Tuesday, April 13, 2010

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Contributions to the Big Play

That you are here - That life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

What will your verse be?

The lines are out of "The Dead Poem Society" and are really stuck in my head since I started watching the movie again during the last weekend.

If life is like a big play and you can contribute only one verse - what would your verse be?
A great question, isn't it? I really love this movie.

If I can contribute a verse I should try hard not to ruin it - starting NOW.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Morning

No words.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Smiling Feta

I am really not able to open the pack of Feta cheese. I haven't for more than a week. Do you know why? It is because of the smiling sheep in the logo.
The sheep looks way to friendly, doesn't it?
Oh boy, I am getting old.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Katzenjammer / Nuremberg, March 2010

I can't believe that I haven't been to a concert for more than two months now.
Yesterday I ended this period: I had a date with four wonderful ladies from Norway.

The Band is called 'Katzenjammer' and the name is actually a German word.
Literally translated it means 'cats howling' but actually it is a slang expression for the feeling when you are hangover.

The girls made a really funny mixture of Folk, Balkan and Pop. Sometimes it sounds like a Waltz, sometimes like Soul and sometimes like the soundtrack for a circus show.

They had lots of instruments on stage and every girl played every instrument. They changed roles and lead vocals after almost every song but played with great virtuosity, though. It seemed that playing a dedicated instruments just bores them.

When you see a blond girl with flowers in her hair and a pink polka dot dress out of a 60s second hand shop play the drums while blowing trumpet at the same time you instantly think that Metallica's Lars Ulrich is nothing than a rather mediocre drummer.

Small, funny, (relatively) unknown bands with catching music - that's why I love live concerts so much.

I enjoyed the gig a lot and you really should give their music a try - for example by watching the following video.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

12 out of 10 Happiness / Waianakarua, New Zealand, December 2008

Lynn and Kim

This time I want to share one of the most impressive encounters of my whole trip with you.
This posting will be a hard one because I will try to explain something that wasn't seizable - it was only a click in my head - well, actually a constant clicking. Even if I'll fail to explain, you may at least get an idea about how much meeting some people touched me.

I was heading north on the south coast of the South Island. It was late afternoon and I was looking for a place to stay for the night. The hostel I had in mind was fully booked and I literally stumbled upon a sign saying 'Olive Grove Lodge' instead.

The Olive Grove Lodge was a tiny hostel in an absolutely magnificent garden. Looking back it was the most comfy hostel of my whole trip.

I was the only guest that time and the owner Kim greeted me very warmly. We had a short conversation and my first impression was that he really knows how to do tourist smalltalk. But there was something more. Something was strange about that guy. Something I could grasp yet.

After a while I was checking out the common kitchen. It was actually the kitchen of the owner's family. They shared it with their guests. I made myself a cup of herbal tea from the huge collection of organic teas out of the hostel garden as Kim explained.

He told me that his wife Lynn and he started the hostel a few years ago. They grow organic food and teach their sons at home because Lynn is a teacher. This may sound like the prototype of some kind of weird eco-family - it was not, quite the opposite.

Some of my impressions from Olive Grove Lodge

Kim told me that some European girl was leaving the hostel today without paying and that such behavior is not super rare. Apart from the fact that he of course didn't like cheating guests he didn't seem to be upset.
I asked whether he had a good day anyway. His way of saying something like
Udo, it was an absolutely fantastic day' sounded absolutely authentic to me.

He told me about his day and that he likes what he does very much.

Without noticing both of us had already left the solid path of polite smalltalk for a small hiking path leading into some thicker bushes of conversation.

I said 'Wow, this sounds very convinced. I am glad that you had a good day'. After a short pause I dared to add something like 'You seem to be sort of happy. Are you?'.

He looked at me not a bit astonished about such a question but just said 'Oh yes, I am very happy'.

You might know that I have the habit of trying to rate happiness from time to time. Yes, I know it's probably quite stupid but that's how I am wired.

My next question to Kim was 'If you should rate your current happiness with then points, how much would you give? 10 points mean "super happy" and 0 points indicate absolute sadness'.

The answer of Kim was simply '10' - uttered with the same convincing tone.

'10 points? 10 is maximum. You are as happy as you can be? Really?'

Kim smiled and said 'Yes I am as happy as I can imagine.'

I was impressed because it didn't feel like an airy statement.

Kim left and I prepared my dinner using lots of the complimentary herbs. Afterwards I mounted my slackline in the garden and did some balancing with Kim's son Joseph - a funny and curious guy.

Slacklining with Joseph

After a while Kim came back to me and said 'Udo I told my wife Kim about your happiness rating question. Do you know what she said? She said whether she could give 12 points as well because she feels 12 out of 10 happy. Udo you have to meet Lynn'.

And so I did.

It might sound kitschy but to me Kim and Lynn seemed to be a perfect couple. I sensed a mixture of deep respect, harmony of two strong characters and knowing that being with the other one makes oneself better.

On arriving I noticed 'something strange' about Kim and by now I knew what it was: He was happy.
He and Lynn were happy and even better, they were very aware of it and thankful to whoever.
I was really amazed. Really really.

Lynn, Kim and I had a very long talk that evening about life in general, about the obstacles along the way and about doing the right thing.

Before leaving the Olive Grove Lodge the next day I asked them to write down their word of the day for me. Because we talked about organic food as well they wrote 'You are what you eat'. But if you look closely you can see a small 12/10 in the corner. At the first glance it might seem to be just the rest of some former chalkboard scribbling but is is not and now you know the story about it.

I thought a lot about Kim and Lynn the next days, throughout the rest of my trip and even until today.
Both of them don't know how much they inspired me. Hm, maybe I send a link to this posting to them.

I hope that all of you are at least a little bit as happy as Kim and Lynn that December day in 2008. What place would the world be with more Kims and Lynns? Maybe the world IS full of them and I was simply too blind to see - yet.

Yes, I know this posting is already way to long. But you seem to be still reading, ain't you?

In my job I share an office with a guy named Tom. He and his girlfriend Dési went to New Zealand for vacation end of 2009. I gave them some recommendations for hostels and the Olive Grove Lodge was one of them. Tom got a printout of the chalkboard photo of Kim and Lynn and the assignment to give it to them in case they stay at their place.
Tom and Dési accomplished the mission and here is their report of it - uncut and in their own words. Thanks folks - you rock!

Dési and Tom (on the right) one year later at the Olive Grove Lodge

After dinner at the Speights brewery in Dunedin we headed towards Oamaru. We arrived at Olive Grove Lodge shortly after 8 pm and found our host Kim in the kitchen. After some funny complaints about us being late we promised him some surprise. He immediately asked “Who sent you here?” Obviously he often welcomes guests sent by previous guests.
I showed him a photo printout asking him whether he remembers the ‘Guy with the chalkboard’ that took the photo of his wife with the writing on the chalkboard ‘you are what you eat’.
He was totally puzzled!
Then he smiled and told us that he and his wife Lynn just talked about this guy from Germany one week ago with some guests. They were asked about the funniest guests they had. After a short discussion they remembered Udo and he was awarded to be “one of the strangest guests ever” J
He looked at the three photos I gave him, took them and went out of the house with the words “I have to show them to my wife … she won´t believe it”.
We had a nice and peaceful stay for two nights at Olive Grove Lodge – with Lynn, Kim and their two sons. Be sure to ask them for the route to the penguins and sea lions and “Fleurs Place” – the famous restaurant.
Dési & Tom

If you have the chance to stay at Olive Grove Lodge - do it!
Here is their website: http://www.olivebranch.co.nz

Rock Concert Branches

A storm is coming.
Its name is 'Xyntia' and it already howled over France the other day.

I stare out of my big living room window and watch the gray-blue colored cloud-dough racing around my house.

The wind is speeding up and the branches of the cherry tree in the garden are waving at me like the arms of an ecstatic audience at a rock concert.
The remains of last autumns dead leaves spiral up in the air in front of my window in a direction that calls the law of gravity a myth.

From time to time the sun manages to pour a few buckets of yellow light over the scenery for some extra Tim-Burton-ness.

It feels really surreal to stand in a warm room seeing nature rave outside - a bit like the ending scene from the movie 'Fight Club'. In that scene Jack and Carla are looking out the window watching skyscrapers collapse.
The soundtrack for that scene was 'Where is my Mind' from the Pixies.

I am listening to that song right now - it works! Sometimes life can be like the ending scene of a movie if you add the right song.

Here is the scene from Fight Club I am talking about:

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Board'n'Post / Grosser Arber, Germany

What kind of tech-world is this if one can publish Blog postings while sitting in the snow with a Snowboard attached?

I decided on very short notice that this Saturday is perfect for a single day of snowboarding.

The mountain Grosser Arber is not the Alps but it is only a 2.25 hour drive from Nuremberg.

Sunshine, cold clear air and that incredible noise the carving of the Snowboard does while flirting with the snow - wow!

I am very proud of myself because it is only my second time boarding and today I dared to do a red (medium) track for the first time. Don't ask how many times I crashed but it was worth it.

Excuse me now I have things to do now.

Lonely Planet Destroyed My Life

A friend I traveled with for just one day on Hawaii gave me a link to very interesting article.
It is about the backpacking virus that might hit you again and again as soon as you started traveling.

Although I am NOT close to leave my job for good I can find some similarities to my own experiences.

It is only a 3 minute read (in German language) and you can find it [here].

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sheep / New Zealand, December 2008

Double White Tuft

One of the commentators of the previous (test) posting requested something about vegetarian sheep. Actually I think the request has something to do with an upcoming afternoon playing "The Settlers of Catan". To make it crystal clear to that commentator: I will not trade sheep for wood just to be nice. You will not gonna like me!

Apart from that Catan-comment my last postings have been about the motherland of all sheep anyway: New Zealand.

It was really kind of ridiculous to have sheep everywhere - literally. During my days on the road it was not uncommon to stop for a herd of sheep that decided to cross the road just in front of me.

Although I shot thousands of photos in New Zealand there is only a single one dedicated to the woolen animal.
I was driving to a small waterfall on a late afternoon. Actually the waterfall was big enough to act as a major tourist site in Europe. In New Zealand it was nothing special, it didn't even have a name and I was the only visitor.

During my short walk to the fall I saw the sheep standing on the top of of a hill.
My perpective was perfect: The green hill and the sheep against the blue sky - with a tuft of white whool in form of a cloud nearby.

Oh, by the way - here is the nameless waterfall. Nothing special compared with the sheep, is it?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010



Monday, January 25, 2010

Car Soundtrack / North Island, New Zealand, November 2008

One of one million beautiful spots just beside the road in the Waikato area. Click on photo to view on Flickr.

During some long car drives on the North Island I shot short movies out of the car window.
Actually I did it because the green hills reminded me of the Shire out of Lord of the Rings so much. The whole landscape looked like the desktop background image with the green hills you might still know from Windows XP.

While browsing through the movies a few days ago I realized that the music I was listening to is hearable in the footage.
I was using a little FM transmitter to listen to my iPod music via the car radio.

I was smiling when I heard the songs again because I really connect them to my New Zealand trip.

Usually my music is a bit more Indy-like with some loud noise involved. Here it was completely different.

I prepared a little compilation of some car-video-snippets to give you an idea of the landscape on the North Island and of my music as well. If you listen closely you can even hear me whistling in one scene.

Trips without music wouldn't last that long, would they?

Here is my video

PS: Driving on the left side of the road is scary, isn't it? Luckily the roads in New Zealand are almost empty.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tongariro Alpine Crossing / New Zealand

The volcano is 'Mount Doom' of Lord of the Rings (Mount Ngauruhoe)

If you are in New Zealand and not a complete ignorant of nature and outdoor activities you can't miss one specific hike: The 'challenge' is to cross a mountain range in a full-day tour and it is called 'Tongariro Alpine Crossing' in Togariro National Park near Turangi on the North Island.

The trek is 19 kilometres (12 miles) long, one has master more than 800 metres (2600 feet) of altitude difference and it takes 8 hours to get to the end of the path.

The interesting thing is that you cross different kinds of vegetation from small waterfalls and Scotland-like green hills over volcanic areas up to rocky grounds and snow on the highest point. The downward slope passes very blue lakes and ends in a lush rain forest.

The fact that you get all of the above in one single day makes this crossing one of the most popular hikes in New Zealand and you can imagine what that means regarding the number of hikers. This is especially true if you do the crossing on the first sunny day after a 4 day period of rain.

One can find a waterfall for every natural break ;-)

I managed to avoid the crowds and to hike on my own most of the day. The nature just blew me away.

I met a group of girls from my hostel and we walked some parts together. It was a good combination of talking and silence and it was perfectly ok to separate again after a while.

Emerald Lakes

After the highest point, the Red Crater, the Emerald Lakes came into view. Although the photo above is a HDR image the colors of the water are untouched - that's why the lakes are called Emerald Lakes. My lunch spot was in the shadow of a rock overlooking one of the lakes - in solitude.

Crossing several creeks and the clouds.

Rain forest at the end of the hike

When you look back to a vacation you might find some days you consider as very intense, positive or amazing. The memory of such a day is usually long lasting - no doubt.
But wouldn't it be even more intense to realize the extraordinary attitude of the day while you are living it instead of recalling a memory afterwards? For some reason it is sometimes hard for me to do so.
The day on Tongariro was one of the rare situations when I realized already in the morning that it was a special day. I enjoyed every single breath, almost every step, all the different shades of green, the ugly smell of the volcanic fumes and my sore muscles. It felt like a constant pressing of the 'Record' button inside my memory.
Right now in this second it is not 'Record' but 'Replay'. I am a super lucky guy, ain't I?

Monday, January 18, 2010

iArt / Nuremberg, January 2010

Click on photo to view it in different sizes on my Flickr account

What the heck is Art? Do you know? I don't.

I used to think that art can't be explained or defined or described.

Last Sunday I visited a exhibition of the photographer Jürgen Teller in Nuremberg. He seems to be kind of famous because of his photos of celebrities like Kate Moss without Make Up. Big deal.

One room in the museum was just filled with photos from his vacation in Japan. Actually it was just a bunch of third class blurry photos of enfants with flash-red eyes and people from familiy gatherings in front of tilted horizons.

I was about to think that it might just be an provocation of Teller to confront the visitors with prints that are absolutely non-artsy on the first glance. But then I read the booklet that described the room.
The curator wrote about Teller playing with intimacy and nearness with great expertise.
Oh boy, it sounded like a huge pile of Art-bullshit-bingo.

Immediately afterwards I looked up 'Art' in Wikipedia on my cell phone because I was wondering what categories art in museums has to follow.
Apart from the fact that I didn't understand the sophisticated words I realized again that art is nothing to be described by words - neither in Wikipedia nor in exhibition booklets.

In a nutshell something is art for me if it touches and inspires me and the photos of Teller definitely didn't. Not at all. I have no idea why this guy is considered a great photographer.

Wow, it feels good to be ignorant.

Oh I just noted that this posting is doing just the one thing I just questioned: Categorizing or explaining art.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lead Role in a Cage / Germany, January 2010

A small detail from my current life

Did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
And cool comfort for change?
Did you exchange
A walk on part in the war,
For a lead role in a cage?

It has been a while since my last posting, hasn't it?
Well, I just didn't feel like posting recently.
Let's see whether this will change a bit in the future - ready to go for my fourth year of blogging.

If I roll back one year from today, January 13th 2010, I found myself in India close to the border to Pakistan in a small city called Jaisalmer. Wow, my current life is lightyears away from those Jaisalmer days.

A scene from my life exactly one year ago in Jaisalmer