Romantic Idea and Prosaic Reality

Zur deutschen Fassung.


When I got the assignment in the Azores, I immediately started searching for a passage on a ship to reach the far-away island by more adventurous and romantic means than by plane.

I searched in vain.

But I didn’t book a return flight, hoping to meet enough ferrymen, fishermen and sailors during three months on Faial to be able to hitchhike back to the continent.

And then, there was still the possibility of sneaking on board a cargo ship as a stowaway.

The other islands of the Azores archipelago also seemed perfect for exploring them by boat. 7 hours to Terceira, 9 hours to Flores, you can rarely travel in such a decelerated and relaxed way.

But today, the first ride on a ferry goes to Pico, the near neighboring island. The crossing only takes 30 minutes.

To enjoy the best view, I enter the upper deck. It is a small ferry, with about ten rows of seats on each floor, most of them facing the direction of travel. Just like an airplane. Only with free seating. I place myself right next to the open door to enjoy the sun, wind and water.

Almost unnoticed, the ferry boat is released from the grip of the terminal. The powerful engines are pushing it through the harbor with ease, steering it gently towards the exit.

But as it leaves the two protective quay walls behind and heads out into the sea, the ship begins to rock. Or rather, it begins to seesaw, from front to back. That’s probably normal, as you leave the port and enter the open sea, I try to calm myself.

But the movements do not stop, they become stronger. Higher and higher the boat rises. Deeper and deeper it falls. As does my stomach, rising and falling. I am glad I haven’t eaten anything yet.

Why go out to sea when there are such monster waves? On the other hand, I try to calm down, the captain doesn’t want to die either. He probably checked the weather report before he yelled “Cast off!”

Fresh air is coming through the door. I am breathing deeply and consciously. More and more water splashes in my face, too. White foam dances on the waves. I can’t take any photos, because I need both arms to claw myself to the seat. There is no seat belt and if I don’t hold on tight, I would fall out of it. At least I’m sitting right next to the door, I am planning ahead, so I can jump out, should the boat capsize.

But then what? The waves are now higher than the boat. When we are at the bottom of the wave valley, I don’t see Pico upfront, but only masses of water. I could never swim against these waves. This is the Atlantic Ocean, not the Mediterranean or so. And the sea has endless power, endless energy, endless water, like a perpetual motion machine. It never gets tired. I, on the other hand, have hardly any strength left to hold onto the seat.

A sailor is warpedly waling through the corridor, because the boat is now also rolling from port to starboard and back. He closes the heavy iron door in front of my seat and blocks it with a wooden wedge so that it cannot be opened anymore. The escape route is blocked.

The up and down was bad, but the sideways rolling is a hundred times worse. The boat is tilting to starboard where I’m sitting, and I can look the killer whales in the eye. Then it tilts to port, and I’m hanging in the air like a vulture. Meanwhile the boat gains and loses about 10 meters in height. Everything at the same time, every movement contradicting each other, everything out of control.

I am not sure if we are still moving forward or just dancing on the spot like a ball being thrown into the air and caught again by Poseidon. By a Poseidon who is very angry today. Maybe his football team lost the relegation.

It’s supposed to take 30 minutes to get across the channel. I don’t even dare look at the watch. I try to think of something else, but only get to the point where I have to go back from Pico to Faial in a week. By boat!

But I cancel all further plans. The passage by ship to other Azores islands. Definitely the return trip to Portugal,which would last at least seven days. The idea of going from Odessa to Georgia across the Black Sea. The cruise to Saint Petersburg. The crossing of the English Channel. All canceled! I just want to get my feet on solid ground, as far away from this all-consuming maw of the sea.

And then, to my big relief, Madalena appears, the port of Pico. The ship is staggering past two dangerous rocks. But thanks to the rocks, I can at least see that we are moving forward. When we enter the harbor, there is already another ferry, run aground. So, it’s really as dangerous as it felt.

ferry sinking

Because there are readers who say “oh, Andreas always exaggerates”, I present you with two videos of ferries on the same route. But remember, these videos only show them leaving the harbor. Once on the high seas, the going gets really rough.

Th first thing I did was to book a return flight to Portugal.

Links:

  • The island of Pico was quite beautiful.
  • I made the return trip from another port, so it took a full 2 hours instead of 30 minutes. But this time, the sea was calmer. A little bit.
  • That reminds me that I finally have to write about my two Atlantic crossings. But that’s such a huge project, with three weeks at sea and stops at Madeira, Sint Maarten and Antigua, so I have to collect some support for this blog before I can devote a few weeks to that project. Thank you very much!
Posted in Azores, Portugal, Travel | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Fan Mail: “Offensive Articles”

There are blogs where all the comments read “you are so right”, “totally agree!” and “you are beautiful”. Those are boring blogs.

I am not unhappy about compliments, especially about my writing, but if there were no dissenting voices, I would worry. Ideally, the exchange with you will broaden my knowledge, make me see different perspectives and new ideas, and rethink my positions.

So, when someone wrote that “degrading countries with offensive articles is not ethical”, it made me think for a while.

degrading countries with offensive articles is not ethical

However, on this point, I don’t think I need to change my mind, nor my writing.

First of all, countries don’t have feelings. So there are fewer ethical restrictions on writing about countries than about human beings.

But I don’t want to use this clever reply to get out of the debate easily. Because, although I would prefer if fewer people identified themselves with a randomly assigned country, we have to admit that when people speak about countries, they often (also) mean the people living there. This can be a fine line, but if someone says that country X is “a shithole country”, that’s on a different level than stating that country Y “doesn’t have proper mountains”.

When someone says I am degrading countries, I wonder what the alternative would be. Maybe to ennoble countries? Or to dignify them? Would that be ethical? Oddly enough, whenever someone writes something positive about a country, they hardly receive any pushback, even if it’s not true.

The truth is, as shocking as this sounds to people who get their news from Instagraph, that not everything is fine and happy and glamorous and just in this world. And when I write about this, the writing is not unethical, but the underlying injustice is. I could even argue that not writing about injustice would be unethical, at least more so than writing.

Next point: Are my articles offensive?

I have been trying to avoid making this about a specific country because it’s a general question, but you need to read some of my articles to determine whether they are offensive.

I din’t ask the gentleman which article disturbed him, but based on his country of origin, I have a suspicion that it was this one. Since he wrote me, I have actually published another article which happens to take place in his country. I recommend that you take the time to read them because they are insightful and funny, I think, and without doing so, you won’t be able to pass judgment on my level of offensiveness.

So, what did you think?

I, for one, am ready to admit that my humor can be offensive at times. I would think that this is alleviated by the fact that I am humorous about almost anything and anybody, including myself.

But, and I think this is the most important point, everything I wrote in these articles was observed by myself. Everything is true. (For the personality cult around Heydar Aliyev, you even have all the photos as proof.)

Another point in my defense: I did not go to Azerbaijan to write funny articles. I did not go to Azerbaijan with any mission. Heck, I would have been super happy if the taxi driver had not lied to me! I went to the park in Ganja because I like parks and because it was my birthday. I was hoping to meet interesting people and maybe someone playing a song for me, as happened on a previous birthday.

Now, someone could say: “Well, you had one negative experience. You can’t pass judgment on the whole country.” First of all, nobody ever says that to someone writing about a country based on one positive experience. That shows how phony that argument is. Second, I am not passing judgment, I am reporting. And that means that a lot is determined by coincidence. If I had gone to the same country a month later, maybe I would have had the best experience. Then I would have written about that. But I am sure the megalomaniac parks and statues will still be there on my next visit.

Triumph1

“I dare you to call this park megalomaniac! This is the greatest park in the world!”

Actually, speaking of that next visit, it probably won’t happen. Azerbaijan is not so keen on reporters. It is the country with most journalists in prison in Europe and Central Asia. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, censorship in Azerbaijan is stricter than in Iran or in China. Bloggers are regularly intimidated. Oh, that reminds me of something that happened in Ganja. Of the more than 60 countries where I have been, this was the only time that police stopped me in the middle of the city demanding to see the photos on my camera, insisting that I delete some, and then telling me to get lost. (Since then, this has happened once more. But the second time was in Montenegro where I sneaked into a Navy base, taking photos of warships. There, I really deserved it.)

IMG_2743

This was probably unethical.

Maybe it’s because of all that censorship that people aren’t used to read anything critical about their country? And Azerbaijan is also known to bribe its way to positive reports.

But returning to the question of ethics, I would want to doubt the notion that I am in any position to degrade a country. This is a small blog with no influence. Whatever I have written about a country has never put a dent into tourism or other shady revenues of that country. There are thousands of everything-is-super-nice-and-the-sun-is-shining bloggers (practicing their own form of censorship) to counter my little critical voice.

Also, as my articles usually make clear, they are very personal. I am not trying to present them as some objective view of the world. I would think that the manner and tone of my writing convey that.

Lastly, I feel that I did nothing unethical because I violated nobody’s trust. When I went to the park, nobody gave me a tour, of whom I later made fun. The taxi driver wasn’t even trying to be nice and, in a way, he got paid to be portrayed as a pirate. For me, the most serious ethical dilemma poses itself when I want to write about situations in which someone is confiding in me or helping me. I have a warning label on my blog, but people whom I randomly meet or who give me a lift in their car haven’t read that, of course. I am not sure I can ethically justify writing about them. Which means that I have to rely on artistic justification alone, which means that those stories are all standing on shaky ground. You better read them quickly, before they collapse!

But I really want to thank Abbas for his comment. Nothing worse can happen than to think of oneself as the best, believing that one is always right. I am thankful when someone makes me reflect my own thoughts and actions. And even more thankful if it leads to a change in opinion, because without that happening from time to time, I would feel intellectually frozen.

Links:

  • Fan mail from a jealous reader.
  • Fan mail from a Jesus freak.
  • As you can guess from my articles, I never receive any invitations or sponsorship. Therefore, all this work depends wholly on your support, for which I am very thankful!
Posted in Azerbaijan, Philosophy, Travel | Tagged | 1 Comment

Flight to Horta

Zur deutschen Fassung dieser Geschichte.


On the plane to the island of Faial, I notice that many people have brought thick books with them. An island seems to be a good place to read, and I wonder why people, if they like reading, don’t make equal time for it at home.

A young girl sitting next to me is reading Anne Frank’s diary. It is always the youth that gives me a little bit of hope.

Sitting in the row opposite is an old man reading a thick thriller through thick glasses. He looks like Norman Mailer himself. With a touch of Clint Eastwood. Definitely like someone who would have a novel in him.

I start reading “Moby Dick” and regret not having found a ship to the Azores.

But when writing about flights, readers don’t want descriptions of fellow passengers and their reading, they want me to look out the window. Well, there is not much to see. Plenty of water.

“Why don’t you take pictures?” the beginners then ask, because they don’t know that the drops drifting in the ocean are the same ones as in the bathtub at home. And if you try to take a photo of the islands, it gets blurred and scratched.

Pico from plane

(This is the view of Pico Island, Mount Pico hidden in the clouds and the town of Madalena. If you want to know something about the island, you must not only fly over it, but you have to explore it properly, on foot, for at least a week – or read my article.)

And then I already have to put my camera down, because the announcement comes on: “Ready for landing,” and the little plane swings into the harbor of Horta.

The harbor?

Yes, the harbor, which is also the airport here.

Because that is perhaps the most interesting thing about this flight: As many islands in the Azores are too small for airports, the planes have to land on water. The only exception is Lajes Field, an airport that the British Air Force built on the island of Terceira during World War II. The mere mentioning of that time makes the readers throw their hands up in despair and shout in unison: “Oh no, not another historical digression!”, which is a pity, since it would not be limited to the Second World War, but would finally offer the opportunity to speak about the Anglo-Portuguese alliance of 1373. Anyway, if you are interested, just press the button above your seat.

The plane slowly descends towards the water surface. Actually, a water landing is easier than a ground landing, because you can “roll out” forever or, if necessary, attempt the landing again without having to return to a designated spot. But the weather must be better, because waves in the water are even deadlier than winds across the runway.

Oh, there was a first touchdown.

But the plane is already back in the air.

And another touchdown.

The plane bounces back again, still flying.

I’m a little bit worried, but later, I will find out that this is exactly how it is supposed to be. The pilot keeps touching the water to slow the plane down. In the end, the plane should be just slow enough to lose the aerodynamic lift and to glide into the water. Once the speed has been reduced enough, this is hardly ever dangerous.

seaplane landing in Horta

And I think it worked! You notice that you have finally landed when the propellers get cranked up again and the plane describes a curve in the water to drive/swim towards the port.

Once there, I’m surprised how busy it is. With only 15.000 people living on the island, what are all the airplanes doing here?

seaplanes parked in Horta

“What are you all doing on Faial?”, I ask the passengers disembarking from another plane.

seaplane passengers

“Oh, we don’t know that ourselves. We only have an hour to stretch our legs and have a cup of coffee.” They are on a stopover from New York to Lisbon.

And suddenly, I understand the big rush. The location of the Azores in the middle of the Atlantic makes it a perfect, indeed the only, stopover place for transatlantic flights. Well, you could still fly via Greenland or Iceland, but if you end up going to or coming from southern Europe, that’s quite a detour. And who wants to buy a winter jacket for a short stopover?

The first landing of a plane in Horta coincided with the first transatlantic flight ever. You are probably thinking of Charles Lindbergh now, but no! He was the first to fly non-stop and alone across the Atlantic in 1927. But the first successful transatlantic crossing by airplane ever was accomplished in 1919 by a US Navy crew in the Curtiss NC-4.

curtiss_nc-4_four_engine_configuration-detail

In May 1919, Captain Albert Read landed in Horta Harbor with what, at least to modern eyes, looks like a rattletrap and gave the fishermen and whalers a good scare. But back then, flying was all about energy efficiency, not luxury and convenience. At that time, getting on a plane was still environmentally acceptable, even for tree-huggers!

Lindbergh, sticking to the rules of the competition, had missed the Azores on his non-stop flight. But he returned in 1933 to find the best port for stopovers on the transatlantic route. He picked Horta on Faial as the best port, and because at the time, Lindbergh had not yet disqualified himself as a Nazi, the major airlines believed him.

But then, it was the Nazis after all who opened the first regular air service from Europe to New York via Horta. If Lindbergh had a secret hand in this? Who knows. From 1936, Lufthansa flew with Dornier Do-18 flying boats. But these were still quite windy aircraft, only for airmail and, in typical complicated German engineering, they could land in water but not take off in water. Instead, Lufthansa had to provide a ship from which the mail plane was catapulted back into the air after the stopover.

This is more or less the technology that is still used on aircraft carriers today. I believe.

But from 1938 on, the big passenger planes of Pan Am came and went several times a week. I forgot to take pictures in the airplane, also because I would have found it rude in front of the other passengers. But here you can take a look into the inner life of a Boeing 314.

seaplane inside

I actually found it quite spacious and comfortable. Much better than Ryanair and similar airlines, in any case.

Only now does it occur to me that the girl reading Anne Frank was perhaps not motivated by an interest in the Holocaust, but merely wanted to prepare herself for the forthcoming quarantine.

Practical advice:

  • Because the Azores are striving for equal treatment of all nine Azores islands, there is a great offer: If you can’t find a suitable (i.e. cheap) flight from Portugal to the island of your choice, simply fly to another island and get the connecting flight for free. All you have to do is register here in due time (this applies to inbound and outbound flights).
  • The flights with the flying boats are for nostalgics, which is why you won’t find them on the internet. You have to go to a travel agency like we used to do in the good old times.

Links:

Posted in Azores, History, Portugal, Technology, Travel | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Film Review: “Minimalism”

Seeing guys with houses, cars and expensive phones talk about minimalism made me laugh.

And there’s the minimalist version of my review of “Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things” already.

Seriously, though, this is an important subject wasted on a bad film. A film which is basically an advert for selling books. (Which in itself is not very minimalist, because you could get the books from the library.)

The film was short on practical advice, and it was especially short on exploring the “why?” behind minimalism. You don’t get rid of stuff to get rid of stuff. It’s not a competition and it shouldn’t be a fad. You get rid of stuff because acquiring and keeping it costs you time (by selling it to an employer or directly to customers), and you have better things to do with your time. Hopefully.

Pause

In my case, the better things to do with my time are traveling, enjoying nature, reading, studying and writing. I realize that I am extremely lucky because almost all of these things don’t cost much. Nature is free. Books are free at the library. Writing requires merely a pen and paper.

“But how can you afford to travel so much?” people always ask, because traveling is something that a great many people are keen on. And, to their surprise, minimalism is the answer! I can travel so much because I don’t own a car, because I don’t own a house, because I never bought an Apple product in my life. (I explain the connection in this article.)

People sometimes reply: “Oh no, I couldn’t live like that! I need 20 pairs of shoes, the Apple Watch, and let me buy another dress that I will never wear. After that, I will travel.” And then they wonder why they can’t afford to travel for half of the year, every year. Well, the answer is sitting right there in their bedroom, when they look at 20 pairs of shoes, of which they can’t wear 19. Most of us have only two feet, and it ain’t the number of shoes that counts, but where we walk.

Traveling, at least the way I do it, being away for months, is also a great teacher for minimalism. Everything I need has to fit in a backpack. There is no point in accumulating a lot of stuff if I won’t be home for 10 months of the year. (Actually, I don’t really have a home of my own.) The more you move, the more you realize that stuff is a burden, not an asset.

Also, for a film about minimalism, the movie was terribly long and repetitive. I stopped halfway into it. It would have been more fun to watch if they had invited me. But I am too minimalist to be crazy about marketing myself. I am just happy to sit under a tree.

hobo

And that’s one problem with minimalism and adventurism and many other worthwhile concepts: You will rarely ever hear from those who practice them well. Because those people don’t care about being on YouTube or giving TEDx talks.

Links:

Posted in Economics, Films, USA | 4 Comments

Return to Normality

Zur deutschen Fassung dieses Artikels.


We can go into town again. The barrier tapes have been removed from the parks, as if the crime scene has been cleaned up. The doors of the shops are wide open. Some of them have a sign, suggesting that only one customer should be inside at any time. The way banks do it, for fear of robberies with hostage situations. The Post Office is particularly strict, to prevent some crazy from going philatelistic.

The streets, the sidewalks, everything is as full as it hasn’t been in a long time. Fuller than I remember it ever having been, to be honest. Maybe because some people aren’t back at work yet (teachers, flight attendants, students), squeezing into the city instead. Some people wear the facemask, some have it dangling pointlessly from one ear, others stuff it into the back pocket as soon as they leave the supermarket, making sure to show their disdain.

Cars have been allowed outside, too. Every single parking space is occupied. The streets are filled with smoke and screeching and honking and fender benders. And dogs, worst of all.

It all comes upon me like an avalanche. The noise, the moving parts everywhere, people even want to talk to me. I have to be careful again to not get run over. What happened with the primacy of human life, forgotten so soon?

Frankly, it’s too much for me. I am sweating, and not only because of the facemask. My heart is beating faster. You have to keep your eyes everywhere, and everywhere at the same time. I just want to go back home as soon as possible. This is so much stress compared with the previous months. The town has become too busy and bustling for me.

The town is Horta, with a population of about 6000.

Horta Gesamtansicht

Horta von oben

I can’t even imagine how I am supposed to survive this once I’ll be back on the continent.

Most likely, I am going to shoulder my backpack very soon and hike off into the Central European forests.

Links:

  • More reports from the increasingly stressful Azores.
Posted in Azores, Photography, Portugal, Travel | Tagged | 20 Comments

How I got a Facemask on the Azores

Zur deutschen Fassung dieser Geschichte.


When I flew to the Azores from Lisbon on I-don’t-remember-exactly-but-some-time-in-the-beginning-of-March, there was this person at the airport who was probably just snickering disparagingly about people with facemasks. And maybe eating a Snickers bar under the hood, just for the pun of it.

Corona-Schutzanzug

At that time, a mere two months ago, although it may seem slightly longer, that person already knew something. I can just assume that he/she was a virologist or the Portuguese Minister for Health.

Elsewhere in the world, you might have worried that the hoodie was with the Ku Klux Klan. But this was in Portugal. There are no radicals in Portugal, no extremists, no terrorists. Everybody and everything in Portugal is moderate. “Even our communists are moderate,” my friend Romeu had explained in Lisbon, almost with disappointment because, in a way, it moderates even his staunch anti-communism.

Anyway, you are not here to read about politics, and it was time to get on the small plane that would hover me to the island of Faial. That flight was quite something, but remind me to tell you about that in another story, for we shall keep the digressions to a minimum or we are all going to die because we forget to protect our respiratory system.

I survived the flight (Portuguese airspace has only moderate turbulences), and as I left the harbor (that will be explained in the flight story, but stop being interrupted, will you?), I did see a few people, mostly ladies, it seemed, who were apparently conscious of the virus and already wearing facemasks.

vintage-photos-of-portuguese-women-2

vintage-photos-of-portuguese-women-3

vintage-photos-of-portuguese-women-23

Strange fashion, it may seem to you, but the islands are thousands of kilometers from the mainland, and time moves differently here. Faial was last struck by the bubonic plague in the winter of 1717 and 1718, but when people told me about it, it was as if they had been there. “It killed Henrique,” they would say about one of their forefathers, wiping a tear. Or “Maria Luísa never got over the loss of Cajó.” Of course people still had the old anti-plague suits at home, ready to be utilized after only 13 generations.

When I said that I was going to stay in the municipality of Cedros, people would inform me with a ghastly look: “Oh, Cedros, they suffered the most from the plague,” as if nothing remarkable or disastrous had happened in the 300 years since. In reality, hundreds of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis and hurricanes have occurred since.

I am digressing again, am I not? So let’s wind our grandfather clock forward to 2020, the year of the Corona plague. I rarely saw anyone with a facemask, because there are not many people here anyway. And people are very reasonable, not hugging and kissing anymore. (The Azoreans who were into that kind of behavior all emigrated to Brazil a long time ago.)

But last week, I went to the supermarket and realized that I was the only one without a facemask. Everything had changed from one day to the next. I felt weird, almost naked. But they still let me in and gave me chocolate and stuff.

As a guest on the island, I want to fit in. So I went to the pharmacy, hoping they would have a facemask. But already at the door, a handwritten note said that they were out of masks until the next ship would arrive. I did learn that it was now required by law to wear a facemask in supermarkets and on the bus.

And then, friends, or shall I call them “friends”, wrote me with “helpful” advice on how I could make my own facemask. “It’s very easy: You just take a piece of cloth, preferably cotton and not used, you cut it this way, fold it that way, iron it, attach some rubber bands and sew around the edges, and there you go.”

I couldn’t even follow the instructions, let alone imagine where I would get cotton, an iron, a sewing machine and rubber bands. What do people think I have in my backpack? If I had that kind of equipment with me, I might as well build a spaceship.

The more “advice” people gave, the madder I got. It was as if someone complained that they are bored, and I told them: “Oh, just write a script, hire a few actors, set up a movie studio, shoot a film, and by tonight, you will have a movie to watch.” Seriously, it’s annoying to assume that everyone has practical talent – and tools to match. I don’t go around assuming that everyone has a penchant for constitutional law or the history of Montenegro, do I?

So I was already rationing food, thinking about putting a sack over my head and cutting two holes for the eyes, when one of the maxims of my life proved true again: If there is a problem, just wait. Somehow, it will be resolved.

Today, as I was going back home from having studied by the sea for a few hours, I had to pass the mail delivery van. The lady who distributes not only letters, but also her heart-warming smile wherever she goes, waved at me to stop. I obliged, naturally, and she handed me a package, saying that it was a gift from the government of the Azores.

facemasks (1)

In it, there were not one, but three fresh facemasks! With instructions.

facemasks (2)

This may be moderately socialist, but I just love it when governments, upon making it mandatory to wear a facemask, mail a box with enough facemasks to everyone in the country, including to people living on a small speck of volcano in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Especially when the mail person flags me down in the middle of the road to make sure that I get one.

It reminded me of my friends in Lisbon, Romeu and Mafalda, again. When we met, they took me to a mural about the history of Lisbon, which you can find if you are at the Portas do Sol viewpoint and ask for the bathroom. They used the cartoons on the wall to give me a very quick overview of Portuguese history. As they got to the time when Portugal was somehow united with Spain (from 1580 to 1640, I believe), Romeu said, jokingly of course, for he is a (moderate) patriot: “We sometimes wish we would have stayed in the Iberian Union because Spain is so much better organized than us.” I, knowing only little of both countries, felt that I had to object. From what I had seen, Portugal is superbly organized. As this episode confirms, one could easily call Portugal the Switzerland of the Iberian peninsula.

Links:

Posted in Azores, Health, Portugal, Travel | Tagged | 21 Comments

You can now support my blog on Patreon

Let me send my sincerest regards to you, wherever you are in quarantine, under lockdown or in any other virus-fighting modality, as long as it’s not the one where you deny reality. The good thing about this time is that everyone has more time to read. And even I, usually on the move quite regularly, am not at all unhappy about the enforced break. Finally, I have more time to write, especially as long as I will still be stuck on this island in the Atlantic.

Even once the travel restrictions will be lifted gradually, we won’t be able to travel around the world carelessly for quite a while. Ohh, wouldn’t it be great to know a globetrotter who can tell exciting, amusing and insightful stories?

Someone writes, the others read. I see an opportunity here. People could come together and stimulate each other. But whether you believe it or not, research and writing, editing and replying to comments, all of that takes a lot of time. Some of you have already rewarded my efforts from time to time, and I am extremely thankful to you. Not only because that sometimes finances a train ticket to Ukraine or the entrance to a museum, but especially because of the recognition. This is very motivating!

As one possibility (among many), I have opened a Patreon page. There, you can support artists and writers with a monthly contribution, which can of course be cancelled at any time. To allow more readers to participate, I have created three moderate tiers:

Patreon 3 packages

 

Somebody is going to say now: “Just go to work, you lazy slacker!” Of course I could carry crates at the harbor or draft lawsuits all day long. But then I wouldn’t have any time to write, because I would be exhausted at night. And there are many people who can handle court cases and crates just as fine as me. In the latter case, many who can do it much better than me, actually. But I am the only one who can write the articles and stories which you have been enjoying on this blog in exactly this way.

And by the way: Writing is serious work, often keeping me up all night.

Andreas Moser writing on the train

Other travel bloggers get free flights and stays at hotels and other types of sponsoring. I don’t get anything, because I don’t write any high-gloss crap where everything is great and amazing and the sun always shines.

Instead, I descend into a silver mine in Bolivia with child laborers. Or, with a ration of only two Snickers bars, I test how the human body responds to altitudes above 5,000 meters. I meet the men who reaped enormous profits from the wars in Yugoslavia. I go undercover in the French Foreign Legion.

This is more than a travel blog. Much more.

I mainly try to portray people with whom you probably will never have a longer conversation. Like Sebastian, the homeless gentleman at the train station in Cluj in Romania. Or Immanuel, who walked up to me in the street, asking for a loan (and me being dumb enough to grant him one). Or the Mennonites in Canada, who live like in the 18th century, speaking ancient German.

But I am also frolicking around in other fields, like politics, law and history. I want to assume that most readers have come to my blog for the romantic short stories, but I know that in reality, many of you discovered me while seeking my expertise in German law. In which case, if you have found my advice helpful, I would really appreciate your support. You will rarely get access to a hot-shot lawyer for such a reasonable contribution.

And there is much more where all that came from. Plenty of notebooks have been piling up, impatiently waiting to be published

Notizblöcke

In exchange for that support, some writers offer a lot of gimmicks, but most readers have told me that you really want one thing: more articles. But if you do want a postcard, please let me know, and I will send you one from the next trip.

And do you know what we creative creatures really crave? When you share our articles on Facebook or on Twitter or through some convoluted Samizdat channels, when you send them to your Representative in Congress or Parliament, when you talk about them at the family dinner. Because we always want more people to read what we create.

Many thanks indeed,

Andreas Moser

Carnuntum writing

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