pterodactyl

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This pterodactyl is just one of many image tiles on the walkway strip leading up to the National museum of natural science. (see post: Taichung postcards). The creatures come in all sizes and this one is by no means the biggest. The larger ones are hard to view unless you have a drone or access to one of the tower blocks surrounding the walkway. Even then trees along the strip would probably hinder the view. So I created this image by stitching together 8 separate images so that it could be viewed in all its glory as I doubt few people have ever seen them properly. My feet at the bottom show just how big this one was.

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A pedestrian walks along the strip, the normal ground level view.

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Taichung’s old main station lit up in all its Christmas glory.

Initially Taichung can seem chaotic and impossible to navigate, especially for non Chinese speakers. However, well designed tourist maps are available from the main station and buses are frequent, well marked and easy to use, especially if you buy a swipe card (Easycard), which is essential for frequent trips. (MRT is still under construction). Most bus trips inside the city are free so that even getting the wrong one costs nothing. A shuttle bus service does a round trip stopping at many of the main places and it is useful if you have a particular place in mind.

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Taichung park lake and fountains

However, from the old/new main station with a bit of zigzagging it is possible to take in many of Taichung’s main attractions by walking or riding through the greenest parts of the city. First stop after the station is Taichung park, which was created by the Japanese during their administration of the city. It’s a great place to relax with a real zen atmosphere, spectacular trees and a boating lake full of koi carp and turtles.

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A typical restaurant street at night between the park and the canal walkway.

From there head west along the canal walkway to the National Taiwan museum of fine arts. Then a long narrow park with sculptures (Calligraphy greenway) takes you north again until you reach a vast green area overlooked by the impressive Hotel One.

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A typical ‘Calligraphy Greenway’ path where a variety of sculptures can be found.

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Hotel One towers over the a park where families spend weekends picnicking and playing.

Continue northwards staying on the parkway strip and eventually you will reach the National museum of natural science and finally the botanical gardens.

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There is a beautiful tiled pathway leading to the National museum of Natural Science with inlaid animals and plants depicting a timeline from prehistoric to contemporary times. Unfortunately they can only be viewed at ground level, which is a pity as some are so big, particularly the larger dinosaurs that they are difficult to see properly.

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Finally you will reach the botanical gardens with a tropical glass house and waterfall.

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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.

Below: The lone tree in 1993 seen from the Rhone valley in winter.

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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.

 

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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Autumn

It’s a mild autumn day and perfect for a stroll among the falling leaves. The squirrels are out in force today and the first one I encounter is just a few feet from my doorway. After that I see several more collecting nuts ready for their winter hibernation.

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It is still so mild that even butterflies are out and I also see another hummingbird hawk moth but fail to photograph it. However while sorting through my images I came across two nice photos I had overlooked in my eagerness to post the previous humming hawk moth photos.

Meanwhile I reflect on today’s welcome news that eleven supreme court judges have unanimously ruled against Boris Johnson. I think it is the first time I have felt any relief since the start of the whole Brexit saga. It is a great day for the rule of law, if not democracy.

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Just minding his own business … zen-like.

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‘Nuts whole hazel nuts’ … a mouthful of nuts ready for winter

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The hummingbird hawk moth close up from my last encounter.

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Note the particularly long proboscis.

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A red admiral butterfly seen for the first time this year.

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A jay finds a convenient wooden handrail to perch on.

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… and sheep are doing their best to keep the grass trimmed on the hillsides.

Reflections

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A visit to Karlsruhe for their spectacular ‘Schlosslichtspiele’. This is an annual light festival event lasting for several weeks from August till September. Many artists and companies are involved in putting together a light show projected onto the impressive baroque facade of the palace.

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The setting was perfect with a warm summer evening and clear skies. The event is free and there was plenty of space in the enormous grounds to find an ideal viewing spot.

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After a weekend in Karlsruhe it was back to Pforzheim and time to reflect on how different the two towns are.

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Pforzheim suffered greatly during WW2 and I took time out to visit the memorial, which stands high on a hill where the debris from bombed building was taken and now over looks the town.

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It’s a bit of a slog to get up to but well worth it just for the views over Pforzheim and Baden Wuerttemberg. The shiny metallic memorial sculptures reminded me of a mix between 911 and 2001 and below this plaque explains the event:

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Which roughly translated reads as follows:

Debris hill 23rd February 1945

This artificial hill was created on the Wallberg (hill) from the debris of Pforzheim.

It reminds us of the horrors of WW2, particularly on the 23rd February 1945. In less than 20 minutes the town was completely devastated. More than 18,000 people died.

The total war – started by the National Socialists, Germany – aimed now also at our own town.

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A beautiful mix of wildflowers alongside the Enz riverbanks.

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A duck on the River Nagold, which also flows through Pforzheim. The two rivers intersect in the town centre and this made it attractive to the Romans who first settled here. In fact for all I know I would not be surprised if the duck was standing on old Roman ruins.