Sunday, October 2, 2016

A weekend in Tyrol: "Reither Spitze" to "Nördlinger Hütte" to "Sollsteinhaus"

So, and before reality and regular working hours at the hospital take me over on Tuesday again, I thought I'd share a few pictures from our last weekend in the Alps this summer.
Initially, we had planned to go a different route to a small self-subsistent mountain refuge, all romantic with cooking over the fire and stuff...but then we forgot the key at home (the classic, as super-organized as we are with our lists and all, we forgot the one essential thing) we had to reschedule in a whim and Martin decided to go to the Karwendel in Tyrol instead.

On a sunny and warm Sunday we hiked up from Seefeld in Tirol to the Seefelder Spitze. At first, the path leads you along the ski slopes which, especially to me, as an avid snowboarder, was very sad to see in the summer months. All the ski lift poles and snow canons somehow ruin the views in summer, let alone the destruction of the ground by all the slope preparations...I was a bit  triste so witness all this...

However, we came by a few ponies grazing on the slopes, which immediately lifted my spirits!

Lunch break about half way up when we finally left the slopes and continued on little paths towards the Seefelder Spitze.

Views from the Seefelder Spitze. We hadn't anticipated that much company on the trail, but since you can cover a good part of the ascent by cable car and given the sunny weather on this late September Sunday, there were quite a few people up there....which is why we walked straight on to the path leading us to the Reither Spitze.

The views on the different Karwendel mountain ridges were simply impressive.

All those lime stone formations - simply impressive.

Chocolate break at Reither Spitze. 

Reither Spitze, 2374 m.

Enjoying the last rays of sun around Nördlingen Hütte. On this Sunday night, it was just us and another couple at the refuge, one of the staff girls was playing the guitar and we spent the evening reading mountain magazines, scheming on new routes for next year.

Views down the Inn valley during dinner.

The next morning, we got up at 6 am and decided to climb up to the Reither Spitze again for sunrise. We were rewarded for our efforts with a splendid sunrise and a 360° panorama of all shades of pink and blue.

After breakfast, we started on the "Freiungen Höhenweg" towards the Sollsteinhaus. This trail was more exposed and involved a bit more of climbing. While the climbing itself wasn't difficult, there were quite a lot of parts on the trail that were very exposed so this added to the dimension of the climbing since the whole trail was running along the mountain ridge. In the beginning, I enjoyed the climbing and the more challenging hike, but after about two hours of constantly walking/climbing on that mountain ridge it started to get a little too much. I was fine in the end, but there was a part of it where I was just  scared and a bit overcharged with the terrain and the trail. Naturally, I couldn't be bothered to take out the camera at some point on this trail so there are no pictures documenting the tricky parts unfortunately.

The views were incredible though with the fog slowing rising from the valley.

Dreamteam on tour.

The final stretch to the Sollsteinhaus. Where a "Kaspressknödel" awaited me (which is essentially what kept me going and not surrendering to a little panic attack...). From Sollsteinhaus, it was another 1h 45 min descent down to Hochzwirl where we took a train (every 30 minutes) back to Seefeld. Once back down, the Freiungen Höhenweg didn't look that bad and scary anymore and I was happy and proud I completed it (admittedly, there were not too many options anyway). If you plan on going, just keep in mind that the majority of the "Höhenweg" is quite exposed, so maybe take it a little slow in the beginning so that tiring legs don't interfere with the height and the challenging trail at some point. I guess I was a little too motivated in the beginning, going a little too fast so that my legs were already a little tired when the stress and then fear kicked in - which definitely did not help the situation. Lesson learned though - going to take it a bit easier next time!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Colorful Colombia Part VII: Cartagena

Cartagena - the final destination of our Colombian adventures. An old colonial post with the oldest port on South American soil. A colorful colonial town within the old city walls, a modern cosmopolitan city with skyscrapers outside the old city skirts. A tourist hub with a Caribbean feel and a hint of Cuban atmosphere inviting you to just wander the streets, escaping the steaming heat for an ice-cold lemonade or some real gelato. 

Cartagena has it all - from luxury resort hotels to simple bed and breakfasts, top notch fusion cuisine restaurants to comida corriente, wealthy cruiseship tourists, middle class Colombian tourists and the usual backpackers - and they all blend in perfectly well here. One can easily dine one night in a boho-chic fusion cuisine restaurant on a little square in the beautiful old town for the equivalent of 20-25€ per person, the next day, on the same street, sit with the locals at a comida corriente place and have some "pollo con arroz" complete with a drink and a starter for about 4 €. It was the perfect location for the end of our trip since we could enjoy the best of both worlds for our last four days.

We stayed at Hotel Don Pedro De Heredia in the old town, a beautiful colonial building with a little pool in the patio and a roof top terrace (that, surprisingly, we always had to ourselves). A small room with aircon (absolutely necessary in the humid heat of Cartagena) was 60€ per night including a roof top buffet breakfast. The staff was super friendly and helpful and I can highly recommend this place. After all the trekking and hammocks, having breakfast at a table complete with table cloth and porcelain dishes felt like a real luxury to me!

On a little stroll through town - when my aforementioned obsession with colored murals reached a new maximum! :-)

The lemonade stalls - life-savers in the heat and humidity. Admittedly, these involve ice cubes and are sold on the streets so maybe not the best for a sensitive stomach. Felix and me firmly believe that after India we can eat and drink anything but you may reconsider if your stomach is not made of steel. They were the perfect refreshment though. Icy, fresh and not too sweet.

Colombian style.

This is how I picture the streets in Cuba. Since it will take some more time until I get there myself I am glad I got to witness some Caribbean vibes in Cartagena.

Around Getsemaní, the backpacker district, boasting a lot of stylish coffee places and restaurants, as well as bars and the famous Havana Club. We had dinner at Gastrolab Sur on one night, a little restaurant within an art collective that offered some really great ceviche and cocktails at very reasonable prices and a great artsy atmosphere.

I loved every bit about our time in Cartagena and Colombia as a whole - the warm-hearted welcoming people, the beautiful nature and beaches, the old colonial towns, the music and the colors. I only saw a small part of this immense country and I can only hope I will find the time to come back one day and explore more of this wonderful place. Hasta luego, Colombia!