Here are some pictures from a trip to Rome. Rome is almost unimaginably old, which is fascinating, and I was continually reminded of Ozymandias. We spent a weekend looking upon the works of Rome, but did not despair, mostly because modern Rome has great food and an incredible atmosphere.

The Roman Forum.
Colosseum from the forum.
The roof of the Pantheon.
Inside the Pantheon.
View from the dome of St Peter’s Basilica.
Not much room on the stairs inside the St Peter’s dome.
St Peter’s Basilica.
Street art in Rome.
View over Rome to St Peter’s.
The courtyard of the Capitoline Museum.
August 26, 2018


The Triftgletscher lies a couple of valleys above Meiringen in the Swiss canton of Bern. To get there, like anywhere in Switzerland, you can take public transport and then walk. You get the train to Meiringen, catch a tiny one-carriage train to Innertkirchen, jump on a post bus to Triftbahn, and then you have the option to either catch a cable car and walk, or just walk from the road. Andy, Karl, Tanya and I took the second option and weaved our way on foot through gorgeous fields, past the end of the cable car, and to the Windegghütte at 1887 m. From there a short scramble through rocks took us towards Triftbrücke and our first glimpse of the Trift glacier itself.

The Triftgletscher.
Triftgletscher over the newly formed Triftsee.

Looking at this glacier on historic maps I was shocked and greatly saddened to see how much it has melted recently. Look at the photo above, and then consider that as recently as the year 2000 no lake existed — the glacial itself covered the entire valley floor. (The first Swiss map to show the lake is from 2007). The photo is taken from a new bridge which is an impressive distance above the river below, and maps from the 1950s show ice well above the bridge level. It is upsetting to see the effects of climate change happening so clearly and so quickly.

The view down from the bridge at Triftbrücke.

We kept walking. After the bridge the track changed from a “mountain” path to an “alpine” path and as if to prove the point the track immediately presented several ladders to climb down and then a couple of small river crossings. We climbed steeply up the east side of the valley, making the lake smaller and smaller as it fell away below us.

It was rhododendron season and the bright flowers were everywhere.
Gorgeous hiking country.
Monster rock!
A track marker and the ever-present rhodos.

The track sidled around the slope and was quite steep at times, and there were chains strung between handy rocks that we could hold onto as an extra bit of assurance. As we got higher, the icy plains above the glacier snout opened up, and we could see more and more of the surrounding snowy peaks.

Tanya and Karl hiking above the Triftsee (the bridge is way back in the narrow section of the valley, next to the lake).
Now on level with the Triftgletscher.

After a good day’s walk, we arrived at the Trifthütte at 2520 m. We were very warmly welcomed, and the scenery was spectacular: clouds played around the tops and occasionally the sound of ice moving in the glacier would reach us at the hut.

At Trifthütte.

That evening there was one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve seen in the mountains.

Sunset from Trifthütte.

The next day just involved walking down again! We explored the edge of the ice field, and then turned for the descent, leaving behind us the melting glacier and its rhododendrons.

Morning at Trifthütte.
Look carefully here to see Tanya in silhouette.
Triftsee from on high.
Tanya and Andy exploring the moraine.
Rhododendrons on the descent.
August 19, 2018


Back in June, together with Tanya’s sister Andy, Andy’s boyfriend Karl, and friends Eric, Linda, and Matt, we walked from Kandersteg to the Berghotel Schwarenbach, and then on to the Gemmipass. It was early in the hiking season, the wildflowers were out in force, and the sun was shining strongly and melting the last of the snow drifts around the peaks.

This wooden man milks a wooden cow when the wind blows.
The team questing up a hill.
The wild-flowers were off the hook.
Tanya and Eric.
An abandoned building at Gemmipass (2315 m).
Matt and Karl hiking past snow drifts.
Daubenhorn (2942 m).
Karl and Andy.
The lake under Schwarenbach.

We stayed the night at the Berghotel, and the next day walked back to Kandersteg via a different route over Schwarzgrätli. At the col we were lucky to see two ibex amble neatly across some steep névé in search of lichen on the rocks. A steep descent into the Inner Üschene valley brought us yet more wildflowers and a river crossing that required a little bit of detective work to avoid getting wet.

Mist and wildflowers.

Back in Kandersteg in the evening, we walked past this painting of a cat, which if I am not mistaken is a portrait of Tomba the Gipfelstürmer (Tomba the peak-stormer), about whom we had had the pleasure to learn at the Berghotel. Tomba was a cat who lived at Schwarenbach and became famous for accompanying mountaineers to the top of nearby mountains, including the Balmhorn (3699 m). His exploits are detailed, along with some fantastic pictures, here. He reportedly saved a couple of mountaineers from an avalanche by leading them behind a secure rock.

Tomba’s portrait on a street in Kandersteg.
August 18, 2018

Grindelwald to Lauterbrunnen

Tanya’s sister Andy and Andy’s boyfriend Karl came to visit us in Bern, and we did some excellent hiking in the Alps. At the end of June we went to Grindelwald, and walked over Kleine Scheidegg, up to the Eigergletscher station (yes, there’s a train even up here!), then down to Lauterbrunnen. It turned out to be a long walk of over 26 km and about 1400 m of climb, and the views were spectacular the entire way, from the start under the north face of the Eiger to the end in the incredible Lauterbrunnen valley that inspired Tolkien’s Rivendell. Here are photos from this hike.

Grindelwald and Wetterhorn (3692 m).
Swiss scene — cows under the Eiger north wall.
Tanya and the Eiger.
Rock walls under Mönch.
Lunch spot under the Eiger (3970 m).
Looking up at Mönch (4107 m).
Tanya and Karl starting the descent near Eigergletscher.
The wildflowers were in fantastic form.
Eiger and Mönch.
Valley time.
Looking up at Jungfrau (4158 m).
Mönch, Jungfraujoch, and Jungfrau.
Karl, Andy, and Tanya under the Jungfrau.
The view from on high as we walked down to Lauterbrunnen.
August 3, 2018

Strasbourg to Basel

My brother Alex spent a couple of months riding his bike around Europe this year. He started in Rotterdam in May, and in early June Tanya and I caught the train to Strasbourg to ride with him on a small segment of his trip.

Dusk clouds in Strasbourg.

In Strasbourg we braved storm clouds to go for tartes flambées, and gee they were amazing. Fuelled by the cream and ham tartes, the next day we started riding on the Eurovelo 5 bike route, which weaves through gorgeous vineyards to Colmar.

Strasbourg in the morning.
From the top of the Strasbourg cathedral.
My excellent steed.
Alex enjoying EuroVelo 5.

Along the way we saw storks — they are giant — nesting in improbable places. Every turn of the path brought more amazing views, including back over the plains to Strasbourg where we could, even late in the day, still see the imposing Strasbourg cathedral standing out. We arrived in Colmar with time to walk around and enjoy the old town.

Stork nest over the gate of a town.
Canals in Colmar.
Colmar’s “Petite Venise”.

The next day we headed early into the vines and continued wending our way across the countryside towards Basel.

French wildflowers.

During this warm day Alex developed a particularly strong craving for a coke, and started to look for one in every little town we passed through. But all the shops were shut because it was Sunday in France. Eventually we saw a lone vending machine baking in the sun on the side of the road. Alex screeched to a halt, and the machine promptly ate several of his previous euro coins without delivering anything in return.

Somewhere around Mulhouse we stopped following the vineyard route and switched to riding along the Rhine, where the path is flat and fast. In the early evening we arrived in Basel and crossed the bridge past the triple junction where Switzerland, Germany, and France all meet. The sun set on our trip while we rode through Basel to the train station, where we rushed onto the train to Bern.

Tanya in Mulhouse.
Next to the Rhine.
Switzerland on the left, France on the right, Germany behind and left.
Basel at sunset.
August 3, 2018

Grosse Scheidegg

Grosse Scheidegg is a mountain pass between Grindelwald and Meiringen in the Bernese Oberland. It’s a climb of about 1600 m, in an exciting location, with only local cars and busses allowed to use the route, and this all makes it an extremely attractive target for cyclists. Tanya and I were not remotely immune to its charms, and decided to ride it.

Early on in the day.

The weather on the day in question was forecast to be clear in the morning and then to degrade to storms later. Not wanting to tangle with any kind of alpine convection, we set out super early on the train from Bern. Much to our surprise nearly all the bike spots on the train were taken; clearly the first train is the cyclists’ choice. We rode from Meiringen south-west to Grindelwald, so as to maximise our time facing towards the looming mountains.

Near Rosenlaui.
The world’s most inviting cycle path.

As we climbed higher the road got steeper and the mountains more magnificant. At one point a fox appeared with a lonely call that sounded like a forlorn bird; he walked carefully but boldly past us and continued on his rounds.

Postbus warning.
Tanya near the top.

At the top of the pass, we were right next to the mighty Wetterhorn, and the rest of the Grindelwald valley came into view, and the Eiger and its north face were there with Mönch behind, and it was a brilliant sight.

Tanya at Grosse Scheidegg.
The postbus heading back the way we rode up.
And another postbus heading down to Grindelwald; Eiger and Mönch behind.

The ride down to Grindwald was a wonderful long descent and a beautiful rest after the hard climb; we whisked past fields with cows and wildflowers and waterfalls in the distance.

Looking up at Wetterhorn.
Grindelwald cows (and valleys).

We finished the day by pedalling down to Interlaken. Grosse Scheidegg was a spectacular climb and a great challenge in a wonderful region. Can’t really ask for more!

Looking back to Wetterhorn after passing Grindelwald.
June 12, 2018

Spiez to Zweisimmen

Tanya and I have been hitting the cycling recently. A couple of Sundays back we rode from Spiez to Zweisimmen, where we were turned around by rain (and took the train back to Bern). The ride was a beautiful jaunt following the Simme river up the valley.

Tanya and hydro power.
The Simme.
June 11, 2018

Caves Ouvertes Vaudoises

A few weeks ago I went with friends to the annual Caves Ouvertes Vaudoises, where you can sample wines from any cellar door in Vaud after buying your “passport” glass. We went to Lavaux, which was gorgeous as always, and the contrasts were brought out by stormy weather that stalked Lac Léman. Here are pictures.

I never noticed this before, but if you zoom in on this photo you can see little people working the sails of the boat.
June 11, 2018

Five lakes ride

In central Switzerland, there’s a train line that runs between Interlaken and Luzern, that carries panoramically-windowed trains around various lakes and over alpine passes. It’s a spectacular trip, and last weekend Tanya and I forewent the train and rode the best bit by bike. We took the train as far as Brienz, and cycled the rest of the way, which amounted to a ride of 80 km.

The train map – before we hopped off and rode the rest of the way.
Start of the first climb.
After the first climb — rolling country.

The route passed by five lakes. We started at the Brienzersee (Canton Bern), rode up the valley to Meiringen, then over the Brünigpass (into Canton Obwalden). The second lake was the Lungerersee, which was quickly followed by the Sarnersee, where we stopped for lunch (I ate a sarnie). At the Alpnachersee we crossed into Canton Nidwalden, and then reached the fifth lake, the Vierwaldstättersee, which is huge and multi-fingered. Vierwaldstättersee is the lake that Luzern sits on. Its name in German means “four forest-state lake” and indeed there are four cantons around it (the French-speakers went totally literal but forgot the forests, and called it Le Lac des Quatre-Cantons). We crossed into the canton of Luzern as we got towards the city and finished our ride. From Luzern we took a boat across the lake to Kehrsiten-Bürgenstock, where we stayed the night.

Lake two, the Lungerersee.
Tanya on the Vierwaldstättersee.
Vierwaldstättersee brilliance.
Arriving at Kehrsiten-Bürgenstock.

At the lake that night we decided it was one of those times where a swim was required. Lake Lucerne is supposed to be a particularly mild temperature, but when we jumped in we found it was still absolutely freezing and I could barely stand it. It was refreshing to say the least! The next day we went riding again; this time we cycled up to Engelberg, which was a good climb into fantastic alpine scenery.

Pilatus (2118 m).
First kilometres around the lake.
Arriving in Engelberg.
The view from Engelberg.
My trusty steed.
Engelberg scenery.

Just as with ski-touring, cycling up a hill really leads you to enjoy the descent. We zipped down back to Lake Lucerne, to Beckenried, where we notched up 60 km for the day. We took the boat again to return to Luzern.

A slick of yellow pollen on the lake.
The fantastic face on the bow of the boat.

To finish off our weekend, we got takeaway pizza and beer to enjoy next to the lake; Tanya strapped the pizza to the back of her bike and we got to the lake while it was still piping hot. It was an amazing couple of days of incredible scenery, lots of good exercise, and pizza to finish it off. Que du bonheur!

Tanya’s pizza service.

From snow to pollen

Amid getting back from the Southern Hemisphere and moving house, Tanya and I took the slightly inadvisable step of going skiing for a weekend at Saas Fee. It was the last weekend that the pistes were open and there was a huge street party in the village on the Saturday night. We gave the party a wide berth, but it seems like it was a big event: early in the evening passers by were already drunkenly singing at us, and the next day the streets smelled of beer and the ski slopes were much quieter than normal.


While there is still lots of snow in the mountains, spring has definitely arrived in Switzerland. In Bern it’s pleasantly warm and we have started to explore the region by bike, which is a lovely way to see what’s around. What’s around turns out to be — surprise! — super pretty countryside with the Bernese Alps towering above. We rode from Bern out across small hills to Riggisberg, and also out to Worb.

Bern station at sunset.
Climbing to Riggisberg.
Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau above Thun and the Thunersee.

Moving to Bern hasn’t kept us away from the familiar wonders of Lac Léman: we went to the Cully Jazz festival for an evening, and went for a Saturday ride across Lavaux.

Then we went for a bigger ride from Thun to Interlaken along the north side of the Thunersee. After climbing steeply up to a balcony area, the route followed small rolling roads high above the lake. At one point the road was closed due to rockfall, so we had to drop to the lake level, but were saved by a convenient funicular which whisked us back up to the path after the blockage.

There is so much pollen around this spring that after these rides around Bern we would return to the house painted yellow by the stuff, and the lake at Thun has so much pollen floating on the surface that it is forming interesting clouds at the shore and large streaks that can be seen from a great distance. Spring has definitely come to Europe.

May 13, 2018

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