After a little more than a week in Berlin I had the urge to get moving again. So, I decided to visit Leipzig for a few days. Even though I used to live in Dresden, which is quite close to Leipzig, and we also had been there a couple of times, I had barely any actual memories of the city. I’m not even sure if I really had been in the city center before. So, as Leipzig is super easy to reach from Berlin (1 hour by train), I wanted to fix that.
The main station is pretty much in the middle of the city, so it’s only a short walk to reach the city center. I was quite surprised by the feeling and the style of Leipzig’s center. An interesting combination of tradition and modernism. And several sights that definitely stand out, especially the New Augusteum, a mix of university building and church. Overall the city felt very active and alive. As far as a large city goes, I enjoyed it.
Parks & Water
I explored several of Leipzig’s parks (Clara-Zetkin-Park, Palm Garden), which are quite easy to reach from the center either on foot or using one of the very convenient rental bikes that are all over the place. While the center is definitely lacking a river, the Elsterflutbett that crosses the parks does make up for it a bit. Definitely good places to be and I spent quite a lot of time walking around here, had lunch on a bench and so on.
Famous Monument & Graveyard
One thing I just had to do while in Leipzig was to visit the Monument to the Battle of the Nations. It’s truly an impressive building and very much worth a visit. The entire area feels quite serene and conveys some gravitas. Even though it’s very touristic, I didn’t mind it too much. What else would such a place be about? Climbing up the stairs all the way to the top is quite an adventure in itself and the view from the top alone is well worth the effort.
Afterwards, I did something that might mark me as a bit of a strange person, but I visited the adjoining graveyard. It’s huge and has lots and lots of old graves, crypts and is just an interesting place to explore.
The one vivid memory I had of Leipzig was its zoo. We had been there a couple of times and it definitely left an impression. So, I could not skip it and ended up spending about 6 hours there on the third day. It has such an interesting history and really has come a long way. So many clever ideas and lots of things to see, not just animals. I am still amazed at the size of the jungle house (“Gondwanaland“). And the monkey and ape area (“Pongoland“), which I think was one of the first improvements they made, still is one of the coolest enclosures I have seen.
Summary & Photos
All in all it was great to finally visit Leipzig properly. Even though I spent most of my time in the more touristy areas, I feel like I got a much better sense of the city now. It was a good time and three days also was the right amount of time to spend there.
I did not bring my camera this time, but wanted to give my new phone a bit of a workout. The photos are not amazing, but I could get used to not carrying so much gear around. 😉
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After two weeks and a few days in Northern Germany, I made my way back to Berlin.
Again, there were a few things waiting for me, so I spent some time on organizational things and paperwork. I also squeezed in time for video games again. Overall I just took things more slowly again, did whatever I felt like doing (or not doing).
And of course I had plenty of things to think about. Both my parents and my brother had shared some of their thoughts with me and we had good discussions about my situation and my future. So, I also left some space to mull things over and to allow my mind to maybe settle on a thing or two.
The one thought that definitely kept coming back to me was that I’m already a lot longer in Berlin that I ever expected to be. And I’m not exactly convinced that this is a good thing. There are very few reasons to actually stay here and I have come to realize that living in Berlin also has quite a few downsides. It’s might not be in my best interest to continue this way.
There were still plenty of points left on our to-do list, so I stayed another week with my parents.
We finished the dressing room and were all very satisfied with the result. I also spent a surprisingly long time sawing and attaching baseboards in the hallway to cover up some of the unsightly gaps between wooden walls and tiled floor. Quite the challenge due to my lack of experience. And my father doesn’t really have a woodworking shop, so the available tools added a bit to the difficulty. But the result looks surprisingly clean and my parents were happy to see it done.
Another construction site my brother and I had been discussing for quite a while was the garden tool storage behind the house. Everything that needs to be readily available is just lined up behind the house. To clean this up, we decided to build some simple barn doors there to hide them without making them less available.
It’s definitely a lot of fun to go from a rough idea and all the various random additions that immediately spring to mind to a more concrete plan and then to see the final result being quite close to that original through.
And then there is also the shed. It’s a catch-all for everything that doesn’t fit into or should not be in the house. At the same time it’s also the only “room” that even remotely acts as a workshop. There is always something to repair when you own a wooden house, so lots of things need to always be on hand. But we thought that there should definitely be a better way to use the available space.
So, one day we removed everything from the shed to start over. It looked like we were on a flea market, because we moved everything into the carport, stacked it on tables etc. After reviewing the space we recognized that the old wardrobe that used to be in the dressing room would fit right in there. So, we modified it a bit and then assembled it in there to create a lot more space to organize and store all the various bits and bobs.
Even though I had come North to get things done, we of course also squeezed in some vacation activities to make use of the awesome weather. We took several walks around the lakes in the area, visited some of the small cities (e.g. Mölln and Ahrensburg) and one day we headed over to the wildlife park in Eekholt, which I can highly recommend!
As mentioned in an earlier post, I had plans to visit my folks in Northern Germany. This is exactly what I did. On Monday I hopped on a train and drove to Hamburg and from there out into the countryside. I had made this decision very spontaneously and surprised my parents a bit by showing up on their doorstep, which is unusual as they usually pick me up from the train station. But I really wanted to give public transport a try and took the bus (which only goes every hour or so).
Normally I’m very much in vacation mode when I stay with my parents, but this time I explicitly wanted to be active and get things done. So, on the first evening and throughout the next days I started compiling a list of things that needed to be done. There was a variety of repairs and improvements on the house, some work to be done in the garden and also some woodworking.
I did my best to stay motivated and to get things done and have to say that it worked quite well. And it was fun, too. My parents endured my energy bursts and went along, sometimes a bit apprehensive, but overall eager to also see things getting finished.
One of the main jobs to get done was a complete overhaul of my parents’ dressing room. So, we started early on by making plans and deciding what the new interior should look like. To keep things somewhat simple, we decided on the classic wardrobe from IKEA with sliding doors, but that also meant figuring out the logistics of picking it up, assembling it etc.
We ended up spending the weekend on disassembly, driving back and forth and putting everything together. Unfortunately, we had to wait for some parts, which were not available, so we could not finish everything right away and had to delay the last 20% until next week.
Gardening and more
Something deceptively simple that I always enjoy when I’m out there in the countryside is the fact that there is a garden. I live in a flat on the 5th floor, so I never get the opportunity to walk around and tend a garden. It’s a nice change of pace, so I made sure to help out with mowing the lawn, watering the plants and doing lots of smaller things around the house.
I really enjoy doing things with my hands. Seeing the immediate result and feeling physically exhausted (rather than mentally, which is more common for me) is very good.
I returned from my vacation in Tyrol and there were a couple of things waiting for me that I had to take care of. Mostly paperwork for various things that had been sitting in my letterbox for a while.
Of course, I also spend some time going through the photos I took in Austria, sorted them and edited them. To be completely honest, the result was a bit underwhelming, but in the end there are only so many ways to shoot mountains. It’s still a good documentation of my trip and ultimately I didn’t do it primarily for photography. The best photos can be found in the “Discovering Austria” album on my photo blog.
The rest of this week I spent recovering from having walked so much. I did this by cooking and experimenting with some new recipes. And of course I made plenty of time for video games as well. I took some smaller walks in Köpenick, too, and just kept things very chill.
When I set out to visit Austria, I had all the places in mind that we had visited as kids. Maybe seeing those places now with adult eyes would be interesting? As I was looking for my next stop after Innsbruck (or rather Mutters, see the previous post for details), I noticed that I would in most cases have to change trains in Jenbach. And that lies just below the Achensee, which a colleague had strongly recommended to me. So, I looked for a place to stay there for a bit and found a hotel in Pertisau.
Fjord in the Alps
Prior to staying there for two nights, I had never heard of the Achsensee, which is the largest lake in Tyrol. It sits on almost 1000 meter of elevation and is almost 9 kilometers long. Apparently it’s 133 meter deep at some points. What really makes it special though, is how it’s nestled between two mountain ranges. Compared to other spots in Austria, what makes the big difference here is that in summer you can not only hike in the mountains, but also have a wide variety of activities in and on the water to choose from. Beach vacation surrounded by mountains? Check. That probably explains the popularity of the place. It was definitely a bit odd to see that Pertisau pretty much consists of nothing but hotels and appartment houses.
Originally I had booked only one night (as this was the only availability online on the previous evening), but luckily could extend it by one more. To make the most of my 2 days, I immediately went for a hike along the lake on the first afternoon. While the Eastern side is disturbed by a street, the Western side is only accessible by boat or via a narrow trail that hugs the mountain side. I especially enjoyed crossing the small bridges and passing underneath a small waterfall that had been redirected with an improvised wooden roof. About halfway along the lake is the Gaisalm, where I had a drink and then waited for the ship to take me back. It’s quite unexpected to have a proper cruise line setup here, but it makes sense and is very convenient.
On the next day and I wanted to go back up into the mountains, so I took the Karwendel cable car up to the “Zwölferkopf”, one of the peaks surrounding Pertisau. I didn’t feel up to hiking all the way up, but had found a nice path around the area up top and then back down into the village. It provided plenty of beautiful panoramas of the lake and the mountain range. And the path down even had three small tunnels.
On Sunday I left Pertisau and made my way back down the hill to Jenbach. Here I boarded the Ziller valley train (“Zillertalbahn“) to Zell am Ziller and from there took a bus up the mountains to Königsleiten. As I mentioned, we had been in Austria fairly often as children and Königsleiten was our default winter holiday location for years. However, this was over 20 years ago. So, I was curious to see if I would recognize anything going back there now. And also how big the difference would be to see it in summer rather than covered in snow.
In the end I definitely recognized some things, e.g. the street that leads into the village and the mountain on the opposite side of the valley (“Hochkrimml”, another village I know from the past). But 20 years is a lot of time and of course there have been plenty of changes. It was a very nice experience anyway and I enjoyed my time there, strolling through the village and trying to figure out if I really recognize something or whether my mind is just trying to make things fit.
I stayed two nights and for the full day I was there I had two options: Go up the mountain and check out what I only knew as a skiing area or hike to the waterfalls in Krimml, which apparently are the sixth highest in the world. In the end I decided on the former, because it was more convenient and more flexible as I didn’t have to rely on a bus to take me there and back again. I took the Königsleiten cable car, which didn’t exist 20 years ago. Back then there was only a chair lift. I explored the area and it was fun to see how different it is. Not only due to the changes that had happened over time, but also to see it green and populated by lots of cows.
After walking up to the peak and exploring some other panorama spots, I took a trail back down to the village. This was absolutely gorgeous as it took me over to another peak and then along a ridge slowly (and sometimes more steeply) down and around the mountain. With over 2000 meter of elevation, it was the highest up I had been on this trip and being above the treeline was a nice change of pace. (Luckily it was fairly cloudy, so the sun was very bearable.) I enjoyed seeing the vegetation change as I reached lower altitudes and trees started taking over.
After my two nights in Königsleiten were over, I made my way back to Berlin. There were some things I had to take care of at home, I had noticed a certain lack of energy in myself (and in my camera’s batteries) and I felt quite happy with what I got to see and do. It’s always a good idea to end on a high note and that’s definitely the case.
I enjoyed my time in Nürnberg and in Tyrol a lot. It worked out very well and I’m honestly very surprised how easy it was to get around with public transport, even to very remote places. I took a bit of a gamble booking my stops spontaneously and while it created the sense of freedom, I also did not particularly enjoy having to do so much planning every other day, because it lead to more screen time than I had aimed for.
All in all I’m very happy with my decisions not to visit larger cities. Even though I’m definitely interested to see Vienna and Salzburg at some point, I already noticed during my day in Innsbruck that I wasn’t really looking for that on this trip. So, staying in villages and hiking in the mountains was perfect. However, for this kind of vacation, it would probably have been easier to pick a spot and stay there for longer rather than moving around every 2 or 3 days. This way I got to see different places and that was great, but I think next time I will pick one area and explore it more thoroughly.
There are over 200 photos on my memory card now and I already sorted and whittled them down to about 70 or so that I find tolerable. A few of them are already contained in this post and some more can be found in the “Discovering Austria” album in my photo blog.
After I arrived in Nürnberg, I took my usual walk through the city: without a clear plan, just going where it looked interesting. This is how I usually approach any new city. My walk lead me all over the old city and up to the Imperial Castle (“Kaiserburg”). It is surrounded by many parks and gardens, which provided some urgently needed shade on a very hot day.
Nürnberg is definitely worth a visit. Many old buildings, a lot of history to discover and a very active vibe are the main points I noticed.
On the second day I was looking for a way to survive the heatwave that swept across Europe. So, I spontaneously decided to visit the zoo (“Tierpark”). This turned out quite well as large parts of it are in a forest. The biggest surprise for me was that they also have a lot of focus on water animals, including a big artificial lagoon with dolphins and seals! At the end of the day I strolled once more through the old city.
For the next leg of my journey I traveled towards Innsbruck. Going by train through the Alps is something quite special, when the landscape slowly changes and you can no longer see into the distance. My destination was a small town called Mutters, just a little outside (and above!) Innsbruck. I had decided against staying in the city and on my trip there it became clear that I had made the right decision.
I was quite impressed how easy this place could be reached with public transport. From Innsbruck main station it was a 10 minute walk (or a quick bus ride) to the station of the Stubai Valley Train (“Stubaitalbahn”), which is actually a normal tram, but it slowly winds its way upwards towards various villages. My hotel was actually just a 5 minute walk from one of the stations. Super convenient!
First Taste of Mountain Air
After a small walk on the first day to explore the village, I took the cable car (“Muttereralmbahn“) the next day, which brought me from about 800 meters above sea level to 1500. From there I hiked along the “Innsbrucker Almenweg” to the “Birgitzer Alm” on 1840 meters. I chose this route, because it was advertised as being mostly a forest path. Perfect for a very hot day. Initially I thought I had made a huge mistake, because the path was quite wide, fenced in and a bit boring. After a while, however, it turned into a proper hiking trail as I had hoped for. It was quite exhausting for me, but felt equally rewarding in the end. It was exactly what I had hoped for.
The second day I spent down in the valley in Innsbruck. It’s an interesting city. There are a lot of narrow streets with old and beautiful house there. It also felt very busy to me in general, but also especially in the more touristy parts, which were very crowded. On the lookout for something fun to do I decided to take the “Hungerburgbahn“, which connects the inner city directly with a part of the city that lies several hundred meters higher. It’s a curious contraption and a nice small adventure by itself.
One of the stops is the Alps Zoo (“Alpenzoo“). So, I gave that a try as well and enjoyed it. It’s a very interesting concept to have a zoo on the side of a mountain. They made full use of that and created very unique enclosures with viewing points from different angles, all connected with sometimes quite steep pathways. The most unique thing about this zoo is, however, that they only have local wildlife there, no exotic animals. The focus is clearly on educating people about what’s around them already and, of course, to raise awareness that nature needs to be protected. I especially enjoyed the wildcats, which I had never really seen before.
It took me a little over two hours to see everything and afterwards I went all the way up to Hungerburg and had initially planned to go all the way up to Hafelekar (which they call “Top of Innsbruck”), but it was a cloudy day and there would not have been much to see up there. So, instead I returned to the inner city, got dinner and then made my way back to the hotel.
It should not be a surprise at all, but it still amazes me every time how long a week can stretch when you’re staying active. This only covered the first half of the week, so I’ll add a second part for the other half later.
This week I also spent at home in Berlin. It was a mixture of planning, biking, cooking and relaxing. I also squeezed in some time for videogames.
On my bike I explored the Erpetal. I had been there once a few years ago, but afterwards found out that I only saw a small part of it. So, this time I tried to follow it for as far as possible. It’s not the easiest trail to take as there is a lot of sandy terrain, but the sights totally make up for it. Just 10 minutes from my home I suddenly found myself surrounded by natur while driving along a small creek. When I reached the end, I decided to take a bit of a detour on the way back and looped around to the Wuhletal hiking trail, which is my standard go-to when I have no other ideas. I can definitely recommend this route if you don’t mind going a bit slower.
As I am writing this, I’m on board an ICE train to Nürnberg. This starts my first vacation of this Sabbatical. My plan is to spend a few days in Nürnberg, of which I have heard many good things, but which I have never visited before. Afterwards, I will drive further South to Austria, where I haven’t been in years. I hope that mountain scenery will inspire my to pick up my camera again, but also that I can find some serenity to do some thinking.
In a combination of embracing my procrastination and trying something new, I decided not to book my stops in advance. I only have the train ticket and a hotel booking for two days in Nürnberg. Usually when I’m out and about all day, I am quite drained in the evening. So, I will try out how it works, if I plan the next leg of my journey somewhat spontaneously in the evening. This is especially interesting, because I would not call myself a very spontaneous person. Maybe I will regret this decision at some point…
The realization that has me quite excited, however, is that compared to other vacations, this one does not really have a fixed time window associated with it. I do not have to be back at a specific point in time and neither do I feel the need to fill that weeks time of with add much vacation as possible. I’m curious to see if this really changes anything.
The only other item on my list for the next 2.5 months is that I want to drive up to my folks’ place and spend some time with them. Aside from that I only have a few ideas flying around:
Biking to my folks’ place instead of going by train
City trip to Amsterdam (maybe a stop in Belgium afterwards?)
Returning to Norway, maybe take the panoramic train ride from Oslo to Bergen again
For now, I’ll focus on my Austria trip and hopefully I’ll have some photos to share soon. (Although I can’t upload from my camera until I’m home again.)
Before I could start with anything, I had to get used to having so much free time on my hands. It didn’t take very long. However, it does raise the question why it has become such a common thing to accumulate so many responsibilities that it feels like we don’t control our own time anymore.
Time for Tech
Normally, I have very little interest in dealing with technology outside of work. Which is also why some of my gear is not very well maintained. As I had a sudden flare of motivation, I started my Sabbatical with a few chores. For months I had ignored the fact that my PC continuously failed at installing Windows updates. So, in an attempt to finally fix this, I decided to reinstall Windows 10. This was not very successful as something is going haywire and Windows refuses to install properly. I tried all kinds of hardware changes I could think of, but in the end had to give up.
This lead to a new opportunity, however: I rediscovered Ubuntu Linux. Having used it exclusively during university, I haven’t looked at it since then. Turns out: It has gotten even better than it used to be. Originally I installed it for analytics purposes and just to have access to more help articles online. Now it has taken the spot of primary operating system on my PC. We’ll see how long this will last, but for now I’m quite happy with it.
At this point I’m also really surprised by how well games run on Ubuntu. This used to me a major hassle and was one of the reasons why I moved away from it when I graduated. Looks like this reason is gone. Awesome!
I did not quite stick to my “every other day” rule yet, but I still got moving a bit:
Tour 1: Mittenwalde
On Monday I spontaneously found an interesting course on Komoot and decided to give it a try. I cycled towards the South and ended up going around Berlin’s new airport and then all the way to Mittenwalde, which is a small town in Brandenburg. It doesn’t have a lot to offer, to be honest, but was a good goal. And I had a nice break and a small lunch at a local bakery there. The trip was longer than I originally expected and took me almost the entire day. But it was great. The countryside outside of Berlin has a lot to offer.
Tour 2: Berlin Wall Trail
Berlin maintains a walking and cycling path along the line that used to be the Berlin wall. I had cycled small parts of it before sort of randomly, but wanted to deliberately try to follow it for a bit. I drove South from Köpenick and joined the trail at the Teltow channel. I followed it (and lost it once) all the way to the end of Treptower Park, where I decided to turn around and drove my favorite route back to Köpenick.
The Berlin Wall Trail has been improved over the years with small parks and long “green stripes” along its route. Even when it goes through densely populated areas of Berlin. Quite enjoyable to dive and also interesting to see where the wall used to pass through.
And before I forget: I also took care of a couple of things I had procrastinated for way too long. Top amongst them is that I finally bought a new umbrella and installed it on my balcony, so I can actually use and enjoy it even when the sun is burning down! Transporting a long package on a bike is always an interesting challenge (see photo below).
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In May 2021 I had several conversations with colleagues, who had recently returned from a sabbatical or were in the process of planning one. The idea stuck with me and after a while I decided to get the paperwork started. My rationale back then was that one year later I would have gone through a fairly exhausting project and also would have hit almost 7 years with the company. Both good reasons to take a break.
In case you’re not familiar with the concept:
A sabbatical has also come to mean a lengthy, intentional break from a career. The popularity of sabbaticals for non-academics has increased in the 21st century: 17% of companies offered some sort of sabbatical policy to their employees in 2017, according to a survey by the Society For Human Resource Management. There are very few norms and expectations for non-academic, or professional, sabbaticals. They can be paid or unpaid, affiliated with one’s employer or self-directed, and have a variety of durations, from several weeks to over a year.
In my case I could pick between different models with my employer and decided on saving 20% of my salary for 12 months and then taking off 3 months, while I would continue to receive 80% of my salary.
Now that the “saving period” is over, my Sabbatical has started on July 1st. And even though the project I had planned for turned out much less exhausting, I’m still super happy that I had the foresight to set up this break for myself. Throughout the past months and years I have piled up quite a few fundamental questions that I struggle to answer in my daily routine. Here is a small taste for the kind of questions I mean:
Is the place work has in my life okay?
Do I want to stay in my current industry?
Is being a team lead the right occupation for me?
What is my next career step?
As expected, a lot of them center around work and the infamous “work life balance”. There are also a few more that are a bit more personal. If stepping away from work for a while will help me with those remains to be seen.
I have been thinking about how to make the most out of these three months. My plans changed a lot in the year leading up to it. In the end, I actually did not make any concrete plans as that turned out to be too difficult. Because I’m not sure what to expect or what exactly I want and need.
There is a high risk that time keep rushing by and I find myself at the end of my Sabbatical empty-handed. Here are a few things I want to try to avoid this:
I will try to post regular updates here, mostly as a recollection for myself, but also as source of motivation.
One of my goals is to be more active, so I’ll focus on squeezing in some kind of physical activity at least every other day.
Any private considerations or insights I will record in my private journal, which I usually neglect way too much.
Whenever possible, I will try to take at least one photo of everything I’m doing.
I want to do a couple of smaller vacations during the 3 months (e.g. city trips).