And all that I can see is just a yellow lemon tree

Germany is cold. That is why Germans have a lot of outdoor jackets even though we just go from our heated and insulated homes to our heated and insulated work places in heated trains. Well, only heated when the heating is not needed.

This year, we did not embrace the coldness and escaped to Italy for a weekend. 

Mull and Puffins — Scotland 2015

The first small tour was nice but we craved for something more exciting. We lacked some shore lines and sea water. Tobermory’s harbour is a rather quiet place as it lies sheltered between Mull and the main land.

So the next day, we headed to Dervaig. There we headed to Quinish point. Along with us several other tourists had the same idea, most of them carrying the same booklet like us with walking tours of Mull. We nodded at each other and the race begun. We won. Obviously.

But first things first. We crossed some woods and pastures and saw many sheep. We made a long detour, because the description in the guide were ambiguous.

Favourites_10

Mull-Karte_01

Home Farm looked like a great place for the zombie apocalypse. Remotely located, with pastures and fields around, easy to defend for its large U shape. It also looked a bit run down already, we were unsure whether or not it is still in operation.

Favourites_11

Everyone knows that the sheep are evil.

Joram_22

Joram_23

We took a huge detour before this picture was taken. The walking guide mentioned a standing stone just a short walk away and we tried to find it. After we gave up, returned to the original path and headed on we found a rather non spectacular stone literally next to the path. The guide failed to mention the previous fork of the path, resulting in not only confusing us, but also a few other wanderers we met on this detour. Stupid guide.

Doro_19
Back on track, strutting like a big boy. (From Doro.)
Doro_20
From Doro.

Favourites_12

Quinish point itself is a protruding peninsula at the North edge of Mull. It is a windy place with beautiful views of the ocean, but yet again the ocean couldn’t excite me a lot as it was very gentle and quiet. I want the roaring noise of waves breaking on the shore lines, wind that blows in my face, screaming insults from faraway lands in a windy language and coarse coastlines.

It was still quite enjoyable though. The place was remote enough to only meet other humans every hour or so and so we could really relax. And slowly but surely burn our noses in the sun.

Favourites_13

Joram_24

Joram_25

Doro_21
From Doro.
Doro_22
From Doro.
Doro_23
From Doro.

Joram_26

Joram_27

Doro_24

Doro_25
From Doro.

Joram_28

Doro_26
From Doro.

Joram_29

Doro_27
From Doro.

Joram_30

We headed home and just before heading back to base, we booked our trip for the next day: A boat tour to Staffa and an island filled with sea birds. Quite expensive, but we were positive that it was worth it.

The next morning we waited at the pier (sorry, Mercedes, I meant pear) to be loaded onto a small but fast boat and quickly boost of towards the bird island.

Favourites_28

Joram_31

Joram_32

Favourites_15

These islands were inhabited by vikings many hundred years ago. They built homes atop these steep cliffs that were impossible to take by force. So they headed out, raided the surrounding lands and came back in case of trouble to their safe havens on the islands. Today there is still a number of stone buildings located on top of the cliffs.

Soon we reached the bird island. The tour group followed the big white arrow.

Favourites_16

And there they were: Puffins. Little sea birds that constantly have this slightly concerned look on their faces that makes them so extremely cute. They are not shy and so you can approach up to a meter or so before they waddle away. In the cutest way possible.

This was the first and only time I missed a good tele lens on my fuji x100s or the Canon 5D. The 35 mm is perfectly fine for 99 % of the cases, but here I would have liked to get better close ups of the cute puffins. Other members of our tour group came prepared, with camouflaged 400 mm lenses and other fancy equipment. All the shots below are digital crops. Luckily the 5D offers over 20 MP to crop out what you need.

Doro_28
From Doro.
Doro_29
From Doro.
Doro_30
From Doro.
Doro_31
From Doro.

Favourites_18

Joram_33

Doro_32
From Doro.

Favourites_19

When we circled around a corner of the island a massive storm of noise blasted towards us. It came from a rock filled with hundreds and thousands of birds. They were all constantly screaming at a deafening volume. When we turned around the next corner of the island, everything was dead quiet again.

Doro_33
From Doro.
Doro_34
From Doro.

Joram_34

Doro_35
From Doro.
Doro_36
From Doro.

After our tête à tête with the puffins we hopped back on the boat and continued our journey to Staffa. Staffa doesn’t feature lots of concerned birds but a rather spectacular geology. Basalt pillars seem to rise from the sea, forming a cave and a large plateau. The pillars of Staffa are the counterpart to the hexagonal pillars of Giant’s Causeway. The story though is told differently in Scotland. Where the Irish told a story of the glorious and smart victory of Finn MacCool over the Scottish giant the Scottish just tell the story of a rock throwing battle during which Staffa and the Causeway were created.

Scientist recently discovered though that the pillars originate from cooled lava, turning into basalt which have then been elevated through geology. Science – ruining everything since … uh … in former times.

Doro_38
From Doro.
Joram_35
The boat in front is our vessel, the other is its sister ship doing the same trip but from South Mull.
Doro_39
From Doro.

Favourites_20

Doro_40
From Doro. I do have to say that the colours of the countryside and the flora are just great in Scotland.
Doro_41
From Doro.
Doro_42
From Doro.

The cave in Staffa sounds more promising than it looks then in real life. You can only enter it for a few meters. It is impressive to those huge basalt pillars though.

After a short while everyone hopped back on board and we returned to Tobermory. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any whales or dolphins along the way but how could they compete with puffins anyway?

I can only recommend the boat tour, it is pricey, but opens up to places that are otherwise inaccessible. Staffa Tours did a great job, but there are other services around that go from other places and at different times.

Tune in for next time when we climb Mount Doom Ben Lomond.

To Mull and Beyond! — Scotland 2015

Finally summer. Sitting in the warm sunshine, having cold drinks, swimming in the lukewarm sea while the sun sets over the horizon. What better thing to do than to go to the sunny shores of Scotland. Last year we didn’t do any long trips so I see this trip to Scotland as the continuation of our tour of Northern Ireland in 2013.

When choosing the destination to enter Scotland, easyjet helped with the decision by making Glasgow a lot cheaper than Edinburgh. Upon our arrival we understood why. Glasgow is an ugly assortment of seemingly random convulsion of concrete and more concrete. In the spirit of the middle of last century the city was designed for automotive traffic and not pedestrians and so you end up crossing big and bigger roads constantly while being crammed to a tiny footpath.

We didn’t do Glasgow justice by spending only a short time there. Towards the end of our journey we met a lovely lady in Oban who gave us a list of things to do in Glasgow.

  1. Ride the subway. Edinburgh has none, Glasgow shines with a circular underground line.
  2. Visit the Glasgow school of arts, do a tour there.
  3. Visit the town hall and get a tour there.
  4. Have food at a nice Italian place in the area.

We did none of the above. Partly due to lack of time, partly due to everything being closed by the time we arrived.

What we did instead was this. We arrived at a lovely air bnb (hello Lou!), dropped our stuff and explored the neighbourhood. Not that Glasgow is beautiful, we mainly followed a large road. It led us to the pub 78, a vegan café restaurant pub student hangout place. “Burger and a pint” it said on the menu. “Burger and a pint” I said seconds later to the waitress.

Burger and a pint is what I got.

And what can I say: although vegan, the burger was delicious. The “meat” was some bean and stuff thing, but no tofu, and it felt absolutely right. When in Glasgow, head for the 78!

After this filling dinner we still strolled around Glasgow for a bit to find the train station and sutff. Did I mention how ugly Glasgow is?

Favourites_01
We stayed and watched for a while. It didn’t help with figuring out what they were doing. It was cricket. Apparently this guy was in a hurry.

Joram_03

Favourites_02

Joram_05

Yes. Sometimes the pedestrian walkway just ends in a corner next to a motorway.

Joram_04

Doro_01
From doro.
Joram_07
Any flat with a cat is a great flat.

We found what we wanted, returned and had a good night of sleep, eager to jump on the train to head on North.

Map_78
I love my betabook.

I spare you the four hundred blurry photos out of the train window. Just know that the ride is very pleasant, shows lovely landscapes and is highly recommended as an alternative to the shaky bus on windy roads. Next to us a group of women in their forties continuously poured pink alcohol in their painted faces. They were fun.

Last stop on the line: Oban!

Joram_08

Favourites_03

Crab sandwiches were had. They were okay, a bit heavy on the mayonnaise. Compared to Berlin standards still a blast.

We didn’t stay long in Oban as the next step lied already in front of us: the ferry to Mull.

Joram_09

Joram_10

Doro_02
From Doro
Doro_03
My fancy shoes, before. (From Doro)

Joram_11

Doro_04
From Doro.
Doro_05
From Doro.

Favourites_04

And from the ferry we hopped onto a bus to Tobermory, our final destination for the day. A bumpy ride on single lane roads later we arrived in the small harbour town of Tobermory.

Joram_12

Joram_13

Joram_14

Joram_15

Joram_16

The hostel in Tobermory offered very basic comfort. A very charming staff could not fully make up for the tiny tiny bathrooms, the low pressure showers and the courtyard that had to be crossed before reaching the showers. Still, it served us well as a base to discover the Northern parts of Mull.

So far we spent our days mostly seated, in planes, boats, trains and busses. Time to get into hiking mode.

On the North edge of Tobermory a walkway leads past a number of waterfalls through a small forest. Perfect for beginners, to soften the shoes and harden the calves.

Doro_07
From Doro.
Doro_08
I filmed a lot during this trip. Now I just have to find the time to put it together into an amazing travel video. (from Doro)
Doro_09
From Doro.

Joram_17

Doro_10
Luckily we had left the horses on our balcony.
Doro_11
From Doro.

Favourites_07

Favourites_08

Doro_12
From Doro.

Joram_19

Doro_13
From Doro.
Doro_14
From Doro.

That’s it for today. The next time I will tell the story of how we both got sunburn in Scotland and how we climbed an island full of puffins.

Paris or how to surprise a colleague

A while ago I got an email asking me if I would like to join a secret surprise party in Paris.

Alix missed out on celebrating the big thirty last year and so her sisters decided to make up for that by inviting all her friends to a secret surprise party in Paris. As we wanted to go to Paris for a while now, Doro and I happily accepted the invite. And we took Nadia and Anna with us.