Fotoeins Fotografie

location bifurcation, place & home

Posts from the ‘Travel Planning’ category

Danube, Donau, Christian Stemper, Wien Tourismus

My Vienna: 30 days of spring from the 6

Danube morning: photo by Christian Stemper, courtesy of Wien Tourismus (no.50401).

With this entry’s appearance, I’m on the other side of the world, 8500 kilometres away.

I dashed in and out of Vienna a handful of times between 2001 and 2003 when I lived in Heidelberg; but I have no visual records of that period in time. I’ve returned to Austria’s capital city for the first time since 2018. I wondered then how a stay in the Mariahilf, the city’s 6th district, would go.

That time is now, because I’m spending a month in the 6.

To minimize weight, I’m experimenting:
•   32-L backpack as the 1 and only piece of (carry-on) luggage, and
•   “no bricks no heavy glass”, but a compact mirrorless Fuji X70 camera.

The apartment location and neighbourhood are ideal. I’m within easy reach of the city’s U-Bahn, surrounded by the U3, U4, and U6 metro lines. I’ve already located a drugstore and several grocery stores, all inside a trivial 0.5 km (0.3 mi) walk. I’ve also been told I’ll have many Viennese coffees and several meals in the area.

There’s a lot to pursue, see, and do; and there’s no time to waste.

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Berlin: a quick 8000-km jaunt home during the pandemic

Above/featured: S-Bahn station Messe Nord/ICC – 27 Nov 2021 (X70).

I’m going home to Berlin, for the 1st time in 4 years.

To travel at all, and to go international, is a big privilege; I’m grateful for the window of opportunity.

After a long gruelling emotional 2020 year taking care of an elderly parent at home with cancer and accompanying them safely to their final days, I’m desperate to get outta Vancouver for a break. But another 9 months pass before the largest roadblock to travel is dissolved. At the end of October 2021, the Canadian government releases a digital vaccination certificate suitable for domestic and international travel. Within a week, I have a set itinerary using credits from a cancelled trip.

The following describes plans and unconventional sights for Berlin, Germany over 11 days in the 2nd-half of November 2021. As case counts change and situations evolve at both ends, travellers must remain vigilant with extra preparation and adapt to changing policies, protocols, and requirements by different countries for visitors, ensuring safe and smooth travel, out and back. I go over all guidelines supplied by Germany’s Federal Foreign Office and the city state of Berlin.

I’m not going to lug my DSLR camera and extra glass for this quick trip. Instead, I’ll only use my 340-gram (12-ounce) compact fixed-lens camera. In all respects, it’s a big weight off my shoulders.


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My Heidelberg: 38 Highlights from Home

Above/featured: From Philosophenweg: across the Neckar, over the Altstadt, and up to Königstuhl – 21 May 2016 (HL).

Heidelberg is “eine adoptierte Heimatstadt” (an adopted hometown). Some have called this place “scenic, natural, and spectacular”; some call it “boring, provincial, and extortionate”. I could be referring to Vancouver, but that’s a subject for another time.

I’ve long struggled with questions of place: what defines “home”? Can those definitions and qualities change with time? Do people have choice(s) and do they apply their choices in their search? Can people find meaning with “home”? Must “home” be restricted to only one place, or can different needs be met from different places?

Images can provide access to memories of having lived in a new country, experiencing the shock of the new, and settling into the mundane. I remember advice someone once gave me which became constant companion and reminder: that I was inhabiting a place at the same latitude as my birthplace, 8000 km in distance and 9 time zones apart on the other side of the planet, a place that’s seen its compact share of activity with flair and impact.

Most recall is naturally connected to sight. Occasionally, it’s a rush of the senses: the quick breeze on the skin, the ankle-spraining undulations of the cobblestone, how fog clings like a cold clammy cloak, the sing-song of birds among tall trees in the forest on the hill, the smell of grilled sausages in town by day, and the satisfying late-night noms of a spicy Dürüm Döner with a cool Ayran. And other times, human history leaps out and buries its claws, when the unthinkable must be acknowledged and understood in a synapsis of memory and senses.

In the autumn of 2001, I moved to Germany and Heidelberg: both sight unseen and without having learned any of the language. I stayed in town for a little under two years. What’s astonishing is I have no pictorial record of my time in Heidelberg, Germany, and Europe: I had no camera before the dawn of the smart-phone.

I have some great memories, even if time is casting long shadows. What I lost (no, gave away) was some part of me that actually has little to do with the “Schlager” hit song “Ich hab mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren“. It might be a piece of the heart, a part of the soul, or simply a scrap of good sense; but what it is precisely still remains undefined and shapeless. Finding solid answers about what I’ve surrendered might take years. And so, for the sake of clarity, I’ve returned many times since leaving town in 2003. A sharper focus comes through the post-departure blur whenever I step off the train in town.

I couldn’t have possibly known the experience of moving to and living in Heidelberg would be life-changing. Time so far has been kind, because it didn’t take long for me to adopt Heidelberg as “home”.

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Ehrwald Bahnhof, Kulmalukko, Wikipedia

Over $500 savings with Eurail AT-DE pass (spring 2018)

Above/featured: Ehrwald station in Austria. 2014 photo by Kulmalukko (CC BY-SA 4.0).

I’m tuned to keeping alive a long-standing streak.

I’m in Germany for the 18th consecutive year this May. But, back “home” bookends the bulk of my time in Austria with key visits to Innsbruck, Salzburg, and Vienna.

I’ve purchased a 2nd-class Eurail Austria-Germany Pass (adult) with 10 (+ bonus 1) non-consecutive days of travel inside an interval of two months. With my preference for open-ended travel over advanced purchase of individual point-to-point tickets, I will save over 500 dollars. Here I describe:

  1. how flexibility with a rail pass provides significant money savings, and
  2. how I validate and activate the rail pass upon arrival in Europe.

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Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof, central station, Hauptbahnhof, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, fotoeins.com

$600 savings with the German Rail Pass (fall 2017)

Above: 6am at Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof, 20 May 2016 (HL).

I’ve set foot inside Germany at least once each year since 2001. I’m “home” again for the 17th consecutive year with this autumn’s itinerary in the country’s central corridor, including Heidelberg, Konstanz, Ulm, Hannover, Kassel, Berlin, Würzburg, and Frankfurt am Main.

Thanks to their summer 20% promotion, I’ve purchased for €284 a 2nd-class German Rail Pass with ten days of travel inside one month. Compared to the advanced purchase of individual point-to-point tickets, I’m saving at least 50 dollars (Canadian), but with my preference for open-ended travel, my savings will exceed 600 dollars.

Below I describe:

  1. in detail how flexibility with the rail pass provides hundreds of dollars in savings, and
  2. how the rail pass is validated and activated.

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Festival of Lights, Berlin, Germany

Covering Germany’s central corridor this fall (2017)

… time I got the hell outta this dodgy town, and recharge for a few weeks …

Earlier this spring, I clinched my 17th consecutive year of setting foot inside Germany with a mostly Bavarian itinerary where I got some more Luther learnin’ done. But as the calendar switches from late-summer into autumn, I’ve been thinking about how I’m writing and photographing the country, whether I’m covering as much of her varied cities, towns, and regions as much as I can, and whether I’ve been covering a sufficient number of her World Heritage Sites.

Below is a map of my coverage of Germany thus far. Places I’ve already visited are shown as stars, and the country’s five largest cities* are shown as red stars. Despite a lot of traveling across the country over the years, there are still clear gaps to fill, particularly the corners, the centre, and the coastline.

Germany, fotoeins.com

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Regional train heading west from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Photo by Christian Allinger (CC BY 2.0).

Saving money & flexible travel with German Rail Pass (Feb-Mar 2017)

Above: Regional train heading west from Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Christian Allinger).

I’ve set foot inside Germany at least once each year since 2001. I’m back “home” for the 17th consecutive year with the following “mostly Bayerisch” itinerary:

  • München
  • Garmisch-Partenkirchen
  • Mittenwald
  • Reutte in Tirol (Österreich)
  • Oberstdorf
  • Augsburg
  • Heidelberg

Thanks to their springtime 20% promotion, I’ve secured a 2nd-class German Rail Pass for seven days of travel inside one month.

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Petrikirche, Taufkirche, Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, fotoeins.com

Tracing Martin Luther’s steps in 16 German cities

Above/featured: “Luther war hier. // Luther was here.” Eisleben, Germany – 27 Oct 2016.

In pre-teen years, I attended a Catholic elementary school by weekday, and a missions-oriented Protestant church by weekend. I already had multiple questions running around my pre-scientist brain, like electrons appearing and dissipating in a fuzzy halo. When various disparate elements began to settle with few satisfying answers, I left behind the churches and their respective religions. But one thing that’s remained is my love of history. History has never been boring, because I carry the past (as offspring of immigrants), and I’m determined to bring history’s lessons into the present.

Even in youth, I had to ask: why was one set of churches called “Protestant”? What was under protest? How did one man help spark a movement that would help merge and create a version of a language that continues today, that would bring accessible means to literacy for the public, and that would begin to change rule by religion to rule by law?

Martin Luther (‘Luder’, at birth)

From his birth in Eisleben; to formative years in Mansfeld, Magdeburg, and Erfurt; to the bulk of his working and teaching years in Wittenberg; to his death in Eisleben, Martin Luther set upon a course that helped change language, education, culture, religion, and governance. In many ways, Luther had much to thank Jan Hus for the latter’s efforts to reform the Catholic Church in Bohemia one hundred years earlier.

Every year on the 31st of October, a number of cities, regions, and federal states in Germany mark an important event in this movement. It’s widely understood Martin Luther walked up to the Castle Church in Wittenberg and pinned his 95 Theses to the church doors on 31 October 1517. Even if direct evidence Luther actually posted papers to the doors is debatable, what’s not is that 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in Germany.

Martin Luther, Reformation, German Reformation, Wittenberg, Marktplatz, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, Deutschland, fotoeins.com

The illuminated Luther memorial stands tall in front of Wittenberg’s town hall at Market Square. As UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town hosts 4 sites: Luther House, Melanchthon House, St. Mary’s Town Church, and the Castle Church. 2017 is the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reformation in Germany. Various German federal states, regions, and cities will mark the quincentenary throughout the year. Photo at Wittenberg Marktplatz on 30 Oct 2016.


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Wittenberger Marktplatz, Rathaus, Lutherdenkmal, Stadtkirche Sankt Marien, Marktplatz, Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Sachsen-Anhalt, Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, Deutschland, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, Welterbe, Weltkulturerbe, fotoeins.com

The Saxony-Anhalt 5: Luther & Bauhaus

(October 2016.)

As motivation to trace Martin Luther’s footsteps for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 and to learn more about the impact of the Bauhaus art and design movement for the centenary in 2019, I embarked on a press-trip in the autumn 2016 to the German federal state of Saxony-Anhalt.

(( The description of this trip would be a continuation of a consecutive annual streak going back to 2001. I’ve set foot inside Germany at least once every year since 2001. I’d already claimed another consecutive year with a short stint at “home” in the HD earlier in the spring, but autumn in-country* solidly confirmed a 16th consecutive year in the country. ))


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