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SeSam is Péter Szilágyi, Engineering Manager at Ustream, residing in Budapest, Hungary. This is his playground.

Blue Trail #15

The fifteenth leg of the National Blue Trail crosses the Pilis Mountains, from the borders of Budapest (Üröm) up to Dobogókő.

It’s advised to be cautious right at the start because the promised track along the stream is in reality walled off by a corn field and overgrown with stinging nettles.

The rest of the route goes through various nature reserves which is why different animals can be spotted along the way like this stag beetle.

Stag beetle

Or this grass snake which we’ve only noticed because it started slithering away.

🐍

We’ve also seen a couple of rabbits hopping away but they proved to be impossible to photograph.

The Dera-creek near Pilisszentkereszt is one of the more spectacular parts of the trail. The route criss-crosses the stream below through several wooden bridges.

Dera-szurdok

It was under construction during our trip as demonstrated by these half-finished signs.

Half-finished signs

Finally the route culminates at the highest point of the Visegrád Hills, Dobogókő, from where a stunning view of the Danube opens up.

The Danube from Dobogókő

Completing this brought us to 77.5 kilometres (6.7%).

Apple Watch: Day One

I’ve contemplated buying an Apple Watch before with the verdict that it was unlikely that I’d go ahead and do so. Well, this has changed. Following are my experiences during the first day of use.

Unboxing

I was surprised that the Apple Watch came in such a sizeable and elongated box. I’ve been expecting a cube shape, as in the case of many sport watches. Opening the box revealed the reason: the watch comes with a very nice plastic case. Under it are the user manuals and the charger cable, which is quite long, much longer than the iPhone cables.

Setup

Although the device is said come with some initial charge, mine didn’t. It was so drained I had to wait about fifteen minutes before I could turn it on. Unlike an iPhone, the watch didn’t turn on by itself after reaching a minimum charge either. Boot-up time isn’t something to write home about, I stared at the  logo for over a minute.

Although the Apple Watch works standalone with the latest software, a connected iPhone is required for it to reach its full potential. Linking starts via Bluetooth, then the phone reads the watch’s screen with the camera. In my case, a software update to 2.2.1 was also needed, which again proved to be quite lengthy. Despite the small size of the update (114 MB) it took half an hour to download and another thirty plus minutes to install.

The rest of the process was much faster. I’ve opted for installing all the apps which offer an Apple Watch companion. From this point the Watch app served as an extended Settings screen for everything Watch-related.

Odes have been sung to the excellent changes in watchOS 3 especially regarding the launch speed of apps and the rethought UX. Unfortunately, Apple does not offer a public beta of watchOS 3, not even to iOS 10 public beta participants.

Time and Notifications

Raising my wrist almost infallibly woke the screen, there was no need for flamboyant gestures. The downside of the screen not being always on is that unlike a traditional watch I can’t simply glance at it. This will probably remain an exclusive feature for the next generation Apple Watch.

Much better than a traditional watch are the changeable watch faces and especially Complications. For example, I’m using the Utility watch face with my next meeting displayed on the bottom. Just a quick tap shows the relevant calendar entry and I can quickly check which conference room I’d need to head to. Super neat.

Notifications come with sound and haptic feedback, although the latter can be missed due to its weakness even at max setting. It’s up to the app to decide what kind of actions the user can do with notifications. In case of Facebook Messenger, for example, one can one-button reply with a thumbs up emoji or dictate text. However, and this is a big issue for me, Messenger invariably expects English—system default language—dictation. As far as I know iMessage decides the dictation language based on the keyboard set for that particular contact, a feature sorely needed in Messenger.

Activity

A very useful addition to the Apple watch is the Activity app, which tracks active calories, workout minutes and standup time. These are represented by circles: once a circle is closed, the relevant goal is finished.

Upon setup the Activity app asked my initial goal and of course I replied that I’m as sporty as it gets, which translated into 1000 active calories per day. Turned out this was not that easy to achieve as I initially thought. My 10k outdoor run with  200m elevation gain only yielded 757 calories resulting in me narrowly missing my first day goal. This may be the result of the Nike+ app not receiving heart rate data from the watch, but more on that later.

Workout time was set to 30 minutes, which was almost covered by me riding the bike to work and back. Since I go for a run almost every day it put me way above the goal anyway.

Standup time is a neat concept. Every hour at fifty minutes I get a notification to stand up and walk around had I been stationary for the whole hour . If I can continue this for 12 hours during the day, the goal is met. My job usually involves a lot of walking around regardless but there are times I just keep sitting at my desk and it really does make a difference that should I forget to take a break a gentle tap on the wrist reminds me to do so.

Running and Cycling

I have two TomTom sport watches, a Runner Cardio and a Multisport,—both previous generation—the former with a built-in heart rate sensor, the latter able to track cycling and swimming, making it suitable for triathlon. The best thing about TomTom watches is that they can be connected to third party services like Nike+ or Strava and upload every workout to all of these.

I have started to run on Nike+,—and reaching 10,000 kilometres soon—so it is a service I’d not want to abandon. Although cycling had been added to Nike+ recently, still Strava proved to be a go-to app for people serious about cycling. And finally, my co-workers tend to use Endomondo to stage company-wide challenges which I love to take part in.

Cycling is the easier activity of the two, because if I track with Strava, I can export a GPX file and import it to Endomondo. It is still a hassle, since only one file can be imported at once. Running is more complicated Nike+ being a closed system and all. Fortunately, there are hacks allowing me to export runs the same way as bike rides then upload them. Still, I wish it was as easy as tracking with one service, then seamlessly and automatically sync to all others.

Enter the Apple Watch. I obviously wouldn’t want to wear two watches simultaneously so I went ahead and tested my preferred services. Both Strava and Nike+ offer companion apps, even if they are but glorified remote controls, so the phone is needed to be in the vicinity for them to work. When cycling I have it in my pocket anyway, and I usually listen to music while I run, so this was not an issue for me. Not having to fish the phone out every time I wanted to check something was a big advantage in itself.

I did not feel the Strava app to start slow. Due to the surrounding buildings my GPS watch takes its time to find the signal anyway, so I am used to wait a little before I can start. It was pretty bad, however, that since I have defaulted Strava to running, I had to change the workout type every time I started the Apple Watch app. It is achieved via 3D touch, but it is mighty unreliable: it takes ages for the watch to realise I have swapped from running to cycling and it also has the tendency to just switch back to running anyway for the hell of it.

Another issue was with the GPS signal: currently the Apple Watch app does not display GPS strength, meaning I have no way to tell if the phone in my pocket precisely positioned me yet or not. I already have a ride which started putting me all over the place before finally finding my correct position.

A good thing that upon wrist raise the watch shows Strava instead of the watch face. Less favourable is the fact that the app is not updated instantly and takes a few seconds to reconnect to the phone and refresh the displayed data. Also the heart rate detection felt spotty at best afterwards. I am hoping this will be resolved with watchOS 3 when apps can remain in the memory and don’t need to completely reload every time.

Nike+ seems to lag behind in several aspects. For one, the app claims that “Currently Apple doesn’t allow developers to access the heart rate sensor.”, when in fact all I had to do was to enable it in the Health app for Strava. Also, the app instructed me to “Tap General, select Activate on Wrist Raise, then select Resume Previous Activity.” Without this raising the watch took me to the watch face despite the fact that Strava resumed the app out of the box. Unfortunately, if I want a run to appear in Nike+ without manually adding it I have to use their app because there is no upload functionality. Finally, Nike+ does not have a GPS strength indicator on the workout start screen either.

Other than the woes detailed above both apps worked flawlessly during rides and runs. I missed the HR data from Nike+ and I wished the apps instantly updated automatically.

Some of these problems may be addressed in watchOS 3. Still, from my point of view the easiest way to integrate services would be the Health app. If—similarly to TomTom MySports—the Health app would include third party integrations I’d only need to use Siri to start a run or a ride and all the rest could be done in the background. Third party services would receive workout details complete with HR and GPS via their respective API. Of course, even though every app can read and write data in Health, it is not in the interest of these app makers to simply copy the workouts.

Battery

While it felt like ages it might have been just the excitement and the novelty that made me restless during the initial charge. On my first day I went to bed with 40%+ battery life left on the watch. Since Sleep Cycle,—my preferred sleep tracker—does not have an Apple Watch app it is not necessary for me to keep the watch on my wrist while asleep.

Nightstand mode, however, irked me: I expected an always on screen with the charger attached yet it seemed that touch is needed for the screen to wake up.

Conclusion

I haven’t regretted my purchase one bit. I found that handling notifications became much easier and many tasks that had previously required me to produce the phone from wherever it was placed were now easier to complete.

I’m thrilled by the prospect of watchOS 3 making me feel like I own a “whole new watch”.

I went for the 42mm Gold Aluminum Case with Gold/Royal Blue Woven Nylon strap. My iPhone 6 Plus is gold too, so they match. Everyone I’ve seen wearing an Apple Watch had a Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band, so I dared to be different.

We’ll see if the notorious District 8 of Budapest gives me any trouble.

Blue Trail #12

This is one of the shorter and more accessible sections of the trail. Both the starting and the end points are train stations on the same line with regular service to Budapest.

Much of the track goes through grassy or bushy areas without much shade so do pack sunscreen. It is not, however, plain. There is  a fair amount of climbing involved to the hills around the villages.

Up from Kesztölc

Between Kesztölc and Klastrompuszta the route goes through a meadow with millions of butterflies.

Throngs of butterflies and insects in the field

Next the trail passes the ruins of the Monastery of the Holy Cross where Blessed Eusebius1 of Esztergom founded the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit.

Unfortunately there was not much to see apart from the church during this section. We had some trouble with the mud where the trail follows a road shared with vehicles and at one point a fallen tree blocked the path a bit.

It fell…

Anyway, here are some cats we passed on the way.

Afternoon nap

Since I last wrote about the section we have completed previously the official National Blue Trail website was renewed. The errors related to the locations of the stamps were corrected and the distances recalculated. Henceforth I will continue to use the website’s data since it’s the most up-to-date.

As of writing this our status is 54.6 kilometres completed out of 1160. (4.7%)

1, Eusebius is ‘Özséb’ in Hungarian, which I was convinced to be a girl’s name…

New HM PR: 1:39’47”

It’s been a while I wrote about running here but the Nike sponsored blog getting closed down means this is about to change. I never stopped running; sometimes more sometimes less but I’m always out there. As a general tendency, however, I felt I’m getting slower.

And then at the annual summer marathon relay’s individual half-marathon I managed to run a new personal best. It was so surprising I didn’t even realise it at the time, only afterwards.

Granted, the conditions were perfect. Held in the middle of June this relay is usually ran in scorching heat. Last year tents had to be erected for the runners to wait under for the baton exchange. Not this time: although rain was predicted, the sky was only heavily clouded with the temperature between 15 and 20°C.

One other thing I dislike about this event is the fact that the track is only a 7 km circle, which means individual half-marathoners have to complete three laps. I’ve always found these kinds of races quite disheartening. I rather run a track with no repeats, if possible.

I have not trained specifically for this distance, neither before nor now. Usually I could finish under 1:45′, and my PB was just barely under 1:40′. Some races I ran with my dad at a comfortable 1:50’+ pace. Here’s my progression in detail:

  1. 2010 September: 1:53’23” — my very first official HM time
  2. 2011 April: 1:44’39”a very windy HM I was quite happy about
  3. 2011 September: 01:44:05a small improvement
  4. 2012 April: 1:41’54”tried to get under 100 minutes
  5. 2012 September: 1:50’14”
  6. 2013 April: 1:39’51”the now beaten PR
  7. 2015 April: 1:53’37” — accompanied my dad to his first HM
  8. 2015 September 1:53’39” — again, my dad’s (60) tempo
  9. 2015 November 1:42’31”
  10. 2016 April: 1:44’54”

Without any special training or set goal on June 12 I managed to run an official time of 1:39’47”. That means I’ve only shaved four seconds off of my PR, nevertheless I’m still quite proud and happy. It feels like I’m back in the saddle and not that old just yet.

K&H half-marathon

Gasteinertal

During my birthday weekend we visited Bad Hofgastein where my brother was attending an emergency physician course. With all the mountains around, we definitely had to go for a hike.

Peti looking at things

And not even without an aim: thanks to a brochure we stumbled upon a local equivalent of the Hungarian Blue Trail called the Salzburger Almenweg. The Almenweg is a 350 kilometre long circular route divided into 31 stages from one alpine hut to the other. Alm translates to alpine pasture, land covered with grass suitable for grazing animals.

A notable difference from the Blue Trail is that rewards are tiered and even completing just one stage already allows the purchase of a hiking pin showing the gentian flower, the symbol of the Almenweg.

Labeling the routes differs as well. Instead of signs on the bark of trees often poles painted in Austrian white-and-red are planted to show where the route goes. Also, there are fewer signs in general than in Hungary; only when it is not obvious which way to go is there an indication of some sort. Crossroads are clearly marked with yellow arrows also indicating the estimated time required. Despite the tourist map we had proving to be pretty inconvenient—it showed the mountains in isometric 3D, which may look nice but makes it hard to gauge distances, for one—the signs were so clear we never lost our way.

On the Salzburger Almenweg

We planned to complete Stage 9 of the Almenweg which meant first climbing from Bad Hofgastein (859 m) to Biberalm (1734 m), its starting point, then crossing over to Schlossalm (2070 m) and take the ski lift back down. “Romance of low- and high-alpine huts” is the tagline of the section, but more on that later.

Bad Hofgastein from above

Even though the forecast only showed rain the first part of the ascent was completed in undisturbed sunshine. Soon after starting the actual Almenweg leg, though, rain started to pour quite suddenly. The earth, wet enough as it was, soaked completely very soon making the trails slippery and muddy. Also the alms are not just for grazing animals in name: we’ve passed many sheep and cows. Especially the latter tended to excrete all over the path too and it became hard to tell what was mud and what was something entirely different… maybe that’s the romance part that was promised?

Attention, grazing cows 🐄

I have to admit though, the rain added a great atmosphere of adventure to the hike. We’ve been enjoying ourselves tremendously despite the fact that unfortunately we couldn’t complete the planned route. The kind owner of the Fundner Heimalm—about halfway into the stage—informed us that we won’t catch the last ski lift ride down so we decided to walk back to the town instead. It still took more than two hours from there and we were soaked through.

Bad Hofgastein hike

Luckily the tourist office had a very relaxed attitude towards checking the stamps. Having the one from the starting point, Biberalm, was enough.

Now, of course, I want the diamond one, for completing the whole route.

Thirty-three

Number  33

Blue Trail #14

The 14th section of the National Blue Trail takes you through the hills of Buda. Starting from the Children’s Railway it goes around a former airfield and over Hármashatár-hill ending at a brick factory operated by Wienerberger.

Hármashatárhegyi Repülőtér

The airfield closed down in 2014 and is now pretty much just a grassy plain. When we were there some people flew model airplanes which sounded like mosquitoes. Since it used to be an official airfield, it even has an IATA/ICAO code: LHHH.

Árpád-kilátó

A gentle climb follows up to the Árpád-kilátó offering a scenic view of the city below.

Hármashatár-hegy

The next stamping place is up on Hármashatár-hill. The stamp used to be at the old lookout tower, but since its reconstruction the box was moved to a utility pole along the route. I assume now that the new tower’s been finished, the stamp will be moved back to its old place again.

HHH-pecsét

By the time we were descending the hill the sun was close to setting.

🌄

A short walk later comes another stamping place where the weekend cottages start appearing. Here, again, the official site proved to be outdated: the stamp is on a pole instead of being affixed to the first hut’s fence. First time I saw a sign like this, though.

pecsét helye

From there the path mostly goes down in a serpentine track. Until the very end it stays in the woods. As the route curves around the steep hillside sometimes trees can be seen that could no longer hang on and fell. Even important ones, like this.

kidőlt

Current status: 35.6km of 1118km.

They turned traffic lights off in this junction. You wouldn’t believe what happened next.

For reasons unknown the traffic lights at the crossing next to where I live stopped working for more than a month now. They’re just flashing amber all the time. It instantly reminded me of a social experiment I have read about a while ago where a city decided to turn traffic lights off and let cars navigate following the signs only. A quick search resulted in this video of a small town in England, Portishead, where a lights-off trial happened in 2009.

I regularly use this particular intersection of Népszínház and Nagy Fuvaros streets. As a pedestrian it is definitely faster for me to get across since cars give me the right of way with only very few exceptions. Seemingly traffic flows much better and everyone seems not only more careful but even more considerate towards the others. How much better the experience is is even more apparent in the off-peak hours when cars or pedestrians used to wait for no real reason other than the lights being red.

I doubt that this behaviour is intended, though, and I’m afraid after a while the lights will be fixed.

Kéktúra

A Kéktúra útvonala a Vas megyei Írott-kőtől a Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén megyei Hollóháza között 1118 km hosszúságban kék sávval jelzett turistaút.

A Budapesti Lokomotív Sportkör Természetjáró Szakosztálya már 1952-ben bevezette a gamificationt, így indult el nem csak Magyarország, de egész Európa első hosszú távú turistaútja. Lehet persze csak úgy mászkálni is a világba, de Fannival kitaláltuk, hogy végigmegyünk ezen.

A teljesítéshez igazoló füzetet kell vásárolni a Magyar Természetjáró Szövetségnél. Az iroda a Károly körút 11. 7. emeletén van az Európa Center irodaházban. A füzetben benne van az összes szakasz térképpel együtt. Egy szakaszt teljesíteni akár részletekben is lehet, a lényeg, hogy minden kezdő és végpont pecsételőhelyen legyen, és minden újrakezdésnél kerüljön a füzetbe pecsét.

Plakát

Első alkalomra egy Budapesthez közeli szakaszt tűztünk ki: a 13. számú túra Piliscsabától Hűvösvölgyig tart. Piliscsaba vasútállomásra a Nyugati pályaudvarról mennek óránként vonatok, és nagyjából egy óra az út.

Bár a kektura.hu oldal tartalmaz leírásokat a pecsételő helyekről, kapásból rossz információra bukkantunk, hiszen a piliscsabai pecsét az állomás felújítása óta máshová került. Az épületnek háttal állva balra, a Wesselényi utcában van egy póznára szerelve.

Kéktúra pecsét, Piliscsaba vá.

Hasznos tanács volt a füzet vásárlásakor, hogy legyen nálunk bélyegzőpárna. A három érintett pontból ugyanis egyiknél sem volt, és az elég lutri, hogy a pecsételőn maradt-e épp elég festék az előző alkalom óta. Egy ilyen kis négyzet alakú cucc bőven elég, pont ekkorák a pecsétek is.

Kéktúra felszerelés

A másik—gondolom—tipikus hiba, amit el lehet követni, hogy nagy elégedetten elindultunk a Wesselényi utcán, és majd’ egy kilométer után ugrott be, hogy ellenőrizni kellene amúgy jó-e az irány. Nyilván vissza kellett fordulni, mert a 12. szakaszt kezdtük el véletlenül.

Naptejet sem vittünk, amiből végül nem lett gond, de nem árt, mert a szakasz első pár kilométere itt is a falun át illetve füves területen vezetett. A vasárnapi ebéd után nem sok élet volt az utcákon, mint azt a mellékelt ábra mutatja.

Vasárnapi ebéd utáni szunya

Az erdőben hűvösebb volt, cserébe millió bogár rajzott, egyenesen bele a szemembe. A szakasznak ez a része egy völgyön át vezet, majd hegymászás következik.

🌳

A második eltévedésünk a Zsíros-hegyen történt: a füves hegytetőn a földön fekvő kövekre festett jeleken kívül nem nagyon volt más lehetőség az út követésére, így lemaradtunk egy kanyarról, és majdnem elkerültük a Zsíros-hegyi turistaház romját.

Nagy-Szénás teteje

Pedig a volt turistaház avtaásának 90. évfordulójára emlékezve pont az ottjártunkat megelőző nap helyeztek ki egy emléktáblát.

Nagy-Szénási turistaház romja

A hegyről lefelé menet a bélyegző ezúttal tényleg ott volt, ahol a weboldal írta: a Muflon Itató előtt egy fán.

A felfestések minősége és mennyisége pedig tényleg attól függ, melyik település felelős értük. Nagykovácsi például egészen komolyan veszi a jelzéseket.

Nagykovácsiban komolyan veszik a tájékoztatást

A végéhez közel még jutottak izgalmak: a Remete-hegyről egyrészt gyönyörű a kilátás, másrészt egy jó meredek köves lejtőn kell leereszkedni a Remete-szurdokba.

Kilátás a Remete-szurdokba

Az út vége kicsit unalmasabb, lakott területen aszfalton vezet. Majdnem ránk is sötétedett, mire elértük a Gyermekvasutat. Itt található az emléktábla az Kéktúra megindításának 50. évfordulója alkalmából, a pecsételő pedig az első vágány mellett fent a peronon.

Árnyak

Bár azt gondoltuk, majd mennyivel gyorsabbak leszünk a 4 km/ó sebességnél, amivel a tájékoztató füzet az időt számolja, végül nem így lett. Viszont a kerülőkkel az eredeti 21,7 kilométerhez képest 25-nél is többet mentünk.

Kéktúra az Endomondon

Endomondon követtem a túrát: az általam használt alkalmazások közül csak ezen van hiking opció. Előnye, hogy GPX formátumban bármikor exportálható az út, ha esetleg átköltöznék más rendszerre. Az iPhone-ra elérhető túrázós alkalmazásokról amúgy gklka írt az Appleblognak. Én ebből a Stemplit néztem meg, de teljesen elvették a kedvem az érétkelések: ahhoz képest, hogy fizetős, régi adatokat mutat, és még jó ronda is hozzá.

Szóval ott tartunk, hogy 21,7 / 1118.

In Japan

This is all very 懐かしい. So many places in this video I’ve been to… 伏見稲荷大社、渋沢、広島. The part when they go to the コンビニ and the music plays cracked me up. 😂

via @gklka