Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stuffed Animals for Vienna


A Blue Bag, a Photo Rucksack and a Green Croc

 

Vienna for just one day? Why not.
My friend DD and I drove to Austria just for the sake of it. There was absolutely no plan what to do there and we enjoyed that fact very much.
Well, DD hat some kind of rough idea because he brought a huge blue bag full of stuffed animals. He got the stuff for free from a Second Hand Store in Germany. He didn't know what to exactly do with them but throwing the bag into the trunk of my car was at least a start.

He didn't tell me until arrival what's in the bag and when he showed the content to me in the morning in Vienna I was really excited. We decided to take the bag with us for our stroll through the city and see what happens.

We didn't have to wait long for the first encounter because we were struggling with a ticket vending machine for the subway because it wasn't accepting our bill. A girl stepped by to help us (BTW: not so likely back home in grumpy Franconia). She bought the tickets for us using her own coins after telling us some strange plan that included the exchange of tickets, coins, change and some sort of magic. Neither DD nor I are very good at math and we forced them to explain her strategy again and again. I am really bad in things like that and I always envy people at the supermarket checkout that hand over a random amount of coins the get just one bill back. In the end we gave up trying to understand and just trusted her. It was kind of a defeat for us boys but the was really way more clever than we.
Afterwards she just waved us good bye and walked away. DD and I just looked down at our blue bag, nodded and run after her. 
She chose a piglet, smiled broadly and disappeared. Good start.



A Piglet in Exchange for some Ticket Vending Machine Help




One Trunk and a Lot of Bird Houses

The Stephansdom cathedral is the center of Vienna and we thought about just giving the stuffed animals away to kids. After some discussion we came up with the idea to not give animals for free but to ask for a poem in exchange. DD said that no one will recite a poem in public to get a useless stuffed animal. In the end we decided to invest exactly 15 minutes to find out.  
My old chalk board was perfect for advertising saying "1 stuffed animal for 1 poem".


DD in Front of the Stephansdom

The pedestrian area in Vienna was full with street vendors so we didn't look like complete morons at the first glance - well, actually we did.

After a few minutes a group of tourists walked by and we just stopped a family from Croatia and told them about our "mission". The liked our idea but only their youngest daughter was brave enough to recite a poem in Croatian. I think she was really proud and I am sure that she will handle her new stuffed horse well. 


A Poem in Croatian for a Stuffed Horse



Waiting for Poem People.

An old man walked by, read our chalk board and smiled.

We: Excuse me, would you like to have a stuffed animal in exchange for a poem?
Man: I don't know poems at all but I like your idea.
We: Hey, you just looked like you already searched your mind for one. Right? Be honest.
Man: Well, you are right. But I really don't know a single poem.
We: What about if you go back to your childhood days?
Man: Wait, I know a blessing for house owners. It rhymes. Does that count as a poem?
We: Of course. Perfect.
Man: Gott beschütze dies Haus vor Sturm und Feuer, denn es war sehr teuer. *big grin*
(god save this house from storm and fire, because it was expensive)
We: Hey, cool. We knew you know one. Thank you. What animal do you want?
Man: I did it completely for free. Thank you for reminding me of the poem.


In the end it was 3 poems in 15 minutes and some more interesting talks with strangers.



A Poem about Storm and Fire - for Free

2008 I have been to Vienna for a business trip and we visited a nice little cafe. The waitress had every right to opt for an elephant for her good service.


DD Gives an Animal to the Waitress of the "Cafe der Provinz"

While DD was dealing with the waitress I was talking to a group of people. A girl gave me a very nice poem for two stuffed mice (I promised not to publish the photo) and a blond grown up girl impressed her boyfriend by standing up and reciting some chapters of the classic "Der Erlkönig" from Goethe in front of all guests in the cafe. Really cool.



A Rabbit for a Goethe-Poem

The rest of the day was filled with a lot of kilometres walking around and in the afternoon I was really exhausted.


A Stopover in the famous "Cafe Museum"

In the end we still had approximately 20 animals left. Damn. After visiting the Secession building we sat them down for a public shooting and left a green worm.


DD Prepares Our Public Shooting Near Secession

The highlight of the whole day was at the very end of it. On our way back we saw a mother with her two sons in a subway station. One of the boys was crying very loud. DD and I followed them, stopped them and opened the blue bag in front of the crying boy.
We told the mother that we just want to help healing the crying with a stuffed animal.
Well, the open bag stopped the crying immediately. The little boy checked all the animals very carefully and took the biggest one. He didn't look exactly happy afterwards but at least he had some trust again in general justice in the world.


A Big Brown One Helps Healing

Summary? Hmm, a lot of talks to strangers, some happy faces, much more openess than I expected, tired feet and a cool tour with a friend in a cool city. Vienna rocks.

Don't ask me what happened to the rest of the stuffed animals. I guess they are living now in DD's apartment.

 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

No Unlockable Doors



There are no unlockable doors
There are no unwinnable wars
There are no unrightable wrongs
Or unsingable songs

There are no unbeatable odds
There are no believable gods
There are no unnameable names
Shall I say it again, yeah

(Ozzy Osbourne - I Just Want You)

It is a good day for stating slogans like the above.

Although I am a fan of the old songs of Ozzy I prefer the version of Hellsongs a lot more.



The line "There are no unrightable wrongs" is a tough one, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Today - 3 Years Ago




Time flies.
Exactly 3 years ago - on Dec. 21st 2007 my pal Daniel and I did our first 24 hour photo experiment.
We strolled through the city of Nuremberg for 24 hours - from midnight to midnight.
Our mission was to take random photos and see what happens and how many moments can fit into 24 hours if you try to live them intensely.
We created a little Web site with some of our photos and our thoughts from that day.

Actually I don't want to bother you with old stuff but because I used the "anniversary" to browse through the page I thought I just re-share it with you.

Here you go: http://www.twentyone24.de/index2007.htm
Yes, I know, all the texts are in German but I was too lazy translating all the stuff.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Integration Issues



Do we do a good job when it comes to integration of fellow citizens with roots stretching out beyond the borders of Germany?
I don't really think so.
There's a lot of discussion around how to integrate migrants in Germany these days and I do have to admit that there are indeed some problems.

My city Nuremberg is also the city of a lot of people from Turkey, Russia, Kosovo, Iraq, Greek and from a lot more places around the world. A good share of them isn't really able to integrate because they can't use the most useful tool to do so: The matching language.

From my travels I know that language makes hell of a difference: It was so easy to connect to people in all the English speaking countries and a lot more challenging (up to almost impossible) in countries like Brazil or Jordan because I had no clue about Portuguese or Arabic at all.
I know that I am living a very privileged life with access to education and a good income (don't mention the latter to my boss). Knowing that, I can imagine that it is almost impossible to learn German if you are e.g. a woman from Iraq who the father has taken out of school in fifth grade and who now lives in Nuremberg as an immigrant in a traditional Arabic family.
My sister used to work as an elementary school teacher in Nuremberg and she told me that often the first-graders have to act as translators for their mums during parent-teacher conferences.
Really sad, isn't it?

The German government recently made some effort to improve that situation by forcing immigrants into so called 'Integration Classes'. Such a class last more than 400 hours and the main part of it to learn German. Other subjects of the class include to learn about the rights (and duties) of being a citizen in Germany and how to deal with civil service in a bureaucratic country like Germany.
All the learning lead to a feared 'Naturalisation Test' which caused a lot of discussion recently because the questions were considered either too lame or incredibly hard.

A few days ago I did the test online just for the sake of it and found the multiple choice questions quite reasonable.

Sample questions:
What happened in Germany on November 9th, 1938?
a) Germany attacked Poland starting WW2
b) The National Socialists lost an election and suspended the government
c) Jewish shops and synagogues were destroyed by National Socialists and their followers
d) Hitler becomes President of the German Reich

What is allowed during elections in Germany?
a) The husband can also vote on behalf of his wife
b) One can do postal voting
c) One can vote via telephone
d) Voting is possible starting with the age of 14

The Job Information Center can help on
a) Calculation your pension
b) Finding an apprenticeship position
c) Tax return
d) Health insurance



I don't know whether immigrants would be kicked out of Germany after failing the exam but I don't wanna know how many non-immigrant 'old school' Germans would fail the test miserably.

You can try the test for free [here...].

Oh, I almost forgot about the inspiration for this posting: I saw a flyer for a German class preparing for the Naturalisation Test. I really don't think it is a clever way to advertise a class for learing German in German language, is it?

PS: Just for the record: I passed the test with 33 correct answers out of 33. Therefore I won't be kicked out.

PPS: It would be great to hear how YOUR country helps immigrants.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dummy Kid Games



There are games where a grown up needs a kid as dummy. Dummy Kiding Games so to say.
You don't know what I mean?
Well, imagine a father giving a model railway to his kid for Christmas. It is not unlikely that the father buyed it because he secretly wants to play with it and if the kid likes it too it's just a bonus.

Today I played one of my favorite Dummy Kid Games - again. It is one of the games that are very universal and probably being played all around the world. Just grab a kid by its hands and spin it around as fast as you can.

I really love the perfect mixture of cheerful joy and a glimpse of fear screamed out load by the Dummy kid and I also love the dizzyness in my head after spinning twenty times at full speed.

In this case I guess my Dummy enjoyed it as much as I did - or maybe even a wee bit more.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Ads?

I finally did it and joined the dark side. Am I a bad guy now?

The thing is that I switched on Google Ads on my blog. I am just curious what will happen and what kind of ads Google connects to the texts on my blog.
Actually I don't expect to earn any money but who knows. In the end there were more than 70.000 visitors to my blog since 2006.

At the moment it is one single ad just below the title row of the blog.

If it totally annoys you just drop me a note and I consider switching it off again.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Homage Dinner



Yesterday was All Saints' Day.
Here in Bavaria this day goes hand in hand with a visit to the graves of loved ones. In some places it ends up in big crowds rushing around the cemeteries carefully paying attention in being noticed by the neighbors.
If those crowds master to remember the dead relatives simultaneously to fulfilling social conventions, it's fine for them. I don't like it for myself, though.
I would probably feel different if the gatherings would be more like the celebrations of Day of the Dead in Mexico.

Yesterday, more or less by coincidence I had the chance to remember my dead Granny in a slightly differeny way: With my nose and with my stomach.

For the first time ever my girlfriend and I prepared a dinner that is very closely related to my Grandmother. The dish is called "Linsen und Spatzen" and consists of lentils with spaetzle noodles. In the days of my Granny it was a poor mans dish because of the cheap ingredients.

I can exactly remember the smell of the lentils when I entered our house after school as a kid. It is one of the smells I really connect to a certain human being - my Grandmother preparing lunch.

Yesterday my kitchen smelled like my childhood days and the memory of my Granny and of some of her funny awkward mannerisms flashed my mind.
After a while I realized that it was All Saints' Day and that my lentil menu was nothing less than my very own homage dinner.

Although my Granny wasn't the best chef in the world (actually quite the contrary) my connection of lentils to her will probably last as long as I live.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Unexpected Tenderness



Why is it, that one doesn't really expect to spot signs of tenderness from some people?
I wouldn't be surprising to see a young couple holding hands but for some reason it seems kind of uncommon to see some older folks show their affection in public.

The couple on the photo did show that they belong together in a way that really touched me. They were sharing a stunning view down to the Danube river at the Walhalla temple near Regensburg.

In one moment they were just standing close together and in the next one there was this gesture for "hey this looks stunning and I am glad that I can share this moment with you".

The guys made me smile in a good way.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Nudging Forward



Finally I feel like start blogging again. It's remarkable how much energy can be stolen by some things without noticing it. Energy that would have been really helpful to keep my eyes open for all the small things that enriched my life and to blog about it.

Like the little guy in the video it might be helpful to get little nudges from time to time to keep crawling (walking, jumping, flying etc.) forward.

Maybe I'll tell you a bit more about my trip around the world because I stopped right in the middle of New Zealand. There is a lot more to come from Australia, Vietnam, India and Jordan.
Maybe I'll show you some photos or video footage from stuff that fed my soul in the summer.
Maybe I'll just share some weird unfinished thoughts with you.

I really look forward to it - and to your comments.

If you wonder who I am talking to in this blog - don't ask me, I dunno.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Stirring Sounds



There was a thing that kept myself busy since I was a child. Really.

I have no idea how many cups of beverages I stirred until now but almost every single time I listened to the sound my spoon made in the cup when stirring.
There was always the suspicion that the stirring noise differs dependent on the the liquid and on the temperature.
Cold milk seemed to sound different to hot milk and a coffee different to ice tea.

Well, finally I extended my breakfast with a scientific experiment to give my poor mind some rest.

What can I say - my theory proved to be right! The stirring sounds ARE different.

You might say "so what?" but for me it was a big deal. A very big deal.

Try to listen to the stirring sound the next time you enjoy a hot beverage. Listening will even extend the joy of it. I promise.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Yellow Rustling



To a tree in the parking lot of a nearby school:

Bursting in colors
Before a big sleep
A scream in bright yellow
And then resting deep
I though got the message
Of leaves lying curled
That it could make big sense
To color my world
The voice of your foliage
Make my mind jump and sing
You fade for a few months
See you next spring

Monday, September 27, 2010

clickme



Some presents require a special response. Thanks to a friend for a lovely Africa-Survival package!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Glow Worms! / Waitomo, New Zealand, November 2008


After the abseil / the boots are already filled with water *)

Now I know why I have holes in my rubber boots. It is to get rid of the water that floods in from the upper rim. Actually my boots are completely filled with water - and it is damn cold.
I am standing in the middle of an underground river in a cave wondering what the hack I am doing here.

A little while ago I drove together with two French girls and two English guys with a van through the green hills of the Waitomo area. We were equipped with wet suits, helmets, head lamps, harnesses - and rubber boots with holes in it.
Our mission was to explore a cave by doing "Black Water Rafting".
Crouching through caves and all kinds of abseiling would have been enough to get me but in addition a fellow traveller mentioned that there are glow worms in some Waitomo caves.
Glowing worms? No idea what to expect.

Our guide Bettina briefed us about our equipment and pointed out that this wouldn't be a good idea for any person struggling with vertigo or claustrophobia.


*)

While I slowly descended down into the cave my environment changed completely and all senses noted a shift of gears.
The green hills changed into a indication of greenish light from above, the bird voices changed into the swoosh of water and the smell of fresh grass turned into that very unique cave-mixture of moisture, wet stones and soil.

All of a sudden I touched ground respectively water by landing in the middle of the stream that runs through the cave. I really had to inhale hard because the water up to my knees was very cold - and I mean 'very'. Was I really supposed to wade through that dark liquid antarctic for several hours? I guess so.

So here I am, in a cave rive'r. Let's enjoy it.


Freezing cold darkness *)

While waiting for the rest of my group to abseil I started to enjoy the scenery. Light fingers pointed down from above and when looking up there was no blue sky but a very intense green.
If you ever want to amplify a color just put complete darkness around it.

Everyone of us fetched an inflated rubber tube and we made our way up the river.
Bettina led us through a lot of small and smallest crevices and every time the water reached the next area of my body my lungs seemed to collapse.


Sometimes we had to crouch on our back with the cold water up to our ears - literally *)

After a while we reached a kind of underworld sandy beach in a bigger hall. We sat down on our tubes and Bettina shared some of her knowledge with us.
The said that the ceiling of the hall is covered with glow worms and that they illuminate to attract insects as prey. I looked up and saw not a single glowing thing. Did they cheat on me?
Bettina asked us to switch off our head lamps. Have you ever had the feeling of being swallowed by darkness? If there is a climax of 'pitch black' this would have been the moment to use it.


The underground sandy beach*)

I looked up into the darkness and was disappointed: No glowing worms above me. Did they really rip me off?

After some seconds of silence Bettina said 'Shall I switch the worms on? They are sensitive to noise and I am going to make some. Be prepared."

Without further warning she slammed her rubber tube on the surface of the water creating a really loud bang.

Sometimes you can densify a whole day into just one second. On this particular day it was the second after the bang.
It was like someone had switched on a steroid version of a starry sky. The whole ceiling was covered with thousands and thousands of little green-yellow glowing spots. The fact that it was completely dark around us amplified the effect, too. It seemed that the starry night was all around me because the worms reflected even on the surface of the water.
I never saw something similar before and I don't expect to see anything like it in the future.
Only the fact that I already had goose bumps from the cold water before prevented my skin from doing it again because of the sheer beauty of the moment.


A 30sec long exposure / Look at the glow worms behind us / Click on photo to enlarge *)

I cannot remember how long we sat in the darkness staring up to the worms but it was long - very long.

On our way back down the stream we 'embarked' our tubes and rafted down the river which was big fun and really kind of an adventure.
On some calmer parts we switched our lamps off again and drifted slowly through the starry darkness and from time to time we clapped onto the water to illuminate the worms again. Now we noticed that the whole cave was full of glow worms.


Rafting in our rubber tubes *)

Mastering some parts of the river was really like rafting. The water was quite wild as it made its way around the rocks. Everyone of us fell off the tube more than one time but for some reason the cold water wasn't a problem at all any longer.


English-French-German exploration squad

I didn't waste a thought about the climb up into the light until we came back into the entrance hall. The walls of the cave were almost vertical and climbing with rubber boots isn't very comfy.
In the end it was fun, too, because Bettina secured us with a rope.

The whole tour was one of my absolute favorites in New Zealand and the perfect combination of adventure, sight seeing, physical exercise and team thing.

Oh, I should mention that I can absolutely recommend the company I did the tour with: "Rap, Raft 'n' Rock". The groups are very small, the guide was superb and even their small hostel was cute and relaxing.

*) Photos taken by Bettina of 'Rap Raft'n'Rock' with a water proof camera. I didn't bring my own camera into the cave for obvious reasons.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mirroring the Future



Sometimes you walk on grounds that are connected to your future without knowing it.
In 2007 I shot this photo in Chicago. This artwork is called "Cloud Gate" and the reflection of the surrounding skyline fascinated me a lot.

In a few weeks I will be on a 7-day business trip to Chicago. While looking up the location of my meeting in Google Maps I was like "Wait a minute, this is right next to this mirror artwort thing".
I browsed through my photos of 2007 and found out that the skycraper of the Aon Center is mirrored on the surface of Cloud Gate on one of my shots.

I never thought that I would have the chance to actually work inside this tall building three years after 2007.

Looking at my old photo today is like catching a glimpse into my future.

Life is full of surprises, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Pearls



Fragile pearls
You must not touch their green beds
The sleeping beauty is vulnerable

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Contributions to the Big Play


"...
That you are here - That life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

What will your verse be?
..."


The lines are out of "The Dead Poem Society" and are really stuck in my head since I started watching the movie again during the last weekend.

If life is like a big play and you can contribute only one verse - what would your verse be?
A great question, isn't it? I really love this movie.

If I can contribute a verse I should try hard not to ruin it - starting NOW.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Smiling Feta

I am really not able to open the pack of Feta cheese. I haven't for more than a week. Do you know why? It is because of the smiling sheep in the logo.
The sheep looks way to friendly, doesn't it?
Oh boy, I am getting old.





Saturday, March 06, 2010

Katzenjammer / Nuremberg, March 2010


I can't believe that I haven't been to a concert for more than two months now.
Yesterday I ended this period: I had a date with four wonderful ladies from Norway.

The Band is called 'Katzenjammer' and the name is actually a German word.
Literally translated it means 'cats howling' but actually it is a slang expression for the feeling when you are hangover.

The girls made a really funny mixture of Folk, Balkan and Pop. Sometimes it sounds like a Waltz, sometimes like Soul and sometimes like the soundtrack for a circus show.

They had lots of instruments on stage and every girl played every instrument. They changed roles and lead vocals after almost every song but played with great virtuosity, though. It seemed that playing a dedicated instruments just bores them.

When you see a blond girl with flowers in her hair and a pink polka dot dress out of a 60s second hand shop play the drums while blowing trumpet at the same time you instantly think that Metallica's Lars Ulrich is nothing than a rather mediocre drummer.

Small, funny, (relatively) unknown bands with catching music - that's why I love live concerts so much.

I enjoyed the gig a lot and you really should give their music a try - for example by watching the following video.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

12 out of 10 Happiness / Waianakarua, New Zealand, December 2008


Lynn and Kim

This time I want to share one of the most impressive encounters of my whole trip with you.
This posting will be a hard one because I will try to explain something that wasn't seizable - it was only a click in my head - well, actually a constant clicking. Even if I'll fail to explain, you may at least get an idea about how much meeting some people touched me.

I was heading north on the south coast of the South Island. It was late afternoon and I was looking for a place to stay for the night. The hostel I had in mind was fully booked and I literally stumbled upon a sign saying 'Olive Grove Lodge' instead.

The Olive Grove Lodge was a tiny hostel in an absolutely magnificent garden. Looking back it was the most comfy hostel of my whole trip.

I was the only guest that time and the owner Kim greeted me very warmly. We had a short conversation and my first impression was that he really knows how to do tourist smalltalk. But there was something more. Something was strange about that guy. Something I could not grasp yet.

After a while I was checking out the common kitchen. It was actually the kitchen of the owner's family. They shared it with their guests. I made myself a cup of herbal tea from the huge collection of organic teas out of the hostel garden as Kim explained.

He told me that his wife Lynn and he started the hostel a few years ago. They grow organic food and teach their sons at home because Lynn is a teacher. This may sound like the prototype of some kind of weird eco-family - it was not, quite the opposite.


Some of my impressions from Olive Grove Lodge

Kim told me that some European girl was leaving the hostel today without paying and that such behavior is not super rare. Apart from the fact that he of course didn't like cheating guests he didn't seem to be upset.
I asked whether he had a good day anyway. His way of saying something like
Udo, it was an absolutely fantastic day' sounded absolutely authentic to me.

He told me about his day and that he likes what he does very much.

Without noticing, both of us had already left the solid path of polite smalltalk for a small hiking path leading into some thicker bushes of conversation.

I said 'Wow, this sounds very convinced. I am glad that you had a good day'. After a short pause I dared to add something like 'You seem to be sort of happy. Are you?'.

He looked at me not a bit astonished about such a question but just said 'Oh yes, I am very happy'.

You might know that I have the habit of trying to rate happiness from time to time. Yes, I know it's probably quite stupid but that's how I am wired.

My next question to Kim was 'If you should rate your current happiness with then points, how much would you give? 10 points mean "super happy" and 0 points indicate absolute sadness'.

The answer of Kim was simply '10' - uttered with the same convincing tone.

'10 points? 10 is maximum. You are as happy as you can be? Really?'

Kim smiled and said 'Yes I am as happy as I can imagine.'

I was impressed because it didn't feel like an airy statement.

Kim left and I prepared my dinner using lots of the complimentary herbs. Afterwards I mounted my slackline in the garden and did some balancing with Kim's son Joseph - a funny and curious guy.


Slacklining with Joseph

After a while Kim came back to me and said 'Udo I told my wife Kim about your happiness rating question. Do you know what she said? She said whether she could give 12 points as well because she feels 12 out of 10 happy. Udo you have to meet Lynn'.

And so I did.

It might sound kitschy but to me Kim and Lynn seemed to be a perfect couple. I sensed a mixture of deep respect, harmony of two strong characters and knowing that being with the other one makes oneself better.

On arriving I noticed 'something strange' about Kim and by now I knew what it was: He was happy.
He and Lynn were happy and even better, they were very aware of it and thankful to whoever.
I was really amazed. Really really.

Lynn, Kim and I had a very long talk that evening about life in general, about the obstacles along the way and about doing the right thing.

Before leaving the Olive Grove Lodge the next day I asked them to write down their word of the day for me. Because we talked about organic food as well they wrote 'You are what you eat'. But if you look closely you can see a small 12/10 in the corner. At the first glance it might seem to be just the rest of some former chalkboard scribbling but is is not and now you know the story about it.

I thought a lot about Kim and Lynn the next days, throughout the rest of my trip and even until today.
Both of them don't know how much they inspired me. Hm, maybe I send a link to this posting to them.

I hope that all of you are at least a little bit as happy as Kim and Lynn that December day in 2008. What place would the world be with more Kims and Lynns? Maybe the world IS full of them and I was simply too blind to see - yet.

Yes, I know this posting is already way to long. But you seem to be still reading, ain't you?

In my job I share an office with a guy named Tom. He and his girlfriend Dési went to New Zealand for vacation end of 2009. I gave them some recommendations for hostels and the Olive Grove Lodge was one of them. Tom got a printout of the chalkboard photo of Kim and Lynn and the assignment to give it to them in case they stay at their place.
Tom and Dési accomplished the mission and here is their report of it - uncut and in their own words. Thanks folks - you rock!





Dési and Tom (on the right) one year later at the Olive Grove Lodge

After dinner at the Speights brewery in Dunedin we headed towards Oamaru. We arrived at Olive Grove Lodge shortly after 8 pm and found our host Kim in the kitchen. After some funny complaints about us being late we promised him some surprise. He immediately asked “Who sent you here?” Obviously he often welcomes guests sent by previous guests.
I showed him a photo printout asking him whether he remembers the ‘Guy with the chalkboard’ that took the photo of his wife with the writing on the chalkboard ‘you are what you eat’.

He was totally puzzled!
Then he smiled and told us that he and his wife Lynn just talked about this guy from Germany one week ago with some guests. They were asked about the funniest guests they had. After a short discussion they remembered Udo and he was awarded to be “one of the strangest guests ever” J
He looked at the three photos I gave him, took them and went out of the house with the words “I have to show them to my wife … she won´t believe it”.

We had a nice and peaceful stay for two nights at Olive Grove Lodge – with Lynn, Kim and their two sons. Be sure to ask them for the route to the penguins and sea lions and “Fleurs Place” – the famous restaurant.

Dési & Tom





If you have the chance to stay at Olive Grove Lodge - do it!
Here is their website: http://www.olivebranch.co.nz

Rock Concert Branches



A storm is coming.
Its name is 'Xyntia' and it already howled over France the other day.

I stare out of my big living room window and watch the gray-blue colored cloud-dough racing around my house.

The wind is speeding up and the branches of the cherry tree in the garden are waving at me like the arms of an ecstatic audience at a rock concert.
The remains of last autumns dead leaves spiral up in the air in front of my window in a direction that calls the law of gravity a myth.

From time to time the sun manages to pour a few buckets of yellow light over the scenery for some extra Tim-Burton-ness.

It feels really surreal to stand in a warm room seeing nature rave outside - a bit like the ending scene from the movie 'Fight Club'. In that scene Jack and Carla are looking out the window watching skyscrapers collapse.
The soundtrack for that scene was 'Where is my Mind' from the Pixies.

I am listening to that song right now - it works! Sometimes life can be like the ending scene of a movie if you add the right song.

Here is the scene from Fight Club I am talking about:

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Board'n'Post / Grosser Arber, Germany




What kind of tech-world is this if one can publish Blog postings while sitting in the snow with a Snowboard attached?

I decided on very short notice that this Saturday is perfect for a single day of snowboarding.

The mountain Grosser Arber is not the Alps but it is only a 2.25 hour drive from Nuremberg.

Sunshine, cold clear air and that incredible noise the carving of the Snowboard does while flirting with the snow - wow!

I am very proud of myself because it is only my second time boarding and today I dared to do a red (medium) track for the first time. Don't ask how many times I crashed but it was worth it.

Excuse me now I have things to do now.

Lonely Planet Destroyed My Life

A friend I traveled with for just one day on Hawaii gave me a link to very interesting article.
It is about the backpacking virus that might hit you again and again as soon as you started traveling.

Although I am NOT close to leave my job for good I can find some similarities to my own experiences.

It is only a 3 minute read (in German language) and you can find it [here].

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sheep / New Zealand, December 2008


Double White Tuft

One of the commentators of the previous (test) posting requested something about vegetarian sheep. Actually I think the request has something to do with an upcoming afternoon playing "The Settlers of Catan". To make it crystal clear to that commentator: I will not trade sheep for wood just to be nice. You will not gonna like me!

Apart from that Catan-comment my last postings have been about the motherland of all sheep anyway: New Zealand.

It was really kind of ridiculous to have sheep everywhere - literally. During my days on the road it was not uncommon to stop for a herd of sheep that decided to cross the road just in front of me.

Although I shot thousands of photos in New Zealand there is only a single one dedicated to the woolen animal.
I was driving to a small waterfall on a late afternoon. Actually the waterfall was big enough to act as a major tourist site in Europe. In New Zealand it was nothing special, it didn't even have a name and I was the only visitor.

During my short walk to the fall I saw the sheep standing on the top of of a hill.
My perpective was perfect: The green hill and the sheep against the blue sky - with a tuft of white whool in form of a cloud nearby.


Oh, by the way - here is the nameless waterfall. Nothing special compared with the sheep, is it?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Car Soundtrack / North Island, New Zealand, November 2008

One of one million beautiful spots just beside the road in the Waikato area. Click on photo to view on Flickr.

During some long car drives on the North Island I shot short movies out of the car window.
Actually I did it because the green hills reminded me of the Shire out of Lord of the Rings so much. The whole landscape looked like the desktop background image with the green hills you might still know from Windows XP.

While browsing through the movies a few days ago I realized that the music I was listening to is hearable in the footage.
I was using a little FM transmitter to listen to my iPod music via the car radio.

I was smiling when I heard the songs again because I really connect them to my New Zealand trip.

Usually my music is a bit more Indy-like with some loud noise involved. Here it was completely different.

I prepared a little compilation of some car-video-snippets to give you an idea of the landscape on the North Island and of my music as well. If you listen closely you can even hear me whistling in one scene.

Trips without music wouldn't last that long, would they?


Here is my video

PS: Driving on the left side of the road is scary, isn't it? Luckily the roads in New Zealand are almost empty.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tongariro Alpine Crossing / New Zealand


The volcano is 'Mount Doom' of Lord of the Rings (Mount Ngauruhoe)

If you are in New Zealand and not a complete ignorant of nature and outdoor activities you can't miss one specific hike: The 'challenge' is to cross a mountain range in a full-day tour and it is called 'Tongariro Alpine Crossing' in Togariro National Park near Turangi on the North Island.

The trek is 19 kilometres (12 miles) long, one has master more than 800 metres (2600 feet) of altitude difference and it takes 8 hours to get to the end of the path.

The interesting thing is that you cross different kinds of vegetation from small waterfalls and Scotland-like green hills over volcanic areas up to rocky grounds and snow on the highest point. The downward slope passes very blue lakes and ends in a lush rain forest.

The fact that you get all of the above in one single day makes this crossing one of the most popular hikes in New Zealand and you can imagine what that means regarding the number of hikers. This is especially true if you do the crossing on the first sunny day after a 4 day period of rain.



One can find a waterfall for every natural break ;-)

I managed to avoid the crowds and to hike on my own most of the day. The nature just blew me away.



I met a group of girls from my hostel and we walked some parts together. It was a good combination of talking and silence and it was perfectly ok to separate again after a while.



Emerald Lakes

After the highest point, the Red Crater, the Emerald Lakes came into view. Although the photo above is a HDR image the colors of the water are untouched - that's why the lakes are called Emerald Lakes. My lunch spot was in the shadow of a rock overlooking one of the lakes - in solitude.


Crossing several creeks and the clouds.



Rain forest at the end of the hike

When you look back to a vacation you might find some days you consider as very intense, positive or amazing. The memory of such a day is usually long lasting - no doubt.
But wouldn't it be even more intense to realize the extraordinary attitude of the day while you are living it instead of recalling a memory afterwards? For some reason it is sometimes hard for me to do so.
The day on Tongariro was one of the rare situations when I realized already in the morning that it was a special day. I enjoyed every single breath, almost every step, all the different shades of green, the ugly smell of the volcanic fumes and my sore muscles. It felt like a constant pressing of the 'Record' button inside my memory.
Right now in this second it is not 'Record' but 'Replay'. I am a super lucky guy, ain't I?

Monday, January 18, 2010

iArt / Nuremberg, January 2010

Click on photo to view it in different sizes on my Flickr account

What the heck is Art? Do you know? I don't.

I used to think that art can't be explained or defined or described.

Last Sunday I visited a exhibition of the photographer Jürgen Teller in Nuremberg. He seems to be kind of famous because of his photos of celebrities like Kate Moss without Make Up. Big deal.

One room in the museum was just filled with photos from his vacation in Japan. Actually it was just a bunch of third class blurry photos of enfants with flash-red eyes and people from familiy gatherings in front of tilted horizons.

I was about to think that it might just be an provocation of Teller to confront the visitors with prints that are absolutely non-artsy on the first glance. But then I read the booklet that described the room.
The curator wrote about Teller playing with intimacy and nearness with great expertise.
Oh boy, it sounded like a huge pile of Art-bullshit-bingo.

Immediately afterwards I looked up 'Art' in Wikipedia on my cell phone because I was wondering what categories art in museums has to follow.
Apart from the fact that I didn't understand the sophisticated words I realized again that art is nothing to be described by words - neither in Wikipedia nor in exhibition booklets.

In a nutshell something is art for me if it touches and inspires me and the photos of Teller definitely didn't. Not at all. I have no idea why this guy is considered a great photographer.

Wow, it feels good to be ignorant.

Oh I just noted that this posting is doing just the one thing I just questioned: Categorizing or explaining art.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lead Role in a Cage / Germany, January 2010


A small detail from my current life

Did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
And cool comfort for change?
Did you exchange
A walk on part in the war,
For a lead role in a cage?


It has been a while since my last posting, hasn't it?
Well, I just didn't feel like posting recently.
Let's see whether this will change a bit in the future - ready to go for my fourth year of blogging.

If I roll back one year from today, January 13th 2010, I found myself in India close to the border to Pakistan in a small city called Jaisalmer. Wow, my current life is lightyears away from those Jaisalmer days.


A scene from my life exactly one year ago in Jaisalmer