2013

 Manizales (27) January 
So, I am back in Colombia. I had such a great time here last year, I had to go again. After a few days of salsa dancing in Cali I went to Manizales for the annual "feria". One week of parades, concerts and lots of other events. Manizales itself is quite nice, built on the ridge of a hill. Nearby is a Botanical Garden and some Hot Springs. My highlights of the feria were a salsa show and concerts of Gilberto Santa Rosa (salsa) and Carlos Vives (Vallenato - Colombian music). click for more pictures
 Riosucio (15) January 
About two hours away from Manizales is the town of Riosucio (Dirty River). Every two years Riosucio has a special carneval celebrating the arrival and - in the end - the burning of the devil. I went there on the last day to see the burning. It was fun, but the real carneval had already taken place the weekend before so things were a little quiet. click for more pictures
 Los Nevados I (40) January 
After so many fiestas it was time to enjoy the nearby mountains "Los Nevados" again. As usual it was very difficult to obtain any maps or reliable information, so I decided to go back to Salento and do a trip similiar to the one last year. On Monday I met my friend Brian who has lived in Medellín for five years and the next day we went to the Cocora valley and up to mountains to the hacienda "La Primavera" (3.700m). Since I didn't bring my tent this time we had to stick to these simple places to spend the night. The next day we tried to climb a mountain of about 4.700m but after about 4 hours and some detours we couldn´t find the trail which we were asured to be well-marked, so we turned back. Nevertheless it was a nice trip. click for more pictures
 Los Nevados II (21) January 
We were kind of playing with the thought to climb Tolima (5.215m) with a local guide, one of the three snow-covered peaks of Los Nevados. But the weather wasn't so great and the thought of getting up at 2:30am eventually convinced us not to do it. Instead, we went to the nearby Laguna El Encanto where I camped last year. As usual in the high Colombian mountains it got very foggy in the early afternoon that day. The next day we were speeding back to Cocora in four hours to be in Medellín the same evening for some salsa dancing. click for more pictures
 Medellin (24) January 
I staid at Brian's house for about a week and he, his girlfriend and I went out dancing and they showed me city. It is very big and modern, it is so far the only city in Colombia with a Metro on rails and there is a lot more Western music than the usual mix of Salsa and Vallenato. Medellín´s Metro also includes two cable car lines. These are necessary as it is surrounded by hills, so some parts of the city have grown into the hillsides. click for more pictures
 Santa Fe (34) January 
From Medellín I took a daytrip to Santa Fe de Antioquia, a colonial village with a fancy suspension bridge nearby. I also went to la Piedra de Peñol - a huge rock which you can climb via a steep escalator spectacularly built into the rock's face. From there you have a nice view across the huge lake and Guatepé where I went next. Guatepé is famous for its colorful houses depicting the profession of its inhabitants. click for more pictures
 Buca & San Gil (42) January 
On my way north to the coast I went to Bucaramanga again to go out dancing and to meet old friends. I also went to San Gil, Colombia's capitol of extreme sports. In this area you find a lot of cute colonial villages with cobblestone streets and red tiled roofs. Barichara is very nice this way and a lot of movies have been shot here. From there I took a nice 2 hour walk on the ancient "Camino Real" to the quiet village of Guane. I went rafting on the Rio Fonce, visited the local Parque El Gallineral with nice plants including the silvery moss called barbas de viejo (old man's beard). It makes some places look really mystical. I also went swimming in a small pool underneath a waterfall new San Gil. click for more pictures
 Costa (24) February 
Then I went to a few places on the Carribean coast. First to Santa Marta (big city where Simon Bolivar, liberator of half of Latinamerica, passed away) and Taganga (small and touristy fishing village close by, went there also last year). After that I went to Barranquilla, normally not the nicest city in Colombia but I was there for the famous carnaval which started a few days later and where the whole city went crazy. I could again enjoy a free concert of Gilberto Santa Rosa (is he following me?) before the coronation of the Miss Carnaval. click for more pictures
 Carnaval Day 1 (55) February 
Day one of the carnaval - The great Parade of Flowers. This is the main event of the whole carnaval. Get there early, find a good seat and enjoy five or six hours of dances and costumes, some traditional, some rather funny. A popular tradition also seems to be to hit your fellow spectators with some kind of foam, so be careful where you sit. But it dries off after a few minutes. Coincidently, this was also the 200th aniversary of Barranquilla's carnaval. click for more pictures
 Carnaval Day 2 (29) February 
Day two of the carnaval - The great Traditional Parade, same place. I tried to catch a few more faces than costumes. click for more pictures
 Carnaval Rest (24) February 
On day three and four I went to some smaller parades and concerts. Then it was time to catch my flight to Bogotá for my last two days in Colombia. click for more pictures
 Bogotá (35) February 
In Bogotá I staid with some friends of mine who I had met in Cocuy the year before. They helped me to organize a few things before my departure and showed me around. We went to an exhibition in a very nice new library and the Botanical Garden. On the second day we went to the Cathedral of Salt - a cathedral built into an old salt mine. My last night in Bogotá I spent salsa dancing :-) On my flight to Panama the next morning we were passing over the mountains of Los Nevados, so I could see the summit of Tolima again, waving me Goodbye. I´ll be back. click for more pictures
 Havana Viejo (45) February 
From Panama I went on to Havana, which greeted me with a rainy day. The next few days temperatures dropped down to 10°C at night but that was okay with me, I was rather afraid of the usual heat. Havana is beautiful. It is amazing how much great architecture you find in every corner and on the other hand it is sad that it often is in such a bad condition. This part is about all the pictures I took in the old town of Havana or should I say the touristy part? There are nice hotels, cafés, fancy shops and, of course, lots of musicians playing salsa. But is it the real Cuba? It is the odd parallel world where everything is paid in "convertibles" and where a night in a fancy hotel costs you about as much as a doctor earns here in a year (250$). click for more pictures
 Havana Centro (40) February 
Central Havana is home of the Capitol and some nice museums including the museum of the revolution. There are a lot of museums in Havana and the entrance fee is paid in Pesos for Cubans and Convertibles for tourists which is 24 times more expensive. But I guess it is a fair ratio considering how little people earn here. If you tip the waiter here with one convertible (1$) that is how much a normal Cuban earns in one day. So, whereever you have tourists there is luxury, service and some kind of capitalism. If not, there is shortage, long queues and people get very creative making ends meet. The favorite word of Cubans is recoger - to obtain (Geman: besorgen). Reminds me of growing up in East Germany... click for more pictures
 Havana Castillo (27) February 
The first days the waterfront of Havana had very rough water because of the strong winds. Water was spilling over the sidewalks sometimes, it was fun to watch. At the other side of the bay is the Castle of Havana which held an international book fair the week I was there so I went to see it. From the high walls of the Castle you get some nice view of Havana. click for more pictures
 Cuban Cars (32) February 
Cuba lives up to its repuatation of having lots of old cars. After the revolution in 1959 Cuba could not import any more cars from the US due to its embargo (which is still intact today), so there are a lot of American cars from the fiftees around. You can also see many of the Russian Ladas. But due to some changes during the last 10 years there are also quite a few new cars around. click for more pictures
 Viñales (44) February 
After four days in Havana I went to Viñales, a small town in the mountains, about 2 hours west of Havana. The soil is very fertile here, so there is all sorts of plantations - bananas, sugar cane, pineapples, and - of course - tobacco Plus there are some really impressive limestone mountains around. The first day I took a tour through the plantations where we were showed how to make cigars, the second day I rented a bike and went around the valley. At night they had really good salsa shows in "la casa de la musica". click for more pictures
 Cienfuegos (34) February 
Then I spend a few days in Cienfuegos, about 4 hours west of Havana, which is not quite as touristy as the other places. The architecture here as a strong French influence. It has a small beach at Punta Gorda where I went swimming. click for more pictures
 Trinidad (33) February 
Trinidad is a small town near Cienfuegos which reminded me a lot of Antigua in Guatemala - cobblestone streets and lots of small colonial houses. The first bus to Trinidad doesn't leave Cienfuegos before 12:45, but after some negotiation at the bus station I was allowed on a local bus at 10:00. I felt like I was doing something illegal, but it was fun, I was the only tourist on the bus, which saved me from a crowd of people trying to lure me into their hostel or give me a taxi ride. This early there was no one waiting for tourists at the bus station. The fun of going local ;-) Trinidad itself is very touristy but well worth going. After a couple of days there I spent one more night in Havana before going to Mexico. click for more pictures
 Isla Mujeres (34) March 
After Cuba even Mexico seemed rich and well developed with nice new cars and supermarkets. I arrived in Cancun but didn't stay there as Spring break has already begun in the States and thousands of students where expected to arrive soon and get drunk. I wanted to get drunk on Isla Mujeres, a small island, just a 30 minute boatride away from Cancun but for me a much nicer option away from the big hotels. After the weather got better I went fishing for Baracudas and enjoyed the perfect beaches. A fisherman prepared the Baracuda for us and we had dinner with him and his family at his house, a great experience. As usual I staid a lot longer than I had planned at this little paradise. Why not. click for more pictures
 Bacalar (20) March 
On my way south to Belize I stopped in Bacalar, a small town on a big and beautiful lake. I was there on the weekend and met a lot of Mexicans on their holidays and only a few foreigners. I went swimming in the Cenote Azul and the lake and visited the local fortress which was built to protect the town from pirates after several attacks. click for more pictures
 Lamanai (31) March 
My first stop in Belize was a town called Orange Walk. Not much to look at, but from there I went up the river to the Maya ruins of Lamanai. On the river we got to see birds, bats and even crocodiles. Lamanai is the only Mayan city that was inhabited continiously until the last century. All other cities were abandoned at some point due to the lack of water. Lamanai always had water from the river. click for more pictures
 Caye Caulker (39) March 
Caye Caulker is a small island I have been to several times. It is always fun to stay there for a few days - enjoy the weather, hang out at the beach, swim with sharks and stingrays, go surfing, do nothing. The motto of the island is "Go slow". I can do that. click for more pictures
 Sailing (44) March 
From Caye Caulker I went on a great three-day sailing trip to Placencia. We slept on tiny islands, went snorkeling and even saw some dolphins. The first island we spent the night on - Rendevous Caye - was so small, we were the only people there. The second night we spent on Tobacco Caye with 92 inhabitants. In between we swam to islands that were just a tiny stretch of sand. Some of them are only there when the weather is good. On the third day we arrived in Placencia. I decided to go back on a 12-hour overnight trip with the crew, I even got to drive the boat for a couple of hours in the morning :-) click for more pictures
 Antigua (32) March 
My last stop of this trip is my beloved Antigua in Guatemala. I have been here many times, so if you want to see some of the typical sites of this very special town you will find some pictures in the years 2008, 2010 and 2011. Most of the pictures here have to do with the activities of the Semana Santa - the Holy Week before Easter. I have never been here during this time and Antigua is famous for its colorful street carpets and processions. I also took some salsa lessons again :-) The Saturday before the Holy Week I was invited to a concert of Ricardo Arjona in Guatemala city. He is currently the most famous singer of Guatemala. click for more pictures
 Palm Sunday (33) March 
Pictures of the Processions on "Domingo de Ramos", the Sunday before the Holy Week. The most important one lastet 12 hours, starting at 11am. click for more pictures
 Easter Week (22) March 
During the Holy week there were lots of other prcessions. Often people prepared carpets of grass or colored saw dust that the procession would walk on. They were cleaned up immediately after that, so they were only there to admire for a couple of hours. click for more pictures
 Easter Weekend (30) March 
On Friday there were the biggest and most important processions, the first one starting at 4am in the morning when it was still dark. On Saturday most people wore black and a lot of the incense was used to acompany the processions. This also was my last day of my trip as I had to go back to Germany very early Sunday morning. It was a long and great journey. On Easter Monday I arrived in the still rather winterly Berlin. click for more pictures
 Kajaking (40) May 
This is my anual collection of kayaking pictures. Again, lots of sunrises, but it is hard to resist them ;-) click for more pictures
 Zillertal (38) August 
Warum warming-up hike this year took me to the Zillertal to do the "Berliner Höhenweg" which I had done three years ago. The weather was sufficiently friendly to do this one on a long weekend since I already knew the are very well. I arrived in Mayrhofen Thursday morning, took the cable car into the mountains and returned Sunday afternoon. A great start of my hiking season and a really nicht tour with a the spectacular (and snowy this time) Schönbichler Horn (3.134 m). click for more pictures
 Silvretta (30) August 
The Silvretta range is one of the areas in Tyrol that I haven't seen, so it was time. While it is a famoud skiing area in winter, summer is farily quiet. The trail sometimes crosses the border between Switzerland and Austria and the high passes often come with old tiny toll cabins which controlled trade and migration in the mountains. Sadly, a lot of them were built in the thirties to keep Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany from getting to Switzerland. It is hard to imagine the hope and desperation these mountains must have meant to them. click for more pictures
 Rätikon (40) August 
Al long day of hiking connects the Silvretta to the Rätikon range where I almost made it to the tiny country of Liechtenstein. But by then bad weather came in for a few days and since the passage was already a bit tricky, I decided not to do it in the cold and foggy rain. click for more pictures
 Karwendel (36) August 
Almost every year I come to Innsbruck and every time I get a look at the mountains in the north - the Karwendel. This year I wanted to spend a few days there to check it out. It is not quite as high as the treks I had done bevore but because of the kind of unstable stone it is made of it can be quite tricky with rough and steep parts and huge slopes of gravel. But it was great to walk high above this nice city and see its lights in the cold mountain night. click for more pictures