You don’t realise how much until you go on one. You think you know, but once you actually unwind, then you realise just how twisted up you actually were.
I went on a wee yoga vacation with the Sivananda people, at the Sonnberghof Hotel in Mittersill, Austria. It was brilliant. I mean, for a start, just look at the view!
And that’s just one direction. There were gorgeous views all over the place.
Normally my Austrian yoga vacations happen in Reith, but a couple of times a year the bio-hotel there closes down for holidays of their own, so some of the yogis decamp to Mittersill to run their retreats from there.
They have a nice yoga room,
and a nice wee meditation hall,
for sadhana and satsang respectively. And in between the bouts of spiritual enlightenment the hotel has an outdoor pool,
as well as a selection of sauna/steam rooms you can enjoy, with a nice lounge area for you to relax in.
The routine was the usual Sivananda one of satsang at 6:30am, yoga at 8:30am. Then lunch, followed by free time. Then yoga at 4pm, lunch at 6pm, and evening satsang at 7:30pm.
The luxury of being able to do yoga twice a day is always welcome. You really do feel the benefits of your practise that much quicker when you can dedicate your time wholly to it. Of course it helps if someone else is cooking the food and cleaning up after you.
The food was very good. The kitchen staff at the hotel seem to have really got their heads around cooking sattvic food. I had to limit myself. The tempation to eat way too much was quite high.
The teaching was awesome too. They do offer tailored yoga programs at Mittersill, but I was just there for a vacation. I learnt a lot as we did our sadhana, including some new exercises to incorporate into my yoga, and some new ways to correct people when I’m teaching too. All in all a very profitable vacation.
I even made a new friend while I was there…
If you’re looking for a yoga holiday I can recommend Mittersill. The combination of yoga and spa is an excellent one. I felt incredibly relaxed by the end of my stay, and of course I wish I could have stayed more.
Instead I flew back, drove to the Lake District, and did an epic hike to the top of Helvellyn, lol.
Kind of undid some of my good work, but got another shot for my headstand series so, siwng and roundabouts, eh?
Back in London now, trying to keep on with my daily practise, see if I can’t keep the flexibility I earned in Austria. I also need to prepare myself for the Sadhana Intensive in August. It’s pretty full on by all accounts, and I need to be at the top of my game if I’m going to get the best out of it.
Plans are afoot for some epic fun in the summer. I’m going to do the Three Peaks Challenge.
If you don’t know, the Three Peaks Challenge is when you climb the three highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales in twenty four hours. There’s a lot of driving in between, and at least one of them your descend in the dark, but if you can do it I’ve no doubt there’s an enormous sense of achievement to be had.
Here’s how you meditate: You sit on a cushion, close your eyes, and just breathe. Right? Well, not always.
Sitting is one way to meditate, when the body is still but the mind is busy. But there’s also another way, when the mind is still but the body is busy.
Any repetitive task can be meditative if done with mindfulness, and what’s more repetitive than walking? Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot… You get the picture.
I’ve been doing a lot of walking recently. Really getting into it all of a sudden. When you’re puffing your way uphill and concentrating on not slipping and landing on your behind there’s not much time to think about anything else. Talk about one-pointedness!
We saw some inspiring and energising sights, but the walks were necessarily short due to time restraints. After that course I was keen to do more. So, a few weeks later, when I went to visit my friend in Austria, I got to enjoy the main course.
My friend is really into her walking and let me tell you, it’s amazing how much you can get done (and how far you can go) when you get up and get out the house in the morning!
I really caught the hiking bug when I was in Austria, and I think you can see why, so when I got back to England I kitted myself out in loads of new gear (I discovered jeans and Caterpillar boots are not ideal hiking equipment) and set out for a little bit of ‘dessert’.
Luckily, at the moment, the Lake District is right on my doorstep.
Beautiful, no? You don’t forget sights like that in a hurry. I certainly felt like I’d eaten my fill. But, as it turns out, that was not to be the end of my ‘meal’.
The coffee/mint/brandy and cigars (?) to the whole thing was an epic walk to the top of the highest peak in Wales (and second highest in the UK) – Snowden.
This was where I found a good challenge. It’s all well and good doing a walk when it’s lovely and sunny, but when the weather turns on you then where are you? Hopefully, calm, concentrated, and above all well prepared.
When I set off you could see the weather was going to be a little ‘interesting’. NB: That’s Snowden in the background… somewhere.
It started off getting cloudy…
Then it got wet…
It got hard to see where you were going…
Until eventually things started getting a little silly.
Just before the top I had to huddle behind a rock to check my map, battered by the wind and hail. I wasn’t worried. I had maintained mindfulness of my situation all the way up, I knew where I was, knew the dangers, knew what I could handle, and if I couldn’t go on I was prepared to get back down safely if need be. Just one more benefit of maintaining a meditative practice.
As it turns out though I was just a few minutes from the top! I just couldn’t see it because this is all I could see (seriously).
Conditions were a bit nuts at the summit. Really wet and windy.
So it was with a real sense of achievement that I made it there.
I even, for old times sake and because I haven’t done one in ages, did a headstand picture.
Couldn’t do it right on the top. The wind was too strong.
After the experience of getting up there, going in the summit cafe to warm up was both very welcome and highly bizarre.
You can get a train up to the top….
Which I heard in the clouds as I reached the peak, and which I thought was the wind. Really freaked me out. But not as much as walking into a room full of tourists. Quite a surreal experience.
I celebrated my achievement with some tea and cake (and a pie)…
And then it was time to contemplate the descent.
I came down quicker than I went up, because I knew once I got below 800 metres I’d be out of the wind and rain. Of course it started off wet…
But soon things started to clear…
And I could look back with a sense of achievement…
As well as enjoying what the future had in store.
Not least of which was a set of warm, dry clothes, lol.
Walking and leaving the world behind is a great way to centre yourself, and bring you into the here and now. Walking in a mountain top gale doubly so. But like all things in life, if you go forth well prepared, both mentally and physically, and you keep your head no matter what happens, then success is yours for the taking.
We’ve also been enjoying the Hobbit movies, and have been to see them all at the cinema whenever they came out. Unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to go see the last one when I was over at Christmas, and now that I’m back again Leipzig (where my girlfriend moved to a few months ago) no longer has it showing anywhere in English (you often get original language movies showing in German cinemas). So, what to do, what to do? Why, go to Berlin and see it of course!
That was how we found ourselves on a coach at 10am heading for the capital. The movie wasn’t til 5pm, but we planned on checking out a few sights as well while we were there. The only other time I’ve been to Berlin before was during a DB train strike, when I had to get a coach there and three buses across the city to catch my flight home. I missed out on all (indeed, any) of the sights then, so I felt like I had some catching up to do!
We got there around noon, went to grab the tickets, and then set off in search of something interesting. In fact we’d just got back onto Potsdamer Platz when we came across The Berlin Wall!
Obviously not the original wall, but parts of it set out along the old route of the wall as a sort of exhibition.
If you look you can see a line on the ground going from the wall section up towards the top left corner behind the orange bin, which denotes where the wall used to go.
There’s even a map showing you where it used to be.
We were going to head to Checkpoint Charlie next but found that the Brandenburg Gate was nearer, so we headed there instead.
As ‘gates’ go it’s pretty impressive. It was also the perfect opportunity for me to revive my Landmark Inversions headstand series, which has been a bit lacking of late.
Thankfully I had my trusted camerawoman along with me. Always ready to help out (and freeze her fingers off in the cold weather!). We just did a quick test shot to get the framing right,
and then up I went for number 74.
Round the corner from the Brandenburg Gate is the German parliament, the Reichstag.
It’s quite a building as well, though Lena was far more excited to find some ‘west German’ and ‘east German’ traffic lights right next to each other, so that she could finally show me the difference between the two (east in front, west in back).
By now it was getting really cold, so we hit the Underground rather than walk all the way back to go see Checkpoint Charlie.
There’s actually not lot there when you arrive. Lots of ‘museums’ and ‘experiences’, lots of places called things like ‘Checkpoint Charlie Curry’, as well as places selling Russian and American army hats. But the actual checkpoint itself is just a little nondescript hut in the middle of the road.
There’s also a sign warning you you’re “Leaving The American Sector” (as if you wouldn’t notice the armed guards!).
Strangely, the other side doesn’t say you are ‘Leaving The Russian Sector’ but ‘Entering The American Sector’. Have a think on that for a moment if you will.
For me it was time for another headstand photo, and this is the only one where I have explicitly paid to be allowed to take it (I’ve paid to get in places but any photos I’ve taken within have always been free).
It’s also the only one where I’ve gotten a small round of applause from the twenty or so people who suddenly gathered there while I was standing on my head, so all in all I don’t begrudge the two euros it cost me.
By now we were getting hungry, so off we went on our burger mission!
I’d found a place on Happy Cow called Sun Day Burgers, which promised a tofu burger with lots of healthy stuff to go with it.
They only sell the tofu burger, smoothies, and raw cakes, so there wasn’t much choice. We both went for the burger with chilli sauce (as I personally didn’t like the sound of the peanut or mango sauces). When it came it looked very tasty.
Sadly the chilli sauce was so hot that after a few bites that’s all you could taste. I tried washing it down with my smoothie, but it had so much ginger in, it was overpowering as well! Perhaps we are both too sensitive to strong flavours these days, since we eat so healthily all the time, but we both found it a bit much.
We had some cake afterwards (which wasn’t cheap!); a raw pineapple cheesecake and a lime and avocado concotion,
but they too were a but heavy on the flavouring as well. All told it was quite an experience!
We like fries with our burgers, and since they didn’t have any at Sun Day Burgers we came away a bit hungry still. Thankfully, just round the corner was salvation!
Boy did they taste good. 🙂
Our bellies finally full it’s off to the movies we go.
The Cine Star in the Sony Centre to be precise. One of the last places to be showing…
(“Der Hobbit”, in English)
It’s been out long enough you’ve probably seen it by now, but for the next paragraph I’m saying:
We enjoyed the movie, but it was a little long, and definitely not enough dragon. The whole Smaug bit at the start should have come at the end of the second film. They obviously only tacked it on here to make us go watch this one. Without it it’s just a lot of dwarves, elves and orcs (and humans) going at each other hammer and tongs. I mean, don’t get me wrong, enjoyable enough, but still no justification for stretching one small book into three long movies.
All in all it was a very successful trip. We saw a lot, did a lot of new things, and got the photos to prove it. Last LOTR movie seen, a new burger tried, and two new headstand pictures created. Fell asleep on the train on the way home, which is always the sign of a good day I reckon.
Since I got back from my big trip I’ve been up to all kinds of stuff, but you wouldn’t know that because I’ve also been a bit lax in my blogging.
I’ve also been a bit lax in doing my headstands too, having missed a number of prime opportunities for no other reason that either, A) I forgot, or B) I was just having too much fun.
But anyway, no more! I’m on a mission to reach 100, but to do that I need to catch up on the last few that I have done. And since some of them are for blog posts I haven’t written yet, they are also a wee taste of things to come.
So, let’s see if any of these tickle your fancy? 😉
From the Black Forest in Germany last year.
From my recent birthday trip to Iceland.
From my visit to the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour.
And from my visit to Stonehenge!
How about that little lot eh? 😀
Now that they’re ‘on the line’ maybe it’ll motivate me to write about my adventures. Then again, maybe not. ..hehehe…
Either way, at least you got to enjoy them the once. 😉
Sunday morning, and time to rescue the trip after the let down of the night before. Life is a choice between what you will and won’t accept, and I was not going to start my fourth decade by accepting a vaguely disappointing tour as ‘good enough’.
We wanted to see a bit of the Icelandic landscape, so we book ourselves on a Golden Circle Tour. This promised us waterfalls, geysirs, and national parks (with tectonic plates!). Truth be told I’m not a big fan of coach trips, but needs must, and it’s what we could afford, so off we went.
Iceland is fairly empty, so it wasn’t long before we were out of Reykjavik and into the wilds.
Iceland is run on geothermal power pretty much. Well you would if you had such an abundance of energy at your disposal. We went past the local power plant, with it’s geothermal vents,
and zig-zag pipeline on wheels, that expands and contracts throughout the day, and so has to be that shape (and mobile) to stop it from breaking.
Oddly enough, the further in we went, the less snowy it got.
First stop on the tour was the original Geysir (the one after which all other geysers are named).
Unfortunately it’s no longer active, after the land shifted and changed the underground plumbing.
But there’s another geyser next to it that goes off every 5-10 minutes, so you don’t miss out.
Plus there’s plenty of other pools and streams around about that are interesting in their own right. They’re either full of colour,
(the photo doesn’t do it justice), or amazingly clear,
or just strange and other-worldy!
I tried to get a headstand with the geyser, but it was tough getting the timing right, as you can see.
But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun,
and that was just the first part of the tour.
Next we hit up the Gullfoss waterfall, a whopper of a falls if ever there was one!
This time I did manage to get a headstand shot which I was pleased with.
And we got to see some more of the amazing local landscape.
Iceland really is another world.
And that wasn’t the end of it! Our final stop was to be the Pingvellir National Park.
Pingvellir is where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, or rather bid each other a fond farwell, as they are constantly separating, making Iceland one of the few countries that is growing by inches year in and year out.
This is the North American plate,
and you can walk the divide, which is interesting, but not that impressive to look at,
until you get to the end, where you can watch the sun set over the lake, a truly rewarding sight.
And the sun going down marked the end of the tour. We hopped back on the bus to take the one hour drive back to Reykjavik.
On the way back we looked up at the clear skies and lamented. What a shame we hadn’t booked the Northern Lights Tour for that night. We were bound to see something. Such a pity to go home without getting a proper display. Of course, the answer was obvious! Do another tour!
The minute we got back to the hotel we booked a coach tour with the same company we’d just been out with, Reykjavik Excursions. Yes it meant more money, but at a third of the price of the 4×4 tour it was worth the risk. We went out for a quick curry, then soon we were back at the hotel preparing ourselves for another night out in the cold staring up at the sky.
I wasn’t going to be caught out this time. I wore my new wooly jumper, and yoga pants beneath my jeans for that extra layer of insulation. I also had my pockets full of what I consider to be essential aurora watching kit; camera, gorilla tripod, spare memory card, iPod containing Sigur Ros tunes, and cranberry chocolate.
We were picked up by the coach at our hotel, and after a stop off at the bus station to collect a few more people, we headed out of town.
Our first stop was not the most salubrious; basically a lay-by off the main road. We stood around for about half an hour waiting for something to happen,
but unfortunately no joy (and the nearly full moon didn’t help either).
Pretty soon we were back on the coach and off to the same car park where we’d ended our Golden Circle tour. Expectations were low, and people were slow, until someone exclaimed “It’s happening, right now, behind us!”, then the mad dash for the door began.
And not without just cause either. For the next hour we were treated to a full display right across the sky, which is much easier to show you than tell you about, so here it is.
And if you can make it out, here’s us getting our aurora on. 😉
I was very satisfied with that display. At least I now felt justified in saying I’ve seen the Northern Lights. Definitely got our money’s worth, and the coach experience wasn’t as diabolical as I thought it would be. We also got back in plenty of time to get a good night’s kip, which is always nice.
Our last day in Reykjavik we took it easy. Just wandered about a bit, seeing what we could see. We went up the cathedral tower and a got a good look at the city,
as well as some close ups of the cathedral clock.
We also did a good bit of shopping and eating,
ending up back at the Laundromat Cafe,
to try their veggie burger (of course, lol),
and a local treat called Sorer
which I couldn’t pronounce properly (apparently) and which tasted somewhere between a chocolate mousse and a coconut macaroon; ie: delicious!
We ended our final day in Iceland with a stroll along the water-front to our hotel,
before hitting the hay early. We had an early flight out, so much so in fact we thought we might see some more aurora before we left. But, alas, no luck. Instead this was out parting view of Reykjavik.
We had a great time in Iceland. Saw pretty much everything we wanted to see. I had hoped to get closer to some icepos along the way, but instead we had to settle for this picture of a poster at the airport, lol.
We both definitely want to go back in the summer, not only to experience the midnight sun, but to see the landscape at it’s best (ie: more green, less barren). That being said, Iceland any time of year is worth the trip. Just 3 hours from the UK, and not that expensive to get to, give it a go if you get the chance. You won’t regret it.
Well, my fellow yogis, it’s a new year and time for a new beginning. Time to make new plans, do new things, and go new places. But in order to do that properly we need to put the old to rest. 🙂
So here’s the last post from my travels of last year. This is what I got up to on my week in Singapore, as I waited to fly back to London. And since it was so long ago, and my memory ain’t what it used to be (I’m getting old y’know – I’ll be forty in February!), it’ll mostly be a post in pictures, with a few comments on the side.
I flew out from Bali. I love flying, even if I get a bit nervous over open water, and I wasn’t the only one fascinated by the take off.
I finally got to have a good look at Bali,
but as we left it’s beautiful countryside behind,
it was time to get down to business.
It’s unnerving to read that a country reserves the right to kill you! Only when I read that did I remember that Singapore is the country that imprisons you for spitting (though when I was there I saw at least on person do it and get away with it). Made me a little uncertain about what lay ahead.
I was staying at the YHA, which was in fact part of a Butlins type resort. Meant it was full of people and noisy a lot of the time. And there was no kitchen so you had to eat out. But at least there was a bit of space in the room to do yoga.
There wasn’t actually much I wanted to do in Singapore. It was just a stop-over on my way back to London. I planned on visiting the Raffles Hotel, and when I found out there was a Universal Studios there I wanted to go there too!, but apart from that the only other thing I was interested in seeing was the Singapore Flyer.
It was a bit rainy in Singapore when I was there, like thundery rainy, so I had to pick the least wet day to go. Even so it still ended up being a bit gray and miserable. Still, wotcha gonna do?
Here’s the whole thing in pictures. They’re fairly self explanatory so I won’t bore you with too many words. Not that I knew what I was looking at anyway, lol. It’s was just a load of stuff to me.
A city of constant construction,
and occasional Formula 1 races.
A shipping hub.
A centre for commerce.
Of course I did a headstand at the top, taken by one of these two gentlemen.
It was a tough shoot, with the flat gray light. The out-takes were good,
but this is the ‘official’ headstand shot. Number 68 in the series.
(I plan on reaching 100 this year! ;))
Coming in to land.
While I was there I went to have a look at some of the crazy buildings they have round there.
On the left is a hotel with a garden on the roof, and on the right is an art gallery. I was interested in visiting both, but they were too expensive, so i just hung around outside soaking up the atmosphere.
By this time I was hungry, so I used my Happy Cow app to find the Loving Hut which I knew was round there somewhere.
A couple of days later it was time for something I was really looking forward to; Universal Studios!
I was keen to see how it compared to the one in LA. Of course it wouldn’t be the same, but I wanted to see the differences.
I started off easy, with a stand and watch experience.
But it wasn’t long before I was strapping myself in for the ride! 😀
The Transformers ride was the same as in LA, which isn’t a bad thing. I loved the one in LA, and i loved the one here too.
The Battlestar Gallactica ride would have been awesome I reckon, but it was raining too much for the outdoor rides to be open unfortunately. 😦
I did the Revenge of the Mummy,
which I forgot how scary it was, lol. And I did a couple of Jurassic Park rides.
The Rapids Adventure,
at which I took distinct advantage of their Single Rider queue jumping policy! 😀
The ride ends with a big drop into water at the end,
at which I got absolutely soaked! ..lol..
After a very disappointing bit of food I hit the Madagascar ride.
It was more for kids but I was on a roll and wanted to do as many rides as I could.
The best laugh was when I came out to find these guys knocking about.
Of course I had to finish off with the Waterworld show.
I really enjoyed the one in LA, so would this one be any different?
First up, the guys did a great job of warming the audience up, even going as far as having a bit of audience participation.
Then the real show began.
Ending of course with the grand finale!
And a smoky finale it was too!
After all that excitement there was just time for a cup of tea and a slice of cake,
And that concludes the post for my epic trip around the world. There’ll be another post coming soon outlining what I’m up to now (back at work) and what my plans are (Iceland, Germany, France), but for now I’ll just say Happy New Year and have a great 2014! 🙂