Random Thoughts (22)

  1. In 2017, I seem to have been a bit lazy. I did not run a single half-marathon. But with the risk of war rising, I want to become fitter again. Last weekend, I began by running a half-marathon near Pilsen in the Czech Republic. Laufen im Wald 2
  2. And as I visited the European Capital of Culture of 2015, I decided to stay for a whole week.
  3. If we all stop smoking at the same time, we would gain so much in weight that the Earth would leave its orbit.
  4. In defense of Jeremy Corbyn, who hasn’t been a spy when they were young?
  5. airport without facebook
  6. I hope you didn’t forget to celebrate/commemorate the Day of the Sea on 23 March?
  7. Universities that allow students to carry-out online surveys among self-selecting Facebook friends to collect “data” for research papers should be bombed. – Then, the students could study the statistics of saturation bombing.
  8. Thanks to long-time reader Ana Alves for The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World before the War 1890-1914 by Barbara Tuchman, East West Street by Philippe Sands and Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World by Tim Whitmarsh. 28103039
  9. Looking at the Brexit transition agreement, it seems that the UK will remain in the EU, except that it will lose voting rights and not sit at the table anymore.
    Hmm, great deal, I suppose.
  10. I was really much more impressed by the Paralympics than by the Olympics.
  11. Thanks to Dieter Schuffenhauer for A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby. This classic of travel literature is deservedly one.hindu-kush
  12. In Bhutan, you can only be a candidate for parliament if you have a university degree.
  13. When Bolivians travel to countries like the Netherlands, do they get negative altitude sickness?
  14. Thanks also to Dieter Schuffenhauer for Inglorious Empire: What the British did to India by Shashi Tharoor. I became aware of this book through an interview with Mr Tharoor. I have rarely heard an interviewee speak so eloquently, and it made me curious about his writing.thumb_1o7a5437_1024-800x800
  15. Now that we know that Facebook is somewhere between incompetent and criminal, maybe we can all spend more time writing and reading blogs again. I generally find the level of debate on blogs higher, and it’s also easier to find old articles/comments again and to link to each other. It seems a more durable medium than Facebook, let alone Instagraph.
  16. Thanks to Cindy Lewyn for Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe by Norman Davies and above all for the memoir of her father, Bert Lewyn, On the Run in Nazi Berlin6018763
  17. When friends, from whom you haven’t heard in months, suddenly “want to talk to you”, you can bet that they have a legal question. Seriously, in 100% of the cases, no exception.
  18. For my spring hike, I am considering the idea of walking along the German section of the Roman limes. Have any of you ever done that? romanempire
  19. Some appreciation for my article on suicidesuicide
  20. Expats are immigrants who refuse to learn the language.
  21. I always confuse Valentine’s Day and April Fool’s Day.
  22. This week, there was a sunset here in Bavaria that made me fear that a nuclear power plant had exploded. Feuerhimmel MO_DSC4949.jpeg
  23. The cyclops was cycling in the cyclone.
  24. The final season of the best show on TV just began:

 

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Posted in Bolivia, Books, Education, Elections, Facebook, Germany, Sports, Statistics, Travel, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Video: How to survive in the Wilderness

I had been hiking on the uninhabited side of Easter Island for a half a day already. The northwest coast was not only devoid of people, but also completely barren. I hadn’t found anything to eat or drink. The sun was shining relentlessly.

Along the way, I had come past several cadavers and skeletons. It began to dawn on me that I too might leave my life on that island if I couldn’t muster the strength to keep walking until nightfall. In light of that danger, I had just begun to record something like a good-bye video when I remembered the most important survival tip. Just in time.

Saved and strengthened by the bananas, I did indeed manage to continue the hike until I reached the beautiful bay of Anakena in the north of Easter Island.

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There, I could finally get the much desired Coca Cola.

(Zur deutschen Fassung dieses Berichts.)

Posted in Chile, Easter Island, Food, Photography, Travel, Video Blog | 7 Comments

My Travel Year 2017 in Photos

In 2017, I actually got around quite a bit. So much that my passport fell apart. But instead of souvenirs, I only brought back dozens of notebooks, filled with stories to be told, and a few photos to accompany them. (Actually, some of you did get souvenirs, but that’s for the elite circle of supporters of this blog.)

2018 will be a much quieter year, with a focus on university and on publishing articles about past travels. To help me decide with which stories to begin, I’ll give you an overview of what happened in 2017 and expect your comments on what you are most curious about.

The year 2017 began at one of the most beautiful places, at Lake Titicaca in South America. First in Puno on the Peruvian side, then in Copacabana on the Bolivian side.

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And wow, was I happy to be back in Bolivia, which remains my favorite country. If I ever have to pick one city to live for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t hesitate to move to Cochabamba. But that time, I decided to stay in La Paz until April.

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I was lucky to be there on 21 February, the anniversary of the constitutional referendum, with manifestations from both sides.

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But even if I had missed that, I needn’t have worried. There were protests and marches every day. Living quite centrally, I was awoken by drums or fireworks regularly.

It was almost too late, however, that I discovered a wonderful hiking group, Free Trek, and so I could only join them once. Valle de las Animas looks like out of this world, but it’s actually just a short walk from the bustling city.

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But the best adventure during that time was my walk to Chacaltaya.

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In April, it was time to fly to Colombia, where I was very positively surprised by Bogotá. An organized, bicycle-friendly, green, cultural city full of bookshops, exhibitions and chess players in the street.

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But I had to move after a few days because I had already rented a small house in the countryside.

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I was about to leave Colombia and South America by boat, so I had to go to Cartagena, the port city in the Caribbean. Cartagena looks beautiful, but it’s the opposite of Bogotá: hot and humid instead of mild and pleasant, hedonistic instead of intellectual, and superficial instead of cultural. Where Bogotá had chess players, Cartagena had beauty queens.

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By May, I was already looking forward to return to Europe and happy to get on the cruise. Two weeks on the high seas sounded like an enticing prospect, but it wasn’t really as relaxing as my first cruise. Maybe it was too much Cartagena and not enough Bogotá.

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But that way, I got to some islands which I would otherwise never have visited. On Sint Maarten/Saint Martin, I even had a friend waiting for me, who took me around the island, providing lots of information on the politics, economics, social structure and race relations of the island. And when we crossed from Sint Maarten to Saint Martin, I was already back in the European Union – in the middle of the Caribbean!

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A few weeks later, everything was destroyed by Hurricane Irma.

The same fate befell Antigua, where I was surprised by how British-colonial everything still looked, despite most people being the descendants of slaves, who, by the way, staged a revolt in the 1730s. Yes, the climate was so hot and humid that I preferred to spend a few hours at the local history museum in St John’s.

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The last island stop on the cruise was Madeira. Returning to Europe was as beautiful as I had hoped, with mild climate, flowers blooming, and finally a city where I could sit in the park and read a newspaper without having to listen to everybody else’s music at inhumane volume. I almost wanted to quit the cruise and stay in Funchal for longer.

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But luckily, I stayed aboard until we reached mainland Portugal. I already liked Lisbon, where I only stayed briefly, but Sintra blew me away. Castles and monasteries, hidden in the forest or perched on mountaintops, all connected by hiking paths, and with beautiful gardens, romantic ponds and mysterious tunnels. A magical place!

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And then I was back in Germany. Well, at least it was summer, so it was sunny, green and perfect for hiking. And not having to worry about anacondas and piranhas was a bit of a relief.

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But somehow, I can never stay in Bavaria too long without getting depressed by the petite bourgeoisie there, so already for my birthday in July, I fled to the Caucasus.

In Tbilisi in Georgia, I was lucky to stay in a part of town that hadn’t been modernized yet. Beautiful old courtyards, crooked buildings, wooden balconies, with elements of Persian architecture.

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It immediately struck me as a city where I could imagine living, but Kutaisi and Zugdidi were nice, too.

Yerevan had more concrete than green, but still a nice cultural vibe, while Dilijan turned out to be the hiking paradise in Armenia.

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In Azerbaijan, I felt the weight of the one-family autocracy in Ganja, while Göygöl was completely different and welcoming.

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But the biggest surprise on my Caucasus tour was Abkhazia. The capital Sukhum has the grandeur of a Black Sea resort with a long tradition, but, as an effect of war, flight and emigration, a decimated population. Even at the height of summer, the city was never crowded.

train station Suchumi

As some of you know, I have been toying with the thought of moving to a Russian-speaking place to learn Russian. Because nobody in Abkhazia expects anyone to learn Abkhaz and because almost everyone is bilingual, but not many people speak English, it seems like the perfect place for such language studies. (Transnistria would be another alternative.)

As I returned to Germany, I met a former classmate of mine who was living in Britain at the time, in Lancashire to be exact. It was wonderful to see how well we got along after not having seen each other for at least ten years, and he invited me to visit him in Lytham St Annes, that “bubble of happiness”, as he called it.

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But we also had time to explore the seedy side of Blackpool, watch an impressive airshow in Southport

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and go hiking in the Lake District.

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Once again, I realized how perfect Britain is for hiking. Not only the beautiful landscape, but also a really good infrastructure, with public transport, pubs in every small village and even food deposited by friendly people along the path.

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And then I returned to university in October, and traveling was over. Well, I did go to Hagen in Northrhine-Westfalia for one week. Allegedly, it’s Germany’s most boring city, but I honestly didn’t find it too bad. But maybe that was due to an intensive week of history lectures.

Now that she is retired, my mother is becoming more interested in traveling, and so she suggested a trip to Prague for a couple of days in autumn. It turned out to be the perfect time because it was still warm, but the leaves were already golden and red.

In Germany however, November was becoming more and more depressing. I urgently needed to escape and chose to move to Kotor in Montenegro for three months. I had been there before and liked it a lot, but this longer stay reconfirmed that Kotor really is one of the most beautiful cities in the world – even in winter.

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So, now it’s up to you. Let me know what you are most interested in, and I will get cracking on the articles, edit the videos and publish more photos.

(Zur deutschen Fassung dieses Artikels.)

Posted in Abkhazia, Antigua, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Colombia, Europe, Georgia, Germany, Madeira, Montenegro, Peru, Photography, Portugal, Sint Maarten, Travel, UK | Tagged | 38 Comments

Playing the concertina is exhausting

That calls for a break every now and then.

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Photographed in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Posted in Bolivia, Music, Photography, Travel | Tagged | 1 Comment

International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day, but many of you don’t seem to know how to properly celebrate or commemorate it.

  • It’s NOT a day for those who forgot Valentine’s Day,
  • NOR is is a second chance for those whose object of affection has since changed.
  • It’s NOT a day to send flowers and hearts and other cheesy messages to your Facebook friends.
  • It’s NOT Mothers’ Day.
  • NOTHING is achieved by wishing someone a “happy Women’s Day”.
  • It’s NOT a day for companies to offer “Women’s Day Specials”.

No, it’s a day to fight!

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As these Italian partisans show us, you can still be fashionable if you want to, but the guns and the fight are what counts.

8th of March is a political day, a day of justice, a day of equal rights and participation. Special Women’s Day offers with lots of stereotypical pink hearts are rather counterproductive and backward if you want women to progress beyond the status of Barbie dolls.

The only place where I have seen it done right was in Bolivia:

WomensDay

(This reminder was also published on Medium.)

Posted in Bolivia, Feminism, History, Italy, Travel | Tagged , | 7 Comments

How to deal with disorganized clients

A lady who already displayed some warning signs wanted me to advise her about a child custody case in Germany. In the following conversation, I am the part in dark blue.

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I haven’t heard from her again.

By the way, I am surprised by the number of people contacting me and trying to hire me to get a copy of their own divorce decree because they lost it. It would be so easy to get it from the lawyer who represented them in that proceeding, from the court or even from the ex-spouse. Really no need to hire a new lawyer for that.

Posted in Family Law, German Law, Law | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Montenegro is not “tiny”

Last night, a man threw a grenade at the US Embassy in Podgorica. Nobody was injured because it was midnight and everybody was at home. Disappointed to discover this, the man used his second amendment grenade to blow himself up.

Podgorica embassy bombing

That is sad, particularly for the people who need to clean up the mess. I hope they get some extra pay.

Anyone who knows me knows how outraged I am about people making noise, whether by fireworks, church bells, music, terrorism or parties, particularly late at night. But in this case, I am almost more annoyed by the media reports about it, particularly in the US press.

They all explain that Montenegro is a country and where it is. As if nobody knew that! Anyone who has seen Casino Royale, conveniently released in 2006, just as the country became independent, knows Montenegro.

Nonetheless, I can still understand that. Better safe than sorry. Better explain it once again than have readers confuse Montenegro with Madagascar. Also, the articles need to be filled with something.

But what outrages me is that every report in the US press uses the word “tiny” to describe Montenegro.

For example USA Today and Fox News:

Montenegro borders the Adriatic Sea in southeastern Europe and its capital is Podgorica. […]

The U.S. established diplomatic ties with the tiny Balkan state in 2006 after it split from much larger Serbia.

Or the New York Times:

Montenegro, one of the world’s youngest nations, is a tiny country of 640,000 nestled between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania. It was once part of Yugoslavia; later, it became half of the nation of Serbia and Montenegro before declaring independence in 2006.

Or NPR:

Montenegro is located in southeastern Europe and was once part of Yugoslavia.

The U.S. established diplomatic ties with the tiny nation in 2006 after it split from much larger Serbia.

First of all, what’s the informational value of that adjective?

Second, it’s not true. Montenegro is NOT tiny! If you think it is, try to walk from Herceg Novi to Bijelo Polje! Microbes, atoms and prematurely born mice are tiny, but not Montenegro.

Granted, with 13,812 square kilometers, Montenegro is no Russia or China. But there are smaller countries or states that I never see referred to as “tiny” in every newspaper report: Qatar, Jamaica, Lebanon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Cyprus, Bahrain, Singapore, Delaware and of course the Vatican. Why do we not regularly read about “the tiny country of Lebanon” or the “tiny state of Delaware”?

If there is one adjective that should accompany Montenegro in every report, it’s “beautiful”.

By the way, if there will be a travel warning issued by the US State Department, you can safely ignore it. Montenegro is safe and friendly, definitely safer than the USA itself. And we all know that the State Department tends to overreact with their travel warnings (example 1, example 2).

Posted in Media, Montenegro, Terrorism, Travel, USA | Tagged | 28 Comments