At the Departure Gate

Flying involves a series of steps and waits. Some lengthy. You’ve made it the airport in good time. You’ve checked in, and said goodbye to the hold luggage. Then you head for security; a process that requires the removal of belts, shoes and all metal items. Liquids (no more than 100mls) are placed in transparent bags, and laptops extracted from carry-on bags: and still the scanner Beeps. And so you stand arms outstretched, legs apart, while you get felt all over by a man wearing blue latex gloves (why blue?), just hoping that your belt-less trousers won’t choose that moment to move south to decorate your ankles. Then you collect all your belongings and re-pack.

And then you find a seat and wait for the departure gate to be shown on the monitors. If you flight is on time, you’re lucky. Time drags as you wait.

Out comes the camera and I go for a walk. An empty departure gate (not mine) caught my attention.

IMG_5922_finalFinally as dusk approached we moved to our own gate. I watched the light change. Light levels outside dropped and slowly the reflective capability of glass outshone the failing light outside and the building came to life.

IMG_5936At such times I would have happily waited another half an hour to see the final transformation. To see more of the same from travels to/from Geneva Airport take a look in  the En Route category in the Rt sidebar.

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Geneva Airport Re-Visited

Geneva Airport is a photo opportunity. If you arrive here by train on your way to catch a flight, you ride up the escalator from the platform, walk through the shopping mall, across an access road and into the airport terminal to the check-in desks. Photo Opportunity? How is that possible?

All images in this post will enlarge. click an image to see a higher quality enlargement.

IMG_5676Take your time. As you ride the escalator, look up. Above you, the ceiling of the shopping mall is reflective and you will see the first opportunity for an image. Upstairs in the shopping mall, the reflective ceiling stretches before you.

Most people are in too much of a hurry, either late for a train, or hurrying to the check-in desks, to bother to look up. And for most people the words ‘Airport’ and ‘Enjoyment’ really don’t belong in the same sentence.

Photographic opportunities provide the enjoyment; they lighten the boredom of waiting, waiting and more waiting.

I’ve lost count of the number of times we have returned to Geneva Airport by train for the flight back home to the UK at the end of a holiday. Travel to/from a resort is always associated with anxiety of one sort or another. Will the train be on-time, will we make the connection, will the flight be delayed? We always allow extra time these days.

Bar-coded seating

Bar-coded seating

And that extra time allows a few minutes for me to park my wife at the top of the escalator or at the Pret A Manger cafe and walk down the mall and see what I can find to shoot.

IMG_5905_wpI’ve made that five-minute walk numerous times and each time I find something new.

IMG_5906_wpIt lightens my mood and that makes the waiting that follows easier to bear.

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Boarded Up

I spotted this boarded up window in a back alley in Zermatt. What a fantastic pattern.



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Old Zermatt

Until the mid 19th century Zermatt was a poor rural village whose inhabitants earned a scarce living working the land. Visitors were rare. Then the Alps were discovered by intrepid explorers and the upper classes, and one by one the mountains were climbed. In response to the influx of the first tourists, Dr Lauber, Zermatt’s village doctor, opened a small hotel in 1838. In 1865 the Matterhorn – believed unclimbable by many – was finally climbed. It was a triumph that turned to tragedy as four of the seven who reached the summit fell to their deaths on the descent. Only Edward Whymper and the two Zermatt guides: Peter Taugwalder, father and son, survived. It was the Matterhorn that made Zermatt famous and continues to drive its popularity and fame. Click here to read my post about Whymper, the Monte Rosa Hotel and the Matterhorn

IMG_5867_wpSkiing tends to be a full-time occupation, if the weather is good. Resorts become dormitories from which people depart as soon as possible in the morning and return to in the late afternoon. Perhaps pausing, on the way down, for an après-ski drink before returning to their hotel or chalet for a relaxing bath, shower or swim in the hotel’s pool before dinner.

_DS78623_wpHard-core skiers will see little of their resort, other than where they are staying, and a few bars along the way. All resorts have modernised and developed massively over the years, but they all have history, which is still evident if you take the time to wander down the back streets and narrow alleys: and Zermatt is no exception. It will be time well spent.

IMG_5859_wpDown those back alleys you will find some of the original buildings – dwellings and hay barns (Stadels). Click here to see a previous post of a hay loft.

IMG_5870_wpThe timbers are weathered, the buildings lean, there’s hardly a straight line in sight. This is how it once was. This is the true Zermatt – a village that was hewn from the trees of the forest, whose inhabitants eked out a meagre existence in the shadows of the great mountains.

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The High Point

The high point of a trip to Zermatt, physically and visually, summer or winter, is a cable car trip to the top of Klein Matterhorn (3883m or 12,740ft). In Summer this is the starting point for climbs of the Breithorn, Castor and Pollux. In winter this is the top station for skiing. From here you can ski continuously down to Zermatt, or down to Cervinia in Italy. An amazing ski run. Click on any image in this post to see a higher quality enlargement.


Breithorn, centre, Kl Matterhorn, right, from the Matterhorn Paradise ski area. The top station of the Lift can be seen just below the summit on the Lt skyline (enlarge the image to view)

Of all the high points accessible from the Zermatt valley this is the ‘must do’ place to visit. It’s an expensive trip so pick a clear day. On a clear day the views are truly stupendous. On a cold, windy, cloudy day it will be bitterly cold and you will have wasted your money.

A gondola (small cable car) followed by a larger cable car will carry you up to Trockener Steg from where the final super-size cabin will transport you in an improbable and breath-taking sweep to Klein Matterhorn summit.


The final Cable car approaches. Kl Matterhorn dead centre.

I was up here on a perfect day on my recent Zermatt ski trip. No wind and a perfect blue sky: it felt like a summer’s day. I was in no hurry to start skiing so I took the lift and then the staircase up to the viewing platform.

The view of the Breithorn was superb. To my surprise there were a few figures on the summit roof of the Breithorn. Possibly mountaineers or maybe enterprising skiers. What struck me particularly was the way the light was picking out the laminated snow in the colossal summit snow-cap. Each layer compressed like the annular rings in a tree trunk.



To the right of the Breithorn the familiar peaks of Pollux, Castor and Liskamm with their interwoven ridges made a beautiful composition.


The long ridge of the Breithorn leads in from the Lt edge to the tall twin peaks of Liskamm. Pollux is the small rounded summit dead centre, Castor is the main summit on the Rt.

The view in the opposite direction of the Matterhorn was equally superb.

Matterhorn with Dent Blanche (Rt)

Matterhorn with Dent Blanche (Rt)

And just to the left of the Matterhorn the massive bulk of Mont Blanc towered over everything else at a distance of 40 miles as the crow flies. Two versions of this for you.

_DS78635_wp_DS78635_bwFinally looking down into Italy – the view seemed to stretch for ever. Time to ski. From Kl Matterhorn, the vertical drop to Cervinia is almost 6,000ft. Much of it on one of the best red runs in the Alps – No 7 ‘Ventina’. In half an hour I was in Cervinia – waiting for the ride back up. Days don’t get much better than days like this.

_DS78630_wpThere is an interesting article on the Kl Matterhorn lift on Wikipedia. Click here to go to the page. I’m not sure how the article describes this as ‘the second highest peak of the ski area’. It is the highest reachable point of the entire area  from which you can ski, unless you count the little bump in the centre of this last image at the end of a drag lift  - but I’ve never been up here when that lift is working and to call that insignificant point ‘the highest peak’  would seem a travesty to me.

Posted in MountainScape, Skiing - Zermatt | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

We Carry Bikes

SBB – Swiss Federal Railways (in German: Schweizerische Bundesbahnen) carries bikes.

It’s clear for all to see in a minimalist black and white graphic beside a train door.

IMG_5874_wpOr in colour, in a choice of styles.

IMG_5873_wpWhile waiting for a connection at Visp, I walked up and down the platform and shot these images.

IMG_5876_wpWhat else would a photographer do with his time?! I’m easily bored, and there is always something to capture. And no-one stops you in Switzerland, unlike in the UK where I have nearly had my camera confiscated for using it at my local station.

 If you want to take a bike on SBB, then read the information on SBB’s website first. Click here to go to the relevant page in English. The page of course is available in German, French and Italian.

Have you visited my other blog – iSighting – yet? New post up there today ‘Three-Sixty Degrees‘. Part of a series of posts on Learning to See. Do take a look.

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Happy Birthday Bertie

Last Sunday our daughter’s dog Bertie (an Entlebucher), celebrated his second birthday. By pure coincidence that event coincided with Mothering Sunday this year. And so we travelled to our daughter’s new home where she cooked a superb Sunday roast for her mother and me. Thank you so much Sophie, it was delicious. _DS78758_wpOf course I took a few images of Bertie. He is now fully grown, and he’s calmed down significantly now he is two years old. Actually I think he looks a little solemn in these pictures, but that’s probably because No 2 Human was away for a weekend skiing and he was missing him. _DS78762_wpThose of you who have followed this blog for sometime will remember two earlier posts with images of Bertie.

_DS78766_wpBut for those who haven’t, (and have never heard of the breed ‘Entlebucher’) click here for the first images of Bertie, or here to see Bertie when he was nine months old.

_DS78767_wpHowever, the image that gives me the greatest satisfaction from a purely visual perspective is the one that follows below that I would call: ‘Where White Meets Black’. This is just a close-up of a patch of white hair at the back of his neck near his right shoulder.


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