3 more hikes in and around the Chiemgau region, Bavaria

The region of Chiemgau in Bavaria is in the foothills of the Alps, and its hilly landscape was formed during the ice age. Last year we travelled there for hiking and walked in the mountains on both sides of the German and Austrian border, heading up to Kampfenwand, Wilde Kaiser, Wandberg and the Blumen Weg next to Wildseelodersee. This year we returned and visited Lochner Horn, Brennkopf, Klausenberg, Sonnwendwand, as well as the beautiful lake Chiemsee. We still didn’t manage to get to do two of the iconic hikes in the area, up to the Geigelstein and Spitzstein, but it’s always good to leave something for another day.

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Walking the Suikerboschfontein Hiking trail in Carolina, Mpumalanga

This time while visiting South Africa, we decided to get off in Joburg to visit a friend before heading down to my family in Cape Town. She suggested we do one of her favourite hiking trails in Mpumulanga over the weekend: the Suikerboschfontein 2-day hiking trail. The hike was wonderful and I’d highly recommend everyone try it! Continue reading

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Hiking in the Bavarian and Austrian Alps

As winter approaches, we think of the Alps because of snow and skiing, but in summer it’s another world all together. A world of meadows, flowers and cows with bells, like a scene out of Heidi or The Sound of Music. One of my biggest wishes when moving to Europe was to go hiking in the Alps, and in my fifth summer here we finally made it there in summer. (Fifth summer! I had to count this on my fingers a few times. Has the time really disappeared so quickly?).

We went with a friend to Bavaria in the late days of spring heading towards summer, for four days of hiking in the Alps. The weather was great, four days of sun. We stayed in a little town called Aschau, near the Austrian border. There are hikes leaving directly from the town and many more accessible nearby, especially if you cross the border into Austria. Continue reading

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First snow: hiking in the Harz mountains

 

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This weekend a friend organized a spontaneous trip to the Harz mountains when a colleague mentioned to her that it was snowing there. Although the highest peak, the Brocken, is only 1141m, the area has an alpine character with lots of fir trees and receives much more snow than the surrounding areas. It was amazing as we drove from autumnal forests full of orange and gold up to a snow-covered winter wonderland. We visited earlier this year in January or February when the snow was deep for cross country skiing. This year we did some hiking in the hills instead, another way to enjoy the beauty of the snowy trees. I can hardly wait to visit again. Continue reading

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Canary Islands Travel Diaries – Gran Canaria

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The last stop on our Canary islands visit was Gran Canaria, which is approximately in the middle of the archipelago.  We had travelled first to Fuerteventura, then to  Lanzarote, finding that each island had a different character, and finally arrived on Gran Canaria, which yet again had different scenery and a different atmosphere. On this island the mountains dominate, with the highest peak being 1956m. Before Europeans arrived, the island was populated from as early as 500BC by a people known as the Canarii. In their language, the island was called  Tamarán. There is a museum about this interesting civilization on the island, but unfortunately we didn’t manage to get there on our short trip. Continue reading

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Exploring the calderas of São Miguel, Azores

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In the middle of the Atlantic lie the paradisaical islands of Azores, volcanic islands rising up from the sea. Over the Easter weekend we visited São Miguel, the largest of the nine islands, and spent some days driving around the island, exploring its beauty. I’ve already written about the lush botanical gardens and the fascinating fumaroles we visited in the first day and a half. On our second day, while we were visiting the fumaroles, I had a sore throat, and unfortunately it turned out I’d caught the norovirus (gastric flu) going around my work. As an expat living in Germany I am susceptible to every bug that goes around, as they’re all new to me, so it’s like being  a child again. So I had to spend one day in bed (Good Friday) feeling very ill, while a miserable J spent some time walking around the nearby town alone, coming back now and then to check on me and bring me medicines and drinks. At least he had the chance to watch the Good Friday parade. The only good thing about norovirus is that it is short-lived, and as Saturday dawned I felt well enough to face another day of sightseeing. The fresh sea air, beautiful views and warm sunshine lifted my spirits enough that I even had energy to do some hiking. We drove around the island to admire some of the magnificent coastal and hillside views and hike up the dormant volcanoes for amazing views of the calderas, large craters formed by the collapse of emptied magma chambers during volcanic eruptions, which had filled with rainwater to become crater lakes. Continue reading

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Hiking in the fairytale forests of Czech Switzerland

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In our area of Germany, which is relatively flat, any place with some hills gets named after Switzerland (in German: Schweiz). And so we have places such as Märkisches Schweiz, Mecklenburgische Schweiz and Sächisches Schweiz (Saxon Switzerland), which I wrote about previously. The Elbe Sandstone mountains with their wonderful rock formations formed by ancient seas extend across the border of  Germany into the Czech republic, an area that was thus named by the  Germans “Böhmisches Schweiz” (Bohemian Switzerland). In Czech it is called České Švýcarsko (Czech Switzerland). Continue reading

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Namib-Naukluft National Park

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My father is from Namibia, a vast country to the north of South Africa, on the west coast of Africa. This country has miles of open space and desert landscapes, and is one of the least populated countries in the world, with a population of 2.54 per square kilometer.

We used to drive from Cape Town to Namibia during the school holidays to stay with relatives, and when I was a kid the scenery on the highway through the car window seemed endlessly unchanging. From far away, the mountains and koppies (little hills) looked dry and barren. However, go deeper into the Naukluft mountains of the Namib-Naukluft national park and you will find a beautiful world of kloofs (ravines), emerald springs, shaded riversides scented by wild mint, cathedral-like limestone formations, and evidence of animal life all around. This world is evocatively described in the book “The Sheltering desert” by Henno Martin, one of two German geologists who took refuge in the Namib desert to avoid being conscripted into the Germany army during the second world war. Continue reading

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