The day after Christmas we drove through the streets of West Belfast until they began to rise to meet the lower slopes of Black Mountain. Not that we could see it. As we reached the last house on the left, where Feargal lives, the fog not only blocked our view of anything above us but also the city we had left behind. So the visibility was poor and the ground was surely to be sodden, after the rain of the previous couple of nights, but we gathered together with Feargal and his friends the mood was good.
Just past the house a river runs beneath the road and there is a sign dedicated to Feargal’s dad Terry, whose poetry has appeared on these pages and who did more than anyone to get access to the Belfast Hills. The story is on Under a Grey Sky here, and sadly Terry died not long after. I never got to meet him, but my dad and Deena did and by all accounts he was a remarkable man. So we were walking in his memory, and that of Feargal’s brother – also called Terry – who was killed in 1998 and who had also loved these hills and the outdoors in general.
The Beelitz Heilstätten stands in the forest some 35 minutes by train south of Berlin’s Zoologischer Garten station. This hospital and sanatorium complex opened in 1898 as one of the biggest tuberculosis clinics anywhere in the world, and by the outbreak of WW1 had developed to include its own power station, water tower, laundry and restaurant, farm and post office. Between the wars it developed even further to occupy over 200 hectares of the forest, and following its use as a military hospital during WW2 it was occupied by Soviet forces until their final withdrawal in 1994.
The Beelitz that we explored earlier this week under soft October sunshine is the crumbling ruins of an almighty complex abandoned with the Soviet retreat and pretty much left to nature and the attentions of (sub-)urban explorers and graffiti artists. The buildings are landmark protected, but the scale of the complex makes it hard to imagine what kind of project could bring life back to these structures in the woods. And so they are left, trees and plants growing on balconies and roof-tops, the buildings slowly being swallowed by the forest as people walk amongst them, for it seems that ruins – and not just of the antique variety – hold an endless fascination for many. Continue reading
We started the walk at Grünau S-Bahn station where the huge tiled mural on the wall reminds you that this is the very edge of Berlin and a land of villas, lakes and forests. On a Sunday morning Berlin is a quiet city, and Grünau especially so… the only signs of life came from the bakery open for bread rolls and weekend tabloids, and a malfunctioning pay-toilet whose doors were opening back and forth.
We walked down to the ferry, and waited for the short journey across the lake to Wendenschloß and its villa colony and out-of-season bathing beach. This stood at the end of the road, where the tarmac turned into a dirt track which led us along the lake past abandoned boat jetties and the foundations of lost buildings before we headed in and up, into the Müggelberg hills that (at around a hundred metres) are the highest natural elevation in Berlin.
Sunday morning in the north of Berlin, starting out along the Panke and through the Soldiner Kiez, the last of the remnants of the New Year’s Eve fireworks – wooden sticks and tubular casings – mingle with the gravel of the footpath. Prinzenallee is quiet, the shops shut and the cafes not yet open. A woman in a headscarf is sweeping the floor of a shisha bar. There is a small queue outside the bakery. A fellow runner nods as he passes. Secret club. Under the bridge and I step over the line of cobblestones. West to East. Welcome to Pankow.
On the first weekend of the year we decided to escape not so much the madness – for that was all reserved for New Year’s Eve and the early hours of the following morning – but the debris and the feeling of the morning after the night before. Outside our apartment on Osloer Straße the street was strewn with firework casings, empty and smashed bottles, piles of grit from the snow flurry earlier in the week, and first of the abandoned Christmas trees, branches drooping and the needles scattered across the pavement.
We caught the S-Bahn from Bornholmer Straße, that famous bridge where the Berlin Wall was first opened and – with its dramatic views south towards the city centre – the venue for one of the larger impromptu firework displays on the 31st December. The half-empty train took us north, through Pankow and towards the suburbs, always close to the Panke river that flows, mostly hidden, by the raised railway tracks. At Karow – still Berlin and yet, with its detached houses and neat village centre, feeling like a place apart – we sought out the river and the route to the Karow ponds.
It took two attempts to visit the Hérisson Falls in the Jura region of France, not far from the Swiss border. On the first day we arrived in torrential rain that had turned the car park into a lake and the footpath up to the falls into a river. We did not even leave the car. A day later and it was still raining, but we tried again, and as we approached the same spot as the day before the sky began to clear and our way to the waterfalls was clear.
Altogether 31 waterfalls and rapids make up the Hérisson, which fall roughly 300 metres in altitude over nearly four kilometres, and to see them – especially after days of rain – is to experience something truly powerful as the water tumbles and falls over the rocks. For over seven hundred years this power had been harnessed by people to help them exploit the natural resources of the regions, including hemp, wood and iron ore. The advent of electricity in the nineteenth century meant that the waterfalls were no longer needed for their raw energy, but became instead a popular destination on the local tourism trail.
By Julia Stone:
Ever since I was a small child my mom has been telling me how great Scotland is, the beauty of the landscapes and the friendly people that she met, and how she really wanted to eat haggis… the delicacy that she missed on her first trip over 35 years ago. So in October we made a trip – her return to Scotland – for our annual mother-daughter journey together.
We step out of the hustle and bustle of Münchner Freiheit and make our way down sleepy side streets until we reach the edge of the Englischer Garten, central Munich’s large park that runs alongside the river north of the city centre. We are at the very edge of winter, wrapped up warm against the cold, the joggers blowing steam along the pathways as dogs chase each other over the frosted grass. As we make our way to the lake at the heart of the park we are frozen in our tracks at the sight of a flock of geese, taking to flight from the grass about half a kilometre away and now flying low in our direction. Instinctively we duck as they pass on the way to the water, the air filled with squawks and squeals and the beating of wings.
By Chris Hughes:
The English Lake District is well known to contain some of the most popular and celebrated landscapes in the UK. There will be as many people who disagree with that statement as do actually agree and no doubt arguments and debates have ranged for many hours over the remains of meals and empty beer glasses as to which landscape is the finest – the Snowdon Horseshoe, The Cuillin Ridge, the Cornish coastline, The Sussex Downs. The choice of the finest landscape is both personal and frequently changes dependent on mood, company and even the weather! But no doubt favourites are places that people will return to time and time again, will enjoy over and over without tiring of seeing and will rejoice in whatever the weather, time of day or company.