Life decisions… and mountains early in the morning

A few years ago, we were faced with the heavy burden of making one of those decisions that would clearly mark our lives forever. Choosing where to move after Seattle was a task that defied any clear optimization. Though it seemed trivial compared to all other parameters (job, language, city size, music scene, beer quality etc.), being near mountains was a bigger factor to me than I perhaps dared to admit. In retrospect, it’s something I craved the most during the long years moving around the (mountain-less) world — Cairo and Missouri, where I spent a combined 11 years certainly have their charms, but snowy mountain tops are not among them. Spending some time near the Cascades rekindled my love for the outdoors and for the special kind of suffering that brings you to places not accessible to those with less resolve.

Now, with the mountains an easy train ride away, I can head out almost anytime conditions and time allow. In this case, it was early last Wednesday morning. 1000m of beautiful snow and bluebird skies, a few hours with friends and time to be alone with my thoughts during the meditative ski up the mountain. Steep powder-inspired adrenaline. Back at work by lunch-time.

As usual, the full gallery here.

Early morning commuters

Starting out just after sunrise

Sunrise over the Redertengrat, Lachenstock, Zindlenspitz…

The Wägital still enshrouded by fog

Finally in the sun…

Approaching the upper slopes of Fluebrig

Coming on to the ridge with the retreating moon…

Incredible views from the saddle

Going down — in the end, what every tour is about…

And before heading to the office, a final look back

pre-work lake-to-sky adventuring

Abundant snow fall at low altitudes meant that some “special” tours were doable — including Stöcklichrüz, which is a hill above the town of Lachen on the southern end of the Zürisee. What this tour lacks in fun steep slopes it makes up for with the novelty of skiing basically from lake level…!! Good fun, back at work before lunch time…

Full gallery on www.rokroskarphoto.com.

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First skiing of the season — Redertengrat

… this actually happened two weeks ago, but somehow I haven’t found the five minutes I need to post the pictures. We went to the closest awesome place, Wägital with its always-tracked-to-hell Redertengrat. The freshly-coated forest looked spectacular in the diffuse light coming through the fog and it was a lot of fun trying to capture the feeling on camera. With the falling snow and the wind and the crap that got stuck on my lens somewhere in between and the zero visibility it was pretty satisfying. It looks like it might be a yearly tradition to ski this tour in a white out. Always fun but leaves you wanting just a bit more… aching for the next adventure.

Full gallery on rokroskarphoto.com.

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Forbidden City

During my stay in Beijing, I of course had to also visit the Forbidden City, a remarkable place and the center of power in China for several hundred years. I thought I already knew it, having watched The Last Emperor several times when I was growing up. Somehow it made it onto television around the winter holidays a few times. I’m not really sure how to convey my feelings about the sprawling palace complex — timelessness and serenity mixed together with mass-scale tourism and consumerism left me perplexed. At once grandiose and terrible, majestic and despicable.

See the other Beijing galleries and blog posts about streets in Beijing and the Fayuan temple.

throngs of tourists

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looking back out toward Tianenmen squareIMG_6542 IMG_6547 IMG_6552

overflowing

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empty

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colorful roofs

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emeperor’s throne

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selfie with 1000 of my friendsIMG_6583

some roofs are not as manicured as others…IMG_6593 IMG_6594

drawers for jade stampsIMG_6598

residential quarter

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If I had to live in the forbidden city I would live hereIMG_6619 IMG_6622 IMG_6640 IMG_6643 IMG_6648 IMG_6341

New Year’s Day walk about

Šiška – Tivoli – Šiška

short and sweet. 1st day of the new year.

into the park, walking and running

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sleds and sledders

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looking for birds and squirrels

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much needed break with hot chocolate at the center for design

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(these next few at the cafe are taken by my niece Živa)

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always playing

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something comforting about these gray winter days

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(pre) teenage angst

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Tiporenesansa: a print shop in the heart of Ljubljana

Strolling around town and catching the snowflakes, we ran into Marko, an old friend of my sister’s who happened to be walking to his studio… which happens to be a print shop in the heart of Ljubljana. It is stocked with printing presses saved from the tooth of time (slovene phrase, but it fits) by tender love and deep appreciation for the art of typography and printing. Really a remarkable place, check out their website and pay them a visit, maybe learn a thing or two or just enjoy the beautiful space and letters all around you.

(full-size gallery)

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Classroom and studio:DSCF5490 DSCF5486 DSCF5479 DSCF5494

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Machines:

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Art:

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Fayuan temple

I visited Beijing two years ago, but somehow never managed to work through all of the photos I took on the trip. Recently, I was digging through my photo catalog and stumbled across these pictures I took at the Fayuan temple, Beijing’s oldest Buddhist temple. It’s a remarkably serene place, offering an alternate universe to the chaos of the Beijing streets that surround it. The feeling in the temple is not unlike some of the great mosques I remember from my days in Cairo, with worshippers and monks praying and strolling its grounds in quiet contemplation. I was lucky to visit around the time when a worship ceremony was taking place so I could observe the neighborhood pour in and assemble on the temple grounds. The temple is situated inconspicuously in a residential hutong and if it weren’t for its colorful decorated roofs, it would be hard to locate. Fayuan street is also on the border between a historic hutong neighborhood and a re-developed one, giving a casual visitor a quick glimpse of Beijing’s transformation that has slowly swallowed up much of it historic core. Nevertheless, the authorities seem to have recognized the appeal of hutongs and several are now protected (including, I believe, the one surrounding Fayuan temple). Many hutongs are also host to boutique hotels and classy residences interspersed with family dwellings that have existed there for many generations.

(full-size gallery)

Re-developed hutong around the corner from the temple:

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Old hutong:

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New residence inside an old hutong house:IMG_6406

Outside Fayuan temple — the two lions mark the entrance:IMG_6415

Inside Fayuan:

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old and young worshippers:IMG_6439 IMG_6442 IMG_6456 IMG_6458

Community worship:

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