Rochers de Naye

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From Montreux the cog railway climbs up to Rochers de Naye (2045m) giving spectacular views of the Rhone valley, Lake Geneva and above the easily spotted Dents du Midi mountain range.

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The train weaves its way in and out of tunnels stopping at stations along the way. Once on top, a journey that takes around 55 minutes, it’s a short walk to the summit.

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The train arriving at the summit station.

The view from inside a carriage at the top station. The cog railway track and tunnels can be seen cutting through the ski slopes.

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On top there is a restaurant and if you are willing to venture out into knee deep snow and climb a little further to the summit there are unhindered views in all directions.

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My favourite place, above the clouds.

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Vevey & Montreux

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Market place, Vevey

Vevey lies on the northern shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland in between Geneva at one end of the lake and the Rhone valley at the other end. It is a beautiful tranquil place to visit with a panorama of snow covered Alp mountains surrounding the water.

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The mountains opposite Vevey on the far side of the lake are French and the town of Evian is not far away, famous for its water and about the only thing that is cheap in Switzerland. In fact I seemed to be paying 5 euros for a coffee everywhere but thankfully I could buy a large bottle of Evian for 1 euro!

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A heron flies low over the water and beyond is the start of the Rhone valley.

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The same heron landed nearby and posed nicely for me on a jetty stump.

To the east and not far from Vevey is Montreux famous for it annual jazz festival and where you can catch the cog-wheel train that takes you to the top of Rochers de Naye (2045m) via Caux. It is a spectacular ride as the train weaves its way up the mountain and takes just under an hour to reach the top. More on that tomorrow.

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Montreux seen in the foreground, then the chateau Chillon and beyond are Villeneuve town and the start of the Rhone valley. The Dents du Midi peaks (3257m) can just be seen through the clouds and the spot on the lake is the ‘lone tree’ which I named and photographed back in the early nineties and I was glad to see it was still there.

Vasa

Call me a bore but less is more…

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Surprisingly, I came across this ship for the first time today. The Vasa was a 17th century Swedish warship and the photo above captured my attention with all its incredibly detailed carpentry and sculptures. Much as I could admire such work I began to wonder why on earth would they put such artistic effort into not just a ship but a warship!

Then I learned that it sank on its maiden voyage just a few kilometers out from its Stockholm harbour. Blown over by a mild gust of wind in front of thousands of spectators and dignitaries. Two years of work by hundreds of craftsmen and artisans vanished from sight before it had even reached the sea proper.

You do have to wonder how such a thing could happen to a ship that was presumably designed to not just do battle in warfare but also withstand the extreme elements of weather at sea. As it turns out it was badly designed and most of the fault must lie with the Swedish King Adolphus who for his own glory presumably wanted an over designed ostentatious flagship, which proved to be top heavy. With the centre of gravity being too high due to the elaborate sterncastle and all gun ports open during its maiden voyage, it only needed to roll slightly for water to enter the open gun ports and that is exactly what happened.

Such a traumatic event must have had an effect on the Swedish psyche from that point on and may well account for Swedish minimalism in design today. A philosophy of which I am an adherent to somewhat. It could almost be compared to Sweden’s Titanic disaster but with thankfully less loss of life. Whatever, I think it is a good example of what happens when artists work for war mongers and those in high places flaunt their excesses to the world.

As it is we are lucky, generations later, to be left with one of the most spectacular works of craftsmanship that under normal circumstances would have probably been burned and sunk without trace in some European sea battle.

I suspect we are now entering the true age of minimalism to combat the climate crisis and probably not before time.

 

Konstanz

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An impressive city that lies on the edge of Lake Bodensee and borders Switzerland. Lakeside it reminded me very much of Lausanne on lake Geneva but it was much nicer in many ways, despite a rather grey overcast day.

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The Imperia statue that towers over the harbour entrance.

I think ‘magnificent’ is the best word to describe this rotating work of art, although I am sure it is not everyone’s cup of tea. I thought it was one of the most interesting sculptures I have ever seen. I particularly liked that it rotated slowly once every four minutes, something I have not seen before, making it a sort of kinetic sculpture. Its rotation was hardly perceptible but once you noticed it had moved it had a surreal lifelike quality.

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The origins of the statue are also very interesting. Check out Wikipedia.

The lake, which is more like an inland sea and the surrounding marshes that divide Germany from Switzerland are a haven for bird life with many varieties of ducks, divers and seabirds.

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The red crested pochard (above) and (below) three expert divers: The great crested grebe, cormorant and a merganser. Just a small sample of the many species I saw in the space of just an hour.

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Meanwhile lurking in the harbour were plenty of huge fish. The one shown below was at least a meter long but I have no idea what type of fish it was, although a passerby did mention carp.

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There is no shortage of interesting architecture and picturesque places to visit. The old town covers quite a large area and is right next to the lake’s edge.

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… and you can take a ferry to Switzerland from here or simply just walk to the border in five minutes from the main station …

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… an early morning highspeed catamaran leaves Konstanz harbour for Friedrichshafen.

 

2020 vision

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As I prepare to create my 2020 calendar, I discover I am lost for ideas. I want to move away from the wildlife theme for next year but struggle to find a new theme.

I was considering landscape textures and moving more towards an abstract arty theme but have yet to create anything that looks halfway interesting. So this afternoon, just for fun, I tried texture painting some landscape photos onto spheres in Blender 2.8.

If nothing else it helped me better understand how this function works. So here’s a small sample of some of the spheres, which used among others, snow, rice field and bird photos. Would it make a calendar? Probably not, but hopefully it may lead to some other ideas.

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Fungi fun

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It’s that time of year again, mushroom picking time and there is no shortage this year due to the mild and wet autumn. I have already had some on toast, though not this particular mushroom pictured, which is the easily spotted poisonous Amanita.

Although there is a wide variety to choose from and no doubt many are edible, I tend to restrict myself the 3-4 types that I can easily identify and have often tried in the past with no ill effects.

Shaggy inkcaps (below) are edible but best eaten young before the black inky cap develops, which happens rapidly.

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Sauteed for a few minutes in butter or ghee, with a dash of lemon and cream.

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Golden autumn colours, a perfect time, tracks are carpeted in leaves, but there are still plenty on the trees.

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Sud France

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The scenery is spectacular along the south coast of France as I head from Barcelona to Montpellier. Water stretches both side of the train and occasionally it seems like we are traveling in some sort of high speed boat. Masses of flamingos, herons, egrets and birds of prey can be seen along the marshy strips of land. A nature paradise, perfect for wading birds and ducks.

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Flamingos group together on an inshore lake as the sun sets behind them.

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Two flamingos wade in shallow water with their heads down.

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What appears to be a siege of herons heading south, maybe for the winter. Below more flamingos on the waters edge.

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