Last New Year’s Eve I had an idea to head off into Europe on my own with a camera for a few weeks in Spring 2013, as I hadn’t really explored much of mainland Europe before I thought I’d take inspiration from the book The Diceman by Luke Rhinehart and use a couple of casino dice to decide where I went each step of the way and what I would do. As it turns out the dice were the MacGuffin for the trip (Wiki definition here) and were simply a motivator I had planned to use but ended up not rolling as I found I didn’t want to hand over all control of my destiny to two little chunks of plastic. With hindsight maybe I should have let the dice make some decisions for me as they may well have made better ones than I did, well one decision in particular: to go snowboarding in the Austrian Alps which led to the final image in this blog post…keep reading you’ll get to it!
So with rucksack packed, a 22 day Interrail pass, a fistful of Euros and my Canon 5d MKIII plus one lens (I took the Canon 16-35 F2.8L in the end – not a bad focal range & my favourite for landscape images) I caught the train from Sheringham to Harwich, night crossing on the ferry to Hook of Holland, train into Amsterdam for my first destination.
I’d heard from so many people what an awesome city Amsterdam was and I have to agree, I wasn’t expecting such a beautiful city, canals everywhere, such friendly people too. The Dutch sense of humour is brilliant. I had a couple of days wandering about the city, visited the Van Gogh exhibition and the Rembrandt exhibition (both currently in temporary homes due to renovation projects). I have to say I was blown away by the beauty of the Van Gogh works ‘in the flesh’ so to speak, such clever use of colours and brushstrokes to capture the light, emotions & energy of his subjects, it really took my breath away.
From Amsterdam I hopped on the train to Berlin and again wandered & snapped….
On the second day in Berlin I decided to head out to a legendary photography spot called Spree Park (some of the film ‘Hannah’ was shot here) – it’s an old abandoned amusement park which has sat derelict for a few years now (sounding a bit like Scooby Doo yet?!), the rumours were that the park was guarded and the guards had dogs and weren’t exactly welcoming but I decided to give it a go. After 90 minutes of walking I saw the ferris wheel sticking out above the trees, found the big fence which ran right around the park & decided to do a lap of the outside to find the best spot to go in & scout out for guards & dogs. After doing a full lap with no guards spotted I found what looked like a fairly easy climb over so climbed up, got to the top & jumped down. Walked four steps & suddenly realised I was right behind a caravan and I could hear the gas bottle hissing – meaning one thing: the gas was being used – someone was in the caravan. Well, that must have been the easiest eject the guard ever had to do (and probably the shortest amount of time anyone’s been in the park for) – he just leaned out of the window, shouted something at me in German & pointed back over the fence. Damn! I was so annoyed I didn’t even bother taking a shot of the ferris wheel or the rusting attractions from outside of the fence – it was actually really quite eerie as the ferris wheel still turns on it’s own in the wind making a horrendous screeching noise as it turns. Maybe next time I’ll go back at night….
So I wandered back, annoyed (and it was my birthday!) and decided to get a train out to the East Side Gallery – the largest remaining section of the Berlin Wall which had been painted beautifully on the East side (the West side as seen in the below shot is just a mess of graffiti).
The next day I had arranged to meet up with a friend from home who happened to be in Berlin at the same time, Mark drives tour buses for bands and was in Berlin for a couple of days with The Darkness and said to come along so I did! The band were playing at the C-Club in Berlin so I met up with Mark & his tour bus, we had a day before they were due to be playing so we checked out the Tempelhof airport just around the corner from the club, constructed by the Nazi government in the 1930’s it’s a foreboding collection of buildings. Sadly it was closed so we just had a wander around before heading to the zoo!
After a day of watching the Darkness support team get the stage, sounds & lights ready for the gig it was quite exciting to see it all come together with what was one of the most amazing live performances I’ve ever seen. The Darkness truly ROCK! I’ve not seem a band put so much energy into a performance in many years, Justin certainly knows how to work a crowd, musically fantastic and some very funny tongue-in-cheek moments, it was a great gig & I’d like to thank Mark, Dan, Justin & Co for their hospitality – if you get a chance to see The Darkness play live: do it, you won’t regret it!
I just spent one day mooching around Munich, to be honest I’d had enough of cities for a bit & wanted to get down to Austria for some mountainous terrain before then heading right down to Southern Italy for some sunshine & coastline….
DACHAU CONCENTRATION CAMP
A short train ride out of Munich is the remains of the Nazi Dachau concentration camp – the first of the Nazi concentration camps opened in Germany, a harrowing place where over 30,000 people met their end. I don’t think any words can really describe it so I’ll let the images do their work….
Below, the ‘shower room’ where so many met their end….
For a Norfolk boy only used to a couple of very gentle hills it’s fair to say the alpine scenery that surrounds the city of Innsbruck was pretty breathtaking! For the first three days I was there I caught the funicular railway to the cable car station & went right up to the top of the mountain of Nordkette (2334m high). The first day I just went up & took photos, the second day I thought it would be rude to go somewhere so well known for skiing & snowboarding and not have a go so I booked in for a day’s snowboarding lessons. The instructor was very complimentary & said I picked it up really quickly, years spent skateboarding (badly) as a teenager obviously paid off. I had a great morning getting to grips with the basics, including the ‘falling leaf’ technique before moving onto proper turns. During the second lesson the nursery (blue) run was closed down for a corporate event so we had to use the red run – seriously scary & steep! The next day I had an overnight train booked down to Rome but it wasn’t till 11pm so I tempted fate & hired out the snowboard again & went up the mountain for a day’s snowboarding on my own. Big mistake….
Unfortunately at a point not far from where the above shot of me was taken I started getting a bit cocky, going faster, turning harder, feeling invincible…one turn, didn’t bring the front rail of the board up enough as I did a forehand turn at speed, the edge bit, I hit the ground hard, felt a crunch, went into shock, I was stretchered off the mountain & taken in a blue-lit ambulance with sirens blaring to the hospital at Innsbruck. I was gutted, in a huge amount of pain and of the instant realisation that my trip was over, I wouldn’t be seeing Italy on this trip. I took a couple of days to get over the worst of the discomfort & booked a flight out of Innbruck to Gatwick where my buddy Mark (who had now finished the Darkness tour & was back in Norfolk) very kindly picked me up & took me home. As you can see below, I have fractured my right clavicle & separated the bone from the shoulder joint. The Osteopath tells me it will be 6 weeks before it’s healed, which works out well as that’s when my weddings kick off for 2013 so until then I’ll be doing lots of resting & walking & reading I guess. So that’s how my spring break took on a new meaning.
Anyone fancy coming to Italy in the Autumn?!