Monday, June 25, 2007

Limestone in CH

Last-minute decision with good results - weather being disgusting in the North, Switzerland looked better on the radar map, there we go! It's been a couple of w-ends i worked on my leading skills back home, so this is not a bad test - go to long-planned for places and try some climbing out!

First objective - the Gasts. Gastlosen is a magic place that somehow forewent overcrowding and still keeps its origins untouched. It is usual to spend many minutes on the approach in the car, waiting for all the cows to cross or to smell milk with that particular 'just from the cow' smell when entering a refuge.
Rain greats us in the morning, but the wind is quiet and south faces look good. We start the approach in the rain - not exactly the best thing when planning for a 400m classic, but whatever, we're hungry to climb. The limestone looks good - almost untouched despite all guidebooks calling Nikita the classic of the place. Opened in the beginning of the 90ies for its first part, it was finished in the 2000. The enormous S face looks almost bare of long routes, and we start the fun. Slabs and slabs, friction and more slabs characterize well the 200m to come. Fun, and we're not too tired to try the second part. A bit harder, the first 7a pitch is undecipherable; things get better afterwards with very cool 6bs in the end. We are tired and demotivated enough to leave the last 6a and 6c pitches alone, and successfully rap down for the dinnertime. Good times.

The day afterwards is a 'rest day'. It starts with a perfect bivy at Buufal, a magic valley. We wake up to find wigwams, cows and horses nearby. Oh, this strange world. Up we head to the wall. Alone all day, with perfect sunny weather and awesome climbing - the first pitch of Stern Sturn proves cumbersome, but afterwards it constantly gets better. With almost 200meters, the day turns out well.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Terracotta Soldiers or the Burried Army

What better soldiers than those out of terre cuite? That's what i think anyway, although it might not exactly be a defendable concept for the weapons' market or the political elite. Hey, don't the chinese possess the wisdom in its infinitesimal detail? That's at least how their First Emperor saw his army - all terracotted!

Seriously though, this is a stunning story a friend of mine brought up in conversation last week as she visited the Mausoleum during her China trip. Very like the Egyptians, a Qin emperor Shi Huangdi, who also was the instigator of the Great Wall (unifying several pre-existing walls), started to create his burial monument when he became emperor. The project was finished a couple of years after his death, taking over 700 000 workers and over 30 years to complete. The result is one of the most extra-ordinary archeological finds of the last century - over 8 000 soldiers and their horses, each sculpted with a unique facial expression, garment and color depending on rank that protect the yet unexcavated tomb of the emperor. Sure, this is more of an immortality dream than anything else, in addition to being a strong symbol of China's power (reflected nowadays through several medium, i.e. Zhang Yimou's movies) and nationalism. But then it is also a monument to those 700 000 workers (and no, i'm not wearing red today) that managed this feat and created the mystery for us to contemplate - and were supposedly burried at the site as well not to divulge the secrets of the place...

Moral of the story - the emperor died anyway and never managed to find the immortality potion, his army was disarmed and burned a couple of years later (today soldiers have no colors and no weapons), and the whole story forgotten. If not for a couple of well diggers in the 1970ies, Xian would receive much less tourists today!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Paris or a comeback

Paris is a wonderful city. Crowded, polluted, smelly and hot - but it is still great, and it welcomes its old and new lovers with the same open arms. A hot chocolate at LaDurée to start the day, followed by museum visits, a run through le Marais to buy some Jewish delicatessen goodies, and day's end at Berthillon's on Ile St Louis made me wish for more. Notre-Dame looked too white, but Musée Branly is still to visit, as well as the newly restored Musée Guimet.

I was happy to get into the L'Âge d'or de l'Inde Classique expo at Grand Palais - the beauty of the Gupta statues is breathtaking to say the least - unforgettable look from this fellow will stay with me for some time. Another country to visit - oh so big and interesting! Also noticed new books to read - Rushdie's new novel, Shalimar the Clown, and Sealy's Troter-nama.

Last but not least museum of the day - the newly restored Orangerie. Monet and his virtual reality, but also Paul Guillaume's collection I have previously not seen with beautiful Picassos, a couple of Provence paysages of Derrain not to be missed and some Soutine and Modigliani paintings to finish this art-fest for me.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Ducasse in Mons

This is a special folklore party in Mons - Belgians do have incredible customs and their own way to party indeed! It all started in the beginning of the second Millennium, when a supposed dragon or crocodile ravaged the region and a brave Chevalier killed it. How from this legend do you get this?

Go figure. Nowhere else than in Belgium...A way for people to get crazy, mix St George in the matter to keep the inquisition happy and create a bunch of customs as good as any vulgar Romans or Greeks could imagine. A nowadays Chevalier kills the dragon with a pistol and thousands try to get a hair from its tail for good luck...

Go figure again. Afterwards the city is a mass as bad as a mass could be with piss and trash invading all the streets. Even in Paris after July 14th or in Southern France cities after the Corrida you won't find as much trash and piss in one place. Unesco heritage it is!