This week we had our first exams, one in physics and another one in mathematics. I found both easy and am confident that I did well. I also noticed that taking those exams and solving the problems was fun and that I enjoyed taking the exams and showing what I can do. Especially I enjoyed the moment when I was able to apply some theoretical ideas and concepts to solve this one problem, the answer of which would have otherwise eluded me. The task was to calculate the work done by a force when moving a given radial distance in the gravitational field induced by the force. The function for the potential energy was given (U(r)=Cr, where C is a constant), but I had trouble deciding whether the work would have a positive or negative sign. However, using the definition of a potential inducing, and thus conservative, force and that of work done by a force I was able to decide that the sign is negative.
The moose season started two weeks ago and last week we got our first two. The other one, a large bull, died in the middle of woods and with roughly ten men left we had no way of getting it out in one piece by hand. Luckily one of our party members had a tractor available so we didn’t have to cut the carcass to pieces in the woods. The day ended up lasting until 9 pm before I was back home, thirteen hours since I had left for the hunt. I enjoyed the day to the fullest and was happy to be chasing moose after a four-year pause.
Last weekend I visited my childhood’s home, spent time in the nature and relaxed in the midst of my studies. I came back with a bag full of berries and mushrooms, which reminded me of an anecdote my grandfather has told me.
Many decades ago, as Finland was still a more rural society, people living in the city would visit their relatives on the countryside and return home with bags of food with them. Especially after the second world war food was more scarce and the rural areas were often better off when it came to food. One of my grandfather’s cousins would also visit our family farm more or less frequently and was always given food to take home.
When I was getting on board the train last weekend, I remembered this little story and saw the parallel to my current situation. Even though Finland has become a more modern society and less reliant on agriculture as the main source of income for people, all the food still comes from fields, farms and forests, and the people in the cities eat that same food.
The last weeks have been hectic, me preparing to move, saying goodbye to people and Switzerland in general and leaving a clean desk at work.
Two weeks ago, on July 8th 2017, I did one more hike that was still on my list: Säntis. Säntis is a 2500 meters high peak in Appenzell, Switzerland and is accessible by gondola. I chose to take the bus to Wildhaus and climb from there by foot the remaining 1500 meters to the top. Although Säntis is a tourist attraction and might get crowded, climbing to it offers magnificent views over the surrounding valleys and near peaks. It’s a full days trip if you go by foot from Wildhaus and take decent breaks. From Säntis you could continue to many different directions, maybe after an overnight stay at the top, if you feel like it.
Apart from climbing to the Säntis to say farewell to the Swiss Alps, I also visited an ex-colleague and organized two barbecue events to say thank you and goodbye to my friends and colleagues at work. The barbecue with my friends was a warm event in the cool shade of the trees surrounding the public barbecue spots, but the one with my colleagues was less successful, as a thunder storm drove us away. Not letting rob ourselves of a nice evening, we drove to my place, and my 16-square-meter living room was roomy enough for twelve people. Actually spending the evening in such a tight atmosphere and venue was more than appropriate, considering that I am already practically a student.
Now, as I am writing this, almost all of my belongings are already packed in cardboard boxes and plastic bags for the moving company to come pick them up. In about a weeks time I will be back in Finland, settling in to my new life as a future student of physics.
Having had the time to reflect my decision, I am still confident that I have made the right choice. But as always eventually happens, I am having increasingly more butterflies in my stomach as the days go by. After all, I am exchanging a quite secure and good income for student life with little to no income. But that’s just on the medium term; on the long term I am exchanging a career that did not interest me enough to one that might prove out to be my passion. And being exited about it, sometimes with a hint of intimidation or anxiety mixed with keen interest for the future, is a good sign for me.
End of May I did a trip in Switzerland I had been thinking of doing for some time now. I took the train to Jungfraujoch which houses the highest located railway station in Europe at 3450 meters above the sea level. The trip from my home to there took four and a half one hours in one direction, so most of the day I spent on the train, but it was definitely worth it, thanks to the beautiful weather, the breathtaking scenery and the reliable service of the Swiss national railways.
I first took the train to Zürich and from there over Bern and Interlaken Ost to Kleine Scheidegg, where the final leg on the Jungfrau train started.
At Kleine Scheidegg I had one and a half hours to spare, since I wanted to have enough buffer, had any of the previous trains been delayed. Additionally, due to its high popularity, I had a reserved seat on a specific train to the Jungfraujoch,
so instead of trying to get on an earlier train with free seats I instead climbed on a nearby hill to enjoy my lunch while observing the surrounding scenery; the North face of the Eiger and the valley spreading out in front of me in the East.
When I finally got to Jungfraujoch, after a 30-minute train ride and a five minute stop at station Eismeer, I noticed that many people were not really equipped for the winter conditions. Some were wearing sneakers, or even flip-flops, and others had only summer clothes with them. Granted, in the Sun you could be wearing only shorts and a t-shirt, but any walking in the snow without proper shoes makes you quickly get literally cold feet.
The Jungfraujoch station and its facilities form a large underground of kitschy exhibitions, displays and activities, something you could expect to be set up for masses of tourists; a superficial exhibition on the construction of the railway, a Lindt world of chocolate, and so on. An ice cave, as part of the complex, was an interesting work of art with small halls decorated with ice sculptures, although it doesn’t quite compare to the ice hotels you can find in other locations.
Leaving the complex and taking a walk to the nearby hut Mönchjochhütte gives you more air to breath and the number of people you meet reduces dramatically. Being at east mentally alone in the middle of the sea of ice makes you humble. I actually asked myself, how I might get back down without the train and in my current equipment and with the food I was carrying in my back pack; in places like these I tend to think and appreciate the simple things, being in and breathing the moment, eating my sandwiches and sinking into a feeling of fulfillment and calm.
As a travel goal the whole Jungfraujoch region is surely very interesting for someone who likes to do and is well equipped for trekking on glaciers. Without the proper training, or a guide, and equipment no one should leave the marked path between Jungfraujoch train station and the Mönchjochhütte. The glacier can be very dangerous, especially if you do not know the risks and how to act when they realize. There are organized tours that have you trek over part of the glacier and include and over night stay in a hut.
Even to someone without any intention to do hiking, visiting the Jungfraujoch and feeling the towering summits around, above and below you is calming. Also, feeling the effect of thinner air is interesting and makes you appreciate all the more the feats of mountaineers and those who built the Jungfrau railway.
The trip back
I had booked for myself two and a half hours on Jungfraujoch for my little hike, for admiring the view and for taking some pictures. But my trip back home turned out to be an adventure, and also a good example on how well the Swiss national railways operate.
The Jungfrau train took me back to Kleine Scheidegg and from there I travelled to Grindelwald. Unfortunately, the departure at Grindelwald was delayed by five minutes, leaving me one minute to change to the next train in Interlaken Ost. During the trip, the delay accumulated and before the last station before Interlaken Ost the delay was already estimated to be 10 minutes. This would have meant, due to missing the planned connection, that I would be arriving one hour later at home than planned.
However, when we departed from the last station before Interlaken Ost, the estimated delay suddenly dropped to 6 minutes. The driver also asked passengers changing for the train to Bern in Interlaken Ost, including me of course, to change quickly. This gave me new hope that Swiss railways would actually be as good as I had previously experienced, being able to make up the lost time and enabling passengers travel according to their original plans. On arrival at Interlaken Ost I dashed to the platform for the Bern train, just reaching the train when it was scheduled to depart. On the platform I see the conductor standing calmly and waving his hand casually to tell me that “no hurry, you’ll make it”. And we did, me and the other passengers.
After changing to the next train at Interlaken Ost, our departure there would be delayed by ten minutes, announced the driver. Now I was obviously thinking, whether the nine-minute change in Bern to the Zürich train would be doable. We arrived in Bern in time, so all was well. Except that before exiting the train I checked my trouser pocket for my ticket and found nothing. Checking my other trouser pocket and my wallet, I still found no ticket, and we would be arriving in Bern in about one minute. I mentally traced back my steps and actions during the trip from Interlaken Ost to Bern and ended up finding my ticket: The whole day I had been keeping my train ticket in my wallet, where I usually keep them. However, on the Bern train I decided to stick it into my other trouser pocket, where I also had my mobile phone, to keep it better available for the coming ticket inspections.
During the trip, after having put my ticket in the same pocket with my mobile phone, I had taken my mobile phone out of my pocket a couple of times. It dawned to me during that one remaining minute before arriving at Bern that the ticket may, without me noticing it, have slipped out of my pocket. Or maybe I had missed the pocket in the first place when putting the ticket in it. Either way, I crouched to look under my seat, expecting to find my ticket. But I saw nothing. Still, keeping my head calm, I looked a bit higher, at the metal rods beneath the chair supporting it, carefully looking for any piece of paper, and there it was. My ticket was lying on a metal rod under my chair, surely having slipped between the seat and the armrest. I was relieved and felt like Sherlock Holmes, having solved the mystery. The next connections went without any hassle, and finally I was home on time, in my bed, still thinking about the simple and raw beauty of the Alps.
The lesson of all this is that you should always check that you have all your belongings when leaving your place and to keep a cool head if something is missing. Another lesson was that delays can be thought of as your schedule becoming more flexible and loose. When I was still on the train from Grindelwald to Interlaken Ost and thought I would miss my connection, I looked for the next one. It would have been 30 minutes later, and that one I would have caught easily, even with some time to spare at Interlaken Ost. So, had I missed my original connection, my schedule would have become more loose and I would have been no more in a hurry to catch the next train. Changing the perspective may change you from being late or delayed to having ample time at your hands.
Last Thursday was a holiday and the weather was nice with the temperature rising to over 25 degrees centigrade during the day, so I did some hiking. I had earlier decided to visit the Scheerenbachfälle, over 550 meter high falls by lake Walensee. Early in the morning I took the train to the town of Weesen and hiked from there to the town of Walenstadt at the other end of the lake.
The roughly 20 kilometer hike included some sub-tropical flora with palm trees near the lake shore. Higher up it was also very green, warm and humid, which surprised me. I thought that such flora in Switzerland, palm trees as an example of that, could only be seen in the canton of Tessin and maybe also in the Western Switzerland around Lake Geneva. This hike also reminded me how much can be found just around the corner, when you just keep an open mind, get out of the door and take a look around the next corner.
Along the hiking trail I met a lot of Swiss families taking the same route or part of it. It’s always encouraging to see different kinds of people hiking even on some more demanding trails with decent elevations: young and old, athletic and not very fit, alone and in groups. Being an avid walker also during the work week, it somehow makes me happy to see that people walk to relax and to experience the nature. Walking is such an easy and inexpensive way to get around and not just see, but also feel, smell, hear and feel the nature.
Below are some of the better pictures I managed to take along my hike.
Last week, on Thursday and Friday, when walking to and back from work, I witnessed some quite impressive and beautiful views. On both days the clouds were quite low, but Thursday was a rainy day whereas Friday was bright and sunny: the clouds seemed especially round and fluffy, surrounding the mountains with cotton candy.
Below I have tried to capture the feeling in a few pictures, presenting roughly the same portion of the mountain range on two consequent days and different times of the day. In the first and the last picture the lowest point in the middle of the picture, the saddle point, is the same one. In the second picture the saddle is in the middle but covered in clouds.
Last week the temperature climbed regularly over 20 degrees centigrade during the day and in the Sun. Daffodils, dandelions and apple trees are blooming, and the magnolia I have been following for the last two weeks has already passed the peak of its bloom. The nights are still cool here but during the day its warm and wonderful with the Sun shining, birds singing and trees and flowers decorating the view wherever one sets his eyes.
Since years now two swans are staying at the nearby lake, but this year they decided to build their nest not on an island at the lake, but on dry ground ashore. Needless to say, the birds are very stressed as people pass by on the sidewalk, only five meters away from the nest. Hopefully the birds make it through with brooding, since after the hatching they will anyway spend most of the time with their young in the water, farther away from people.
Below are pictures from last weekend of the magnolia and the swan brooding in its nest. The last picture is the Sun rising behind mountains. I tried to capture the beautiful light and impression of spring driving away the last bits of winter during my morning walk, but pictures taken with a mobile phone and against the light source to be quite bad, or at least I was not able to take a better one.
Last week I posted a few impressions on the progression of spring in the nature around my home town. Below are a few more pictures from last weekend. Especially the second picture with the same magnolia from last week shows how much happens in just one week in spring; flowers that were last week just starting to blossom were already withering away.
The first picture below shows the same mountains as the picture in the previous post but here the peaks have hardly any snow left, although they were already pretty clean of snow the week before.
In my home town and the surrounding areas spring is going with full steam ahead. Last weekend the nature took a leap towards summer, as more and more flowers and trees came to bloom. Below a few pictures from last Saturday and Sunday.
For a bit over one year know I have been writing this blog, with topics ranging from from economics over mathematics to procurement and living a good life.
If nothing else, the blog has forced me to think about my own life and interests and reflect upon them regularly, since I have committed to posting at least once a week. This has kept me learning, investigating and trying to find my own path. I am still nowhere near finding my true calling but am experimenting and keeping being open to new possibilities.
During the holidays I am spending a lot of time in one of my favorite places, the Finnish forests, engaged in one of my favorite activities, observing and enjoying the nature. Although we have no snow here at the moment, it is possible to enjoy the winter and its short days in a relaxed atmosphere.
Edit from 3.1.2017: The pictures above were taken during the last days of 2016. On the 2nd of January 2017 we finally got some snow that also stayed.