Croatia I – Plitviče and Ugljan

It only occurred to me after arriving in Croatia, where I was traveling with Tanya and with my Mum, that this might be an opportunity to go and visit a spomenik — one of the many incredible World War II memorials built within the former Yugoslavia. Sure enough there is one just to north of Zagreb, so we jumped in our hire car and drove to the spomenik at Podgarić. And there it was, entirely unsignposted, sad and huge above a field.

The Spomenik at Podgarić.

Our trip into the countryside also took us into little towns that we wouldn’t otherwise have gone through. It was pretty country, and we stopped for a lunch of cevapi – fried meatballs served with raw onion and bread. We had spent the morning in Zagreb, exploring the markets and keeping out of the heat of the sun, and our destination for the night was Plitviče, to the south.

We stayed that night just outside the Plitviče Lakes National Park, at a little guesthouse with a friendly host who ran a large outdoor fireplace to cook each night. The next day we spent the whole day in the park and walked the lakes from south to north. They were just spectacular — Plitviče is a series of aquablue lakes of astonishing luminosity, with waterfalls between. Each lake is a natural infinity pool, so from above you can’t see the waterfalls on the edge, and from below water appears from everywhere, through trees and grasses and rocks.

Water everywhere.

Although you can’t see it in the photos, the walk through the lakes is essentially on one path shared with thousands of other visitors. They control the numbers quite well but there are inevitable traffic jams near the best waterfalls. We queued for a boat across one lake to the start of the next path.

Plitviče Lakes.
Happy fish (I guess, I didn’t ask them) at Plitviče Lakes.
The colour of the water!

Walking the direction we did, we ended the day at the tallest, but not the most spectacular, waterfall. From there it was a short uphill walk back to the park entrance. We ate dinner that night at a restaurant — the only one for miles — next to a flattish ski field abandoned for the summer. And the next day we drove further south.

On the drive to the coast we passed through fields and fields of wildflowers bursting by the side of the road. There were stalls selling cheese, honey, and mushrooms every so often. The mushroom sellers seemed to have only a few actual mushrooms for sale, but they were big and frightening ones (we didn’t stop). Nearer to the coast was a range of hills that was forested on one side; we went under them by tunnel to absolute aridity on the coastal side, and wound our way down through the rocks to the sea at Zadar.

So many flowers!
Arid coastal country.
Zadar, Croatia.

Zadar is an interesting walled city with stone-paved streets that are so worn as to be slippery to walk on. It also has a fascinating sea organ that plays music by use of the waves and tide; water moving under the concrete steps at the foreshore pushes air through tubes that make different pitches. Its music is ephemeral and beautiful and never the same again.

Red boat on Ugljan.
The tiny island off Preko that holds a monastery.

We took a boat (last minute, we essentially ran onto it) to the island of Ugljan, which was peaceful and warm in the sun. There were only a few people around, and we swam in the sea and looked at the little island off the main town of Preko, and missed our planned boat back in favour of getting dinner on the island. Good times in Croatia!

An interesting wall in Preko.
Looking back to Zadar.
Otok Ošljak.
August 24, 2019


You get a pretty great view from the top of the Stockhorn, a peak in the Bernese Alps which is conveniently served by a cablecar. Here’s what you can see if you hitch a ride to the top and walk down again, as Tanya and I did in June.

Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau, and most of the Bernese Alps.
A view so good it broke the chair.

From the top of the cablecar you can walk through a short (and cold) tunnel to a platform built into the cliff on Stockhorn’s steep north side; from there you can see Thun and the plains around.

Thun and its Thunersee.

We walked down from the top towards the Oberstocksee (which was still frozen, a solid white amidst the spring grasses), and through the crockus flowers to the mid-station of the cablecar.

The Big Three.
The place was filled with crockus flowers.
The Berggasthaus Oberstockenalp.
Snow drifts still melting at the Hinderstockesee.
Green spring valleys.
Hinderstockesee and the Chrindi cablecar stop.
August 4, 2019


The Aareschlucht is a gorge formed by the Aare river between Innertkirchen and Meiringen in the Bernese Alps. To get there you can take a little (and recently upgraded) train from Meiringen, and hop out a few minutes later at an underground-lair of a station. You emerge directly from the rock face at the start of the gorge.

Train station or bunker? Or both?

A narrow path built onto and into the cliff face lets you walk above the rushing waters of the Aare as you go through the gorge. On the day we went there, my Mum was visiting from Australia, and it also happened to be election day back home. I checked the election results as we walked — the news wasn’t good, but the water kept flowing.

The Aareschlucht.

At its narrowest point, the Aareschlucht has only about a metre between the two tall rock walls, and the pathway through takes up the entire space. As we got to the end of the gorge, the warm air from the sunny fields on the other side washed over us.

Coordinated colours in the Aareschlucht.
Tall cliffs!
Looking at a glacial mill.

After we emerged from the gorge, we took a little funicular up to the Reichenbach Falls, where the (entirely fictional) detective Sherlock Holmes (both supposedly and fictionally) fell to his death. Everything in Meiringen and at the falls is Holmes-related. There’s even a sign pointing to the (hypothetical) spot where he (at no time actually) fell. The waterfall is very pretty.

This is actually just above the main Reichenbach falls. You wouldn’t set a detective fight here.

We took a post-bus up into the exceedingly pretty Reichenbachtal, along the same route that Tanya and I previously biked up to get to Grosse Sheidegg. Up there the flowers were starting to come out after the snow melt, but there was still too much snow up high for the bus to continue to the pass.

Back in Meiringen, all that was left to do was to walk past the Sherlock statues to get to the train and head back to Bern.

July 30, 2019

Ticino for Easter

For Easter 2019 Tanya and I whittled our options for places to go — we wanted somewhere reachable by train, different but close, and preferably with a lake. In the end one destination stood out, and luckily for us we found somewhere to stay at the very last minute. We went to Lake Lugano and to a tiny town on its far shore called Brusino Arsizio.

Monte Brè above Lugano.
Lago di Lugano.
Tanya loves balconies and lake views.

Once there we spent a lovely few days just chilling out. I’m drawn to high viewpoints like a moth to a bright light, so we took a little cog raily up Monte Generoso one day, and on another we checked out the viewpoint at Monte Lema, from where you can see down to Lago Maggiore.

The view from Monte Generoso.
Blooming crocus.
The little town of Brusino Arsizio, where we stayed.
Lago di Lugano from Monte Lema.
At Monte Lema.
Crocus flowers on Monte Lema.

We also explored the gorgeous villages around the lake, including the particularly charming town of Gandria which is set on a steep section above the lake. The towns were filled with heavy traffic and bedecked with flowers for the spring. It was a fantastic few days in the south of Switzerland!

Flowers in Lugano.
Helidon Xhixha’s Reflections of Light in Lugano.
Monte San Salvatore.

Max Raupach, 1925-2019

My grandfather Max Raupach died at the age of 93 on the 21st May 2019. Here is a tribute I wrote for him.

When I think of my grandpa, Max, I think of his love for his family and his curiosity about the world. He loved his family very much. His curiosity drove his excellent science, I’m sure, but it also led to a large array of interests and activities that were ever-changing and constantly updating, because his fascination with technology meant he was always up to date.

I think of him talking science with my dad, or programming in Fortran on a laptop in the study. I think of his interest in other cultures and ways of thinking, from haiku writing and zen books, to painting and drawing, to the precise ordering of brush-strokes in Japanese characters. The curious scientist was always present — on occasion he checked my photographs with callipers to see if they obeyed the golden ratio.

I think of him growing fruit and bottling it, crawling under the house to retrieve a dusty bottle of red wine, and showing us, as kids and adults alike, the mysterious shed with its chemicals and printing presses. He was endlessly supportive of all his family’s endeavours and always curious to know what we were up to. My grandfather Max was multi-faceted; a scientist, an artist, and a thinker. He was good, and we were lucky to have him, and I will miss him sorely.

This is a painting of his that he gave to his son, my father, when Dad was very ill. It shows Encounter Bay, in South Australia.

Swiss spring landscapes

This spring the weather was very on-and-off. It even snowed in Bern well into the season. So to dodge the weather, Tanya and I got out into the countryside during the fine spells. We went to Pilatus, the craggy peak that overlooks Lucerne and has a cable-car laced up one side. From the top you can see out across most of the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake Lucerne) in one direction, and in the other you can see across the canton of Obwald to the high alps of the Bernese Oberland.

Lake Lucerne, or the Vierwaldstättersee.
Pilatus still icy in spring.
The view across Obwald to the Eiger.
The Pilatus cable-car.
Spring melt.
Lucerne glory.

We walked and biked around the pretty countryside between Bern and Thun, where there were lambs in the fields and daffodils starting to bloom. Two weekends in a row we ended up passing through Wattenwil, a little town that sits underneath the Gantrisch mountain range.

Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau.
Wattenwil and its mountain backdrop.
A week later the mountains were still there.
Wattenwil from a slightly different angle.
The Gantrisch range.

And we went for a walk in the snow high in Valais, near the Aletsch glacier. The weather that particular day was more average, with the hills coming and going behind cloud and the glacier hiding under fog and snow.

Looking across the Rhône.
Monochrome conditions near the Aletsch glacier.
May 30, 2019

North of Auckland, New Zealand

Here are some pictures from a short trip to New Zealand in March, for the wedding of the fantastic Andy and Karl. We spent a wonderful few days just north of Auckland, where there were plenty of beaches, great food, and excellent people assembled for the wedding. We went snorkelling at Goat Island and saw eagle rays hanging out in the kelp forest, did yoga on the beach, and were lucky to see a couple of very rare takahe roaming inside a predator-free park.

Tawharanui beach, New Zealand.
Surfers at Tawharanui.
Super rare Takahe!
The green hills of the Auckland region.
Beach time!
Goat Island marine reserve.
Pohutakawa reaching for the sea.
Tawharanui beach reflections.
May 19, 2019

Canberra and Hobart

In February and early March this year I was lucky enough to be back in Canberra — my hometown. Looking at the photos now, while winter is still lurking here in the northern hemisphere, I am struck by the brightness of the colours and the obvious warmth of the sun. I caught up with my wonderful family and fantastic friends, enjoyed flat white coffee and fresh food, and strolled through the campus of ANU which is so changed as to be unrecognisable in places. It was a relaxing and rejuvenating trip.

Black Mountain in Canberra.
My Mum’s impressive vege haul.
Yellow banksia — a favourite.
At the old Stromlo Observatory.
Cafe weather.
View from the National Arboretum.
Sturt desert peas in the National Botanic Gardens.
More banksias.

I also decided to pop past Hobart and catch up with some amazing friends there. We went to the top of the imposing Mt Wellington from where you get just a taste of the wilderness that stretches to the horizon.

Mount Wellington on a smokey day.
Mount Wellington summit.
Tetris rock.
Good walls in Hobart!
May 7, 2019

Seeya 2018, hello 2019

It’s been a little while since I wrote on this blog. Here are some highlights of things that have happened since November 2018.

Starting in November, Anna was in Paris for a couple of months for an art residency, so I went there to see her. We wandered the rainy streets, saw some great art, and ate some great crêpes.

Anna in Paris.
I’ve always loved Paris’ thin corner houses.
Shop display.

Keytie also came to Paris, and Tanya too, and we all went out to Fontainebleu to see what the bouldering fuss is about. I can now say I’ve touched the rock at Font — but it was slimy and wet because of the rain. We didn’t climb.

Wandering in the forest at Fontainebleu.

Winter arrived in Bern and it snowed from time to time. The days got shorter and the colour drained a bit from the city.

Bern mountain skyline at dusk.
The Münster looms in the fog.
After a fresh snowfall.

The four of us had a lovely, quiet, simple Christmas at Tanya’s and my place in Bern. We popped sparkling on the balcony and ate a roast chicken, and we wore funny Christmas woollen jumpers that Anna and Keytie had bought — by the kilo — in Paris, the fashion capital of the world. My jumper had a penguin on it, Anna’s had red birds, Tanya’s had snowflakes, and Keytie’s appeared to have been made by someone with a glue gun, a father christmas toy, and a pair of scissors.

Christmas day.
Bern’s normally busy main street, quiet on Christmas afternoon.

After Christmas we went for a snowshoe hike above Grindelwald on a crystal-clear blue-sky winter’s day.

Wetterhorn — the red dot in the lower-right is a paraglider.
I think sleds are dangerous, but these ones were pretty.

We took the TGV back to Paris to see in the new year, and stayed in the 17th Arrondisseement. On on the 31st we had a gorgeous meal at a little restaurant nearby, then took the metro and found a spot, with thousands of others, at the Place du Trocadéro. There was an incredible view of the Eiffel tower across the river, and we waited there for midnight. Strangely, when the moment came there was no countdown from the crowd and no fireworks over the tower. The next day I searched for Paris on Instagram and all the top-rated recent pictures showed magnificent photoshopped or misdated fireworks. Welcome to 2019.

Lots of phones out on NYE!
A few minutes into 2019.

Unfortunately Anna and Keytie had to travel home, and Tanya and me too. We went for several day-trips into the mountains in January, to Mürren, Gstaad, and Haute-Savoie.

Near Mürren.
Near Gstaad.
A huge storm over Lac Léman (from the ferry back from France).

More recently, we went to see the Oeschinensee, which we were last at in summer. This time the lake was frozen and ice fishers dotted its smooth white surface.

Oeschinensee in winter mode.
Avalanche debris.
Tracks in the snow, on the lake.
Kandersteg peaks.

Here finishes this update. 2019 is off to a good start!

March 31, 2019
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Frozen Bachsee

One of our most spectacular walks in the mountains in 2018 was to Bachsee above Grindelwald. We caught a cable car up to First, which is the third stop on the cablecar after Bort and Schreckfeld. From there it was a short walk up to the lake, and we roamed a little further by climbing up to a little col called Gassenboden.

Tanya photographing the Wetterhorn (3690 m).
Semilihorn and early snow showing the slope orientation.
Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn (4078 m), Finsteraarhorn (4274 m).

It was November and although there was a little snow around I expected the lake to not yet be frozen and therefore to reflect the mountains. But we arrived to see that the lake was frozen white, covered in snow, and it reminded me strongly of a salt lake. The sky was cloud free.

View of the peaks over the frozen Bachsee.
Shadow creeping over Bachsee.
Schreckhorn on centre stage.
Tanya’s always good with the map.
At Gassenboden.
Serac collapse on Wetterhorn.

On the way back down to First the light became just ridiculously good for photographs. The shadows got long and covered the lake and the snow-free parts of the world were bright in the sun. It was one of those magic afternoons in the mountains when everything sparkles, and it was a happy walk.

Now all in shadow.
Fading light of the afternoon.
Eiger north face.
Taking in the view from Grindelwald First.
Wetterhorn at sunset.
January 6, 2019

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