Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Postcards from Stockholm, Part 2: To Erlangen

I was up early on the Sunday to try and beat the jet lag and to see what sort of light the sunrise would bring. I wandered along the river, anticipating that the pending sunrise would light up the buildings on the far side of the river. I met this guy fishing. He had traveled 20 km to getting in some early morning fishing while his wife slept. I got the impression that she was fine with his fishing habit, as long as it didn't interfere with anything else. This was fine with me, since I lucked out by getting a local history guide while I waited for the sun to rise. I also lucked out with the sunrise: it cast a beautiful specular reflection in the windows of these buildings. It may look like the lights are on, but they are not. It is actually the light from the sunrise opposite.

Stockholm Sunrise

To see the sunrise, click here, but it is a very bland sunrise. That is what makes the specular reflection all the more amazing.

It was quite cold standing around waiting for the sunrise, and there was quite a lot of frost on the street on my walk. On the way back to the hotel, I noticed hundreds of swans, ducks, and geese huddled under a bridge. I can only think that there is some sort of organized feeding program that prompts them to hang around in once place.

Water Fowl

Later that day, Angie and I toured the Vasa Museum. The Vasa was a huge Swedish ship that sank on its maiden voyage. The story of the Vasa is quiet interesting and can be found here on Wikipedia. The ship was raised, restored, and used as a museum center piece. The museum is very well done, with excellent displays and movies to help understand what life was like at the time of her building and the resurrection project.

Vasa (2)

The ship itself is huge and you can view it from 4 levels.

Vasa (3)

I was quite taken with the ornate decorations, many of which were carved on to the ship, such as the ones here on the stern.

Vasa (1)


Helsinki is a very drab city. I'll grant you that I saw it under poor conditions, since I saw it at 5:00 in the morning in a light rain and with the temperature only barely above freezing.

Helsinki Streets (2)

That may have had something to do with my bleak impression of the city. It may also have been the very low lighting levels and the exclusive use of white coloured light sources that made my mind automatically flip into "black and white mode". Or maybe it was the "quickly, I'm in a hurry" pace of the very few people who were about at that hour. They seemed to be almost afraid to be outdoors. No-one was smiling. No-one stopped to say hello or show any of the curiosity that I normally encounter in people when I'm out taking early morning photos.

Helsinki Streets (1)

The only place I found even close-to-normal light levels (and I'm normalizing here to other cities I've shot in the dark) was this huge, white building built on a very high foundation. It was illuminated with a strong, white light on all sides.

Helsinki Church

Given its domineering position, formal Greek style architecture, and severe lighting, I thought this was a courthouse or a government building. I was shocked to find out later that it actually is a church. It just doesn't fit my expectation of what a church should look like.


After Helsinki, I found Oslo a much more vibrant city. The people are open and friendly and the city is bright and colourful, even at 5:00 a.m.

Oslo Lights (2)


Like Oslo, I found Copenhagen to be a vibrant city. We walked down to Nyhavn for dinner and even late in the evening, the city was wonderfully lit and busy with laughing people. However, when I went back the next morning at 5:00 a.m., the only time I could fit in a photo shoot, I was disappointed to see that most of the lights had been turned off. One exception was the skating rink, which seems to be de rigor in the Scandinavian countries.

Danish Skate Park

Despite the fact that most of the building lights were turned off, the city still didn't resemble Helsinki. I think it was because of the bright street lights, which were strong enough to reflect light off off the colourful buildings.

Danish Light

The trade mission was held at the Ambassador's official residence and the staff did a wonderful job of getting a good turn out to the event. The food was excellent and we uncovered some great business opportunities. It certainly was a highlight of the tour.

Angela (2)


We had a quick stop in Brussels ,which didn't present me with too many opportunities for taking photos. I continued what had become a tradition of "dark" photography with this shot of a the Cinquantenaire arch just around the corner from our hotel.


We did have time for a quick visit to la Grand Place for some Belgium waffles from a couple of the many waffle vendors that surround the area. We stopped into one of the restaurants in one of the old Guild House that surround the square. It was very old, with ancient exposed timbers. We lucked out and got a table looking out a window over the square. The nook was quite small. Angie felt very claustrophobic. Ian had problems fitting his large frame into it, constantly banging his knees off of everything. I guess people were quite a bit smaller in the 1400's. There probably was no growth hormones in the beer.



While Angie cursed the cobblestones common in central Brussels and how her high heel shoes were not well suited for walking on them, I marveled at how their blandness contrasted with the colourful detritus that gathers in their gaps.

Brussells Cobbles


Following Brussels, Ian popped home to Manchester for the week-end, while Angie and I were supposed to go to our next stop: Erlangen, Germany. I supposed given the number of times we flew in a week (daily), we were overdue for flight troubles. In fact, our flight was delayed and we missed our connecting flight, so the airline had to route us through Munich. Ever the opportunist, we settled on taking advantage of this to see some of the Bavarian sights. One of the sights was this curious bird drinking from a fountain in one of the town squares.

Downing a Pint

We went into a gothic cathedral to check out “the lines”. I find the proportions and lines in gothic style churches formed by intersecting arches and windows to be very inspiring. While I did not capture any church lines this time, I did notice some metal chairs that proved to be an interesting study.

German Church Lines

One the way back to the hotel, the clouds had broken up and the setting sun cast a warm glow on the buildings along the river.

Munich Sunset

We booked a bus tour of Ludgwig II’s castles in the Bavarian Alps. This meant an early morning rise to take a bus from the train station up to the Alps. For me, it was like a return trip to the Canadian Rockies, although it was much warmer and not as much snow. Still the crispness was refreshing.

German Alps

We went to see Ludwig's first castle, Linderhof, which he built when he was quite young. The word ‘ornate’ hardly seems to do justice to the place.

Linderhof Palace (2)

Linderhof Palace (3)

Linderhof Palace (1)

On the way to the second castle, Neuschwanstein, we stopped at a little town for some souvenir shopping. Angie tried on a nice hat, but declined to buy it. I’m not sure why. I thought it was lovely.

Alpines Fräulein

Walking around town, we found only a few stores open, although plenty of bars were. Even though Bavaria (and Germany in general) has a reputation for beer drinking, I was still surprised to see locals drinking before noon on a Sunday.

Sunday Drinkers

The area is noted for cuckoo clocks, wood carvings, and food (black forest cake in particular). We checked out the clocks and the carvings in this town and the food a bit later on.


Barvarian Wood Carving

After a bite to eat, we began the hike up to Neuschwanstein. There is a total elevation gain of 120 m, the difference in which you can see in these two photos of Ludwig’s parents castle, which is nearby. I took the first from the hotel where we had lunch. I was struck by the two different era’s of technology in play: the early 1800’s civil engineering used by the castle and the 21st century aeronautical engineering used by the overhead aircraft.

Hohenschwangau (2)

Hohenschwangau (1)

I took the second photo (above) from the Neuschwanstein castle itself, looking down into the adjacent valley.

Eventually we reached the base of the castle, which dwarfs the tourists below it.

Neuschwanstein (4)

The architect did a wonderful job of designing the castle and I loved its soaring lines.

Neuschwanstein (2)

Neuschwanstein (3)

One of the “challenges” of sightseeing with an unrepentant photographer is that we always want to put our fellow travelers in the frame (although rearely do we photograph ourselves!). At this point of our trip, Angie still had patience for my requests and I took a quick snap of her with the mountains as a back drop.

Neuschwanstein (5)

After an informative tour of the castle, we descended back into the valley, with one final look at the fascinating castle, basking in the warm light of the setting sun.

Neuschwanstein (1)

Our last stop is Amsterdam, so I have one more early morning of shooting to put in. If you can't wait, click here for previous photos of Mokum.

Or, click here for a link to a slide show of all the photos from this trip.


Flying Rhino said...

Wow, if you are a professional photographer, you're my role model as of today. :-)

Scott said...

Flying Rhino: Unfortunately, I only take photos in my spare time, which makes me a pure amateur.

Thanks for stopping my blog.

Flying Rhino said...

In that case, to keep up a positive note, let's just say that your pictures inspire me. So thanks for that.

The Navy Bellman said...

Hi Scott!

Great pictures! However, very few bells on the pictures... .

I hope that you some day have a chance to see the same places in daylight (I know, work is disturbing the photography).

Having visited all the Nordics frequently in daylight, I can assure you that even the Nordic cities look more cheerful and less haunting in day- and (sometimes even)sunlight!

So, welcome back to the Nordics soon!