The amazing architecture of Swiss railway stations

It is not an exaggeration to say that many Swiss railway stations are truly mind blowing.

This is Bahnhof Enge from the outside:


And this is Bahnhof Enge from the inside:

Stunning buildings like these harken back to a different time, when a train station like Bahnhof Enge was not merely a train stop on a commuter line, but actually an important debarcation center in its own right.

Interesting, the architects for this train station were Otto and Werner Pfister – and if anyone has spent time shopping for furniture in Switzerland, those names should certainly be familiar!

Vitus, Wenceslaus, and Adalbert – 2

Continuing the series, you may wonder what these three saints have in common?

The answer is: a cathedral in Prague that is so large, ordinary photographers like me, without special equipment, are completely unable to capture the Prague Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus, and Adalbert in its full glory.

So I display here some of my favorite snaps of the cathedral up close. In comparison with other large cathedrals, this one had a surprising amount of painted detail:

And the stone windows are spectacular:

And although it pains me to show it, here is yet another snap that truly proves it’s impossible to capture good images of huge cathedrals:

Vitus, Wenceslaus, and Adalbert

No, it’s not these three:

For the record, that’s Kukla, Fran, and Ollie – the characters of a children’s television show, parts of which I saw in re-runs as a small child.

This is Vitus. He died around the year 300, so it makes sense this painting would seem a bit older than the others:

This is Wenceslaus – but for the record, I don’t know if he was a good king or if he looked out on the Feast of Steven:

This is Adalbert:

And in my next blog post, I’ll tell you about what these three saints have in common.

Stained glass in Prague

I took this snap from the inside of the Cathedral of St. Vitus, in Prague.

I think any photographer with a highly adjustable camera can take great shots of stained glass windows – but remember I captured this on the first generation of tiny, pocket digital cameras, more than a decade ago.

Unfortunately, the cathedral itself is just too huge for an amateur photographer like me to capture in its entirety. So in future blog posts I’ll share some snaps of parts of the structure that impressed me.

Hanuman was born here

This is Hanuman:

If you haven’t seen him before, Hanuman is often referred to as the “monkey god” for obvious reasons.  What’s more remarkable is that his historical origins are unclear – there are some ancient Hindu texts that first describe him, but historians are not quite sure when he was first described.

Anyway, during a visit to the UNESCO city of Hampi, I had the good fortune to gaze upon the Anjani Hills:

The historians can’t quite agree when and where Hanuman was first referenced, but most Hindu’s I know agree that this hill was his birthplace.  The white spot at the top is the Hanuman Temple.

The peaks from Oberhofen am Thunersee

For three years I had the lifetime privilege to live in the village of Oberhofen am Thunersee in Switzerland. It’s a tiny village, but it packs a spectacular, breathtaking view of the Swiss Alps of the Bernese Oberland.

Shortly after moving there, I became curious about the various peaks and other items of interest that I could see from my balcony, so I created my own “peakfinder.”

This is the view from my balcony, looking to the left (and also including a tiny snap of Oberhofen, taken from the observation platform at the peak of Mt. Niesen):

And this is the view from my balcony, looking to the right:

Incredible Bulgarian countryside

I am convinced that the Bulgarian countryside holds the Number Two World Record in sheer amazingness, surpassed only by the countryside of rural India.

I took this snap of a huge monument out in the countryside of western Bulgaria, far away from any town or village:

Unfortunately I don’t understand Bulgarian, but I also captured the quite lengthy text etched into the monument:

Update added 21. October 2017: A friend of mine from Bulgaria just translated this for me.  The monument is for the people from Samokov in 1923 who have died fighting against the Monarchy and celebrates at the same time the start of the communism in 1944.

How many people can you stuff into an autorickshaw?

Having lived many years in India, I thought I’ve seen it all: whole families of 6 people riding on a two-wheel scooter, chicken farmers sitting quietly in a bus on their way to town, with dozens of live chickens tied together and sitting quietly on their laps.

But this snap has to take the cake: I counted no less than 13 people packed into an autorickshaw.

I took this snap was somewhere in the Hassan district of the Indian state of Karnataka.

Scary Stuff!

While recently visiting Manhattan I stumbled across a military exposition at Battery Park, in which the soldiers were showing off their tanks and guns and armored personnel carriers, and tilting-rotor Osprey aircraft flew back and forth across the Hudson River (that was really an impressive sight):

It was quite enjoyable to see the high tech military gear close up.

But for me, fun turned to terror when I came across this scene:

I was raised with guns and shooting, and I was taught how to handle them safely – and I got very ill when I saw a small child – in a large public setting filled with people – with his finger on the trigger of a real Colt M4 carbine.  I assume / hope / pray the soldiers somehow took “special precautions” with their guns, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

Jason Bourne Slept Here

Well, I don’t know if he did or he didn’t – and that’s what drives me crazy!

Everyone remembers the film version of the Robert Ludlum novel The Bourne Identity:

(Interesting aside: Believe it or not, I stood behind Matt Damon in France, at a cash machine (ATM), back when he was filming the JB movie.  I didn’t know him as Jason Bourne – but rather I recognized him as the actor in Good Will Hunting.)

Anyway, in one famous scene Jason Bourne is caught by the Swiss police, sleeping on a park bench in Zürich:

When the camera angle pans, you can see the park is on a hill overlooking the Zürich skyline along the Limmat River:

After moving to Switzerland I quickly learned of this park, called the Lindenhof.

Recently, I got curious, and decided to see if I could see if this scene was really photographed here.  Indeed, the Lindenhof is a park, and there are green park benches:

And looking from the other direction, the park really does look out over the Limmat River,

But sadly, that’s where it ends.  I read that no parts of this movie were filmed in Switzerland, and that the park scene was (I think) filmed in Romania.

However, it seems great pains were taken with special effects to make this park as Lindenhof like as possible.  I did not take any pictures of it, but when you see this final scene, and if you’ve been to the Lindenhof, then you’d easily think the scene was filmed here:

Is the umbrella sommellier in?

John Wick: “Is the sommellier in?

Receptionist: “I have never known him not to be.”

Like John Wick, I am a man of focus, commitment, and sheer will.  In the brilliant film John Wick 2, John consulted with the weapons sommellier while planning his party in Rome.

Similarly, I plan to return one day for a session with the sommellier of this place:

This is not one of the cheap stores in a cheap district that sells cheap Asian luggage. This is a 200-year-old upscale boutique in London that has walking sticks in glass cases that cost thousands of pounds (the walking sticks, not the cases), and umbrellas that cost much more.

The Dome of St. Peter’s

This is one of my all time favorite snaps, showing the magnificent Dome of the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, but framed in the context of quite a mundane and architecturally uninspiring neighboorhood street:

Unbelievably, the Basilica of St. Peter is known as the largest church in the world. I find that a bit hard to believe – but that is what is says in Wikipedia.

The historical origins of Bangalore as Indian’s Silicon Valley

Everyone knows that Bangalore is often referred to as India’s Silicon Valley – but not everybody agrees why.  Some say it was because Wipro got its start here – I had the pleasure of meeting Wipro’s Azim Premji, but I don’t believe this is the reason.

After living many years in southern India, I’ve come to the realization that no other place I’ve visited has such a deep, long, and intense culture of technical innovation.

Probably the best known example: Back in the eighteenth century Southern Indians invented military rockets, the British stole these and exported them back to the New World – and in fact it is these Indian “rockets’ red glare” mentioned in the Star Spangled Banner.

But here’s an even better example: ancient outdoor air conditioning.  This snap shows a temple in the Southern Indian UNESCO village of Hampi:

The stone columns are hollow and, when filled with water, provide a strong evaporative cooling effect.

I’ll share other examples of Southern Indian “culture of innovation” as time permits.

The pubbing of London

I don’t know when it started.

I don’t know how it started.

But I do know that today London is covered with pubs that have very fancy exteriors.

I took this snap on my second visit to London:

But then I quickly realized that just about every pub had a pretty exterior, such as this one:

And this one:

At this point I stopped taking snaps of pubs. If they are all like this, I am sure there are coffee table books that can do a better job at capturing them than me!

Europe’s most impressive waterfall

During the late summer, particularly after a bout of thunderstorms as shown here, the Rheinfall is an incredible sight to behold. It lacks the steep drop of Niagara Falls, of course:

But it more than compensates for this by giving visitors the chance to walk down just mere feet from the thundering, pounding wall of water:

Of course, the locals here don’t speak German but rather a more evolved form of the language, known as Allemanic. So located here in the heart of Allemanic speaking Switzerland, the locals usually call it Rhyfall or even Rhyfau (tending toward the Bernese version of Allemanic).

Thar’s oil in them thar . . . parking lots

The great thing about having a photo blog is that you get the chance to learn little interesting facts.  While driving around Southern California I took this snap overlooking the city of Long Beach:

And I couldn’t resist driving up and seeing one of these oil pumps up close:

But naturally I got curious about why there are so many oil pumps in this area, so a quick check on Wikipedia pulled up this article about the Long Beach Oil Field, at one time a hugely important natural resource for the U.S.

The amazing Airbus A380

Capable of carrying over 800 passengers, the Airbus A380 is currently the world’s largest passenger aircraft.  And the amazing perk about my job is that I get to get up-close-and-personal with these jumbo jets.

Here’s a snap from driving on the tarmac in Los Angeles International Airport (LAX):

At the Tom Bradley International Gates (also known to us in the trade as TIBITS, Terminal 5), the A380’s are all parked side-by-side.  And here’s a snap of us driving in an automobile underneath the wing:

Looking out their window the flying public sees the busy crew on the “ramp” but has little idea of the overwhelming logistical complexity and challenges that a company like Swissport has to overcome to deliver a top service.

The amazing sidewalks of Hollywood

I know its a touristy thing to do, but I’ve always wanted to see the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard, which I recently got the chance to do.

On both sides of the street, extending for quite some length, are the famous “stars” – 2600 of them, to be precise:

They are arranged in repeating patterns of two: two stars facing left, then two stars facing right. I’m not sure how they decide to mix up the celebrities, but movie stars, musicians, movie directors, and other famous people are honored here.  In the snap above you can see some empty stars; the names are added after the celebrities are selected, but the stars are already built into the ground.

One one side of Hollywood Boulevard is Graumann’s Chinese Theatre,

And in the very tiny area in front, you can see the hand and footprints of the mega-stars:

Unique, unequaled steeple

I have quite a few blog entries about the wonderful historic buildings in Metz, France, which are in spectacular condition despite a number of world wars.

This building didn’t fare as well as the others:

This is the Temple du Garnison (or Garrison Temple, in English) – and apparently the main part of this church collapsed due to a fire in 1946. All that remains is this steeple.

Eddy Murphy Parked Here

Well, I don’t know if he did or he didn’t.

But this is a scene from the film Beverly Hills Cop, that shows him cruising down the expensive and glamorous Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California:

And this is a snap I took of the real Rodeo Drive today, risking life and limb by standing in the middle of the street to get the perfect shot:

OK, it wasn’t all that dangerous.  It was a Sunday morning, and all the stores were closed, and there was no traffic at all.

This is downright scary!

The first time something happens, you don’t even think about it.

The second time something happens, you call it deja vu.

But the third time something happens, and when it is religious in nature, it isn’t just scary – it’s terrifying!

The first time it happened I had a rental car in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I got lost.  So I pulled over to the nearest parking lot to check the navigation system, and this happened to be a famous Mormon temple. I never gave it a second thought.

The second time it happened I had a rental car in the Chevy Chase neighborhood near Washington DC area, and I got lost. So I pulled over to the nearest parking lot to check the navigation system, and this happened to be a famous Mormon temple. I immediately thought, deja vu!

The third time it happened I had a rental car in the Burbank area of Southern California, and I got lost. So I pulled over to the nearest parking lot to check the navigation sysstem, and this happened to be a famous Mormon temple.  I immediately thought: this isn’t just scary, this is now terrifying!

Now, I am not Mormon.  But is something trying to tell me, I should become one?