The alarm went off at 6 am. Hubby muttered “No, no, no…” I mentally screamed “Yes, yes, yes!” I was out of bed in no time, full of excitement and joy. I had prepared for this day to come and I was ecstatic it had finally arrived. When you spend time in New Zealand you make sure to make the most of it – that includes a trip up Mt Roy. The country’s South Island is scattered with towering peaks, but few are as impressive as this one.
I’d seen awe-inspiring pictures of Mt Roy and God forbid my picture-hungry soul would drive by the town without stopping for a fine mountain hike.
We tend to be rather active on our adventures, however prior to arriving in New Zealand a tooth infection turned around everything. I had to take it slow, as ordered by the doctor. So we took a few days off to give my swollen face time to heal. The antibiotics helped but also turned my guts upside down. My body did not want to be bothered with food that morning but I knew I needed the energy. Hubby wolfed down his cereals while simultaneously packing his bag and searching for his boots. I had neatly packed everything the night before. I felt so well prepared.
And we decided to mark the occasion in the same way that he and his brother marked the occasion of my grandfather’s 70th, namely, a trip to visit our relatives in Campbelltown, Scotland. I had never been to Scotland and had always heard stories about our relatives from my dad and uncle, so as you can imagine I was very excited to take the trip.
Campbelltown itself is a highly isolated community, near the southern tip of the Kintyre peninsula. your options in getting to the place are as follows: drive for close to four hours around the Loch from Glasgow, Take a ferry, or fly in a ten seat pond jumper to the dis-proportionally large Campbelltown Airport. The tarmac at the Campbelltown airport is, apparently so long because it is the first airstrip that a flight from west to east would encounter and is meant to accomidate any aircraft that has an emergency situtaion. It was also used, aparently as an RAF station for some years.
The town was at its height through the mid to late 1800’s and into the years just before the first world war. With a staggering 33 distilleries (mind you, thats just the LEGAL ones) the town became known as the “Whiskey Capital of the World” and the town itself became the namesake for an entire style region of Scotch Whiskey. The west of Scotland, specifically the peninsula, is not well wooded. Peet was (and to a point still is in rural places) the primary heat and energy source and of course therefore, was also used in the process of smoke-drying malted barley before that barley is distilled into delicious whiskey. That smoke leaves a heavy, distinctive flavor behind, a flavor that simply does not exist in Scotch whiskey outside of Campbelltown and the Isles.
The glory days wouldn’t last however. During the years of the First World War, resourses and provisions were rationed throughout the U.K., leaving the distilleries to fight for scraps. The severe shortage of supplies led to worse and worse whiskey quality until the majority of the distilleries could no longer afford to do business. Rumor has it that at the height of the supply shortages, some distilleries resorted to using fish barrels from the harbor as casks, you can imagine that this method only broadened the distilleries’ problems. By the end of World War 2, Campbelltown was a shadow of its former glory. A few did remain though, and today they produce an incredible product. Three distilleries remain in the town today: Glen Scotia, Sbringbank and Glengyle. The latter of the three was reopened only recently in 2004 and released its first 12 year whiskeys in 2016, the year we visited. With the opening of Glengyle, Campbelltown was added once again to the Scottish Whiskey map as its own style region for the first time since after World War 2.
My father and I had the privilege of trying all of the malts made in Campbelltown and we became instant fans. I can truly say that the smoky, wonderfully wholesome taste of the Campbelltown style made me a true believer in Scotch whiskey and i have kept a collection at home ever since. I will be writing an article shortly on the specific malts and there is more to come with regards to our wonderful time in Scotland.
on the west side of Lake Tahoe, is Cascade Lake. The lake itself is hidden away in a little valley just west of Tahoe and the hiking paths around the lake provide incredible views of both Lake Tahoe and the mountainous country around it. The wonderful thing about the Cascade Falls trail is that after a very established trail heads up to the granite stones around the falls, the trail ends; leaving you to decide where to explore and what to see. The falls themselves are not, perhaps what many would think of as a waterfall, but rather at large granite face of rock over which water from higher in the mountains flows and several small, serene mountain streams.
The trail is fairly popular in the summer months because of its relative ease and beautiful views, but you can easily find ways away from the people to more isolated ponds and quiet streams with large stones surrounding them which are perfect for picnics. The further up the slope you wander, the fewer people you will encounter and the more perfectly serene and beautiful places you can find. The higher on the granite slope you climb, the better the view of Tahoe and Cascade Lake, do be careful though to always keep yourself close to the water so you can find your way back, remember there are no established trails further up.
What to Bring
Always remember that in the mountains any hike can turn dangerous very quickly, therefore bring necessary provisions with you such as a small amount of trail food and at least 2 liters of water per person. In the summer Months the slopes here are rather exposed, although there is plenty of tree cover at the beginning and further up the slope. Bring appropriate clothing for whichever time of year you are planning on your hike here like Hats, Sunglasses, and sunscreen. Hiking poles are helpful but not strictly necessary, it is a short hike after all.
The parking lot is fairly sizable but in popular months could fill very quickly. If you chose to park somewhere else, be aware that the roads around Emerald bay are very narrow and curvy, walking to the trailhead from another location is seriously dangerous so have a back up plan if you cant get a spot. The parking lot is very often in summer, full of wasps. Be aware and try to have your food and sweets pre-packed in your bag before you leave the car because let me tell you, they will follow you.
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directly on the border between Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria stands the old city of Ulm. The city is actually two cities, one for each side of the Danube. Ulm or alt Ulm lies on the Baden-Württemberg side and new Ulm or Neu Ulm stands on the Bavarian side. We had wanted to visit this charming old place for quite some time but because of how far from home it is, it was not always an easy task as it was too much of a trip for a normal weekend. Thankfully we had been invited to spend the weekend with some friends of ours in Stuttgart and since Ulm was nearly directly on the way home, we decided to make the trip. The city is world famous for its church, the Ulmer Minster, a church of Gothic Period origin which boasts the tallest steeple in all of Europe at 161.5 meters (530 feet!) it was, up until 1901 when the Philadelphia City Hall was completed, the tallest building in the world.
Even though its worlds tallest building status has been stripped, it is today still the tallest church in the world. Of course, that may be why it took over 500 years to complete. If you feel like seeing the stunning view of the city and are up for a climb, you can access the top of the steeple via 768 stairs nearly all of them of the spiral variety. If you decide to climb the steeple I must warn you it is not easy and will require a certain level of fitness to make it to the top. We went up with our Gopro on my chest, I’ll upload a video to the Youtube channel when I finish editing it. As it as it is very windy at the top, I would bring a windbreaker and make sure you have a camera retaining strap. Once you make it to the top you’ll be greeted by an incredible view of both the new and old cities. below the minster in the old town are many more things to see, museums, countless examples of wonderful Gothic and Franconian or Swabian architecture and that’s not even the half of the sites.
Also close to the monster is the lovely and quaint Fischer Viertel, or Fisher’s Quarter, a collection of wonderful Swabian buildings all situated along fishing canals leading to the river. One such building is called the “Schiff Haus”. It is a circa 1500’s Swabian style house that was built in a rather peculiar way, it leans towards the canal it is situated on. It is a restaurant today and if you want you can try to walk straight on the especially sideways upper floors. We were lucky enough to visit during a city fest within the tight streets and enjoyed food and local folks music. The city is a must visit if you find yourself in southern Germany the beautiful views and old city are accompanied by a host of activities on the new side of the river I only wish we had been able to spend more time than a couple hours here rest assured we will be back.
Stand a range of mountains that form a natural border wall. The largest of those is called the Arber but even though it is the largest, it is far from the most challenging to ascend. The Osser ranks much higher on that list. The Osser was the first of the Bavarian mountains I ever climbed back in 2013, the way to the summit is only 3.5 Kilometers, but it will still take 4 hours both ways and that’s if you manage to keep the same pace both up and down.
The Osser looms tall above the towns of Lam and Lohberg in the Bavarian forest National Park and at its very summit, much like most of the mountains in Bavaria, sits the Schutzhaus, or protection house which marks the border with The Czech Republic and serves as a resting place for hikers and wanderers to stop and have a beer and some food before continuing on their way. There are many ways to climb the mountain like almost any other and some are easier than others. We did not take the easy path.
If you are looking for a training hike then the Osser is for you. You will ascend over 500 meters in 3.5 Kilometers, that’s a steep grade and it almost never relents. There will be times where you think the path is becoming easier, only to become just as hard or harder within another minute. It can be demotivating but the view is well worth the work. An even more challenging route would be to climb bot the smaller and larger Osser all at once. there are paths that connect the two but if you are planning on that way you will need someone to pick you up on the other side because the path ends in another place.
The path itself is barely a path and more of a stairway in some places, the roots of the trees stand exposed and act as steps up to the top. The moment of clarity that you will be making it to the top within the next 30 minutes is when you reach “the Meadow”. About 5 years ago a huge storm hit Bavaria with seriously high powered winds. The winds were so strong in fact that they tore whole sections of forest down from the tops of some of the taller mountains on the border. The Osser was one of those mountains. The meadow is full of young growth trees and bushes where there were once large, strong trees. You can still see the carnage of that storm laid out across that meadow. The carcasses of the unfortunate trees lay in every corner, but in that clearing you catch your first glimpse of the summit.
The first time I climbed the Osser I was not expecting the hike that I got and nearly turned around, but that day there was a Czech/Bavarian friendship fest at the Schutzhaus and from that meadow, I could hear the music from the summit. That inspiration proved to be all that I needed and that day I stood at the top of the Osser, that was nearly 3 and a half years ago.
This time, I got the opportunity this time around to see an incredible sight; the movement of weather from the Czech Republic to Germany. As we stepped to the top of the mountain, I looked to the Czech side and saw that the entire valley was full all the way nearly to the summit with clouds. At some lower points the clouds started to spill into the valley where the town of Lam stands, you can see in the picture below. It was an incredible view and one that I will always remember. The weather seemed to follow us down the mountain on our way back but when we where sheltered by the back side of the mountain, we stood under the clouds.
This Time I had a companion, My friend the traveling squirrel joined me! I am happy to report that I caught a couple of photos and also that he will be accompanying me on all of my future wanderings! Get excited, because more cuteness is to come! Stay tuned for much more fun from the woods! Next time we will climb the Lusen, in the Czech Republic, and this little guy will come with us!
A man lay dying at a chapel between town of Koetzting and Arnbruck, deep in the Bavarian woods. It was customary for a priest to be summoned in order to give last rights to the dying, but the nearest priest was in Koetzting, about 7 Kilometers away. The priest said he would go but being that the roads were dangerous to travel on alone, he stated that he would not go unless he had an escort to ensure that he would get to his destination and back to Koetzting unharmed. Horsemen from the area volunteered and all together, the priest and his escorts rode to pay the man his last respects and returned to Koetzing safely soon after. From that year on, it became a tradition, every year over 900 riders from around Bavaria come to Bad Koetzting (the modern name of the town) to ride in the Pfingstritt.
The Manes of the Horses are decorated with colorful twine and metal ornamentation.
The riders stop to pray often along the route, it will take them 12 hours to reach their destination.
Pfingstritt occurs every year on “Pfingsmontag” or the Monday of Pentecost and begins in the very center of Bad Koetzting. The Bishop of Regensburg heads up the formation with his large delegation and rides the whole way to the old chapel in Steinbuhl and then back again. The riders will stop from time to time to pray and move on again towards their destination. When the Bishop and his riders arrive at Steinbuhl the Bishop holds holy Mass and the whole group rides all the way back to Koetzting. The whole process takes 12 hours from start to finish.
The riders wear a special “tracht” or traditional outfit and carry various banners representing the saints or the city they come from. But the riders aren’t the part you want to hear, its the horses. These aren’t your average run of the mill race horses, the horses who participate in this show are of the humungous draft horse variety; giants meant for pulling timber or carriages. Every horse’s mane has been elaborately decorated with rope and twine and their tails are also spotted with decoration and sometimes braided.During the ride, all of the city is shut down completely and the main road between Bad Koetzting and Steinbuhl is closed and reserved only for the ride. It is meant as a pilgrimage these days, and every year more and more riders join in what I can imagine to be an incredible experience.
In true German form of course, there is always an excuse to have a party, and what better excuse than this? After observing the ride, onlookers can join the fest in the city or watch the horse competitions tied to it. Enjoy a beer and music while you wait for the riders to return or join in on other festivities around town.
If you happen to find yourself in Bad Koetzting, Germany during the week of Pentecost and want to see something spectacular, this tops the list. Make sure to also plan ahead so that you can find a place along the route and remember to go during a year when they hold the horse competitions, another awesome sight to behold.