The Port of Gorey

Gorey port lamp(The photo was taken at Gorey on Jersey.)

Posted in Jersey, Photography, Travel, UK | Tagged | 10 Comments

Lynching in Bolivia

In many places in Bolivia, I saw life-size dolls dangling from lamp posts, power poles, walls and even next to the church. I was unable to figure out what they were supposed to represent.


When I asked about it, I always received evasive replies referring to “custom” or limited to explanations that explain absolutely nothing, like “that’s what people do around here”. At first, I thought my Spanish was too bad to understand, but over time it became obvious that nobody wanted to talk about it. Until I met a girl in La Paz who explained quite openly, while we were walking around El Alto, that the dolls serve as a warning: “In this part of town, we’ll hang you if we catch you stealing.”


And these are no empty threats. Take this woman and her two children for example. They were accused of stealing a car and tied to a mahogany tree that houses nests of the red fire ant. The woman died from ant bites. The children were rescued by police.


As a lawyer, I am rather skeptical towards these practices, for how is the mob supposed to evaluate evidence and mitigating circumstances? How to guarantee a fair trial? How to determine adequate punishment? I can also imagine that lynching disadvantages the poor, the less educated or the mentally ill even more than the state justice system. As we say in Bolivia:

Justice is like a snake. Its bite is harder on those who have to walk barefoot.

And sometimes, lynching may simply be the fastest way to get rid of a member of the community who is annoying or disliked.

According to the ombudsmann, there were 41 cases of lynching in 2014, of which 13 resulted in a death. But I doubt that the ombudsman learns of everything going on in the country.

(Zur deutschen Fassung dieses Artikels.)

Posted in Bolivia, Law, Photography, Travel | Tagged | 6 Comments

Book Markets in the Middle East

In Iraq, booksellers leave the books at the side of the road overnight, thinking: “Readers don’t steal, and thieves don’t read.”


That reminds me of an episode during my first visit to Iran.

In a used-book shop, I found so many interesting books in English and German that the owner carefully asked me after a while if I needed more time. “Why?” I was wondering. “Oh, it’s just that I would like to go to lunch soon,” he explained. No problem. I would come back in an hour, I said. “No, no, you don’t have to leave,” he replied. “If you can still spend half an hour here, I will quickly go to lunch and you can stay here in the meantime.” So he left his store to a complete stranger.

At the book markets near the University of Tehran, I learned that the most interesting and the most foreign-language books can be found in the most hidden shops. After entering a run-down building, going to the second courtyard, walking up to the fourth floor and then crossing through some other shops until you reach the last room, you find the place where the literature from the time before the Islamic Revolution in 1979 is being kept.

In a shop for law books, I met an Iranian lawyer who asked me where I was from. “From Germany.” “Oh, Germany! I love three things about Germany: Andreas Brehme, the Frankfurter Schule and Hugo Grotius.“ Andreas Brehme had already retired by that time and Hugo Grotius was actually Dutch, but still, I found it an impressive line-up. Usually, people only think of Hitler and Mercedes-Benz when I disclose my country of origin.

(Thanks to Alaa Sattar for the photo of Houwaish market in Najaf in Iraq. – Hier geht es zur deutschen Fassung.)

Posted in Books, Iran, Travel | Tagged , | 5 Comments

“Death in Venice”

… and there goes Gustav von Aschenbach:

Death in Venice is not my favorite book by Thomas Mann, but he is one of my most favorite authors.

I have met a few people who have dismissed Thomas Mann as a writer after reading “Death in Venice”. In doing so, they commit the literary mistake of their lifetime. Try “Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man” for a light, entertaining read or “Buddenbrooks” for a family saga. If you are up for more of a challenge – and a treat – , read “The Magic Mountain” or “Doctor Faustus” if you are interested in music.

(C) for the photo: Andreas Moser, in Venice in January 2012

Posted in Books, Death, Italy, Photography | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The advice Trump got from Abbas

Abbas:  Hey, Mr President, you know when I had my last election?

Trump:  Um, um, I am not so good with history. I’ll have to ask Stephen.

Abbas:  I’ll tell you. I was elected in 2005.

Trump:  And you’re still in office now?

Abbas:  Obviously.

Trump:  Wow, that’s a loooong term, that’s yuuuuge. That’s like, um, um, a lot of years definitely.

Abbas:  That’s 12 years – without another election! But you know what’s the best thing about it?

Trump:  No.

Abbas:  It’s unconstitutional. My original term was 4 years. Just like yours. *wink, wink*

Trump:  How did you get around that?

Abbas:  I simply cancelled the elections. You have to find some reason, of course, like terrorism or national security or some bla bla. But hey, what can people do? You’re the President!

Trump:  Can you stay for lunch? I’d like you to meet some of my smarter guys and explain to them how you did it. I am really, really interested in this. Bigly.

Posted in Elections, Israel, Politics, USA | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Documentary “Cuba – Fatherland or Death”

I have already expressed my surprise about how lightly Cuba gets off in international public opinion. But recently, I have been shocked again by how many people can travel to Cuba for a week or two and describe everything as beautiful, nice, funny, friendly and so on. Are they blind? What’s worse, I think many of these visitors want to be blind. They don’t want to know about censorship, they don’t want to find out about political prisoners, they don’t want to ask why Cubans are fleeing the country.

I am tired of yet more superficial reports and photos of vintage cars (you think people want to hold on to uneconomical gas-guzzlers?), cigars (any cigar smoker can tell you that Cuban cigars are overrated), colorful architecture (beautiful for a film set, but not safe to live in) and all the smiles (Cubans know what tourists want and you don’t want to talk to the families of imprisoned dissidents or people who have to prostitute themselves to survive, who might not smile, do you?).

I’ll rather watch documentaries like this:

Here is an interview with the filmmakers:

(Thanks to Edward Allen for the pointer.)

Posted in Cuba, Economics, Films, Politics, Travel | Tagged | 2 Comments

Going on a Cruise again

For my imminent return to Europe, I have, in line with my romantic and old-fashioned disposition, chosen the steamship over the plane.

Thus, I will be cruising the Caribbean and the Atlantic for two weeks, leaving from Cartagena in Colombia on 11 May 2017 with stops in

  • Sint Maarten,
  • maybe even a walk to Saint Martin, which will hopefully still be in the European Union after the French elections,
  • Antigua and
  • Madeira

before arriving in Lisbon on 25 May 2017.


At 550 Euros, the journey is only slightly more expensive than by plane, but it includes the food for two weeks, more space, comfort and adventure, so it’s well worth it – particularly considering that my next trips will be long walks across Europe which won’t cost anything.

As on my last cruise, I am also looking forward to two weeks without internet. But that means that if you want a postcard from one of the islands in the Caribbean, you have to tell me by 10 May 2017 at the latest. Considering the icebergs, accidents and pirates, this may be the last chance. But even if I survive, it will be a tough journey:

If you feel sick after watching this for three minutes, imagine what it will be like to endure this for two weeks – day and night.

(Hier gibt es diese Ankündigung auf Deutsch.)

Posted in Antigua, Colombia, France, Madeira, Portugal, Sint Maarten, Travel | Tagged , , | 8 Comments