… and into a Covid-influenced Winter …

Guess what … the pandemic continues – and it clearly is winter now.

Temperatures have continued to decrease, at least the days are getting longer again.

It is now more than a year ago, that I have last been abroad – not sure, when that last happened in my life. As things are right now – leaving the state would already be something special … at least with winter and some snow coming in, there is some change outside – adding something new for the (continuing) walks and hikes.

Below a collection of photos from my winter experiences from January and February.

Corona Autumn

The pandemic continues, as we are moving into autumn.

With days getting shorter and temperatures decreasing, this would usually be a good time for a trip to some place warm for some outdoor fun, time at the beach and/or in the mountains – and some new adventures.

Well – not this year. For the past two months I have literally not left a 10km circle around my home (which probably never happened before in all my life). Adventures were limited to extensive walking and hiking trips through meadows, fields and forests right at my doorsteps. As such I got the full autumn experience – witnessing the full process from the early color changes of the leaves, to bald trees and up to the first snow.

Below a collection of photos from my walks / hikes through forest and fields from October and November.

Hiking to Eberbach Abbey

Today saw us making the hike from our base in the old town of Eltville through the vineyards up to Eberbach Abbey – a distance of about 7km.

Eberbach Abbey is a former Cistercian monastery, originally found in 1116AD and then extended over the 12th and 13th century. Buildings – as to be expected for that period – follow Romanesque and early Gothic architecture. Today (and after secularization in the 19th century) the monastery is owned by the state of Hesse – and serves as a museum, a venue for cultural events and a location for filming (parts of “The Name of the Rose” were filmed here). For a full account of the abbey’s history refer to this Wikipedia page.

Wine production has been part of the abbey from its early days – and remains so until today. The “Kloster Eberbach” wine – coming from the vineyards in the region – can be sampled and bought right at the abbey’s wine shop. Of course, we did not leave, before sampling some of those wines.

We continued our hike to the nearby village of Kiedrich (about 4km away) for yet another wine tasting and dinner – before concluding the loop and making the 5km walk back to Eltville for the night.

At the Banks of the Rhine River

Today we did transition from the Nahe river back to the Rhine stream, first to Bingen – and then across the river via ferry to Rüdesheim. We had a short stop in Rüdesheim for a walk around town. From Rüdesheim we continued to Eltville, our base for the next few days.

In Eltville we did another walk, to explore town – culminating at the Ferris Wheel at the river bank for a 40minure trip combined with a tasting of three wines.

Hiking in the Nahe Valley

This year (2020) being what it is, a “proper” vacation was not an option. Instead my parents, two friends and myself decided, to go on a vine-themed trip in relative proximity, with a first stop near Bad Sobernheim, at the Nahe river – and a second one at Eltville at the banks of the Rhine river.

We spent our full day at the Nahe river with a full day hike of about 24km. First making our way from the hotel to the river, then along the river and up the Heimberg along the vineyards and to the observation tower on top of the mountain (or rather hill). Below some photographic evidence.

Back Home

With travel restrictions and social distancing rules now step by step easing up, it was time for a trip back home to my parents and the village, I did grow up in.

Obviously we had to adjust our activities to these weird times – and ended up doing some walks and hikes in the vicinity – featuring some nice views of mountains, fields, pastures, meadows and villages down in the valley. While no real adventure, a very welcome break from my solitary walks around my fairly flat new home. Below some photos …

Corona Spring

Well – this spring did not quiet go as expected. Per my original plan, I was booked for another epic trip, starting with a couple of days in Sydney, followed by a jump over to New Caledonia and then an expedition cruise to Palau via the Solomon Islands and the east coast of Papua New-Guinea … and then came Corona.

Needless to say – my trip got cancelled and I found myself looking at a completely changed situation and world – social distancing did become the norm, travel was impossible and the focus put on home – with most of the time spent at home …

The exploration did continue though – as I spent plenty of time for walks in and around the forests and fields in the vicinity – starting with the already known trails and roads, to eventually spread out further and explore some of the more hidden or further away areas. Below some photos, that I have taken in the two month period between mid March and mid May. Some locations are a short 15 minute walk away from my flat, while others require a more involved 45 minute walk (one way).

Wining at the Main River Bend

For my birthday my parents had given me a voucher for a wining trip to Volkach at the bend of the Main river in the Franconia region.

It was now – the weekend before we Christmas – that we finally made it to Volkach for a weekend of sightseeing, walking through vineyards, cellar tours – and of course the one or other tasting. Below some photographic evidence …

Conclusion in Baku

We were heading back to town now, with a first stop in the outskirts of Baku, at Bibiheybat Mosque. It was not the mosque though, that we were interested in, but its square, offering nice view over Baku’s port.

From the mosque we did proceed to our last official stop, the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre / (Heydər Əliyev Mərkəzi). We spent some time looking at the building and its unusual architecture from the outside, though eventually did proceed to the inside.

The inside – next to a different view on the building itself – featured a number of exhibitions on various topics (some of which fairly random … some fairly good, other less so).

From the center it was – via a market (for some final souvenir shopping) – back to the hotel. With our flights scheduled in the very early morning, we knew a short night was a head of us and with half the group being sick, we did not manage a final group dinner.

The trip has been an interesting one – covering three countries, a total of seven UNESCO world heritage sites (six cultural, one natural), two mosques and at least 30 churches and monasteries – all of which at high pace.

During the trip the similarities – but also differences between the three countries have become obvious – from religion, food, drinks to the development after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting political systems.

Though – what did become apparent – even with this long and (according to the trip brochure) all-encompasing trip, we had just scratched the surface – with all three countries deserving a return … though then (at least for me) with a focus on nature and less so on culture and history.