From MIT to the Eiger, Switzerland (warning: lots of pix)

Started Aug 6, 2017 | Photos thread
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jeffpix Contributing Member • Posts: 517
From MIT to the Eiger, Switzerland (warning: lots of pix)

Dear all,

In June and July, my son and I took at trip together around Europe to celebrate his graduation from MIT. My wife generously decided that this should be a “guy trip”. This allowed us to do things that would have been worrisome or worse for her, such as anything to do with high mountains, glaciers, and cliffs. She also does not appreciate the joys of riding in cable cars in the mountains, especially during hailstorms, strong winds, and/or lightning.

Here are some photos of a few highlights of the trip. Essentially all of them have been downsized to the usual 1600 pixels on the long side.

As usual, all comments and suggestions are very welcome. Earlier this year, I have posted photos from Bosque del Apache (New Mexico) , Utah/Zion Canyon , shorebirds in California, and the March for Science in Boston. In spite of several years using an OM-D E-M5/mk 1, I feel I have a long ways to go before I am fully exploiting the capabilities of the new E-M1/mk 2. Even though the size and weight have somewhat changed the m43 experience, for me the step up in quality and features are well worth it. For the mountain hiking shown below, I carried just two lenses, the Oly 12-40 f/2.8 and the Oly 40-150 f/2.8. An ultra-wide would have been helpful.

I start with a scene from the MIT commencement. The ceremony is held in Killian Court, named after James Killian, one of MIT’s former presidents. This is a large grassy area between Building 10, with its iconic columns and Great Dome. All of the buildings and even the course majors are numbered. Killian Court faces the Charles River and beyond that, downtown Boston. The commencement speaker was Tim Cook , the CEO of Apple, who did a respectable job at what is always an unenviable task. Here you see the exuberant graduates celebrating in front of Building 10.

1. MIT commencement, 2017. Graduates expressing happiness and relief at having made it through.

MIT has a network of underground tunnels, which are helpful in the cold winters but are also part of the culture of the institute. Here is a student expressing herself in one of the tunnels.

2. In the MIT tunnels.

In June I was working in Geneva (see, for example, and ). There was a music festival during part of this time, and the area of the old town and the university was hopping with people going to the many different events, which included everything from classical music to belly dancing. There were women belly dancing right in front of the Reformation Wall with the huge statues of the leaders of the Reformation looking directly down on them. History takes strange twists!

Here is a man cooking saucisses in the Place du Bourg-de-Four in the heart of Geneva's Vieille Ville (old town).

3. Friendly chef in La Place du Bourg-de-Four, Geneva. These were just the thing for lunch.

I had to do some work in Karlsruhe, Germany in late June, so my son and I decided to meet up in a train station not far away in Koblenz, where the Rhine River and Mosel River meet. We hiked to the castle Burg Eltz, which turns out to be Rick Steves’ favorite castle in all of Europe.

4. Germany, Burg Eltz Castle. You can get lunch on the terrace at the lower left.

Unlike many castles, Burg Eltz survived its 800 years in the forest intact, so you are not seeing just a reconstruction or ruins, but the real thing. The furnishings date back 500 years. If you are interested in visiting this area, I recommend Rick Steves’ video, which I only saw after we got back:

We stayed in Bacharach, a beautiful small town on the Rhine that is a good base for exploring the area. This stretch of the river is full of vineyards, castles, and picturesque towns.

5. Bacharach am Rhein, Germany on a rainy day. The building shown here, the Altes Haus, dates back to the 1300s. The restaurant of this hotel is an excellent choice for dinner.

During the summer, there are “Rhine in Flammen” (Rhine in Flames) events along the river, where you travel at night in a flotilla of boats and visit 10 or so locations, each of which has fireworks. By the time you are done, you have seen a lot of fireworks over several hours.

Tickets on these boats can be hard to come by, so it is best to book in advance on the internet. Not all of the boats are created equal. We ended up on a really nice one that served a good dinner, but we narrowly avoided going on another boat that was essentially a car ferry turned into a floating a dance floor. We would have been outside for several hours in the drizzle listening to very loud music.

On the boat, we had dinner at a large table, and we were the only non-Germans there. Everyone was extremely friendly to us, and they went out of their way to make us feel welcome.

5. "Rhein in Flammen" fireworks, Germany.

6. "Rhein in Flammen", Rhine River, Germany.

After touring around the Rhine for a few days and seeing a few more castles, we made our way south to Strasbourg and the Alsace region of France. Strasbourg is a beautiful and historic city. There is an excellent museum of Alsace history and culture.

The cathedral is one of the highlights. You can take a long and twisty staircase up to the top of the building. Here is a view out of one of them on the way down.

7. Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, France.

8. Cooling off on a hot day in Strasbourg.

9. Dinner at a classic Strasbourg restaurant, the Maison Kammerzell, near the cathedral. Underneath the three kinds of fish is a bed of choucroute (sauerkraut), a specialty in Alsace.

After a couple of days in Strasbourg, we rented a car to drive around the wine villages of the area, such as Riquewihr, Ribeauville, and Kaiserberg. We found the driving to be easy and low stress.

We ended this part of the trip in Colmar, which is fairly large and has an excellent museum with art and history of the region. All of these towns and villages are full of picturesque streets and medieval buildings.

10. The stunning village of Riqeuwihr, which is surrounded by vineyards. This photo was taken after sunset. If you are there, try to get to this location earlier!

11. Canal in Colmar, France.

12. The Isenheim Altarpiece (early 1500s) in the Unterlinden,  a spectacular museum in Colmar, France.

A happy surprise was the presence of storks in most of the towns in Alsace. Having been nearly wiped out in the 1960s, the storks are making a comeback as the result of significant conservation efforts in many communities. Since I like to do wildlife photography, I was very happy to have this opportunity.

13. Stork in a wildlife park in Hunawihr, France (Alsace).

14. Stork next in a wildlife park in Hunawihr, France.

15. Ribeauville, France: stork nest on platform on a house.

16. Stork nesting on the cathedral in Colmar, France.

After returning our car Colmar, we took the train to the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland, not far from Interlaken. This valley is the home of the famous Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau peaks.

The Eiger was featured in the movie “The Eiger Sanction” (Clint Eastwood, George Kennedy, et al.). The north face of the Eiger has been the site of many deaths of climbers (over 60) and was first climbed successfully in 1938. It has the German nickname “Mordwand” -- murder wall.

19. The north face of the Eiger, Switzerland.

20. Meadow near Kleine Scheidegg, Lauterbrunnen Valley, Switzerland.

This area has so many exceptional high-mountain trails that you could easily spend a week here and have plenty more to see. We had 3.5 days, and it was pretty much non-stop hiking. A highlight was the train to what is advertised as the "Top of Europe": the Jungfraujoch, which is a station between the Monch and Jungfrau peaks. These are not the highest mountains in Europe, but I think it is the highest point that you can reach on a train. The train actually passes through a tunnel in the Eiger, and you can look out of windows that were cut into the rock face.

On one of the mountains near the Eiger, we were caught in a small cable car during a storm with hail, strong winds, and lightning. Everything was fine.

After arriving at the Jungfraujoch, you can hike on nearby trails, and some people do technical climbing in the mountains.

17. Jungfraujoch, Switzerland. You can see the "Sphinx" observatory on the peak at the lower right. The train arrives at the base of this rocky mountain. We then set out on the ice to see the sights.

18. Photo of me taken by my son. I am carrying a Tenba DNA-8 bag. In my day pack I have the Oly 40-150 f/2.8. For the high mountain hiking I carried just two lenses to save weight, but for regular tourist stuff, I carried 4-5 lenses.

19. Near the Jungfrau, a helicopter flies below a cloud layer. Taking a tour on one of these helicopters is expensive but would be a lot of fun.

20. Ominous view of the Jungfraujoch taken from the opposite side of the Lauterbrunnen Valley near the Schilthorn, The Sphinx Observatory (lower right in Photo 17) is just barely visible at the top of the small peak at the center. In the high mountains, excellent weather can rapidly turn bad.

Further down the Lauterbrunnen Valley is the Schilthorn, which had a starring role in the James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” The Schiltorn has some seriously steep ski slopes (75% grade). At the Schilthorn visitor’s center, there are lots of 007 displays, and you can even see a clip from the 007 movie showing the real live avalanche that was created for the movie using explosives. The restrooms (at least the men’s room but probably both) are decorated in highly dubious 007 taste that generates a lot of furtive glances and puzzlement, as in “Is this *really* the restroom?”

Having already reached 20 pix, I just show one of many photographs that I took on or near the Schilthorn. This one was taken from the Birg station just below. Here you can see cows grazing, Swiss style.

In Birg, we took the "Thrill Walk," where you go on a walkway that is mounted on the cliff face. For part of the walk you walk along a cable and have cables on either side at arm level to hold onto. There is a net below the cable you walk on in case you fall, so it seems completely safe, but you do get a visceral sense of the height by looking straight down through the net!

There are many other amazing things to see in the valley, including huge waterfalls, one of which twists around inside of the cliff face. You can go inside the cliffs through tunnels and look at the waterfall in about 10 different places.

If you have read this far, many thanks!

All the best,


21. Cows grazing on a ridge in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, Switzerland, near the Schilthorn.

 jeffpix's gear list:jeffpix's gear list
Olympus TG-5 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus E-M1 II Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm F1.8 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm 1:2 +8 more
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