Wednesday, April 30, 2008

To The Top Of The World

OK, its been way too long since I posted so you get a big one today. Here is an entry from my journal from when I visited Switzerland in August, 2005. Enjoy!

Wow. Incredible. Amazing. Awe Inspiring. Wonderful. Ok, just a couple words that can describe today! So, it has been raining on me and Switzerland for the past week or two. But not today!! I got up this morning and the sky was completely blue—not a cloud to be seen! I was hoping for that but really didn’t expect it. So, instead of going for that small little cog wheel railroad I tried yesterday I headed to Grindelwald to take the train up the top of the Jungfrau!! The peaks were completely clear and these are some of the highest Alps there are!!! A few clouds would form briefly on the peaks—enough to make the pictures interesting and then dissipate. It was incredible. Forget the Deutsches Museum (Ok, I liked that too) but today was really my kid in a candy store day. I just kept stopping and saying wow! And no people didn’t think I was weird, they joined me!

So, it is a cog-wheel train up and it takes a little over an hour with one train switch—quite an incredible, and pretty journey. Expensive though to say the least—round trip was $112! But, that included all the things at the top. Still—but hey, it takes you to the highest train station in Europe. -- 11715 feet high! There is actually an observatory up there and a viewing platform around it that you can walk out on which is where I started. It looks out and around with an amazing panorama. The Jungfrau on one side and another of the really high ones right next to it. Behind you? A really long glacial river and the rest of the Alps to your south. And in front? A wide open view over Grindelwald and green hills as far as the eye can see. You are kind of on the cusp of the glacial Alps here. So, spent quite a while taking pictures here. Next was a trek across the glacier over to a secondary hut perched around the corner with a view out over the Eastern Alps. The hike is about 45 minutes and, yup, you guessed it, beautiful! Had lunch there and then to top it all off I ended lunch with a cup of coffee. But hat sounds so mundane. I was actually standing on an outside viewing platform in the sun with my coffee, Baileys, and cream looking out over the snow capped Alps on a clear day. I can honestly say that it just doesn’t get any better than that. This was a truly ideal moment for me and a great way to end my travels here in Europe. I still have 5 days to go and some sights to but it doesn’t matter, this is an incredible memory to end the trip with.

After hiking back to the main lodge (OK, skating on tennis shoes down the snow ) I wandered through the “Ice Palace” which is a pretty cheesy, though still fun carved passageway through the glacier with several ice sculptures. That leads you out to the “Plateau” which is an open space on the other side of the observatory and looks west out over the Alps. More pictures here! And then, I am afraid that it was time to head back—I had been up there close to 6 hours after all! I skipped one train connection on the way down to do some photography in the green meadow region (lots of meadow flowers--including the one at the top of this post) and then finally made it back to the car. The only real drawback to today is that I didn’t think I would be on the top of the mountain anywhere near as long as I was, or out on the glacier and snow. So, I am afraid that I won’t need a light to read my book in bed tonight, the sunburn will be plenty! Ouch :) I did find a pharmacy (Apotheke) still open at the train station and after much searching we found some aloe that I am bathing my face in :) Yes mom, I knew better!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Standing Stone Does Gather Moss

The Fjords of Norway once again! I really had a wonderful time wandering around Norway for 2 or 3 days with no schedule and no real plan. I just kinda took one road or the next (though the roads are REALLY scary at times!) and stopped all the time to take pictures. This standing stone was in a glacial lake who knows where--I am pretty sure I was lost at the time--intentionally so! I love the rich colors and reflections on this one and all the types of moss--a veritable colony out there.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Linning up for the spectacle

On to Nimes! And some interesting traffic! I had directions to the hostel again, but one small problem—they were having a big Pentecost Monday Festival on the streets of Nimes and some of the streets I needed were blocked off. I found a temporary traffic control person who had no idea where the youth hostel was, but did know where the Garden of Fountains was which was the penultimate landmark—I finally got over to the garden and found the signs—success!. I then headed back into town for the carnival and it was a lot of fun—big street fair with several bands, lots of food (almost all kebabs though—with one Chinese food stand—weird). There are two main sites here—one is a Roman temple (Maison CarrĂ©e) dedicated to the Cult of the Emperor and is one of the best preserved Roman ruins that we have. No reconstruction here—the thing still stands and is impressive. A simple rectangular building, but with very tall columns—very Roman looking (one of the most impressively preserved Roman ruins I have seen--and in France no less!) And interesting how we know the date and dedication—there are the holes left over where the brass letters were attached—by looking at the spacing of the holes and script know used at the same time there were figure out what it said—Arippa did this one! Nimes also has a large, and still in use coliseum and I wandered around the outside, but as I didn’t have tickets to tonight’s bullfight I couldn’t get in!
This picture is of the coliseum and the crowd that had gathered for the bullfight. An interesting angle I think.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Universality of Nerdvana

Just a quick note today between meetings and office hours :) It is good to know, sometimes, just how universal Nerdness can be! When in Munich in August of 2005 I visited the Deutsches Museum (Official name:Deutsches Museum von Meisterwerken der Naturwissenschaft und Technik) which is the largest science and technology museum in the world. Founded in 1903 this one is a biggie! There are a lot of interesting exhibits, including many on the technology side, especially in manufacturing and farming. But there is plenty of pure science as well and there was a demonstration of Tesla experiments at one point. Photographing lightening is a bit tricky at times, but fun to try! In this example the lightening is confined to a large (~10 foot across) square of glass. It danced across the glass for a few seconds so I was able to snap a couple shots. It was amazing to hear and, actually, smell. You could definitely small the ozone that resulted--not sure what ozone smells like? Go smell the room a high powered photocopier is in after it works on a big job!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

God's Carpet

Off to Denmark for today's picture. I missed the tulips in Holland, but got some pretty flowers all the same in other places throughout Europe on my trip. This is a field somewhere on the part of Denmark called Falster just south of Sjaelland.When taking flower pictures I often focus in on a single bloom and one of the things I like about this shot is the wider field of view showing the red and green carpet of poppies with just a few blue flowers for accent. Focus can be a bear to pull on shots like this so I actually took several and hit one with the focus right in the middle.

The Meaning of Life

Today's picture is chose less for its artistic merit than its contents. I just got back form a trip to New Orleans for a chemistry conference (close to 10,000 chemists all in one!!!) and was happy to find many a beignet while there. Now, I will always go for some chocolate, but there is just something about fresh, hot beignets piled way too high with powdered sugar enjoyed in the French quarters of New Orleans at the famous Cafe du Monde. Wow, is about all I have to say. Have I found the meaning of life? The experience was so good, I had to have some every day I was there...and twice some days! It is a good thing I don't live there!!!!