A UNESCO Filled Return to Hamburg – Come Follow Along!

In the midst of a beautiful hot, humid and record setting July in 2010 I found myself sitting on a sweltering train (inside a large ferry) headed across the channel from Denmark to Germany on my way to Hamburg. What followed was a very pleasant whirlwind tour through a city that struck me as being far more charming and rich in history and culture than I had expected.  In my preliminary post back then about Hamburg, you get a sense for the positive opinion of the city I was left with and what, I believe, will be an exciting insight into how much the city has changed in fun and exciting ways in the past five short years.

In truth, I’m shocked when I consider that it has been five years. I’ve often toyed with a return trip to Hamburg, but have only recently started re-visiting and exploring the areas close to my home-base here in Copenhagen.  Over the last year I’ve run into Hamburg repeatedly.  It all started with a NYE trip good friends took last year, which I was unable to attend, but which left me listening to grand stories of amazing adventures. Then once again as friends re-located to Hamburg and sang its praises.  Then even more recently during a series of events here in Copenhagen that touted the many exciting things going on in Hamburg. At the event I was reminded that Hamburg has now progressed fairly far into the construction of their fascinating Elbe Philharmonic Hall project, a captivating project that was only beginning to take shape during my initial visit. Even more importantly, earlier this year, the city’s Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District with Chilehaus were named as UNESCO World Heritage sites. While I brushed up against these parts of the city in my initial visit, as a bit of a UNESCO World Heritage addict, I made a mental note that I’d definitely be heading back for a more in-depth exploration.

The Black Sun – Ribe – HD Video

Twice a year for several weeks the Wadden Sea National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the surrounding area of Southern Jutland in Denmark is inundated by more than 14 million birds.  The birds flock to the region during their migration from all across Europe.  Luckily for the birds, it seems that the French Starlings have no problem effortlessly coordinating their complex movements alongside British and German Starlings. The result are massive boiling balls of Starlings that act and look very similar to massive fish bait balls in the sea.

The footage in this clip was taken in so-so weather (light rain) on October the 17th in the wetland/fielded area that sits right alongside (essentially inside) the town of Ribe.  The fact that you can view this many birds directly in the heart of Ribe is definitely one of the coolest parts about the experience and makes it very convenient, especially given you only have two chances (sunrise and sunset) to see the birds congregate and swarm.

The Wadden Sea – Weekly Travel Photo & Product Review

The Black Sun – it almost sounds ominous doesn’t it? If you’re a small worm, grasshopper, or fruit tree around south-western Jutland in fall, I suppose it is.  But, for the rest of us, it describes a stunning bird migration which is one of those you’ve-gotta-see-it-to-appreciate-it experiences. While photos like these or video like this may help convey some of the wonder of the Black Sun – the annual migration of more than 14 million starlings – it’s only when you’ve seen the birds in person, heard their chatter, and the incredible whooshing sound of their wings as they move in unison, that you get real insights into why the Black Sun is special.

How does that relate to this week’s photo? It was the main reason that drew me to the historic Danish town of Ribe in southern Jutland.  And, while I was drawn to Ribe to see the Black Sun, I soon fell in love with the city itself, often hailed as Denmark’s oldest, is historic, charming and home to beautiful doors, wonderful architecture, and lovely people.  It also serves as the home-base for an exploration of the Wadden Sea or “Vadehavet” National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site which is immediately in/around/outside of the town.

The Spirit of the Moment

I’m thrilled to share that VirtualWayfarer just passed 1,000,000 views on YouTube (I’m so incredibly humbled and flattered – you are all amazing!). To celebrate, I decided to dive into my video archives, sort through the footage I’ve accrued over the past six years, pull out some favorite shots and to create a travel tribute video exploring and embracing snippets from some of the incredible adventures I’ve had over the past few years.  The result is just under 15 minutes of some of my favorite HD footage and spans 19 countries.

To go with the footage I pulled up a chair, sat down, and attempted to explore the lessons I’ve learned from travel.  The result is a heartfelt exploration of life, travel, and the magic of the road.  In it, I attempt to share some of the more significant lessons I’ve learned from travel, offer some advice, and aspire to convey the sense of ever-increasing wonder I have at the richness of the world at large.

It’s a smudge long, but the feedback has been that the combination of the footage and some of the ideas expressed in the monologue make it well worth the watch.  I hope you’ll take the time to give it a watch and then to share some of your own revelations or grand adventures. At the end of the day, travel and the opportunity to embrace the spirit of the moment is a wondrous thing.

Thank you all so, so, much for continuing to read (and watch!) VirtualWayfarer, offer your feedback, share your special moments, questions, and passion with me. I’m profoundly humbled and flattered by the messages you share with me and that you find my stories, photography, and video interesting.

Some have asked about the quality differences given clips were filmed over 6+ years – footage was shot on a mixture of devices. The earliest footage was filmed on an old Flip HD 720p handheld cam. Other footage was taken on a Vixia HF200. More recent footage was taken on a Canon 600D and a Canon 6D.  Video didn’t load properly?  View it here.

A Road Trip Through Denmark in Fall

If you crack a guidebook for Copenhagen you’ll find a number of great (and not so great) suggestions.  Everything from a visit to The Little Mermaid (yuck) to the incredible vista out over the Sand Buried Lighthouse or Skagen’s world famous light. One thing missing is a suggestion to see Denmark, in Fall, as the leaves change.  This past fall I had the pleasure of, mostly by happenstance, taking a week-long road trip with family through Denmark at the end of October. The results were a complete, and utterly enchanting, surprise.  Of course, if you’re somewhere with four distinct seasons, the beauty of fall is a given.  But, there are some places that are better equipped to charm your socks off and, after my road trip, I’ll happy add Denmark to that list.

What makes it special? A large portion of the Danish countryside uses buried power lines. Fences are also usually less-than-blatant, or artfully done where present. This creates rolling farmland, with fresh fall/winter cover crops sprouting (or blooming), with a sporadic mixture of small stands of trees and large forests. The forests themselves range in density and plant life fairly significantly throughout the Danish landscape. With a wealth of islands, exposed coasts, and inland lakes Denmark’s forests are also typically heavily blended with many types of trees thrust together in a veritable tree-bouquet that adds rich texture, depth, and in fall a brilliant array of colors.  All of which is dotted by small one and a half lane country roads, brilliant coast line, charming old farm houses many of which are brightly colored and have thatched rooftops…and then of course, brilliantly hygge historical Danish towns.

If you’re visiting Denmark from abroad, another great incentive is that depending on how and where you book, the country which is famous for its 180% tax on new vehicles has tax-free rentals specifically available for visiting foreigners which results in drastically reduced rental prices and in many cases unlimited mileage. These rentals require that you and your drivers don’t live in Denmark and are not Danish citizens. If you meet these criteria, renting a car suddenly becomes a very affordable way to see the country.

So, without further adieu, here is a mixture of color photos taken during my week-long road trip through Denmark, including visits to the island of Fyn, Sjaelland, and Jutland. Don’t miss the full album on flickr here.

The Back Roads of Jutland

Road Trip USA – Colorado and Arizona in Color Photos

Grand skies, incredible nature. Delicious eats and dramatic mountain passes. Peaceful rivers and powerful inspiration for the imagination.  These are the traits, all bolstered by the sharp, clean, invigorating scent of mountain air kissed by the vanilla scent of a fresh summer rain and the vanilla perfume of Ponderosa pine trees.

The following are color photos taken during my two week road trip across northern Arizona (briefly) before settling in along the west fork of the Dolores River in southwestern Colorado.  Once we had our camp set, we used it as a base for exploring the San Juan Forest and surrounding area. The San Juan Mountain Range and the southern Colorado Rockies remain one of my favorite places in the world.

Flowers over Trout Lake

Trout Lake

Iberia Airlines Plays Song About Death and Dying Before Takeoff

Earlier this week I had the distinct displeasure of flying from Copenhagen to Madrid with Iberia Airlines. While my trip ended up being fantastic, the flight itself was an unmitigated disaster.  The flight crew was unfriendly, rude and all around difficult to engage with. Which, fair enough, is disappointing but not all that uncommon in this day and age. But, ultimately I ended up being in for two distinct surprises that left me all around shocked.

The first was when I reached my seat, went to sit down and had to squeeze into it. I’m 193cm (6’3″) and long-legged so it’s always a bit of a challenge.  This time though? Utterly ridiculous. The space between each seat was so tight that even in the more spacious sections between the seats it was still tight enough to leave my normal sized water bottle self supported and securely stuck as shown in the photo below. I realize I’m a bit tall, but I’m not unreasonably tall…and this? Less than a water bottle’s worth of space from seat to seat? Pure tomfoolery. And for those of you who are tall and curious?  Yes, the stewardess managed to ram my knee with the drink cart with significant force, shrug it off, and go back to business without even a passing apology.


But, the real icing on the cake came as we prepared for takeoff. In between the cabin crew’s safety talks music was playing over the cabin speakers.  A nice touch and one that ultimately should be soothing and relaxing.  So, knees getting bruised by the seat in front of me, I settled in and tried to enjoy the music. Then, something about the lyrics seemed off and caught my ear.

Incredible Slow Motion Footage of a Large Hummingbird Charm

There are moments that we come upon while traveling that enchant us. They are the milliseconds that blend with minutes to leave us lost outside of time enraptured and mesmerized by the beauty of whatever the experience is we’ve stumbled upon. At times these stem from people, culture, food and music but I find more often than not they come from nature.  The hour or so I spent watching a massive charm of hummingbirds in southwestern Colorado about 30 miles outside of Dolores falls into this category.

In the following footage you’ll find several species of humming birds, captured at 240 FPS and recorded in slow motion. The roughly two minutes of real-time footage becomes 13 attention-stealing minutes of incredible sounds and sights as the hummingbirds sing to each other, spar, and feed.  The first few seconds are in regular speed to give you a frame of reference … enjoy!

To see more footage from my Colorado trip head to my YouTube channel and don’t forget to subscribe!

Footage was shot using a selfie stick and iPhone 6 at close range. Slight color enhancement was applied. Filmed just before dusk in mid-summer.