Monday, November 29, 2010

The Christmas Markets of Germany

Last week, I had an awesome opportunity to visit Germany, a country I have never visited before! I spent the weekdays in Husum for work and then took the train to spend the weekend as a tourist in Hamburg. My exploring was hindered somewhat in both Husum, due to it being dark when the workday was done and then in Hamburg by coming down with what I believe to have been the flu. Regardless, I tried as I always do, to make the most of the situation and have some fun.

Unexpectedly, the theme for my week was Christmas markets. Before coming to Germany, I had no idea they were such a big tradition here. They are seemingly in every town and date back to the late middle ages. A Christmas market will have booths selling food, the traditional drink of warm mulled wine called Glühwein (pronounced glue-vine) and local arts and crafts. While walking through, one's senses are assaulted. The aroma of roasted chestnuts and grilled sausages fills the air while Christmas music floats in the ears and decorations and Christmas lights can be seen everywhere. But more than that, people seem to be genuinely happy standing in the freezing cold talking with friends while holding a warm cup of Glühwein in their hands. The whole experience definitely gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

My very first Christmas Husum and joined by my awesome work colleagues

A warm fire to warm my colleagues and I as we enjoyed a post-work Glühwein

In of the many Christmas markets and the historical Town Hall which amazingly survived the bombings in the war

Walking through the booths in another part of town

Unseen from the city center, Hamburg has a large harbour and busy port with many cranes and ships

The waterways help give this town a beautiful ambiance

A night scene on the lake

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Denmark for the 3rd Time

If someone had told me before I started working for Vestas that I would be visiting Denmark 3 times before the year was out, I think I would have said, "Really?! Wait...where exactly is Denmark again?"

As it turns out, Denmark is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, is bordered by Germany and is a large peninsula with weather patterns tied to the North sea. It is also a beautiful, albeit flat, land with friendly people who seem to have a strong sense of tradition and family.

During this visit, I had the good fortune to stay for a week in Aarhus, a town with many good restaurants, a bit of a nightlife and some new friends, catching a ride to and from work with a colleague. I was also invited to stay with another colleague and his wife for the weekend in their home in Skanderborg, enjoying home cooked meals and some local sights and scenery.

Tomorrow, I leave to spend a week in Germany.

An eerily empty, modern hallway in the Copenhagen Airport - the gateway to Denmark

Vestas and the moon

A local pub in Aarhus full of characters and good live music
This band played "In a Sentimental Mood" by Duke Ellington for me

Denmark's highest point: Møllehøj sitting at 561'

A German bunker with an antitank defense by Skanderborg Lake

They even grow things patriotic here

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Clear Lake Cabin Lookout

This week, yours truly skipped two days of work to venture to a fire lookout tower in the Mt. Hood National Forest for an overnight retreat. Only open to regular citizens in the winter months (when fires and the need to look for them are nonexistent), people must usually book their stay way in advance as I did with this one in May.

Bringing two of my friends along, the three of us hiked in two miles with water, gear and food in our packs and enjoyed a night of the simple life: staying warm by a stove, playing games and sipping good drinks. With a pretty good cloud cover on the way in, we were quite pleasantly surprised by our morning view.

Sitting at 4400' with a 360 degree view of the surrounding hills and mountains through its many windows, we were determined to call in a fire if we happened to see one

C-lin and I enjoying a snack after getting settled in
(photo courtesy of Josh)

I was hoping this was a wood-fired sauna, but it ended up being the cutest outhouse ever

Josh, C-lin and I exploring the area and getting in some bouldering

Josh hauling up some firewood with a view of 1 of 2 lakes in the background

Whoa....woke up to Mt. Hood in your face

Morning coffee on the deck: It doesn't get any better than this