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Berlin-Prague

Away from Berlin with my backpack. To Prague. Grey mist hung and obscured visibility the entire journey. It snowed in Sächsische Schweiz along the Elbe in Elbsandsteingebirge. Prague arrived 5 hours later. I’m staying in the 5th district, the funicular up Petřín runs past my window across the park. In the evening I walked through the part of the old city.

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Waldsieversdorf

Märkische Schweiz really is Brandenburg’s Switzerland! Lucy from Transfiction (who share part of Alte Kantine Wedding) told me she has a small Datscha/bach/bungalow in Waldsieversdorf, about 50km east of Berlin. Me needing some stare-at-trees time decided to sod off there on Tuesday. No internet! Barely any mobile coverage! A small A-frame hut near the Buckow-Müncheberg railway line, backed by 25 metre trees and and a small hill away from Großer Däbersee.

I had no real plans except to read, go cycling in the forest, go hiking, eat a lot, maybe write a bit. I finished two books, got half-way through a third, wrote one (short) application, ate a lot of local cheese, spent equal parts riding bike and carrying it. I’d secretly thought the ‘Schweiz’ of Märkische and Sächsische was a slight conceit, after all Switzerland is like ‘MMM’ and this part of Germany is like ‘___’. Turns out Glaciers! Ice Age! Bits of Norway and Sweden! 2000 meters thick of ice can make some rather massive geography. It’s still very sandy though, despite all the granite and sandstone shoved down from the far north. So, I improved rapidly in biking on sand. And in going up and down hills. They might not be high—the elevation goes between around 25m and 100m with some bits higher and further up the Stöbber a mere 6m above sea level (yes, hundreds of kilometres from the ocean; it’s that flat)—but the hills do manage to go up and down with some frequency and steepness (and combinations of mud and sand).

Which meant that my daily rides were shorter in distance, longer in time and much harder—especially the afternoon I decided for a gentle roll around Schemützelsee, got slightly lost, meandered twice to the 168 road, then got slammed on Panoramaweg which repeatedly goes from the lake to hills some 50 metres higher, then back down, via gullies so steep they had stairs on both sides. It was most unexpected and I suffered. My bike however was royally carried the distance on my shoulder.

Next day I tried for the flatness of following the Stöbber. More hills! Utterly beautiful wetlands and lakes! Most days I ended up in Buckow around dusk, sometimes having a coffee at the Bioladen on the market square. Buckow itself is all late-19th century grand architecture and quite a few old villas falling into disrepair. The whole region (well, all that I visited) seemed very calm and friendly—none of the weird crypto-naziism I’ve heard about elsewhere. It’s really one of the most beautiful places I’ve been, and definitely a gem so close as it is to Berlin.

Around all my bike and forest adventures, I lay on the sofa eating cheese and bread, drinking ginger tea, coffee (some chocolate also), reading, watching the birds outside (and sometime in when they decided open door meant “Please fly in!”), the hornets, mice, insects, migrating geese, more trees, the wood fire which kept me warm in the evenings. Somehow I ended up reading quite a bit of Chinese Daoist and Japanese Zen philosophy, and with the unintended luxury of not speaking to anyone for four days (except in the shop), managed some thinking also.

I forgot my camera battery charger, and my battery was completely empty. Still, I managed to take about the equivalent of a roll of film. Yes, shall go that way again, and more hiking and sleeping in my tent too.

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Tanami Track & Desert

Somehow I got from trying to find my way across Berlin to several hours traipsing up the Tanami Track and across the desert in South Australia and the Northern Territory. Along the way I found a couple of impact craters, marvelled at the astoundingly and diversely complex geological processes across central Australia, followed dry, braided rivers to their inland deltas, seasonal lakes and waterways, found airport runways, a scrawl of tracks, trails, roads, paths that faded in and out, cattle stations, groups of houses, mines, diggings, scratchings, was amazed at the quantity of signs of human existence in the blankness, more amazed still by the utter beauty of the land, realised it looked a lot like my favourite kind of art and some of the stuff I was doing a while ago, and I was better just to take screenshots than a paintbrush, also that I am unlikely to ever see this land from the ground, and to see it like this, from surveillance satellites mapping the planet down to metre-resolution is something I’ll never experience.

陽明山國家公園 yangming shan

Today I went to 陽明山國家公園 Yangming Shan National Park, a 1/2 hour scooter ride up into the hills north of Taipei. The weather was perfect. Just above zero, windy, the clouds rolling in a wall of heavy mist bringing visibility down to around 10 meters and saturating everything. Besides a blizzard, what more could you ask for?

We got there too late to do the three hour walk to the summit, though the thought of getting caught after dark in such weather made me want to go anyway. Instead we opted for a quick run up 5000 or so steps to 七星公園 Qixing Gongyuan. The weather had scared off everyone except a small stream of old people, and by the time we reached the top we were alone, shrouded in impenetrable mist and wind blowing the coarse long grass flat.