Monday, June 30, 2014

Travel Day 6: Hike and Bad Urach

Finally on day 6 I got out to do some fun stuff out of the city. The job that I gave myself for the past month and a half and always managed to come up with a good excuse not to do was to plan this weekend. I don't find planning trips to be any fun. Some people get a kick out of thinking of all the possibilities of their vacation, I just want to go on that vacation. So I hadn't planned much of anything until the night before, and not much then either. Winging it is the best way to describe my intentions. In general I intended to head toward the somewhat mountainous region nearby and tool around and do a little hiking.

I went out to the airport to pick up a rental car and was off toward Bad Urach, which, by the way, has a very German sound to it, doesn't it? The sort of sound that you're likely to cough up some phlegm trying to pronounce. A quick check in at the hotel and off for a bite to eat.

These little mountain towns are pretty awesome if you ask me. Quaint, cozy, and plenty to do and see.

Wait, that's not quite right.  Maybe this one is a little better:

Better. With some food, beer, and caffeine burning away in my internal engines I headed off to local park that I had seen a sign for that included something about waterfalls. I figured anywhere there are waterfalls there is sure to be hiking trails.  There was also a really cool looking ancient fortress up on top of the hills somewhere in that region and I thought I might be able to find it.

Upon arrival I couldn't really tell where anything was anymore. That's just the way things go in the mountains; once you get close you can no longer see your target. There was a trail nearby and I simply chose one direction randomly and started walking. After not too terribly long there was a much smaller offshoot, and being the adventurous person I am, I took it, and started hiking more directly up the mountainside.

It only took maybe a quarter mile before the trail met up with a larger trail, probably the same one I had been on, with signs for something that sounded like it could be the fortress so I headed that way. Sure enough another quarter mile up the trail and I had arrived at the cool looking fortress that I had seen from the road. And it was just as cool looking up close, and probably moreso. Plenty of rooms to go into and check out, old staircases, dungeons, and all sorts of remnants of another world.

I wandered around in the fortress for a while marveling at how something this old could still be standing....sort of. After I had had enough I hiked out and headed back to home base for some soccer matches and more food and more beer. I won't bore you with any of that, but here are some more pictures I took at the castle:

medieval fire pit

Dungeon entry. Make sure no one locks you in!

Dungeon window.

Looking down from parapet.

The fortress in all its glory.

Cool stone spiral staircase.

View from bottom of spiral staircase.

Large open area behind main walls and up top.

Bad Urach down below. I bet I could hit it from here...

Cool looking red slug I saw on hike out.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Travel Day 5: Photo Fishing

Day five was finally a day off from work. With all the free time available I was able to sleep in to finally catch up on my sleep debt and put jet lag behind me. It was quite nice. And when I eventually got up I headed out for a run to get some exercise at last and work off all the heavy food, large portions, and vast quantities of beer I have been consuming. I found a good park to run through and the park was full of creeks, ponds, and lakes. Of course being the obsessive compulsive angler that I am, I kept my eyes on the bodies of water the whole time trying to spot fishes. I saw quite a few and made a mental note to come back later with a camera.

After the run I got cleaned up and readied myself to head out. I was feeling exceedingly hungry so I found a nice outdoor eatery and got some food. And of course some beer as well. Beer flows like water here.

After I got some food in me and felt rejuvenated with the much needed fuel I headed back to the park I had run around earlier. The first pond/lake I walked by was very picturesque. Hemmed on all sides by cut banks, tall grasses and shrubs and trees around the edges, and a walking trail surrounding it. In the water were a number of visible carp nestled up against the cut bank poking around for food. An old man was there at a viewpoint where I stopped at first to check out the carp in the water. Shortly after I arrived he reached into his bag and pulled out a plastic baggie full of bread and started tossing it into the water in front of me. It was a little weird but I guess a nice thing for him to do.

As soon as the bread started hitting the pond, the water began to churn and things from the abyss below began darting toward me. There were about a million tiny catfish, a handful of carp of various sizes, and another fish I couldn't name that looked like a carp but had a normal looking, non-gummy, fish mouth. Then the ducks started getting involved too.

After a few minutes of amusement here I moved on. There were a good number of lakes, and every one of them had a handful of carps. Some big, mostly pretty small, and one colorful one. I also saw one mirror carp. I took a handful of pictures of them; most of which were feeding carp near the shore. And I must admit that something inside me was yearning to go grab my fly rod and head back out here. There were no signs saying no fishing, but from what I've read in order to fish in Germany you have to take some sort of exam to get a permit. Then in addition, depending on where you're going, there may be local rules and regulations and permits to acquire.  It seemed like way too much effort and confusion so I opted to fish with my camera instead. It was easy.

I'm also pretty sure that had I had my fishing rod, the most effective type of fly would have been anything that makes a slight splash and sits on the top of the water because anytime I would walk up to the water's edge, the fish in the vicinity would swim toward me rather than away from me. They would even sometimes come to the surface and try to suck randomly off the surface presumably hoping for some treats. And pretty quickly and got confirmation of my assumption when I saw a number of people standing on the pond shores tossing food into the water. It would have been like catching fish from a barrel. Fun for a bit but not at all challenging and I'd feel just a tiny bit guilty about it. Nonetheless, it's fun to locate new fish and watch them do their thing.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Travel Days 3-4

By day three things began to devolve into a bit of a blur. Staying out until well past midnight, coupled with fairly early get-ups, coupled with 9 hours of jet lag to adjust to, all resulted in this state of mind or lack thereof. Not much worth noting occurred on day 3. Work, dinner, soccer games, drinks. A rinse and repeat from the two days before pretty much.

Day 4 was a big day for me, the US, and for Germany. It was the final game of group play in the world cup for both teams and would determine who would get to keep playing and who would go home. Fortunately for the US, it was going to take some significantly bad things to occur to get eliminated. They could lose the game, as long as it wasn't by a lot, and still be fine.

On the downside, we had to work until 5, then nearly an hour train ride and walk back to the city center and our hotel, and the game started at 6. We got back to the hotel just in time for a quick change of clothes before kickoff. I figured we'd be ok watching the game from the hotel, because who would want to watch such a big game in their hotel bar?? Well, I should know better because I know how unadventurous most people are. Unfortunately the viewing area was packed full of people with nowhere to sit and not even anywhere to stand and watch.  There was an area in the bar set up with a TV but the space was limited and filling up. We did manage to snag a standing room only area, got a couple drinks, and watched the US get totally dominated by zee Germans, but they held on to lose only 1-0 and advance.

After the game it was time for food so we headed out. One of my favorite German customs is after big soccer matches people go out into the streets and block off intersections, while others drive around on the main streets hanging out of car windows and flying flags and honking their horns.  It's pretty funny. Here are a few images I took, but you really have to be there to fully appreciate it.

Dinner wasn't really worth noting, but we got some food then stopped at another drinking establishment for another beer then headed back to the hotel. When we got back to the bar for a nightcap we were amused for a little while by a group of 4 upper middle aged people trying to dance. The two guys were classic stiff Germans incapable of having fun. I'm sure I would have looked pretty much the same on the dance floor. Of the two women, one I would have admitted to a mental institution based solely upon her performance on the floor. The other couldn't dance but was having fun, so more power to her! I named her Elaine. Here's a crappy photo of the dimly lit bar dance floor.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Travel Day 2

Day two in the Motherland involved some work unfortunately. But after work hours there was time for good food, ok beer, good soccer and fun times. Let's start with the good food. I had the classic German dish that I mentioned in my last post. Giant hunk of pork on a plate with some weird dumpling looking thing that looked/tasted/felt like it was yesterday's pasta smashed together and formed into a ball. The giant hunk of pork was pretty good, and also pretty funny looking. Zee Germans definitely appreciate things in quantity.

In addition to food there were a couple soccer matches to watch, of course accompanied by beers. One we watched in the viewing area set up at the hotel along with some beers before heading out for food. The second game we watched in the university area of town in a large outside drinking area; the type that are scattered all over town. This second game was a little more entertaining simply due to the surroundings, unsurprisingly.

And that was pretty much the extent of day 2. Not nearly as much interesting things to report, mainly because it was filled with too much work and not enough play, so I am feeling a bit crazy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Travel Diary Days 0-1

The flight went smoother than anticipated.  Eight and a half hours on a plane may not be quite as bad as I remember. I only managed one movie, a bunch of reading, and four plus hours of very interrupted sleep. Upon arrival to my destination, jet lag had yet to set in. I was tired but not terribly so.

A quick bite to eat at the hotel bar and a mediocre german beer and then back to the room to try and catch an hour or two of sleep before I needed to go back to the bar to watch USA v Portugal. Sleep wasn't that good but but I got a little before the game.  The game also wasn't that good. If you didn't watch it, first off, shame on you. Second off, US Defense, can you please for one world cup finally get your $#!% together? You handed Portugal a free goal in less than 10 minutes, then your offense brought you back to life and to the lead before Portugal earned their second goal. It was a fun game to watch at least. 

The next morning I managed to sleep 'till 10:00, which was good since I didn't get to bed until 2am and hadn't had any real sleep in the past 48hrs; jet lagged mostly kicked. After a quick train ride out to the conference center to do the little amount of set up work required, my cohorts and I headed back to town, dropped stuff off at the hotel then headed toward the downtowny area to see if we could find some good food and drink and a good place to watch Holland beat up on ???. 

Dinner was where we had our first truly German experience. No trip to Germany is complete until two things happen.  One, you drink out of a massive beer mug and get drunk off a single beer. Two, you get a ginormous plate of meat; just meat. So I was happy to seee one of the top options on the menu where we settled to eat. Look at the Reisenhaxe. Haxe is a dish in Germany that is always good for an amusing laugh. It basically means large hunk of meat on the bone. I knew what this was going to be so I passed on it since I wasn't quite ready to bring this trip to complete fruition just yet. We did get to see another person; a man probably 5'10", 160lbs order and consume this spectacle. It was a pork leg nearly the size of my head and I don't know how he put it all down, but zee Germans are made of something impressive I must admit.

After dinner we hit up a Soccer viewing area near our hotel that looked like a good place to watch the game. And apparently there are a lot of Croatians in the area because this was a Croatian party and I'm not all that certain we were invited. We didn't stay to the end of the game and that may have been for the best since they lost 3-1 to Mexico. I was feeling no need to go rioting through the streets so I was happy about it.

A good start to the week and more to come I'm sure.  I just hope I have enough time to write about the adventures!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Carp Update

I haven't had nearly as much time as I'd like recently on the weekends to get out on the water.  Too much soccer and other activities getting in the way of fish time. And the weather sometimes doesn't help me either.

But I did manage a couple of outings recently. I haven't had sufficient time to go exploring the Columbia river, and I feel like I require time because I really haven't found great places yet in high water. Instead I've hit up the old reliable Sauvie Island a few times to spook a bunch of carp in the murky still waters. I have had a ton of success at spooking them too.

I don't know how many fish I've spooked that were sitting down in the muddy water out of sight and within a rods length of me, but the number is high. There has been some success as well, although not as much as I would hope. The island has seemed a bit more tame that the last couple years. It used to be a place where any given day I spent out there I could plan on seeing at least a dozen or two dozen tails dancing around on the surface.  This year I've been lucky to see a few, and I have had to work a lot harder to find some fish cruising around. I don't know what's changed.

Nonetheless, it's been a fun couple of outings. I just hope there are a lot more in the near future. Of course there won't be any in the very near future due to some pending travels, but when I get back it's on. I intend to hit the BigC as hard as possible. Stay tuned for those reports!