Fotoeins Fotografie

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Posts tagged ‘day trip’

My Tirol: Wilder Kaiser

Above/featured: On the drive west from St. Johann in Tirol to the town of Going are the peaks Treffauer (2306 m), Ellmauer Halt (2344 m), Ackerlspitze (2329 m), and Maukspitze (2231 m).

Du bist die Krone über einem begnadet schönen Fleck Tiroler Erde.
(You are the crown above a beautiful patch of Tirolean soil.)

– About the “Koasa” as the Wilder Kaiser is known by residents, written by Fritz Schmitt in his 1982 book “Das Buch vom Wilden Kaiser.”

About 95 kilometres northeast from Innsbruck, the alpine landscape in Austria’s northeast Tirol is dominated by the Wilder Kaiser (“Wild Emperor”) mountains which tower over the towns of Söll, Scheffau, Ellmau, Going, and St Johann. From a distance, the wall of rock appears like a crown over the region. Thanks to the establishment of a nature reserve in 1963, there are no lifts or ski areas on the Wilder Kaiser mountains. The benefits is the development over time of a diverse array of alpine and subalpine flora and fauna. For those who must, lifts and ski areas are available to the south on the slopes of the Kitzbühel Alps.

This day trip to the “Koasa” consisted of:

  • regional ÖBB/S-Bahn Tirol trains from Innsbruck to St. Johann in Tirol;
  • drive to Going (am Wilden Kaiser) for tea, followed by artisan ice cream;
  • drive to Scheffau and a walk around Hintersteinersee (Hinterstein Lake); and
  • drive to Gasthof Pension Jägerwirt for beer.

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My Tirol: Scharnitz and Porta Claudia

Where: Scharnitz, at the northern edge of Austria’s Tirol, next to the Austro-German frontier.
What: Porta Claudia, mid 17th-century fortifications directed by and named after Claudia de’ Medici.
BTW: Scharnitz Pass is technically not a mountain pass.

I’m interested in geography, historical relics, and the topography of European borders.

Scharnitz Pass is one of the lowest crossing points over the Alps at an elevation of only 955 metres (3130 feet) with the Wetterstein mountains on one side to the west and the Karwendel mountains to the other side in the east. The pass might better be described as a “gorge”, given how the Isar river traverses the valley floor between the two sets of mountains. Naturally, a road at this location would’ve been ideal as a vital north-south route for trade and communication, which is why the Romans built the stone road, Via Raetia, through the river valley. A 200-metre section of this old Roman road remains in the woods outside the nearby town of Klais. The location of the pass/gorge is also why the Romans built a guard station “Mansio Scarbia” here to control traffic between the northern outer provinces and the rest of the inner empire to the south.

One of the earliest records from the 8th-century AD/CE documents the establishment of Scaraza Monastery, known also as Scarantia#. The name evolved to “Scaraz”, “Scarbia”, “Scarnize”, and eventually “Scharnitz”. Today, between 1300 and 1400 people live in the Austrian town of Scharnitz in the Tirolean region of Seefeld. The town lies on the road between Innsbruck and Munich and next to the international border between Austria and Germany; the strategic importance of this modest town has never gone away.

“Porta Claudia” is the name of former fortifications on high ground at a narrow curve over the Isar river valley. In the midst of the pan-European Thirty Years War, Claudia de’ Medici, the Regent of Austrian Tirol, ordered in 1632 the construction of a strategic defensive rampart at the Tirol-Bavaria border to protect Tirol’s northern border from invasion by Swedish forces. The Bavarians overran the rampart in 1706, but fortifications were expanded in 1766. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote about passing through Scharnitz in 1786 on his journey into Italy. In 1805, Napolean’s army laid siege and destroyed the fortifications, freeing the path for joint French-Bavarian armed forces to enter Austria. Remnants of the retaining wall up to six metres in height and an archway through the wall are visible today.

I’m up and about at dawn, and within 50 minutes on an S-Bahn Tirol S5 train from Innsbruck, I’m about to satisfy my curiosity about this stretch of the Tirolean landscape in Scharnitz. With the existing Schengen treaty among participating European nations, anyone can walk, bike, or drive freely across the unguarded international border between Austria and Germany%.


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1-day drive in the American Southwest: Taos area

Above/feature: In the background at right-centre is the sacred Pueblo Peak (Taos Mountain) with a light dusting of autumn snow.

The following takes place entirely within day 7 of our time and drive through the American Southwest.

In a daylong trip from Santa Fe, we’re in Taos for the first time where we meet with nature photographer Jim O’Donnell, whose writings also appear locally in The Taos News. We also marvel in the hamlet of Embudo the collection of paraphernalia associated with American automobile culture at the Classic Gas Museum.

Our drive is on the Low Road in both directions. It’s no real surprise we’re in the Taos area longer than anticipated, but we leave the area a little earlier to catch a couple of sights back in Santa Fe as we must depart the following day for Arizona. It’s curse and benefit, wanting (or needing) to stay in one place for an extended duration with the anticipation of a return, because there’s much more to see and learn.

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1-day drive in the American Southwest: Georgia O’Keeffe country

Above/featured: Ghost Ranch: Chimney Rock is in shadow at centre-right. Photo location: 36.31882 North, 106.48006 West.

This is the start of a series on day trips and drives from our time in the American Southwest. The following takes place entirely within day 7 (of 15) in New Mexico between Santa Fe and Abiquiú.

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) is known as one of the best known modern American artists. Born in Wisconsin and educated in Chicago, her art came to light in New York City where her name and work became prominent. While teaching in Texas, she visited New Mexico for the first time in 1917. She fell in love with the landscape of New Mexico on subsequent visits in the early 1930s, and in 1949 she moved to the Abiquiú area where she would live for the rest of her life.

As fans of her art, we’re taking the day to drive up from Santa Fe to the town of Abiquiú. We wanted to see Georgia O’Keeffe country: the landscapes from which she drew inspiration, and the land that nurtured her spirit and fuelled her creativity.

Before our guided tour of O’Keeffe’s Abiquiú home, we stop at the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm next door to have a look. We like it so much we return after the guided tour to the farm’s café for a snack. We then make the short drive northwest onto the Ghost Ranch property to check out the ancestral lands of the Navajo Apache and Tewa pueblos. O’Keeffe recognized the importance some of that history, as she related in an 1967 interview for the Los Angeles Times’ “West” magazine:

When I think of death I only regret that I will not be able to see this beautiful country anymore, unless the Indians are right and my spirit will walk here after I’m gone.

On our return drive to Santa Fe, the sun sets over our section of the Southern Rocky Mountains, and I swear the late-afternoon breeze whispers the spirits of the Chama river, Georgia O’Keeffe, and all the souls who’ve inhabited the area.

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Before Bauhaus: Alfeld Fagus Factory, UNESCO WHS

Before Bauhaus found its first footing in Weimar, there was in the town of Alfeld in central Germany the Fagus-Werk factory building.

The Fagus factory building is looked upon as the first building in the world for the modern architectural age, and is the predecessor to the elegant 1926 Bauhaus headquarters building in Dessau. Fagus company founder Karl Benscheidt commissioned architect and future Bauhaus founder, Walter Gropius, to create and build a shoe-making factory as an artistic project. Gropius and his collaborator Adolf Meyer stuck with working floor-plans by architect Eduard Werner, and set their sights on new exterior and interior designs. Completed in 1911, the factory’s office building set a new standard for 20th-century industrial architecture with steel and glass construction and tall unsupported windows at the corners of the building.

“Fagus” is Latin for “beech tree”, and shoemaking began with shoe lasts or moulds constructed from beech wood, which were sold and distributed around the world to other companies for the productions of shoes. In the 1920s, Benscheidt developed the turning precision-lathe speeding up production, prompting growth and expansion and elevating the company to world’s top producer of shoe lasts. Today, the building is still a working factory: Fagus creates plastic lasts milled by automated machinery to precise specifications for specific designs by shoe companies. Also on-site is GreCon which produces systems for fire-detection and fire-extinguishing in industrial settings. The Fagus factory building was recognized as “unique living monument” and inscribed by UNESCO as World Heritage Site (Welterbe) in 2011.

With a population of over 20-thousand people, Alfeld is located in the German federal state of Lower Saxony. The town’s reach by train is 30-minutes from Hannover or 40-minutes from Göttingen, after which is a short 5- to 10-minute walk from Alfeld(Leine)1 train station to the entrance of the Fagus/GreCon complex. Visitors can walk around the working factory site, stop at the World Heritage Site Visitor Centre, sit in the neighbouring café for coffee or tea, and visit the museum dedicated to the building’s origins, the building’s century-long history of shoe-making, and a general history of footwear.

Walter Gropius and others would move to Weimar to establish a centre of art, design, thought, and attitude for Bauhaus in 1919, eight years after inauguration of the Fagus-Werk.

Die Baukunst soll ein Spiegel des Lebens und der Zeit sein.
(Architecture should be a mirror to life and its time.)

– Walter Gropius.

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