Up the mountain

Another highlight of our road trip was to visit the top of Zugspitze – the highest peak of Bavarian Alps, Wetterstein Mountains. The summit was 2,962 m (9,718 ft) above sea level, and could be accessible by cogwheel train and Gletscherbahn cable car.

We left Garmisch Partenkirchen around eight o’clock after a brief showdown with that old woman at the reception. In the end, she offered to knock off €20 from our bill, and I decided to settle the matter without further haggling or making a scene. Life is too short to be unhappy, especially during our precious road trip, mum and I agreed.

Mum poised on a cogwheel train, waiting for the train to move…

There are a few ways to reach Zugspitze. One way is catching a cogwheel train at Garmisch Partenkirchen. The train stops at Hausberg, Kreuzeck-Alpspitzbahn, Hannerbach, Grainau and Eibsee before starting a serious climbing toward its terminal at Zugspitzplatt. Another way is driving to Eibsee like we did and catching a train from there.

Our train was starting from Eibsee and it was schedule to depart at 9:15…

We managed to find the seats by the driver. We could hardly wait until a driver arrived and started the engine.

At the beginning, the track was surrounding by thick woodland…

The climb was rather slow and laborious. We could feel the cogs underneath our carriages biting into the steel tread between the rails and pulling the load up like a powerful farm horse ploughing a field. I had never been on this type of train, therefore, I was fascinated by how it worked.

Then all of the sudden, the vegetation on our right opened and revealed a breathtaking view of Lake Eibsee on our right. The sight made us realised how high the train had climbed already…​

After Eibsee, there were two loops on otherwise a single track. At each loop, two trains, one ascending and the other descending, waited in order to pass one another.

Our train entered Kleiner Tunnel and stopped. The driver turned off the engine. Apart from the driver, none of us on the train knew what to expect in the tunnel, and we were rather excited when we spotted some bright light in the distance…

The light was of the headlamps of the oncoming train. The train approached towards us very slowly and steadily, like two cars passing each other on a very narrow street.

After the tunnel, the cogwheel train climbed another 1,100m and we arrived at the terminal, Zugspitzplatt…


Despite it was 2588m above sea level, the inside of the terminal station was not at all cold. Mum and I were well prepared for low temperature, therefore, we were a little disappointed…

We won’t need any jacket after all!

Our optimism would vanish into thin air as soon as we stepped out of the building…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Mum & (old) Rolling Stocks…

Sorry for deserting the blog yet again for a long time. After mum had returned to Japan, I had a few knitting projects to go through as well as getting my fitness level back for the coming hockey season and, therefore, my plate had been laden rather heavily. However, I kept my journal during the absence and I would like to share it instead of writing a bland new blog post.

10th October
We were off to London Transport Museum in Covent Garden. Had known about this museum for ages but never had an opportunity or excuse to visit. So very glad that mum were willing to get onboard!
Saw a large sculpture at the Piazza. How it was held up, had no idea…

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At the entrance of the museum, we saw a large Tokyo subway map printed on the wall and mum was very excited. ‘Take a photo of me & the map!’, she begged…

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Loads of old rolling stocks were on display.
When I moved to London in the early 90s, smoking on the public transport was still permitted, the double-deckers were free to hop on & off from the rear, and the train doors were not automatic but self-service slamming doors which let passengers hang on in daring & nonchalant style while the train glided into the station. Hooray to all the relics of pre- health & safety madness! While in & out of the trains & buses, I reminisced about London which no longer existed…

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Then off to their gift shop as mum needed an inspiration for gift ideas for her friends in Japan. After much pacing back and fro between the aisles, she settled on 12 double-decker fridge magnets. Together with them, she also bought a tea towel and two trays.
For lunch, we decided upon tartine at one of the restaurants at the Piazza. The tartine was rather tough to cut but it tasted good…

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After lunch, we shopped at COS on Long Acre and mum bought a zipped knit blouson which suited her well…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Shinkansen @ Nagano Station

For all winter sport enthusiasts, tomorrow is the day, isn’t it? As an ex-ice hockey player and skier – after all, I am from Nagano, I do look forward to the Sochi 2014 and do hope the event will finish without incident.

One of the most definite legacies of the Nagano 1998 Winter Olympic Game is undoubtedly the Nagano Shinkansen (長野新幹線) – bullet train / the Super Express Asama…

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Despite the fact that the distance between Nagano City and Central Tokyo was only 230km, the city lacked high-speed rail link such as the Shinkansen, and a motorway was yet to be extended to the city at the time of the IOC’s host city selection for the 18th Winter Olympic Game. Therefore, solving the transport problem was an utmost imperative factor in order to invite the game successfully. As the result, the very first Nagano Shinkansen ran on its tracks which were raid over the existing route on the 1st October 1997. The journey time to Tokyo Station from Nagano station was shortened from 2 hours 45 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes…

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This reduction of travelling time was welcomed by many as it made a journey to Tokyo much easier. However, the old Nagano station which was modelled after Zenkō-ji was replaced by a bland custard yellow clad monstrosity in order to accommodate high-powered trains such as the Shinkansen and the locals mourned the loss of well-loved character from the cityscape. I suppose the Shinkansen required a much higher calibre in accuracy and engineering, therefore, integrating the existing local terrain must have been too uneconomical. Still, I can’t see why the modernisation in Japan tends to choose the path of bulldozing predecessors rather than conserving them as pieces of history…

Mum & I boarded our train around midday. Ohhh, we must buy bento-boxes for lunch…

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Next door to the bento stall was a kiosk, selling sweets, newspapers, magazines and souvenirs…

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We grabbed the ones which were the most pricy, believing they would be the tastiest…

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However, we were bitterly disappointed. The bento appeared to be packed well, but…

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Most of the contents were just the epitome of culinary betrayal…

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Two diamond-shaped brown stuff turned out to be pieces of extremely tough beef. In the left lower corner were two konjac slabs with miso paste. A pinky thing on the upper left was salmon & sliced onion, marinated in oil & vinegar. Next to the salmon was Kimpira Gobo – stir-fried burdock, tree branch-like vegetable, very common in Japan. And that yellow lumpy thing was frittered apricot! The rest of the spaces were occupied by cold taste-less rice balls. How could they charge ¥1500 for this miserable bento box? Mum & I pecked at them dejectedly while hen-pecking bitterly…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

We Are In Tokyo!

My apologies for not updating the blog often recently. As I updated in my last post, it had been really really cold in Nagano and my brain seemed to go in hibernation. Mum & I also had head cold and was taking it easy during the last few days in Nagano.

Yesterday, mum & I traveled to Tokyo…

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I shall update our adventure in Tokyo later on. So please watch this space…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Night tea @ Maison Bertaux

It’s tradition.
Fei and I both agreed that we would never wrap up our ramen dinner night without paying an homage to our another favourite Soho haunt, Maison Bertaux.
Therefore, we duly set out for a delft-blue patisserie on Greek Street…

Our table nestled snugly against an old piano in the back of the patisserie…

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A wonderful thing about this bijou is they serve tea & cake in the middle of boozy Soho. While patrons at the bars & pubs nearby grow steadily raucous as evening turns into night, one can sit with friends at the table with a pot of tea & delicious cakes made on site and hold a proper conversation without staining vocal cords. How civilised is that?

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Smiley Fei. Hanging around with her was  great pleasure as always…

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Johan, a permanent fixture of this beloved time capsule whom I’d known from the very first day I set my foot in here, appeared to be the worse for wear. He was rubbing his back and blankly staring into mid air…

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I imagined he must have been dog-tired since this place was constantly awash with waves of eager customers from 8am to 8pm.

We left the patisserie just before 8pm…

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I wanted to buy bits and pieces at Japanese shops on Brewer Street but alas, they were closed already!
Being too accustomed to the idea of late night shopping, aren’t I? How London had changed.

I caught tube at Oxford Circus and met this cutie on the train…

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While Mr.B would look away if I pointed my iPhone at him, this black lab struck a pose for me (^-^) Yay!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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