with every passing minute it becomes more dense as it wraps around the trunks and branches. The greens get so intense it looks like someone slipped on the saturation slider, while old leaves are scattered across the ground. The birds already conclude their morning symphony, everything is calm and peaceful.

I drift around, on paths, off paths, through the scrub, across small glades. And, as everytime, I realize: photographing woodlands is hard. Everything is cluttered, without structure, entangled. But with enough patience even the woodlands become untangled, as does the mind.

Ocean, Swamps, and Freedom

Ocean, Swamps, and Freedom

The land is flat and stretches out,
it seems that here the birches sprout
quite willingly in swamps and marsh,
the light is golden, never harsh.
The birds sing different and fly
towards far places, as the sky
turns orange and leaves us behind,
vanishing traces in the mind,
condensed adventure, precious time,
forgetting it might be a crime.

Dunnock

Dunnock

Besides their primary purpose, cemeteries exhibit properties that are hardly ever valued: First, they seem to offer great parking spots for a nights rest in a van (I guess this information shouldn’t be distributed widely, especially not on an internet blog). Secondly, they offer great potential to photograph wildlife – birds and squirrels in particular (however, the latter are rather quick, rendering the photography difficult for a sluggish human who just crawled out of bed). Also, as it should be, cemeteries are calm, quiet, and peaceful; and: very few people seem to visit them (myself included), especially when most graves are from long forgotten times. So, last week, I checked out the largest cemetery in our town, watched the squirrels, and took some pictures of the many many birds that scurried around:

Collide / Collapse / Collude

Collide / Collapse / Collude

Bright beam of light within the night,
a scenery in black and white.
Dreams are extremes
but, as it seems,
color soaks in and strokes begin
to rise and shine, a hopeful sign.
Deceiving thoughts,
are leaving spots,
and what is left is sparse:
unite and fight for what is right,
do not incite, do bring delight.

Jardim Botânico da Madeira

Jardim Botânico da Madeira

I have written about botanical gardens earlier. We visited another one, and what a treat it was: Plants, birds, blossoms, greens, oranges, and everything in between – the botanical garden in Funchal belongs to the main attractions of the town for a good reason; and who would have thought that pigeons are such a photogenic subject.

Cloudtrees

Cloudtrees

Madeira – the island of ever-changing weather: From storm to rain to sun to clouds to an ocean breeze, there was a bit of everything. On the island of eternal springtime, it felt like we witnessed at least three seasons in two weeks. But one constant remained: clouds and trees, intermingled on the rolling hills and steep faces of the mountains. Always waiting to be photographed, always changing shape and color. Madeira didn’t get spared by wildfires though; as in most European countries in the recent years, forest fires destroyed large areas in 2016 and the damages can be clearly seen along the southern coast.

The extent to which forests help to battle climate change seems still to be rather unclear: it’s not only about the amount of carbon they can capture, but also about the amount of clouds they produce which in turn reflect sun light. In any case, cutting down trees or setting fire is detrimental – nevertheless, both will happen in the years to come. Trees, clouds, and the sun, here all coming together during our hike on Pico Grande:

After naming this blog post I also discovered that cloud forest is a real term and about 1% of all forests are considered to be cloud forests.

Photo Post: Plateaus

Photo Post: Plateaus

Above the small village of Ribeiro Frio, known for the breeding of trouts, a plateau promises a view towards Madeiras seconds highest peak: Pico Arieiro. The hike follows a narrow path along Levada do Furado. Mist rises from the valley deep below and the sun has brief appearances below the dense canopy of leaves. After following the Levada for a while an arduous ascent begins. We pass a hidden spring, wriggle through low-hanging branches, and cross small meadows with flocks of kinglets. In the end we reach the aspired plateau, but the reward remains absent: Instead of the expected peaks of the central mountain range, we can only see clouds of rain.