Dürnstein

After more than six months break – and a bit of back and waist problems in the meantime – I finally managed to get out on rock again! Could I have picked a more scenic location for the big occasion than Dürnstein in Niederösterreich? Well, probably yes, but certainly not as close to Budapest! Dürnstein is ca. 80 kms from Vienna, it’s an old little village lying at the Danube, with impressive rock towers and a castle ruin which was built around the rocks.

It’s situated in the Wachau, a lovely area with lots of things to do: one can climb, hike, or bike along the Danube bike trail (Donauradweg) which takes you all the way to the Black Forest or the Black Sea, depending on which direction you go. 🙂 For those who desire for less activity and more culture there are plenty of old churches, castles and ruins to visit, and for the wine lovers, the place is famous for its lovely wines! But you can even decide to take a nice boat trip along the Danube and enjoy the sights along the way.

This time, we didn’t go there for the biking or the culture but we went to try the nice gneiss towers. Wachau offers many opportunities for beginners and experts alike, for the sports climbers and the trad climbers, from one pitch to more than 15 pitches. We stuck with the one pitch s easier grade sports routes, which were all slabs. This was the first time we tried gneiss and we just loved it! Even though the area is very frequented, the friction of the rock was perfect! Amazingly enough, our feet stayed where we had placed them and soon we started to trust them and stopped our desperate search for handholds which were not so easy to find. I’m sure we will be back soon for the harder and longer routes!

Home Sweet Home!

After having spent 9 months in beautiful Romania I finally arrived home a month ago to start in a new position with my old company. The original plan was I would stay a year but there were some changes and I was offered this new position and asked to come home earlier. No matter how much I loved Romania and Bucharest I was happy to return to my family and the doggy friends!!!

So after settling in and arranging this and that I’m finally back to “normal”, the time spent in Romania seems like a wonderful dream now. Sometimes I have the feeling that I never left home.

It was wonderful to spend the holidays with my family and be out again in the Hungarian Puszta and hills. We didn’t make too big fuss about it this year as the kids had to study hard for their exams. So we had a quiet Christmas time and an even quieter New Year’s Eve. But we had a wonderful guest!!! As we knew we couldn’t travel anywhere because of the exams, we took care of a baby Border Collie, Skipper, whose owners had left for a 3 weeks holiday. Though he is only 6 months old, he is already bigger than our two old doggy friends!

He has enormous energy so we took him along to our Christmas and New Year’s walks. Our Christmas Walk took us into the Hungarian Puszta in wonderful weather. Everyone enjoyed the walk but I think it was Skipper who enjoyed it the most! He was running up and down and I could hardly catch him with the camera, he was moving so fast! The Puszta was beautiful, fortunately we had some leftover of snow, I just love when it’s white, which was only part of the case now.

On our way I spotted a huge black bird sitting on the top of a tree in the distance. I just couldn’t believe how the thin branches could hold this huge bird!!! This picture was taken with full zoom.

Then at home I enlarged the picture and I realized it was not one but two birds!! One of them I could recognize myself, it was a magpie. For the other one, I had to ask for the help of Istvan: he told me it was a common buzzard! They are really common in Hungary, a lot of them can be seen sitting on poles along motorways.

But it wasn’t only Skipper who was a happy boy during the walk, Gulyas enjoyed it as well, only in a different way!

 

We took another walk to end the year in a nice way: we went to our favourite mountain area called Börzsöny to take a wonderful ridge walk in an equally wonderful weather. It was kind of hard for me in the beginning to get back into shape, I had to realize I got lazy in Romania! So while the kids and the dogs were having a great time, I was trying to keep up the pace, huffing like a steam engine! But it was worth it, I let the pictures tell the rest!

 

Budapest Marathon

The Budapest Marathon is very popular as it has a beautiful route along both banks of the Danube and across several of the beautiful bridges. This year there were supposedly 16,000 people taking part, more than 4,000 running the entire distance. The start lasted more than 9 minutes!

You can run the whole marathon, run it in a relay of 3 or 5, choose the 30K or the 7.5K distance. As I’m not fit enough to run the whole distance alone – and I would never have the time to prepare either – I had the idea to run the relay. To have a family team. So we decided with Jenna and Gabor to enter as a team of 3.

The first distance was 11.4K and Jenna did it in 1:06. Here you can see Jenna and Gabor before the start.

And here’s Jenna coming in to the first relay place. She is just emerging from under the Chain Bridge.

After she had given the chip to Gabor he shot off to his 21.4K distance. I ran it 2 years ago and this is the nicest part as you run on both sides of the river and you cross 2 of the beautiful bridges.

Gábor starting off

While waiting for Gabor to return we took pictures of each other with the Buda Castle and the Chain Bridge as background.

Jenna after the run – she doesn’t look too tired
Dalma before the run so no wonder she doesn’t look tired – yet

Gabor came in after 2 hours and 18 minutes and gave me the chip so I could start the last part which was the shortest, 9.4K. For a while we ran along the river then took it into the city towards the start/finish. It took me 58 minutes so we did a 4:24 Marathon.

The kids loved the race, the atmosphere was just superb. There were street musicians setting the pace, here you can see a percussion band:

And there were a lot of people supporting, some of them were distributing refreshments like orange slices. I took this picture of English supporters for the blog.

Maybe one day I will run the whole distance alone, it’s never too late to start. I think this year the oldest runner (who ran the entire distance) was 77!

Bucovina

Bucovina is a territory in the North-Eastern part of Romania and it’s famous for its painted monasteries that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage. I wanted to go and see them a long time ago but to do this long drive (460 km from Bucharest) alone wasn’t very appealing. So I convinced Judit to come with me; it was an easy job!

The painted monasteries were built mostly in the 15th-16th centuries and they exhibit a unique architecture and painting style both on the inner and the outer walls. It’s amazing how well some of the outside paintings were preserved withstanding the weather for all those centuries.

Humor Monastery (1530-1535)

The paintings show scenes from the Bible and they are like comic strips telling stories.

Stories on the walls of Voronet Monastery
Heaven and Hell: the angels and devils fight for the souls

The outside walls were painted because after a while the congregation was too large to fit into the church for the services. Even today, people stay and pray outside during the service. The dome of the church was built in a unique way as well to give the church special acoustic qualities so the sermon could be heard outside as well. Today the special acoustics is helped by loudspeakers!

The Monastery of Voronet (1488) is one of the most beautiful ones!

Voronet Monastery

Outside the monastery we met some nice doggies but they were very lazy!

Lazy but very cute dogs – stray dogs are all over the country

The Bucovinian landscape is also very beautiful, too bad we didn’t have more time to take some walks!

When we stopped to take pictures of the landscape a friendly face was watching us.

We also stopped in Suceava, the main city of the area. It once was the capital of Moldova. Today it is the capital of the county of the same name. It has a nice village museum showing how peasants lived in the old days.

Judit on the veranda of a Bucovinian peasant house

Murderer!

Judit, my Hungarian colleague, who works now in Amsterdam is here in Bucharest on a project. During the week we work together and in the weekends we travel to explore the beauties of Romania.

Last weekend we drove a long way up North to see a beautiful lake and an impressive gorge. The lake is called Lacu Rosu (Red Lake) in Romanian but the Hungarian name is Gyilkos tó (Murderer Lake). It was formed in the early 19th century by a major landslide. According to the legend the landslide buried a shepherd with his entire flock and his dog and their blood painted the lake red. Hence the name in both languages.

The lake is not red and it’s rather peaceful.

Red (Murderer) Lake

Over the years the trees that were standing in the water for a long time got rotten away and fell down. Today only the stumps of their trunks stick out of the water. The ducks like them!

So the lake can be called murderer as it has killed quite a few nice trees.

From the lake we went on towards Bucovina through the Bicaz Gorge which is a very impressive gorge formed by the Bicaz creek. It is one of the most popular climbing places in Romania, many Hungarian climbers visit it as well. Many routes start almost from the roadside. Unfortunately, Judit doesn’t climb so all I could do is watch the huge walls with my mouth open and take plenty of pictures.

Bicaz Gorge with the ‘Preacher’s Stool’ in the background. Lots of climbing routes go up to the peak

Just looking up made me feel dizzy

A Nice Weekend in Varna

Two weeks ago I decided to visit the Bulgarian seaside near Varna. It is only 260 km from Bucharest and its beach called Golden Sand is a very popular seaside resort. And it’s super cheap, too!
So I had the luxury of a 4 star hotel with sea view and a nice, warm and sunny weather.
I always prefer holidays in the mountains but now as I caught sight of the endless blue water and the peacefully foaming waves I had to grin like a kid.

Golden Sand Beach, Varna, Bulgaria
Peaceful sea
Grinning like a kid

I took a long walk along the beach and couldn’t escape noticing that everything here is set for German tourists. They even had a nudist beach, sorry, no pictures!

Trabi-table in the Beerkönig
The Bierkönig himself!

I saw some pretty interesting sculptures on the beach:

Shower on the Beach
Kats!
I guess the head was originally on the neck

Some beach painters were working hard, this one on a cat picture!

There’s a lively night life as well, the lights are cool and I could even watch a fire acrobat, who dropped one of his torches and an Elvis double! He was funny!!

Bulgarian Elvis!
Caution, fire!!!
Nightlife on Golden Sand

Holiday With Doggies – Part 2,
Dolomites and Venice

It’s not only Terry and Bernie who fancied the Dolomites this summer. Jenna, Gábor, Gulyás, Nudli and Dalma also went there but for them, it was the very first time in their lives!
We didn’t have many days of nice weather but I think we used it well. We had time for some nice walks and slacklining.

We also did some cragging near Passo Falzarego

Jenna in a nice route near the road towards Passo Falzerego

And some multi pitch climbing on Cinque Torri. While Mum (Dalma) was watching the doggies Jenna and Gabor went on a nice climb on Torre Inglese.
Here you see Gabor starting up

The view from top. Bad weather is coming in
Happy couple on the top
Waiting at the chairlift bar, Mum amused herself with taking pictures of the towers

When the weather turned bad and we didn’t want to spend another night at the Cortina campsite in the pouring rain we all moved down to Venice. Here we spent a lovely afternoon and evening just escaping the rain before we started our long journey back home.

St Mark’s Square with some low hanging clouds

Jenna and Gulyás in the sunset
Dinner!
Full Moon in Venice

All of us were sick and tired of the long drive in the car but the doggies who traveled like kings!

Gulyás has no problems with traveling

Nudli enjoying the trip

Holiday With Doggies – Part 1, Arco

This summer I planned our holiday to Lake Como (Lecco) with the kids. The kids, on the other hand, planned a holiday to Lake Garda (Arco) with me. Jenna did her climbing course there two years ago and she got to like the place very much.

Besides, she wanted to buy new rock shoes in Vertical Spirit where we remembered there was great variety and friendly prices.
She picked a nice colour 5.10, she says they hold her even when she thinks she steps on air. (The colour wasn’t a dliberate choice though!!!)

Jenna has new rock shoes!

So this is how it happened that we chose Arco as our first destination and somehow got stuck there!

Some say the rock is polished around Arco but if you are willing to drive a bit you can find really great places that are not so frequented as everyone stays near Arco. And the walk-ins are really short too!
Most of the great areas are north of Arco, around Ponte Arche. The first day we went to Molveno S. Antonio, which is just above a lake and has some neat little sports routes. Gabor fell in love with the first route he could see which was a funny 6a+ called 4×4. The funny part about it was that there were some extra holds (of rock) screwed on the rock! Even funnier is that Jenna never used them so I have really no idea why they had to be put on …

Gabor in 4×4 – he seemed to welcome the extra screwed-on hold!

Croz de la Niere is another nice crag we visited North of Arco. Here we proved that it is not only the English who can be crazy enough to climb in the full noon sunshine. Needless to say we had the entire crag to ourselves!

Driving home the GPS took us to some really exposed, steep, extra narrow and winding forest road and we all agreed that driving there was scarier than any lead climbing the two had done that day! Indeed, my adrenaline level was the highest here during our entire holiday!!! And in the end it proved to be the wrong way so I had to turn around and do the whole thing downwards as well!

Massone is a large sports climbing area with many sectors very near to Arco so it was more frequented and also quite polished. But this didn’t stop Jenna from declaring it her favourite place as the routes were really great. We even met a Russian group so I could practice my Russian which I had to learn in school in the good old communist era, and also some Polish climbers! Ha-ha, the place was really “Polished”!!!

“Polished” rock

This Polish guy soloed up his way in a 5a route climbing like a cat to carry up the rope for his little boy. Unfortunately, the picture was taken only when he was already being lowered down.

Jenna in one of the nice routes at Massone
Even pigeons like the Massone crag

One day, after a huge thunderstorm we visited Riva del Garda a really beautiful town in the Northern corner of lake Garda.

Dalma trying to pose for a nice picture with Nudli but she pulls her out of balance

Romantic walk in Riva del Garda

Another area we liked very much – and were totally alone at the crag was Spormaggiore. It was closer to Trento and we visited it on our way to the Dolomites so it is really the beginning of another story.

Jenna in a fine crack route at Spormaggiore