Traveling Through Germany and Austria on 35mm and Medium Format Film
Traveling Through Germany and Austria on 35mm and Medium Format Film
June 15, 2020, 10:21 a.m.
About the Trip Through Austria and Germany
This trip started with an impromptu booking when my friend and I got a notification for a cheap flight to Europe out of Charleston SC. This is a pretty rare occurance, so when it happens, we usually snatch them up pretty quick. My friend and I are both photographers, so our schedules tend to be pretty flexible, especially in the off season for weddings. We called up our other photographer friend and an additional friend on top of that and the trip was booked. We were set to fly into Berlin in early March and stay for 2 weeks, traveling through Germany and the Dolemites of Italy.
Unfortunately, the start of our trip coincided with the western spread of Covid-19. A week before our trip, it was announced that Italy was on lockdown at the borders. We decided to still fly into Germany, travel down through Bavaria and into Munich, then head into Austria and do some mountain hiking and snowboarding. We brought along plenty of hand sanitizer as a precaution, along with some clorox wipes for the plane. The virus hadn't quite spread significantly in Germany yet, and we would be spending most of our time in small mountain towns, so we weren't too worried.
What Cities in Germany and Austria Did We Travel To?
We flew into Berlin and spent 2 full days there visiting art museums and exploring the food scene. We had a rental car, so it was quite easy to get around. After berlin, we drove down through Bavaria and stopped in the Oberpfalz region in search of Zoigl Bier. It's the only place in the world you can get the beer, so for a couple of beer enthusiasts it was a must stop. We then proceeded on to Munich for more museums and potentially some mountain hikes. The weather prevented us from doing some of the hikes we had intended on, but we still got to enjoy Munich's traditionally Bavarian food scene and visit it's museums. We then made our way to Austria where we stopped in Innsbruck for a few days of eating, drinking and hiking. Next was two days of snowboarding in Kitzbuhel that was cut short to one because of our concerns for Covid. It was at this point that travel restrictions were beginning to be announced. We packed up and headed to Halstatt, which was our intended next stop anyway. While in Halstatt, we started to plan our exit back to the states. We initially had planned to spend 2 days in Prague, but we decided to cut the trip short, and I am glad we did. We crossed over the Austria-Germany border just 10 hours before they closed it down.
Germany Travel Highlights and Favorite Cities
I was so so excited to travel to Germany. I took German for 7 years in school and used to speak the language quite well. It's been a dream of mine to travel there and finally be able to practice my language skills. We flew into Berlin with the plan of experiencing the city's art scene. I enjoyed Berlin. The museums were wonderful, but there was something about the grunginess of the city that I didn't quite like. The highlight of Berlin, for me and my friends, was The Konig Gallerie. The museum was hard to find, and I think my friends thought I was making it up. It is situated, seemingly randomly, in an apartment complex with little signage marking it's existance. Inside, it is pretty minimalist, so you likely won't spend a lot of time there, but I highly recommend spending a solid 30 minutes just sitting in there. The entire building is constructed of conrete and is an acoustic masterpiece. I've never experienced anything like it in my life. It's hard to explain, but you can hear the silence - that's the best way I can explain it.
Berlin Museums and Art Culture
We visited several other museums in Germany like The Jewish Museum and the Hamburger Banhof. They were wonderful and are certainly worth a visit. For me, however, Germany was highlighted by the food and beer. We consumed a lot of beer in Germany and it was such a treat to taste all of the local styles of beer, actually in the regions of the world in which they were brewed.
NANO KAFFEE BERLIN! One of my favorite coffee shops I have ever been to. The aesthetic is pretty minimal but the coffee is nothing shy of fantastic. It was the second best espresso I have ever had in my life (the first, strangely being in Mallorca). We went to the coffee shop a total of 3 times in 2 days and consumed multiple beverages each time we were there. Their Costa Rican was one of the most complex cups of coffee I have ever had. I brought a bag home with me in my backpack.
The Berlin Wall - It took a while for me to appreciate this one to it's fullest. We traversed the whole standing length of the wall, initially just admiring the amazing street art covering the remains. Eventually, however, the historical significance of it began to set in and you truly appreciate that it was only 70 years ago that this wall separated and divided an entire city / world.
Jewish Holocaust Memorial Berlin - This was the most sobering and somber experiene of the trip. I knew of the memorial's existence, but wasn't quite prepared for the emotional impact it has on you. It's an emersive, art experience that truly overwhelms you with it's size and complexity. We spend quite a bit of time just wanedering through it's maze of pillars, constructed in memorium of all the millions of Jews that lost their lives during the holocaust. For me, this is a must visit. It's such an important historical event, and I think everyone should visit for a reminder of just how quickly societies can devlove into genocide.
Munich was amazing in it's traditional Bavarian charm
It was certainly more picturesque than Berlin and had more of that Bavarian charm, while still feeling like a very international city. The highlights from Munich were a few museums, one being related to the Holocaust, and all of the traditional Bavarian food and beer halls. The image below was taken in Die Pinakotheken Moderne - Modern Art Museum in Munich Germany. I LOVED this museum. It was a nice mix of moern, contemporary art in the well known sense - like Andy Warhol and such. It also featured a lot of really amazing art pieces constructed out of industrial housewares and furniture that I found to be quite beautiful.
The building's architecture was stunning!
Me and my Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Favorit camera on pushed tri x film.
Austria Travel Highlights and Favorite Cities
The highlight of Austria was it's beauty. Every town, even the smallest of towns, was clean and surrounded by mountains. The country is one of the most beautiful I have ever been to. So much of our trip was just spend pulling over for vistas traveling between our major destinations, like this mountainous lanscape, below, where we stopped off and made some sandwiches and had a few beers.
Skiing and Snowboarding in Kitzbuhel
We spent a day snowboarding and skiing in the bavarian alps of Kitzbuhel. It was a surprisingly hot 70 degree day, so the weather was far from ideal for skiing, but the snow was still decent and the mountain was beautiful. The resort was the highest rated in Austria and for good reason. The views are amazing an there is a nice variety of slopes, from beginner to advanced.
The mountains were so dynamic and seemingly everywhere. This stunning sunrise view was captured in Halstatt. Halstatt was really beautiful, but I think only deserving of a quick stop through, maybe a full day. It is pretty touristy, but the view is so unique that it's a must stop through on your journey.
This was another quick pull off the side of the road shot, where the sky was setting so beautifully over one of Austria's mountainous valleys.
Inssbruck was beautiful, even though avalanche blasting kept us from being able to experience the high elevation hike that we had intended to. We found plenty to explore, however, and it's a surprsingly industrious and bustling town with good food and coffee.
The city was surrounded by mountains
This image was captured at the highest point we could get to during our stay. Shot on Kodak portra 160 35mm film with my Leica m-a and Summilux 50mm F1.4 lens.
Photography Gear and Equipment Used During my Travels
I traveled with only film cameras and my iphone for a few digital snaps. I travel light...like really light. I only bring a backpack with me and that needs to fit clothes for 2 weeks and all my cameras and film - so portability is a big factor in deciding what cameras to bring. I settled on the following cameras for my trip:
Contax T3 - The Ultimate Travel 35mm Film Camera
My Contax T3 goes with me everywhere - no question. It's too small not to take. I don't use it as my primary camera, as I like a little more control over exposure and composition, but it never fails me. Exposure is always spot on and it fits in my pocket. I typically load it up with consumer film like Kodak Gold 200 for this trip. It's perfect for wider shots with it's 35mm lens and for quick grabs of my friends and I, especially with it's built in flash.
Leica M-A and Leica Summilux 50mm F1.4 Lens for Travel
This is my favorite camera/lens combination (that and my hasselblad). I shoot it all with this camera. I photograph portraits and take it with me traveling. It's compact, though not very light, and the lens is so sharp that often times I don't even need medium format. I LOVE the colors of 35mm film. It has a classic feel and rendering that I just don't get with medium format, so I tend to shoot more 35mm when I travel.
Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Favorit and Portra 800 and Tri X Film
I brought along my Zeiss TLR for medium format. It's relatively small and I just love using the camera. Something about viewing the world through a TLR is so classic and enjoyable. I brought along this camera as my 'experimental' camera. I loaded it up, initially, with two rolls of pushed Tri X 120 film for some high contrast black and white film shots, then shot Kodak Portra 800 medium format film the rest of the trip. I love the look of underexposed film, so I rated the film at box speed of 800 iso and tended toward underexposure if I was between meter readings. Portra 800 loves light, so it can look muddy sometimes when rating it at box speed, which is precisely what I wanted.
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