This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Earth’s history like pages in a book

Flysch-5One sunny afternoon after class I, my classmate, and two lovely Catalan ladies crammed ourselves into a car and headed out to the Flysch UNESCO geopark. Our guide gave us a walking stick each, brought us up a hill with a magnificent view over the coastline, showed us the hiking route across the rocks to a beach we could not quite see, and said “agur”, which is Basque for “adios”. “See you when you get there.” Then he turned on his heels and walked away, back to the car.

We ladies began our trek down the hill, along the beach, with some trepidation that we’d lose the way because there were so many trail options and markings. Finally we understood that “our” trail was the red-yellow-white detour trail of the Camino del Norte (the North pilgrimage route to Santiago) and we lifted our eyes to enjoy the landscape.Flysch-1And stunning it was: soft, undulating grassy hills that stopped short as if cut in half, with a rock face plunging straight down into the ocean. Horses with bells and lots of flies, green grass, blue skies, blue ocean water, and white froth. And several pairs of backpacked people walking the Camino, more or less worn out and sunburned.

The Flysch geopark is like an open book of the history of our Earth. Each vertical slab running from the hills into the ocean is like a page, a fossilized fold of the surface of the Earth. Once upon a time these pages were laid one on top of the other, but then the continental plates moved and forced the ocean floor to turn sideways, like a book standing on its spine. There are “pages” of yellow sand; others with ammonites trilobites, and other sea life; and surprisingly many black bands from volcanic eruptions. Together these layers form millions of millions of years of history. The reason for the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago can be confirmed here: the black band sitting in the right place “in the book” contains traces of extraterrestrial material, from the ash cloud that killed the sunlight and much life on Earth for years after the meteorite hit. Flysch-2Good shoes were needed, as well as a good head with two functioning ears. Our guide spoke with an Argentinian accent (which I find the most difficult Spanish accent). Somewhere along the tour he must have forgotten that I and my classmate were estudiantes de español, possibly because we nodded our heads too vigorously. And so the guidance of the second half of the tour was lost to us.

As I sat in the shade of the striped rocks I marveled at the age of our Earth: the time and effort needed to slowly create these deposits of animal fossils and dust and silt which then became band structures. The Iberian peninsula was once upon a time far adrift, and only when it floated back into contact with continental Europe the Flysch formation was squeezed and rotated into view. Could this stunning geometric structure have been a holy site for humans living here tens of thousands of years ago?
Flysch-3

(Flysch Geopark, Spain; August 2019)


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On the top of Sheep Mountain

schafberg-14There has been a Gasthaus on top of Schafberg since 1862, and it prides itself to be the first mountaintop Gasthaus in all of Austria. Since the steam cogwheel train was not built until the 1890s, the only way up was on foot (or horse or mule). Quite a lot of work for the gentry and nobility that liked to come up for a day’s outing. That train is going upward, by the way, pushed by the steam locomotive. schafberg-7Schafberg seems to be well known by Austrians and less so by foreigners. As I do not exactly have millions of readers I take the risk of making a warm recommendation for anyone wanting to combine a weekend in Salzburg with a couple of days of fresh air. By the way, there is a decently accessible hiking path up and down the mountain, too.schafberg-3(Schafberg, Austria; July 2019)


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Straight down from Himmelspforte

schafberg-6“The Himmelspforte is the place to start.” Herr Pasch, the owner of the inn, seemed quite elated that a non-German-speaking tourist had asked him for advice on hiking routes instead of advice for where to take the best selfie. “It looks scary, so don’t look down. Just look up at the mountain.” He handed me two walking poles and my sister his own wooden walking stick which once had belonged to his grandfather. schafberg-2After a few minutes of convincing we chose the circular route around the tip of the mountain and peered down the Himmelspforte, or Heavens’ Gate. And what a view. Because the route led us straight down the rocky mountainside. Nearly vertically.
There was some clambering, some climbing on all four, and some worry that Herr Pasch’s Gandalf-stick would fall down into the valley below.
schafberg-10In some places there was a via ferrata built to keep us stuck to the mountainside. In other places, the locals must have run out of wire as we had to climb the slanting bare rock face on all four, thanking our lucky stars there was no wind to sweep us off the mountain like lettuce from a plate.schafberg-12Somewhere along the way Herr Pasch’s excitement dawned upon us: not a single person had greeted us in English or with a foreign German accent. Sofar we were most likely the only non-German speaking people on the route. The route was not marked out as such, but there certainly was signage belonging to other, longer routes. Where was everybody?schafberg-11Five hours later we encountered the train track again, just under the tip of the mountain. As I sat down among the flowers in the meadow, it occurred to me that this was probably the most gorgeous hike I had ever done, at least when it comes to visual entertainment. Physical entertainment was not far behind, either. schafberg-13(Naturally one should always hike in pearl earrings and a scarf from Paris.)schafberg-15(Schafberg, Austria; July 2019)


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About bucket lists

schafberg-4Do you love lists? (or perhaps you are now asking yourself, “what kind of question is that anyway – lists??”) I do. I love reading other people’s themed lists, and making lists of my own. And I love checking things off the list. Not for the sake of completion, i.e. feeling good after I’ve made the check-sign on top of an item (“been there, done that”). But during the experience in itself. For me, lists are tools to remind me of what I once decided was important, and then making the effort of actually going through the experience I consider important. Mindfully.

In the top corner of this blog I keep a few lists: two reading lists and an experience junkie list. But I have more lists, including a travel bucket list (who doesn’t?). Some of this travel bucket list I share with my sister, as we for the past 10 years have wandered off somewhere for a week together in the summer. It is a random collection of activities and places, mostly with a historical connection. And this summer we checked off one item of quite blurry origin: staying at the Schafberg in Austria.schafberg-8Why? Because of the view and the old historical guest house. How did it end up on our list? Honestly, neither one of us can remember. Perhaps my sister googled for something years ago, and found it. The photo above speaks for itself. And so one morning we took the bus from Salzburg to St Wolfgang and hopped on an old steam cogwheel train that slowly climbed to the top of Schafberg mountain.schafberg-1We were not the only ones who had the place on their bucket list. It would seem an Asian travel agency did, too, as each train brought up more Japanese and Chinese tourists, wearing sandals, dresses, sunhats, and scarves to keep them warm. It was not more than 14 degrees Celsius up there you see, and hardly the weather and terrain for summer finery. But the Japanese ladies admirably posed in their sundresses, holding their hats, while their (somewhat more ruggedly dressed) husbands took instagram and family album photos.

During the day the bald, grassy mountaintop was overrun with people. When the last train left at 5.30 pm, there was no more than two handfuls left. I was sad to see not a single Asian tourist had decided to stay overnight. But we did. We took a walk in the sudden silence. So did the others. No one spoke loudly. The only sound was the feathers of the jackdaws ruffling in the wind as they navigated the gusty winds around the cliffs.schafberg-5(Schafberg, Austria; July 2019)


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Bye Brande

brandemose-10For nearly a year these perfect picnic spots have been mine to explore while traipsing around the backs of my little home town. There never was a picnic, though, and I never saw anyone else on a picnic, either. Perhaps because of the shockingly high number of ticks in any grass around here: if I just sit in it for a while I can count the black dots crawling my legs.

And yet this lovely place never felt like home. I know nearly no-one outside of home, save for the taxi driver who takes me to the airport and back. And perhaps my next-door neighbors, although I never exchanged more than polite greetings with them. It is a difficult life for a natural extravert to have to leave the country (or take the train to its other coast) to be able to go to work or to meet with friends. And it has been a trying year overall. Somehow I find myself still here, now also with a Danish employment contract.brandemose-1The boxes have been nearly packed and in a week’s time it is time to open the door in a new apartment in a proper town. Hopefully it is also time to open the door to new friends and hobbies nearby. springflowers(Brande, Denmark; June 2019)


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When everything is mud-licious

mudlicious

in Just-
spring          when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman
whistles          far          and wee
and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
spring
when the world is puddle-wonderful
the queer
old balloonman whistles
far          and             wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
it’s
spring
and
         the
                  goat-footed
balloonMan          whistles
far
and
wee
(e. e. cummings)

mudlicious-2(Loviisa, Finland; April 2019)