Busy week

It’s Tuesday evening and I’m tired. Beside the fact that I can’t seem to find enough sleep when I’m home lately, I was on the road for the better part of the last 10 days. First world problems? Humble bragging? Maybe. I’m fortunate enough, that my job allows me to travel inside and outside of work and I’ve made use of that for the last years. I’ve stopped collecting countries as a number for now, but if that is important to somebody here, I’m at 44 right now. Nothing compared to other people I know, but traveling still gives me so much. My friend asked me the other day, if I have revisited any place over the last years and I had to say no, even though he asked me while we were sitting down for a coffee in Malmö (Sweden), a place I’ve seen in and out. More about that later though.

It is getting harder to find easy accessible places close by though, but some are still left and this might be the beauty of living in Europe. You can get to many countries and places in less than 2-3 hours by plane. If you live close to the middle of Germany, you have the luxury and option to even drive to many places in a small amount of time.

 

Bruges

 

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As a tradition, me and a friend pick a place to visit each year and while we have used planes to get to destinations before, road trips always seem to be more fun. Bruges is only 4.5 hours away from where we live and has been a place on my “need to go there” list for a long time. The city center is a UNESCO world heritage site and first settlements actually go back to the bronze and iron age, even though they are considered to be unrelated. The first castle was built around 850, but it took until 1128 for Bruges to receive the right to call itself a city.

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Bruges is not really big. Around 120000 people live there right now and around 20000 of them in the inner city. We picked a hotel in old town, which is the place you want to see and stay at. Parking is not really great there, but you can either park on the street further outside, or just spend a few extra Euros on a spot in one of the few garages in old town.

You won’t need your car after you’ve dropped it. Everything is walkable and easy to reach. Sometimes you’ll get a bit turned around, but that is the beauty of exploring a new city! Get one of the free maps from the hotel to find your way back at least!

What I like to do when arriving to a new place is simply trying to get lost. I take a camera with me and just wander around without having a real goal or destination. You’ll find more hidden places and beautiful motives if you do that and not follow the first 10 pages in your guide book.

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Most of the buildings are built with clinker bricks (or red bricks if you’re unfamiliar with the term) and even the renovated or newly built houses follow the lead. I know the style from northern Germany of course, but seeing a whole old city built with it was truly great.

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Bruges was also featured in two movies. Michelangelos famous marble Madonna statue  was part of the Monuments Men movie with George Clooney, but the more famous appearance was certainly made in “In Bruges”. Check them out. Both worth watching I thought.

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One thing I certainly liked in Bruges were the canals. I just like water in general, but it gave some of the pics just another level. The swans tried their best to be good models and I like to work with reflections. We managed to NOT go on a boat tour though, as I thought the 8 Euros were better spent on beer.

Belgian beers are some of the best in the world and you should go and try quite a few different ones. Be careful though, some of them will kick your butt. 9% alcohol content is nothing unusual.

We ended up in one of the famous bars, Le Trappiste, which is located in an 800 year old medieval cellar. They have around 20 beers on tap and another 80 or so bottled. Be careful, you might get stuck for a while! One hundred different beers is actually nothing uncommon in the bars there.

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Gear Talk on

The last pic was actually shot with my iPhone 7. I thought the quality and effects were quite amazing, but it will never replace my Fuji cameras, or whatever brand I might use in the future.

Beside the phone, I carried two bodies with me to Belgium (three, if you count my drunk friend). My workhorse, the X-T1 with two lenses, the 18-135 kit lens and the 10-24 wide angle. The workhorse took a back seat though, as I had purchased a new X100F just days earlier and I was in love with the camera right away. I had sold my X100T a few weeks before and missed it a lot, but the battery life was horrible and I couldn’t stand the fact that you couldn’t leave a battery inside the camera for a day without it getting drained.

Most of the pics you see here were actually shot with the new X100F and I think they came out quite well, especially for bad light and overcast skies. We had around 2 hours of sunshine all weekend. Repeating what so many other people say seems a bit ridiculous to me, but in one case I have to say the experts and pros are right. It gives you a new perspective and you need to be more creative if you just have one focal length. While I used the X100T mostly for street photography, the weekend in Bruges proved that it can be a camera and focal length for everything. You just need to work a bit harder sometimes, which is a nice challenge in itself.

The X-T1 was still in use though. My night shots were all taken with it and I believe for these things it is still the go to model. I’m just not happy with the bracketing function and have to do it manually by using a tripod and changing the exposure to get the 6-8 pics ranging from quite dark to quite bright. Editing is then done in Lightroom and by using either the built in HDR-stack functionality or preferably the Enfuse plugin.

Let’s hope the software update on the X-T2 will really make bracketing easier though. I’d be looking forward to it.

Gear Talk off

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As a place to visit, I can totally recommend Bruges and if you have the chance, you should go. A weekend might be too long though, as you can see most of it in 1 – 1.5 days. Options would include Antwerp and Brussels, but these cities might also require a bit of time. A good alternative might be going to the beach, which is not too far away, or just relax, take the walking a bit easier and enjoy your time with a beer and a Flemish stew.

The full gallery of the pictures can be found here.

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Bilbao

The next stop after exchanging shorts, t-shirts and sneakers in the suitcase with a suit, was Bilbao in Spain. This was a business trip and usually these are not much fun. You fly in, go to the hotel, work a bit and too long, sleep, go to and see the customer and fly home again.

As the weather was great, I took a long walk around the city center. Bilbao is a typical Spanish city, clean, organized, with a few nice corners here and there, but unfortunately not too spectacular. Beside a few nice parks and fountains, you won’t see much while walking the streets. I wasn’t in the mood for street photography as I only brought my phone this time. Yeah, I know, he buys the X100F and doesn’t even bring it with him. I regretted that fact right away.

There are people who love iPhone photography though. I just can’t get used to it and I think the lens is way too wide for what I like to do and maybe I’m just feeling more like a tourist than a photographer by using the phone instead of a camera with a viewfinder.

When coming in by taxi from the airport, you’ll notice a shiny and futuristic looking building on your right while crossing the river. It is the Guggenheim Museum and from what I hear, supposed to be formed like a ship. Maybe you’ll have a hard time seeing that as well!

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One of the most admired works of contemporary architecture, the building has been hailed as a “signal moment in the architectural culture”, because it represents “one of those rare moments when critics, academics, and the general public were all completely united about something.” The museum was the building most frequently named as one of the most important works completed since 1980 in the 2010 World Architecture Survey among architecture experts. (Source)

Read the full text on the Wiki site if you want to know more, it is actually quite interesting!

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Just because of the great shapes and forms of the outside ‘hull’, I’d love to go back and shoot it with real equipment and lenses. It must be beautiful at night and I’d also enjoy a visit on the inside. It is actually formed in a way to catch the light, which hopefully comes across a bit on the two pictures here.

There’s quite a bit of art around it and this also looked like the place to be that day. There were a lot of people taking a stroll or just hiding in the shade as it was still 32° C at 6:30 p.m.

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After circling through the streets for a while longer, my colleague and I decided for a few beers and some tapas, which you shouldn’t miss when in Spain. A trip to Madrid will come up in August and I’m already looking forward to it!

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Malmö

If you know me, you know that I once had the pleasure to live in Sweden for a while. My company moved me to Malmö and I spend almost two wonderful years there. Some of the things that happened to me there were actually so funny, that I had a blog back then and wrote about daily life. One story still makes me laugh, which was caused by me trying to get a box from the post office and they wouldn’t give it to me. I didn’t have a Swedish ID and instead of accepting my German passport as proof of me being how I claimed to be, I needed to get a Swedish person there to vouch for me. This continued later as I tried to get a Swedish ID for foreigners, where you need to bring a Swede along. The Swede then signs a document, that proves that you are who you said you are. Again, passports don’t matter as much as the spoken word.

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You might not understand this and time will not allow me to go into the details now, but these stories, the sights, the sea, sounds, food and at least some of the people made me fall in love with Malmö in the end. I had to leave too early as my company ended our relationship, but if I’d have found a new job, I might still be there.

After moving back 8.5 years ago, I made a point out of going back as often as I could. I might have even gone back every year for a while. But as these things go, the former friends and colleagues become a bit more distant and in the end, I hadn’t been there since 2014 now.

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One thing that has bugged me ever since I picked up photography as my favorite thing to do, was not  being able to come home from Malmö with good pictures of the city. You’ll find a great mix out of old and historic buildings, mostly in Gamla Staden (the old town area), and new architecture nowadays. Especially the area around the Central Station and out West in Västrahamnen have developed fast and architect probably is the most sought after profession right now.

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If you’re in Malmö only for a day or two and don’t have time to wait for the right light or time of the day, you might suffer a similar fate to what I have encountered. The last three visits have been either rainy and super overcast, or there just wasn’t enough time to put the highlights into the right perspective. Coming back from yet another trip with another set of pictures that are ok, but not showing the beauty of Malmö the way I have seen it is devastating.

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The trip also went by quite quickly. I had time to walk around on Friday evening and Saturday morning, but attended a wedding later on Saturday and headed out hung over and way too early on Sunday. Just not enough time. Facing 18 degree weather and a mostly grey sky with the occasional rain didn’t really help.

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Another visit is needed, not only seeing old friends and places, but also trying to capture them in better light, with time and also in every detail they deserve.

The Malmö images have not made it to my website gallery section (yet), as I’m not sure I’m happy with them, or happy enough to present them there. I usually don’t get a lot of comments here, but maybe you can tell me what you think and if they should make it to the site.

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Travel Tips

Most people wouldn’t fly into Malmö for a trip. The big brother Copenhagen is just across the bridge and probably the go-to destination. If you can stay a day longer, take the train to Sweden and check out Malmö. Most things can easily be tackled by bike, so rent one and off you go. If you just want to stay downtown, you can do that on foot.

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There’s plenty of hotels in Gamla Staden and you can always get a good deal. Beside Gamla Staden, the area around the Central Station and continuing to Västra Hamnen is a great walk for an afternoon. It is usually a bit windy out there, but seeing the Turning Torso is also worth the effort. From there you will also have a great view on the Öresundsbron, the bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark.

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There’s plenty of restaurants and bars, most prominently (but also most expensive) located on Lilla Torg (the little square) next to Stor Torget (the big square). Personally, I’d probably go somewhere else to eat and drink, but Trip Advisor and Yelp might help you find the right choice.

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So time for me to plan another trip to the north and maybe bring more time with me. I said all along that I wouldn’t mind moving back if the job would take me there, but it might not be in the cards for now.

Time to say congratulations to my friend Brian and his lovely wife Charlotte again, who got married last weekend and also had a name giving ceremony for their newborn son Christopher.

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