These are the Venusfigurinen von Petersfells, historical works of art discovered in South Germany that date back to Ice Age times:
And this is the Bruderthal Bridge in southern Germany:
Technically speaking, it is not a bridge; it is a viaduct.
The Bruderthal, or Brother Valley, is an interesting place located in the heart of a region (Hegau) that is home to many dozens of extinct volcanoes. It is the home of the Eiszeitpark – or Ice Age Park. And it’s here where scientists in the early 20th century discovered the remains of a massive human settlement. When you consider that the glaciers of the Wurm ice age in this part of Europe were many kilometers thick, it is truly amazing that our human ancestors could eke out a living at all!
Just about two minutes before a massive downfall just outside the Zurich airport in Opfikon:
Next to the famous Kornhaus restaurant in Bern you’ll find a magnificent golden elephant:
It’s really a sad story. It’s there to commemorate a real circus elephant who, in the late 1800’s, went amok and killed people near Bern. It was finally captured and shot.
This is late Swiss artist H.R. Giger (1940 – 2014):
He is famous as the creator of the terrifying extraterrestrial creature in the Alien movie series, which looks like this:
Well, there is also museum in the Swiss town of Gruyère that has literally hundreds of his works spread out over many floors. Sadly, you are not allowed to take photographs inside the museum, so I tried to respect that. But outside of the museum there are a few of his pieces, such as:
Now to be honest I don’t really know anything about H. R. Giger, although I am sure there are people who do, so what follows may seem a bit absurd – but please bear with me.
The first thing that hits you is that all of the hundreds of pieces are very nearly the same, the Alien creature being perhaps the penultimate version of what you see. But they are all just tiny variations on this theme.
Now keeping this in mind when you see the flabbergastingly huge number of pieces, most of them very large and requiring a signficant time investment to create, the first thing I thought of was obsession – as if he were a mad character with a single image in his brain that he could not free himself from.
And THAT led me to the speculation that perhaps he was not mad. Perhaps he was the victim of a disease similar to toxoplasmosis gondi. There are in fact hundreds of different “zombie parasites” that infect animals and cause dramatic changes in their behavior. Perhaps a parasite had infected his brain and was creating images he could not free himself from.
Even if when threatening to attack you, good cows make for good photographs:
I simply stopped to take a snap during my daily 15 km Nordic walk through the Winterthur hillside, when not only this cow but all of her sisters started running towards me. Since there was only a very thin single strand of electric fence, and since this cow looked easily more than 500 kg, I didn’t hang around long enough to see what would happen.
This is the view of Castle Kyburg (Schloss Kyburg) that I see every morning on my long 15 km Nordic trekking through the forests in Winterthur:
It’s over 1000 years old. You can’t really see WHY anyone would want a castle here, from this perspective, but in fact the castle sits above a river, and therefore it has a very strategic location – at least from a middle ages point-of-view.
This is not the building where I live:
But it is in the same complex, and when the complex was renovated last year I got to meet and exchange some experiences with the project manager for the double-digits renovation. We seemed about the same age and the same level of experience. But although I manage projects in IT, I thought we really had a few good things in common. For example, quality.
According to him the source of some of his biggest headaches was “I told you to drill a hole in this wall, at this height; you drilled it in the wrong wall, at the wrong height.” Now, maybe I‘ve just been lucky to work with great people, but my quality issues have always been along the lines of developers who want to goldplate their solutions – not developers who don‘t deliver the expected quality.
But about a year later, I took on the role of building facilities manager at Swissport, where I managed the consolidation and move of the entire IT department into a brand new building. And in fact, sooner not later, I ran into exactly the same challenge: our network architect spent an entire day and he very, very carefully measured our WLAN signal strength and determined exactly the right spot to mount each and every wireless access point for optimal strength and coverage. But the contractors I hired did exactly the wrong thing, despite both drawings and verbal instructions, mounting them on exactly the wrong walls in exactly the wrong locations!
It was an amazing privilege for me to get a little insight into projects that are a bit different than IT. And it was a treat to experience the same project struggles that a real building renovation project manager told me about!
Valencia, Spain, is the home of the majestic Valencian language – although most people know its dialectical form, Catalan, somewhat better. And deep in the Valencian countryside sits a hill, and high on the hill sits the medieval village of Morella. The village dates back to Roman times, and in fact it is surrounded by ancient Roman aquaducts:
It’s one of those difficult places to capture photographically, just because it is so big and impressive. But what I remember the most was thinking what it must have been like for the Romans living here, raising their children in the hopes they become great Roman Legionnaires, warriors, fierce gladiators, or lion hunters.
Today, the situation with children is a bit different: the swords are gone, none of them has slaughtered a wild animal, and instead these children are sitting and playing Nintendo.
My passion when I travel is to identify those local things, well known in a place but unheard of outside of it. In this part of Spain, this would have to be flaons,
Continuing the series, a familiar sight to anyone who visits the cheese factory in Gruyères – but probably not well known outside of that. Cheese is produced in an ongoing process, in which the day’s shipment of milk is processed into “wheels.” The wheels are are stored very neatly in a climate controlled warehouse the size of a football field.
And a robot, shown here in the center, attends to their daily needs, flipping each wheel over on its face, dusting off the surface, and – unless I miss my guess – spraying it with a light saline solution.
This is a snap from arguably the most important of all passes through the Swiss Alps, the Gotthard Pass:
Again, since I never re-touch or edit my snaps in any way- what you see is what I got! – this has to be one of my favorites, with the intense green contrasting a very thin white band of atmosphere just above the horizon.
Although you can see it here, several hundred feet below the ground is an Autobahn tunnel, that I mentioned in a recent blog post.
If you are interested and get the chance, there is a fabulous historical movie that depicts the tunnel building efforts. It’s fascinating because it addresses things you might think about (the horse caravan industry that transported goods across the Gotthard Pass in the summer was threatened existentially) and things you might not (huge problems with disease, simply because the long tunnel and sanitary conditions at the time did not permit the transport of human waste out of the tunnel).
By no means an uncommon sight in Switzerland, and known as a purple heron, or Ardea purpurea. I spotted this one resting on a boat in Lake Zurich:
Continuing the series, it’s one of my favorite snaps, completely unretouched as are all of my photos: I do not post-processing whatever, so what you see is what I got! I like how the colors of the sky, the statue, and the leaves at his feet are all from the identical color palette.
But when I spotted this huge statue of Buddha in the Buddhist monastary in the South Vietnamese village of My Tho, right on the Mekong River, it also made me think:
I’ve seen huge “Big Buddhas” in many famous places, like Vietnam, Thailand, and probably one of the most famous, Hong Kong. And I’ve seen huge Hindu statues all over India, arguably the largest being a stone monolith depicting Gommateshwara.
But when it comes to Christianity, sculptures of Jesus are usually limited to small crucifixion scenes – and I guess for obvious reasons (big assumption on my part!) – a huge 100-foot crucifix is not so aesthetically pleasing. The big statue of Christ in Brazil may be an exception. But there are large statues of other Christian figures, as anyone who’s ever been to South San Franciso knows (Father Junipero Serra).
I wonder why?
This is Ansel Adams, who everyone knows is the most famous photographic artist since the camera was first invented:
Interestingly, at least according to what I read, he never identified himself as a photographer, but rather as “an artist that used the medium of photography.”
And this is one of his masterpieces, the church at Bodega Bay:
Well, now it’s my turn!
Recently, at about the midpoint of my daily morning 15km Nordic walk, I captured what I thought was a magnificent snap of a church in Winterthur, basking in the early morning sunlight:
This snap has not been retouched or enhanced in any way. It’s snaps like this – fresh out of my little point-and-shoot camera – that really keep me going!
Vietnam is an Asian country, previously settled by the French: from the late 1800’s to around 1954, when they left, it was known as French Indochina.
In a recent blog post I talked about how you can still see the French influence in Vietnam today, even though it’s been an amazing 65 years since the French left:
The storks that like to hang out at the Alsatian highway rest areas in Eastern France must surely be narcissists, because they let humans get quite close and watch them, but they always refuse to eat just about anything you might toss out. In fact, they sort of parade around with a certain stork-arrogance, strutting about in their very arrogant stork-like way but otherwise ignoring the humans altogether.
Although this snap doesn’t capture it, I fed this stork a piece of ham (Schinken) I found, and he scarfed it down.
I don’t have a bad feeling because I think he already set his sights on the ham before I got there.
This is a snap of some houses outside of the medieval village of Gruyères:
The “s” at the end always confused me, so I finally looked it up. The village is named Gruyères, with an “s.” But it is located in a district called La Gruyère, no “s” in the Swiss canton of Freibourg.
The snow covered peak in the background is La Moléson, sort of a mini version of the more famous Matterhorn, reaching just over 2000 meters in height.
It looks like I’ve climbed down between the railway tracks to take this stunning shot of the railway station at Olten, in Switzerland, meaning there would be mere seconds before a ultra high speed train crashed into me:
Allemanic is the more evolved form of High German spoken in Southern Germany and Switzerland, and many people consider Olten to lie on a language boundary that separates the Zürich form of Allemanic from the Bern form.
Funny story – but true: there is a train conductor for the Swiss Federal Railways that has the route from Zurich to Geneva. Between Zurich and Olten he greets the passengers with the Züridüütsch greeting “Grüezi wohl.” Between Olten and Freibug he switches dialects and greets the passengers with the Bäärndüütsch greeting “Grüessech wohl.” And between Freiburg und Geneva he switches languages completely and speaks French, “Bonjour Madams, Monsieurs.”
One of my favorite snaps, captured near the Mekong Delta in Southern Vietnam,
I was pretty impressed with this view of the Porte Jaune building in the downtown area of the Alsacian village of Mulhouse:
Just for the record: the photos I post are never in any way retouched or enhanced or changed – except for cropping.
But in this series of blog posts entitled FAKE I publish some rather interesting images I have enhanced in some way.
Here’s something I’ve never really seen before.
Generally the waters of the Mekong River near the Mekong Delta in Southern Vietnam are quite sparse and peaceful, as this snap shows:
But what caught my eye was a long caravan of floating plants, like this:
Now, I’ve been to rivers all over the world, and this is the first time I’ve seen something like this. Floating down the river must be part of their natural lifestyle – the plants’ equivalent of spreading their wings and flying!
Continuing the series, I took this snap but did not have much time to linger around. So it’s definitely on my bucket list to go back one day and and try to understand the purpose of this pipe: does it onload or offload – or perhaps both? And does it deal with liquids or compressed gases – or perhaps both?
I only know that for the brief moment I was visiting, it was standing at lazy attention, like a lone and tired sentinel guarding a post that no one ever visited.
It’s not me, but it easily could be me, in a boat, on the Mekong Delta, patiently waiting for a fish:
A mathematician would say it like this: If C is the set of all good cows, and B is the set of all bad photographs, then the intersection of C and B is the empty set. But it is easier to just look and see, as I tried to catch the combined emotions of satisfaction and self-indulgence in this cow, just freshening up after a busy day of chomping on fresh, Gruyères grass shows:
Switzerland is the land of cheese – well, it is the land of plenty more things than just cheese, too, but you have to give the Swiss a lot of credit for their cheese. And to take a lot of credit for their cheese, they need a lot of cows. And to keep a lot of cows well fed in the winter, they need a lot of grass.
So sights like this are a common one all over Switzerland in the warm summer months, as the farmers ensure their clipped grass dries thoroughly in the sun:
Tractors themselves are amazing, amazing things, and there are literally hundreds of different attachments that farmers can buy. Because I lived for nearly a decade in America’s farm land, I knew many farmers and I got to know a thing or two about tractors: this tractor above is pulling a so-called rotary rake. I’m afraid I don’t know what it’s called in German.
It is a physical impossibility to capture a bad photograph of a genuinely good cow, as this snap of many cows relaxing in the Swiss Gruyères countryside shows. They are very content in the knowledge that although their babies may now be Züri Geschnetzeltes, soon their milk will Switzerland’s most famous brand of cheese: