Category Archives: images

Munich’s English Garden – A Winter Wonderland

Munich’s magnificent English Garden is one of the world’s largest urban parks, and an absolute must when visiting the city.

Stretching around five kilometres from the heart of the city, the English Garden boasts lush fields, 78km of paths utilised by walkers, bikes and horses, two fabulous beer gardens, restaurants,
a Chinese tower, Japanese tea house, Greek temple, surfers and nudists.

Though wandering around with my camera in the last few days, I obviously didn’t encounter the latter. The Kleinhesseloher Lake was frozen over, adding to the whole spectacular winter wonderland atmosphere…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words and images ©Steve Williams 2017

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Random Swill Paris images

To slightly misquote the song, I love Paris anytime. Even more so following the events of last week.

If we stop travelling, those terrorist bastards win. And that can’t happen.

To celebrate one of the world’s greatest cities, time to relive a few of my Paris random images….

©Steve Williams 2015

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Bavarian Break – Surfing in the city

As it’s a rather toasty 35 degrees in Munich today, this is a perfect time (and temperature) to relive my surfing in Munich story….

It’s not every day you see someone walking around the heart of the city with a surfboard under their arm – then actually getting on it. Especially when that city is hundreds of k’s from the nearest beach.

Welcome to surfing Munich style – wetsuits mixing it up with business suits.

The historic German city is probably better known for its annual Oktoberfest when lovers of the amber fluid invade in there millions. This year they downed 6.6 million litres of beer in 15 thirsty days and devoured 112 oxen. Nice work. Also, 900 passports were recovered by lost and found.

Running through Munich’s Englisher Garten – not hard to work out what that translates to – is a tributary of the Isar River called the Eisbach. It’s basically a man-made stream and the famous 1 metre high, 12 metre wide break is formed when the water hammers through tunnels, spews out under a very cool looking 19th century stone bridge and belts into submerged concrete blocks at over 30 k’s an hour.

We’re talking the middle of the city here. The break is next to an art museum called the Haus Der Kunst – be careful how you pronounce that last word. It’s pretty surreal seeing guys and girls in wetsuits wandering down a city footpath. A few gutsy Aussies were just in their boardies, maybe they’d knocked off a few litres of beer, the water temperature is brass monkey threateningly cold – the name “Eisbach” means “ice stream”.

It’s a permanent standing wave, the surfers climb down the river bank, face the bridge, and get straight onto the wave – easier said than done, the water is only about forty centimetres deep and really pumping out of that tunnel. Don’t forget those nice concrete blocks are lurking below, just waiting for you. The sound is quite intense too – like roaring rapids.

While I was perched on the river bank there was a real mix of talent that afternoon – some experienced old stagers were carving up 360’s, radical re-entries, slides and cut backs, to a few rookies some just barely getting up, then losing it bigtime.

Due to its small size, there’s only room on the curl for one surfer at a time, it could be ridden forever, but there’s an unwritten code that you stay up for a few minutes, then let the force of the water sweep you down the canal and you climb out and walk back. Which isn’t a bad thing, in summer the English Garden is packed with people sunbaking, so the eye-candy can be quite good.

Nudism is a bit of a national sport in Munich… you do get nudists in the Garden, people letting it all hang out during their lunch break, but that’s in another part of this massive park – it covers nearly four square kilometres. Sadly the only nudists I saw were some fat old German blokes who’d eaten all the bratwurst. Not a pretty sight.

The surfers patiently wait their turn on the bank, it does get pretty crowded. I didn’t see any drama, and it’s a pretty tight community. Apparently though there’s the occasional bit of agro with kayakers.

The Eisbach has been surfed since the 1970’s; those early pioneers used ropes tied to the bridge or trees to keep their balance. Back then river surfing was illegal, I think it still is, there are signs prohibiting it – look for the word “verboten”, but these rules aren’t enforced. It’s become quite a tourist attraction, hordes of tourists gazing down from the bridge and lining the riverbanks with camera phones clicking away, there was even a guy selling food.

There’s a bit of talk that the authorities are looking to shut the wave down due to insurance liability. So far, no one’s been killed surfing the Eisbach wave – though there have been quite a few fractures and dislocations over the years. A couple of swimmers have drowned in the river, but that was further down, a long way from the break, and they weren’t surfers.

There are a couple of other river surfing sites in the city, the Munich Surf Open has been regularly held at one of these other spots, but the Eisbach break is far more challenging. Which could be the problem, the old hands of the break really wish the rookies would stay away, because if there is a death, the wave could be closed down. So if you’re a rookie, join the crowds and just watch. It’s not something you see every day.

Words and images ©Steve Williams 2015

My story and images originally published in Surfing Life magazine Australia.

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St. Patrick’s Day… Munich style

The 20th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Munich was a great day for the Irish…
and Germans… and Aussies… and Slovenians… and dogs… and…

A few of my random images…

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich

St. Patrick's Day Munich


St. Patrick's Day Munich

Images: ©Steve Williams 2015

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Random Swill Munich images

Munich is one of my favourite cities. Something fascinating presents itself at every turn…

Images ©Steve Williams 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Random Swill beach images

“Beach (/bēCH/), n., a shore of a body of water covered by sand, gravel, or larger rock fragments.”

Images ©Steve Williams 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shopping in the express aisle

The next time you’re down at your local mall, imagine this scenario. Eight times a day, the shopkeepers have to interrupt their business, quickly pull down the roofs of their shops, drag their goods inside, then stand against their shop fronts breathing in – to let a train go through. That’s right, a train. A big, steel, commuter train travelling quite fast, straight through the middle of the mall. Sound bizarre? Welcome to the Mae Klong railway market in small town Thailand.

I’d seen the various YouTube videos of the market that had pinged around millions of inboxes, so when I was in Bangkok, I wanted to see it for myself.

The town of Mae Klong is about 72 kilometres south west of Bangkok. Mae Klong is the local name for Samut Songkhram, the capital of the Samut Songkhram province and district.
I had expected the market to be in the middle of nowhere but it’s right in the centre of town, the last 100 metres before the station.
It’s quite surreal in a temporary sort of way, like a movie set. The only place to walk is in the centre of the rather narrow railway tracks. Small stalls line both sides, every available bit of real estate is used, low plastic trays of vegetables and vibrant Thai fruit including rambutans and mangosteens, are stacked right up to the steel rails. What happens when the train comes through? I had flashbacks about that wonder kitchen gadget, the Chop-o-matic, which “slices, dices and juliennes!”
The market is your veritable one-stop-shop. Spectacular fresh-cut flowers, every fruit and vegetable you can imagine, fragrant spices, cuts of meat, poultry and seafood so fresh, it was being persuaded to stop flapping about by an earnest man wielding a lump of wood.
There are kids’ toys, clothes, lingerie, thongs of both varieties, dodgey DVDs – you name it. Makeshift awnings – tarpaulins, even a bedspread – cover the stalls. They combine to give the market a temporary roof that is quite low, so I had to stoop to walk through. It was fairly dark under the awnings, with a pungent buffet of unrefrigerated fish, meat and cut fruit, garnished with spices.
Some of the stalls are basic; others well set up. Some aren’t even stalls, just people sitting beside the tracks with fruit laid out at their feet.
My guide, Mr Ooh, said many of the stallholders live outside town on outlying farms, coming in to sell their produce.
I wanted to photograph an old lady running a fruit stall. Mr Ooh asked her for me; she smiled, fixed her wispy grey hair and posed in the middle of the track.
Then it happened. The shopkeepers calmly but quickly started folding down the awnings. Most were held up by poles, a simple but effective design. Trays of produce were dragged in; some more high-tech versions were on wheels. It happened in a chain reaction, odd because I hadn’t heard a train whistle or horn, but the timetable is adhered to fairly well. I was engrossed in photographing the stall owners when I felt a touch on my arm: a lady gently but firmly motioned to me that I should move back. I wasn’t sure exactly where to, but I ducked into a small alcove. Lucky I did.
The train rounded the corner and rumbled through the market. I was surprised at its speed. There were only inches to spare between the train, the produce on the ground and me. The two carriages were past in a flash of grey and yellow and milliseconds later, the stallholders were on the tracks putting up the awnings, even before the train had disappeared from view. It was as though nothing had happened.
I wandered down to the other end of the market. I knew the train would depart the station soon but I lost track of time, engrossed. I was only vaguely aware of the awnings being lowered again, then turned around to see a great mass of locomotive bearing down on me. Deceptively quiet, trains. This time there was no guiding arm to safety, no trusty alcove to be found, so I jammed myself up against a wooden board, breathing in as the train almost gave me a Brazilian as it not-quite hurtled by.
I’m not sure what “stupid tourist” is in Thai, but I’m sure it was being thought by a few people, smiling of course. I read somewhere that only two people have been killed at the market and I suggest they weren’t Thais. Then it was over, back to the rambutans being sold, fish being whacked, racy lingerie being purchased, until the next train on the timetable.
The Mae Klong railway market raises plenty of questions. I wanted to know how long it’s been operating and why it’s there. I tried to get answers from tour guides, government departments and even the stallholders. No one seems to know. The seventh person I was put through to at a tourism office told me the market had been there for more than 50 years. Now I was getting somewhere.
“So what was there first, the market or the railway line?”
“Both at the same time.”
“OK, can you tell me why the market is there on the railway tracks?”
“This is Thailand, there doesn’t need to be a reason.”
And really, it doesn’t matter – it’s just a snapshot of life in a small town in Thailand, people going about their daily business, doing their shopping, just being interrupted eight times a day by a bloody big hunk of steel.

Words and images ©Steve Williams 2012

My story and images originally published by the Sun Herald, Australia.

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