at home in... w| Gerald Zhang-Schmidt

Look Closer, Learn More, #GetAtHome In This World

Category: Adventuring (Page 1 of 3)

Alps Adventuring: The Traunstein Over Night

Little adventures can sometimes be the hardest to come by:

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Out Winter Running: 24H Burgenland Extreme-ly Different

The 24 Hours Burgenland Extreme has, from its inception, been a fun extreme.
Walking, running, crawling – whatever you have to do – around the Neusiedler See lake in the middle of winter is definitely quite crazy.

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#GetAtHome adventuring: Re(dis)covering Civilization near Rotholz in Tyrol


My adventuring this spring continued with a last time out to help with the spring plant sales of Arche Noah (Noah’s Ark, Austria’s society for the preservation of heirloom plant varieties).

Just Work…

I was in Vienna and Wiener Neustadt with those (hardly anything to write about there), at the HQ of Arche Noah in Schiltern just last week, and now in Rotholz in Tyrol.

My poor wife ( :-p ) had to do without me again, and I went for the best compromise I could:

Going out and calling it an adventure (hence: “adventuring“), doing something a little out of the ordinary.

Then working at the plant sale, seeing what the Tyroleans are up to when it comes to the chile peppers, and heading right back home asap.

… and #Adventuring

That something #adventuring, out of the ordinary?

Going to Jenbach (closest railway station on a major line, just 2 or so kilometers away), the day before, to be there in time the next morning.

But also, to head uphill into the forest, into the night, past the ruins of Rottenburg castle.

And to (somewhat illegally) spending the night in my bivy, somewhere in that same forest.

In true #GetAtHome fashion, this was nothing to travel-blog about. It hardly even counts as an outdoors adventure.

And yet, there was quite a bit of learning and experiences involved.

After all, I did get to see the remains of a castle I would never, otherwise, have gone to.

Rottenburg Ruins

Rottenburg ruins from the path leading there

Rottenburg Castle Ruins

Why would anyone go here? It’s just some ruins, nothing worth traveling far to get to.

And yet, they are the ruins of a castle which used to be the seat of a local dynasty.
Local, in this case, having extended through the Inn river valley into Southern Tyrol, and with rulers whose origins lay in Bavaria.

Getting to be connections enough, no?

And then, I was walking on a small part of Austria’s Saint Jacob’s Trail (which would, much farther along in Spain, become the Camino de Santiago)…

Tyrol’s only saint (saintess?), ergo *their* holy figure, Saint Notburga, worked in that castle and for those lords, too.

Before she was thrown out because they were annoyed with all the good deeds she was doing while she was supposed to just serve her masters, anyways…

With a bit of history, and (again) a sense of adventure, the little hike was full of interesting views. The climb up the mountain there was nice little uphill training, too.

Into the Night

Above Rotholz, Into the Night

Above Rotholz, Into the Night

All just in search of a good place to settle down for the night.

Bivy season really is on, it seems, and slipping into a sleeping bag above the lights of ordinary civilization was good.

Bivy Above the Inn Valley

Bivy Above the Inn Valley

Another night ended looking up and seeing Ursa Major (the Big Dipper) between trees, waking up to bird song the next morning, and to sunrise views.

Rotholz (Inn Valley) In the Morning

Rotholz (Inn Valley) In the Morning

Getting Home

It was a good night, nice work – and it made me happy to return early to my own bed and my wife, to an easy way of cooking, of washing, and all that.

To what we think of as civilization (when we don’t get all caught up in computers and smartphones).

It’s a value and an accomplishment, that civilization.

When you have the experiences that make it clear that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be when it forgets about the outdoors and the wild side we need and have.

And that it’s great.

#GetAtHome Work: Arche Noah in Schiltern, A Lesson in Time

Another year, another May 1 I went out to support Arche Noah (Noah’s Ark, Austria’s society for the preservation of heirloom plant varieties) in their spring plant sale.

Another #adventuring, Another Lesson

This year, having just been outside rather much at the outdoors / field didactics course in Marchegg, I didn’t quite want to go there, either.

It’s still not boring to me to go somewhere again.

That is a #GetAtHome activity I want to promote; going somewhere time and time again just makes more familiar with the place, in its change between years and through seasons.

This year, I did not manage to go out there early enough to visit the ruins of Kronsegg (as I did another time last year), but I did go on the hiking trail out there again.

Into the night, in the light of my headlamp (the Petzl Nao of the first generation that is still working pretty well, by the way… and now *five* years old, apparently).

Past Kronsegg on my night hike to Schiltern

“May all who walk past me, a good star guide through life” says the writing on the wall here (and in German, it nicely rhymes)

It was a cool night again, nothing like the days a few years ago, when Kronsegg (reservoir) lake was in sunlight and people were bathing because it was so warm.

Fortunately, though, nothing like last year, when May 1 saw temperatures well below freezing, either (though we did reach freezing temperatures, but just slightly).

A Lesson in (Life) Time

This year, it just made me a bit too aware of the passing of time in my life… as I pointed out in my vlog from there.

(Yep, I recently started doing more with my YouTube channel. Probably in ways people don’t usually appreciate, better-known as I am for my Suunto videos, but, well, it’s my channel :-p )

It was years ago already, same place, same time of year, that I spoke about my writing a book on the chile peppers in China.

The subject still fascinates me; I am still engaged with the theme (as easily noticed since I also blog on ChiliCult)… I have just never come anywhere with that writing.

Fortunately, I recently had reason to open the respective document or I would be afraid to look and see when I had last opened the file before then.

It might easily have been years.

Now, just as I (and we, in general) tend to remember the negative comments only too well, I probably also remember what I wanted to get finished but never did rather too well.

Nothing much has got finished, though.

The visit was still nice.

At the plant sale at Arche Noah, 2017

At the plant sale at Arche Noah, 2017

It’s good to see people with an interest in heirlooms and gardening, and these, as usual, were my first nights of the year spent outdoors, in my bivy.

In Bivy at Arche Noah

In Bivy at Arche Noah. Not the usual visitor’s perspective…

View from Bivy at Arche Noah

… but the view was nice ;)

Then, I went back a different path from the usual, because it was a decision between taking longer to get through Vienna, the same way I’ve gone only too often – or to take a detour by train I’ve never been on.

The view was worth it, in passing as it was:

Past Stift Göttweig on a Local Train

Past Stift Göttweig on a Local Train

Like it or not, moaning about lack of progress will not do any good.

Only working on things, getting them to a good-enough point, then getting them out, will help anything.

So, here’s to “Get It Done.” Again ;)

And to wondering:
How do you notice the passing of time, in the world, and in your life?
And how do you handle the highs and lows of life and plans?

#GetAtHome Work: Unwillingly Discovering the Fascination of Biology in Marchegg


The area around it, the Marchfeld, may be important for Austria’s vegetable growing.
We may have been enjoying the asparagus from there, but I didn’t want to have to go there.

I’m still, aside from current freelance work, pursuing a teaching qualification, though.
This semester, want it or not, this study program finally had me taking the outdoors / field didactics course.

I was just in the middle of a nicely creative – and nicely paying – freelance project (analyzing whether a new technical bureau in a larger city could help a company entice more technical staff to join them, and if so, where the best location for that would be).
So, it was with hesitation that I went out there.

Almost Home, Way Out There

Out, that is, to a former train support staff’s house on the border between Austria and Slovakia.

Again, out with a train to Bratislava… this time, the other line from Vienna, not the one I (finally) took to get to the Bratislava Marathon. But still, a train line to a place within visible distance from the mountain that hides Bratislava from where I live, just to the north of it.

Where I (usually) live, Parndorf (Southwest of Bratislava) and where Marchegg is (Northwest of Bratislava). [Map: Google, via screenshot because I don’t want to save this as a “My Map”]

Not exactly much of a journey, and not a place likely to be of interest to too many travelers.

Especially when it comes to the biological station that this house was turned into.

Marchegg Biological Station

Marchegg Biological Station (Smartphone photo + Google Photos’ interpretation makes for quite the fittingly old-timey look ;) )

It used to be a place where steam trains changed their water, because only here in all of the east of Austria could they get calcium-poor water that wouldn’t settle in their tanks as badly.

Which is to say that the house is a little bit old.

With only wood stoves.
No electricity.
No running water.

Very basic.

Not exactly good while feeling that a well-paying freelance project, which requires online research, needed continuing…

Then again, in the middle of way too much time in front of a computer, increasingly suffering neck pain from it, maybe just the time-out needed?

Well, it was.

Thinking Makes It So…

The universe won’t care about anything at all that you wish, but there is one way it bends to your will:

When you decide to see something as a worthy adventure rather than a drag, there is a chance you can make it so.

I decided to see this course as a bit of an adventure, and so it became.

We all worked together pretty well, all the students who went there.
We got a bit more experience teaching; carried, cut and chopped wood; cooked for the group over small gas flames; spent time around an open fire; got to know more about this landscape.

It amazes me.

I don’t know why anyone would still be reading this, but imagine:

You have an area here that mainly looks just like fields.

It is mainly just fields; this area of the Marchfeld is a major vegetable, and especially asparagus, growing one.

… and Knowing Helps a Lot

The Marchfeld is also, at least in part (with dams regulating the river and such), a place where the March river flows and regularly floods quite an area.

Therefore, one finds an alluvial forest here, which are places that are quite interesting to biologists in their species richness and as ecosystems that are quite wild.

March Alluvial Forest in Early Sunlight

… and yes, very basic conditions still didn’t mean we could do without smartphones ;)

Here, something is added:
This is an area where Triops and other crustaceans which have existed since paleontological times still occur.

And to imagine that these fields, those little depressions, contain eggs of ancient species, just waiting for a flooding to let them hatch and reproduce yet again…

That is something.

If you take the time to think about it, at least.

If you don’t have to have the greatest and most extreme of excitement alone to stir your emotions.

Stirring Primal Emotions

If that kind of biological (species) survival isn’t your thing… We also got our thrills learning to handle the snakes that live there.

They aren’t poisonous and hardly bite, but snakes certainly do stir something primal in us human monkeys.

We quickly visited the area around Marchegg Castle, which is interesting to see, too.

Marchegg Castle

There, white storks still breed the way they originally did, with immense woodstick nests built into great dead trees.

Marchegg: White Stork Nesting in Trees

Marchegg: White Stork Nesting in Trees

(Mainly, the area where I live is known for the storks which build their nests on village chimneys, which is how most of them now breed.)

To keep the meadows there intact as the meadows that the storks need, and that used to be quite common, horses related to the wild Przewalski horses are kept there.

With them, a certain call of the wild is added. Especially as there were some battles over the proper hierarchy between the herd and an upstart stallion… and we had to pass right through that group of horses.

Wild Horses in Marchegg

Wild Horses in Marchegg

With them, also, the meadows have a certain look which is unlike that of meadows cultivated by machine…

Horse-Grazed Meadow in Marchegg

Horse-Grazed Meadow in Marchegg

And then, some of us students also spent way too much time socializing into the night, around the fire.

Which is primal, too, if ever there was something primal to us humans… as is the sight of the stars above:

Stars above the Campfire #adventuring

#adventuring, After All

In the end, though I could have done without it, it was a nice little adventuring, a good time-out from just working in front of a computer, indoors.

You don’t have to go all primitive for days, but…

  • How often do you still satisfy such primal emotions as sitting around a fire?
  • Do you know such an “eternal skill” as how to make a fire?
  • Are you aware of the hidden species around you and the life history they hold?
  • Do you get out at night, and to looking into the starry sky?
  • Is the night sky even visible where you are anymore?

Questions over questions, and themes on which much more could be written. Has been. And still needs to be.

Better yet, not to be written.

To be pursued.

#GetAtHome Challenge 01: “Bad” Weather? Get Out Anyway.

[This year, I want to do some things a little different.

One of those different things: Monthly challenges around different topics I find relevant to the overall challenge that it is to “Get At-Home”.

I’m more Digital GenX than Millennial, but in the stereotype of Millennial fashion, everyone (who participates) is a winner :-p

(Note to companies: If you want to sponsor a challenge, though, you’re welcome to get in touch…) ]


It’s the hardly-recognized reason for good feelings and the obvious reason for many a complaint.

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A380 Business Class Boarding Pass

adventuring deluxe: Emirates Business Class in the A380

When I speak of “adventuring,” it is often microadventures I talk about.

Going bivouacking somewhere you’d usually not sleep outside, trying to run-hike what would amount to an ultramarathon, moving through the night… That sort of thing.

But, it is also other things that tell something of the world we live in, help us make ourselves more at home in this world.

Like airplanes?

What matters is just that we approach these things with a spirit of adventure.

Otherwise, we tend to not even notice them as something to do/experience rather than set aside as the usual and boring we already know.

Our recent trip to / family visit (and wedding celebration…) in China ended up, well, ending on a nice serendipitous case of such an adventuring that I had hoped for, but only ever in the way one hopes to win the lottery…

I really wish I could tell you – and therefore, know for myself – how to get upgrades to business class.

Alas, even with scores of travel hack websites around, most tricks don’t do anything if you are not a US-American flying on a US airline offering lots of different ways to earn bonus miles on an associated credit card, for example.

Those airlines fielding more complaints than anything, Emirates having offered good rates and a 30 kg checked-in baggage limit (and operating great planes – the A380 is the best I know even in economy class), that was our airline of choice for this summer’s trip to China.

Last leg of the flight back, Dubai-Vienna, we simply seem to have got lucky.

So, things went ‘adventuring’. Deluxe.

Emirates A380 Business Class Lounge

Emirates A380 Business Class Lounge

#ItsGreatOutThere. Where You Are, Everywhere [Sponsored Post]

All those picturesque Instagram photos, adventurous Youtube videos… Depending on who you are, how you are, they can be tremendously inspirational or terrifyingly demotivational.

Those great outdoors, they aren’t often that great where we are. Or at least, they don’t seem that way.

You don’t need the Cascades or the Grand Canyon, alpine meadows or tropical forest – or, for that matter, picturesque cities and perfect conditions – to be active and discover that, in fact, it’s great out there.

Disclaimer: This post is part of an Outdoor Blogger Network campaign, and I’m getting a (small) payment for it… This does not influence the article as I maintain full editorial control of the content published on this site*.
And it’s one of the best campaigns I’ve found so far and am happy to participate in, given my focus here: I write and speak about these things, anyways…

For me, this campaign is particularly interesting because it puts the spotlight on the great outdoors, but it also made me more aware again of the ordinary outdoors and what makes them great, anyways.

I used not to like where I have been living for most of my life, particularly its outdoors.

Sure, I was running around here as a kid, but it was just the normal thing to do and it wasn’t a place to venture far, discover wilderness, have great experiences.

In fact, it seemed awful.

In all the “nature,” it is such an industrialized landscape. It’s windy just about all the time, and uncomfortably so. It’s flat and boring. There are plants I’ve developed an allergy to.

And then, I go out.

I have been venturing farther and farther – and gone the same circles for years – and discovered more and more. I’ve been out in the heat of summer and the cold of winter, with the sunrise, into the sunset, and through the night.

I’ve come to like it.

Stormy Sunset

It’s still great out there also when the “there” is a different place.

The mountains offer very different challenges, with all the climbing making things harder, but the views and the diversity of the ups-and-downs also making things easier than the relentless flat roads one can find here.

The bamboo forest and beaches of “my” parts of China, let alone the Great Wall, make for exciting views and an easy sense of adventure.

Haikou Beach Running

There is still a satisfaction in coming back to a place that may not fulfill ordinary standards of greatness, but that has come to be more truly home – and another place to say #ItsGreatOutThere, here, as well as “there” far away.

I hope you’ll join me. #BeActive

*Read the Outdoor Blogger Codex for more information on blogger transparency.

The campaign It’s Great Out There doesn’t only run posts like this and its hashtag, there are also other parts of it you may be interested in – and profit from. Check out the It’s Great Out There website for more info.

Helicopter in front of Höllkogel

Taking Off to a Different View

An opportunity taken, the familiar landscape of the Höllengebirge seen from a different perspective…


Going to the Traunsee, up to the Feuerkogel – given how often I’ve been there, it seems like a walk around the neighborhood.

We don’t usually know our neighborhoods quite as well, aren’t as fully at home in them as we’d like to think, though – and when we get a chance to see them differently, their fascination immediately comes back to us, in ways we have forgotten about.

Most of the time, I’ll tell you to go for the psychology of different views:

Just go again, keep an open mind, learn more, and you’ll see and notice different things.

The weather changes, the seasons change, you change in your feelings and your knowledge, your views change.

This is how I do it myself. Most of the time.

Then, though, I got a note asking who’d like to help out handling the provisions for a mountain hut. A mountain hut I’ve gone past a few times on the way to the Höllkogel. A mountain hut that has to get those provisions by helicopter.

And the perspective on my common stomping ground changed, because I literally took off to a different view…

… and then, after a few hours of heavy lifting to get all the provisions in their proper places (and it was a lot of stuff, not the least of it the beer)…

… and finally, it turned out that the helicopter was stationed at Salzburg airport, meaning that there was a chance to fly along the Höllengebirge mountains and the area northwest of it…

… and over Salzburg itself.

Feste Hohensalzburg by Air

I had seen (and visited) Hohensalzburg castle a few times before, but never seen it like this, and I had stayed close by the airport before, but also never approached it and landed there.

After delays we’d had due to bad weather, this little adventuring came close on the heels of the Hochkönigman Marathon Trail race. That made it all the more tiring, but it was another one of those things where seeing a chance and taking it was well worth it.

Special thanks, therefore, to Daniel from the Rieder Hütte and to the crew of HTM Helicopter Travel Munich

htm helicopters

… and the question to you, my dear readers:

Do you let opportunities slip by, or will you take them as they come?

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