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Since 2005, I've been keeping a nature journal, and I brought it along to Europe for the Helsinki and Barcelona programs. Below is the entire relevant section of the journal. It's set up just like the nature journal section of my Switzerland website: by default, HTML transcriptions of the pages load initially, and these allow text search and guarantee legibility. However, you can also click on any of the pages to see scans of the original journal pages, which include several large sketches. One click gives you a somewhat condensed 75dpi scan; if you click again you get a scan twice as zoomed-in, at 150dpi. Click a third time to return to the HTML transcription. You can also:
In the transcriptions, roll over underlined passages to see further explanation. Also, there are many references in these journal entries to places and things well-represented by photographs on this site. In such cases I have provided links that make said photographs pop up on the page.
F 2/6 7:20 PM, Baltic Sea, ferry from Korppoo to Utö; a few degrees below freezing, but not that cold, heavy snowfall; near [full moon]?
I've been in Finland, and specifically in Helsinki, for two weeks now, having arrived on Jan. 23. Helsinki is a great city to explore and there's a lot to say about the built environment that I will probably write more about after we get back there. I'm living on the island (almost a peninsula) of Katajanokka on the eastern side of the city with Brian Watzin and Jonathan Parker. Katajanokka has
just some sketching to warm up for an architecture sketch exercise [sketch of windows in rooms etc]
a fascinating mix of Jugendstil apartment blocks, newer blocks (which is where we live), long maritime commercial buildings, the Uspenski Cathedral, the old naval barracks, and the former jail turned into a hotel. It's really great to have the water and the city in such close contact in so many places.
Currently, though, we are on our way to the remote island of Utö to see & investigate our project sites and to do lots of drawing for the Primary Images course, which is what I'm sketching for there ← and which I'm really glad to be doing. We took a bus from Helsinki to near Turku and then another out over some islands – getting on a ferry for part of the way – to get to the Korppoo terminal. It was very interesting seeing the countryside on the way; the evergreen/birch forests and granite cuts really reminded me of NH and Maine, as did the farmland and even the farm buildings, sometimes to a remarkable extent, which makes me wonder how much NNE farm buildings are influenced by building practices imported by Nordic immigrants. Some very long vistas through fields reminded me both of Williamstown (like the Oblong/Sloan area) and maybe the Emmental (webpage link) or Appenzell (ditto). It was also cool to go thru and stop at the town of Salo, which looks in terms of building scale & configuration a lot like small road town in, likewise, NNE. On the ferry, it's been snowing heavily, though that seems to have switched over to light rain, and we've stopped at several snowy islands on the way lit by just a few high-discharge lights at their docks. Very atmospheric. More to come as we explore Utö.
S 2/7 1:50 PM, Utö hostel, probably mid-40s°F outside, foggy, windy on S side of island but calm and mild here on the north side; ~[full moon]. Today we hiked around most of the island in the morning, and then I went running on pretty much all the paths I could find, which only added up to 21 minutes; but it was fantastic because it was mild enough to go in T-shirt and shorts, which was admittedly bracing but really was sufficient, as I broke a good sweat during the run. Utö is very rocky but has lovely areas of grass and heath covering the more interior areas. The village is quite small, since the population is only 40–50 or so, and is very attractive, with pretty much all the buildings painted in red ochre, with often white trim, and the public WC has black doors, which look great in combo with the red walls. And of course the
lighthouse, with its split white/red paint job, sitting at the height of land, is pretty spectacular. The large granite rocks making up the walls are clearly visible even though mortared together and painted over. We went to the south end of the island to see the pavilions built by last year's class, and they were really neat to be in and around. The various abandoned and now explorable military fortifications there are really cool too. The animals we've seen include 2 swans, 2 beagles, a black lab, a Chesapeake retriever, and two cats, one of whom was very friendly and seems to hang out at the hostel area, and the other of whom taunted the beagles and lab from beyond their fence and sent them into a tizzy. The landscape and air are wonderful and I almost feel like I could live here permanently as long as I could remain connected to the outside world by internet. We'll see how it is after 9 days more, of course. With luck I'll get out a fair amount to sketch in here.
M 2/9 3PM sitting on a rock slab by the shore west of the hostel, Utö; sunny, almost totally clear; temp somewhere around freezing; constant high S wind (coming from my left & threatening to throw the journal wide open); just past [full moon], which we saw last night; yesterday there was intermittent spattering rain, but after class, when it was almost dark out, I could see a lighter break under the clouds just over the western horizon, and then later it cleared to discrete cumuli and was (I got lots of pretty incredible photos last night) still like that today, and it has now gotten almost totally clear. The visibility was further yesterday, but now it's extremely far, and small islands can be seen all along the horizon, dozens of them.
[shoreline sketch] ← looking sunward; only time for this contour, classtime now (actually snack time then classtime; also hands numbing, mittens making writing difficult
W 2/11 5:50 pm sitting out on the point to the SW of the hostel main building, west of the towers. ← kind of raw; unusual E wind; [waning gibbous moon] This is the first time I've been here and it's pretty neat because to the south is a long inlet separating this from the western military reserve, and the close island is to the north rather than to the west as it is from Monday's location. Yesterday there were several times where the sun was out or at least almost out and it was also snowing heavily; on north face of rocks there's still a dusting left. Too cold hands to draw anything right now.
[south shore sketch]
↑ S 2/14 Utö 12–1 PM, large rock promontory just SE of lighthouse, E of basket. Stratocumulus sky, soft cool light, light breeze from NE, probably ~25°F. [waning gibbous moon] ↑Looking south, toward the sun.
The site for our project, in the eastern restricted zone, is very pretty, with lots of open areas of different sizes among the rocks, plus bunkers and cannons. This spot here, though, is special to me because it vividly reminds me of looking out over the ocean from the turrets of Whale Bay Battery. — the grand sky, the microtextures of the sea waves, the elevated perspective. It's very peaceful today right now because of the relatively still air; the only other sounds besides breeze and this marker writing are the constant motor sounds, fairly quiet, rotating the radars, and a bunch of birds twittering downhill to the southeast.
It's been wonderful to spend this week here in such a peaceful place and I am very much looking forward to returning in May to what will probably be a beautiful environment.
T 3/24 Oulu 5AM, on the train to Rovaniemi, early dawn (!), clear, probably −10–20°C out, [moon phase unknown]
I'm on the way to Lapland with six others; we will be spending 5 days there, and to get there we're on this night train to Rovaniemi. I was sleeping intermittently for a few hours and then woke up to see that it was light out and that we were passing through a town, and sure enough about a minute later the Oulu stop was announced. It's pretty exciting to begin to be able to see the surroundings with day breaking, after only seeing artificial lighting before, and also to have the dawn breaking seemingly so early, although admittedly I'm not quite sure when it's happening in Helsinki now. The days have lengthened enormously and gratifyingly since returning from Utö, and of course it's now past the spring equinox. I think the sunny days have been more frequent recently, and most of the snow was melted off the streets by yesterday, although then it was snowing again just as we were departing. Since the Utö trip →
I've done a number of long runs up to the north of Helsinki, so that I've gotten acquainted with places like Vallila, Sörnäinen, Käpylä, and Pasila, whereas I probably wouldn't have gotten there at all (except, oddly enough, passing through on this train last night) were it not for these runs. Käpylä in particular is quite interesting; from Koskenlantie, which was the first aspect I saw of it a good while ago, you see the open-grid Olympic village blocks, which to my surprise, at least on the beautiful sunny day when I saw them, seemed very pleasantly sited. This was due in part I think to the terrain rising across the lots up away from K:tie. Then, this past Saturday (the day after midreview for studio), I explored Käpylä quite a bit, boustrophedoning through the streets, and passing through Puu-Käpylä, the older wood-built garden city development, which is fascinating because its street façades are slightly forbidding because of their small windows, but with a significant air of rustic elegance - barnboarded siding with little classical details extending from the windows, with the walls painted in reds, browns, and yellows, all subdued. Pohjolantie was relatively straight and flat with these, so it was quite formal, but then there were deep gardens behind the houses on each side, while Pellervontie had more vertical & horizontal twists, with more variety in building size though still the same style, which made its character much more tumbledown. Then the later streets had masonry buildings, including the Olympic village buildings. I cut through two areas of allotment gardens on the way back to Hämeentie, which really caught me by surprise; it's really cool that they're there. They're in the middle of an almost entirely unbuilt area, which is quite beautiful, and was especially so at the sunset time when I was going through. The enormous shiny complex up Hämeentie toward Toukola was shining orange in the sun.
We've been on our way again from Oulu for a while, heading towards Kemi, but we sat there for 35 minutes. No wonder this ride takes 12 hours. Now we're in wilderness, among the evergreens, but we also passed by more of Oulu, including a lovely fog-threaded bay that we crossed on an iron bridge. I hope to report here maybe every day on this trip.
W 3/25 8:30PM, Inari (Vasatokka); mostly clear, horizon cirrus, cold (15°F?) ←actually −17°C = 1°F. Ok. [moon phase unknown] (probably newish).
[small sketch] ← twilight horizon clouds
Lovely late afternoon/early twilight drive from Rovaniemi to Inari, past lots of deep woods and lakes, of course; the woods were often somewhat low-density of trees so that one could see very far into them.
Last night, about 11, I went outside to check for aurora borealis, and sure enough, there it was, fairly faint but perfectly visible, in an arc from approximately west to north. → [sketch] It shifted around a bit, sometimes fading, sometimes sharpening; near the ends at the horizon it stayed mostly diffuse and was sharper higher in the sky, often with two bands, the larger on top. At one point a third band under the other two, at more of a distance, formed in discrete patches, which was pretty exciting.
Today we rented skis from Vasatokka, the compound where we're staying, and skied from Inari (SIIDA, specifically) to the Piempajärvi church, in the woods by the Piempajärvi lake, about 7.5 km from the start. We did quite a bit of skiing on the very thoroughly frozen lakes,
including about a mile on Inarijärvi and also quite a way on Piempajärvi, from end to end. The weather was clear and warm enough to be very comfortable without starting to thaw the snow, the texture of which was basically perfect on the pressed trail, dry and dense. The distance of views on Inarijärvi was pretty spectacular. The woods had many lovely sights, particularly in mixes of land and water. The terrain was either flat (on the lakes & rivers) or of a very gentle slope, except for one or two places; there was one ridge (esker, maybe?) that we had to get over, and it was steep enough, despite a short height, to make it all but impossible to avoid wiping out.
The church itself is a wonderful old wooden church, built 1760, very rustic, with unpainted exterior boards except for a red ochre bell tower. Inside the wood was painted gray within the sanctuary, unpainted in the tower. The ceiling of the sanctuary was a set of shallow round vaults that met → [sketch], as did the wood floor → [sketch], at the center of the cross. There were some neat tie-beams and diminutive stairs leading up to galleries. In the tower a gap in the outside door was letting a tiny bit of sun in, which lit up the room quite a bit. Up the stairs, exposed structure was visible, including beams just above the level of the round-log floor, and then another stairway going up to a platform that I think is the actual bell area, although I unlike some of the others didn't venture up there. A tall red ochre picket fence surrounded the church tightly, but there was still room for a path in the snow all the way around the church, which I walked around. Some wood columns formed the gate of the fence. There were some really beautiful simple details like a radiating square medallion with maybe a circle inside, rather helioform, in the center of all the tower faces; and a thin metal spire atop the tower.
The church sits at the back or one corner of a large open area separated from the lake by a thin screen of trees; we ate lunch at a cabin, built 1966, it said in the gable, with a fireplace (which Vac successfully lit a fire in), closer to the water,
with on another edge of the clearing. There was an outhouse and a few other outbuildings nearby. On the way back I stayed at the rear for most of the way, stopping frequently to take a picture, so even though my pace was faster when I was going than the others', I avoided overtaking them; the sun was lower and the afternoonness was very strong. After we got back to Vasatokka we took sauna and jumped (or dipped, rather) in the Muddusjärvi lake that we are on the shore of, which was bracing and felt great, and it was during a beautiful ruddy-brownish twilight glow. Tonight perhaps more aurora watching, with luck.
5:30 PM, above Bugøynes, Norway, ~20°F, sunny & clear, v. slight breeze, ~[new moon]. This is an epic landscape. Bugøynes is a small village on a bay of the Arctic Ocean, in Finnmark. There are mountains, a glacier, fjords, and the open sea in the distance. We've continued lucking out on the weather; the aurora was faint but again present last night. As soon as we got toward the Finnish-Norwegian border, the landscape changed from
boreal forest (where we saw quite a few reindeer, which was very cool) to tundra, and from rolling & laky to mountainous terrain. Thence it was a grand journey, lasting into late twilight, before we arrived. The village is on a seemingly partially reclaimed neck connecting the mainland to a rocky outcropping, the summit of which I'm sitting on right now. Lots of gulls, and we got to see the famed king crabs in a research facility that we toured with the Russian scientists who are currently stationed there; we all got to hold the massive (~2' incl. legs) largest one of them all. Anyway, sauna is imminent and I'm cold, but in summary I can see why people like Norway – it's like the Alps, but with the added grandeur of the open horizon of the ocean, which makes it pretty overwhelming.
F 4/3 8:20/7:20 PM, on the Silja Symphony from Helsinki to Stockholm. Overcast with some pink on the horizon; very windy on deck (can hear the whistling thru the doors on floor 12 down here on floor 11), maybe mid-40s°F outside, or about 50. ~[first quarter moon]. (Saw the very new moon after sunset, later twilight after sauna, the evening of the previous entry.) (← and it's a week later now, so I guess it has to be [waxing slightly gibbous moon].) I'm sitting in a windowseat next to the generous stairwells. The ship is really quite nice and much more pleasant than I had thought in my mind's eye from what people had said; it of course reminds me strongly of the Royal Caribbean cruise in summer 2001 that I took with the Ocean Bowl team. I'm snacking on some berry snacks and mint chocolates that I got from the tax-free store and it's really quite decadent. Right now it seems to be just open sea out the port side, but there are ships visible near the horizon, with lots of lights. It was lovely to see a somewhat elevated view of Helsinki, and to pass by Katajanokka and Suomenlinna — indeed, very close to Suomenlinna — we had to go thru quite a narrow mouth between it and another island.
Today was I'm pretty sure the warmest weather yet of the semester, well above 10°C and thus 50°F in Helsinki. I went for a run in T-shirt and shorts and was very warm - it was also full sun. Of course there were a lot of people out enjoying it, but everyone still had coats and, more surprisingly, hats in many cases, on. The ground is now open in many areas and spring has definitely arrived, which I'm glad of.
Up in Norway last week, it was still hard winter, of course, and the dipping in the Arctic Ocean during sauna was very bracing; but at least there wasn't deep snow on the way there, indeed the beach part was open. And, of course, with the twilight straight ahead and the mountainous terrain to the left and in the distance, and with the surface of the water reflecting all of it, it was absolutely beautiful to get into the water. The sauna, on a shotgun plan in relation to the water, is really neat itself, with a roofed porch facing the water and a pitched roof visible inside the dressing room & sauna. The drive the next morning, along the Varanger fjord and then down the Tana river & thru Utsjoki, was also unbelievable, just one majestic view of the water and mountains after another. (Oh, another thing about that night, though: we saw perhaps the best yet northern lights on the way over to Elsa's house (where we had a nice extended chat with her and her sister and brother-in-law, which was a great time.))
→ Aside: now in the later twilight (8:50/7:50), the moon is visible high up – the overcast is very thin now – and indeed it is [waxing gibbous moon].
Anyway, the coastal drive was incredible, and the Norwegian interior was very pretty as well. Once we crossed back in Finland, it quickly got flatter & forestier again, which was a bit of a letdown after the Norwegian landscape for a while, but I've since resumed appreciating it. The two bridges we went over the Tana on are quite impressive. In Inari
we had just the right timing to see a reindeer racing bonanza on the Inarijärvi. The jockeys stand on skis behind the reindeer, holding the reins, and the reindeer go incredibly fast, like horse speed; it's quite something to see. They raced on linear tracks, a drag race. There was a big pen of reindeer who were racing; the ones who had raced (they were all young males) were sleepy, and the ones who hadn't were anxious. We got to pet one. It was windy and the sun was a bit veiled by cirrostratus, so it was bitterly cold.
On the way to the train, I was awake from Tampere on, and had a great time seeing the towns & farms on the way from there. Lots of agriculture and very nice farm buildings, oft reminiscent of Switzerland's; Tampere had great Jugend buildings; I saw the Hämeen Linna as we went through Hämeenlinna. Yesterday, meanwhile, which again was a somewhat warm day, tho cooler than today, we all went to Hämeenlinna, mainly to see a piano recital by Grigory Sokolov (which was excellent); but we went early enough to be able to see the main church, the art museums in the cultural center where the concert was, and, best of all, the Hämeen Linna itself, which is magnificent, full of wonderful indoor and outdoor spaces, lots of steep paths and deep windows and nooks and tunnels, and staircases. In a chapel within the inner tower some of us harmonized in sung chords and basked in the 5+ second reverberation time. The quality of light coming in the window was intense and lovely. The palimpsest of the time-layered walls and the remains of vaults and so on was very powerful as well. It made me want to live there, and it also makes me really excited to see Gamla Stan in Stockholm.
S 4/5 11PM. Jyväskylä, Omena Hotelli (rm 213); ~5–10°C, clear, twilight [wonderful long light by now], [moon phase unknown] This is the third day of the Southern Finland excursion, going thru Turku, Tampere, and here, with a number of side destinations. The weather has been completely ideal – sunny the whole time and warm, getting into the 60s or, today, pretty much to 70. It's been a superb trip so far; we've seen Paimio Sanatorium, Turku Castle (Turun Linna), Bryggman's Church of the Resurrection, Rauma old town, Tampere Cathedral, Villa Mairea, and Petäjävesi Church so far, among a number of other things, and all have been very powerful. Villa Mairea and Petäjävesi are probably the biggest highlights so far, their outdoor context being of course a great part of their appeal. Also, seeing the countryside along the way has been really something, especially the western more agricultural areas, where the fields are gray-tan and somewhat desolate still, not yet having greened up, but with that sort of vast, fresh Great Plains feel that I encounter in dreams or daydreams sometimes and find very moving. Another highlight, now that I think of it, was the old sauna in Tampere, which is a masonry building with an outdoor cafe right next to it. Sitting outside to cool down, looking up at the worked-over texture of the sauna's gable wall, with
the early twilight sky above it, I felt like I could have stayed right there for hours; it reminded me of Engadin evenings spent outside. I'm really looking forward to Säynätsalo Town Hall and Aalto's Experimental House tomorrow.
Stockholm and Tallinn were wonderful too, but I'll be quick about them since I'd like to get to bed presently (wish I'd written about them on, say, the respective boat rides back). Before getting to Stockholm, my favorite buildings there from pictures were Riddarholmskyrkan and Stadshuset, so I made a point of visiting them; I explored on my own to both in the evening and the sight of the opposite shore with glittering reflections on the water through the Stadshuset loggia and thru the front portal was stunning, as was the courtyard of Stadshuset, with the added mystery it had at night. I was very glad to have had that as my first impression, as we took a tour of it the next morning when it was gray and sprinkling, although it was still very interesting to see inside. Riddarholmskyrkan was very impressive too, but not to quite the same degree, just because it wasn't lit at all at night, so it was hard to see, and then the next morning when I went back, it was getting towards rain, though there was a bit of sun; it would have been nice to see it in full sun the previous day. But that day instead we had seen Skogskyrkogården, which was of course a tour de force, as well as Leverentz's St. Mark's Church, also very powerful and lovely, and the central Public Library, where the sun came through the top circle of windows in a rather ancient way, and Gamla Stan, which was [didn't finish the sentence]. Then, leaving [early?] the next afternoon offered hours and hours of observation along the Swedish coastline, with many lovely farms, trees, and rocks, culminating in a beautiful drawn-out sunset. To stay warm (it had been shorts weather in the city, though cooler than here now) while out watching the coastline and sunset, I stood against huge air exhaust panels, which worked quite well.
Tallinn I will be very quick on; basically, the old town is ridiculously medievally rich in fine-grained spaces, and it seemed to offer endless little lanes and unexpected overlooks. The walls of the old city, conversely, are quite a sight from below.
[Utö offshore sketch]
N 5/17 9:50 PM, Utö, rock west of hostel. (↑view) The sun is still a ways above the horizon, though moving fast. We just finished unloading the wood & equipment for the benches & stairs. (Light breeze, mostly clear except for some distant high clouds, ~55°F, [moon phase unknown]) It's unbelievably nice to be back, with the soft weather, the fantastic late light, and the birds all over the place, flying around and making a bunch of different noises. Helsinki, which I have departed from for the last time this semester, has been getting lovely for the past couple of weeks, with trees leafing out, the weather warming up, etc. Also, for a while now, there
have been gray nights, and (maybe blue nights is more apt a term) it's been totally fascinating to watch the twilight travel across the north before it brightens into dawn. A notable exploration that was just last week was to Nuuksio National Park in Espoo with Matt and James. I hadn't known about it at all, but it's a wonderful place, very hilly, very alpine-feeling, with lakes/ponds interspersed, and beautiful woods, with moss and rocks, and diverse tree zones. It really reminded me of Switzerland and makes me all the more excited to get back to ZERNEZ where I will be staying three nights on the way to BARCELONA. Next time I'm in Helsinki I think I'll try to spend the whole month of June there or something, and make sure to come back to Utö as well.
R 5/28 9PM (church bell just began ringing), Zernez, bench between the churches; mostly ragged overcast, slight alpenglow in places with bits of blue sky, breezy, ~55°F, [waxing crescent moon] (saw it last night just before & while it set along the western mountain; the dark part of the orb was visible; quite amazing). Quick for now because it's sprinkling slightly, but anyway, it's absolutely stunning to be back; the air has been super-clear (although I've had some sniffles, maybe a mild allergy; or maybe a very light cold) and fresh (actually maybe more fresh than clear – often there's been pollen and seed-fluff around, which make for gorgeous crepuscular rays when the sun is near the mountains), and although the forecast had said it might rain all Tuesday and yesterday, it actually only rained Tuesday, and it was lovely yesterday. I guess this pen is running out so I will continue this back in my hostel room at the Bär-Post. [Upvalley sketch] OBERENGADIN DIESE RICHTUNG↑ CLOUDS BEARING DOWN ON MOUNTAIN→ MOUNTAINS HAVE MUCH MORE SNOW LEFT THAN LAST TIME→ (P.S. 11:20 PM in the hostel: never mind, too sleepy & it's too late to write more now; will try to go step-by-step thru Utö and the trip southwest once I'm ensconced in Barcelona.)
N 7/26 5:30PM, Mirador de l'Alcalde, Montjuïc, Barcelona; cloudless sky, ~25°C, nice breeze, palm shade right here; [waning crescent moon]. Well, I certainly intended to return to this earlier, but oh well. Anyway, Barcelona is a spectacular place, especially these spots elevated up above the city, Montjuïc and Tibidabo. I've been running a lot here and have had the most opportunity thereby to explore the open spaces; this Mirador, with its incredible mosaic terraces, was one of the first places I discovered on Montjuïc besides the Castell, which I went inside for the first time today. There's seemingly infinitely more to Montjuïc though, such as all the Olympic facilities, the cultural things like the 1929 Expo grounds (including the Palau Nacional and Mies's German Pavilion, and the Fundació Joan Miró, and endless gardens (including the city's botanical gardens, which I haven't seen yet and may have run out of time to). The lushness of the gardens, the semitropical plants, the grass slopes, and the interesting hardscapes all remind of Bermuda quite a bit. The area around and in the Castell is drier and more Mediterranean, like Igualada, where we went to see Miralles's masterful cemetery; both these places are like the cliffier, drier parts of Bermuda, too; Igualada also reminded me of Stowe, particularly the dry heat of the alpine slide slope as experienced from the chairlift. (Ring doves are cooing in a nearby place and sometimes fly down to the fountain terrace pool to get a drink. Pigeons just did the same. The fountain noise, some people sounds, helicopters, and a couple of
rounds of ship horns are the other main sounds.)
The only time I've been to Tibidabo was last weekend, when I ran up to the top. It was a long expedition, turning out to be over 13 miles, and it took me through some impassable deep woods for a few minutes (had to turn around) and then up narrow but workable trails in meadows or thinner evergreen woods on the way up, during which time I also spotted a couple of wild boars (at separate times), and way around on the highways and through Vallvidera on the way back down, after dark mostly by then. The summit afforded a panorama of the city and the sea and also of a great distance inland on the other side including Montserrat, which was right under the center of the sunset. (I'd seen Montserrat closer up on the way to & from Igualada, which was quite incredible too.)
The trip to Amsterdam was also great. The countryside seen while traveling from & to Schiphol, and to & from Rotterdam, was of course almost entirely flat, strewn with canals, and seemingly quite compact, somehow, maybe because of the long sightlines. The weather on Monday, the first day, was best – bracing, fresh, and cool — quite fall-like — and it accentuated the beauty of the canals winding through the old city.
Finally for now (I've probably forgotten important things about Barcelona, such as the beach-night – I haven't been to the beach in over a month, it not being all that convenient from our apartment in north Raval, but it's very pleasant since it's usually cooler and breezier than the city, although the sand is chunky and sharp and on normally-considered "good" beach days, i.e. full sun, it's very crowded) — some highlights from the trip from Utö to here, besides Zernez, since I covered it before:
• In Stockholm, James & I got to the top of the hill overlooking the library, which gave a good view to the east (I think). • The small amount that I saw of Malmö, on a sunny afternoon unlike the rainy weather of Stockholm (it cleared up on the way there and the sun and parting clouds made the countryside all the more bucolic), was very nice, especially on the canal where I ate dinner, and where some geese were roaming with their chicks. At the Malmö castle, which was also really cool, there was a whole nation of geese. • Berlin — well, first, the ferry departure from Sweden was quite grand, all the more so for our train being on it; I was asleep during landing at Sässnitz and up till about a half hour before we arrived in Berlin. Berlin was nice and sunny but, on early Sunday morning with few people out, especially in the civic district that I stuck to, and on the open plains near the Altes Museum and Unter den Linden, it was a bit eerily desolate, like the sun was roasting the remains of a vanished civilization. But it was still pretty amazing to see the Bundestag, the Altes Museum, Unter den Linden, the Tiergarten, (which by contrast had many users and was quite lovely), the Brandenburger Tor, and the Siegessäule. (The coolest part of the Siegessäule was the extreme reverberation in the pedestrian tunnels underneath the ring.) • Bamberg, with its waterways right through the middle of the town, its dense construction, and its multiple hills, was very striking, and I look forward to exploring it more. Also the Thüringen countryside, quite hilly, on the way there, was very pretty. • The ride from Zernez to Avignon was fine in Switzerland and it was particularly interesting to see just how Mediterranean the north shore of Lac Léman is; while from Geneva to Lyon I had to ride at the end of the car because I accidentally took a TGV that I didn't have a reservation for and that at the same time was really of very little vitesse because of construction, I think, on the route and maybe because of the winding route; and it was a lot through just woods with no views. Lyon Gare was confusing and
busy and then the slow train to Avignon was hermetically sealed with no AC, so it sucked. But it was neat to see the Rhône valley and to think about how the Provence landscape I was discovering had inspired so many great painters, even though to me at that point it just looked dry and hot. • Avignon itself made up for this, though — the consistent limestone construction of the town, both of the small and the monumental buildings, gives it a really special, coherent atmosphere. • The trip here was much better, with air-conditioned trains and a lot of views of the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees; the sea was often framed by the sides of valleys, with towns nestled in between. The marshy/barrier island landscape of the French coast was surprising, and the ride right next to the beach as we approached Barcelona was lovely, with the vivid sea color reminding me of that of the Gulf Stream on the 2001 Caribbean cruise with the Ocean Bowl team.
It's now 6:40 and the sun has gotten longer, and it's still unbelievably pleasant. I napped a bit before the train trip description and nothing was stolen! Here's a view of the fountain pool & the city↓ & sea→ beyond: