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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Outdoor adventures

So you love the great outdoors? Here are some of the blog posts I’ve written about nature, hiking, biking, swimming, skiing and other sports.

Hiking

Table Mountain

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The Disa hunters: exploring the top of Table Mountain

 

The Bavarian and Austrian Alps

 

Bavaria, the Chiemgau region 

 

Multi-day trail in Namib-Naukluft national park

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The Thomas Tucker Shipwreck Trail, Cape Point

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Battle of the Seelow Heights and a walk near the Oder river

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Sächisches Schweiz

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 Hiking in České Švýcarsko/Czech Switzerland

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Hiking in Svaneti, Georgia

Snow hiking in the Harz mountains

Two late-winter hikes in Brandenburg

 

Cycling

Naturpark Barnim in autumn

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An introduction to city biking

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My Bicycle

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Brandenburg bike rides: Fürstenberg/Havel to Templin

Brandenburg bike rides: Potsdam to Brandenburg an der Havel

Saale river bicycle trail

Biking in the Moravian winelands of Czechia

Cycling from Berlin to Poland in 1 Day

The Spree cycle trail (Spreeradweg)

The last stage of the Spree cycle trail (Spreeradweg)

 

The Elbe cycle trail (Elberadweg) – Magdeburg to Havelberg

Cycling from Havelberg to Waren (Müritz)

 

Watersports

Lakes of Berlin

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Watersports and beaches at Müggelsee

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Kayaking at Müggelsee/ Neu Venedig

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Canoeing in the Rheinsberg lake area /Müritz National Park

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Camping and canoeing on the River Havel: Fürstenberg to Burgwall

Canoeing on the Spree river: Hangelsberg to Erkner

Canoeing on the Havel river: Pritzerbe to Hohennauener See via Rathenow

 

Skiing

Cross country skiing in the Harz mountains

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Les Diablerets, Switzerland

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More cross country skiing adventures in the Harz mountains

Cross-country skiing in the Czech Republic: Hejnice/Smědava

 

Snow sports in the Czech Republic: Bedřîchov

 

Cross country skiing in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains)

 

Nature

Namaqualand

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March – Wildlife in the Garden

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Notes from the Czech countryside – June, the red month

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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The Thomas T Tucker Shipwreck trail – after the fire

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Last time I was in Cape Town, fires were ravaging the mountains. It was early March, and for days the blaze continued, spurred on by strong winds and dry vegetation. Fynbos, the indigenous vegetation in the Cape, requires fire every 15 years or so as part of its life cycle (smoke causes many seeds to germinate, and fires clear away old and dead plants), but the extent of the fires was large this year and it was sad to see the mountain burning.

At the end of August I returned to Cape Town again and went walking with a friend at Cape Point nature reserve at the southwesternmost point of Africa, where we came across part of the area burnt by the fires. There are many great walks here, and we tried one I hadn’t been on before, the Thomas T Tucker Shipwreck trail. It was a cool and windy day, but hiking is great in most weathers, I love to see how places look different in different seasons. Whipped up by the wind, the ocean looked fantastic, and you could easily image how many ships met their demise. The peninsula wasn’t named the Cape of Storms by Portuguese explorers for nothing. Continue reading

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Show your World – Table Mountain

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Tiny expats is hosting a blog event called “Show your world“, where you can describe some of the beautiful places you have seen. If you ask almost any Capetonian to name a beautiful place, the first thing that is likely to come to their mind is Table Mountain, the mountain around which Cape Town is built. So I thought I’d kick off my first Show your World post by describing why I love this mountain, and find it one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Continue reading

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