Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein & Germany, (Aug, 2014)
After the amazing visit to the Eagles Nest, I then travelled to Munich, hoping to get there early enough to meet up with Tanya, the sister of a good family friend, however my only mode of communication was via Facebook and only when I have the internet, so whilst I praised McDonalds for their free internet connection previously, not so anymore, instead of just connecting you have to go through the third degree, have email access to get codes, so was not able to meet her and pass on the promised hug & kiss from her sister, bugger I was looking forward to that!
So the following morning I managed to have a bit of a walk around the city of Munich, packed up and headed south to Füssen, a medium-sized town near the German/Austrian border on the edge of the Alps. This place is the home of a very famous landmark known as the “Schloss Neuschwanstien” Castle, I understand that it was this castle that inspired the design of famous American Disneyland castle, anyway as a kid, my mother bought me a jigsaw of this castle, it was in a big round tin, 500 pieces, the jigsaw itself when completed was about 24” in diameter (as it was a circular jigsaw), and was an inspirational image that has stayed with me all my life, it was something that I just wanted to see in person. As I was getting closer to the town I was thinking of the various angles that I could shoot this castle from etc, and also had concerns as to whether there would be any scaffolding around it, as some of the images I had seen on the net, showed it was being refurbished, so could not wait to see it, Well wait no more, perched on top of a mountain there it was, I couldn’t believe it, after so many years I finally get to see it in real life, and it was all that I had anticipated, such a beautiful building set in amongst the alpine forests and even larger & much higher background of Alps, stunning to say the least.
So after the best part of two days shooting in and around Füssen, I again moved on, this time I headed West along the German/Switzerland border, to Fredrickshafen, you will know when you have arrive there, as in the air at about 1000 feet there floats a huge airship that circles the city, which is the home to the Zeppelin Museum that contains the history of the big airships that began in the early 1900’s, the most famous one of all was the Hindenburg, which sadly crashed and burned when it reached the USA on a scheduled trip in the 1930’s, anyway in the museum they have a life size part replica of that very same airship inside the museum, it is massive, the Hindenburg was some 300meters long, almost twice the size of the Titanic, to put some scale to it. So if you get the chance to visit then do so, I recommended it.
From Fredrickshafen I decided to take yet another ferry/barge across the Bodensee Lake about 17klms, to Romanshorn in Switzerland, so lined up to get a ticket in the que, when I got to the counter, and explained in english to a german with very little english understanding that I wanted a ticket, went to pay for it, and guess what they only took cash, and I was about ¢5 euros short, well with about 15mins to go before the barge left, I had to find an ATM quickly, get the car into the line and get a ticket, well despite what seemed impossible at the time I managed to do just that with only a couple of minutes to spare, the boat was crowded but all good got to Switzerland as planned.
Now on the other side of the lake, I set the GPS to go to Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, a very small country between Switzerland & Austria, well as it happens my wife & I and several other friends spent an evening with the Prince & Princess of Liechtenstein, not that they would remember I am sure, but who knows, they were both very nice people, easy to talk too, I enjoyed a chat with both of them for quite some time at the function we were at, rubbing shoulders with some royalty never hurt anyone I suppose, at least not those of us in the peasant ranks anyhow. Anyway located the Royal Castle, took a heap of photos of it and moved on.
From Vaduz, I set my sights on driving over the Swiss Alps to Saint Moritz, a picturesque city in the alps, so to get there I had to drive up over the pass, a very whindy road zigzagging back and forth to climb up over the alps, about 7,500 foot above sea level, so the clear skies turn slowly into fog or cloud, and the temperature dropped by over 20+ degrees to about six degrees, and colder with the wind, the low fog/cloud made for some great photos, and the crisp very cold air meant you could literally hear an orchestra of cow bells, I kid you not, there were so many of them it sounded like music, time was getting away on me however, it was just short of 9:30pm and I had not been able to organise my accommodation as yet, so had to go door to door in Saint Moritz to find a place to stay for the night as i had no internet to find something online. After inquiring at many hotels I did eventually find one, getting pretty late by now, so hurriedly got my gear to the room, so I could get the last meal for the night in their restaurant, great work I get dinner tonight, I thought!!
Next morning I rose early pre-dawn to try and get some images with reflections as there and a number of lakes around here, with beautiful alps some with snow & ice still on them at the end of summer, but by the time I found a spot, an untimely slight wind had sprung up and ruined the reflection opportunities, that is the luck of the draw for the landscape photographer, however as luck would have it a local fisherman came down to where I was and loaded his fishing gear into his tinnie/boat and slowly rowed out into the lake which at this time has a low fog moving over it which he disappeared into.
So got back to the hotel, packed up and headed out back over the Alps, the same way I had come the previous day, back up the pass over the top and down into the valley, the weather was clear at first, but by the time I got to the top in came the fog & cloud again, setting the scene for some great photos of the highlands, driving along I came across a small wooden bridge in a paddock, over a stream, so pulled up and walked back to it, thick fog was drifting past so it was in and out of view, perfect, jumped the fence walked up the hill, and looked at the deck of the bridge, it had mud etc on it and hoof prints, so it was being used by cattle, to cross the stream, anyway I am busily photographing the bridge in the fog, down at the water level, thinking to myself “wouldn’t it be great to have some cattle go across the bridge”, well no sooner said or thought than done I could hear cow bells believe it or not coming closer, then out of the fog came a cow & calf, wow, this is going to happen, so I slowly turned to reframe to get them in the shot trying not to scare them off, but alas they saw me and stopped, I waited dead still for what seemed to be forever, as I could see them thinking about what danger did I represent to them, but after several attempts to cross, they spooked and headed off up the hill disappearing into the fog, the troll had scared them off, bugger!
At the top of the pass just before you commence the decent down into the valley, I came across a very small village with a Hotel, and a couple of other buildings, etc and a church, the church was built out of stone and a stone tiled roof, on the side of the mountain, in front of the church was a small patch of lavender flowers, a photographers dream, this set the scene for hopefully a really beautiful image, so I shot it from as many angles as I could before moving on.
As it turned out, when I stopped for an early lunch in a small town I got talking to some locals, they told me that there were several other passes that were worth seeing so I took some notes and travelled one of the suggested routes, it was magnificent to say the least, loved it, worth the time taken to get some guidance.
Arrived in Zurich, Switzerland, overnighted there at one of the hotels, I was working on my laptop, on images & Facebook whilst having breakfast and enjoying some free internet access, and I was approached by an Indian couple, the gentleman was a very keen photographer and wanted to talk about photography, he was a medical doctor in the UK, and was on holidays with his family, he ended up showing me some of his images from his trip, great resource this, I managed to get some spots from him, to visit, so some more notes taken on other POI that I should visit.
The first was where the Rhine river drops about twenty meters making this enormous powerful waterfall, you have to see it if you ever get near there, certainly a magnificent sight, the full width and flow of this huge river just dropping over a cliff, and in the middle of this 100meter wide waterfall, stands a defiant single rock, that the waters cascade around and the river boats edge cautiously but casually up to, to drop off and pick up tourists that can climb the stairs to the top of the rock.
From here I drove further north to the Black Forest, via Hohenzollern Castle, which sits atop of a single pyramid shaped mountain, built around the year 900AD, and has had several additions added in the 14th & 18th centuries, so a short visit and back of the road, arrived at Baden Baden, pouring down with rain, had lunch there and photographed the people going about there business crossing the town square, umbrellas up, and wind blowing them about and inside out. Drove through the back roads still raining so decided to head south to the Swiss Alps again, to the small town of Brig, which is at the end of a long valley in the swiss alps, so you are not zigzagging, just driving along the valley floor, on the northern side of the valley are terraced vineyards, thousands of acres of them, all manicured by their individual owners, you can drive up through them, but the roads are barely wide enough for one car let alone passing traffic, but somehow we all managed to get past one another.
Got to my accommodation in Brig, nice building, walked in and was met by some nuns, Am I in the right place?? I thought, it was some sort of convent, or church boarding house, had all the facilities, even grog & internet, the system was that it was open house, an honour system, you just helped yourself to the beer, ice creams, food whatever, and you put the expected amount of money in the tin, it was great, enjoyed it and Yes, I did pay by the way.
As Brig is at the end of the valley, you either have to turn back and retrace where you have just come from or continue up over the Alps into northern Italy, So decided to go up partly over the pass for about twenty alms to see what was there and to check out a possible dawn shooting spot for the morning, as it is too late to find one in the dark the next morning, so I drove around for a while looking for that spot, next morning up before dawn and drove up the pass yet again, to photograph what I found the night before, then back to the Convent, to pack up and get ready to leave for the next part of my trip.