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Peter Kuiper's Posts
Peter has posted 112 reports and 1925 photos.

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Aargau Visit: 2013-6
2013-09-02 - Berlin has real good connections with Switzerland. I took the 06.45 flight with Swiss and arrived in Zürich at 08.15. Since Switzerland is a member of “Schengen”, there is no passport control, you just walk out of the airport and there you are. Underground there is a huge train station. I got a day ticket for the cantons of Aargau and Zürich for HLF 62. Just after ten I arrived in Aargau, the capitol of Aargau. The place is not mentioned in my “Rough Guide” Switzerland. I did not expect much. Aarau is a beautiful little town though. The whole city center consists out of historic buildings and some beautiful churches as well. The most striking feature of town is the exorbitant roofs which protrude the façades with up to two meters. Their bottom sides are colorfully painted with all kind of patterns and flowers and look beautiful from the street below. After hitting all cobbled streets and lanes I walked back to the station. The local parliament has its seat in beautiful old mansion facing the main shopping street of town. Already in Roman times Baden was well known because of its 48° C hot springs. I got here by train from Aarau along the overflowing Are river. Lately, all over Europe, there had been an abundance of rain and shortly after my trip, all this water would cause heavy amok in Germany. Here in Baden everything seemed to be under control. Just at one spot in town they had build a dike with sandbags to prevent the water from entering a low lying hotel. The town has two distinct appearances. The spa area north of the train station is newer and must have been built around the turn of the century. The historic hotels are still used today, some of them as luxury therapeutic baths, another one housing the local casino. The old town with houses from the middle ages is a typical Swiss town with cobbled streets, old houses with window shutters and there is a ruin of a castle on top of a steep rock.

Abu Dhabi Visit: 2012-1
2012-06-12 - We came by car from Dubai. When you enter the Emirate of Abu Dhabi the desert starts to be very green. Fifteen years ago it was not like that. Soon after entering the Island of Abu Dhabi over the Sayed Bridge you see two interesting 25 story buildings, all covered with some braunish material. They are not ready yet, but will definitively look really good in the future. Along the Eastern Ring Road there is a long park. It is amazing how green Abu Dhabi is. We drove all the way up to the Corniche and than left. Fifteen years ago this was a nice street, but now they reclamed a lot of land and there is a lot of space now and a beautiful park. We stayed at the InterContinental Hotel. The place did not change much, but a lot of city has been build around it and where once was a palm island there is a harbour now with lots of boats. Next to the hotel there are four supermodern skyscrapers under construction. We went to see the Marina Mall and the Heritage Village on an reclamed Island nearby. Next to the bridge is the Emirates Palace Hotel where we had lunch. The place is absolutely unbelieveble and the money well spend. Another highlight was the Grand Mosque. Woooow!
Downtown is a bit booring compared to Dubai, but when you like Indian and Pakistani food it is a good place to walk around in the evening.
Very nice for lunch are the fish restaurants near the Mena Fish Market. You can eat here loads of tasty seafood for very little money with a view on the wooden dhows.
We left the town via the Coast Road in the direction of Al Ain. Also here the city looks like one big tropical garden. Amazing!

Ajman Visit: 2012-1
2012-06-12 - We made an early start from Sharjah to be able to have breakfast in the very nice Kempinski Hotel Ajman. The name of the breakfast room is "Café Kranzler" a very familiar name when you live in Berlin. The breakfast was excellent and the service mainly German. A Trainee from Namibia(!)served us coffee. We left our car at the hotel parking and walked to the highlight of this small nation: the Old Ford. The Museum inside is really worthwhile visiting. In very realistically made displays with original furniture and carpets they show how life once was, with different professions, trade, fishery and cattle breeding.
The city itself seems a bit unplanned with a bit of city here and there. We continued our trip in northeasterly direction to Umm al Quwain

Aland Islands Visit: 2015-8
2015-08-17 - I came through Stockholm many times on the way to or from Jämtland 650 km further North, but this time I interrupted my trip for three days to visit the Aland Islands. About thirty years ago I took a midsummer ferry from Stockholm to Turku and I had seen many of Aland’s beautiful islands on the way, but I had not really been there. Now, thirty years later, the six hour trip from Stockholm to Mariehamn was just as beautiful. I had planned to do some work on the computer, but instead I was on deck the full six hours to enjoy the scene. The Swedish islands tend to be hillier then the Aland ones, but they are equally green. The ferry boat was absolutely packed and I wondered if all these people wanted to visit Aland or would they carry on to Turku? Also I was amazed that hardly anybody carried any luggage like I did. Where had they stored their stuff, or were they all travelling by car? All wrong. After disembarking in Mariehamn some stayed on board, but the overall majority took the transfer lane back to a Stockholm ferry. They seemed to be on a day tour, or used the possibility to buy duty free beer or booze on board. Only a few people - I did not count more than ten - took the Mariehamn exit. I just walked out of the Ferry Terminal and did not see any kind of control. Of course I was here in the EU, Sweden and Finland both being members. The first I noticed is the complete absence of the Finnish language although the islands belong to Finland. Just outside the Ferry Terminal the visitors are greeted by a big board: “Aland. Welcome. Autonomous and demilitarized.” My hotel was located at the other end of town, but I planned to walk. The weather was fantastic. A few blocks up from the ferry, I turned right into the main drag, the Norra Esplanadadgatan where I saw some beautiful houses and a nice church. I had a bite on the terrace of a three star hotel. The service you get in Scandinavia is minimal. Staff waits until you come up to the bar, order and pay. You carry your drink to the table and get served when it’s ready. That’s it! Prices are quite high, but the servings are huge, so that’s ok. On Torggatan everybody was out, “hot” days of about 19°C are rare. Mariehamn is quite nice, very clean, more a big village than a town. At the end of every side street glitters the water, Mariehamn is built on peninsula like Mumbai or Manhattan. The city looks extremely clean and well-tended. All the lawns are meticulously cut and very, very green. The next day I would find out the reason for this green-ness. After dropping my bag in my hotel, I rented a bike downtown and rode down across a string of islands to the Southern-most island of Järsö. This was a very beautiful tour crossing small green islands with Swedish houses in bright colors, passing bridges from island to island, glittering waters, and endless bright skies with snow white little clouds that eventually turned into colorful dots in an everlasting sunset. The next morning was overcast. Nevertheless I started my tour to Kastelholm Castle, about 30km from Mariehamn. Before I reached the village of Jomala it started dripping. I could hide in a bus stop shelter until it stopped. I took some pics from beautiful houses and the church, but before I reached Ingby it started raining again. I found another shelter and sat there for four hours! Impossible to get out, it wasn’t raining, it was pouring. No wonder everything is so green here. I had to hide several times again that day, good that there is a shelter every 500 to 1000 meters. On your bike you are supposed to use the backroads. You can only use the highways if there is no alternative. The roads are broad though and then there will be a small extra lane for bicycles. The bike trails are not always well indicated, I got lost several times and made some detours - via Bamböle and Palsböle - anyway they were very beautiful detours. I made it to the castle, but was too late to enter. I made pics out of different angles, the castle is a very beautiful sight along a scenic lake in the slightly hilly, green landscape. The next day the weather was absolutely fantastic and I cycled to the end of Lumparland in the hope to get a ferry somewhere. I could have informed myself about inter-island-connections, but did not want to put myself under pressure. So after a two hour trip through forests and meadows I reached the ferry point at Langnäs Hamn. A very modern automated harbor, that is to say without a single soul. There was a big boat anchored, next to it an outdated info board. All the office buildings were locked up, that all didn’t look very promising. On the way here I had seen a harbor sign with a ferry symbol, Svinö, only two kilometers from the main road. I cycled back a couple of kilometers and gave it a try. I was lucky this time. At the harbor there were a lot of people around and cars waiting. I met a Dutch couple with a caravan and some Germans on bikes. They had an info-magazine from the tourist-office and showed me the departure times to the next island, Föglö. The next boat would leave in 20min. A lady came to sell the tickets, the boat approached and we embarked. It was a beautiful tour along many small islands. Föglö harbor looked cute with its colored houses, picture postcard Scandinavia. I had two and a half hours to catch a boat back and made a tour to Kyrkan church, about four kilometers from here. The beautiful church stands out in the countryside. It was open, very nice. Historic miniature sailing boats were hanging from the ceiling above the altar. Back in town I had a bite in a store-like café. Very nice atmosphere, the rustic interior reminded me of places I have seen in St.John’s or Halifax in Canada. Cycling back to Mariehamn I made a detour on Lemland via Flaka. Very beautiful, quiet and rural. Lush forests and an amazing amount of colorful flowers along the road. This country is just so beautiful. My last day. I still have a few hours in the morning. The weather is even nicer than yesterday. It feels really warm. I bring my stuff to the ferry-building, put it into a locker and walk to a big sailing boat, the “Pommern”. This historic ship is a part of a Maritime Museum next door. I have not enough time to enter, but walk up and down the waterfront with a view on little boats and beautiful homes on the opposite shore. The trip back the boat follows a different route to Kapellskär. It is a tour of just two and a half hours, way too short to enjoy the sun, the blue sees, the green islands, the good food and booze plus the life music on deck. In the net I had not found any information on busses, but it turned out that there was a free connecting shuttle with the bus station in Stockholm. I just showed my boat ticket and could board the bus. The whole trip for just €10,45!

Albania Visit: 2010-5
2012-07-18 - My driver in Kosovo, Xhemajl, was very worried about my wellbeing and brought me to the Kosovo – Albanien border to be sure that I could leave Kosovo and enter Albania without any problems. About 100 Meters before the Kosovo border buildings he parked the car and together we walked up to the border post. Here a border is still a border and not just a road sign with a country name on it. The official told us that there was a bus at shortly after 7 p.m., but that it was not allowed to get on the bus in the border area. “Tell the guy in the restaurant to put you on the bus, and I will see you later.” We had to drive back a few kilometers. It had been raining already, but now it started pooring. The elevation must have been quite high here, it was freezing cold. The road lead along a dark grey lake surrounded by even darker hills and we got to this lonely restaurant. Xhemajl talked in Albanian to the owner to put me on the bus, but that wasn’t necessary as the guy could speak German fluently. A lot of people in Kosovo seem to have spend some time in Germany during the war with Serbia. I asked for a coffee, but there was no electricity and I had a coke instead. When the bus came, the barman talked to the bus driver and I got my seat. It happened to be the last one in the second last row. The backrest of the seat was broken, but I was happy to have a seat at all. We left at seven and passed the border without any problems. All the passports were collected and after inspection redistributed. This procedure was repeated on the Albanian side. The guy next to me turned out to be a refugee as well. He lived in Canada since six years and was on his first trip home to see his folks. He spoke English well and told me about the way he had made it to Canada. He had crossed several borders illegally to get to Germany, later he was allocated to Canada and had gotten permanent recidency there now, lucky guy! A young man next to me joined the conversation in broken English. He told me that he used to live in Germany for six years since he was 16. “Why aren’t you living there now?” I asked in German. He told that he was expelled after 22 (!) criminal acts. “Twenty two? What did you do?” I asked taken aback. A long row of histories followed: from robberies to theft (organizing!), working as a pimp and a bouncer at a notorious discotheque, drug dealing…… “How come they didn’t throw you out after one offence?” I wondered. “A few things don’t matter in Germany” he said, “but I did too much.” The time passed really quick, he was an excellent story teller, his German was very good. He told me that I travelled to Tirana too early, three days later a highway would open between Pec and Tirana. Now we drove slowly through pitch dark mountains with endless curves. I was happy that he talked so much. My stomach felt very uncomfortable. Now he turned to his sex life: “When I worked in the disco I went to work out for four hours a day and I got every girl.” After lots of interesting stories, he asked after my sex life. I told him that my life differed hugely of his and that he perhaps would be shocked if I went too far into detail. He was a bit surprised at first, but listened than with growing interest and asked lots of questions. But inevitably, also my stories came to an end and now I felt the horrible impact of this lousy mountain road high up in my stomach. I told him that I had to throw up and that I didn’t have a plastic bag. He ran to the driver and summoned him to stop. Less than two steps out of the bus I sprayed my late afternoon lunch into the darkness. Now I felt really terrible. It must have been around midnight and we still had four hours to go to reach Tirana. “To get to Tirana at four o’clock in the morning isn’t a good idea”, he said, “you better get off with me, a friend of mine is waiting along the highway, we will bring you to a nice town in the mountains.” Just a short time after that, the bus stopped for a rest stop. During the trip I had already noticed and admired the neat little plastic bags hanging at a convienient place along every row of seats in the aile. Now I saw the assistant driver collecting some of the bags with garbage in it. I thought that this, in a country where environmental issues are not written with a capitol, was quite something. After collection he stepped out, I expected him to walk to a garbage bin. Instead he walked further up the road to the bridge and threw it all into the river. A bit muddled up by this I entered the restaurant. Everybody had noticed me because of my midnight barf. I ended up sitting at a table with at least twelve men around me watching me and inviting me for drinks and food. Too bad that I felt too lausy to enjoy my importance. After a coke we went back into the bus. I felt better now, we had left the mountains and drove straight on. As the bus stopped my new friend got off. I hesitated a split second, but followed him into the darkness. An old red Mercedes-Benz was waiting for him. He introduced me to his friend and summoned him to drive to Kruja. In complete darkness, electricity is a luxery here, we drove up into the mountains. After numerous hairpins we got to a little town. They drove around to find me a hotel, but everywhere the doors were closed. Now they started knocking and bouncing on doors, yelled and whistled loudly. Finally at the third hotel the lights went on. A sleepy man came out and let me in. I thanked the guys and said goodbay to them. I think it was really amazing that they took the time to bring me all the way up here, 14 km up and 14 km down again! This was really a wonderful introduction to this new country . The hotel was ok, clean, a big bed, toilet, shower and two channals of Albanian TV and set me back just €17. After a few hours sleep I woke up, took a quick cold shower and gave the key to a maid as I didn’t find a reception.
Kruja is one of the museumtowns that weren’t destroyed by the communists. There is a huge castle, some nice mosks and a small turkish bazar. In the 15th century this town was the centre of Albanian resistense to the Ottoman invasion in the 15. century led by the national hero Skanderbeg. After changing money and visiting the sights, I had a small cup of coffee on a cold and windy terrasse for only 20 Eurocents. I looked for a bus to Tirana, but all the busses seemed to go to the busstation in Fushe Kruja on the highway. On the way down through the mountains it got really dark and soon it started pooring. At the busstation I ran for shelter, but didn’t have to wait long. All the busses coming from the north seem to stop here.
In Tirana I got off at the shabby busstation next to the trainstation. This was my first introduction to Tiranas adventurous architectural styles. Many big buildings stood around unfinnished. Others were the colourful fulfillment of wild architectural dreams and will never fit in their surroundings. I walked down the Zogi I Pare Bvd. It started with a stretch of East Berlin, but a lot shabbier. Closer to Skanderbeg Square the city starts to look nice: beautiful Italian style buildings and big palm trees. The square itself is a wild mix of styles, but nevertheless quite pleasant: In the middle the enormous equestrian statue of Skanderbeg. To the left a socialist style hotel, the Tirana International, and the Palace of Culture. Further on, a mosk that survived the atheism campains of the late 1960s, a clock tower and some beautiful Italian pink-yellow government buildings. To the right the modern National Historical Museum with a huge socialist mosaic mural above the entrance. All socialist capitals around the world seem to follow the same formula. Some huge pine trees in front of the Titana International added a lot of athmosphere to the square though. I had been lucky with the weather so far, but now it started pooring again. I took shelter under a narrow fashist balcony of one of the Ministeries. The rain never stopped and I got quite wet. (On flights, umbrellas are not allowed in handbaggage, so I didn’t bring one.) Finally I continued through a drizzle and walked down to the University at the end of Deshmoret Kombit Bvd. This is a real nice stretch of town when you oversee the ugly pyramid building build by the Hoxha family. On the left, the old Dajti Hotel was closed and looked a bit overgrown by weeds. Hopefully they will find an investor for this landmark hotel. A little river crosses the city from east to west. Along its banks there are some nice stalinist style buildings in need of renovation and many colourful socialist blocks. They really try to improve the city by creating a nice stretch of park on both sides of the river and by painting the booring socialist appartment blocks with colourful designs. I got tired of walking through the rain and took a bus to Durres (or Durresi). I arrived there after about one hour. The sky was still pitchblack, but at least it had stopped raining. Durres ist quite nice and it seems that well to do Tiranians have a second appartment here. Like everywhere else in the world they made the same mistakes here and build the appartmentblocks on the beach instead of behind it, but at another part of town there is a wide public beach. There is a nice old world style boulevard with palmtrees leading to the water, some crumbling old citywalls, a roman amphitheatre and a bit of roman ruin or pillar in small weedy parks around the city. A modern touch is the ubiquitous grafity in this town, especially on socialist monuments. Cheap hotels abound, I found the new Hotel Ani very pleasant. After a pizza and a Korca Beer in Bar Restaurant Rimini I dropped dead and slept ten hours straight through.
Finally some sunshine! On the way to the busstation I saw yesterdays sights again in a new light. I had to wait a bit for the bus to Berati and enjoyed a coffee on a sunny terrasse. I was a bit surprised to see a guy walking back and forth the busstation with a black bear on the lead. It took about two hours to get to Berati. This was, like Kruja, a “museum city” as well and survived the barbarian wave of demolitions committed by the cummunists during the Cultural Revolution. Right after the war Albania had been leaning on Yugoslavian assistance. After Tito was expelled from Cominform in 1948 Albenia annulled all its economic agreements with its neighbour and sided immediately with the Soviet Union. When the relations between Russia and China started to deteriorate Albania switched again and chose the Chinese way of communism with all the disasterous consequences during the atheistic campains.
After a coffee in a nice café near the busstation I walked through the small centre towards the castle. On the way I passed through some real nice cobbled alleys with old one and two story whitewashed houses and meadows with millions of flowers. The 13th century castle was huge, and not a museum. Even now people are living here in green and rural surroundings, some cows were roaming around freely. Besides me there were no other tourits in sight. I was happy to find a beautiful little restaurant. My hosts treated their only costumer like royalty, wonderful! The Osum River flows through town. Accros the old Turkish bridge I found the old quarter of Gorica with a great number of identical houses with tiled roofs, their old stone walls overgrown by grape vines. Back in Tirana I found a small hotel in a quiet small street right behind the Town Hall for only 17€. I dropped my three kilos of baggage, took a short nap, refreshed myself and hit the streets of Tirana again. Once more I walked along the ugly pyramid and the dignified Dajti Hotel. Behind the main university building lies a huge park with beautiful pine trees. The adjacent residential areas in the southwestern part of the downtown area are particularly nice. Not everybody lives in a socialist matchbox in this country. This used to be the quarter where once the communist nomenclatura resided. Now some of the former villas are turned into splash restaurants and bars. I have rarely seen such an amount of nice bars and restaurants, cafés and terrasses as here in Tirana. Perhaps the city hasn’t as many sights as the other capitals in Europe, but it definitely keeps up with its leisure scene. Now I did some terrasse hopping. The weather was really friendly now, slowly the sun got rid of all the clouds. A coffee here, a snack there, I did some reading and people watching. There were, besides me, hardly any old people around. Here in Tirana everybody seems to be young and beautiful. Posture is everything, amazing how the girls manage to walk on such high heels on such potholed streets. And the guys, do they live in their fitness studio? I got back to my room just before ten. I just surfed through the tv channels as some loud music started right next door. Oh my God, there was a discotheque in the hotel, no way to sleep with such a noise. I switched on MTV as loud as possible, but I felt the beat from next door. No way to complain, the guy from the reception only spoke Albanian. Than at midnight sharp the music stopped and didn’t start again. Strange discotheque, thank God. I woke up early, glaring sunlight came through my thin curtains. On my last day the weather promissed to be really nice. I crisscrossed the downtown area again and enjoyed several bars and restaurants, had breakfast here, a coffee there. By the time I had to leave the city to catch my flight it was hot. I took a taxi and was surprised to see that the airport was brand new and really nice. I checked in and still had time for lunch on the outside terrasse. I wished I could have stayed longer. I really like Albania.

Amazonas, Brazil Visit: -

Andhra Pradesh Visit: -

Appenzell Ausserrhoden Visit: -

Appenzell Innerrhoden Visit: -

Aquitaine Visit: -

Azerbaijan (other) Visit: 2017-10
2017-10-24 - The first impression I got from this country was not good. I was on the night train from Tiflis to Baku and after daybreak I was disappointed from what I saw: desert, bare mountains, poor villages with tiny square houses surrounded by walls, factory ruins and neglected oilfields. The second impression I had was wow, unbelievable. A taxi driver took me from the train station to my hostel near the old town. We passed impressive Paris-style buildings, modern skyscrapers, some alleys with old houses with traditional balconies and finally the spectacular flame towers. During the day things only got better. To book a flight to Nakhichevan-City, I had to go to the area around the 28th May metro station. I took the metro from the Icheri Sheher station, domed with a spectacular glass pyramid. After getting my ticket, I walked around the 28th May area with a mix of traditional European and modern international architecture built along wide boulevards and parks. I walked back along the sea through an endless park with spectacular buildings, some still under construction, like the flower shaped Caspian Waterfront Mall. At night the centre, old town and parks are illuminated and look unreal. There are beautiful cafés and restaurants decorated with antiques and oriental carpets. It’s a fairy tale wonderland. Although the city of Baku is an absolutely fabulous place to visit, I found Azerbaijan itself less appealing. I made a taxi trip to the mud volcanos and the petroglyphs south of Baku and a trip across the Absheron-Peninsula the next day to see the Qala Qasri Fort, the Fire Temple and the Absheron Milli Park. I took a taxi to the unappealing city of Gabala, with a stop at the Diri Baba Mausoleum on the way and made a side trip to the mountain village of Laza. When you expect a Swiss mountain village here you will definitively be disappointed. The next day I got a taxi to Sheki. This is perhaps the nicest town besides Baku. It has a renovated / reconstructed city centre, a castle with a beautiful palace within its walls, a beautiful church in a lovely rose garden, the Kish Alban Mabadi just outside the city centre, and there are some nice cafés and restaurants to hang out. On a side trip to Qax I saw the renovated centre of town and some nice churches. I thought the mountain village of Ilisu to be insignificant. Ganja has a beautiful Stalinist style city centre and some nicely restored shopping streets. It is a pleasant place to spend a few hours. The trip back to Baku was long and flat. The nicest scenery I found in Nakhichevan where I spend the last two days of my ten day stay in this country.

Baden-Wurttemberg Visit: 2018-6
2018-06-20 - I was twelve years old, when I was in Baden-Wurthemberg for the first time on the way back to the Netherlands from a northern Italy holiday. My father drove the Schwarzwaldhochstraße, we made a short stop in Titisee and Freiburg, but I can only vaguely remember anything. About twenty years later I spend a day in Heidelberg, a very beautiful city, but that was all. So this time I used my trip to Besancon, Franche-Compte to spend a few days in this German federal state. I started with Mannheim, a city with not having a very good image, but I was surprised to find a very nice and clean place. Like most cities in Germany it was badly hit by the war, but partly rebuild, like its enormous palace. The remarkable thing of this town is its grid layout and the streets not having names, but the blocks having numbers. About 45% of the population has a migration background, many from Italy or Asia, which gives this town a lot of caracter and very good food. From here I made a trip, just half an hour by bus, to Schwetzingen Castle. Schwetzingen is a fairy tale town with the castle in the middle of it. The gardens are superb, so enormous and well tended, this place was an absolut highlight. Next was Maulbronn Monastery, where I wanted to go, because in his novels, the German writer Herman Hesse refers to this place where he went to school. In Stuttgart I finally understood what Stuttgart 21 means. There is a lot of opposition against this project. The terminus station will be changed into an underground passage station. There is an interesting exhibition about the project in the station tower and from the top of the tower you have a good view on the enormous hole they have been didding to locate the new station. A lot of work still has to be done to complete this project. I hope it will be more succesfull than the construction of the new Berlin airport. Stuttgart has a nice downtown area with a castle and nice parks with a view on the surrounding hills, covered with vineyards. Another highlight was Hohenzollern Castle, after Neuschwanzstein perhaps the most famous castle in Germany. Located on the top of a lonely hill, the approach is very spectacular. I made the tour through the historic rooms and really liked this place. Karlsruhe was the last town I visisted, it has a castle as well. From here I took the train to Basel.

Bahia Visit: -

Basel Landschaft Visit: 2012-10
2013-11-30 - Liestal The first thing I saw when I came out of the station in Liestal was an old one story house with a big golden “M” on top of it. Towering overhead was the Old Town of Liestal. Despite my tight schedule I jumped in and bought me a Big Mac for CHF6,50. I think that this was the first Big Mac I had in my life and most likely it will also be the last one. Normally I eat the simple cheeseburgers from McDonalds. In Berlin they only cost €1! Here the little thing would have set me back CHF3,50 Anyway, this time I had chosen a Big Mac. Now I didn’t know how to eat such a monster, especially not by walking on the street and doing sightseeing at the same time. How the hell people are able to open their mouths that far? Anyway, this lunch was a disaster. The whole thing fell apart back into the box and I had to eat it “Indian style” with my fingers. I had also forgotten to take a napkin. Liestal was a nice town, but not at the same level as Saint-Ursanne or Murten. It had the usual old church standing on a little square, a main street leading from the ornately painted gate into town, a small parliament building and like anywhere in Switzerland a strange mix of Africans, Indians and other exotic folk in the street. After crisscrossing the town and encircling its city walls I walked back to the station and got a suburban train to Basel. The train was absolutely packed; I couldn’t find a place to sit down. Never mind as the distances are very small in Switzerland and soon I stood once more in the big station hall of Basel where I had started my trip three days earlier.

Basel Stadt Visit: 2012-10
2013-11-30 - Basel One shouldn’t judge a place after just one visit. On my first visit in 2003 I hadn’t like the place so much. Perhaps this had been due to fact, that we hadn’t been able to find a reasonably priced place to stay at and it had been the last stop of a weeklong tour that had been leading us to highlights as Zürich, Chur, Arosa, Tirano, Locarno, Lugano, the Matterhorn and Montreux. Perhaps we had been too tired to enjoy the place or we were stressed by the fact that we had had to catch a six o’clock train the next morning back to Berlin (of course to be able to work late shift that very same day!) Anyhow, this time everything was different. I arrived way too early and I had another three hours before the train would leave for Berlin. For the first time on this trip the sun had come out. Tired of having to see “must see” sights I just strolled down the green esplanade leading down to the Rheine. The “St. Alban-Anlage” is a several kilometers long narrow park with old shady trees and flanked by office buildings, hotels, schools and up-market apartment blocks. Just in time I came to a park with the same name. My bladder is not anymore what it used to be and I am always more than happy to find some shady foliage to be able to relieve myself. A little creak led me further down and all of a sudden I found myself back in a little village with half-timbered houses. A huge wooden wheel was powered by the water. Next door a little museum explained the effect which waterpower had had on the traditional Swiss economy and how paper had been produced. A few steps further the little river flowed into the River Rheine. I left the St. Alban Valley behind me and I gazed over the river to the sunny opposite shore. At various places small ferry boats were plowing to the other side. These boats were attached to a high steel rope spanning the river. By putting the boat square to the current, the river pushes the boat from one shore to the other without the use of an engine. A boat was approaching. I walked down the slope to the bridge. On it enormous sunflowers were blooming in old pots and buckets. A laminated sheet of paper nailed to a pole stated that “S’isch ganz tolli, prächtigi Sach, faarsch mit der Fääri übere Bach” and further “Grossi Fr. 1,60” and “Binggis 2 – 12 Johr Fr. 0,80”. On the boat I peered into the captain’s cabin. The small room was decorated with Buddha statues, candles and plants. This seemed to be a serious business! When you live in one of the fine mansions along the right shore of the Rhine you are really privileged. The sun shines into your front garden and from your balcony you can gaze over the river at the historic skyline of the center of Basel. A lot of young people where sitting on the steps leading down to the water, old ladies went walkies with their loved doggies. Everybody was enjoying the nice weather after so much rain. I walked along this beautiful tranquil boulevard to the bridge leading me back into town. Time was running out now. I crossed the old town, made a few pictures from the main square, had a small fries with mayonnaise at the McDonald`s and ended up with CHF1,80 For this money I got two buns for CHF0,90 each. Together with the “Salettis” I still had, they enabled me to get back to Berlin without going hungry. By typing this report the time passed really quickly. In less than two weeks I will have another week off. Time for another trip!

Beijing (District) Visit: -

Belarus Visit: 2017-6
2017-07-24 - At the ITB in Berlin, the biggest tourist fair in the world, I heard at the Belarus stand that entry regulations had been changed and that a visa-free stay of five days was possible now, if you fly in and out of Minsk. I found a cheap flight via Riga and an other even cheaper one from Minsk to Vilnius. My actual goal on this trip was Russia, but I did not want to fly directly from Minsk to Moscow or Petersburg as there is no formal border between these two countries and as a foreigner you might get a problem. The Airport in Minsk looks really nice and very, very clean. I found a taxi to the train station in Minsk for 75 Belarus Rubel (2 Rubel = 1 Euro) but haggled the price down to 30 Rubel. The first impression of Belarus is wow, what an organised and clean place. Everything looks so perfect. The sides of the road are mowed, you don’t see any garbage, all the buildings are renovated and neatly painted and the further you enter the city the more impressiv it gets. I have never seen such thoroughly built Stalinist city. Beautiful buildings line the boulevard into the city for miles and miles and miles. Amazing. One of the most impressiv complexes are the residential buildings opposite the Minsk Voksal. The first train to Vitebsk was fully booked but I got the next one about an hour later, a four and a half hour trip of about 300km for just five Euros. It was easy to find the right track, the train and waggon. At the entrance of each waggon a lady controls the ticket. Later she controls the ticket again and keeps it. She wakes you up and brings you back the ticket before you reach your final destination. Futher she serves tea for very little money. The whole trip I was standing in the corridor watching the scenery. Belarus is just beautiful. So clean, so well kept. Picturesque villages with old wooden houses, wooden fences, well tended gardens, forests, the whole country one big lush green garden. Vitebsk turned out to be very nice as well. I stayed in the socialist style (for me exotic) Hotel VYTEBSK, about a fifteen minutes walk from the station, but right next to the old city. It was dark by now, but some of the historical buildings or churches are illuminated at night, very beautiful. The next day I criss-crossed the whole city and loved it. There is a lot to see, beautiful parks, nice restaurants and terraces. After two nights I took a bus back to Minsk. The bus follows a slightly different route for about the same low price. In Minsk I stayed in Hotel BELARUS, a hotel in socialist style as well, but well kept up and very good value with Euros or Dollars in your pocket. I thought Minsk was amazing. When you like Stalinist architecture this is the place to go. It is a lot better than what we have in East-Berlin, just as impressiv as Kiev and often better than Moscow as here in Minsk the Stalinist architecture stretches uninterrupted for miles and miles. All buildings are different, but all follow the same style. I was very impressed. I also liked the restaurants and bars. Belarus is so much nicer than its image.

Bern Visit: 2012-10
2013-11-30 - Biel / Bienne By the time I got out of the train station it poured. I had prepared myself with a Google-maps print-out and after a short walk I found my hotel easily. The Hotel Artus in the Neuengasse 6 turned out to be a very pleasant place. At the small reception my room key was already prepared. The room (for CHF80, including breakfast) was, except for the wallpaper, quite ok and the restaurant had reasonable prices. The very nice young lady “I came from Poland one month ago”, who ran the place took time to chat with the guests (and just sat down at every table with them). The cook took care of the French speaking clients and served the plates himself. The hotel had a very relaxed and informal atmosphere. They even provided me with an adapter as Swiss electrical outlets have thinner holes. I enjoyed my pork steak, fries and salad, and stayed on a bit to write this report. The alarm clock rang at seven. It was still raining. I hurried up and rushed out to see the Old Town. After some asking around I found it a bit further up from the hotel. Daylight was just breaking, the lights of the city were reflected by the wet asphalt. Although the historical quarter of Biel is just small, it is really beautiful. It has been built on a small hill in the relatively flat valley floor. As always the church had been built on the highest point, encircled by narrow streets and lovely little squares. On one of them, market salesmen were setting up their stalls, illuminated by antique yellowish shining streetlights. The whole scene reminded me strongly of Prague again. On my rush back to the hotel I got lost. Biel is quite a big town. It does have a real big city feel, most likely due to the lack of space. The streets consist of a narrow grid with four or five story buildings. The steep hillsides rise up immediately behind the city. A lot of traffic thunders through as there is no space for bypass roads. In general the people in Switzerland are quite reserved and it is not easy to come in contact with them. An exception is the extraordinary thoroughness the Swiss take in giving information in case you have a question. Because I couldn’t find my hotel again, I asked a passing lady. She immediately stopped, reflected a minute and then she gave me the most detailed information possible: First she showed me roughly the direction with her hand, than she explained the shortest way to go through the maze of streets and finally the easiest way to walk, not to get lost. In her funny Swiss accent the whole procedure took forever. My Polish waitress had prepared a nice breakfast. She was quite amazed to hear that I had done my sightseeing already before breakfast. In fact I had the impression that she was quite amazed to hear that there was anything worth seeing at all in this town. Her favorite topic was taking about buying clothes and shoes. When I remarked that things were evidently a lot cheaper in Poland then here in Switzerland, she replied that she was living here in Switzerland and that she would also spend her money in Switzerland. “Why should I carry my money to Poland?” she said. Well, since the answer seemed quite obvious to me and also the fact that I don’t know anything about dresses or high-heeled shoes, her remark marked the end of our conversation. Before leaving Biel, I wanted to see the “Lac de Bienne”. Finding the lake was not hard. Not far from the hotel, a little river was rushing down to it. After walking a couple of blocks along the Schüss, or French: La Suze, I passed under the railway tracks and not much further I came to the shores of the Bielersee. As at the other lakes, I could hardly make out the other side, as it hadn’t stopped raining. In the little marina next door, one or two dozen little yachts, most of them wrapped up in blue plastic, floated in the grey water. A modern, flat, boring looking building behind it was the yacht club. A little further away I saw some industrial buildings. A promenade led along the shore, but here there was nothing of the splendor and old world elegance I had experienced along the shores of the “Lac de Neuchatel” in Neuchatel. Most obviously the city had his origins inland around the earlier described hill and not on the shores of the lake. The walk back to the Hauptbahnhof did not take more than ten minutes or so. Along the way there were some nondescript six or seven story apartment blocks, a few modern office buildings and one or two beautiful Swiss villas. But on the whole it was clear that Biel did not live up to its possibilities: a beautiful lake next door, but no one seemed to bother about it! Now I bought my third and last train ticket. Here in Switzerland you can easily get through tickets with the most unlikely itineraries. The first day, the ticket had been quite straightforward: from Basel to Porrentruy. It had been up to me, where to make a stop on the through railway line. Yesterday I had made a detour via La Chaux de Fonds to get to Neuchatel. I had surfaced the shores of the lake and doubled the Ins – Murten stretch. Finally I had finished the trip in Biel. Today I bought a ticket with a little detour via Olten. Not to see this town, but to be able to get off in Solothurn and Liestal. The whole trip through Switzerland had cost me CHF110.

Bioko Island (Malabo) Visit: 1989-1
2013-11-25 - We arrived in Malabo from Douala. What a relief! Cameroon is a nice country, but Douala is definitively an unpleasant city. Malabo is so different! As a whole, the city is still there like the Spanish left it in 1968, a beautiful, perfectly preserved colonial town. It was a big relief as well that we could take pictures freely without being harassed by the police. We made pics from all the mayor streets, the beautiful square with tiled covered benches and well groomed flower beds, the ford higher up with canons overlooking the harbor. The gothic style double spired church could be anywhere in Europe, but looks very special here in the middle of Africa. We stayed in the simple but clean Aparthotel Impala. That Equatorial Guinea followed the glorious path of socialism after independence was clearly visible. Downtown was dead, the shops were empty, there was no new construction going on anywhere: nice for the tourists to see things unchanged. A further detail that big brother Russia had its say on the development of the country was the almost total absence of traffic. But somehow we found a Russian Wolga taxi for the next day to drive us around the island. For me Bioko is one of the most beautiful islands I have seen in the world. At the time of our visit in 1989 it was totally unspoiled, thinly populated and nature looked like the first day. A good road runs around the island. We encircled the island clockwise and made short stops in the little town of Luba and the villages further north. These places looked like how they must have looked during colonial times, except that the white walls hadn’t been repainted ever since and started turning black due to the humidity. Amazing was the total absence of economical activity. In these towns there was hardly anybody out on the street, or there were no people living here at all? Nature is spectacular here. Nature along the road was lush, the trees huge, our yellow Wolga looked totally dwarfed in comparison. We bought a drink on the way in a wooden shed - “33” beer from Cameroon - chilled by nature, the only article on sale. It took us almost the whole day to get around the island, back in Malabo we just had time for the last sunrays on the beach and a quick dip into the sea. The next morning we flew to Bata on the mainland Rio Muni.

Brandenburg Visit: 2013-11
2013-11-20 - Since I live in Berlin, it is not hard to get to Brandenburg, the massive green lung surrounding this city. Always when I have a spare day and my travel-mate Ingo is available we are off on a day trip to one or two little towns or villages, crossing big forests or hiking along some of its many lakes. Just see my pictures to get an impression of this beautiful, but often underestimated, federal state.

Brazilian Federal District Visit: -

Brittany Visit: 2012-5
2012-07-01 - Ende der IHC-billige-Personal-Rate Glückssträhne. Für heute Nacht gab es in Paris kein einziges Zimmer in einem unserer zwanzig Hotels. Auch in Amiens, Lille oder Calais war für uns nichts frei. Ich entschied mich für Rennes um von da zu einem weiteren Weltkulturerbe zu kommen: Der-Mont-Saint-Michel. Wir buchten im Internet das billigste Hotel, das All-Seasons, Doppelzimmer inklusive Frühstück und Internet für €76, unmittelbar gegenüber vom Bahnhof. Wir dachten aus dem Zug direkt ins Bett fallen zu können, aber es kam anders. In Paris schien morgens noch die Sonne, unterwegs bewölkte es sich und kurz vor Rennes fing es an zu regnen. In der Bahnhofshalle hatte sich der Regen in einen Wolkenbruch verändert. Keine 80 Meter weiter sahen wir unser Hotelchen. Unerreichbar! Nach längerem warten entschieden wir uns für Mittagtisch. Außer Steak-Frites gab‘s hier nichts. Die international gerühmte französische Cuisine scheint nur aus Bergen von Fritten zu bestehen. Eine Portion für uns beide hätte auch gereicht. Das Zimmer war ein Wohnklo. Um die zusammenstehenden Betten herum gab es nur etwa 30cm Platz. Schon ein Unterschied mit unserer 16 Meter langen Suite in Paris. Rennes war unerwartet schon. Auch hier hatten die Häuser die typischen Schieferdächer der Bretagne. Ursprünglich bestand die Stadt aus Fachwerkhäusern, aber die meisten waren 1720 bei einem großen Brand vernichtet worden. So bietet die Stadt ein einheitliches neoklassizistisches Stadtbild mit hier und da eine mittelalterliche Gasse. Gerade da reihen sich die Kneipen aneinander. Außer vielen schönen Plätzen: neben der Kathedrale, zwischen Rathaus und Stadttheater, vor dem Landesparlament und weitere kleine hübsche Plätzchen, hat mir vor allem der Botanische Garten gefallen. So was Schönes! So gepflegt! So schöne alte Bäume! Sogar Palmen, Norfolk Pines und Sequoias aus Kalifornien gedeihen hier prächtig. So nah am Golfstrom friert es hier wahrscheinlich kaum. Noch blühten die Tulpen, dazu gab es fette Rhododendrons in allen Farben. Das Wetter wurde immer schöner, aber wir gingen trotzdem ziemlich früh auf unser Zimmerchen um uns ein bisschen für den nächsten harten Tag auf dem Mont Saint Michelle zu schonen. Zurück in Rennes von unserer Klostertour mussten wir fünf Stunden bis zum Abfahrt des TGV überbrücken. Städte sind an Feiertagen immer ein bisschen langweilig. Glücklicherweise hatte Lafayette extra für Christian auf, er konnte shoppen und ich hatte Zeit zum Kaffee trinken. Später beim Vietnamesen aß Christian Nudeln mit Poulet-Ananas und ich Riz-Boeuf à la thailandaise. Die Gerichte stehen in der Schaukühlung, man wählt was aus, das kommt in kleine Plastikschälchen auf die Waage und dann in die Mikrowelle. Man bezahlt nach Gewicht, (ungefähr doppelt so viel wie man für die gleiche Menge in Berlin zahlen würde). Das Wetter wurde immer besser, die letzten Stunden verbrachten wir noch mal in den wunderschönen Botanischen Garten.

Buenos Aires (City) Visit: 2017-1
2016-10-16 - We flew into Buenos Aires for a five week tour through South-America. We took the airport bus into the city and were totally shocked by the price. Seven times more expensive than the airport bus in Berlin! Argentina had just had a currency reform, the Peso was made equal with the US-Dollar. Crazy! Lucky enough we could stay for staff rate at the brand new InterContinental Hotel, but after ordering a coffee in a café in the pedestrian zone Florida we understood that staying in Argentina would leave us broke after a week. The next morning we checked out and took the boat to Colonia.After 30 hours I arrived in BsAs from Florianopolis. I had expected the bus to drive through Uruguay somehow, since that country lies in between, but instead the bus made a detour around this country via Porto Alegre, Uruguaiana where we left Brasil and entered Argentina by crossing the Rio Uruguaiana, Concordia, Conception and crossing the Rio Paraná near Campana. I had been in Bs As in 1995 for one day, but had fled the city the same day for Colonia in Uruguay because of the outrageous prices. Argentina had become the New Peso, at par with the US Dollar, the prices were absurd. That was a bit better now, although Argentina is not cheap. This time I would stay two weeks divided over three stays. I think I got a real good picture of the city, at day time and at night. What I do not like about the nightlife is that it doesn’t start until about one or two. I walked all the big boulevards, enjoyed the parks, San Telmo during the weekend, tango at La Boca, the Costanara near the Domestic Airport and a lot more. I love BsAs and will definitively come back.

Buenos Aires Province Visit: 2016-11
2018-07-31 - From Buenos Aires I took a bus to Santa Rosa la Pampa where I stayed for two nights and took a bus from there to Bahia Blanca. The best thing of this city is its beautiful name, as the city doesn’t overlook a white bay at all. I only saw the Atlantic on the way out to Neuquén. I spend one full afternoon in Bahia Blanca and I thought that was enough. The central square is quite nice with some beautiful old buildings (a Collegio, the Church, the Municipality, the Bolsa de Comercio) as well as some nice buildings in the side streets (the tiny Museo de Belles Artes, the Theatro Municipal) At night the city lacks a bit of ambiance unlike the Northern Argentinien cities because after the sun goes down it gets really cold and chilly. I crossed BsAs Province again from San Luis to BsAs and from BsAs on the way to Santiago del Estero, both times after dark, but two weeks later during the day as well from BsAs to Rosario.

Burgundy Visit: 2012-5
2012-07-01 - Nachts in Lyon, beim offenen Fenster, hörte ich zwischen den Träumen durch, die Durchsagen vom Bahnsteig. So waren es auch nur wenige Schritte zum Zug. Wir fuhren durch eine hügelige Landschaft mit schönen Dörfern und Städtchen, glücklichen braunen und weißen Kühen und am Ende durch die Weinanbaugebiete des Burgunds. Schon zwei Stunden später standen wir auf dem Vorplatz des Bahnhofs von Dijon. Wenn ich gewusst hätte, dass in Frankreich am ersten Mai nichts läuft, hätte ich die Reise anders gebucht. Auch dieses Holiday Inn befand sich am Rande der Stadt, das Taxi kostete €17. Irgendwie lief dieser Tag nicht so richtig. Das Hotel ist integriert im größten Einkaufszentrum der Stadt, aber hatte heute natürlich geschlossen. Es gab keinen Bus um in die Stadt zu fahren. Der Park neben dem Hotel war menschenleer. Zwischen den riesigen Rapsfeldern gab es keine Wege zum Spazieren gehen und die fast Food Restaurants hinter der Autobahn waren nur über lehmige Baustellenwege zu erreichen. In der ganzen Stadt wird an einem neuen Straßenbahnnetz gebaut, das Spazieren gehen macht keinen Spaß, und obendrauf bekamen wir keine 50% für Food and Beverage im Hotel. Morgen kann es nur besser werden! Heute wurde es viel schlimmer. Es hat fast den ganzen Tag gegossen und das bei nur 6 bis 10 Grad. Die Endhaltestelle der Linie 2 befand sich gegenüber dem Hotel. Der Busfahrer verkaufte keine Tageskarten, dafür kostet eine Fahrkarte aber nur einen Euro. In der Stadt versuchten wir so wenig wie möglich draußen zu sein. Wir kauften Briefmarken in der schönen alten Post und schauten bei Lafayette rein. Dann wollten wir so viel Zeit im Museum verbringen bis es trocken wurde. Wir kamen da klitschnass an. Leider goss es anderthalb Stunden später immer noch. Jetzt fuhren wir zurück zum Hotel um besseres Wetter abzuwarten. Erst um vier Uhr hörte es auf zu regnen. Der Palast der Herzöge von Burgund hatten wir heute Morgen gesehen. Der Westflügel war das Musée des Beaux Arts, der linke Flügel das Hotel de Ville. Für mich war es wichtig diesen Palast mal zu sehen, war es doch lange Zeit das Machtzentrum großer Teile der früheren Niederlande. Die Herzöge von Burgund bekamen ab dem Anfang des 15. Jahrhunderts durch Vererbung und Krieg immer größere Gebiete zusammen. Erst als Karl der Kühne in 1477 fiel, als er versuchte Lothringen zu erobern, endete die Burgundische Zeit. Seine Tochter Maria die Reiche heiratete später den zukünftigen deutschen Kaiser Maximilian. Als deren Sohn Filips der Schöne die Spanierin Johanna von Kastilien heiratete und wir ein Teil von Spanien wurden, wurde alles noch viel schlimmer und weinten die Holländer die gute Burgundische Zeit nach. Wir sprechen immer noch von einem „boergondische levensstijl“ wenn jemand ein unbeschwertes Leben mit gutem Essen und Trinken führt. Sonst hat mir Dijon gut gefallen. Mit seinen spätmittelalterlichen Häusern und Gässchen, einheitlich aus hellem Stein gebaut, hat die Stadt eine anheimelnde Atmosphäre. Leider sieht es unmittelbar außerhalb der Altstadt ziemlich trostlos aus. Die Außenviertel sehen aus wie ein endlos zersiedeltes Dorf.

Burundi Visit: 1990-2
2013-11-20 - From the Rwanda – Burundi border it took us less than three hours to get to Bujumbura. A guy who was sitting next to the driver in this bush-taxi, smiled at us several times. Then, just as we were taking a sip of water out of our water bottle again, he turned around and said: ”You are white guys, and you behave like white guys. We Africans never take anything to drink on a trip, we just leave and see what happens.” That was true. Often I had seen people getting off a bus in the middle of nowhere, without any luggage, food or drink. But I think I keep on travelling the European way. Within three hours we arrived in Bujumbura. In the center of town we found the very pleasant Hotel Burundi Palace, build in Bauhaus style, opposite the Novotel. Here in Burundi, the Tutsi population seemed to be in charge of everything: hotels, banks, bars, restaurants. We hardly saw any Hutus around, not even walking around downtown. Here the segregation between the two tribes seemed to be even more obvious than in neighboring Rwanda. We took a bush-taxi to Nyanza Lac. From this little town we followed a path south along the lake. We must have gotten quite close to the border of Tanzania. We dared to make a picture from the dark mountains in front of us and then walked back to the main street. In front of a shop we saw a white guy. We asked him if there was a hotel here. He said no, but he knew a place further north. “I am on the way there” he said, “I can take you.” Half an hour later, we were sitting on the terrace of a pleasant bar in Rumonge overlooking Lake Tanganyika and the mountains across the lake belonging to Zaire. Tonight we would see a beautiful sunset and enjoy a beer or two in a tranquil atmosphere as the bar was built away from the village in the middle of the forest. The room we had booked - but not seen beforehand - was not so romantic. We could chose out of two rooms accessible from the rear of the building. There was no water, no electricity and no toilet. And the beds were awful. I was so happy that at least I could wrap myself into my own sheet. Somehow, more sitting than lying, I made it into the next day. The caretaker helped to get a car and a driver for us. Today we would visit the Source of the Nile. We drove eastwards from the lake into the hills. Burundi is like Rwanda very densely populated, but you hardly see any villages. The people live in family compounds - rugos – scattered through the country side. From the car we made a few pictures from these hamlets, encircled by a wall made off thorny branches. The southernmost conflux of the Nile is supposed its source. Water is coming up out of the earth. Nearby a monument in the shape of a pyramid marks this important phenomenon. We made some pics and had the feeling to be far, far away from home…… This point also marked the furthest point of our trip. We had crossed Africa all the way from Niger. Even with the flights we took over the Congo and over Zaire, I think it still has been quite an achievement and not too many people have done this. I’m proud of it! The driver drove us back to Bujumbura, from where we flew back the next evening via Brussels. The mayor part of our last day we spend relaxing at the Cercle Nautique Restaurant right on the shore of Lake Tanganyika, drinking beer and eating sprats with French fries….

Busingen Visit: 2013-6
2013-12-29 - From the train station of the Swiss town of Diessenhofen in Thurgau on the southern bank of the Rhine River I walked through this nice old town and crossed the river through an ancient (built 1814 – 1816) tunnel-like wooden bridge. The right bank of the river belongs to Baden-Würtenberg. I did not visit the village of Gailingen a bit higher up, but walked westward along the road for about 500 meters. The river was unusually high because of the heavy rains of the last days. On the right side of the street I noticed some vineyards. The road made a curve upward, but I could stay near the river on a path and walked through an old lush forest. Some parts of the forest near the river were flooded. On the other side of the river I saw the old buildings of the Swiss monastery of St Katharinental. Soon after, I left Germany. Here I walked through Switzerland (Canton Schaffhausen) again for about one kilometer. There was nobody around except a few brown Swiss cows behind the barbed wire fence. I passed one big farm house. Two men were mowing a meadow. Then I walked up a small hill and found the “Waldheim” restaurant. I planned to have something to eat, but didn’t find anything suitable on the menu. I finished my beer, had to pay in Swiss Francs (???) and walked another two kilometers through forests and fields until I reached the actual village of Büsingen. This German village wouldn’t be on the tourist map if it wasn’t situated in the middle of Switzerland. The village consists mainly out of one through road with individual houses and farms on both sides. The backyards of the houses on the left side border the Rhine. It was around four o’clock by now and I had to find something to eat. After passing the church I found a Chinese restaurant. The young lady inside told me that there was nothing to eat at this time of the day, but the cook cried out of the kitchen that he could make me something. I chose spicy chicken Thai style with rice: delicious! Also here I had to pay in Swiss Francs. The enclave seems to be totally integrated into the Swiss economic system. I think for tourists it would be much more interesting to pay in Euros or at least leave it up to the people how they want to pay. I walked out of the village until I saw the sign “Büsingen” crossed out. I thought I was in Switzerland again. From here I took the bus to Schaffhausen. I was surprised and a bit disappointed to see the sign “Bundesrepublik Deutschland” on the left side on the street about one kilometer further on. I wish I had walked through the whole enclave. Never mind, I have seen the place and now I still had time to see the waterfall of Schaffhausen.

Cameroon Visit: 1990-1
2013-11-18 - On the 30.DEC 1988 we flew from Berlin via Frankfurt - where we spend the night at the InterContinental Hotel - to Cameroon, to arrive in Douala on New Year’s Eve. We stayed in the Hotel Méridien, an oasis in this rather faceless city. I had a swim in the pool, but Ingo wanted to stay out of the sun as he had a sun burn. A sun burn before we actually got into the African sun! I had told him that the sudden change from the Berlin winter into the African eternal summer wouldn’t be good for the skin, and he should get some sessions in the solarium. Of course he didn’t make it in time, so instead of taking several shorter sessions, he took one long one with a severe sunburn as a result. We had expected some kind of party in the hotel or the city, but we were disappointed: celebrating the New Year isn’t part of African culture. The hotel offered a very expensive dinner party, attended by a few arrogant looking upper class Africans, so we asked for an area in town with some action. The staff of the front desk was visibly confused by our intention to visit the city in the dark, so we just got out and asked a taxi driver. He drove us around, but nothing seemed to be open. We walked around a bit through the center of town: nothing. Now Ingo wanted to walk back to the hotel and I wanted a taxi. We had a serious row about this, until an African guy told us that it was too dangerous to walk around in the dark. Still not convinced (a few years later he would change his mind about this issue) Ingo finally agreed and we got a cab back to the Méridien. The next morning we flew to Maroua. It was good to get out of Douala quickly. Maroua is nice, very nice indeed. It is a town built in Sudanese style with walls and houses build of mud. It’s nice and green with big shady trees. It is perhaps the most northerly green town in this part of the world, as all villages north of here are dry and almost treeless. We found a very nice hotel: “Relais de la Porte Mayo”, a camping style place with individual round huts with thatched roofs. A servant from the hotel offered us to show us the town. We felt save this way, but did not take any pictures, as the police have their eyes everywhere in Cameroon. A tourist taking pictures is a wonderful opportunity for the police to fine him, get bribes, take him to the police station or throw him in jail. Then he told us that there were some nice bars “avec l’ambience”. That was indeed the case. The three nights we were in Maroua were some of the nicest we would experience in the whole of Africa. He took us to a small bar. The square bright room had a wooden bar in one corner. A tiny barred window behind it supplied the bartender with beers: 1664 (called “une Treize”) Kronenbourg, 33 (Trente Trois) or Beaufort (my favorite), cool or natural. Before the bartender opened the bottle for you, he let you feel the temperature as if it were a precious wine. The music was like anywhere in Cameroon, absolutely out of this world. You cannot resist the rhythm. “Sam Fan Thomas” was our big star. We were dancing our ass off! The ten or so African customers had a ball with us. Everyone wanted to dance with us, the girls as well as the guys. Suddenly an old guy grabbed Ingo and started ballroom dancing with him. That was so funny! “He dances like a feather” he shouted to me as they passed by, and then: ”His hands feel like the paw of an old dead crocodile” on the next round. We had a ball, it was absolutely fantastic, what a night! The next morning we had arranged a car with a driver for the whole day. We didn’t visit the “Park du Double W” as we had seen many game reserves in Eastern and Southern Africa, but we were interested in the countryside in the northern bottleneck of Cameroon. We did not make it to the backtracking Lake Chad, but we covered about the whole area between Maroua and the lake. The big draw of the North of this country is the needle rock of Rhumsiki, more or the less “the” landmark of the whole of Cameroon. But apart from this striking rock, the whole countryside is covered with hills and rocks. The villages are beautiful and look like the stage set of a hobbit movie. Life hasn’t changed here since ages and the people were friendly and did not mind us to take pictures. We had fun with the driver and his co-driver. Another plus was the big box with white balloons Christian had given us. The kids were absolutely thrilled with them. But one time, as we drove on, we almost overran a child, who ran after his balloon, drifting off by the wind. Our last day, we made a trip to Oudjila, about ten km south of Mora. Mora is a poor town 60km north of Maroua. We visited the small market in this town. Fruit and vegetables were spread out on the ground, none of the villagers had racks to display their merchandise. Oudjila is a traditional village on a hill, overlooking the plane of Mora. The whole village consists of hobbit like round huts, built closely together. In the central part of the village we visited the palace - le saré - of the chief, with sections for his different wives, his mother, reception areas, all consisting out of agglomerations of little round huts. As a foreigner you won’t get lost in Cameroon, neither do natives. The government keeps a tight grip on people’s movements. At the bus station when you book the ticket or when you get into a bus, everybody’s details are filled in on a form and the police checks these lists most precise. Most probable not out of love for their job or country, but to be able to extract bribes when they only find the slightest deviation from what they think should be right. The police in Cameroon really are a pain in the ass. The police are terrible anywhere in Africa, but these guys in this country really make you nuts. Many people, for example the taxi drivers, have the feeling that they are only working for THEM. After numerous roadblocks and controls we arrived in Ngaoundéré after dark and continued the next morning to the capitol-city of Cameroon - Yaounde - to arrive there late afternoon. This new capital boosts some government buildings you cannot take pictures off. The presidential palace on top of a hill is hiding behind eucalyptus trees and the town itself consists out of an endless ocean of one story buildings. The Imperial Hotel Sarl had two. The bar in front of the classical hotel building looked quite nice, a bit like a saloon in America’s Wild West. A few guys and girls were hanging around drinking beer. We already anticipated a funky evening like in Maroua. Nothing was further away than this. We were so lightheaded to book and pay the room before properly checking it. The beds were awful, without my own sheets I wouldn’t have laid down, and after we came back from a little sightseeing tour through town, there was nobody left in the bar. In the big cities in Cameroon, people try to be home after dark. We were happy to leave this city the next day and entered the cultural heartland of this country, with a number of interesting towns and villages that where capitals of local kingdoms before Cameroon became independent. The biggest city in this part of the country is Baffoussam. We stayed in the Hotel le Continental for CFA 7500 plus a petit déjeuner for CFA1960, all together about DM65. Cameroon isn’t cheap. The only pictures we dared to take were from our hotel window. The next day we made a trip to Foumban to see the famous Stone Palace from the nineteenth century. This town was one of the few places in Cameroon where we could take pictures without problems. I even have a shot from the local white mosque. Further west we visited Bandjoun, with the biggest “chefferie” in the “Pays Bamiléké”. The original palace grounds consist out of a collection of huge round huts, surrounded with carved pillars. The night we spend in Bafang in the Hotel Central and made a few pictures from the window again. From here we walked the two km to the “Chutes de la Mouenkeu”. The water drops down about 40m from a steep escarpment into a round pond surrounded by lush jungle. Where the path led off the road to these falls there were two policemen hanging around. The one with the black sun glasses pointed at my backpack and warned me not to take pictures. Of course we understood that the security of the state was at stake if we would take pictures of a waterfall. We managed to take one by hiding in the dense shrubs. During the weekend the citizens of Douala like to go to the beach resort of Limbé, a 75km or two hour drive from there. We were there during the week and the bars were empty, not much dancing going on. Still, every night, we enjoyed our “Trente Trois” or “Beaufort” in one of the tin iron sheds on Main Street. Our hotel here was top notch, very stylish! We resided three nights in the colonial “Atlantic Beach Hotel”. It has a salt water pool and is the only hotel right on the black beach of Limbé. From here, we hoped to get a boat to Bioko, the big round island belonging to Equatorial Guinea. When we asked around at the beach, the fishermen smelled money and told us that there was a boat “demain”. We used our time to make a trip to Buéa at the bottom of the jungle covered slopes of the 4070m high Mount Cameroon, a busy market place in this fertile part of the country. Too bad, the mountain kept his summit covered in clouds the whole day. In the morning we went to the beach early to ask about the boat again, with the same answer: “demain”. We made a day trip along the deserted beaches further west and made it all the way to Idenao. We made a long hike along the coast. The beaches are all black, either out of sand or lava rocks. And besides us, there was nobody around. The next morning the fishermen said “demain” again. Finally they showed us the boat: the thing was still under construction! This was ridiculous! We had to give up the idea to get to Bioko this way. We packed, paid and took a bus to Douala. We were lucky to get a flight to Malabo the next day. After a long journey through Bioko, the mainland of Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Sao Tomé and Gabon again, I (Ingo flew home from Libreville) arrived at the Gabon - Cameroon border. It had been a hassle to get a visa for Cameroon again. At the embassy in Libreville, they told me that I should get the visa back home. “But my flight leaves from Douala” I told them again and again. Finally they agreed for a price of 5000CFA……….. Since I only had a 10.000CFA note to pay and they didn’t have “monnaie”, they told me I would get my change tomorrow. Of course that was it. From the last village in Gabon, I walked to the border and left Gabon. Except for a few soldiers and one fat bimbo in uniform, there was nobody around at the Cameroon Checkpoint. “La frontier est fermée” he told me. When it would open again, I asked. “L’après-midi ou demain” he said, “peut etre”. And then to his subordinates: “Il ne comprends rien”! Of course I understood, but why should I pay right away. I sat down at the side of the road and was surprised that there was absolutely no traffic at all at this border: the main crossing point between two African countries! Now it was après-midi and I put some money in my passport and got my stamp right away. I walked to the next village and got a bus to Ebolowa where I spend the night. Busses in Cameroon are always busy, usually they won’t leave until they’re full. The tiny minibus I travelled on to Kribi was far more than full. Here the driver had not only used the seats and floor space to make money, but also the entire available cubic millimeters. I had a seat at the aisle. A guy was standing next to me under the low ceiling, bending over my lap. The road was bad, often our heads slammed together. The guy excused himself, we started talking. Pierre was a soldier at the Garde Présidentielle and on the way home. He invited me. The house of his parents was just a few steps from the river. Standing on giant polished boulders, we did a big clean-up in the river and washed our clothes as well. Nature was just amazing here, the jungle was dense and the trees were huge. A little further the river dropped onto the golden beach with a big waterfall (Chutes de la Lobé). At the time I did not realize it, but I think I did not go to Kribi at all. I thought this beach with the waterfall was Kribi. At night we went to a disco. I invited Pierre and some of his friends and we danced our ass of. It was Sam Fan Thomas again! Pierre wanted me to have a good time and introduced me to all the nice girls from town…….. After three days of swimming, sunbathing and dancing I returned to Douala to fly home. JAN.1990 We crossed the bottleneck of Cameroon on the way from Maiduguri to N’Djamena and two days later we were here again, because we couldn’t find transport through the south of Chad to get to Central African Republic. We were happy to be back in Maroua and hoped for a night in a bar with some “ambiance”. It was nice to be back, and when we were sitting - and freezing - on the terrace of the “Relais de la Porte Mayo”, the guy from last year recognized us and said hallo: “You gave me some t-shirts last year” he said. Of course he once more expected some. Too bad I could not miss too much of my stuff as Ingo’s luggage had not arrived in Niamey and we both had to get through with the old clothes Christian had wanted to get rid of. He shook his head as we asked him to go out with us. The bar seemed to have closed down, either due to the security situation, the Islamization or some other reason. The next day we reached Ngaoundéré via Garoua. The busses we used were mini-busses or small busses, tiring for Ingo, but not for me as I cannot stay awake in busses, however uncomfortable. In Ngaoundéré we stayed in the hotel that belonged to the train company, although here in Ngaoundéré passage trains don’t run anymore. From here we crossed Cameroon as quick as possible as it was not the aim of our journey, we wanted to go to the Central African Republic. Via Yaoundé we reached Garoua Boulai when it was getting dark. Of course we wanted to go dancing again, but there was no “ambiance” in this rather dull border town. The hotel we were staying in reminded us of the time we were travelling through Ethiopia…… The next morning we walked to the border and were surprised to see a revamped truck with an international crowd of young people camping around it. “Although we all have a visa for the CAR, some of us are not allowed to enter” a Swiss guy told us. I didn’t really think much about it, but was very negatively surprised when the same thing happened to ME. Ingo, with his German passport, had no problem, but I as a Dutchman could not enter the country, although we had applied the visa together???? The officer told me to go back to Yaoundé to “revalidate” my visa, whatever that could mean, and with no guarantee for success. We decided that Ingo would go on to Bangui, and I would go back to Douala. We would try to meet again in Brazzaville. It was a very sad moment when I saw Ingo walking the dusty road behind the passport control. I was not allowed to enter a country just a few steps away, and I felt lonely. I went right back to the “gare routière”, and got a “taxi-brousse” back to Yaoundé. Yaounde again, definitively not one of my favorite cities in Africa. It was too late to continue to Douala, people suggested me to take the train the next morning. I did not stay in the dreadful “Imperial” again, but found another place. It was no problem to get a seat on the train to Douala. Trains do somehow not fit in the African life style. Perhaps they only run for government officials to get from the one big urban community of the country to the other, or to show off: ”Look what we have, a train like in Europe!” Anyway, the trip on the almost empty train did not last long. About half way the four hour trip - I had just moved to the “Dining Car” where the young lady in charge had put her head on her folded arms on the bar, and slightly shook her head telling me that there was ”pas de thé, pas de café” and also “pas de bière” available and I was just sipping on an available coke - as the train shook violently. “What’s that!” I shouted. “Oh je pense que le train est déraillé” was her emotionless answer. Déraillé??? The train derailed??? I could not believe it. I opened the window, stuck out my head and believe it or not, there the train was, deeply sunken into the gravel. So deep that I wonder if it ever made it out again. It still might be there, rusting by now, in the middle of the dense green jungle. It took me some time to get my mind together and to vacate the train. Everywhere the people were climbing out of the train and unload their sometimes bulky luggage. I only had my tiny backpack with half the initial cloths and walked the same direction as the others. I was happy to see a little shed of the train company besides the tracks, perhaps the barn to shelter the person in charge of a track switch. From there a straight path ran into the jungle. As I passed, I was surprised to see two young blond guys sitting on the ground, leaning against the shed. I said hallo and they told me that they came from Switzerland, “aus der deutschen Schweiz”. Such a surprise! We talked about what to do and followed the others. The road was only a few hundred meters away. On the way, the blond guy asked about the situation in Europe. His mother had written him that the Berlin Wall was gone. “But that is not true isn’t it” he asked, “that cannot be true!” They told that they had been working on a farm for half a year and that they had been totally cut off from the rest of the world. I told them what had happened this autumn 1989. They could not believe it. “Ceaucescu too” they shouted when I told them that he and his wife had been hanged at the side of the road. They could not believe what they had missed. They would return to a complete different Europe as they had left six months ago.. Somehow the other passengers had disappeared already and not for long, that a little Toyota stopped and allowed us to climb on the cargo area. Two hours later we were in Douala. The Swiss guys went to the little hotel they had stayed before. I went with them and promised to come back if I couldn’t get a flight out to Kongo the same day. Downtown I found a travel agent, and surprise, surprise, there would be a flight to Brazzaville on Air Afrique tonight at 8pm. I could pay with traveler checks and they would organize the transport to bring me to the airport. It still wasn’t dark when I arrived there. A porter offered his help. Since I had almost nothing, there was no need, but I let him help me with the procedures. African airports are very confusing. With his help I checked in without problems and gave him a tip. That was my luck! I proceeded to the departure lounge and waited….and waited…and waited. The flight was delayed and delayed and finally cancelled. Immediately the same guy turned up again and told me I had to follow him. He directed me to a tiny refund office a couple of flights of stairs higher up. I would never have found this place. I wouldn’t have imagined that such a service would exist in Africa at all. In the office, the guy put me on a flight the next afternoon and also, what I did not expect at all, gave me a voucher for a night in a hotel - the Ibis - plus vouchers for a late dinner and breakfast. The next morning after breakfast I felt a bit lonely and wanted to see if the Swiss guys were in their hotel. But where ever I looked, I could not find their place again. I walked all the main streets plus the side streets, nothing. I even walked back to the airline office trying to find the hotel from there, in vain. A bit sad and lonely I walked back to the Ibis and spend the last few hours before the flight at the pool. This time the flight was on time, I arrived in Brazzaville at sunset. Entering the country took a long time though. I thought that the people were impossible here. Huge tall guys in uniform, police or army, were standing around me and trying to intimidate me. It was really difficult to keep cool and I had to defend myself in, at that time, insufficient French. I insisted again and again that I had a visa and that I had paid all the expenses for it in Berlin and that no further payments were necessary. Finally they gave up and gave me my entrance stamp. I took a taxi to the Meridien and told him about our problems at the CAR border in Garoua Boulai. Now we drove up the stately driveway of this four star French hotel and who was walking there: INGO!

Campania Visit: 2012-10
2013-02-26 - Der Flughafenbus kostete nur €3, es waren auch nur fünf Kilometer bis zum Bahnhof. Von weitem sah ich Jürgen schon vor dem McDonalds neben dem Napoli Centrale stehen. Er war gestern schon gekommen und hatte die Nacht in einem Hotel auf der gegenüberliegende Seite des Bahnhofsvorplatzes verbracht. Kurzerhand hatte er diese Piazza Garibaldi in „Schnellkochtopfplatz“ umbenannt. Er hatte die Zugtickets für Cava dei Tirreni schon gekauft und sich gewundert dafür nur €4 pro Karte bezahlen zu müssen. Die öffentlichen Verkehrsmittel sind billig in Italien. Leider hatten wir den Zug um wenige Minuten verpasst und mussten eine knappe Stunde warten. Wir machten einen kurzen Spaziergang nördlich des Bahnhofs. Ganz schön heiß hier, 26 Grad im Schatten und in der Sonne kamen bestimmt noch mal zehn Grad dazu. Neapel schien sich seit meinem ersten Besuch im Sommer 1975 nicht allzu sehr verändert zu haben. Alles steht voller alter Paläste mit kleinen Balkons. Überall bröckelt der Putz. Leitungen hängen kreuz und quer. Trotz einem Schilderwald ist der Verkehr lebensgefährlich, bei jeder Straßenüberquerung rennt man um sein Leben. Vespers fahren gegen Fahrtrichtung, Autos manchmal auch. Massen von kleinen Autos stehen kreuz und quer geparkt, man kommt kaum durch. An unserem Bahnsteig kam ein Zug nach dem anderen an, Massen von Leuten stiegen aus. Bin ich hier in Bombay gelandet oder was? Etwas verspätet kam unser Zug an. Er war ziemlich leer. Seltsam war dass die Leute am mittleren Nachmittag fast alle in die Stadt fuhren und nicht raus. Auf einmal fiel mir ein was ich im Lonely Planet gelesen hatte und mir Christian auch noch mal aufs Herz gedrückt hatte: stempeln! Wir hatten vergessen unsere Tickets zu entwerten. Gottseidank hatte es noch keine Kontrolle gegeben. Am nächsten Bahnhof stiegen wir aus und rannten in den Bahnhof. Bis wir den ollen gelben Automaten gefunden hatten war der Zug natürlich schon weg. Jetzt hatten wir wieder eine Stunde zum Spazieren. So kann man seine kostbare Urlaubszeit auch verbringen. Portici war hübscher als befürchtet. Vor dem Bahnhof gab es einen schönen Platz mit einer alten Kirche und eine Bahnhofskneipe. Es gab einige enge Gassen mit alten Palazzi, einige davon wurden gerade renoviert. Weiter bergauf schauten wir rechts aufs blaue Mittelmeer. Links der Straße gab es ein endlos langes altes Gitter, zwischen den Bäumen entdeckten wir ein riesiges Schloss. Zuhause mal „googlen“ wer da gewohnt hat. In der Kneipe tranken wir einen Kaffee. Was Touris dafür wohl bezahlen müssten? Unglaubliche achtzig Cent. In der Auslage gab es frittierte Teilchen für nur einen Euro. Es schmeckte ganz gut, wie eine Pizza Calzone. Cava dei Tirreni „Google Earth“ scheint nicht immer gut zu funktionieren. Mein Ausdruck zeigte das Holiday Inn nur wenige Hundert Meter vom Bahnhof von Cava dei Tirreni entfernt. Im ehrwürdigen Vittoria Hotel im Centro Storico (die Italiener lassen gerne universal benutzte Buchstaben oder Silben unter den Tisch fallen) erklärte mir die junge Dame dass das Hotel am anderen Ende der Straße sei, „two or three Kilometer away“. Glücklicherweise hatte sie, wie viele andere Frauen auch, keinen blassen Schimmer von Entfernungen und zwanzig Minuten später waren wir da (fünfzehn wenn wir gleich den Eingang gefunden hätten). Das Holiday Inn war eine gesichtslose Box, in, wie ich es gerne nenne, „Saturn - Media Markt“ Architektur. Innen sah es ganz gut aus und die Mädels am Empfang waren supernett. Wir bekamen ein tolles indisches Zimmer (am Ende des Ganges). Wahrscheinlich hatte ich trotz vergessener Ambassador Karte doch einen Upgrade bekommen. Es blieb uns noch eine Stunde Tageslicht und wir liefen zurück zum „Centro Storico“. Besonders aufregend sah es hier nicht aus. In Italien wohnt man zwar nicht in riesigen Wohnsilos, aber die eintönigen Mehrfamilienhäuser sehen auch nicht gerade aufregend aus. Gerade als ich so langsam aufgeben wollte wurde es schöner. Durch Zufall hatten wir die Fußgängerzone gefunden. Arkadengänge säumten die Straße. Himmel und Menschen waren unterwegs um den warmen Abend zu genießen. Die Geschäfte hatten bis neun Uhr geöffnet. Wie zu erwarten waren es meistens Modegeschäfte. Jeans für 25€, Pullover für 20. Wie ist denn das möglich? Und überall gibt es was anderes. Eine Jeans mit kleinen unauffälligen Löchern gefiel mir ganz besonders gut: 249€ hmm. Eine riesige Kirche schmückte den großen Platz. Leute standen am Brunnen und unterhielten sich. Jugendliche saßen auf den Stufen davor. Auch auf der Terrasse neben der Kirche saß alles voll. Wir gönnten uns ein leckeres italienisches Eis für den Heimweg. Die Fußgängerzone ging aber noch weiter. Die Straße war hier enger und die Häuser noch älter. Dass die Stadt so schön sein würde hätte ich nicht gedacht. Jetzt standen wir vor einen weiteren Platz mit mehreren alten Kirchen und ein altes Convento. Alles wunderbar angestrahlt. So macht Sightseeing am Abend Spaß! Unterwegs kauften wir noch Getränke ein. Wie wir später merkten, völlig überflüssig weil das Leitungswasser völlig in Ordnung ist. Halb verhungert gingen wir ins Restaurant. Viel Auswahl gab es hier nicht. Jürgen bestellte Hühnerstreifen mit grünen Bohnen, ich Schinkenstreifen mit Kartoffelpüree, dazu eine „Insalata Verde“ Sofort wenn man was bestellt hat, muss man die Rechnung unterschreiben. Vielleicht hätten wir sonst verweigert für geschmacksneutrale Essen zu zahlen. Salerno Dienstag den 23. Okt. 2012 Ich hatte mich bei der Planung der Reise von dem zur Verfügung stehenden IHC-Hotels leiten lassen, sonst wären wir nie nach „Cava“ gekommen. Mit dem Zug nach Salerno war es nicht weit, aber wir mussten erst zurück zum Bahnhof latschen, diesmal über die unangenehme Verkehrsstraße ohne Bürgersteig. Wir hatten Glück! In zwei Minuten fuhr der nächste Zug runter nach Salerno. Wir hatten gerade noch Zeit die Fahrkarten zu kaufen und rannten zum Bahnsteig 2. Der Zug stand noch da, da fiel mir ein dass wir wieder nicht gestempelt hatten. Wie doof können dann zwei Leute sein? Als Jürgen mit den gestempelten Karten zurück kam war der Zug natürlich weg. Eine halbe Stunde später fuhren wir die sensationelle Strecke runter zum Meer. In der engen Schlucht gab es Bilderbuchorte. Hier scheint sich seit Hunderten von Jahren nichts verändert zu haben. Und dann der erste Blick auf die Küste von Amalfi: Wahnsinn! Die Orte kleben an den steilen Felsen und unten liegt Salerno mit dem Halbrund des Hafens und eine Promenade voller Paläste. Schon der Vorplatz des Bahnhofs, den Piazza Vittorio Veneto, begeisterte uns: Im Kreisel stand ein großes Monument, links eine kleine Kirche. Ringsherum gab es schöne alte Apartmenthäuser. Dazu überall Palmen! Nur drei kleine Straßenblocks weiter schauten wir auf das Meer. Die Promenade am Meer war ein Traum. Eine Heiligenstatue stand auf der Piazza della Concordia hoch oben auf einer Säule. In den Blumenbeeten ringsherum standen Palmen und blühten die Oleander. Abermals bewunderten wir die Städtchen am Steilhang der Küste. Fast sprachlos sagte Jürgen „Warum wohne ich bloß in Willemsburg?“ Zuerst wanderten wir zurück in die Stadt auf dem Corso Garibaldi in die falsche Richtung, dann liefen wir am Meer die Lungomare Trieste zurück. Am Hafen wurde um 14.10 eine Bootsfahrt nach Amalfi angeboten. Der ganze Küstenweg war mit Palmen und Oleandern bepflanzt. Es gab viele Spaziergänger. 26 Grad waren wahrscheinlich für diese Jahreszeit auch in Süd-Italien ungewöhnlich. In der ersten Reihe gab es ein Palast nach dem Anderen. Hier hatten sich wohl die alten Reeder ihre Denkmäler gesetzt. Im Centro Storico ging es an dem Dom vorbei und dann immer weiter aufwärts zur Schlossruine. An der Umgehungsautobahn gaben wir auf, aber von hier oben war die Aussicht auch toll. Runter kamen wir da an wo wir auf dem Weg nach oben nicht gehen durften. Es gab noch Zeit für einen Snack an der Küstenpromenade. Café Americano für einen Euro und einen mit Creme gefüllten Croissant für nur 80 Cent. Dafür saß jemand an der Kasse, eine Dame bediente uns (Jürgen hatte lauwarme Pasta für €2,50) und für die Espressomaschine gab es zwei Typen hinter der Theke. Wie ist denn so was möglich? Im Trab schafften wir es gerade noch zum Schiff. Wir saßen an Deck in der gleißenden Sonne. Es war schon Ende Oktober und noch so eine Hitze! Die Fahrt war überwältigend. Dies muss wirklich eines der schönsten Küsten der Welt sein. Wir kamen jetzt näher an die Küste heran und hatten einen guten Blick auf die an den Felsen klebenden Ortschaften. Jedes Dorf hatte eine enorme Kirche, überall glitzerten die Kuppeln. Hier und da waren Villen zwischen den Felsen gebaut. Wahnsinn! Nur hätte ich keine Lust jeden Morgen frische Brötchen zu holen. Amalfi Jetzt kam es: Amalfi! So ein Wahnsinn! Jürgen kamen fast die Tränen. Dies muss eines der schönsten Panoramen auf Erden sein, und dann noch mit diesem Traumwetter! Das Städtchen ist in einer Schlucht rund um einen kleinen Hafen gebaut. Die Häuser kleben dicht an dicht übereinander an der Felswand. Hinter der ersten Häuserreihe und nur durch ein Tor zu erreichen steht oberhalb einer enormen Freitreppe eine imposante tausend Jahre alte Kirche. Früher war der Ort mal viel größer gewesen, aber bei einem Erdbeben im Jahre 1343 verschwand der größte Teil des Ortes im Meer. Wir liefen kreuz und quer durch den Ort und starten von der Mole aus auf die sonnengetränkte Stadt. Die Schatten wurden länger, wir hatten nur noch Zeit für einen Snack am Hafen. Der „coperto“ betrug zwei Euro pro Person, der Kaffee war gestreckt und durch den Spagetti hindurch konnte man den kalten Teller sehen. Die halbe Busfahrt verbrachten wir im Dunkeln, aber am nächsten Morgen würden wir die Strecke noch mal fahren. Wie immer schlief ich bald ein, so kriegte ich die Tausende von Kurven nicht so mit. Ich hatte ein Salerno im Lichterglanz erwartet: am Tage hatten wir die schönen bunten Plexiglasblumen bewundert die überall die Gassen zierten. Heute war angeblich keinen Festtag, die Lampen blieben aus. Trotz fehlender Pullover (Jürgen war leichtsinnig gewesen) aßen wir draußen auf einem winzigen Platz. Die Schiefertafel am Gassenrand war nur auf Italienisch, der Chef sprach auch nicht viel anderes aber wusste uns zwei Fischplatten zu verkaufen. Als „Sättigungsbeilage“ würden wir „Kartoffel“ (dieses deutsche Wort kannte er) bekommen. Das Essen war lecker, die „Sättigungsbeilage“ war eine in Scheibchen geschnittene schwarzbraun verbrannte Kartoffel (die aber nicht in Rechnung gestellt wurde). Nach vielem Suchen fand Jürgen einen Pullover für €9,99 aber dann waren wir schon fast am Bahnhof. Jetzt stand der Fahrkartenkauf wieder an. Hätten wir bloß daran gedacht gleich die Rückfahrkarte zu kaufen. Der Schalter war zu, die Automaten funktionierten nicht. Es gab jetzt einen Zug nach Neapel. Am Bahnsteig sagten uns die drei Schaffner „this train no stop Cava!“ und auch „no ticket, no train!“ Was sollten wir denn jetzt machen? Blieb uns nur noch die Möglichkeit ein Taxi zunehmen und schon rasten wir die Schlucht hoch. Am Hotel stand der Meter auf etwas über €17. Da drückte er einen Knopf und schon waren es 23. Was soll das? Aber was soll man machen? Man ist diesen A…….. ja völlig ausgeliefert. Auf jedem Fall kamen wir so schnell nach Hause! Positano Mittwoch, den 24.Oktober Heute mussten wir nur nach Vietri fahren um von da nach Amalfi zu kommen, hatte uns meine nette Kollegin vom Empfang erzählt. Nach wenigen Minuten waren wir schon da. Diesmal hatten wir uns gut vorbereitet. Wir hatten daran gedacht unsere Tickets zu entwerten und uns außerdem am Zeitungskiosk von „Cava“ zwei Bustickets von Vietri nach Amalfi gekauft. Natürlich konnte nicht alles glatt gehen, der Bus war gerade weg. Wir hatten eine dreiviertel Stunde Zeit um von der auf einer Seite offenen Dorfplatz auf die schöne Küste zu schauen. Auch Vietri schien ein touristischer Ort zu sein. Es gab überall Geschäfte mit bunter Keramik. Ich hätte gerne etwas gekauft, aber keine Lust den Kram durch halb Italien zu schleppen. Unser Freund Richard aus Hong Kong muss hier wohl vorbei gekommen sein, weil bei ihm ein ähnlicher enormer gelb-blauer Teller an der Wand hängt. Ich werde ihn mal fragen. Der Bus kam sieben Minuten früher als angeschrieben, Gott sei Dank waren wir gerade da. Die Fahrt war schrecklich. Auch vom Bus aus ist die Küste wunderschön. Leider schlief ich diesmal nicht gleich ein und mir war grottenschlecht. Jürgen musste sogar die letzten Pflaumen auspacken damit ich eine Kotztüte hatte. Es blieb Gott sei Dank bei Spucken. Ich schaffte es gerade so. Bei Ankunft schielte ich regelrecht über Kreuz, so übel war mir. Beim Suchen nach der Tüte muss Jürgen seiner Mütze runtergefallen sein. Seine Mütze aus Damaskus! Schade, schade! Er merkte es erst als der Bus schon abgefahren war. An eine Weiterfahrt mit einem Bus war für mich nicht zu denken. Wir buchten das Boot für dreiviertel Stunde später. Unter dem Stadttor fand Jürgen eine neue blaue Mütze für sechs Euro. Sie saß wie angegossen! Für die Besichtigung der Kirche blieb uns wieder keine Zeit, aber man muss ja an jedem schönen Ort der Welt etwas aufheben für das nächste Mal. Auch diese Bootsfahrt war traumhaft schön. Positano ist über eine größere Fläche am steilen Hang gebaut. Davor gibt es einen kleinen Strand. Vielleicht wirkt Positano dadurch nicht so authentisch wie Amalfi. Die vielen Hotels mit ihren gusseisernen Balkons wirken irgendwie gekünstelt. Wir wollten erst mal rausfinden wie wir mit dem Bus weiter fahren könnten. Die Verkehrsstraße war weit oben. Auf dem Weg dahin sahen wir traumhaft schöne Plätze und Hotels, alles war bewachsen mit blühenden Oleandern und Bougainvillea. Einmal oben gingen wir nicht wieder runter. Wir fanden einen Zeitungskiosk für unsere Bustickets und mussten zur Haltestelle noch einen halben Kilometer weiter hochlaufen. „All the way to the top“ sagte mir eine Dame unterwegs auf Nachfrage noch mal. Ganz oben fanden wir tatsächlich die Bushaltestelle. Es blieb uns eine dreiviertel Stunde für einen kleinen Snack. Nur wenige Meter tiefer gab es am Straßenrand eine Terrasse mit winzigen Tischen. Die Aussicht war atemberaubend. Schöner als hier am Straßengeländer konnte man nicht essen. Jürgen, mit seinem ewigen Laktose Problem, hatte in der Menükarte eine „Panini“ ohne Mozzarella gefunden. Es war trotzdem Mozzarella drauf. Ich hatte eine „Insalata Frutti di Mare“ bestellt, die sich als einen großen Berg Meeresfrüchte auf einem einzigen Salatblatt entpuppte. Dazu bekam ich noch Jürgens Käse und so war ich Pupsatt. Vielleicht rettete diese Grundlage mir den Tag. Die kurvenreiche Straße nach Sorrento überstand ich problemlos und konnte diesmal die tolle Landschaft genießen. Sorrento (Sorrent) Der Bus fuhr durch das Zentrum zum Bahnhof. Hier war die Endstation der privaten Schmalspurbahn „Circumvesuviana“. Wir hatten bis zur nächsten Abfahrt eine gute Stunde Zeit für den Ort. Sorrento ist eine größere Stadt mit einem wunderschönen alten „Centro Storico“. Mittelpunkt der Stadt ist die Piazza Tasso mit einer hübschen barocken Kirche, stilvollen mittelalterlichen Häusern, schicken Cafés mit einladenden Terrassen und der Anfang der „Corso Italia“, eine hübsche alte Straße mit Hotels, Restaurants, Souvenirläden und vielen Touristen. Der ganze italienische Verkehr rast über den Platz. Bei jeder Überquerung spielt man mit seinem Leben. Die Stadt liegt hoch über dem Meer auf einem Basaltplateau. Auf der anderen Seite der Bucht schauten wir auf den Vesuv. Sogar die neueren Gebäude der Stadt sahen ganz gut aus. Überall gab es viel Grün und Blumen. Man muss nicht hässlich bauen wenn man nicht will! Am Ende unserer kleinen Streiftour verirrte ich mich noch in die Richtung und wir mussten uns ganz schön sputen. Die ratternde alte Blechbüchse brachte uns durch viele Tunnel nach „Castellammare di Stabia“. Auch von diesem Ort hatte ich noch nie gehört. Wir fuhren hier nur wegen der Übernachtung hin. Das Crowne Plaza war ganz komisch gelegen. Einen Teil der alten Gebäude musste mal eine Betonfabrik gewesen sein, irgendwo j.w.d. eingeklemmt zwischen Küstenstraße und Meer. Ich hatte noch überlegt hinlaufen zu können, aber das war völlig unmöglich. Nach einer kurzen Tour durch Stabia gaben wir diese Idee auf, liefen zurück zum Bahnhof und nahmen uns ein Taxi. Die Stadt schien ja recht hübsch zu sein, es gab viele alte Paläste und einen schönen Dom. Ein Stück weiter fuhren wir aber nur an Fabriken und Hafenanlagen vorbei. Der Zugang zum Hotel erfolgte mangels Platz für eine Auffahrt durch einen durch die Felsen geschlagenen Tunnel. Das Zimmer war etwas seltsam, aber wir mussten nun erst mal zum Pool. Eigentlich war es schon zu spät zum Schwimmen. Das Wasser war sowieso zu kalt. Ich wollte auch nicht den Fehler vom letzten Jahr in China wiederholen wo ich unbedingt in der kalten Lagune vom InterConti Shenzhen baden musste. Wir machten einige Fotos vor dem Vesuv und den roten Sonnenuntergang und gingen zurück zum Zimmer. Dieses sah ein bisschen Sado-Maso aus. Am Kopfende waren braune Lederkissen mit breiten Lederriemen festgeschnallt und die Wand rechts vom Bett war völlig verspiegelt. Über die Einrichtung des Restaurants könnte ich eine These schreiben, aber ich will Euch damit nicht allzu sehr strapazieren. Nur mal das wichtigste: In einem Hotel wo alles schrecklich ist, die Lage, die Architektur, der Krach der Straße, die Vegetationslosigkeit…..und wo es nur einen großen Plus gibt: den Blick auf den Vesuv….Warum gibt es da im Restaurant Sprossenfenster? Warum bedecken Vorhänge teilweise die Aussicht? Und warum sind die Tische so platziert dass man auf die Wände guckt? Warum? Der Restaurantchef schmiss seinen Laden mit ausschweifender Eleganz als befänden wir uns hier im Restaurant „O’terroirs“ des Hotels „Beau Rivage“ in Neuchâtel. Vielleicht versuchte er die Untermöblierung des Raumes auszufüllen. Nach der Bestellung fiel Jürgen ein, dass er seine Zigaretten vergessen hatte. Unmittelbar nachdem er weg war kam der Steak aber schon auf den Tisch. Der fette Knochen dampfte für sich hin; er kam nie wieder. Jetzt kam der Chef mit einem Deckel und fragte kurz darauf ob er das Essen noch mal warm machen könne. Peinlich! Für Raucher scheint eine Kippe zu paffen wichtiger zu sein als essen. So musste er später eben ein lauwarmes Steak essen. Caserta Donnerstag, den 25. Oktober 2012 Ich fange schon wieder an: Warum sind die Fenster zu? Warum gibt es hier keine großen Türen so dass man beim Frühstück auf der Terrasse den Blick auf den Vesuv genießen könnte? Und warum gibt es nur eine riesige Einlage mit Rührei? Sind Spiegeleier und gekochte Eier teurer? Unser Personalfrühstück im InterConti Berlin ist viel besser als das hier. Wenn ich keine 50 Prozent Rabatt hätte, bekäme ich jetzt schlechte Laune. Wir wollten noch mal den Pool genießen, aber sahen bald ein dass der große Felsen hinter der Straße hoffnungslos im Weg stand. Da würde auch in Stunden die Sonne nicht rüber kommen. Ich bestellte ein Taxi und zwanzig Minuten später (Jürgen war genervt dass wir so hektisch aufbrachen) brachte uns der gleiche alte Knacker als gestern Abend zurück nach Stabia. In dieser Stadt schien es nur ein Taxi zu geben. Der Alte hatte nicht alle Tassen im Schrank und redete unaufhörlich mit sich selber. Im Zentrum standen wir im Stau. Wir wollten aussteigen. Der Meter stand auf 12, ich gab ihn drei Fünfer und er gab mir einen zurück, seltsam! Wie der Name „Castellammare di Stabia“ sagt gibt es hier ein Kastell am Meer. Es liegt hoch über die Stadt am Hang der 1103m hohen Monte Faito. Die Kabel einer Seilbahn führten bis auf die Bergspitze aber ich sah keine Gondel. Die Saison war wahrscheinlich schon zu Ende. Dies galt augenscheinlich nicht für die Hunderte von Kreuzfahrtgästen die die Stadt überschwemmten. Im Hafen lag ein riesiges „Tui“ Schiff mit in großen Lettern darauf: „MEIN SCHIFF“. Am Bahnhof wunderten wir uns schon über so viel Andrang. Wir hatten nach dem Kartenkauf noch fast eine Stunde Zeit. Wir tranken ein Käffchen, bummelten über die gammelige Küstenpromenade und bewunderten da die prächtigen Palaste. Grüppchen mit Jugendlichen saßen auf dem Kaigeländer und schmissen ihren Müll über die Schulter auf dem Gelände zwischen Kai und dem Meer. Ein Stücken weiter schaute ich mal runter und sah überall Müll: so ein Dreckstall! Zurück am Bahnhof standen Massen von Deutschen vor dem einzigen Schalter. Die Meisten planten einen Tagesausflug nach Pompei. Der Zug war rappelvoll. Ich stand einigermaßen günstig an einem Fenster, aber Jürgen ging fast unter im Gewühle. An den Bahnhöfen unterwegs pressten sich die Pendler auch noch mit rein. Ab Pompei wurde es also leerer, aber trotzdem ergoss sich eine Riesenflut am Schnellkochtopfplatz. Jetzt brauchten wir wieder eine Fahrkarte. Diese zu erstehen ist eine richtige Hürde in Italien. Jürgen hatte am Montag die Tickets nach Cava die Tirreni geholt und kannte das System. Im Ticketcenter standen Himmel und Menschen. Gleich die richtige Taste für eine Nummer drücken, entweder für internationale Tickets, für die „Alta Velocitá“ Zügen oder für den Regionalverkehr. Und jetzt warten, ziemlich lange warten. Den ersten Zug hatten wir schon verpasst. Gebannt schauten wir auf die sich unregelmäßig erhöhende Zahl. Manche schienen vorzeitig aufgegeben zu haben und dann ging‘s schneller. Wir hatten Glück und schafften den nächsten Zug. Beim Warten hatte ich immer „Kaufen und Stempeln, Kaufen und Stempeln“ gemurmelt. Das klappte jetzt auch. Ein Stündchen später näherten wir uns Caserta. An den Fahrgästen zu urteilen musste diese Stadt in Afrika liegen. Ich hatte noch nie von Caserta gehört und wunderte mich warum es in dieser für mich unbekannten Stadt einen Crowne Plaza Hotel gab. Es gab hier ein Schloss, und zwar ein riesiges. An Geld schien es den Bourbonen König Karl VII nicht gemangelt zu haben. Er baute hier ein Schloss dass großer war und mehr Zimmer (1200), mehr Fenster (1790) und mehr Treppenaufgänge (34) hat wie Versailles. Anfangen wurde der Protz 200 Jahre vor Petri Geburt und schon wenige Jahre später vollendet. Leider kann man die damaligen Architekten für eine zügige Fertigstellung des Berliner Flughafens nicht mehr zur Rate ziehen. Es gab hier für eine so herausragende Weltkulturerbestätte erstaunlich wenig Touristen. Der ganze Ablauf war darum auch eher unprofessionell. Die Ticketbude war unbesetzt. Die Tickettante schien hinter den Kulissen ein Privatgespräch zu führen. Der ganze Glaskasten war vollgepflastert mit irgendwelchen Informationen. Nicht ordentlich nebeneinander, sondern einfach so raufgeknallt. Hier muss Christian mal vorbeikommen um den ganzen Krempel einzulaminieren und übersichtlich neu aufzuhängen. Eine Garderobe gab es auch nicht, wir mussten unsere Rucksäcke mit in die Prunkräume nehmen. Das prächtige Treppenhaus zu den privaten Gemächern war umwerfend. Alles noch viel größer und beeindruckender als ähnliche Treppenhäuser in der Wiener Hofburg oder der Pariser Oper. Wir fotografierten um die Wette, aber nach der Eintrittskartenkontrolle war Schluss: fotografieren verboten! Schade, denn gerne hätte ich noch ein paar Bilder als Souvenir mitgenommen. Es folgte das geläufige Europäische Konzept an Prunkräumen: Versammlungsräume und Empfangssäle, den Thronsaal, die Schlafgemächer, Musikräume und Bibliothek. Alle prächtig ausgestattet von den herrlichen Parkettböden bis zu den Decken in ausschweifendem Barock oder feinstem Rokoko. Nur wenige Wochen vorher hatten wir das „Neue Palais“ in Potsdam besucht. Sehr schön, aber dieses Schloss hatte eine ganz andere Dimension. Erstaunlich war wie hier so viele Bilder und Mobiliar die Wirren der Zeit überdauern durften. Die Gärten vor dem Schloss sahen etwas mitgenommen aus, die Anlage hinter dem Palast war herrlich, aber für unsere knapp bemessene Zeit viel zu groß. Die zentrale Achse des symmetrisch angelegten Parks bildete zuerst ein breiter Weg, danach ein endlos langer schmaler Teich und schließlich eine Reihe von Kaskaden. Vom Schloss bis zum letzten künstlichen Wasserfall waren es über drei Kilometer. Wir liefen bis zur ersten Gruppe von Statuen. In dem Halbrund großer Buchen versteckten sich die einzelnen Figuren im Laub. Wahrscheinlich wurde der Waldrand nur einmal im Jahr gestutzt. Im Rondell in der Mitte gab es weitere Statuen und sogar einige Palmen. Es ging jetzt weiter bis zum Teich. Von hier konnte man die hintereinander liegenden Gruppen mit Statuen deutlich sehen. Jürgen hatte jetzt keine Lust mehr und setzte sich auf eine Bank. Ich wollte mir wenigstens noch den nächsten Arkadengang anschauen. Ich lief im Schatten des Waldrandes weiter. Das Gelände stieg jetzt leicht an. Vor den quer stehenden Säulengang gab es mehrere Gruppen von Statuen mit allegorischen Themen aus der griechischen Mythologie übertragen auf die damalige Neuzeit. Von oben hatte man jetzt eine tolle Sicht auf das Schloss und die bewaldeten Hügel. Hinter der nächsten Gruppe von Statuen wollte ich auf die andere Seite kommen um auf die Sonnenseite zu kommen. Man merkt doch dass die Sonne in Oktober tiefer steht. Hinter dem Ensemble ging der Teich weiter und ich musste noch eine Statuen Gruppe weiter hoch laufen um auf die andere Seite zu kommen. War das riesig hier. Die letzte Gruppe mit Statuen am Hang war überhaupt nicht näher gekommen. Ich gab auf und lief nach Jürgen zurück. Jürgen hatte mit seinem I-Phone den Stadtplan von Caserta gespeichert. Leider nicht all zu detailliert. Wir versuchten hinter dem Bahnhof den Weg zum Hotel zu finden. Auf jedem Fall mussten wir versuchen die richtige Richtung einzuhalten. Hinter einer „Todeskreuzung“ (Wie kommt man in dieser Stadt zum Bahnhof wenn man alt ist und nicht mehr rennen kann?) erkannte ich das Muster der Straßen auf dem Plan. Nach einer langen Geraden Strecke, mussten kurz hinter einander zwei Straßen nach rechts abgehen. Das stimmte! Wir waren richtig. Nun noch mal schräg links und dann sahen wir das Hotel. Gott sei Dank am Anfang einer langen Straße und nicht am Ende wie in Cava die Tirreni. Das Crowne Plaza Caserta umfasst einen ganzen Straßenblock in einem Neubauviertel und wird überdeckt von einem gewölbten Glasdach. „Bleiben die Spalten über den Dächern im Winter offen?“ fragte ich die Rezeptionistin. „Ja“ sagte sie, „Es wird hier nicht so kalt im Winter“. Die Lobby bestand aus zwei Geschoßhöhen. Kam man als Fußgänger von der Straße aus rein, musste man mit dem Fahrstuhl eine Etage runter zur Rezeption. Mit dem Auto hinter dem Hotel kam man auf diese Höhe rein. Von dem höheren Teil dieses aus rotem Backstein gebauten Atriums floss Wasser über riesige Scheiben hinunter. Da gegenüber, die durchgehende Glasfront des Restaurants und auf der Stirnseite die Rezeption. Alles sehr modern und geschmackvoll. Es fanden sich nur wenige Gäste in den zahllosen Sitzgruppen, besonders stark belegt schien dieses Hotel nicht zu sein. Unser Zimmer hatte zwei Doppelbetten, einen Balkon aus rotem Backstein und eine Sitzecke. Nicht schlecht für eine Rate von €42. In einem Supermarkt in der Nähe holte Jürgen eine Flasche Wein und ließ sie da mangels Korkenzieher gleich öffnen. Wir würden nach dem Essen noch ein Schlückchen trinken in unserer gemütlichen Sitzecke. Im Restaurant gab es außer einer Japanischen Reisegruppe kaum Gäste. Wir saßen am Fenster und schauten auf den Wasserfall gegenüber. Das Essen war gut, ein Menü gab es für €18 (für uns minus 50%) mit „Frutti di Mare“ als Vorspeise, ein Fischfilet mit Artischocken als Hauptgericht und einen Schokokuchen als Dessert. Außerdem war der Kellner sehr freundlich. Nett hier! Übrigens, wusstet ihr, dass an Artischocken Freundschaften zu Grunde gehen können? Das war so: Ingo, seine Mutter, seine langjährige Freundin Angela, einige weiter Freunde und ich waren gemeinsam Essen. Es gab allerhand Exotisches, unter Anderem Artischocken. „Ich liebe Artitschocken“ sagte Angela und erzählte über dieses seltene Gemüse. Nach ihrem ausführenden Plädoyer sagte Mutti: „Warum sagen sie dann ständig Artitschocken? Das sind doch Artischocken!“ „Ich hasse es wenn ich verbessert werde!“ sagte Angela daraufhin. Seitdem haben die zwei nie wieder miteinander geredet. Napoli (Neapel) Freitag, den 26. Oktober 2012 Nicht nur in Brasilia wurde „modern“ gebaut, auch Neapel bekam in den Sechzigern und Siebzigern „seinen Fett ab“. Ein grauenvolleres Viertel habe ich selten gesehen. Die Ursprungsidee bei den Architekturutopisten muss die autofreie Stadt gewesen sein. Der Verkehr wurde in den Untergrund verbannt, oben würde der „moderne Mensch“ die Schönheit der zukunftsweisenden Architektur ohne Krach und Abgasen „genießen“ können. Sogar die Entscheidung wie dieser „moderne Mensch“ von A nach B kommen will, wurde ihn abgenommen. Für die Ewigkeit bestimmte, Dutzende von Metern lange, aus dickem fetten Beton gegossene Gartenanlagen bestimmen seinen Weg. So im Zickzack gehend kann er die wunderbare moderne Welt aus immer neuen perspektiven bewundern. Aus einem zehnminutigen Gehweg wird so bald ein richtiger Spaziergang, ja sogar eine Klettertour. In der Mitte dieses „Ensembles“ gibt es nämlich ein nachempfundenes Amphitheater. Spaziert er als argloses Lebewesen zwischen den unüberwindbaren Pflanzenanlagen in Richtung Holiday Inn, darf er zuerst eine lange Freitreppe besteigen, dann ebenso tief wieder runter gehen um alsbald das Rund des Theaters durchschreiten zu dürfen. Dann wieder rauf und noch mal runter. Wir fanden den Eingang des Holiday Inns am Ende einer schalen Gasse. Das Grundstück des Hotels war wohl nicht sonderlich groß und der Nachbar hatte sein Grundstück voll ausgenutzt und verbaute so den Gästen auf den unteren Etagen die Aussicht. Ein Wachmann zeigte uns den Weg zum Fahrstuhl. Hier war Etage „0“, der Empfang befand sich auf „-2“. Leider war das Zimmer noch nicht fertig. Die Empfangsdame nahm unsere Rucksäcke entgegen und stellte sie neben die Rezeption. Jürgen war darüber ziemlich beunruhigt. Umso mehr als er schon wieder ober noch mal runter ging um seine Zigaretten zu holen. Kein Mensch schaute als er sein Gepäck noch mal öffnete. „Oh Mann“ stöhnte er oben „wenn das weg kommt. Da ist alles drin, mein Pass, Geld, Handy, alles.“ „Wird schon glatt gehen“ tröstete ich ihn. Wir liefen für einen kleinen Spaziergang über der Betonplatte zurück zur Stadt. Jetzt passten wir auf um die den Weg verstellenden Betonanlagen zu vermeiden. Alles sah schlimm aus. Müll in den Büschen, die Verkleidung war zum Teil abgefallen. Versteckte Ecken wurden von den wenigen Geschäften als Müllablage benutz. Die hinunter führenden Rolltreppen müssen schon seit Jahrzehnten den Geist aufgegeben haben. Bei den meisten Treppen wurde der Abstieg in die finstere Unterwelt durch lumpige Gitter verhindert. Ich kann mich sowieso nicht vorstellen dass da jemand freiwillig runter gehen würde, vor allem nicht in einer von Kriminalität heimgesuchten Stadt wie Neapel. Im angrenzenden Altbauviertel gab es Markt und die Straßen waren sehr belebt. Wir tranken einen „Café Americano“ für €1,20 aber Jürgen saß wie auf Eiern und wir gingen zurück. Mit seinen langen Hasenbeinen rannte er schon vor. Ich fand ihn zusammengesunken auf einer Bank neben der Rezeption: die Rucksäcke waren verschwunden! „Ihr Zimmer ist fertig!“ sagte der Rezeptionist auf fließend Deutsch. „Ich habe ihr Gepäck schon nach oben bringen lassen.“ Wir hatten Zimmer 2016 auf dem „Executive Floor“ Trotz vergessener Ambassador Karte hatte ich einen upgrade bekommen. Das Zimmer war ein bisschen veraltet, aber ging trotzdem in Richtung „Fünf Sterne“. Zwei „Queensize“ Betten, großer Schreibtisch, ein runder Tisch mit zwei Stühlen am Fenster, mit von da, eine tolle Aussicht auf den Vesuv. Gleich ging es zurück in die Stadt. Es war drückend warm. Der Markt war noch im Gange. Durch dunkle Gassen, wo wie auf dem Bühnenbild eines italienischen Musicals überall die Wäsche auf den Balkons trocknete, über kleine Piazzas mit Kinderspielplätzen, an alten Kirchen und einem riesigen Convento vorbei kamen wir zur alten Prachtstraße, der „Via Tribunale“. An dieser schmalen alten Gasse liegen einige der prächtigsten Kirchen Neapels. Trotz Touristen pulsiert hier das Neapolitanische Leben wie eh und je. Obwohl diese Straße für Verkehr überhaupt nicht geeignet ist rasen die Vespers und kleine Autos mit dreißig Stundenkilometer und mehr an einem vorbei. Man drückt sich an die schwarzen mit Graffiti verschmierten Wände um nicht überfahren zu werden. Überall stehen überfüllte Mülltonnen in den Weg. Die Gasse ist zu dunkel um zu fotografieren, die winzigen Plätze mit den blendend weißen Marmorkirchen zu eng. Kleine Läden mit allerlei Krimskrams, Modegeschäfte und Pizzerias müssen den ganzen Tag das Licht brennen lassen. Sonne gibt es hier bestenfalls nur wenige Minuten pro Tag. Eine Seitengasse mit dem großartigen Namen „Via Grande“ war nicht mal ein Meter breit. Wie mag es hier in den Wohnungen wohl aussehen? Auf einer Terrasse auf der „Piazza Luigi Miraglia“ tranken wir einen „Café Americano“ mit einem „Panini“. Ein Zigeunertrio spielte auf. Sie passten so richtig in dieser „old world“ Atmosphäre: die Zähne des Akkordeonspielers erinnerten mich an die Ruinen von Pompei. Durch ein Gassengewirr kamen wir zu der Prachtstraße „Corso Umberto I“. Ungelogen stehen hier über einer Länge von weit über einem Kilometer die herrlichsten Paläste aneinandergereiht. Die ganze Straße vom Piazza Garibaldi bis zum Hafen ist Fest der Sinne. Über die Jahrhunderte müssen die reichen Familien von Neapel versucht haben sich gegenseitig in Pracht und gutem Geschmack zu übertrumpfen. Im schrägen Licht der Nachmittagssonne fotografierten wir wie die Weltmeister. Kaum ein Palast blieb unabgelichtet. Im Erdgeschoß gab es oft die schicksten Modegeschäfte umgeben von Graffiti, losen Kabeln, halbabgerissenen Plakaten, kaputtes Pflaster, unerwartete Stufen, hunderten von geparkten Vespers, überlaufenden Mülltonnen und unmöglich geparkten Autos. Die wuchtigen Balkone der „Bel étage“ der vier halbrunden Häusern auf der „Piazza Nicola Amore“ werden getragen von überlebensgroße Herkulesse. Mitten auf dem Platz herrscht Chaos: Neapel bekommt eine Metro! Am Hafen gibt es ein anderes Bild: Die Häuser in der ersten Reihe sind im Krieg „wohl drauf gegangen“ und ersetzt von scheußlicher Sechziger Jahre Architektur. Auch hier sah der „Piazza Francese“ neben den trüben „Castel Nuovo“ aus wie Kraut und Rüben. Schneller als der Berliner Flughafen sind sie hier auch nicht fertig. „Morgen ist Samstag und dann fahren bestimmt viele rüber“ sagte Jürgen. „Wir kriegen morgen auch noch Karten“ meinte ich, „vielleicht passiert was dass wir gar nicht fahren können und dann sind €40 weg!“ Neben dem Kartenhäuschen strömten Massen von Leuten aus den Fähren von Ischia und Capri. Die Boote waren sehr groß das würde schon glatt gehen. Ich war schon mal auf Capri gewesen, aber das war sehr lange her und Jürgen wollte unbedingt hin. „Hoffentlich wohnen die Japaner nicht alle bei uns im Hotel“ sagte Jürgen als er die Massen von Asiatischen Touristen beobachtete. „Wenn ich im Hotelrestaurant noch eine Japanische Reisegruppe sehe dann schmeiße ich mich auf den Boden und beiße in die Auslegeware!“ Neapel und Umgebung schienen wirklich hoch auf der Liste der Japanischen Topdestinationen zu stehen. Wir genossen noch mal einen Teil der prächtigen „Corso Umberto I“ bogen dann in die Altstadt ab und kamen nach einer langen Wanderung zurück zum Holiday Inn. Im Restaurant gab es tatsächlich wieder eine Menge Japaner, aber die saßen „draußen“ auf der verglasten Veranda. So richtig „à la carte“ wurde nicht angeboten, das Büffet für €30 empfand ich als enttäuschend, aber hier in der Beton Walachei gab es ja wenig Auswahl. Wir gingen aufs Zimmer um zu Duschen und uns auf das Neapolitanische Nachtleben vor zu bereiten. Am Fenster fing es an zu tröpfeln. Wie konnte denn das auf einmal sein? Es war doch Sommer hier in Neapel. Jürgen nahm sich seinen Schirm und ich meinen Poncho mit runter. Es nieselte leicht, war aber immer noch warm. Jürgen hatte sich im Internet ein paar Bars ausgesucht. Wir entschieden uns für eine Kneipe unweit der uns jetzt bekannten Via dei Tribunali. Wir fanden die Bar, der Barkeeper nett, mein „Campari Orange“ war gut gemixt und hatte sogar eine Apfelsinenscheibe am Rand. Für einen Freitagabend war aber nicht viel los und nach anderthalb Stunden machten wir uns auf dem Heimweg. Oh Schreck! Jetzt regnete es richtig. „Wollen wir uns nicht ein Taxi teilen? sagte Jürgen. Er führte mich durch einen Wirrwarr von Gassen. Ich hatte total die Richtung verloren. Es regnete immer stärker und wir fanden keine große Straße. Irgendwie sah ich am Ende einer Gasse Autos hin und her fahren. Da gab es zwar Verkehr, aber keine Taxen. Die Paar, die wir sahen waren entweder voll oder hielten nicht an. Was dann kam werde ich lange nicht vergessen. So eine schlimme Tour hatte ich selten. Auf dem Stadtplan fanden wir heraus wo wir waren. Wir waren fast in entgegengesetzte Richtung gelaufen und so wurde der Heimweg noch länger. Irgendwie fanden wir eine Straße in unsere Richtung. Inzwischen hatte sich der Regen in einen fetten Schauer gewandelt und jetzt fing es auch noch an zu wehen. Die Abflüsse schafften es nicht mehr, überall standen riesige Pfützen oder bildeten sich Flüsse. Auf einmal gab es einen Blitz und einen riesigen Knall. Jetzt fing es an zu Gewittern, auch das noch. Die Windböen verwandelten sich in einen Orkan. Es blitzte und donnerte unaufhörlich, in dieser dreckigen, spärlich beleuchteten Stadt richtig makaber. Vor mir lief ein Typ mit einer riesigen schwarzen Tulpe herum, die Reste seines zerfledderten Regenschirmes. Auch Jürgen hatte mit seinem €5-Schirm zu kämpfen. Bei mir ging‘s noch, ich hielt den Poncho eng um mich herum geschlungen. Wie in Trance kämpften wir gegen die Elemente. Der Heimweg schien mir endlos. Wir hatten wieder einen Umweg gelaufen, rechts der Straße waren der Bahnhof und die Post. Ich lief auf der linken Straßenseite und deutete Jürgen er möge mit seinen langen Hasenbeinen schon vorgehen. Keine fünf Meter vor der letzten Ecke der Altstadt wurde ich von einer Welle erfasst. Alles was bis jetzt noch trocken gewesen war, wurde jetzt klitschnass. Irgendein Idiot war mit seinem kleinen Auto ganz auf die linke Seite, mit einem Affenzahn durch eine riesige Pfütze gefahren. Ich sah ihn sich umdrehen und mich angrinsen. So ein Arschloch, so ein Dreckspack! Ich war außer mir vor Wut. Dieser Idiot! Das Wasser lief mir in die Schuhe: Jetzt musste ich noch eine Viertelstunde über die Betonplatte nach Hause suppen. Jürgen saß vor dem Hotel auf der überdachten Terrasse. „Die Tür ist zu!“ sagte er. Ich konnte es nicht glauben, aber es war wahr. Was nun? Ich hatte kein Handy dabei und außerdem hätte ich die Nummer vom Hotel nicht gewusst. Zuerst wollte ich einfach hier sitzen bleiben in der Hoffnung dass irgendein Wachmann uns finden würde. Dann fiel mir ein, dass der Empfang zwei Etagen tiefer war. Ich hatte keine Lust ganz bis zum „Termini“ zurückzulaufen um von da irgendwie in die Unterwelt zu geraten. Vielleicht käme man doch irgendwie runter. Ich hatte durch eine offene Stelle zwischen den Blumenkästen gesehen, dass es ein Stückchen weiter zurück, in der Unterwelt, eine Bushaltestelle gab. Da müsste man doch irgendwie hinkommen. Unser Hotel war das letzte Gebäude dieses Viertels. Ein Holzzaun schloss die Betonplatte ab. Die Treppenhäuser neben dem Hotel waren alle mit provisorischen Gittern verschweißt, die Zugänge mit den kaputten Rolltreppen ebenso. Nach langem Suchen und vielem hin und her fanden wir schließlich eine vermüllte Treppe in die Unterwelt. Diesen Anblick werde ich so schnell nicht vergessen. Wie das hier aussah, unbeschreiblich. Wenn ich es wider Erwarten mal schaffen würde ein zweiter „Duce“ von Italien zu werden, werde ich als erste Amtshandlung den Bau eines Käfigs veranlassen, diesen hier runter schaffen, die Verantwortlichen Architekten und Bauherren an den Ohren hier hinunter schleifen und sie dann eigenhändig in den Käfig hinein treten. Dann können sie ihr Meisterwerk mal eine Weile von unten angucken. Genug der Antidemokratischen Töne. Durch Dreck und Müll, umgekippte Müllcontainer und über kaputte Leitungen und Pflaster kamen wir zur Straße. Der spärliche Verkehr raste mit einem Affenzahn vorbei, als seien die Autofahrer wie auf der Flucht. -2 war offen! Nie mehr genoss ich die heiße Dusche und mein warmes Bettchen! Draußen tobte ein Orkan. So überirdisch schön das Wetter die ersten fünf Tage gewesen war, so schrecklich war es jetzt. Am nächsten Tag würde ich die Verwüstungen sehen. Viel mehr als unsere Hosen trocken föhnen, ausgiebig Frühstücken, einige Zugtickets für meine Weiterreise nach Norden und einen kleinen Bummel durch die Altstadt machen, waren uns heute nicht vergönnt. Gottseidank hatten wir keine Tickets für Capri gekauft. Bei der Krötenwanderung soll man sich immer zurückhalten. Kröten in meine Tasche gerne (dafür arbeite ich ja) aber raus, nein! Der Fahrkartenkauf hatte diesmal schnell geklappt, es war Samstag und wegen der schlechten Witterung waren wahrscheinlich sowieso weniger Leute unterwegs. Der Spaziergang war nur kurz weil es wieder anfing zu regnen. Das Fußende der Piazza Garibaldi wird in Neapel beherrscht von fliegenden Händlern, und zwar von solchen die aus Afrika hereingeflogen sind. Man kann sich nicht vorstellen wie viele Afrikaner in Neapel leben. In Italien scheint die Sozialhilfe nicht sonderlich hoch zu sein. Die Asylanten sind auf sich selber angewiesen und versuchen durch den Verkauf von Taschen, Uhren und Regenschirmen über die Runden zu kommen. Als es plötzlich wieder anfing zu schütten tauchten wie aus dem nichts die Regenschirmhändler auf. Ich zählte mindestens dreißig oder vierzig. Ich verhalf einem hübschen Inder an fünf Euro Umsatz. Jetzt tröpfelte es nur, aber fünf Minuten später ging die Welt wieder unter. Es war nicht zu fassen wie schnell sich der „Corso Umberto I“ in einen reißenden Fluss änderte. Vor einem Klamottenladen stand ich denkbar ungünstig, nur mit der Hilfe meines Schirmchens blieb ich einigermaßen trocken. Jeder Schauer, auch wenn er noch so lang ist, hat ein Ende. Auf dem „Schnellkochtopfplatz“ schaute ich den Tod ins Auge. Ich kam von Süden. Der Verkehr umkreist den Platz gegen Uhrzeigersinn. Endlich hatte ich die zwei oder dreispurige Straße überwunden und rettete mich auf die Verkehrsinsel. Jetzt schaute ich rechts um die zweite Straße zu überqueren. Es kam kein Auto. Ich nahm einen Schritt und …………. ein Quietschen, ein Hupen. Ein Taxi kam einen Meter vor mir zum Stehen. Das war knapp! Der Weg hatte wider Erwarten zwei Fahrtrichtungen! Dankbar noch am Leben zu sein lief ich zum Hotel zurück. In der Pizzeria nebenan aßen wir eine Pizza und abends genossen wir unser schönes Hotelzimmer.

Campeche Visit: 2013-1
2013-11-08 - 10 - 12 Jan. 2013 Villahermosa - Campeche Der Bundesstaat Tabasco schmiegt sich über hunderte von Kilometern an den Golf von Mexiko. Die Gegend um Villahermosa war total tropisch, aber weiter nach Osten wird es langsam trockener und die Landschaft struppiger. Hier sind die einzelnen Bäume nur noch klein und umgeben von Buschwerk. Menschliche Nutzung der Landschaft gibt es kaum. Um drei Uhr, nach sieben Stunden Fahrt, waren wir endlich in Campeche. Das Holiday Inn liegt etwa einen Kilometer von der Altstadt entfernt an dem Malecón. Direkt gegenüber gibt es ein wunderbares reetgedecktes Restaurant. Um vier holten wir unser Frühstück nach; zwei Mal Suppe und für Peter Hähnchenbrust. Bevor man anfängt zu essen, ist man schon halb satt von den Natchos und die vier verschieden Dipps. Am nächsten Tag kamen wir hier noch zweimal. Als wir nur was trinken wollten, bekamen wir trotzdem Sachen zum Knabbern dazu, eine halbe Mahlzeit. Campeche ist eine innerhalb der zum Teil noch existierenden Stadtmauern völlig renovierten Kleinstadt. Die Straßen aus Kopfsteinpflaster sind blitzeblank, die meistens einstöckigen Häuser strahlen in frischem Gelb, Blau oder Rot. Der Zócalo ist ein kleiner Park, mit in der Mitte einem runden als Café genutzten Pavillion und wird umgeben von einer großen Kirche mit zwei hohen Türmen, schönen alten Häusern und einem endlos langen alten Gebäude mit in der ersten Etage „unser“ - für diese zwei Tage - wunderbarem Café / Restaurant. Am ersten Abend war der Sonnenuntergang von der Terrasse atemberaubend. Die Lichter der Kirche wurden eingeschaltet, die alten Lampen des Zócalo ebenso, wunderschön. Vom Hotel zur Altstadt war es vielleicht eine halbe Stunde zu Fuß über den Malecón. Wir schauten den Pelikanen beim Fischen zu und wie sie sich anschließend auf den kleinen Fischersbooten die Federn trockneten. Der Sonnenuntergang am zweiten Abend war fantastisch. Eine perfekte runde Scheibe versank zwischen den Fischersbooten langsam im Meer und ihre letzten Strahlen bildeten eine perfekte gelbrote Aura. Wir liefen Kreuz und Quer durch die Stadt, über die Stadtmauer, besuchten das fünf Sterne Hotel Méridien in einer alten Stadtvilla – mit einem Pool in einer Ruine im Innenhof – und verbrachten viel Zeit in unserem Café. Unser Kellner war ganz stolz „bitte“ und „danke“ sagen zu können. Ziemlich notgedrungen verbrachten wir einen halben Nachmittag an unserem kleinen Hotelpool. Mir ging es gar nicht gut; mein Schnupfen beraubte mir jegliche Energie. Jeder Schritt war ein Kampf. Nicht mal auf der Liege, schlief ich anderthalb Stunden wie ein Toter. Peter und Vasi konnten ein bisschen Ruhe auch gut gebrauchen. Campeche ist schön, aber in einigen wenigen Stunden kann man alles sehen. Die Neustadt außerhalb der Stadtmauer sieht ziemlich trostlos aus.

Ceara Visit: -

Chad Visit: 2011-1
2013-02-07 - Chad My first trip to Chad was in Jan. 1990 on the way from Niger to Burundi. We planned to go southbound from N\\\'Djamena and reach the Central African Republik. We came from Maiduguri in Nigeria and took a bushtaxi to the Cameroon border. It was a good road and real quick. We had no problems with the Nigeria - Cameroon border, but when we reached the Cameroon - Chad border in the afternoon, the Cameroon guard in charge told us that the border was closed. Of course this was nonsense, he wanted a bribe. We payed some money and than he drove us personally with his moterbike through the no-mens-land to the Chad checkpoint, where we entered the country without a problem. We stayed two nights at the \\\"Novotel la Tchadienne\\\" where my dear colleague Iris from the reservation office at the InterContinental Berlin had succeeded to get us a 50% rate reduction. (still expensive: CFA32.000 = $115 ) The town was lovely, enormous mango trees make the town green and shady, and still had a strong colonial atmosphere. Exept for the hotel, we did not take any pictures as there seemed to be police everywhere. Twice we had dinner in a wonderful Chinese restaurant, located in an old French house on the Ave. Charles de Gaulle. We tried to find out if there were any busses going south, but this did not seem the case. The only possibility seemed to be to get on a truck. We went to a truckstop south of the city, but did not find any transport going south, so we decided to travel south through Cameroon. Of course our Cameroon visa had expired by travelling the little stretch from the Nigerian to the Chad border (about one hour on a good road). We gave it a try and after getting our exit stamps from Chad we walked to the Cameroon checkpoint. We were lucky to see the same officer in charge and after some discussion that our visa had not really expired as we had only used it for the one hour in transit, we payed him another expensive bribe of about DM80 per Person and he let us enter Cameroon once more. My second trip to Chad took place in January 2011. In the Internet I had found a travel agent (www.desertreisen.de) who offered organized trips to the Sahara region, and booked a trip to Sudan. Unfortenately the trip was cancelled due to lack of customers. They offered me to join the 18 day Chad tour at about the same time. ( €3.480 ) Day 01 and 02. The trip started late evening at the airport in Frankfurt where I met my fellow travellers at check-in. The next morning we had a two hour stop in Addis Abeba. We reached N\\\'Djamena around noon. At the airport we were picked up by jeeps and drove to the office of \\\"Tchad Evasion\\\" that executed our trip. After the paperwork and the registration with the police we chose a jeep and our bags were loaded on top. As I did not know anybody it was pure luck that the other three guys in the jeep were nice and we got along quite well. The daily routine was the same the whole trip, the scenery changed every day: get up at daybreak, pull down and pack the tent and the bags and bring everything to the jeep. Breakfast on one long table, often with a nice view and in the windshade of the four jeeps. After breakfast a walk of about 30 - 60 minutes to enable the crew to finish packing. Then the jeeps came along to continue the tour. After a few hours drive and foto stops on the way we had an afternoon break for about two hours (too long) and usualy reached our campsite just before sunset (too late). We drove on one of the few metalled roads about 150km in North-Easterly direction and looked for a place to camp near the village of Massakory. The first site had too much \\\"cram cram\\\" (Le monde végétal peut etre un obstacle : le fameux cram cram est une herbe sèche, rasante, et truffée de minuscules boules piquantes.) It got dark when we found a better site and I had problems to build up my tent in the dark. Day 03. In the morning we walked to the village and made a lot of pictures of the people and the one story Sudanese style houses, all of them with the typical elevated corners. What I saw in this village and would see in many, many other villages in the country were wells build by the EU. In my opinion this is a rediculous kind of help as nature does not support so much cattle and often the vegetation around the wells was totally destroyed. Around noon we passed some time in the small town of Moussoro 130km past Massakory and 200km before Salal. It was a relaxed place, I could take some pictures. In the wadi of the \\\"Bahr el Ghazal\\\" we had lunch under a big acacia: a big salat with baguette and water melon. Further Northeast a village celebrated the 50th anniversary of the state. All men and boys were dressed in white jellabiyas with white turbans, all women and girls with wrapped in colourful, mainly red, fabrics. On the way we bought some firewood, I understand that we needed energy to cook. What I did not understand is that a campfire was made every night, just like that, only to stare into the flames. Just before sunset we found a place to camp near the town of Salal. Here the countryside was flat and dry. Only some green - for cattle indigestible - shrubs surrounded us. Day 04. We made a walk around our camp and found a lot of broken pottery fragments. Some might have been here hundreds or thousands of years, amazing! A small herd of about ten camels passed by. How can they survive in such a dry environment! Back on track our four jeeps advenced with an amazing speed. Without any problems the jeeps drove 70km or more on the desert floor. Suddenly we came to a stop. The engine of one of the jeeps was boiling. A bolt of the toothed belt was broken. With a big hammer and a stone as an anvil a big screw was changed into a five sided bolt and put into place with the car jack through the weight of the jeep. I used the break to photograph nature around me - some low rock formations, acacia trees and even a species of dung beetle at work - and do some exersize. Nature had changed into a complete desert now, no sign of life anywhere! Like a miracle three or four lonely acacia trees appeared in front of us. We enjoyed our lunchstop in their shade. After lunch we drove with up to 90km an hour through the perfectly flat desert. Even here, with not a trace of vegetation, we were passing herds of camels of up to several dozens of animals. A few trucks with lots of people on top of the load encountered us. Trucks seem to be the only way of public transport in this part of the country, I did not see any busses. The repaired jeep spluttered again. We were happy to reach the settlement of Kouba Olanga. Here we got water and gas, and the staff tried to fix the technical problem. The people of Kouba were quite relaxed, I made some nice pictures of the scattered houses, people drying mudbricks in the sun and children getting water from the well with their donkeys. I wondered how people were able to survive here. Most likely only because of its water. The well is the last water point for at least 300 kilometres in all directions. This makes it a vital – in the strictest sense of the word – stopping-off point for the countless camel trains that plod their way across this part of the Sahara. Kouba Olanga has a, mostly nomadic, population of 2,000 to 3,000 people and the sandy vastness that surrounds it is liberally scattered with the bleached bones of those animals unable to reach its precious water points in time. Happy not having to spend the rest of my life in this place, we left the track and drove in an Easterly direction. We camped in a dreary countryside with little vegetation. At night a storm came up. It seemed that I had not properly attached my ropes. My tent almost completely collapsed. Only the weight of my bags and of myself prevented it from taking off and blowing away. The next morning the tent was completely covered and filled with sand. Day 05 The morning gave us a short respite of the storm. After breakfast we did not make our customary walk. There was no place to walk to in the sand covered landscape. Shortly after departure the storm regained its force. Everything around us, the air and the sky turned yellow. We saw some camels through the haze, walking around as if everything was normal. At a deserted well we made some pictures. The sand prevented the lens of my camera to open, fortunately I managed to blow the sand out later on. After a few hours the sky cleared up from one minute to an other. Here it was green. The earth was covered with \\\"bitter apple\\\" (Citrullus colocynthis). The plant grows with vine-like stems in all directions. Although not poisenous it does not seem to be appreciated by cattle as it tastes extremely bitter. We had a peaceful lunch under a big acacia tree with crunching macarony with tuna fish. All around us, passing in different directions, were herds of goats and camels. The extent of overgrazing in this country is horrifying. Shortly after we passed the military fort of Oum Chalouba, we saw the first rocks along the road. Everybody was thrilled and made lots of pictures of these insignificant stones. So many would follow! Mid afternoon we arrived in Oum Chalouba. This was a bigger settlement. I made pictures from the donkeys transporting water to peoples houses. Some of the poor beasts almost broke together under the heavy load. We spend the night within a walled compound near the city, not very romantic. Somehow our tourleader managed to get the broken jeep replaced. The next morning the new jeep came and we had no futher technical problems during this trip. Day 06. Today our walk went along the outskirts of Oum Chalouba. Even here, so far from the rest of the world, the first vestiges of the industrialized world were clearly visible: plastic water bottles, coke cans and colourful plastic bags were scattered along our path. After half an hour we reached some stones, another sign that the Ennedi-Plateau couldn\\\'t be far. Soon after we had boarded our jeeps again a huge needle appeared at the horizon. Long it seemed as if we were heading for this steep sandstone rock. Than I had to see that we were changing our direction and that we were not getting any closer. I was so disappointed! Later I understood that this mountain was nothing special. At the Ennedi-Plateau there are needles, odd rockformations and arches all over the place! As the narrow irregular red strip at the horizon grew wider I could not believe my eyes. I had never seen anything like this! Massive rocks were standing around in the dry undulating grasslands, each of them like an unconquerable fort. We had some time to make pictures. I tried to get near one of them, but soon realized that the whole scale was so enormous, it would take for ever to get close to the rocks. We had our lunch in the shade of a narrow valley basin - couscous, mixed with tomatoes and served with sardines - and time to climb the rocks in the neighbourhood. Fantastic! We drove through a fantastic scenery, along mountains and rockformations, through acacia forests and passed through some canyons. At last we approached a massive wall of rocks where we would spend the night. Everybody could look for a nice intimate place to pitch his tent. Day 07. The Ennedi-Plateau is more populated than the surrounding deserts. The mountains seem to get more precipitation, it is greener here. Near our breakfast table some women were sitting in the sand and tried to sell souvenirs to the rare tourists. I bought a dagger and some silver jewellery. After finishing our breakfast a young boy was our guide into the \\\"Guelta d\\\'Archei\\\". At the end of this canyon we had to climb some rocks to get to a viewpoint to see camals drinking water further down in a deep and dark stretch of this gorge and to see some of the last seven Saharan sweet water crocodiles in a pond below us. (I saw one!) We hiked back through the beautiful canyon to our camp, where we were picked up by the jeeps. Now we drove around this massive mountain to enter the canyon from the other side. Till now, I had not realized that so many camels had come here to drink. The whole scenery was just amazing. When I travelled through Ethiopia some years back, I thought \\\"this is like two thousand years ago when Jesus lived on earth\\\" here in Chad I had the feeling to walk around through Abrahams time. After lunch at the entrance of the canyon and feeling like sitting along a camel highway, we continued our tour. We saw centuries old rockpaintings, beautiful sceneries and finally ended at a huge natural arch. We went to a well to get water (liquid micropur made it safe to drink it after one hour) got a hairwash and found a beautiful camp among the most spectacular rockformations, some looking like elephants. Day 08. I made a walk before and after breakfast along these spectacular rocks. Today\\\'s jeeptour was also beautiful, I could have made a thousand pictures. We ended up at a natural arch many times higher than the one we had seen yesterday. Now we came to an area where the rock had weathered the stone into filigree pillars. Some pillars resembled the chimneys on the roof of an old French or British castle. We had lunch under the enormous palmtrees of another canyon. Here the Ennedi was quite green. The meadows were yellow and dry now, but actually covered the earth completely. In the rainy season it must be beautiful here (but also impassable). The night we spend in a place like the cratar of a vulkano. We were on a meadow surrounded by a round mountain of red stone, accept for the narrow canyon where we had entered. We enjoyed a very peaceful full moon night here. Day 09 Today a lady appeared out of nothing and brought camelmilk for the drivers. Our stay in this empty land never went unnoticed. Later this day we saw a whole range of strange mountain structures: holes in thick rocks, gateways, elephant trunks, chimneys and pillars. Nature has a lot of fantasy in the Ennedi. Suddely after criss-crossing the area we stood in front of the mountain pillar we had seen before we arrived at the Ennedi-Plateau. Today we had lunch in our third canyon. This one was quite bare, but also had a well for the camels. A less than one meter wide canyon led us behind the mountain to a narrow valley with single trees and a blue water pond. Pure peace and silence! The valleys got wider now, behind the rocks were other ranges and behind them rocks again. Absolutely amazing! Tonight\\\'s camp was absolutely out of this world. We were quite high up and looked down on a never ending collection of rocks, walls and pillars up to the horizon. We had reached this campsite quite early and so I had a lot of time to make pictures. When the sun was setting, the full moon was rising and there was a moment that they opposed each other perfectly. Day 10. After our breakfast walk it was time to say goodbay to the Ennedi-Plateau. I was depressed. It was only the tenth day of our tour and already we were leaving the best part of the trip. I did not realize what was ahead of us.... We drove into Fada and had some time to see the town. It was quite nice actually. I would have loved to make some pictures, but I was blocked to do so. In Africa I had too many bad experiences with the police. I cannot fight against my fear anymore. I have no more nervs for African prisons. So I enjoyed the Sahel style buildings, the colourful women, the white dressed men and the green palm trees without photographing. Our next encounter was a miracle. From the right a huge classical caravan was approaching. About seventy camels were transporting salt in animal skins. Nothing was modern here! No plastic, no modern fabrics! This was such a treat! So much luck! Our drivers walked towards them to give them tea and sugar as a present and also to ask them if we were allowed to make pictures. In two or three lines they were walking towards us between Acacia trees and in front of the Ennedi foothills. These were to become some of my best pictures ever! The five or six cameleers waved at us as they passed. Far to quickly they disappeared in the endless distantness of the desert. Only in the winter months, when the heat is bearable, you can see caravans like this one. When we had lunch later on in the shade of a huge rock, we saw the caravan again passing by in the distance. Our picknick area had been quite nice, what followed was a long strech of booring flat landscapes. The sun was slowly setting and I was wondering about our next camp. It surprised me that we passed some spectacular isolated standing rockformations. They could have been a nice backdrop for our tents. Instead we camped at a windy and rocky place when it was nearly dark. I really wondered why? Day 11. This night was the worst. I had chosen my camping spot, because it was flat and sandy. It turned out to be most unprotected against the wind. That night the tent was laying on me like a blanket, sand came through all the cracks and zippers, it was just misserable. The next morning the others complained that my tent had made so much noise! Our walk after breakfast led us through a mountain pass between two steep black braun mountain ranges. This had always been the only possible pass between the North and the South of the country. During the war the pass had been mined. For our safety we were not allowed to leave the track. The pass had brought us to a different part of the country. Now we saw less and less rocks and ever more sand. Here in the Mourdi Depression you really get the feeling to be in the Sahara: there are sand dunes all over the place. It is hard to climb the dunes. One step up means half a step down. After an hour or so the wind wipes out your path and the dune looks perfect again. After passing this ocean of sand we reached some rocky surface again with a few acacia trees. We had our lunch in the shade of the biggest tree. We passed another stretch of soft sand where we got stuck several times. But the crew always succeeded to dig us out. We spend the night just before the saltmines of Demi. Day 12 We visited the little town of Demi. Lots of people came to see us. Women and children sat down around our jeeps and tried to sell us some souvenirs. I got another dagger and some silver juwelary again. Later we watched how the women dig into the sand to find the saltrocks. The red salt from Demi is still transported by camel caravans around the Sahara. After crossing a fast stretch of flat stony desert, we noticed a green stripe at the horizon: we had reached the first of the Ounianga lakes, the biggest fossile lakes in the Sahara. The water seems to be very salty, never the less palmtrees grow very well here: a whole forest grows around the lake. These trees grow dates and just outside the vegetation area there are graneries on stilts to store the crop. The crew had a lot of problems with our jeeps now, either they sank into the soft sand or something went wrong with one of the engines. They always knew how to fix things though. In the afternoon we reached another Ounianga lake. Here there was not too much vegetation, just reed and a couple of lonely palmtrees, but the scenery was just beautiful. Here we had one of our nicest lunchstops and the two hours along the lake were well spend. In late afternoon we reached another Ounianga lake. Here there was quite a big village. I bought three moslem scarfes. In a garden the crew bought fresh salat and tomatoes. It was amazing that nobody of our group got sick. High up above the lake we camped on the side of a rock. Here there was no wind, we were out of reach of the flies and had a beautiful view on the lake. As the sun set over the lake I noticed three donkeys trodding up the hill. They also spend the night outside the vegetation zone. Day 13 At sunrise, the view from our camp on the big lake was just beautiful. We drove through the green gardens along the lake and had to pass another stretch of Sahara until we reached a very small lake surrounded by thick green foliage, golden dunes and reddish rock formations. It was so beautiful here! I could not stop taking pictures. Another stretch of desert followed. No life at all here, just sand and reddish rocks. Our car made a strange rumbling sound: we had a flat tyre. We all got off and strange enough that there was one small acacia next to us. We had not seen any trees for hours, and now, just as we had a break to change the wheel there was this little tree to offer us some shade. Back on the move we reached our last lake. This most westerly of the lakes we visited must have been the biggest as well. An enormous stretch of water in the middle of the desert was glittering in the bright sun. On the rocks higher up there was quite a big village, but I saw very few people. A part of the houses seemed to have been abandoned by its inhabitants. The shore was only partly green here, mostly it was just reed or a scattered palmtree here and there. The crew managed to get gas and water in this lost village and from now on we were on the way home. After travelling south for many hours through booring landscapes - completely devoid of vegetation - we found half a dozen of acacias, all standing on their own in the endless desert. We had our lunch here. We wouldn\\\'t be the first ones though to pick this place for a picknick. Under \\\"our\\\" tree there was a whole pile of rubbish. I counted 18 pieces: cans, plastic bottles, some metal scrap and even a slipper of a lady! Why don\\\'t people take their trash with them? Our lunchbreak was too long again, I had time to make pictures from all six trees, some herbs and from the sand that actually consisted out of millions of tiny little colorfull stones. That night our camp was in the middle of nowhere. I think that the crew had started too late to look for a cozy place. Just a small oasis of about 30 acacias kept our company. Day 14 After our morning walk we drove further south. A black dott at the horizon caught our eyes. It was a tank! It must have been hit by heavy fire as the top part had been blown off completely. Now we came to a complete different scenery: here and there, small hills seemed to consist out of pitchblack rocks piled up in the yellow sands of the Sahara. Sometimes we drove over perfectly flat stretches of snow white plaster. This black / yellow / white scenery went on for quite some time. A few times one of our four jeeps got stuck in the sand. One time we lost the others out of sight. Our driver Omar had to climb on a rock to see in which direction the others had gone. Thank God we catched up again. Suddenly there was one little acacia in the middle of this remote area. We made a stop there to make pictures. We had our lunch at the smallest oases I have ever seen. It was not a single acacia as we had seen at various places now, but a big acacia with all kinds of shrubs around it. A few meters further there were some big palmtrees and some distance away there were conifers creeping over the desert. The place was magic. I made lots of pictures here. Many hours of booring desert followed, than we came to a 70km long oasis: Faya. Here they live traditionally of the trade of salt and dates, but now the presence of the militairy seems to be more important. As always when I see power of the state I cut back on photographing. I made pictures again when we found a beautiful dune at sunsett. It was almost too late to set up the tent so I decided to sleep outside. Day 15 I had enjoyed this night outside. It did get cool at night, but I had my super warm sleeping bag with me, the one that had made me survive my treks in Nepal. At night Orion was the compagnion of my dreams. In the morning we scrambled up the sandy crescent. It looked quite torn after a while, but the wind puts it all back in shape. On the way south we travelled a long time over a perfectly flat piece of desert. This seemed to be a kind of highway. Every couple of hundred meters a barrol marked the track. We saw more trucks now. One or two seemed to have had an accident or their vehicle had broken down, their enormous load, sometimes two or three times the size of the truck itself spread out next to them. Also a lot of camels were trekking north. They all seemed to be well fed in the south and were now on their long trek to the abattoirs in Lybia and Egypt. This was the only time we did not find a tree for our afternoon break. We had our lunch in the shade of the jeeps and watched a huge flock of camels in front of us. As a few of us came too close to the herd to make pictures - still hundreds of meters away - the herdsman came into our direction shaking his fist. Later on we met an other tourgroup from \\\"Tchad Evasion\\\" who were doing the same tour clockwise. One of our drivers joined them and we got one of their drivers. I wondered how it is possible to meet each other in a big empty country like this one. For the night we found a beautiful sanddune: a perfect yellow crescent on a flat floor of white plaster. Day 16 Now we follow the track we had driven before in reversed direction. We had lunch in Mousouro and pitched our tent in a forested area. Here there were villages and people everywhere. There were also a lot of flies. We had left the desert and were now in the sahel area. Day 17 We chose a slightly different way to get back to N\\\'Djamena. We were shown some villages and gardens where farmers could grow tomatoes and beans with the help of the wells in their gardens. Our crew bought some firewood to take home. Soon we reached the road and a few hours later we were back in the capital city. This very evening we would fly back to Europe. We were brought to a hotel behind the \\\"Tchad Evasion\\\" office. Here we could use the rooms to take a shower. We had some free time and with one of my fellow travellers I made a tour along the luxury hotels in town. In the outskirts of town we had a look in the newly erected Kempinski Hotel (with financial aid from Ghadaffi). Than back to the Novotel where I had stayed so many years earlier. It had not changed. We had a beer along the pool. In their souvenisshop I found a little \\\"Dogon\\\" door. In the afternoon we made a walk through town. I bought some bronze animals as a souvenir. We saw the mosk, the church, the market. We would have our evening meal in the \\\"Carnivore\\\". This turned out to be a night club under the stars. In this garden shaded by enormous mangotrees, some round roofs created a bar area, a stage, a dancefloor and shelter for some restaurant tables. For me this was the best part of our trip. I would have loved to spend a few more nights here. The food was good - I had a pizza - the drinks were very good - beer was served in big bottles - and the show was fantastic. I loved the music - African and French - and the girls dancing on the stage were just perfect. I hated the clock moving so fast. Three more songs, two, one more song! We had to rush back to the hotel next door to grab our stuff and to get to the airport. Day 18 The whole night in the plane to Addid I was so sad that I had to leave the show, leave N\\\'Djamena, leave Africa. I had been really happy here. Chad is just so beautiful. I would love to come back one day, enjoy the \\\"Carnivore\\\" again and travel to the southern part of the country.

Champagne-Ardenne Visit: 2012-5
2012-07-01 - Nancy liegt zwar an der nord-süd TGV-Strecke, aber nicht an der ost-west Verbindung. Mit einem kleinen Zubringerbus fuhren wir 35 min über die Autobahn nach Norden. Hier steht ein moderner Bahnhof mit großen Parkplätzen mitten im nichts. Es war erstaunlich viel los hier. Der Bahnsteig war voller Menschen, und auch der Zug war voll. Diesmal fuhren wir richtig schnell und in weniger als einer Stunde waren wir in „Champagne-Ardennes“. Dieser Bahnhof sah genauso aus, aber hatte eine Bahnverbindung mit Reims. Nach neun Minuten fahrt waren wir da. Diesmal hatten wir Glück: unser Hotel in Reims lag sehr zentral, nicht weit vom Bahnhof. Reims wurde im Ersten Weltkrieg zu 80% zerstört und einheitlich wieder Aufgebaut. Wurde in Dijon überall an der Straßenbahn gebaut, war sie hier fertig. Alle Straßen waren neu gepflastert, die Stadt sah aus wie geleckt. Wir liefen gleich zur Kathedrale. In der gelblichen Abendsonne sah sie toll aus. Auch sie wurde im Krieg schwer zerstört, Kirchenschiff und Türme standen aber noch. Die Rockefellers spendierten den Wiederaufbau. Die riesige Kirche wirkt sehr transparent. Man schaut durch die wuchtigen Türme hindurch, das Schiff wird gestützt von Bögen mit filigranen Türmchen, die Fassade ist über und über mit Statuen verziert. Am nächsten Morgen verpassten wir den Zug nach Epernay um wenige Minuten, Wir nutzen die Zeit um uns die Sehenswürdigkeiten in der Nähe des Bahnhofs anzusehen: Der schon blühende Park und die ein Kilometer lange Baumpromenade zum Kriegsmahnmahl. Rechts davon steht ein Siegestor aus dem zweiten Jahrhundert. Die Römer waren auch schon da. Zwanzig Minuten später fuhren wir schon an den wuchtigen alten Hallen der Champagnerproduzenten vorbei. In Epernay merkt man, dass es hier an Geld nicht fehlt. Alles ist penibel renoviert und sauber. Durch einen kleinen blühenden Park und eine Einkaufsstraße kommt man zur eigentlichen Sehenswürdigkeit: die Avenue du Champagne. Hier haben viele große Champagnerhäuser ihren Hauptsitz. Wir schauten rein in die Hauptzentrale von Moet et Chandon. Eine große Gruppe Chinesen wartete in der eleganten Empfangshalle auf den Kellertour: viel weißer Marmor, Perserteppiche, Louis XVI Möbel und ein gigantischer Blumenstrauß. In der Halle schauten in Öl die Firmengründer von den Wänden. Durch die hohen Fenster einiger mit schönen Möbeln eingerichteter Schauwohnzimmer schaute man in den alten efeuüberwachsenen Garten. Neben diesen alten Barockpalast stand ein imposanter Ziegelneubau mit den Lager- und Verkaufsräumen. Man wundert sich wie die Touristen die manchmal riesigen Flaschen transportieren sollen. Kurz nach eins waren wir zurück in Reims. Wir fuhren mit der Straßenbahn zum Kapitulationsmuseum. Hier wurde am 7. Mai 1945 die bedingungslose Kapitulation der Deutschen Wehrmacht unterschrieben. Das nicht der 7. sondern der 8. Mai Jour de la Victoire wurde liegt an Stalin. Er bestand auf eine Kapitulation Deutschlands in der Reichshauptstadt Berlin, und die fand eben erst einen Tag später statt. Außer vielen Fotos, Uniformen und Waffen, war vor allem der Originalraum mit den Schlachtplänen der Alleierten interessant. Über die Ereignisse wurde ein kurzer Film gezeigt. Mit der Straßenbahn ging es zurück ins Zentrum. Die fünf Euro für unsere 24 Stunden Karte, gültig für bis zu fünf Personen, war gut angelegt. Das öffentliche Verkehrsnetz ist in Frankreich, wenn es nicht gerade der erste Mai ist, sehr gut. Sushi gestärkt nahmen wir kurze Zeit später unser Kulturprogramm in Angriff. Die Kathedrale wirkt innen vor allem groß, aber auch düster und irgendwie trist. Vielleicht weil sie so original ist. In vielen gotischen Kirchen wurden später Barockaltäre zugefügt die die Atmosphäre dann etwas auflockern. Hier steht die Kirche aber da wie sie vor über 800 Jahren geplant wurde. Einige Glasfenster wurden nach dem Krieg nicht wiederhergestellt sondern „modernisiert“, schrecklich. Die Fenster der zentralen Kreuzkapelle wurden von Chagall gestaltet. Eigentlich schön, aber eine Wiederherstellung der Originalfenster wäre mir lieber gewesen. Noch 200 Jahre älter und fast genauso groß ist die anderthalb Kilometer außerhalb des Zentrums liegende Basilique St-Rémi. Diese romanische / frühgotische Kirche, ein Weltkulturerbe, sieht von außen zwar nicht so toll aus, ist aber innen sehr schön. Die Wände bestehen für einen Teil noch aus Naturstein, die schmucklosen frühgotischen Seitenschiffe wirken beruhigend, klösterlich. Darüber erhellen viele Fenster das Haupt und Querschiff. Die Sonne kam raus, vom Band ertönte Chormusik, toll! Für eine Kleinstadt wie Reims, 187.000 Einwohner, gibt es hier erstaunlich viele schöne Plätze: Auf einem wuchtigen Sockel schaut Louis XV, wie ein Julius Cesar, auf den klassizistische Place Royale. Nur einen Häuserbock weiter nördlich liegt der große Place du Forum. In der Platzmitte genossen die Leute auf einer Terrasse die letzten Sonnenstrahlen unter frischsprießenden Weinranken. Von hier sieht man schon durch die Rue Colbert den Mittelturm des Rathauses auf dem Place de l’Hotel de Ville. Auch dieses wuchtige Gebäude sah frisch renoviert aus. Die ganze Stadt wirkte wie geleckt. Ich konnte gerade noch ein schönes Foto machen und dann war die Sonne weg. Hinter uns zogen tiefschwarze Wolken auf. Wir kamen gerade noch nach Hause. Der ganze Abend und Nacht gab es sintflutartige Regenfälle.

Chandigarh Visit: 2015-10
2016-03-04 - Chandigarh. I don’t like to arrive in a new city in the middle of the night. I was worried to get dropped somewhere with no transport in sight. I was happy that some more people were getting off as well. At least there would be some people to ask what to do. The worries, as usual, were groundless. Everywhere where there is some money to make there are tuk-tuks or taxis. Here in the middle of nowhere there was a whole line off them. I got the first tuk and mentioned my hotel: S. B. HOTEL in Sector 45, a cheap place, 600rs. I had found it under booking.com. “Dangerous area” the tuk-tuk driver said as I showed him the address, “bad area”. “I’ll survive for a night” I said, “I won’t walk around in the middle of the night.” We drove a couple of endlessly long straight boulevards, the driver made some turns and we drove through a badly lit area. Then I saw the hotel name. It really it didn’t look good here, but I did not want to look somewhere else at this time of the night. Just as I paid the driver his 200rs, a topless, fully tattooed man came out of the door. “Eeeeh big tattoos!” the driver said admiringly. I wasn’t that enthusiastic, even less as I saw that the space around the entrance it looked like a car junk yard. But since I slept in all kind of places during my life, I gave it a try. The place was horrible: the guy who checked me in was rough and unfriendly, the boy who showed me the room dirty and the room was even worse. I won’t go into details, but the sheets hadn’t been changed since Christmas, the rubbish bin was half full and when I dropped something on the floor and picked it up I got a glimpse from under the bed: Oh My God! As always I prepared the bed with my own sheet and covered the pillow with my own pillow cases, double! Only a bottom sheet was needed, because it was about 27°C in the room, my favorite temperature to sleep. I didn’t have to switch on the air-con. Believe it or not, I never slept better. But when I got out of bed in the morning the horror came back. I packed, paid the 600rs and left. I took a tuk to the SATYADEEP HOTEL in Sector 22. This hotel is listed in the Lonely Planet. I should have gone here right away. Sector 22 is a good area and right next to the “center” of Chandigarh, Sector 17. The hotel is located in the second floor in one of the many similar looking shop buildings in this town. They had a room for me for 900rs/13€ or a better room with air-con for 1150rs/16,50€. I took the more expensive one a bit further away from the reception. I liked the room, it wasn’t perfect, but it had some style with its polished wooden doors, dark wooden floors and nice bathroom. It’s a hotel on a 24 hours basis, you can use the room for 24 hours, very convenient when you check-in late in the day. Finally I was settled and could start the day. To get things clear, here a few lines for the people who are not familiar with this place. Chandigarh is a planned city. There were some villages in this area, but they were demolished to build this town. After independence a new city was needed as a capitol of Punjab. The old capitol was Lahore, after the 1947 partition behind the border in Pakistan. Millions of Sikhs and Hindus had fled Pakistan and needed a place to live. India’s first President Nehru decided to build an entirely new city, with a new approach. Some architects were engaged, but finally one famous architect would tackle the job: Le Corbusier. His plan was to segregate traffic from working and living. He did that with roads in seven categories. From big Champs Elysees-style boulevards, intersecting the city in about one square kilometer big blocks, to pedestrian areas with no traffic at all. The boulevards never run in an east-westerly direction, so drivers never have to blink against the sun at sunrise or sunset. Le Corbusier did not only plan the lay out of the city, he planned everything! The government buildings, the offices, the theatres, the residential areas, the gardens, you name it. Thus arose a very uniform city, or not a city at all, more an urbanized zone. Many buildings have a similar appeal: four to eight stories high and encircled by galleries to prevent the sun reaching the actual windows or walls of the building. Round pillars support the galleries with massive concrete balustrades in between, just off the pillars. Most buildings are built in an east-westerly direction. The sun burns on the thin side of the building in the morning or late afternoon, mid-day the sun is high up and doesn’t affect the long south side of the building. Along the big boulevards there are endlessly long shop houses, three or four stories high. They are quite a distance from the boulevards, behind secondary roads and massive parking lots. This all together turns the boulevards into huge empty urban spaces. The enormous blocks, or sectors as they are called here, have no interaction or relation with each other. Other than normal Indian cities, this place is un-walkable. The distances are huge. The traffic speeds with a very un-Indian pace over the four, six or sometimes eight lane wide boulevards intersected by New Delhi-style circles. After I had run for my life to get from (hotel) Sector 22 to Sector 17 - the main business and shopping district - I wanted to cross the road to get from Sector 17 to the Rose Garden in Sector 16. I stood along the road for a long time, but didn’t dare to cross. Finally I stopped an auto-rickshaw to bring me to the other side of the street. (One kilometer to the next roundabout, circle 360° and back one kilometer again.) He must have thought I was crazy, but for 50rs he saved my life! Another disappointing feature of the city planning is that the blocks do not pick up the shape of the circles. How nice the city would have looked with buildings around the roundabouts! Every intersection a Grand Étoile. Now you would look at the backside of some square buildings, seemingly haphazardly placed among the trees. That is because in Chandigarh the Sector is important - the almost traffic-free life within the unit – not the city as a whole. I could have agreed with many of Corbusier’s ideas if it had been at a smaller scale. But this place is too big, a quarter of the space would have been sufficient. The city is like Brasilia. It is a big city, but will never get a big city feel. After visiting Sector 17 extensively, not only out of interest for its architecture, but simply because I did not find a place to eat, and the Rose Garten with its withered roses, I found a pushbike rickshaw to bring me to the Chandigarh Architecture Museum. The gate was locked! I read and reread the opening times until it crossed my mind that today was a Monday! Stupid not to think of that, today I should have made the trip to Haryana. I was near one of the main boulevards, Jan Marg. Further north-east was Sector 1 with the government area and Corbusier’s most famous buildings. I planned to walk the two kilometer to get a feeling for the city. Chandigarh is very green. Thousands and thousands of trees must have been planted already during its construction in the early 1950s. These sixty year old trees have matured and give pleasant shade. I meandered up through one of natural green corridors of the city, to come back at Jan Marg near the famous Secretariat Building. The road leading into its direction was closed by the military. Then I would see the Vidhan Sabha, the State Parliament. Same story. I made it to the High Court in a very busy area. Also here there was lots of police around. Without attracting attention I made a few pictures of the building. Unfortunately only from the backside of the building and not from the famous colorful front side. Also the nearby giant Open Hand Monument I did not find. I think this whole area is locked of from the public. Back at Uttar Marg, the northern-most boulevard, I stood in front of the famous Nek Chand Fantasy Rock Garden. A refugee from Pakistan created his own world, using junk and trash, somewhere in the then jungle of Chandigarh. Many years later his strange jungle hide-out was discovered by the government, but not demolished. With government help he was allowed to continue the construction of his fantasies and now this garden is one of the top sights in India. I paid the 20rs entrance fee and walked through. It was ok, but did not like it very much. He must have had access to a lot of cement as thousands of stones have been glued together to construct walls, corridors, yards, squares, waterfalls and many, many creatures: men, dogs, fantasy animals and God knows what. I thought these creatures covered with broken pottery looked a bit simple, uniform. Dozens of similar creatures were arranged like armies covering every single bit of space. I saw it all, but was happy to be outside again. My hotel had no Wi-Fi. I tried KFC and McDonalds, but in vein. Good that phone charges are low in India, so I can communicate over Mobile Data. Since I was at McDonalds to try their Wi-Fi, I decided to eat there. They have a complete different menu, as the consumption of holy beef is prohibited in India. I chose a spicy chicken burger, not bad, but I prefer the American original. Somehow I made it across the street again from Sector 22 to Sector 17. Yesterday I had crisscrossed this Sector and now I knew my way around. I had breakfast above a sweet shop, some cakes and sweet masala tea. Once more I walked along the enormous empty space that is some kind of central square or plaza, now at ten o’clock still deserted. I took a tuk-tuk right away as I knew I wouldn’t be able to cross Madhya Marg or Jan Marg. Today the museums of Sector 10 were open. The biggest was the Government Museum & Art Gallery. Under the outside gallery a new exhibition was in progress about Le Corbusier. I seemed to be a few days too early. A lady with a French accent came up to me and asked if I would like to come for the opening of the exhibition on Saturday. “No Saturday I’ll be in Shimla” I said. The museum was a nice building with printed textiles, miniatures, brass statues, stone statues and some real good paintings. But these were not the kind of things I had come for. I crossed the museum square and found the much smaller Chandigarh Architecture Museum. The building looked like a big Bauhaus Villa. The entrance was via the basement and it was pitch black. “No electricity” said the lady at the desk apologetic. “I’ll try it anyway” I said optimistic and set off into the dark. I tried to make out Nehru’s eulogy about Le Corbusier as the lights came back. Further upstairs electricity wasn’t needed as light flooded through the huge Bauhaus-style windows. The museum was interesting. There were a lot of original photos, drawings or letters from Corbusier and some original wooden furniture he designed. The Natural History Museum next door must have been arranged in the nineteen thirties and has been well preserved ever since. By far the most interesting museum in Chandigarh is Le Corbusier Center in Sector 19. It’s here in this long stretched one story office building where Corbusier worked for many years during Chandigarh’s construction. The original furniture is still there as well the huge table in his studio. Once more I tried to get to the important government buildings, I did not get any closer. I continued to Sukhna Lake, a huge artificial lake with a very nice promenade and gardens. I expected to get a glimpse from the buildings over the lake, but the trees have grown too high.

Chiapas Visit: 2013-1
2013-11-08 - Palenque Unsere liebe Tante Christine aus dem fernen Jämtland schärmt immer noch von Palenque, wo ihr Gatte Raimund, damals schon weit über achtzig Jahre alt, noch die höchsten Pyramiden bestieg. Nach zwei Stunden Fahrt mit einem Minibus, kamen wir um kurz vor neun an in \"Palenque Town\" etwa acht Kilometer von den Ruinen entfernt. Auf einmal gab es überall Touristen. Die hatten wir bis jetzt noch gar nicht gesehen. Sogar in Mexico City sieht man nur höchst selten einen Ausländer. Schon erstaunlich wenn man bedenkt, wie viele Amis und Kanadier direkt nebenan wohnen. Hier gibt es eine Menge davon, hauptsächlich von der Sorte, die sich für die lokalen \"Magic Mushrooms\" interessieren. Barfüßler, Rastalöckler, Typen mit tiefhängende indische Schlabberhosen (bei denen es keinen Spaß macht in die Ritze hinein zu gucken) und oben ohne Hippies sieht man auf Schritt und Tritt. Manche scheinen wohl einen Pilz zu viel geknabbert zu haben und stehen abgedrifftet auf dem Busbahnhof herum. Ein atemraubendes Wrack bettelte uns an. In der Hauptstraße fanden wir ein schönes reetgedecktes Restaurant und aßen zum Frühstück eine leckere Hühnersuppe. Mit einem Taxi fuhren wir für unglaubliche 45 Pesos (nicht mal €3) zu den 7 Kilometer entfernten Ruinen. Wie ist denn das möglich? Die Fahrer müssen doch auch Sprit kaufen und ab und zu in ein neues Fahrzeug investieren. Die billigen Taxipreise und die Ehrlichkeit der Fahrer erleichtern das Reisen sehr, wenn ich da an den Stress meiner letzten Reise in Italien denke. Die etwa 1300 Jahre alten Ruinen sehen erstaunlich gut erhalten aus, ich glaube die Mexikaner haben da ein bisschen nachgeholfen. Eingebettet in einer üppig tropischen Landschaft sehen sie toll aus. Die Gegend von Palenque hat die höchsten Regenfälle des Landes, die Vegetation ist überwältigend. Die meisten Ruinen dürfen bestiegen werden und von oben schaut man auf die grünen Berge der Umgebung. Hinter den höchsten Ruinen gab es ein grausiges Geräusch, es hörte sich an als würde ein Rind geschlachtet werden und das Vieh brülle um sein Leben. Die Touristen liefen in Richtung des Geräusches. Eine Gruppe junger Amis stand am Waldrand und schaute nach oben: Brüllaffen. Vier oder fünf große schwarze Affen saßen ganz oben in einem Urwaldriesen und brüllten um die Wette. Der Weg zum Ausgang führte durch üppige Natur, über Hängebrücken und an einem Wasserfall vorbei. Einige Kilometer Richtung Stadt gibt es im Tropenwald eine Hippiesiedlung. Ein Minibus brachte uns dahin. Von der Straße liefen wir über einen Sandweg in den Wald. Einzelne, meist zweistöckige Holzhäuser standen unter schattigen Bäumen. Wir kämpften uns an Schlammlöcher des kaputt gefahrenen Weges vorbei. Die Aussteiger scheinen selbst hier nicht auf den Segen eines fahrbaren Untersatzes verzichten zu wollen. Zwischen den Dschungelriesen wurde ein offenes Restaurant gebaut. Auch hier war die Natur wichtig, nur nicht wichtig genug um auf laute Musik verzichten zu wollen. Peter aß eine Kleinigkeit, meine Bestellung war unter gegangen. Zurück in unserem schönen Restaurant in der Stadt tranken wir noch einen Honigmelonensaft, liefen zum Bahnhof und ärgerten uns wieder an den bettelnden, kaputten, stinkenden Aussteiger. Die \"Seguridad\" auf dem Bahnhof ließ ihn gewähren. Übrigens war dies eigentlich nicht ganz mein erster Besuch an Chiapas gewesen. Christian und ich waren schon mal durchgefahren. Damals waren wir abends um etwa neun Uhr vom Busbahnhof von Oaxaca losgefahren und zur Morgendämmerung an der Grenze von Guatemala angekommen. Gesehen hatten wir von diesem Bundesstaat bis her also wenig. Leichtsinnigerweise hatte ich nur ein T-Shirt und ein langärmliches Hemd an. Im Bus war es aber ziemlich kühl. Mein jugendlicher Leichtsinn wurde bestraft; ich bekam einen Schnupfen.

Chubut Province Visit: 2016-11
2018-07-31 - The border of Chubut Province is running just South of El Bolson. As a matter of fact you could easely walk from center of town to the border. We took a bus from town to the last bus stop just South of Lago Puelo town, about 15km. From here it was just a short walk to the lake itself. The countryside is just beautiful here. We hit the right time (November), flourishing flowers all over. We made a walk along the lake and a picknick at its shore and unexpectedly this day turned out to be one of the most beautiful from my four months trip through South-America. Later we took a bus back to Lago Puelo town, a very nice little village with some nice restaurants. From here it was just half an hour to get back to El Bolson.

Dadra and Nagar Haveli Visit: -

Daman and Diu Visit: -

Delhi (NCT) Visit: 2014-3
2015-08-17 - It’s quite unbelievable what India achieves. The new Indira-Gandhi International Airport is huge. You realize at once that you arrive here in the capital of a big country, compared to this one, the airport in Bombay looks provincial. Here in Delhi a huge amount of Rupees must have been invested! The luggage came quickly and the taxi-service-stand worked well. Our young good looking driver loved to hear himself talking, but I think he just memorized his story. When we asked him something his answers had no connection with our questions at all. Anyhow, he understood that he had to wait for us at the hotel to drive on to Humayun’s Tomb right after check in. The trip from the airport to the Holiday-Inn was only 300 Rupees and on to Humayun’s Tomb one thousand. (85 IR for 1€) when you travel together in India you can live here like a Maharaja! Holiday-Inn is a weird chain. InterContinental hotels tend to have a certain standard worldwide otherwise they kick you out of the chain, see Hamburg. Holiday-Inn doesn’t seem to have this problem. Sometimes you are lucky and the hotel is great, for example the HI-Zwickau. If a doorman had stood in front of their door, you would have thought it a luxury hotel. But we know different also. That a hotel like the HI-Winnipeg (next to the Greyhound bus station) is part of the chain is ridiculous. And then Calgary! The worst hotel in my life. It must have been built by two people: the first one folded it, the second one stuck it together! And then the staff! They were all sitting together around the best table in the restaurant and when a client wanted something, perhaps one of them stood up…… But here we are in India! Here things are different! Already from far the driver pointed out the hotel. A big new place, decorated with the colors of the renewed Holiday-Inn chain: brightly green. In this area, called Cantonment, all the buildings were new. We pull up the impressive driveway, half a dozen staff runs up to us, both doors are opened, the trunk as well, our bags pulled out. Security staff guides us to the security gate, our bags are screened. Staff leads us through the impressive modern lobby towards the reception where two gorgeous girls are waiting for us to check us in. One girl looks Indian, the other oriental. “I am from Manipur” she tells us, an Indian federal state at the Myanmar/Burma border. “We opened two weeks ago” she said. What a coincidence! Of course I did not know that when I made the reservation. The Indian beauty showed us up to the room. Our room was great. Most likely we were the first guests here, everything was spotless and brand new. Very stylish, modern, two Queen Size beds, a wonderful bathroom. Too bad we are here only for one night! No taxi anymore in front of the entrance. Three people exerted themselves to whistle our taxi from around the corner. We drive to Humayuns Tomb. I look out of the window and see some familiar things and a lot of new developments. I know Delhi well, it is the fourth or fifth time I am here, all my trips combined I spend here well over a month. The first time I was here were the first days of January 1979. With Gil I had made out to meet here in Delhi. I had met Gil on the platform of the train station in Naples. At the time he did practical training for the “Church of the Nazarene” in Florence. He stayed there with the minister and his family. But somehow he lost the right path – after he visited me in Meppel sometime later and we went “on tour” through Amsterdam’s night clubs – he left his religious track and became steward for Alaska Airways. Because of the severe weather conditions in Prudhoe Bay (the furthest north town in America) where he was based, he had a lot of time off and we would be able to spend two weeks together. We had made out a certain day in New Delhi. At the time there were hardly any tourist guides on the market, I had found my information about the country in history- and art guides, we did not know where to meet. “Why don’t we meet at the American Embassy on Friday at 11am?” he suggested. I had arrived on a Wednesday from Pakistan and Amritsar and had found a backpacker lodge on Janpath Lane, not far from Connaught Place, in the center of New Delhi. On Friday a pushbike rickshaw rode me the long way down to the embassy district. Without any problem I could enter the Embassy and waited a while in the waiting room. No Gil. I went to the counter and stated my problem. The lady listened carefully and made a few notes. A little sad I did my sightseeing. Tomorrow and the day after was the weekend, no way to be able to meet Gil at the embassy. I would have to give it another try on Monday. The whole weekend I toured the town, felt lost and lonely and couldn’t believe that Gil had displaced me. Monday morning I rode the long way down to the Embassy again. I entered the waiting room, the lady saw me and shouted laud “Your friend was here, your friend was here! He just left, but will come back.” Then she told me the reason for him being late. “He forgot that he crosses the dateline!” But of course, when you fly ever further west you cross the dateline and from one second to the other it is 24 hours later! So he hadn’t arrived Friday morning, but Saturday morning and had not been able to go to the Embassy until Monday! Anyway we met and had a great two weeks together. When you think about this 36 years later, you see how much the world has changed. Imagine me little Dutchman trying to enter this high security embassy because of such a bullshit…… I did the Delhi tour again with Gil. After our common trip to Bombay through Agra and Khajuraho and another six weeks in Rajasthan I was in Delhi again. This time quite a while, because all trains to Varanasi had been booked. My next visit here was together with my mother and then once more with Christian and Guni on our way back from Bhutan and Nepal. Every time I visited all the sights. There is hardly a city in the world where I spend more time. We passed Safdarjung’s Tomb. The first time I was here had been with my mother and a 19 year old Sikh boy: Kanwar. We had met the previous night in the gardens at Connaught place and I had rented a hotel room for him/us. He would play guide today. He had never heard of the place, never mind, my mother loved him. The more as he took us to his big family later that day. Here my mother was presented a sari, she looked real Indian in it. We got a glimpse of the tall dome of this royal tomb and soon after we passed the Lodi Gardens. These gardens had been among my favorite parks in Delhi. 35 years ago the gardens around the old grey tombs out of the 15th century had been freshly planted. I had spent a lot of time on the sunny lawns, had made pick nicks and had read “Sitthartha” written by Herman Hesse. Four years ago with Guni and Christian the park resembled more a dark jungle than a park. As I said before, time passes by….. Tommy couldn’t believe his eyes. He had no idea what kind of city Delhi was going to be, and now this endless city of green boulevards and gardens was unfolding in front of his eyes. Spring flowers had been planted along the roads, all in full bloom. Trees were blooming, beautiful colonial villas in big gardens, and further north recently renovated government buildings in Indo-Sarasenic style within century old trees. The grave of Humayun, the second Moghul Emperor, honors to be the role model of the world’s most beautiful building, the Taj Mahal. It looks similar, but it has been build out of red sandstone and decorated with white marble. We enjoyed the huge gardens with its many more wonderful memorials, well groomed lawns and old tropical trees. At the parking area near the street we found an auto rickshaw. The driver understood exactly what I wanted to show Tommy and immediately we raced off to India Gate. This 42m high memorial gate commemorates the Indians who lost their lives during the First World War. “You can go there and make pictures” he said. “I will wait here.” Not necessary. We only have a couple of hours to see this mega-city, we’ll make snaps racing past, and on we drove over the 3km long and 800m wide Raj Path - the King’s Road - leading to some of the most magnificent government buildings on earth. These edifices, the North and South Secretariat Buildings, were built by the British in the 1920s and 30s, and are overshadowed by the Presidential Palace on a hill behind them crowned with an enormous dome, the Rashtrapati Bhavan. You won’t see nicer and more impressive government buildings anywhere in the world, not even in Washington DC. Tommy was impressed and tried to film the buildings despite the sun’s back-light. “We are not allowed to stop here” the driver said passing by slowly. To the right we saw the round Parliament Building and soon after we drove into the downtown area of New-Delhi. Four years ago this area had been a mess. In the meantime Connaught Place has been renovated - the pillars and stucco of these 270° buildings, three-quarterly circling the square, are snow white again - the subway has been completed. We looked for a restaurant, but couldn’t find anything else as KFC and McDonalds. No, we are going to be vegetarians these three weeks, we look somewhere else! Then we better go on to Old Delhi! We found another auto-rickshaw and left this enormous square. The streets got narrower, the traffic denser and more chaotic. There were less cars now, but more auto-rickshaws. The first pushbike rickshaws turned up. I thought they had died out! Old Delhi is the Muslim heart of the city. We got off near the Friday Mosque, the Jama Mesjid. This is the biggest mosque in India and was built by Shah Jahan. 25.000 believers can pray here the same time. We are infidels and cannot enter this delicate red sandstone edifice. Instead we look at the piled up mutton heads and the dozens of skinny goat legs. Muslims love their traditional food. There are lots of restaurants here, thick heavy clouds escape from the tiny food stalls. We are hungry, but not that hungry that we would like to eat here. The more, we are vegetarians! Tommy cannot believe his eyes. This here is pure culture shock for him. We flee the scene on a pushbike-rickshaw. From above we look on the ant hive around us. Our rickshaw-wallah uses every free centimeter. He estimates to the millimeter if he can pass an obstacle or other pushbike. On and off he rides or jumps down and tears us through the crowd. I wonder how relaxed I am. So many times I have been here, this is home for me. Tommy looks startled. We arrive at Old-Delhi’s main artery, Chandni Chowk. We walk through this super busy business district and make lots of pictures. Nowhere in the world is taking pictures more rewarding. Here India still is as it always was. Rarely one sees a car, just auto-rickshaws, cows, pushbike-rickshaws, bikes, carts and lots and lots of people. People everywhere! The dilapidated facades are picturesque. I love this street with all its colorful open shops and stalls. Perhaps one day I will find a hotel room here. I would sit days on end in my room and look down on the crowd. We didn’t find a restaurant. There must be some, but where? The facades are virtually covered with panels, advertising just anything. But still, no restaurant. Better see the Red Fort first! I’ve never seen the “Sound and Light Show” here. As we pass the Sikh Gurdwara the end of Chandni Chowk we see the enormous Red Fort in front of us. Tommy cannot believe his eyes. This castle is many times bigger than any castle he has seen in his life, he’s absolutely flabbergasted. We make a few pics before it gets too dark and look for the ticket-office. There is a show at seven in Hindi and an English show at eight-thirty. That’s too late, we have to get up early. We decide to work on our Hindi and get the tickets. We rush back to the street to find a quick bite. We find a puri stand. I know this kind of food from Trinidad. There, a serving is always two puris, and that’s why they are called “Doubles”. In the Caribbean they taste better than here. Also they throw their plate into the rubbish bin, here we are virtually standing on a pile of garbage. Our “Sound and Light Show” enables us a glimpse of the fort interior. Like in Pune, the British razed a lot of buildings to the ground to make space for barracks. Thank God they spared a few, the show takes place in front of some marble pavilions on the edge of the yard. There is a lot of space on the rows of benches in front of them. The seat is uncomfortable, so, at least up to the beginning of the show I stay awake. The story teller starts, of course we don’t understand anything. We see lights flashing on and off, hear elephants trumpeting, the sound of horses. After five minutes I doze off. I wake up, more horses, shouting and flashing lights. We give up, we go. Back at the street we ask for a vegetarian restaurant. A rickshaw-wallah understands English and brings us to a restaurant opposite the Gurdwara, the beautiful Sikh temple where my colleagues from the InterContinental took my mother and me to get to know their religion and culture. My mother was deeply impressed by the solemn atmosphere, the marble, the beautiful music, the wonderful saris, the impressive turbans. Too bad, no time this time. We ate in the not too clean restaurant - I think Tommy was quite shocked to see a place like this - and then the rickshaw-wallah took us to a subway station. The subway and the suburban system does not seem to be one company. Like in Bangkok we had to get another ticket after we reached Connaught Place. The suburban train system seems to be a bit oversized in Delhi. The immense halls and corridors resemble the RER in Paris. From here, the heart of New Delhi, we could ride straight to the airport. The kilometer long train rode just for us. On the way I thought that we could get off one station before the airport. I thought we would be closer to the hotel that way. In front of the station I asked a policeman for the Holiday Inn. “Over there, just behind the station” he replied. Five minutes later we were at home. In six hours the night would be over.

DRC (Zaire) Visit: 1990-1
2013-11-18 - We arrived without problems from Brazzaville with the ferry over the Congo River. It was a big multistory ferry boat, too bad we couldn’t take pictures. Now we stayed for three nights in the fabulous InterContinental Hotel, for staff rate and that meant for free. The front office manager had worked for training at the InterContinental in Frankfurt with a guy who had made career and was at present the GM in Berlin where I work. We were welcomed like royalty and introduced to some of the other staff. A Flemish guy from Belgium was the IT chef. For a day he generously offered us his car and driver to show us around town. We toured the city and the suburbs and saw a lot, but the driver – not to get any problems - did not allow us to bring our cameras. Kinshasa is very green and quite ok. The main boulevard is the Boulevard du 30 Juin and has a big city appearance. At the end of this boulevard we went to see the souvenir market. They had nice stuff here, many old statues, but way too expensive and we were only halfway on our trip from Niger to Burundi, so things would have been hard to transport. I regret that I could not take pictures of the many very well painted commercials on the mostly one story buildings. Especially the walls of the hairdresser shops were full of painted examples of possible haircuts. The walls of the small supermarkets were covered with exact painted pictures of their products. We spend a lot of time at the pool and ate at the poolside pizza restaurant. In the hotel shop we bought a FAZ, one of the leading newspapers in Germany, and were amazed what we read there. When we had left Berlin the end of December, less than two months after the fall of the Berlin wall, the major news was about changing and improving the political system in the GDR. Now just three weeks later, no one was writing about that. There was only one subject: the reunification. We couldn’t believe it. So we enjoyed the deckchairs along the pool and read every single article. The next day we went out by ourselves and walked to the center of the city. As we walked on the Boulevard du 30 Juin again, a car stopped next to us, some guys in uniforms jumped out and summoned us to enter the box wagon with no windows. After a small ride we had to get off at a police station. There, we were put in an empty office, and had to wait. We knew of no wrong doing since we even didn’t carry our cameras and we had our passports with us. We had to wait a long time. Than a Middle Eastern guy entered the room - most likely he was Lebanese - and started to ask us all kinds of questions, like what we were doing there walking around. We told him that we were tourists and we wanted to see the city. This he could not accept as normal behavior, for him this was highly suspicious. He said: “White people drive cars and do not walk around.” Finally we were ordered to take a taxi back to the hotel and stay there the rest of our stay! We were happy to leave Kinshasa the next morning. We had been able to get a flight ticket to Goma, with a stop in Kisangani. Staff in the hotel had convinced us that it was impossible to cross the country overland. The Belgian guy was so nice to have his driver bring us to the airport early morning. The flight took many hours. Too bad we did not see Kisangani, the airport seemed to be far from the city. In Goma the runway crosses the city, no need to take a taxi to town. Since we planned to go hiking in the Ruwezori Mountains and would be back here in a few days, we looked right away for a road leaving the city in a northerly direction. At the end of this not very attractive town - just a bunch of shabby one story houses standing on pitch black earth - we waited for some transport. Soon a Toyota pick-up passed and stopped. First we hesitated if it wouldn’t be better to wait for a real bus, but since it was getting late, we decided to take it to the next town. It was quite fun to travel this way. Ingo managed to get a good place among the dozen or so other passengers in the middle of the load area and was accompanied by three little pigs, each one of them wrapped in a basket. One time, when the car made a sudden stop, he plunged his hand into the fresh shit. I was sitting on the edge with a nice view on the slowly disappearing Virunga volcanoes. Our transport was only going as far a Rutshuru. In three hours, we had just covered 70km. Tomorrow, we hoped to get a fast bus to Beni. It was getting dark now, but we found a hotel quickly. The hotel consisted out of a row of rooms around a courtyard. Simple but clean. The restaurant offered only one dish: meat from an animal and a big plate of boiled potatoes, not very tasty, but filling. The staff of the hotel was extremely friendly. We had a good time and the next morning we were optimistic to reach Beni to have a few days for the Ruwenzoris. When we asked if there was a bus to Beni the next morning, they hardly understood our question. In fact there seemed to be no public transport at all in this part of the world. But again we were lucky. An empty truck was heading north and we could sit in the back. The drawback: the load area was deep, the walls around it high and there was no way of seeing anything. As the truck drove off, we soon found out that it was impossible to sit down. The truck drove fast and tossed us around. The only way to survive was to hold on to the struts above us. Thank God it did not take too long to cover the 73km to Kanyabayonga. This was definitively the most beautiful village we have seen in Africa. Like Rom it is built on seven hills. The little houses have tin iron roofs and look neat and clean. The mud streets are swept, without dirt or rubbish. And the people were very friendly. We found a small restaurant to eat potatoes again. From the terrace of our little hotel we had a beautiful view over the roofs. There was no electricity, in the evening people used oil lamps made of the bottom half of a plastic water bottle filled with oil, the burning wick floating on the surface. The next day we were lucky again and found another pick-up driving north. This time our little Toyota was a bit full. We were, including the driver and his co-driver, 27 people plus three goats and lots of chickens in baskets. The load area was covered with sacks full of potatoes. Somehow Ingo managed to find space in the middle of the load area, on top of several sacks of potatoes. During the trip the goats disappeared ever deeper between the potatoes and luggage and screamed for their lives. The chickens suffered the same fate and were cackling softly. I found space on the edge, but I had only enough room for one bun. I could not stretch my legs, they would hit the trees or bushes on the side of the road, and I had to take care of the wheel under me as well. It was not easy to keep my balance for hours. Zaire is an organized country, and laws and regulations have to be respected. We were severely overloaded and that is against the law. Only about 15 people are allowed to travel on a small pick-up like ours. So before entering a village, more than ten people had to get off and walk behind the car. As everybody was afraid that the car would drive off without waiting, we were running as fast as possible behind it. So the car, with some lucky women plus Ingo on top of the potato sacks, was driving through the villages and ten or twelve people were running behind it, of course without attracting attention to the iron fist of the law. Behind the first curve after passing the village we could get back on again. Everybody had to fight for some space. The driver, most likely the owner of this little transport enterprise, often got out of the car and walked around the vehicle with a face like a thundercloud, to pull out a leg or push a knee in another direction to create sufficient space for all the passengers. The co-driver was always the last one to mount before take-off. One time there was absolutely no space left and he was sort off hanging on to the car, keeping his balance by holding one of the tits of the female passengers, much to the hilarity off the others and the girl herself. Since many, many years Ingo has a problem with his bladder and has to pee all the time. Not today! Like the queen of Saba held on to her throne, Ingo tenaciously kept his grip to his stack of potatoes. At the end of the day he told me that he had to choose between his legs or his camera: “I have to sit on my camera, otherwise my legs will die.” Somehow we made it to Butembu. The 140km had taken us a full day, but it had been one of the funniest days we ever had in Africa, and also, the scenery had been very beautiful: rolling hills with fertile gardens, green forests, beautiful villages with big round huts and thatched roofs. In Butembu we planned to stay in a real good hotel, mentioned in our guide. When we finally found the place on a hillside above the truck park, we had to notice that the place had shut down. A caretaker tried to convince us to stay and pointed on one of the dilapidated bungalows. It didn’t look good. We walked back down and stayed in a primitive hotel downtown. Beni wasn’t far anymore, but we slowly lost hope that we still would have the time to hike through the Ruwenzoris. It was easy to find a pick-up for the last little stretch of 53km and we arrived in Beni well before noon. Here, surprise, surprise, there was a real good hotel with a nice restaurant, all built in Spanish style. Since we always sleep under our mosquito nets - also in good hotels - we hang them up right away. Since we did not want to soil the perfect white walls with Scotch tape, we had to take down the pictures to use the nails and move the beds around accordingly. Very quickly the beautiful room turned into chaos. Before departure two days later we put everything back into place. The Ruwenzori Mountains were still too far. It would have taken at least one day to get there, a day hiking, plus a day back, time we did not have. We were happy to hear that there was a flight connection from here to Goma the day after tomorrow, no need to travel back four days on a Toyota pick-up. Our day in Beni we used to make a walk in the direction of the mountains. The hills were covered with little villages made of round huts with thatched roofs. The people were really friendly and we could make some pictures. From the top of a hill we could see the mountains in the distance, even the snow was visible. Back down in the valley, nature was just beautiful. The farmers use the shade of the big trees for cultivating cacao and coffee. We passed some buildings of the colonial era on our way back in town. The flight was awful! This was definitively the worst flight I ever experienced. It started fine, but the weather deteriorated ever more. On our left hand side - the side of the Ruwenzori Mountains - a huge black cloud was developing and got pitch black within minutes. The plane tried to move away from it. Lightning flashed out of this black wall. The plane was caught by strong winds now. Suddenly the door of the cockpit of our 16-seater slammed open. I saw the first officer looking on a huge map. The captain was holding on to the wheel with all his force. Now the first officer dropped the map on his lap and helped the captain to keep control over the wheel. The plane sunk and lifted violently. Ingo was holding his hands tightly on to the camping chair style seats. A nun in front of me vomited on the floor. Finally we got away from the storm and we made a big left curve to get back on track in the direction of Goma. We landed safely. Thank God! Since the airport is in the middle of the city, we just walked through town to the border, left Zaire and entered Ruanda without problems.

Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Visit: 2012-6
2012-07-07 - Ich wunderte mich dass ich kurzfristig noch einen günstigen Flug bekommen habe, die Kiste war voll. Vor mir plärrten zwei Babys, an schlafen war nicht zu denken. In Wien musste ich rennen, der Flughafen ist riesig. Die nächsten 55 Minuten saß ich neben einem bosnischen Ehepaar aus Ottawa. Sie wohnten seit 13 Jahren in Kanada, aber ihr Englisch hielt sich sehr in Grenzen: „When you are older, difficult to learn language“ sagte die Frau. „Cheers“ sagte er und stieß mit seinem O-Saft auf seiner alten Heimat an. Zwischen vielen hochgehobenen Namenzetteln stand Samir. Ich war nicht der einzige Mensch der hier abgeholt wurde. Draußen war der bosnische Sommer ausgebrochen, weit über 35 Grad! Wir fuhren in seinem Leihwagen in die Stadt, sein geliebtes Auto stand immer noch kaputt zu Hause in der Garage. Hinter dem Parlament rechts, über den Fluss, wenige Meter rechts und gleich wieder links. Jetzt um die komische Tankstelle herum die mitten auf der Straße steht und dann steil nach oben. Angekommen! Anja und Zlatan werden das große Haus vermissen, wer wohnt in Deutschland schon so schön? Dann die freudige und traurige Begrüßung: Anja und LiSi! Aber keine süße, freche Katze mehr….. Anja sprach von der Auflösung ihres Hauses, sie waren schon beim Aussortieren und Entsorgen des Haushalts. Nur noch wenige Wochen und dann würde es zurück nach Deutschland gehen. Zlatan sein Studium geht zu Ende, Mia muss auf eine deutsche Schule, Anjas „Montesori-Pre-School“ wird irgendwie weiter geführt werden. Bald ist sie Hausfrau in Wittingen und kann ihre Nägel feilen. Nach einem kurzen Intermezzo auf der großen Außenterrasse mit türkischem Kaffee und bosnischem Kuchen fuhren Samir und ich zurück nach Sarajevo. Anja hatte ein paar Freundinnen mit ihren Kindern eingeladen, Cendrine aus Frankreich war auch wieder da. Es war ein sprachliches Durcheinander mit deutsch, bosnisch und englisch. Zlatan hatte thailändisch gekocht, das schwedische Gesundheitssystem wurde von der bosnischen Freundin unter die Lupe genommen, Zigaretten gab es reichlich, aber nur am offenen Fenster, in der heißen Nacht blitzten die Glühwürmchen.. LiSi war ganz lieb, wie sie wohl klar kommt mit dem Verschwinden ihrer kleinen Freundin? Später zu Hause schauten wir von der Terrasse in den dunklen Sternenhimmel von Hadzici. Hinüberfliegende UFO’s waren Fernsehsatelliten, oder vielleicht doch nur Flugzeuge. Es war immer noch heiß, eine Decke würde in dieser tropischen Nacht nicht vonnöten sein. 20 Juni 2012 Nach einem Verwöhn-Frühstück mit frischen Brötchen fuhren wir in die Berge. Nur wenige Häuser hinter Samirs Garten ist hier alles Natur pur; es gibt kein Dorf, keine Stadt, nur weiter oben ein im Winter lebendiges Resort unterhalb der olympischen Skischanze. In seinem Lieblingsrestaurant tranken wir ein winziges Käffchen. Ein Kriegsdenkmal und einige riesige Hotelruinen überschauen einen sonnigen Picknickplatz, Bosniens düstere Vergangenheit ist nie weit weg. Immer noch nah an der bosnischen Hauptstadt gibt es fast menschenleere Landschaften. Beim Fotografieren in einer Nadelkurve entdeckte ich nur ein winziges rotes Dach zwischen den endlos rollenden Hügeln und über 2000 Meter hohen Felsspitzen. In der absoluten Stille gaben Vögel ein Konzert wie am ersten Tag. Viel später, aber nur wenige Kilometer Wegstrecke weiter, machten wir den nächsten Fotostopp am Wegesrand. An dieser kurvenreichen einspurigen Seitenstraße jubelten die Wiesen, ein von Menschenhand gestalteter Garten hätte nicht bunter sein können. Hier summte es nur noch, außer fleißigen Insekten sah oder hörte ich keinen einzigen Vogel mehr. Wir standen neben einem verlassenen Haus am Ende der Asphaltstraße. Weiter rechts, hinter einem schütteren Kartoffelacker gab es ein gutes Dutzend weitere unverputzte Bauernschuppen und Häuser. Samir parkte das Auto und lief hin. „Wir sind richtig“ sagte er kurze Zeit später, „zehn Kilometer über eine Schotterstraße.“ Ich war erstaunt dass er in dem menschenleeren Dorf so schnell jemand gefunden hatte. „Die bauen ein Haus da“ meinte er. Nur noch wenige hundert Meter fuhren wir durch eingezäuntes Bauernland. In einer üppigen bunten Wiese stand eine Kuh. Noch ein weiteres Kartoffelfeldchen, dann gab es hinter der nächsten Kurve nur noch alpine Natur. Vor uns der weiße Schotterweg inmitten einer unendlichen baumlosen Landschaft. Weiter oben an den fast kahlen Hängen gab es seltsamerweise irgendwelches dunkelgrünes Gestrüpp. Vielleicht war es für Wild oder Vieh ein ungenießbares oder unerreichbares Blätterzeug. Dazwischen gab es vereinzelte Schneereste des letzten Winters. Um Beschädigungen an dem Leihwagen zu vermeiden musste Samir ganz langsam fahren. Nach einer halben Stunde kam uns ein Motorrad entgegen: „Zehn Kilometer“ ließ uns die Biker mit tschechischem Kennzeichen wissen. „Immer noch zehn Kilometer? Das waren vor einer halben Stunde doch auch schon zehn Kilometer?“ wunderte ich mich. Bei einem kurzen Stopp fotografierte ich die winzigen bunten Blümchen am Wegesrand. Endlos tuckerten wir nun durch das hügelige Tal. Hinter einem kahlen Berg ging es links weiter. Noch immer kein Haus weit und breit und auch kein Verkehr. „Hoffentlich hat das Dorfrestaurant einen freien Tisch für uns“ ulkte ich. Dann gab es weit vor uns ein Straßenschild mit „Lukomir“ darauf. Wir schienen richtig zu sein, es gab Hoffnung. Noch ein Hügel, nichts. Wieder eine Kurve, wieder nichts. Ich hatte jetzt voll zu tun mit einer widerlichen Bremse, immer wieder flog das grässliche Vieh ins offene Fenster rein und ließ sich kaum von meiner fuchtelnden Mütze beeindrucken. Es erinnerte mich voll an der gleichen Situation im Akagera NP in Rwanda. Da waren die Tse Tse Fliegen ein absoluter Horror und trieben unseren sonst so coolen Fahrer in die Hysterie. Ganz hinten auf einem Hügel, zwischen immer schroffer werdenden Berghängen, stand ein winziges Häuschen. Das musste es sein. Lukomir! Rechts lief ein riesiger Hund vor einem einsamen Bauernhaus. „Die müssen die Bären verscheuchen“ sagte mir Samir. Kurze Zeit später sahen wir die erste Kuh. Weiter hinten saß ein alter Opa am Wegesrand. Erstaunlich das hier in dieser Höhe und Abgeschiedenheit Menschen wohnten.
Vor dem plätschernden Dorfbrunnen standen ein gutes Dutzend Motorräder. Die sechs grob gezimmerten Biertische auf der Terrasse der Kneipe waren voll besetzt. Wir mussten einige Taschen beiseite rücken um uns hinsetzen zu können. So etwas hatten wir hier nun wirklich nicht erwartet. Die italienischen Biker ließen es sich gut gehen, ein Tablett voller Slibowitzgläser machte die Runde. Einige hatten sich lang gelegt und machten ein Nickerchen. Eine italienisch sprechende Bosnierin hatte ihre neuen Landsleute wohl zu diesem Ende der Welt geführt. Rings herum standen die kleinen Ställe und Häuschen. Es roch nach Schaf. Eine Kuh wurde vorbei getrieben. Einige verschleierte Frauen in engen bunten Jacken und schwarzen Pluderhosen saßen vor ihren Häusern und strickten. Anatolien vor hundert Jahren! Samir bestellte bosnischen Kaffee für uns und für mich eine Kleinigkeit: Sirnitza, Pita mit Schafskäse. Zwanzig Minuten später kam der Kuchen, so groß wie eine Maxipizza. Dieser riesige Brocken hätte eine ganze Familie gesättigt. Ich schaffte ein knappes Drittel, der Rest ließen wir einpacken. Jetzt brauchte ich auch einen Slibowitz für diesen Stein im Magen. Die Italiener machten sich mit ihren Bikes auf dem Schotterweg, vier Beifahrerinnen schaffte der Wirt sicherheitshalber mit seinem roten Polo zurück zum Asphalt. Die 46 Häuser und 49 Ställe waren jetzt nur für uns da. Wir bestiegen den kleinen Hügel hinter dem Dorf. Von hieraus, auf etwa 1500 Metern, sahen die 2000 Meter hohen Berge ringsherum nur noch wie Hügel aus. Nur einen Schritt hinter uns ging es 800 schwindelerregende Meter die Rakitnica-Schlucht hinunter. Rechts neben dem putzigen Dörfchen gab es noch einige alte türkische Gräber und links eine kleine Moschee. Die genaue Geschichte der Bevölkerung von Lukomir ist nicht bekannt, aber es scheint dass es ursprünglich Halbnomaden aus Herzegowina gewesen sind, die hier oben auf der Alm mit ihrem Vieh die trockenen Sommer weiter südlich entflohen sind. Auch jetzt wird das Dorf nur während der Sommermonate bewohnt. Diesmal schauten wir genau auf dem Tacho wie lange die Schotterstraße war: 13km, und dafür würden wir eine Stunde und 22 min. brauchen. Schon bald nachdem wir Lukomir verlassen hatten kam uns der rote Polo vom Restaurant entgegen. Später überholten uns unsere Gastgeber noch mal bevor wir die Asphaltstraße erreicht hatten. Die Betreiber der kleinen Gaststätte in Lukomir wohnten in Sarajevo und machten diese Tour jeden Tag. Beulen am Auto durch Steinschlag schien denen egal zu sein. Auch jetzt flog die fette Bremse munter neben unserem Wagen her, flog ab und zu rein, ließ sich von meiner Mütze kaum beeindrucken, war Gott sei Dank auch mal wieder draußen und ließ sich dann längere Zeit auf der Motorhaube nieder um dann den nächsten Angriff zu starten. Grässlich! Zurück auf dem Asphalt versperrte uns ein Bauer mit seinem Traktor und Wagen den Weg. Der alte Junge schien ganz schön Taub zu sein, erst nach endlos langem Hupen und nah heranfahren bemerkte er uns und ging beiseite.
Seltsamerweise bemerkte Samir kurz vor Hadzici seinem Schwager Azem. Der hatte mit Kollegen den Tag, eine Art Betriebsausflug, feuchtfröhlich im Wald verbracht. Wir fuhren zusammen direkt zu einer Waschanlage. Mit einem Mietwagen darf man nicht abseits der befestigten Straße fahren und das Auto sah schlimm aus. Kurze Zeit später strahlte das Auto wieder wie neu und es waren keine Beschädigungen festzustellen.
Bei Schwiegerpapa und -Mama war Almas ältere Schwester mit Ehemann und Sohn aus dem 15 km entfernten Sarajevo eingetroffen. Die einwohnenden Söhne mit ihren Familien waren sowieso immer da, dazu Samir, Alma und Amina natürlich. Nun war die ganze Familie zusammen. Ich ärgere mich jetzt noch dass ich von allen zusammen kein Gruppenbild gemacht habe. Schwiegermamas Lieblingsbeschäftigung ist kochen. Immer als wir da waren gab es etwas Leckeres. Im Sommer werden die Sachen draußen zubereitet. In einem riesigen offenen Grill wird mit Reisig ein heißes Feuer entfacht. An einem Eisenkabel hängt ein dicker Betondeckel. Dieser wird hinunter gelassen und stark erhitzt. Wenn das Feuer ausgebrannt ist, ist der Deckel ganz heiß. Die Pita oder das Hähnchen mit Gemüse und Kartoffel wird darunter gestellt, der Deckel abgesenkt. Jetzt gart das Gericht im eigenen Dunst, wie bei dem Tagine in Marokko. Lecker! 21 Juni 2012 Samirs Lieblingsstadt ist Konjic. Das ist kein Wunder, denn es ist ausgesprochen angenehmes Örtchen. Das Städtchen hat Hochgebirgsatmosphäre. Das enge Tal ist umgeben von dichtbewaldeten Bergen mit grauen Felsspitzen, durch die Stadt fließt das kristallklare Flüsschen Neretva. Es gibt noch einige Gebäude aus der österreichischen Zeit: ein Paar Kirchen, ein Kloster, dazu Schulen und Verwaltungsgebäude. Eine von den Deutschen am Ende des Zweiten Weltkrieges gesprengte türkische Brücke aus dem 17. Jahrhundert wurde wieder aufgebaut. In ihrer Nähe wird ein kleines türkisches Viertel historisierend rekonstruiert. Am Fluss gibt es einige gemütliche Hotels und Cafés mit Terrassen, einen Kieselstrand zum Sonnenbaden und eiskaltes Wasser zum Planschen. Außerdem gibt es unter jedem großen Baum in der Stadt sowieso noch eine gemütliche Terrasse zum Verweilen. Wir waren jetzt wieder mit Samirs eigenem Auto unterwegs. Endlich hatte die Reparatur geklappt: ein Kabel war ausgewechselt worden, das Auto lief wieder wie ne Eins. Wir bummelten durch die Stadt und am Fluss und genossen die Aussicht von einem Café am Hang oberhalb der alten Brücke. Bald wird es hier fast so aussehen wie in dem berühmten Mostar. Durch die engen Gassen der Altstadt und über einigen Baustellen landeten wir in einem engen Tal. Hier sah es noch ganz schön trostlos aus. Wir sahen fast nur noch Ruinen in den kleinen Dörfern, nur vereinzelt waren einige Häuser wiederaufgebaut worden. Eine kleine Kirche in einem Dorf stand ziemlich unversehrt da, auf der anderen Straßenseite gab es eine kaputte Fabrik, daneben die verkohlten Reste einer Schule. Ob hier jemals wieder Leben einkehren wird? Es ging jetzt bergauf und nach einer ganzen Weile und vielen Nadelkurven später schauten wir endlich auf den türkisfarbenen Borako Jezero See. Wir fuhren runter und mussten 5 Mark Eintritt zahlen. Die lohnten sich aber, der 200.000 m² große See war wunderschön. Nachdem wir die Umgebung ein bisschen èrkundet und ich die knackigen bosnischen Jungs beim Baden im kristallklarem Wasser béwundert hatte, setzten wir uns auf eine Holzterrasse über dem Wasser. Es war hier wirklich traumhaft schön: in dem Schatten riesiger Bäume hörten wir die Stille zu und aßen Forelle, hinter dem dicken Schilfgürtel schillerte das blaugrüne Wasser. Es war weit über 30° und es ging kaum ein Lüftchen, mein absolutes Traumwetter. Wieder oben in den Bergen folgten wir die enge Schlucht des Neretva. Hier wurden vereinzelt Rafting Touren angeboten. Wir ließen es gut sein und tranken Kaffee mit Blick auf die enge Schlucht und das schnell fließende Wasser weiter unten. Einige Camper hatten ihre Iglo Zelte am Ufer aufgebaut, unglaublich dass es im überfüllten Europa noch solche unberührte Plätze gibt. Etwas weiter hing eine Fußgänger Brücke an dünnen Seilen über die Schlucht, nur die nepalesische Yakkolonne fehlte hier noch.
Zuhause hatte Schwiegermama diesmal Hähnchen mit Salzkartoffeln unter dem Betondeckel. Alles gegart im eigenen Saft, wunderbar. Es ist so gemütlich hier im Rosengarten zu sitzen, wenn ich doch nur ein Paar Wörter bosnisch gewusst hätte! 22 Juni 2012
Samir ist ein Auto-Freak, für Zugfahren lässt er sich nicht sosehr begeistern. Darum machte ich heute den Ausflug nach Konjic alleine. Schon seit 1865 wurden in Bosnien jede Menge Schmalspurbahnen gebaut, aber die Hauptstrecken wurden erst kurz vor dem Ersten Weltkrieg auf Normalspurbreite umgebaut. Seitdem ist nichts mehr passiert. Um kurz nach sieben kauften wir mein Ticket nach Konjic im Original erhaltenen Bahnhof von Hadzici. Es gibt nur etwa zehn Züge am Tag, dafür aber jede Menge Personal. Ein superfetter Genosse, der die Zeit zwischen den Zugabfertigungen sichtlich nicht nutzt um das hochaufsprießende Unkraut aus den antiquierten Rosenbeeten zu rupfen, schrieb mein Ticket aus: 3,90 Mark, also 1,95€ für eine 60 minutige Bahnfahrt. Ein anderer uniformierter Bahnangestellter zeigte uns stolz die scheinbar noch funktionierenden Geräte aus der Habsburger Zeit. An der Wand saß noch jemand mit einem blauen Diensthemd und draußen stand einer mit einem Hämmerchen mit einem langen Stiel und schaute auf die Räder des Eilzuges nach Mostar. Ich ließ diesen 7.26 Uhr Zug abfahren und nahm den 7.41 Uhr Bummelzug um unterwegs alle kleinen Bahnhöfen fotografieren zu können. Das Schildchen mit dem Spiegelei wurde hochgehoben, ein Pfiff und wir rauschten los. Überraschenderweise reisten wir alle Erste Klasse, die Zweite Klasse Wagons schienen den Geist aufgegeben zu haben. Ich machte es mir bequem auf der weichen grünen Filzbank. Alle sechs Sitze waren für mich, in den drei Wagons verteilten sich nur einige Dutzend Fahrgäste. Der Schaffner kam gleich und prüfte eingehend mein handausgefülltes Ticket. Gleich tauchten wir in den ersten Tunnel. Viele weitere sollten folgen. Diese Bahnstrecke ist der absolute Hammer. Ich kann mich an keine so sensationelle Strecke erinnern wie diese, obwohl ich die letzten 60 Jahre eine Menge Zug gefahren bin. Durch wie vielen Tunnel rauschten wir diese eine Stunde? Durch 30? 40? Oder noch mehr? Diese Strecke ist eine absolute Meisterleistung der Bahningenieurkunst. Dazu gibt es viele hohe Brücken und Streckenabschnitte an steilen Hängen. Einige der Bahnhöfchen befanden sich noch im Originalzustand und wurden, wie mir Samir später erzählte, gerne als Kulisse für historische Filme genutzt. So auch der Bahnhof von Pazaric wo seine Eltern wohnen. Die Qualität der Bilder die ich unterwegs machte hielt sich in Grenzen, ich plante auf dem Weg zurück ein Filmchen zu drehen.
In Konjic hatte ich nun zweieinhalb Stunden Zeit um zu frühstücken und das Städtchen noch mal zu genießen. Ich kannte mich ja jetzt aus. Zuerst konnte ich mich nicht entscheiden, aber dann entschied ich mich für das drei Sterne Hotel „Konak“. Dieses Top Hotel hat eine wunderbare Terrasse am Fluss mit Aussicht auf die alte Brücke. Ich habe fast immer etwas zu meckern, aber hier stimmte wirklich alles. Ich setzte mich auf die Terrasse und in einem stilvollen modernen Ambiente genoss ich knuspriges frisches Brot, drei perfekt gebratene Spiegeleier mit leckeren Käse, dazu einen knackigen Tomatensalat und zwei „Machiatto Veliki“. Der Service war aufmerksam und hübsch in der hübschen Uniform. Die Toiletten gestyled und tadellos. Kostenfaktor: 13 Mark. Man bekommt in diesem Hotel schon Vollpension für zwei Personen für 84€! Weitersagen! Zurück nach Hadzici drehte ich einen zwölf minutigen Film. Da habe ich eine schöne Erinnerung an diese tolle Bahnfahrt. Nur die Aufnahme vom Klo sollte ich vielleicht rausschneiden. Auf der Rückfahrt sah ich bei jedem Bahnhof wieder einen Zugabfertiger und mindestens noch ein oder zwei Bahnhofchefs. Ich bin froh dass ich mit meinen 2 x 3,90 Mark Ticket (eine Mark ist ein DM) einen Beitrag für den Erhalt so vieler Arbeitsplätze liefern konnte. Samir hatte meine Abwesenheit genutzt für einen Frisörbesuch und kurzgeschnitten und rasiert holte er mich vom Bahnhof ab. Jetzt führte er mich in sein Lieblingsrestaurant oberhalb eines Supermarktes. Der Standard dieses Lokals war erstaunlich hoch. Die Klimaanlage war perfekt temperiert, man saß komfortabel in großen Korbsesseln und als Deko gab es Vergrößerungen alter Fotos von Sarajevo. Das bestellte Süppchen war eine große Schale Suppe, der leckere Hähnchenfiletsalat alleine hätte mich gesättigt. In Bosnien sind eben nur die Preise klein. Jetzt aßen wir schon wieder; Kremtorte! Wir saßen im Schatten des frischrenovierten Hauses von Samirs Eltern. Meiner Aufmerksamkeit galt nicht die wunderschöne Aussicht auf Pazaric, sondern die süßen Püppis vom Nachbarn. Die Mama stand hinter dem Zaun, aber die sechs Wochen alten kleinen Mäuschen konnten unten durch krabbeln. Das braune sah aus wie eine Robbe und war Amina versprochen worden. Das weißbuntbraune war putzig aber scheu und bissig. Das dritte, ein Mädchen, supersüß und noch zu haben. Gleich schieb ich Christian eine sms ob ich ein schwarzweißes Hündchen mit Schlappohren mitbringen sollte. „Lieber nicht“ kam bald die Antwort aus Berlin. Da sind wir noch Mal davon gekommen! Schwiegermama hatte natürlich wieder gekocht. Wer weiß, vielleicht geht der Flieger nicht, dann kann ich ja nach Berlin zurückrollen. Ich ließ also mit mir nicht lumpen und haute abermals rein. Es war ja mein Abschiedsessen und wirklich lieb gemeint. Nachher machten wir noch einige Fotos vor Schwiegerpapas Stolz, dem üppig blühenden Rosentor. Samir brachte mich nach Sarajevo zurück. Der Vermieter war bei Anja und Zlatan und stellte allerhand Forderungen: Ausziehen ist immer mit viel Stress verbunden. Jetzt verabschiedeten wir uns. Ich hoffe dass Samir und seine Familie noch drei sorgenfreie und glückliche Wochen in ihrer Heimat verbringen mögen. Abends gab es eine kleine Fußballparty. Eine amerikanisch-bosnische Familie aus Belgrad sorgte für gemütliche Stunden. Ich bin mal gespannt ob Anja in Wittingen auch so viele internationale Gäste bekommt. Die leckeren Hähnchenknöchelchen rührte ich nicht an, ich hatte nur noch Platz für ein paar rohe Möhrchen. Es gab viel Geplappere, nur die Tore wurden beachtet. Und das war auch gut so. 23 Juni 2012 Hier in Sarajevo war es viel wärmer als auf Samirs Bergkuppe. Um halb acht wurde ich schweißgebadet wach und ging runter zu LiSi. Vor Freude mich zu sehen machte sie erst mal in die Küche. Jetzt schnell raus für eine „große Tour“, entlang des Flusses und dann über die zweite Brücke auf der anderen Seite zurück. Anja und Zlatan saßen schon am gemütlichen Frühstückstisch. An diesem Morgen sollten wir gar nichts mehr schaffen, im Nu war es halb zwei und musste ich zum Flughafen. Um erst auf dem letzten Drücker los zu gehen ist mir zu stressig. Der Flieger hatte Verspätung, Anja und ich konnten uns in dem Flughafencafé noch ein bisschen länger unterhalten.

Franche-Comte Visit: 2018-6
2018-06-20 - A friend of mine who had visited Besancon, had told me that there wasn’t a lot to see, so half a day would be enough. I regret that I believed him. I arrived in Besancon very cheaply using two FLIXBUS busses from Basel via Muhlhouse. I stayed in the very pleasant inexpensive IBIS Budget opposite the Gare de Besancon Viotte, where the bus arrived. From here it only was a short stroll to the historic city centre, which is almost surrounded by an meander of the Doubs River. Within the old city I did not see any modern eyesores, the whole city has been build in one style out of grey stone and all buildings and churches have black slate roofs. I visited some beautiful churches and tried to walk all the streets and alleys, quite impossible in half a day, as the city was a lot bigger than I had expected. There are a couple of nice squares and parks to hang around in cafés and restaurants with outside terraces. I crossed under the Porte Noire, a Roman Arch from the second century, on the way to the main sight, the citadel, a World Heritage Sight. The 17th century citadel is located in between the oxbow of the Doubs River and from ist walls you have a fantastic view on the old town and the surrounding hills. Here, there are a lot of museums to keep yourself entertained for hours. I skipped the Resistance and Deportation Museum, but saw the Historic Museums and the Natural History Museum with the little Zoo. Back in town I wondered how busy it had got. A lot of people seem to spend the early evening strolling around town. I joined in and was sad that I had booked a QUI bus for the next morning to Paris.

Fribourg Visit: 2012-10
2013-11-30 - Murten / Morat Just before I got back to the train station I looked on my mobile and saw that it was just about time that a train would leave for Ins. I tried to be a bit quicker. In the station hall I saw on the information board that the train was still there and fortunately it stood on platform number one. I sprinted to the train, but the opening button didn’t react anymore. Suddenly the button turned green. The conductor enabled me to get in. I raised my thumb to thank him. Because my ticket stated that I was going via Ins I was so stupid to get off there. Very stupid, because the train I had been so lucky to catch was the actual train to Murten. Now I had to wait on the rainy platform for the next train to come. Mr. globe-trotter, shame on you! The phone rang; it was Vee from Thailand to tell me that he would go on a business trip to the UK shortly. (How the hell did he know that I was in Switzerland?). We talked for a while, and time passed quickly. He had to pay only two cent per minute, he said. I hope it was just as cheap for me? Soon I will see it on my telephone bill. The old city of Murten is just minutes away from the station and the place seemed to be just slightly bigger than Saint Ursanne. It is one of the few bilingual cities, but German language and culture seemed to be prevailing. After passing the impressive fifteenth century gate you cannot believe your eyes: within the city walls, it’s a perfectly preserved mediaeval fairytale town. I could expect that Japanese tourists freak out when they see this: colorful three and four story houses, closely packed together on a minimum of space. All the windows have shutters and window boxes with luxuriantly blooming geraniums. Every third house seems to be a hotel or restaurant. I didn’t see any tourist now, but I could imagine that the place is packed in summer. Now, a slight drizzle rained down on me. Along the outer city wall I strolled down to the lake. Gulls and ducks floated motionless on the glassy lake. Hazy days can be so strangely silent. Apart from a few joggers there was nobody in sight. I sat down on a wet bench and gazed over the immobile lake. A slightly darker shade of pale at the horizon must have been the hills at the opposite shore. I rushed back up to town. After one hundred steps I stopped counting. No wonder my muscles were so sore the next day! Again I was lucky to catch my train and minutes later I was traveling through a rolling land of vineyards and fruit trees. The drizzle had changed into rain now and it got dark as well. When I arrived in Biel I hadn’t seen the third lake of “La Région des Trois Lacs”. Not that I would state that I had really seen “Le Lac de Neuchatel” or “Le Lac de Morat”, it had been too hazy all day.

Gabon Visit: -

Gansu Visit: -

Geneva Visit: 2012-4
2012-07-01 - Wie in den VS gibt es am Flughafen Zubringerbusse zu den Hotels. Nach wenigen Minuten konnten wir in den Crown Plaza Bus einsteigen, fuhren um drei Ecken und schon waren wir da. Wir bekamen einen Upgrade und schauen jetzt für 55 Fränkelis auf zwei Tankstellen und eine verlassene Villa. Zwei Bushaltestellen weiter in Richtung Innenstadt gibt es ein Shopping Center mit Hurra, einem Supermarkt. Christian braucht immer unbedingt Getränke mit Kohlensäure für die Nacht. Oft artete das Ende eines Reisetages in Stress aus um eben dieses für ihn lebensnotwendige Bedürfnis befriedigen zu können. Diesmal stehen schon eine Stunde nach Ankunft acht Sprudelflaschen, mit unter anderem Rivella, in Reih und Glied in der Fensterbank. Juppi! Neulich las ich in der „Harald Tribune“ einen Artikel über „standard of living“ und „quality of living“ vieler Weltstädte. Abu Dhabi schloss da als Stadt mit dem höchsten Lebensstandard und Genf als Stadt mit der höchsten Lebensqualität ab. Da ich in Januar in Abu Dhabi war habe ich eine gute Vergleichsmöglichkeit. (Obwohl man natürlich Standard und Qualität nicht mit einander vergleichen kann.) Auf jedem Fall muss ich schon mal feststellen, dass auch hier in Genf die Bäume nicht in den Himmel wachsen. Direkt neben dem Hotel gibt es reihenweise trostlose Wohnsilos. Da hat Abu Dhabi mit seinen unendlich vielen Palästen die Nase vorn. Bei Check-in bekamen wir für die Zeit unseres Aufenthaltes eine Gratiskarte für den öffentlichen Verkehr. Wir fuhren mit der Linie 10 erst mal Richtung Innenstadt zum Bahnhof. Hier war am Freitagabend die Hölle los. Es gab kaum Fahrpläne und kein Personal. Nach langem herumirren gaben wir auf, morgen versuchen wir noch mal herauszufinden wann und wo der Zug nach Lyon fährt. Nach einem ausgiebigen Salatbüffet und leckeren Schweinemedaillons im Hotelrestaurant fielen wir todmüde ins Bett. Ich nehme zurück was ich gestern über Genf gesagt habe: Paläste und Luxusappartments gibt es hier genauso wie in Abu Dhabi en Masse. Das Crown Plaza liegt in der Nähe des Flughafens und ziemlich am Fußende der Stadt und auch im Zentrum haben sich leider in den Sechzigern und Siebzigern die Architekten ausgetobt, aber im Allgemeinen ist die Stadt sehr einheitlich gebaut und wunderschön. Vor allem an den Quais Gustave Ador und Mont Blanc, am linken und rechten Ufer des Genfer Sees, gibt es herrliche Häuser im Stile des Belle Epoque, Art Nouveau und Jugendstil. Nur das Zentrum ist dicht bebaut. Rings herum, vor allem am See gibt es unzählige schöne Parkanlagen. Nachdem wir uns am Bahnhof von der Richtigkeit des morgigen Zuges überzeugt hatten, liefen wir über die Brücken der Rhone Insel zur Altstadt. Ich habe nie gewusst dass die Rhone aus dem Genfer See fließt. Sie entsteht aus dem Rhone Gletscher im Kanton Wallis, fließt bei Le Bouveret in den See und am anderen Ende, hier in Genf, wieder raus. Hier am Wasser hat Genf durch die vielen Brücken und klassischen Häuserzeilen am See eine gewisse Ähnlichkeit mit Stockholm. Die eigentliche Altstadt liegt auf einem Hügel am Rive Gauche. Unterhalb gibt es die schicke Rue de la Crois, eine Fußgängerzone mit Straßenbahnen und unzähligen Luxusläden. Wir kletterten hoch zur Kathedrale, setzten uns auf ein Mäuerchen und machten unser Frühstückspicknick mit frischem Baguette, Salami und holländischer Gouda. Die gotische Kathedrale stammt aus dem 12. Jahrhundert und ist umgeben von hübschen Palästen. Nicht weit entfernt gibt es einen schweizerischen Bilderbuchplatz: Rund herum stehen hübsche alte Häuser mit Fensterläden, in der Mitte des Platzes plätschert ein alter Brunnen mit Trinkwasser, überall gibt es Kästen mit blühenden Blumen, auf den Terrassen blinzeln die Leute in die Frühlingssonne. Wo gibt es jetzt den Bus Nummer 8? Der Itzeplitz wurde langsam sauer wieder so weit laufen zu müssen, aber es ist ja auch nicht einfach sich in diesem Gassengewirr zu Recht zu finden. Ich hatte mich um eine Parallelstraße vertan, zufällig fanden wir da die Russische Kirche. Schnell machte ich ein paar Fotos, brannte vier Kerzen für Gamilla, Mama, Tante Alie und Veronika und rannte zurück zu Christian der auf einer Parkbank wartete. Er hatte Rückenprobleme. Weiter unten rechts fanden wir den Bus und fuhren zur französischen Grenze. Nach einigem hin und her sahen wir dann die „Téléphérique Salève“, eine Seilbahn die uns auf 1097m hochfuhr. Mit an Bord in der Gondel gab es einige Typen mit dreckigen, verschwitzten T-Shirts und ihren BTX Rädern. Ne coole Sache damit den Steilhang wieder runter zu rasen. Wir machten oben einen gemächlichen Spaziergang. Sah man von der Seilbahnterrasse die leicht beschneite Hügelkette des Jura, gab die Straße weiter hinten den Blick frei auf das ewige Eis der Alpen. Viele unbekannte Gipfel reihen sich da aneinander, in der Mitte, leider Wolkenverhangen, das Massiv des Mont Blanc. Auf einer abschüssigen Wiese, umgeben von gelben Schlüsselblümchen und mit Blick auf die Berge, genossen wir unser zweites Frühstück. Wieder unten fuhr der Bus Nr. 8 durch bis „Nations“, nördlich der Innenstadt. Hier befinden sich die riesigen Gebäude der UNO komplett mit einer vierer Reihe Fahnen aller Mitglieder entlang der Auffahrt. Ganz vorne links die Fahne von Afghanistan. Afghanistan an erster Stelle! Das Alphabet macht‘s möglich! Aus dem Boden des überdimensionierten Vorplatzes sprudelten unzählige Fontänen auf Kosten der internationalen Steuerzahler. Außer dem bisschen Wasser und die Büros im UNO Gebäude haben alle Mitglieder noch eine „Mission“, eine Art Ständige Vertretung zu finanzieren. Dazu kommt natürlich auch noch ihre richtige Botschaft in der Hauptstadt Bern. Kein Wunder dass die Schweiz 22% Ausländeranteil hat. Es wurde jetzt immer später und noch hatten wir unser Pflichtprogramm nicht geschafft. Abermals fuhren wir durch die Stadt zum linken Ufer. In der Uhrenstadt Genf lichteten wir uns gegenseitig ab vor ihrer größten Uhr, der aus blühenden Blumen bestehenden Sonnenuhr. Ab und zu wurden wir jetzt getroffen von Tröpfchen der 140 Meter hohen Wasserfontäne. Mit 500 Liter Wasser pro Sekunde schießt sie aus dem See heraus in die Höhe und der Wind bildet daraus ein gigantisches Segel. Es war jetzt ganz schön frisch geworden. Dunkle Wolken zogen auf. Schnell noch zu den zwei großen Uferparks „Les Granges“ und „Eaux-Vives“, beiden mit hübschen Schlössern im üppigen Grün. Plötzlich wurden wir von einem warmen Wind erfasst. Wahnsinn, hatte jemand die Heizung angestellt? Mit einem kleinen Fährboot, „Mouette“ genannt, fuhren zurück zum rechten Ufer. Wunderschöne Parks erstrecken sich hier über mehrere Kilometer am Ufer. Die Sonne war wieder da und glasklar funkelten die Gletscher der Alpen hinter dem See. Christian hatte zwischendurch noch mal eingekauft und nun versuchten wir eine windfreie Bank zu finden. Vergebens. Egal, wir wollten nur kurz noch mal was essen. Jetzt wurde es langsam Zeit um zum Hotel zurück zu fahren. Von einem Augenblick zum Nächsten wurden wir wieder von einem unglaublich warmen Wind umgeben. Wie war so was möglich? Das musste der Föhn sein, wovon man so oft gehört hat. Wahnsinn. Und was macht jetzt der Vergleich mit Abu Dhabi? Es gibt viel Ähnliches: Beide Städte liegen am Wasser und sind gesäumt von schönen Boulevards und üppigen Parks. Beide haben massenweise Luxusgeschäfte, tolle Hotels und schöne Restaurants. Aber natürlich ist es hier viel schöner: Die fantastische Lage zwischen zwei Gebirgen kann man nicht kaufen und außerdem gibt es überall urgemütliche Kneipen und Terrassen. Als Tourist hatte ich aber in Abu Dhabi einen höheren Lebensstandard und konnte mir alles leisten. Hier in Genf steht man als armes Würstchen draußen. Die Preise sind so unglaublich, da vergeht einem den Apetit schon beim Lesen der Speisekarte. Also freuen wir uns morgen auf Frankreich.

Glarus Visit: 2014-8
2015-08-17 - Three days off! That’s too short to go to Zuidwolde and work on house or garden, so why not see my last Canton in Switzerland? I didn’t manage to get a ticket for the first flight, but nevertheless landed in Zürich just before eleven. The train station is located under the airport terminal. I got a ticket within minutes and off I went to the Zürich Hauptbahnhof. Here I just missed the hourly train to Linthal. Not to have to hang around for 45 minutes, I took a train direction Chur. After some long tunnels, the train came out in the open along the Zürich See. It was raining off and on. The slopes around the lake are densely populated. On the way I noticed some wonderful palace-like mansions. These residences must be among the most expensive places in the world to live. I got off in Ziegelbrücke, it had started to rain again. In Switzerland, this July, had been the wettest July in recorded history. No way to walk around in Ziegelbrücke. I decided to have a coffee in the station shop. This shop seemed to be a local hot spot, people were drinking coffee or hanging around between the shelves. I was greeted by the lady behind the counter with a friendly „Grüezi“. The coffee, in hiding deep down in a paper cup, set me back CHR3,30, about €2,80 the prize of a big Latte Macchiato served in a café in Berlin. I got back on the train and not very long after that we arrived in Glarus. It had stopped raining. Trains run hourly, I decided to have a quick look the capital city of my 26. Canton. My „Rough Guide“ said, Glarus wouldn’t worth a visit, but I liked the place. First of all I am not travelling to places because they are nice, but simply to see them. When they are nice, ok, if not, I’ve been there. Glarus featured a station building like an old castle with to the left, just across the street, a nice park with a pond with big fountains. Opposite to the right there was a nice traditional Grand Hotel - Hotel Glarnerhof - and all over town there were mansions located in beautiful gardens. This place looked like a rich town. Slightly upward, a big church with twin towers, dominated the city. At the end of the town was another little church, more a chapel, on a little hill, overlooking Glarus. It took some energy to get up there, energy I didn’t have after this week of very hard work. Just the little hill showed me how terribly tired I was. I had no power at all! It started to rain again, I rushed back to the station and continued to Linthal. The Canton Glarus consists out of one big valley. Old farmhouses abound on the green valley floor, left and right the hills are densely forested, white waterfalls rush down the steep slopes. Beautiful scenery! Far too quick the train arrived in Linthal. This wasn’t a big place, but just a hamlet with a church. A bit off the track church spires revealed further villages. I checked the bus departure times for the Klausenpass and walked up to the ropeway. The ten minute ride to Braunwald costs CHF7,20. In Linthal it had been drizzling out of thick clouds, minutes later I was surrounded by them. In Braunwald the houses were barely visible. After a little detour I found my „hotel“, a backpacker lodge where Christian had reserved two nights for me. This was the cheapest place we had found in Braunwald and as I saw now, the ugliest building in town as well. Concrete in different levels and orange colored balconies, awful! The young lady at the reception, audibly German, was very friendly though and the room ok: a room with a bathroom, a balcony, breakfast included for €56 per night is a good deal in Switzerland. After a nap and a shower I went out for a walk. This was a beautiful rural town with lots of traditional old farm houses. Only the ones at the street I could see, the farms higher were not more than a grey shade. The visibility changed off and on between 50 and a few hundred meters. I walked back and went to the super ugly bar to get something to eat. I expected backpacker prizes, but they were real Swiss: a pork steak, French fries, a salad plus a small beer for CHF36, that’s about €30. The food was good though and it was plentiful. While chewing I watched the crowd. Next to me was the table for the regulars, sitting around the „Stammtisch“. Three, four men were drinking beer, hardly speaking a word. Once in a while one made a remark, a short reaction followed, a giggle and silence again. Other guys turned up, after some big Grüezis and a few words about their day, silence again. Even with the nice lady serving them, they didn’t talk. A short movement just above the table and she came with a small beer, an ample movement and she turned up with a big bottle…… how exiting! I slept around the clock and the next morning I felt really refreshed. The main feature of Braunwald is that it’s a traffic-free town. Cars have to be parked next to the ropeway down in Linthal. You can hear the silence. Breakfast was basic: coffee, orange jus, bread, butter, cheese and of course, Muesli! It was still early, but the Tourist Information Office was open and I was provided with some maps. The lady in charge suggested me to walk up the gravel road - the one I had walked last night - and later chose one of the many possible tracks. She suggested the „Panoramaweg“, as all the others might be very muddy after these weeks of heavy rainfalls. This morning, the clouds were even thicker than yesterday, I couldn’t see anything. All the houses, even the ones at the street, were not much more than grey patches. I was going up and up, Braunwald lies at about 1200m, the mountains behind the town reach well over 3000m. I had the feeling that the clouds were slowly lifting at walking speed. I could look down now, but further up the slope and mountains were still covered in clouds. After crossing some meadows and many rushing little streams I entered the forest. What a forest! The mix of enormous century old fir trees and the lush vegetation beneath them was simply beautiful. I made lots of pictures. There was still no real view, so I turned my attention to the plants and flowers at the roadside. Where ever I walked, all meadows and even the forest, were fenced off by thin electric wire to protect nature against cattle. Here I didn’t see any, but sometimes I heard the cowbells jingle through the fog. The gravel road brought me up ever higher. At steep slopes there was all kinds of avalanche protection, most barriers completely overgrown by weed. A woman appeared out of the mist, the first human being I met on the trail, the bad weather seemed to keep off most hikers. This German lady had been here since two weeks and told me that the heavy rains had wasted the mayor part of her holiday. “Today is a great day!” she said, “you are lucky!” I wondered why she hadn’t just continued a bit further South, in Italy the weather is always great in summer. Suddenly it got a bit clearer. I seemed to be between two layers of clouds. Above me the sky was still grey, but in front of me a long ridge became visible, the slopes further down on both sides were hidden in clouds, very unreal! At the end of the ridge there were some benches and road signs in different directions. I stood on the Chnügrad at 1850m. After a short break, I decided to continue to Gumen, as the lady at the Tourist Information had told me that there was a restaurant there. I passed another ridge, the Seeblengrad at 1845m, came through a dark, wet tunnel and finally arrived at Gumen at 1910m. The restaurant was a big place and not far from a ropeway, so people could get here easily. Despite the ropeway, except for a family of four passing by, there was nobody around. A woman was cleaning the tables on the outside terrace and told me that the place was “self-service”. From the lonely cook inside I ordered coffee plus the specialty of the day, “Kaiserschmarrn”, a simple dish made of egg, milk, flour and sugar, served with hot vanilla sauce. The restaurant - I sat outside on the terrace - seemed to be surrounded by jingle bells, but I didn’t see any cows. Back on the trail that would change dramatically, there were too many of them. The signs led me to a meadow. I entered through a narrow gate and soon I was surrounded by cows. They all used my trail. To the left the sloop went steep down, to the right steep up. No way to pass these stupid creatures. I did a lot of shouting but that did not impress them at all. They seemed to be used to people and just ignored me. No other way then slowly follow the crowd and hope to get on. I sank up to my ankles into the soft mix of dirt and cow shit. The next evening, in the plane back to Berlin, I could still smell it, people giving me strange looks. The cows were one and two year olds, some were playing making love right in front of me. I strongly hoped that they wouldn’t find me attractive. Another fence blocked the trail, the cows climbed upward. I felt relieved to get out of the meadow. The landscape got more and more barren. It got a bit clearer now and I saw the family following me, but later they seemed to give up and I was completely on my own again. The signage was great. Either there were proper signs-boards, or white-red-white stripes were painted on the rocks. High above me, one rock seemed to be painted orange. I stood still, watched it thoroughly and tried to figure out what to make of it, as it suddenly waved at me: somebody with a bright orange jacked was sitting there. I was crossing an area with flat slippery white rocks, intersected with deep cracks. It looked as Switzerland was breaking apart here. Switzerland this bastion of stability on the brink of becoming a new Rift Valley? I took great care not to slip into one of these cracks. I met two men standing on a rock and eating something. The clouds were so dense I did not see them until they were close. We talked and I told them, that because of the lack of view I concentrated on the little flowers hidden between the rocks. “Yes we too” they said, “and we even saw Edelweiss!” I concentrated on both rocks and cracks, plus on Edelweiss now, but I didn’t find any. I got tired and had a break. I still had some bread, cheese and tomatoes from home, sat down on a rock and ate. And what did I see 15 cm in front of my shitty shoes? Edelweiss! I couldn’t believe it! And then I saw some more of them - a little bush of three - and made some pics. An orange patch appeared on the trail. “We met before, I waved at you!” This young lady told me how she enjoyed this mysterious day in the mists. I had enjoyed myself as well, but would have preferred to see some mountains. “I will walk back now” she said. “But the signs say the Bärentritt leads back to Braunwald!” I said. “It does, but it’s very steep. But there are iron ropes to hold on to”. I wasn’t in the mood to walk back the same trail for five or six hours and followed the signs to the Bärentritt. It got clearer now, in the distance I saw a glacier on a steep slope, its higher section still hidden in clouds. The opposite side got visible and I noticed that I had walked along a steep rim. I followed the trail and suddenly had this amazing view all the way down on green meadows, Braunwald and the little church of Linthal on the valley floor. Wooow! The descent was steeper than I expected. In fact it was steeper than any track I had walked on for many years, even in Nepal. The combination of being just by myself, not having a stick, starting to get tired and everything being wet and slippery because of the fog, did make me feel a bit uneasy. At least I still had time enough - it was about four now - so I could take it easy. I made stops in safe places and took some nice pics. The combination of lush green grass, flowers next to the trail and the steep rocks in the distance were picture perfect. My knees started hurting and I was happy that the slope eventually got less steep. The abundance of flowers in the meadows was overwhelming. The jingle bells got louder, soon I passed the first cows. One cow, standing in a sea of long grass and flowers, looked at me. The picture I made of her couldn’t have been more Swiss: her big bell, the flowers, the pine forests, the rocks in the background….. Finally I got to a gravel road. There were lots of cows around here. A young man and three girls appeared, all of them carrying long wooden sticks. “What’s going on here?” I asked the guy. “We are rounding up the cows, they have to be milked!” The whole thing did not seem very professional. There was a lot of whistling and shouting. I think these young people weren’t real farmers, more youths trying out Alpine pasture life for a summer. After I passed the lonely farm the cows were heading to, there was a sign board again. Braunwald was indicated twice with different walking times. I was tired and choose the shortest connection, most likely a wrong choice, as a muddy trail through a forest was endlessly leading steep down and an imposition towards my knees. It would have been much better to have walked this whole tour the other way around. Steep up and gently down. More farms came into sight. The weather was beautiful now, the sun had come out. Braunwald just consists out of old wooden farmhouses, scattered on the pastures over a big area, really beautiful. I met the German lady again who had been the first human being on the trail this morning. We talked for a while. She was staying in a B&B with kitchen facilities. “I will cook something now” she said. As she did not invite me I headed home and ordered - it was after seven already - something from the German girl. Chicken nuggets and chips for just CHF19, a bargain. My third and last day! I had slept like a log after yesterday’s ordeal and felt really refreshed. I stepped out onto my balcony and could not believe the view! Mountains, mountains, mountains. Mountains everywhere! Today it was crystal clear, the sun was out, the sky deeply blue. “I hope this will last a bit” a thought skeptically, as my father always used to say that “an early guest doesn’t stay long”. How right he would be. At least it wouldn’t not rain today, but already on the way down with the ropeway, the mountains were sticking their heads into the clouds again. The bus was waiting in front of the station, there were no other travelers in sight. And I had already worried not to be able to get on without a reservation. The driver asked me if I had some kind of discount card. “No? Then this trip is going to be very expensive for you! CHF40 (about €34 for about 45km). I had the front seat, the bus driver was very talkative. “Many people in Switzerland have a 100% card” he said. “They use the card to go to work and in the weekend they make daytrips.” How true he would be! Just minutes later a train arrived and about everybody disembarking wanted to board the bus. This marked the end of our German conversation, from now on he talked Swiss to the passengers. A second bus had to be called to seat all the people. The bus driver seemed to love his job and must have performed well. There were lots of giggles and laughs as he told his audience about the Klausenpass. I hardly understood a word and concentrated on the beautiful scenery. On the street there was a lot more action now as a bit over a year ago when I got stuck on the other side of the pass because the road was still closed. Only from the end of June to the middle of October this pass is open to traffic. There weren’t many cars on the road, but there were lots and lots of motorbikes and even more bicycles around. It seemed to be a holiday today - National Day - August first. We passed some small villages and farms and were driving through the forest now. We passed a few tunnels and soon, after some hairpins, came out in the open above the tree line. The road got very narrow, approaching traffic had to stop and back up several times to let the bus pass. Sometimes we were driving behind the bicycles as the road was too narrow to overtake them. There was a small village up here with, that bit I understood, a huge population of skiers in winter. The driver dropped me at the pass at 1952m, an easy height to remember, as I was born that year. “You just walk down to the next hotel and board the next bus in one hour” he had told me. Except that one, there was only one more bus in the late afternoon, too late for me with my evening flight. Up here in 1952m there was a café with an outside terrace full of bikers and cyclists. I seemed to be the only person in street dress and felt a bit out of place. I walked down. Many cyclist passed me at an enormous speed. 40km? 50? Faster? “Sometimes I ride well over 70” told me a guy half an hour later at the mountain lodge. For me this seemed fun between life and death: a stone, a rabbit, a cow……. I boarded the bus again and enjoyed the view on the mountains. Some summits were still covered with snow. Soon the first farms appeared and I reached the area where I had got stuck last spring. Finally I had made it! I had crossed the Klausenpass! I passed familiar territory now, but nevertheless enjoyed the beautiful trip down to Altdorf. The center of the city was blocked because of the National Day celebrations. This is heavy Wilhelm Tell country. A big statue of him and his son with an apple on his head dominate the village square. I had seen the place last year and continued to Flüelen at the end of Lake Lucerne where I bearded the train back to Zürich. Here I crisscrossed the city for a couple of hours, took the train to the airport and flew back to Berlin.

Goias Visit: -

Graubunden Visit: 2003-9
2014-01-09 - We had six days off and from Berlin we took the ICE-train to Basel, changed trains to Zürich, spend the night there and the next morning we started our tour through Southern Switzerland with our “four day Swiss pass”. It was one of the last trips we would make with our little dog Gamilla. We knew she was not going to live forever so we enjoyed her company tremendously. The train trip from Zürich to Chur is beautiful, too bad that the weather turned from bad to worse, and by the time we arrived in Chur it was raining. We had reserved a room in Hotel “Drei Könige”, a 200 year old hotel with rooms and dormitory beds as well. Our room under the roof was cozy, we could hear the rain. As it was useless to walk around in the rain we walked back to the train station and took the “Arosa Express” to Arosa. This narrow-gauge train trip is beautiful. It still rained a bit, but this made the scenery look lush and green. The train passed many traditional wooden farms and wooden station buildings. We passed some high bridges. Once in a while we were traveling through the clouds. In Arosa it rained, as soon as we wanted to walk to town, it started pouring. It was really impossible to walk around. There was no other thing to do than wait for the train to go back. We looked at the lake nearby with a big fountain in it, as if it wasn’t wet enough yet. The trip down to Chur was just as beautiful and back in town it was still raining. We made a quick tour through the town and saw the cathedral on “Hof”, the church St Martin and the historical Rathaus. Then we rushed through some narrow alleys back to the hotel and spend the evening in our room. This is very unusual for us, as we always try to use every single minute for sightseeing. The next morning the weather was fantastic and we enjoyed our tour in the Panorama Couch of the “Bernina Express”. We passed famous high bridges and through a lot of tunnels. In Punt Muragi we changed to a normal train. In Pontresina the train made a long stop and had enough time to walk to the rim to look down on St Moritz. The mountain scenery here is just fantastic, we must come back one day. Now we came over an endless high plateau above the timberline and made stops at stations in the middle of nowhere like “Alp Grum” and “Gavaglia”. Most obviously we had crossed the line between the German and Italian speaking parts of the country. Now the train curved its way down to Tirano in Italy. Just before town the train made a perfect circle on an endless viaduct- perhaps the most famous circular viaduct in the world - to loose altitude and enter the town over one of its main streets. We spend a lovely afternoon and evening in Tirana and its surrounding hills and continued the next morning by “Postbus” through Northern Italy, along the shores of the beautiful Lago di Como to Bellinzona in Tessin/Ticino.

Guangdong Visit: 2011-3
2013-02-10 - The next morning we arrived without problems at Shenzhen’s super modern bus station. The place looks like an enormous glass and steel egg that just landed from space. Fantastic! The Check-Inn procedures are the same as in an airport. It must have been about fifteen years ago that I travelled in China for the first time four days in Cantom by train from Hong Kong. At that time the scenery along the tracks was just awfull. I could discribe it as “burned earth”. Not very much seemed to grow here and there were little half ruined facturies all over the place. Everything looked dirty. What a difference now. On both sides of the perfect highway we saw beautiful fertile fields as far as the eye could see. New villages had been build and towns looked new and clean. Foshan’s bus station was located in the old city center of town. Here, there still was an atmosphere of the past. The sights of the city, some old temples and gardens were here as well. Stupid enough we did not see the sights right away. In spite of our big bags we should at least have gone to see the big temple “Zu Miao”. This is the most important temple in the whole of Guangdong province. Instead we took a taxi to the hotel. Foshan is a huge place; it has over six million inhabitants. I had never heard of this city. It only became a destination on our tour because of the hotel. And that happened to be in one of the new modern outskirts of the city. The InterContinental Hotel Foshan is an impressive place. The lobby resembled “The Big Hall of the People”. I renamed it “The big Hall of the Empty Armchairs”; there were hardly any other guests in sight. No wonder that I was able to get staff rate here. The central part of the high ceiling consisted of a multicolored glass dome supported by black and yellow marbled pillows. Despite the fact that there were hardly any other guests, there was, apart from the two doormen outside, always somebody right behind the entrance to welcome the guests and guide them to the reception in the rear part off the lobby. We got a beautiful room on the 28th floor with a view on a new Chinese style garden with an enormous lake in it. Our bathroom was even better: all marble, thick bullet-proof glass and mirrors. I liked an enormous round mirror in front of the wall to wall mirror. A mirror on top of another one! We made a walk through the gardens below and an enormous shopping center next to the hotel. All luxury brands had a shop here. In the open hall there was a corner with an exclusive international supermarket. I wondered who would buy fresh milk all the way from New Zeeland. Don’t they have cows in China? Anyhow, when you don’t like produce from New Zealand, just get fresh milk from Holland, France or Wisconsin, USA! Guangzhou Early next morning we took the subway to Canton or Guangzhou as is called nowadays, about 20km further in a northeasterly direction. We tried to cover the whole city in one day, but didn’t succeed as we constantly lingered too long in beautiful places. We got off at the Gong Yuan Qian Subway Station. Next to the exit we found the small “Renmin Park”. There were a lot of people here and everybody was doing something: play badminton, give the bird some fresh air, write Chinese poems on the pavement with water, make music or dance. Two blocks further West, in the Liurong Lu Street, we had a bowl of soup. A bit further up in this cozy Chinese street we saw a number of shops selling religious artifacts. Thirty years ago this wouldn’t have been allowed. We got to the “Temple of the Six Banyan Trees” with a lot of temples and other buildings with curly roofs around a shady square. Towering above the banyan trees was a nine story pagoda, funny enough there were 17 stories on the inside of the tower. Just one block further west, we visited the “Guangxiao Temple” with a ten meter high statue of Lord Buddha. Both of these beautifully preserved temples were about 1500 years old. We crossed the eight lane Dongfeng Zhonglu to get to the Sun-Yatsen Memorial Hall, a beautiful theater style building with a hexagonally, blue tiled roof. The gardens of this memorial are already part of the extensive “Yuexiu-Park”. In this park we spend the better part of the day, the gardens were just beautiful. There were a number of sights: the “Five Goat Statue” and a memorial tower from 1380. Instead of photographing the sights I hunted the cute guys with my camera. Christian said that my behavior was embarrassing and that I should be ashamed of myself. Now there was only little time left to see the downtown area. We took the subway from the station in front of the main entrance of the park to “Haizhu Square” besides the Pearl River. We walked a few blocks east to get to the pedestrianized “Beijing Lu”. It was getting dark now and the neon lights were turned on. In one of the numerous clothing stores I found a new sweater with a hood for 99 Yuan. It was time to get back to the subway, but Christian was not in the mood to take a train during rush hour. In front of the “Gongyuan Qian Subway Station”, right at the spot where we had started our sightseeing tour, we got a taxi back to Foshan. All the way over the Zhongshan Wulu and its extension the Zhongshan Qilu there were a never ending row of modern glass and steel towers. It was impossible to see where Guangzhou ends or Foshan starts. It is just one incredibly big city of about 17 million people, 10,5 million in Guangzhou and more than 6 million in Foshan! Of course Christian had bought us some nice things to eat and so we could spend our evening in our beautiful room enjoying the view on the colorfully illuminated park. Very conveniently there was a luxury bus service from the hotel to Guangzhou’s airport (Baiyun Guoji Feijichang) almost 35 kilometers away. From there we flew to our next city on this trip: Nanjing.

Guangxi Visit: 2013-4
2013-11-20 - Die Überfahrt dauerte fast drei Stunden. Nicht weil die Entfernung so groß ist – es sind nur 30 Kilometer – sondern weil wir die halbe Zeit vor Anker lagen. Wahrscheinlich gibt es keine große Anlegekapazitäten. Zuerst fuhren einige Autos und Busse runter, dann konnten wir aussteigen. Unser Grüppchen achtete darauf zusammen zu bleiben. Irgendwann kam unser Bus runtergefahren, erkennbar an dem Nummernschild. Von allen Seiten kamen jetzt Leute angewetzt, die Büchse war voll. Schuhe ausziehen, unsere dominante Begleiterin schubste uns vorwärts zu unseren Schlafstätten. Dieser Bus war viel besser als der Zubringerbus. Die Gänge waren schmaler, die Betten etwas breiter. Es gab ein bezogenes Kissen und frische Bettwäsche. Die Liegen waren aus weißem Kunstleder der Fußboden aus glänzendem Parkett. Jede Liege hatte eine Leselampe und eine eigene Lüftung. Trotz all dieser Annehmlichkeiten empfand ich die Situation als strapaziös. Wir Europäer sind einfach zu groß für die Bettchen. Für meinen Tagesrucksack war kaum Platz in dem Körbchen über Fußende. Die Plastiktüten mit meinen Schuhen knüpfte ich ans Gitter und ließ sie runter baumeln (Christians Idee). Die Bettdecke war zu schmal, es zog entweder links oder rechts, oder wenn ich versuchte mich auf die Seite zu drehen, vorne oder hinten. Man musste sich anschnallen um nicht runter zu segeln, richtig klaustrophobisch. Von hier sind es keine 400 Kilometer bis nach Nanning. Um nicht vor Tageslicht anzukommen standen wir nachts stundenlang auf dem Parkplatz einer Raststätte. Als es endlich weiter ging schlief ich noch mal fest ein. Christian überstand die Reise auch einigermaßen gut, er schlief die ganze Nacht ohne Probleme auf der Seite. Um halb acht saßen wir bei KFC in dem modrigen Busbahnhof von Nanning, aßen ein Croissant mit Ei und tranken Kaffee. Hier konnten wir aufs Klo gehen und uns frisch machen. Ich glaube ohne diese Firma und McDonald‘s kann man als Europäer China nicht bereisen. Die chinesischen Restaurants sind einfach zu schmuddelig. Das Essen mag ok sein, aber alles sieht so unappetitlich aus, man fängt schon erst gar nicht damit an, von den Toiletten in solchen Gelegenheiten nicht zu reden. Christian hatte ein Hotel im Zentrum der Stadt ausgesucht: das Phoenix Hotel, ein echtes chinesisches Viersternehaus. Das Hotel bestand aus mehreren weißen Gebäuden um einen Innenhof herum: Luxusshopping, Restaurants und Souvenirzeile. Alle Gebäude, das Haupthaus inklusive, waren mit Stuckelementen überzogen. Die Halle ging über vier Etagen, von der Decke hing ein gigantischer goldener Kronleuchter. Es gab einen herrlichen weißen Marmorboden und wunderbare Säulen aus dem gleichen Material, gekrönt von goldenen Kapitellen. Dazu gab es einen schönen Empfangstresen mit im Hintergrund eine Seidenmalerei mit Bambus und tropischen Vögeln. Leider gab es dazu an jedem freien Fleck weiteren Stuck oder goldene Ornamente und es hingen Mengen von kleinen Kronleuchtern herum. Wir bekamen ein dunkles Zimmer im zweiten (ist bei uns im ersten) Stock. Der Teppich auf dem Flur war zusammengeklebt, unseres im Zimmer ziemlich dreckig, die Möbel waren in den dreißiger Jahren modern. Ein besseres Zimmer sei nicht da, auch nicht gegen Aufpreis. Wir liefen sofort zum Bahnhof um die weiteren Tickets zu besorgen. Einen speziellen Schalter für Ausländer gab es nicht. Ich hatte alle weiteren Züge aus dem Internet gesucht, aufgeschrieben und am Empfang hatten sie mir die Ortschaften auf Chinesisch aufgeschrieben. Es gab gigantische Wartereihen vor den Schaltern, es ging aber schnell vorwärts. Die Fahrten nach Guilin und Hengyang ließen sich buchen, die Züge nach Nanchang waren alle ausgebucht, es gäbe nur noch Stehplätze. Nein danke, ich werde die Reiseroute ändern. Wir brauchten für die zwei Fahrten nur 350 Yuan zu bezahlen, das versprach nichts Gutes über die Qualität der Züge. Ich tauschte ein Teil meines Bargeldes, eine langwierige Prozedur, und zurück im Hotel aßen wir das Mittagsbüffet im vierten Stock mit Blick in die Halle (69 Yuan). Leider gab es von dem umfangreichen Büfett nur wenige Sachen die wir essen konnten. Die Suppen waren ungenießbar, die Pilze ganz fett, Schweinefleisch kommt inklusive Schwarten. Alles sehr seltsam. Wir waren jetzt ziemlich am Ende und machten ein längeres Mittagsschläfchen. Die Lage des Hotels war super. Nur wenige Minuten vom Hauptbahnhof entfernt und unmittelbar an der „Chaoying Lu“, dem örtlichen Kurfürstendamm gelegen. Wir waren von dicken Nebeln empfangen worden. Während der langen Fahrt vom Hauptbahnhof zum Hotel hatten wir nur die Umrisse der Gebäude sehen können, inzwischen hatte es geregnet und es war klarer geworden. Es nieselte noch, wir hatten unsere Ponchos angezogen. Das Wetter klärte sich immer mehr auf, es waren gut 20°C. Auch am nächsten Tag, einen Sonntag, war das Wetter in Ordnung, ab und zu kam sogar die Sonne durch. Nanning ist nicht besonders schön, man ist hier weit weg von den erfolgreichen neuen Zentren im Osten des Landes. Irgendwelche schöne alte Gebäude waren nicht zu entdecken. Es gibt einen alten Stadtteil in der Nähe des Flusses, aber hier stehen die Häuser meistens leer und dienen nur noch als Kulisse für den abendlichen Schlemmermarkt. Weiter rechts unten gibt es ein etwas besseres altes Viertel, aber auch hier drängen sich die neuen Hochhäuser immer weiter vor und werden alte Viertel abgerissen. Irgendwann wird ganz China aus gleichförmigen Hochhäusern bestehen. Einige Wolkenkratzer gibt es auch schon, am Fluss steht ein 276 Meter hohes Haus mit 54 Stockwerken, das „Diwang International Commerce Center“ und in Richtung Botanischer Garten das „World Trade Commerce City“ mit 218 Metern Höhe. Sonntag Ein Bus zu einem schönen Dörfchen 26 km außerhalb der Stadt war nicht zu finden, die Taxen überteuert. Stattdessen fuhren wir zu einem „Medizinischen Botanischen Garten“ am Stadtrand. Unser Taxifahrer fuhr ewig durch die Stadt, wir sahen viel, ohne laufen zu müssen. Der Garten befand sich zum Teil in einer Renovierungsfase: überall wurde gewerkelt und eingepflanzt. Wir verbrachten hier einige Stunden und genossen die Ruhe und die Natur. Zurück fuhren wir noch mal zum lokalen Kuh’damm, hier war heute die Hölle los. In der Freizeit ist bummeln und shoppen wohl die Lieblingsbeschäftigung der Nanninger. Es war unglaublich welche Massen sich hier durch die Straßen wälzten, vor Allem in den Seitenstraßen ging es hoch her. Parkplätze für Motorräder waren nicht mehr zu bekommen, obwohl Plätze zu Verfügung standen die halb so groß waren wie ein Fußballfeld und alle Bürgersteige sowieso potentielle Parkplätze sind. Es fahren außer Autos und Motorräder auch noch viele Tuk-Tuks herum, aber die sehen nicht so schön aus wie in Thailand. Überhaupt sind die Fahrzeuge oft sehr dreckig. Viele fahren Elektromofas mit kleinen Rädern und die sind echt potthäßlich. Dann gibt es noch ein Phänomen was ich nur in Nanning gesehen habe: Verkauf ab Auto bei Einbruch der Dunkelheit. In einer Straße standen beidseitig Autos die vollgestapelt waren mit Waren. Oder hinter war die Klappe auf und wurde aus dem Kofferraum verkauft, manchmal Uhren oder Musik-CDs. In dem letzten Fall dröhnte die Musik über die Anlage im Auto. Durch den ganzen Markt geht der Verkehr trotzdem weiter. Durch eine noch engere Gasse fuhren noch Räder und Motorräder obwohl alles voll stand mit Kleiderständer. Aus den Boutiquen dröhnt Musik lauter als in einer Disco, bei jedem noch lauter als nebenan. Trotz dieser stressigen Situation bleiben die Leute locker drauf. Die Lieblingsbeschäftigung von den meist jungen Verkäufern ist sowieso das Smartphone. Sofort wenn kein Kunde in Sicht ist wird ununterbrochen gesurft. Montag Wir hatten uns schon gewundert über den niedrigen Preis der Tickets von Nanning nach Guilin und von Guilin nach Hengyang. Alle zusammen nur etwa 350 Yuan (etwa 45€) und das für eine Entfernung von fast 800km. Unsere Befürchtung über die Qualität des Zuges bewahrheitete sich. Der Standard der Züge der Nebenstrecken ist meilenweit entfernt von denen der Schnellstrecken im Osten des Landes. Nach mehreren Kontrollen, das Gepäck muss durch den Scanner und man wir abgetastet, kamen wir in die proppenvolle stickige Bahnhofshalle. Wir hatten Glück dass es gleich weiter ging. Der Zug war ganz lang. Wir hatten den Wagen Nummer 15, fast ganz hinten, auf jedem Fall hinter dem Speisewagen, der eine Barriere zwischen den besseren Klassen und der Holzklasse bildet. Ganz so schlimm war es nicht, die Sitze waren leicht gepolstert und mit abnehmbaren Rüschenbezügen bezogen. Wir hatten einen Zweiersitz, nebenan saß man zu dritt in der Reihe. Unsere reservierten Plätze waren frei. Es gab auch Platz fürs Gepäck, aber es wurde immer voller und manche mussten stehen oder saßen auf winzigen Höckerchen im Flur. Die Chinesen haben ein völlig anderes Benehmen als andere Völker der Welt. Vor allem Frauen können unheimlich laut und schrill reden, Männer sind gut im Husten und Rülpsen. Im Gang stand einer, der mir fast die Haare vom Kopf hustete, als Schutz hielt ich meine Kapuze auf. Auch sind Chinesen ununterbrochen in Bewegung, stehen auf, sind mit dem Gepäck zugange, das Kind wird weitergegeben, irgendwas wird gegessen oder Leute laufen nach vorne um ihre Tütensuppen mit heißem Wasser zu füllen. Sie machen das in dem Moment wo sie Bock darauf haben, auch wenn Leute gerade dann aus oder einsteigen Wenn man angerempelt wird entschuldigt sich keiner, wo eine Lücke ist schubst man sich durch. Schon ein Unterschied mit dem TGV in Frankreich wo oft das einzige Geräusch das Knistern beim Umblättern des „Figaro“ oder „Le Monde“ war. Gleich beim Verlassen von Nanning sahen wir, dass das Reisen in absehbarer Zeit angenehmer sein wird: Es wird eine neue Hochbahn gebaut und es entstehen neue Bahnhöfe. Die zweieinhalb Millionenstadt erstreckt sich ewig nach Norden. Weiter ab vom Zentrum wird es immer ärmlicher. Hier stehen noch viele der vier, fünf oder sechsstöckigen Backsteinblöcke die unter Mao gebaut wurden. Alle sind krumm und schief und überall hängt Wäsche auf den vergitterten Balkonen. Oft stehen Blöcke leer und warten auf ihren Abriss. Die Landschaft der Provinz Guangxi ist durchgehend bergig. Leider gibt es aber eigentlich keine Natur, kein Wunder in diesem dichtbesiedelten Land. Die Berge sind mit Gestrüpp oder Bambus überzogen. In den Tälern wird viel Reis oder Gemüse angebaut, oder sie sind dichtbebaut mit Betonhäuschen. Nie sieht man mal ein schönes Haus, nie ein lieblicher Garten, nie unberührte Natur. Es gibt gepflegte Gemüsegärten, unmittelbar daneben aber wieder einen Müllhaufen, kaputte Straßen, leerstehende Backsteinbauten oder Bauschutthalden. Manche Straßenabschnitte sind liebevoll bepflanz, sogar entlang der Bahnstrecke, bis zur nächsten Baustelle oder Fabrik. Das Auge kann sich an nichts erfreuen, nicht mal an den Bergen, die immer schroffer und karstiger wurden. Viel konnten wir heute ohnehin nicht sehen, da es ganz diesig war. Christian versuchte in dem Gewühle ein Buch zu lesen und ich typte im Laptop herum. Irgendwie gingen die fünf Stunden doch vorbei. In Guilin liefen wir entlang des Zuges zum Wagen 11. Mit dem werden wir in drei Tagen weiterfahren nach Hengyang. Durch das Fenster sahen wir, dass es hier Liegen gibt, mal sehen ob man so angenehmer reisen kann. Provinz Guangxi, Guilin. 01/04 – 04 – 2013 Der Bahnhof von Guilin ist ein trüber Betonkasten. Inzwischen hatte es angefangen zu regnen. Wir fühlten uns dreckig, hungrig und müde und hatten jetzt keine Lust uns um weitere Tickets zu kümmern. Wir fuhren erst Mal zum Hotel. Das „Grand Hotel 0773“ war ganz einfach, aber die Lage hätte nicht zentraler sein können. Gut für uns, weil irgendwie waren wir ziemlich desorganisiert. Im Hotel konnten sie für uns keine Zugtickets organisieren, wir mussten noch mal zurück zum Bahnhof. Auf halbem Wege merkten wir dass wir die Pässe vergessen hatten. Beim zweiten Anlauf bekamen wir zwar unsere Tickets von Changsha nach Guangzhou, hatten aber zu wenig Geld mitgenommen um in dem Reisebüro vor dem Bahnhof eine Bootsfahrt auf dem Li-Fluss buchen zu können. Wir mussten am nächsten Morgen noch mal hin, so was Blödes. Gut dass die Busse nur ein Yuan kosteten und Christian sich sofort gut mit dem Busnetz auskannte. Guilin, Kullerberge und Parks. Gestern war es den ganzen Tag nebelig , die berühmten Berge von Guilin waren dunkle Flecke im weißlichen Nebel gewesen. Heute konnte es doch nur besser werden! Es wurde viel schlimmer! Es goss! Gestern hatten wir schon viel Zeit mit der Organisation von dem Zugticket verloren, heute liefen wir mit unseren Ponchos durch den strömenden Regen. Wir machten mehrere Anläufe uns etwas anzusehen, aber es klappte einfach nicht. Der „Kullerberg“ bei uns in der Nähe wurde von uns kurzerhand in „Pullerberg“ umgetauft. Das kühle nasse Wetter schlug uns auf die Blase, wir mussten ständig zurück zum Hotel um zur Toilette zu gehen. Wir hatten auch kaum was im Bauch, unser Hotelfrühstück war einfach zu ekelig gewesen. Jetzt mussten wir erst Mal zum KFC um ein Knöchelchen zu knabbern. Erst gegen Mittag klärte es sich auf und nahmen wir unser Besuchsprogramm in Angriff. Wir liefen zum nahegelegenen „Elephant Hill Park“, ein steiler Berg in der Form eines Elefanten in einem Gärten. Eintritt umgerechnet €12 pro Person. Das war uns der pitschnasse Berg nicht wert, wir fuhren zu einem anderen Park im Norden der Stadt. Hier war es genauso teuer, aber es war inzwischen trocken und etwas angenehmer um herumzulaufen. Außer den hübschen schroffen Berg, gab es einige Gebäude im chinesischen Stil, eine wiederaufgebaute Stadtmauer, eine Show die wir uns aus der Ferne anhörten und ein schöner üppiger Garten. Wie die Landschaft war auch der Garten eine Mischung aus schön und hässlich. Vorne hübsche Tempelchen, hässliche zu hohe Gebäude dahinter, gepflegte und ungepflegte Beete die sich abwechseln, hübsche Kullerberge ringsherum und hässliche Blöcke die die Sicht darauf versperrten. Hinter einem Wäldchen lagen einige ausrangierte Elektrowagen und sonstigem Müll. Mitten im Park wurde eine Halle aus Glas gebaut, wahrscheinlich ein zukünftiges Einkaufszentrum. Alles etwas seltsam. Das Wahrzeichen der Stadt ist der „Soletary Peak“. Ein ganz spitzer Berg auf dem Universitätsgelände. Hier war der Eintritt 130 Yuan, etwa 17€, das fanden wir etwas überzogen (für dieses Geld könnte man mit dem Bus 130 Mal durch die ganze Stadt oder mit der Bahn im „hard seater“ durch die ganze Provinz fahren) und wir fuhren weiter zu dem riesigen „Seven Star Cave Park“. Für diesen viel größeren Park mit unzähligen Kullerbergen brauchten wir nur €8 zu zahlen. Der Park war sehr schön, die Natur umwerfend üppig. Guilin bekommt fast die vierfache jährliche Niederschlagsmenge wie Berlin und das bei subtropischen Temperaturen. Alles wächst wie Sau, echt fantastisch. Die Chinesen machen dazu alles noch schöner als es sowieso schon ist. Die Bäume in den Alleen hingen voller Lampions und die Stämme waren umwickelt mit goldfarbigen Stoffen. Auf den Rasenflächen standen rote Banner mit Losungen der KPCs. Überall konnte man was Essen (das heißt wir nicht, die Chinesen) in bunten Plastikpavillons. Die Verkäuferinnen preisen ihre Ware an über den Lautsprecher. (Die vielen Vögel im Park lassen sich von dem Krach nicht verrückt machen und singen trotzdem.) Wir kamen an einem künstlichen Wasserfall vorbei, die Chinesen waren begeistert und knipsten wie die Wilden. Dann durch den wirklich wunderschönen Dschungel über viele glitschige Stufen zu einem von Riesenbambus zugewachsenen Aussichtspunkt. Auf dem Rückweg zum Ausgang fotografierten wir die blühenden Rhododendren. Eine große Brücke führt über den Li Fluss zurück zum Zentrum der Stadt. Kein schmaler Bergbach wie ich mir vorgestellt hatte, sondern ein Strom, breit wie der Rhein bei Basel. Ein einsamer Schwimmer trotzte den Fluten und schwamm über den Fluss. Wir bummelten über eine Fußgängerzone und Christian fand eine Windjacke in seiner Größe. Ziemlich kaputt von dem langen Tag kamen wir im Dunkeln erst nach Hause. Ich hatte mir Guilin ganz anders vorgestellt, viel uriger. Ist es aber nicht. Die chinesischen Städte ähneln sich alle sehr. Im Grunde sind es endlose Ansammlungen von Beton. Die breiten Hauptstraßen werden durchgehend gesäumt von Geschäften, aber nur in einigen Straßen ist richtig viel Fußgängerpublikum. Weil Guilin eine Stadt ist die vom Tourismus lebt, ist mehr investiert in schöne Bürgersteige. Fast überall sind schöne schwarze Marmorplatten verlegt worden. Sehr unpraktisch in dem feuchten Klima. Die Dinger sind so glatt und rutschig, man läuft wie auf Eiern. Vielleicht sind die Städte auch so trostlos weil sie keinen Mittelpunkt haben. Während der Kulturrevolution wurden die alten Tempel zerstört, jetzt haben die Städte oder die einzelnen Stadtviertel kein Herz mehr. Außerdem ist es nirgends gemütlich, man kann sich nirgends aufhalten. Es gibt keine Café-Kultur, am angenehmsten ist es noch bei McDonalds oder bei KFC. Auch in den riesigen Einkaufszentren gibt es nie eine gemütliche Ecke zum Sitzen oder zum Kaffee trinken. Man kann doch nicht ununterbrochen herumlaufen oder shoppen? Der Unterschied zwischen einer „schönen“ oder einer „normalen“ Stadt besteht meines Erachtens nur darin, dass es in einer „schönen“ Stadt irgendwelche Sehenswürdigkeiten gibt, so wie hier die Kullerbergparks oder in Suzhou seine alten Parks, die Städte an sich sind immer gleich. Der Li-Fluss. Spät abends um elf ging das Telefon. Wir waren gerade tief eingeschlafen. Eine Stimme sagte „travelagent, seven twenty, seven twenty“. Ich stellte den Wecker noch eine halbe Stunde früher und konnte nie wieder einschlafen. Am nächsten Morgen wurden wir trotzdem erst kurz vor acht abgeholt, was das wohl sollte? Nach diesem Ärger gab es eine ziemlich stressige Reise zum Schiff. Wir warteten im vollen Bus auf weitere Teilnehmer, die Fenster beschlugen, wir standen im Stau. Alles war klitschnass von den starken Regenfällen der letzten Nacht. Wir fuhren durch trostlose Industriegebiete und die Seitenstraße runter zum Fluss war total vermüllt. Kein toller Anfang für eine der wichtigsten Sehenswürdigkeiten Chinas. Irgendwann hielten wir an und wurden die steile Böschung hinuntergescheucht. Da lag ein olles Schiffchen. Damit sollten wir die Tour machen? Die Stimmung bei uns sank. Nur Minuten später wurden wir auf hoher See umgeschifft, alle drängelten um einen guten Platz zu bekommen. Wir wurden in ein Séparée kaltgestellt. „We cannot see anything“ protestierte ich. „Ten Minutes you can go up“ sagte die Stewardess, wir hatten wohl zu wenig für die erste Klasse bezahlt. Nur Minuten später ging ich nach oben und fand das frei zugängliche Hinterdeck und ganz oben das Dach des Schiffes. Ich ging gleich wieder runter um Christian zu holen. Wir fuhren schon und schon gab es die ersten Karstfelsen. Das Wetter war kühl aber trocken. Was jetzt folgte war un-glaub-lich! Das wir einige hübsche Berge sehen würden war ja wohl klar, aber dass wir drei Stunden ununterbrochen durch die schrillsten Landschaften fahren würden, die man sich vorstellen kann, hätte ich nie gedacht. Die Landschaft war wirklich umwerfend! Atemberaubend! Wahnsinn! Die Felsen sind alle überzogen mit üppigem grün, die senkrechten Wände grauweiß. Die Ufer sind oft bewachsen mit Bambus, dicht wie Schilf, aber höher als Bäume. Die ganze Strecke ist fast unbesiedelt, es gibt nur einige Örtchen die einigermaßen in der Landschaft passen, wo man Floßfahrten machen oder reiten kann. Der Fluss ist breit und fließt relativ schnell. Man fährt immer in den Außenkurven, weil da der Fluss das Flussbett am tiefsten ausgeschliffen hat. Ununterbrochen tauchen neue Felsen mit immer anderen Formen auf. Oft ist man umgeben von vielen, vielen Dutzenden von spitzen Bergen. Außer kleine Gruppen mit Floßfahrern, heute war es wohl zu kalt oder zu nass, waren wir fast immer alleine auf dem Fluss. Weit vor uns gab es zwei ähnliche Schiffe, ab und zu kamen uns Boote entgegen die die Tour in umgekehrter Richtung machten. Wir genossen die Tour, machten viele Bilder, obwohl die später zuhause wohl alle ähnlich aussehen werden. Die Chinesen waren ganz aus dem Häuschen und ließen sich ununterbrochen vor der Bergkulisse fotografieren. Zwischendurch gab es unten ein Tellerchen Reis mit geschmackslosem Kimchi. Die Tour endete an einem Hunderte von Metern langen Wandelhalle mit endlos vielen Souvenirständen. Wir kauften schnell ein paar Entchen, mussten aber unsere Busgenossen im Auge halten. Alle Informationen waren auf Chinesisch gewesen, wir wussten nicht was los war. Spätestens am Ausgang wären wir zwischen den Hunderten von Touristen verloren gegangen, wenn sich ein junger Mann, ein Tourist aus der Nachbarprovinz Guizhou, unser nicht angenommen hätte. Er drängte uns zwei Tickets von 15 Yuan zu kaufen. Draußen standen Elektrobuggies. Er fragte nach dem Richtigen und wir fuhren durch die Stadt zu einem Parkplatz. Zwischen den vielen Bussen fand er unseren Bus wo unsere dominante Tante in rosa, die uns im Hotel abgeholt hatte, schon wartete. Das hätten wir alleine nie geschafft. Jetzt mussten noch fünf touristische Highlights abgeklappert werden. Zuerst eine Grotte. Rein ins Bötchen, durch die tropfenden bunt angestrahlten Höhlen fahren, ein Stückchen laufen, noch mal aufs Boot, wieder laufen. Überall flackerte es bunt, man konnte sich vor den Stalagmitten und –titten fotografieren lassen, die Guides, alles Weiber, schmettern in ihre Lautsprecher: ein unterirdisches Inferno. Wenn ich da an die berühmten Grotten von Postoina in Slowenien denke: der Guide flüsterte die Infos und ein quängeliches Kind musste mit der Mutter zum Ausgang zurückkehren. Jetzt kam ein wiederaufgebauter Tempel hinter einer Baustelle. Das buddhistische Heiligtum aus Beton war wiederhergestellt worden, der Vorplatz war noch im Bau. Durch Dreck und tiefe Pfützen kamen wir zur ersten Halle. Überall standen frischgegossene Buddhas herum, noch größere gab es in der Haupthalle. Von der hohen Decke hingen bunte Stofflampions, fast wie in Tibet. Es folgten noch ein eingezäunter Bodhi-Baum und ein Loch im Berg: „Moon Hill“. Es ist unglaublich wie die Chinesen es schaffen aus einer schönen Landschaft eine Trümmerwüste zu machen. Ein Müll überall, ein Dreck! Und überall wird was verkauft, überall steht irgendeine Bude herum. Die chinesischen Touristen fotografieren brav jeden „Höhepunkt“ ab, wir nutzen die Stopps wenigstens als Pipi-Pause. Die Toiletten sehen jetzt viel besser aus als bei meinem ersten Besuch an China. Da gab es niedrige Kabinen ohne Tür, man stellte sich quer über die Kackrinne zum Pullern oder größerem. Die Zeiten sind vorbei, aber toll sieht es immer noch nicht aus. Ein wesentlicher Unterschied mit unserem System besteht in der Reinigung. In China kommt ein Typ mit Gummistiefeln und bewaffnet mit einem Gummischlauch und spritzt aus der Ferne, mit Hochdruck alles sauber. So stehen die Toiletten immer überall unter Wasser, alles trieft, man läuft wie auf Eis, der Boden eine Rutschbahn, super! Nach einem längeren Stopp in einer Jade-Verkaufsstelle – wir weigerten uns und warteten im Bus – ging es über eine Fernverkehrsstraße zurück nach Guilin. Auch hier gab es hübsche Kullerberge in der hässlichen Landschaft. Jetzt fing es wieder an zu gießen und alles sah noch trostloser aus. Endlich da, sputeten wir uns zum KFC, weil wir den ganzen Tag nur von Nüsschen und Kekse gelebt hatten. Heute Abend und morgenfrüh machen wir mal Urlaub im Zimmer, mittags geht’s dann weiter nach Hengyang.

Gujarat Visit: -

Haiti Visit: 2010-1
2012-04-14 - We left Berlin on Jan. 4th 2010 and spend the evening in windy London. The next morning we flew to Miami and spend the night at the InterContinental Hotel. Everybody, at the passport control at the airport, the taxidrivers and the staff in the hotel seemed to very surprised about our destination Haiti: "Why Haiti?" was everybodies question. The place did not seem to be very popular in Miami.
The next day we arrived at the Oloffson Hotel without any problems. We enjoyed very much the old colonial ambience of the hotel.
We made a walk through the Rue Capois and over the Champs de Mars to see the Presidential Palace. We found the atmosphere very relaxed.
The next day we saw downtown, the churches and the market area and took a TapTap to Pétionville. After seeing the town we had a wonderful lunch on the terrace of the Kinam Hotel.
Back home we made a dip into the icy Pool and enjoyed dinner on the terrace of the Oloffson. Tonight was Thursdaynight, the night of the RAM-Band. After 11 p.m the place started to fill up and when the band started playing at 23.30 the place was packed. It bacame one of the best nights of my life, it was absolutely magic. Too bad my camara couldn't cope with the immense sound, but at least I have the pictures of the band.
The next two nights we stayed at the Cyvadier Plage Hotel in Jacmel. We spend some paradisiacal hours at the Basins Blue and enjoyed the beautiful small city, not to talk af the wonderful small beach some 20m below the hotel.
On Sunday the 10th we were back at the Oloffson. In the late afternoon we heard music and drums from Downtown. We went down to the street when the music got louder. It was a kind of Pré-Carnaval. Barrios competing about the best Carnaval Song. We joined the crowd and danced our way down to the Champs de Mars.
The next morning we took a TapTap up to Pétionville and had a wonderful breakfast aside the Pool of the Villa Creole. Than with another Tap up to Kenscoff from where we walked back down through the clouds, forests and villages to Pétionville. We went to the Montana Hotel for a late lunch between 4 and 5 p.m. We arrived back in the Oloffson when it was allready dark.
We had seen all we wanted and decided to head to the North Coast one day ahead of scedule.
So the next morning on 12th. of January, after taking some more pictures from our terrace of the Presidential Palace and the Cathedral, we took a bus with very loud music and perhaps almost 100 other people to Cap Haitien. Already in the mountains the weather changed and on the coast it was pooring. The streets were rivers and we saw immediately that there was no way to visit la Citadelle la Ferrière and after seeing Cap Haitien in the pooring rain, we decided to continue the next morning to the Dominican Republic.
The next morning at seven we saw the news and could not believe how lucky we had been. Exactly 24 hours later on the terrace of the Mantana Hotel wouldn't have allowed me to write this story ......

Hesse Visit: 2013-12
2013-12-13 - Hessen 02. and 03. December 2013 On the way back from Saarland we made a one day, two night stop in FRANKFURT. I have been in Frankfurt many times, the last time was two years ago. That was before my trip to Chad and we had stayed four nights in the InterContinental Hotel. This time we stayed in a Holiday Inn Express in the Gutleutviertel, about 6 minutes by bus from the Hauptbahnhof. The view from our room, nr. 534, on the skyline of the city was great: massive silver colored towers behind the huge multi domed Hauptbahnhof. We visited a friend we had met on our trip to Tibet. When it got dark we went downtown to visit the huge Christmas Market. The masses of people with the same idea, was unbelievable. And today was a Tuesday! How busy it would be here during the weekend? The stalls were nice and the ambience at the Römer, a recently reconstructed square with seven new old houses, wonderful. December is a very good month to travel through Germany, the cities look fabulous. Every time I come to Frankfurt, the city looks nicer, one feels that there is a lot of money around. The next morning we drove by car from Frankfurt to Hannover.

Hubei Visit: 2013-4
2013-11-20 - Wie heißt „First Class“ auf Chinesisch, oder wie schreibt es sich? Wir haben es während dieser Reise nicht rausgekriegt. Wenn man danach fragt im Hotel, auch bei Leuten die einigermaßen English sprechen, bekommt man nur ein unsichere Blicke. Auch mit Umschreibungen wie „the most expensive tickets“, „the best tickets“ oder „soft seater“ kommt man nicht weiter. Die Chinesen haben keine Ahnung was man will, am Schalter des „High Speed Station“ natürlich auch nicht. Im Hotel hatten wir „Changsha – Wuhan“ und „Wuhan – Changsha“ auf Chinesisch aufschreiben lassen. Dazu das Datum, in China immer Jahr – Monat – Tag, und die Abfahrts- und Ankunftszeit. Wir wollten Erste Klasse reisen, bekamen aber Fahrscheine für die Zweite Klasse. Es war proppenvoll im Abteil, links vom Gang gab es zwei, rechts drei Sitze. Wir hatten „C“ und „D“ und saßen beide am Gang. Viel Aussicht hatte man von hier nicht. Trotzdem drehte ich über den Köpfen der Leute hinweg ein Filmchen von der Landschaft. Es sind fast 400km nach Wuhan, die Fahrzeit beträgt knapp anderthalb Stunden. Die halbe Strecke, das nördliche Hunan und das südliche Hubei, sind noch bergig. Danach bleibt es noch uneben und etwas struppig. Erst die letzte halbe Stunde vor Wuhan und somit vor dem Jangtse wird es flach. Die Stadt ist umgeben von Seen. Wuhan ist aus drei Städten zusammengewachsen, die auf beiden Seiten eines Zuflusses des Jangste und am andern Ufer liegen. Wo sich nun wohl das eigentliche Zentrum der Stadt befindet haben wir nicht in diesen sechs Stunden nicht rausgekriegt. Der gigantische Bahnhof von Wuhan liegt weit nordöstlich der Stadt. Natürlich verstand der Taxifahrer gar nicht wohin wir wollten, aber über sein Telefon konnte ich mit einer englischsprachigen Person sprechen. Irgendwie verstand sie dass wir zu einem Tempel im Zentrum der Stadt gebracht werden wollten. Wir kamen ewig nicht zum Zentrum, fuhren aber immer wieder durch 20 bis 30 Stockwerke hohe Neubaugebiete. Dazwischen gab es noch kleine Dörfer und Landwirtschaft. Weit westlich des Bahnhofs überquerten wir den Jangste über eine orangefarbene Hängebrücke. Danach wurde es langsam städtischer. Nach einer Stunde waren wir da. Wir waren über 50km gefahren, so ein Wahnsinn! (105 Yuan, 1,8 Yuan pro km). Der Fahrer setzte uns vor einem weißen Gebäude mit einem geschwungenen grauen Ziegeldach ab. Die Gegend hatte ein wenig Altstadtfeeling, ein paar Hundert Meter weiter gab es Gebäude mit Türmchen und Kuppeln. Nebenan gab es Geschäfte mit Räucherstäbchen und Kracher in roter Verpackung. Wir konnten nur ahnen zu welchem Tempel wir gebracht worden waren. Wie fast immer gab es eine Menge Innenhöfe mit Tempeln und Tempelchen, alle sehr schön, aber am lustigsten war der rechteckige Teich vor dem größten Tempel. Hier tummelten sich Hunderte von Schildkröten. Die Tiere hatten wenig Platz zum Ausruhen. Viele schwammen ununterbrochen zwischen den Goldfischen hin und her. In der Mitte des Teiches gab es zwei Inseln aus Beton in der Form von Lotusblumen, mit einem Durchschnitt von vielleicht drei Metern. Die Blumenblätter ragten schräg aus dem Wasser. Nur zwischen den Blättern konnten die Schildkröten an Land kriegen. Oft lagen da andere Schildkröten herum, aber wenn sie eine freie Stelle gefunden hatten, wollten sie rauf. Kein Problem mit den Vorderbeinchen, aber sich damit soweit hochzuwuchten dass auch die Hinterbeinchen Griff bekamen, war ganz schwer. Die armen Tiere vielen fast immer wieder ins Wasser zurück. Oder sie wurden von den Blättern von nachrückenden anderen Schildkröten hinuntergeschubst. Jede Menge Leute schauten sich dieses Schauspiel an. Hinter diesen Tempeln gab es eine mehrstöckige Pagode, der in seiner tausendjährigen Geschichte immer wieder neu errichtet worden war. Inzwischen hatte Christian herausgefunden wo auf dem Stadtplan wir uns befanden. Der Tempel hieß Guiyan im Stadtteil Hanyang. Hinter der nächsten Kreuzung gab es eine große Einkaufsstraße. In einem Shopping Center gab es sogar C&A! Bei Carrefour fand Christian weiße T-Shirts, die Kasse befand sich aber am anderen Ende des Ladens. Das würde alles viel zu lange dauern. Wir liefen in Richtung Fluss, aber die Entfernung war viel zu groß. Auf gut Glück nahmen wir einen Bus in seine Richtung. So kamen wir zu einer Festung auf einem Hügel in der Nähe der Stadtbrücke. Ich machte einige Aufnahmen des Jangste Kiang. Nebenan gab es einen Holiday Inn. Da hätten wir vielleicht gewohnt wenn wir einige Tage Zeit gehabt hätten. Wieder unten an der Straße ein Taxi zu finden war gar nicht so einfach. Oft haben Fahrer auch keine Lust sich den Stress mit den Langnasen anzutun. Unser Fahrer verstand Gott sei Dank, dass wir über die Brücke fahren wollten. Zuerst fuhren wir eine ganze Weile vom Ufer weg um zur Auffahrt der doppelstöckigen Brücke - Autos oben und Züge unten - zu kommen. Von hier oben hat man einen Rundumblick auf die Stadt. Irgendwie ist kein Zentrum auszumachen. Überall stehen hohe Blöcke herum, aber nichts hoch Herausragendes. Irgendwie ist es als wäre der Fluss zu breit im Verhältnis zur Höhe der Häuser. Mit einer riesigen Schleife brachte der Fahrer uns zu einer Pagode „the Yellow Tower“ im Stadtteil Wuchang, die das Ende der Brücke dominiert. Sich für eine knappe halbe Stunde 100 Yuan Eintritt zu leisten wollten wir nicht. Wir waren wegen der großen Entfernung zum Bahnhof auch nervös nicht zeitig zurück zu kommen. Es war ungünstig hier am Brückenkopf ein Taxi zu bekommen, wir liefen stadteinwärts. Auch hier gab es kein eigentliches Zentrum, nur eine Mischung aus Parks und Wohngebiete. An einer Bushaltestelle versuchten wir ein Taxi zu bekommen. Alle drei Sekunden kamen Taxen, aber auch jede Menge Busse die den Weg versperrten. Dann stieg jemand aus einem Taxi aus, wir gleich rein. Der Taxifahrer versuchte uns etwas zu erklären und fuchtelte mit den Händen herum. Schon gut, nun fahr mal deuteten wir ihn. Wir mussten in nordöstliche Richtung fahren. Am Nachmittag müsste die Sonne etwa hinter uns sein, dass stimmte irgendwie nicht. Hier war es auch nicht mehr richtig Stadt, es gab alte Wohnsilos, aber auch kleine zweistöckige Häuser mit Geschäften, alles nicht sehr schön. Auf einmal zeigte er auf einer Tankstelle auf der linken Straßenseite der zehnspurigen Straße. Das konnte doch nicht wahr sein. Waren wir in die entgegengesetzte Richtung gefahren, nur um zu tanken? Rücksichtslos bog er hier links ab. Immer wenn er frecher war als die entgegenkommenden Autofahrer, kam er eine Spurbreite weiter auf die andere Seite. Inzwischen war Berufsverkehr, wir wurden nervös. Zum Tanken mussten wir aussteigen. Taxis fahren in China auf Gas. (Darum gibt es im Kofferraum immer nur Platz für einen Koffer. Der Andere stellen wir immer auf den Rücksitz.) Jetzt ging es endlich weiter. Er mogelte sich wieder durch den Verkehr und wendete. Wir wurden immer nervöser. Hätten wir bloß ein anderes Taxi genommen. Wir waren von der großen Straße abgekommen und fuhren über eine Art Markt. Was sollte das alles? Immer wieder versuchte der Fahrer uns etwas zu erklären. Plötzlich hielt er an und stieg aus. Ein anderer Fahrer stieg ein. Ach so! Er hatte Schichtende und teilte sich das Taxi mit jemand anderem! Bis wir jetzt wieder auf eine große Straße kamen dauerte ewig. Auch da war Stau. Irgendwie kamen wir denn doch zu einer Autobahn und jetzt ging es ganz flott. Durch vielen Tunneln und Brücken waren wir eine Viertelstunde später schon da. Wir hatten noch Zeit um unsere Tickets zu tauschen. Diesmal hatten wir Glück und der hübsche Typ am Schalter verstand sofort was wir wollten. Zurück nach Changsha genossen wir unsere komfortablen Sitze und die Aussicht auf der untergehenden Sonne.

Hunan Visit: 2013-4
2013-11-20 - Im „Hard Sleeper“ liegt man nicht auf einem Brett, sondern ganz gemütlich auf einer Matratze. Diese wird geschützt von dem ubiquitären hellblauen Rüschenbezug und darauf liegt nochmal eine in einem Laken eingewickelte dünne Unterlage. Es gibt ein Kissen und frische Bettwäsche. Der Unterschied zu dem „Soft Sleeper“ liegt darin, dass man das Abteil nicht abschließen kann, die Liegen sind vom Gang aus offen zugänglich. Christian machte es sich gemütlich. Er hatte sich sofort die Schuhe ausgezogen, lehnte sich an die Wand und streckte seine Beine aus. Ich holte das Kissen und die Decke von meiner Liege runter und lehnte mich an die Leiter. Ich hatte die obere Liege bekommen, sie blieb unbenutzt, denn da unmittelbar unter dem Dach kann man gar nichts sehen. Eine hübsche Kleine „from a small town near Hengyang“ hatte die mittlere Liege bekommen, von da kann man im Liegen aus dem Fenster gucken. Im Gang gibt es vor dem Fenster zwei Klappsitze und ein kleines Tischen. Die Vorhänge sind aus dem gleichen hellblauen Material, ohne Rüschen. Diese kleine Welt teilt man sich mit sechs Reisenden, vielleicht auch mit acht. Auf halbem Wege stiegen viele Leute zu, die die Klappstühle belegten. Ich weiß nicht ob sie so mitten am Tage ihre Betten nicht belegten, oder gar keine hatten. Auf jedem Fall hatten wir hier viel mehr Platz als in dem Zug mit den engen Sitzplätzen. Auch das Publikum war erträglicher, wesentlich sauberer und weniger laut als die Höhlenmenschen im billigen Sitzabteil vor drei Tagen. Wir knabberten Kekse und Bananen, die Zeit ging schnell vorbei. Obst hätten wir nicht mitzunehmen brauchen, alle Naselang kam ein Wägelchen mit abgepackten Obstkörbchen durch. Nachdem man einsteigt kommt die Schaffnerin gleich vorbei und holt die Fahrscheine ab. Dafür kriegt man eine Plastik Karte, die sie kurz vor Ankunft wieder eintauscht gegen deine eigene Fahrkarte. Man braucht keine Angst zu haben zu verschlafen (oder zu versuchen heimlich weiter zu fahren), die Schaffnerin - in jedem Wagon eine - hat alles unter Kontrolle. Auch hier gibt es vorne im Wagon heißes Wasser, die Leute machen ihren grünen Tee, „Ieh, was schwimmt da in dem Glas? Sind das Kaulkwabben?“ sagte Christian einmal entsetzt als er die dunklen Blätter in einen großen Glas schwimmen sah, oder sie schlürfen ihre Süppchen. Meine wiederholte Bemerkung „es schmeckt Dir aber Heinrich!“ gerichtet an unserem Herrn Nachbarn machte sein Essensweise nicht leiser. Die Landschaft nördlich von Guilin war sehr schön. Hier im nördlichen Guangxi und im anschließenden südlichen Hunan gibt es eine geringe Bevölkerungsdichte und kaum Industrie. Die Hügel sind bewaldet, in den kleinen Tälern wird Reis oder Gemüse angebaut. Die Dörfer sind idyllisch, es gibt noch alte einstöckige Backsteinhäuschen, manche noch mit traditionell geschwungenen Dächern. Straßen habe ich kaum gesehen. In den Dörfern gab es bestenfalls einen schmalen Weg aus Beton zwischen den Häuschen, meistens aber nur Matschwege. Gerade als ich von dieser Idylle ein Filmchen drehen wollte fing es wieder an zu schütten. Es goss wie aus Eimern und die ganze Landschaft stand schon jetzt unter Wasser. Arme Leute die hier im Schlamm hausen müssen, ich kriege schon die Gicht wenn ich nur hinschaue. Später wurde es weniger Hügelig. Es gab einige abartig hässliche Städte. Alte mehrstöckige Backsteinhäuser standen unverputzt und krumm und schief neben einander. Kein Sonnenstrahl kann hier jemals die vermoderten Backsteine trocknen. Wie kann man dann hier leben? Da haust man besser in einem sonnendurchfluteten indischen Slum. Nach fünfeinhalb Stunden Fahrt, vor dem Bahnhof von Hengyang, flippte Christian erst mal aus. Er war wütend, er fand seinen Poncho nicht und es goss immer noch. Die Taxis standen hinter dem Bahnhofsplatz. Die ganze Gegend um den Bahnhof herum sah furchtbar aus. In kaum einem Gebäude brannte ein Licht und es war gerade Mal dunkel geworden, etwa viertel vor sieben. Überall standen tiefe Pfützen, kleine Pollern versperrten die Durchfahrt. Warum darf der hässliche leere Platz nicht von den Taxen benutzt werden um vor zu fahren? Christian organisierte ein Taxi für fünf Euro, pitschnass stiegen wir ein. Die Stadt sah ganz trübe aus, über den breiten Fluss, wahrscheinlich den Xiang Jiang, wurde es etwas besser, aber alles war viel dunkler und es gab weniger Neonwerbung als in anderen Städten. Wir fuhren immer geradeaus über die Hauptstraße. Es gab ein paar Shoppingmalls, sonst nichts. Unser Hotel stand neben einem buntbeleuchten fünfzehnstöckigen Karaoke Palast. Ob das auch ein Hotel war? Unsere Reservierung war unbekannt. Wir bezahlten diese Nacht bar. Hoffentlich wird die Rate nicht nochmal automatisch als „no show“ abgebucht, aber Christian hält die Sache im Blick. Das Zimmer war ok, wenigstens die Bettwäsche sah sauber aus. Der Teppich auf dem Flur sah eklig aus, aber der liegt ja draußen. In China scheint es keine Staubsauger zu geben, Teppiche werden nur gefegt. Ich ging noch mal kurz vor die Tür um zu schauen ob es was zu knabbern gibt. Gab es, aber alle nur chinesische Restaurants. Heute Abend bleiben wir mal zuhause und essen unsere letzten Bananen. Nanyue, Heng Shan Gebirge Draußen tobt ein Orkan, ich kann nicht schlafen. Wir waren um kurz vor sieben nach Hause gekommen. Schon am Nachmittag wurde es immer windiger und es hatte wieder angefangen zu regnen. Im Laufe des Abends wurde es noch stürmischer, mehrere Male rumste es im Hotel, irgendwo kippten Sachen um. Jetzt ist es um Mitternacht und ich wurde wach von dem Radau da draußen. Es hörte sich an als würde der Wind versuchen irgendein Blechdach bei uns oben oder in der Nähe abzureißen. Christian hatte eine Spalte des Vorhangs offengelassen, eine Straßenlaterne wirft sein Licht neben mir an die Wand. Wild tanzen die Schatten einiger Äste hin und her. Ob morgen die Seilbahn nach oben wohl fährt? Heute Morgen in Hengyang hatte es immer noch geregnet. Der Blick aus dem Fenster war gruselig gewesen. Hier sieht China nicht aus wie wir es jetzt immer in den Nachrichten sehen oder es uns vorstellen. Die stürmische Entwicklung des Ostens scheint hier noch nicht angekommen zu sein. So was trübes, schrecklich. Links sah ich einige leere Gewerbegebäude, weiter hinten standen Dutzende von gleichförmigen mehrstöckigen Häusern dicht an dicht, alle grau, alle gleich. Davor, direkt unter uns alte, dreistöckige Backsteinhäuser. Die Balkons vollgemüllt, zwei Frauen saßen auf Höckerchen dazwischen und machen ein Schwätzchen. Über deren Köpfen hing Wäsche die in diesem Klima niemals trocken wird. So ein trostloses Bild, echt schlimm. Am Empfang fragten wir nach einem Taxi nach Nanyue. „Too expensive!“ sagte die Englisch sprechende Chefin, „you can walk to the busstation, only ten minutes!“ Die Chinesen sind wohl leidsamer als wir Europäer, bei uns käme kein Mensch auf die Idee bei diesem Regen zum Bahnhof zu laufen. Vor allem nicht, als sich herausstellte, dass die 42km lange Fahrt mit einem Taxi nur 100 Yuan, etwa €12,50 kosten würde. Das Hotel befand sich schon ziemlich am Rande der Stadt. Unser Taxifahrer fuhr noch kurz stadteinwärts, konnte dann wenden und überquerte abermals den breiten Fluss. Es folgten noch einige Neubaugebiete im Aufbau und dann waren wir schon auf der Autobahn. Sie war eine richtige Autobahn wo man schnell fahren konnte. So was hatten wir bis jetzt noch nicht gesehen, nicht mal im prosperierenden Sanya. Die Straßen sind in China fast immer sehr breit. Straßen die aber richtig als Highway benutzt werden, sind selten. Fast überall werden sie von allen Verkehrsteilnehmern benutzt: Motorräder, Mofas, Fahrräder, Fußgänger, und nicht alle folgen der vorgegebenen Richtung. Am Straßenrand fahren immer Geisterfahrer, Autos wenden wo sie wollen, alle wechseln ununterbrochen die Spur. Hier brausten wir mit 100 Stundenkilometer durch die triefende Landschaft. Es gab nur wenig Verkehr, wir überholten einige Autos, seltsamerweise über die rechte Spur. Keiner scheint niemals die Überholspur verlassen zu wollen. Vorher nutze der Fahrer aber immer ausgiebig die Hupe und die Lichthupe bis er eine Überholung wagte. Innerhalb von einer halben Stunde waren wir schon da. Der Fahrer fuhr bis zum Besucherzentrum der Stadt und wollte uns da abladen. Ich zeigte ihm den chinesischen Namen eines Hotels im Lonely Planet und nach einmaligem Nachfragen fanden wir das Hotel wenige hundert Meter weiter. Vielleicht hätte es ein besseres Hotel gegeben, aber wie soll man es finden wenn man nicht mal das chinesische Wort für „Hotel“ kennt? Wir hatten Glück, es war ein Zimmer frei. Heute Nacht würden wir den Luxus von drei chinesischen Sternen genießen können. Christian suchte mit der Hausdame ein Zimmer aus, es war noch nicht gereinigt worden, wir konnten das Gepäck aber hinter dem Tresen lagern. So ganz flott war der Check-In nicht abgelaufen, aber irgendwie ging es. Die Kleine hinter dem Tresen war zuerst paralysiert gewesen als sie uns kommen sah und rührte sich nicht. Sie saß an einem Tischchen hinter der Rezeption. Über dem Tisch gab es eine bunte Tischdecke die bis zum Boden ging und worunter sie sich bis zu ihren flachen Busen versteckte. Wahrscheinlich gab es unter dem Tisch eine Heizung, sonst wäre es hier auch nicht auszuhalten. Das Hotel bildete ein Viereck um einen Innenhof, die Hotelhalle befand sich im hinteren Gebäude. Die zwei doppelten Glastüren zum Innenhof standen immer auf und das bei nicht mal 15 Grad. Endlich erholte sie sie von dem Schock - Langnasen kommen hier wohl eher selten vorbei - und holte den Chef. Auch er sprach kein Wort Englisch, hatte aber ein Übersetzungsprogramm im Computer und so klappte die Kommunikation doch noch. Zur Verdeutlichung malte ich ein Zimmer mit zwei Betten und multiplizierte die Rate mit zwei: zwei Nächte. Als wir vom Essen zurückkamen hatte er ein adrettes Briefchen gemalt: „You are welcome to come to China, Nanyue“ und „Please show me your passport to sweep“, womit eine Kopie machen gemeint war. Ingo sagt mir immer, dass ich in meinen Reisebeschreibungen zu viel meckere, darum werde ich jetzt nicht motzen, sondern nur Urteilsfrei einige Bemerkungen über chinesische Hotelzimmer machen. In chinesischen Hotels gibt es keine Staubsauger, die Auslegeware der Gästezimmer wird gefegt. Es wird da gefegt wo man läuft, in Ecken, unter dem Bett oder den Möbeln läuft man nicht, da wird auch nicht gefegt. Nachdem die Möbel in ein Zimmer gestellt wurden, werden sie vom Personal in Ruhe gelassen. Beim Duschen läuft oft kein Wasser ab, darum nur kurz nass machen, einseifen und abspülen. In Badezimmern haben Ränder und Ecken eine grauschwarze Kontrastfarbe. Den Mülleimer kann man selber leeren, auf dem Flur steht dazu vor dem großen schwarzen Fleck an der Wand ein Behältnis. Beim Fotografieren aus dem Fenster immer das Fenster öffnen wenn man auf Bildschärfe Wert legt. Totensonntag fällt heute auf einem Freitag. Heute ist ein wichtiger Feiertag, überall im Land werden die Ahnen geehrt, ganz besonders am Fuße des Heng Shan, eines der fünf Heiligen Bergen Chinas. Das Städtchen war voll, vor dem großen Tempel von Nanyue, dem „Nanyue Damiao“, waren Himmel und Menschen unterwegs. Viele Leute waren bepackt mit Tüten voller Räucherstäbchen und Knallern. Der Lonely Planet widmete nur wenige Zeilen zu diesem Heiligtum, ich erwartete wenig Aufregendes. Christian kaufte die Eintrittskarten und zeigte mir die vielen roten Punkten auf dem Übersichtsplan: „Das Gelände ist ein Kilometer lang und das sind die Tempel“ sagte er. Das Tempeltor sah schon toll aus, dahinter erhob sich gleich ein Tempel und links und rechts vom Eingang noch zwei kleinere. Ich war sofort begeistert. Dieser Tempel war echt unglaublich und ähnelte von ihrem Lay-out „die Verbotene Stadt“ in Peking. Immer wieder stand hinter einem Tempelgebäude ein weiterer Tempel, neun ins Gesamt. Links und rechts vor dem Haupttempel gab es zwei riesige Öfen. Hier konnten die Gläubigen ihre Räucherstäbchen verbrennen. Nur waren die Öfen den Ansturm der Pilger überhaupt nicht gewachsen. Vor dem linken Ofen lag ein Ascheberg von mindestens fünf Metern Länge, drei Metern Breite und zwei Metern Höhe. Davor standen eine Menge Leute die beteten oder massenweise ihre in roten Pappkartons verpackten Räucherstäbchen und ihre Knaller ins Feuer schmissen. Rauchschwaden zogen über den Platz und ununterbrochen knallten die Böller. So wurden die Vorfahren auf die Anwesenheit ihrer Nachfahrer aufmerksam gemacht, ähnlich, nur viel lauter als durch einen Gong oder eine Trommel. Für die kleine Gamilla brannten wir unsere Räucherstäbchen im rechten Ofen ab. Links und rechts der Hauptachse gab es vierzehn weitere Tempel, sieben Taoistische und sieben Buddhistische um das Gleichgewicht der Religionen zu symbolisieren. Alle waren sehenswert, dazwischen gab es herrliche Gartenanlagen, Klöster der vielen Mönche, Pagoden und Teiche mit Goldfischen und Schildkröten. Auf den Ecken gab es Wehrtürme mit chinesischen Dächern die von oben eine wunderbare Sicht auf die vielen Tempel ermöglichten. Es war wirklich wunderschön. Überall gab es Pilger, in einem Tempel schlug der Mönch der Gong für uns, ob wir nicht beten möchten? Über zwei Stunden ließen wir uns von dem wunderbaren Ambiente verzaubern. Ich hätte hier ohne weiteres einen ganzen Tag verbringen können. Christian hatte aber genug, er wollte sich das Städtchen noch ansehen. In einem etwas eingestaubten Hotel aßen wir im Restaurant. Der Raum war riesig, an jedem runden Tisch wäre Platz für acht Personen. Eine englische Menükarte gab es nicht, aber eine junge Dame vom Nachbartisch half aus. Mit ihrer Hilfe bestellte Christian Spagetti und ich einen Fisch, Gemüse und Reis. Unsere Begeisterung hielt sich in Grenzen. Christians Nudeln waren fest und fettig, mein Fischchen und Reis ok, aber das Gemüse, eine Art Salat, war angebraten worden und war vermischt mit fettigen Stückchen Schweinefleisch mit Schwarte. Heng Shan Um fünf nach neun waren wir schon oben. Wo wir so genau waren weiß ich nicht, auf jedem Fall steckten wir tief in den eisigen Wolken. Christian hatte auf so einen Quatsch überhaupt keinen Bock und wollte sofort wieder runter. Er war stocksauer über die Kälte, über die vielen Chinesen, über den Nebel, über alles. Das etwas Unangenehmes Spaß machen kann ist ihn völlig fremd. Es hatte so gut angefangen. Das riesige Empfangsgebäude für den Besuch an die heiligen Berge war keine zweihundert Meter von unserem Hotel entfernt. In der ersten Etage standen zwei gigantische Reihen vor dem Einlass, aber nachdem ich in wenigen Minuten die Karten gekauft hatte, wurden wir nach vorne geholt und nur Minuten später konnten wir in einen kleinen Bus einsteigen. Die ganze Sache hier ist super durchorganisiert. Es gibt Dutzende, wahrscheinlich Hunderte von beigefarbigen Bussen die die Leute nach oben fahren. Die Landschaft ist umwerfend. Der Mischwald ist üppig grün, überall wurde gefegt um die Sturmschäden der letzten Nacht zu beseitigen. Umgestürzte Bäume waren schon abgesägt worden, abgerissene Äste entfernt, die Straße wurde von den vom Sturm abgerissenen grünen Blättern gereinigt. Immer wieder gab es Tempeldächer zu sehen, ein Stausee, Brücken aus weißem Marmor. Die letzten 15 der über einer Stunde langen Fahrt fuhren wir durch die Wolken und oben, neben einem Tempel, mussten wir aussteigen. Ich konnte Christian noch überreden vor dem Tempel ein Bild von mir zu machen. Ende der Fahnenstange! Schon eine Enttäuschung. Endlos einen Berg hochwuchten ist nicht Christians Sache, aber jetzt nicht mal runter laufen? Auf halber Höhe hielt ich es nicht mehr aus im Bus, ich wollte raus. Wie gerne hätte ich herausgefunden ob wir auf dem höchsten Punkt des Heng Shan, auf 1290m gewesen waren, und wäre gerne ein bisschen durch den nebeligen Wald gelaufen. Jetzt möchte ich auch noch nicht alle Tempel verpassen. Inzwischen war die Sonne da, der Orkan hatte die Luft gereinigt. Wir liefen abwechselnd über den Fußweg oder über die Straße. Der Wald und die Landschaft waren wirklich schön, die Tempel wunderbar in die Landschaft eingefügt. Das Ende der Wanderung führte an dem Flüsschen, über kleine Brücken und entlang eines Stausees bis zu einer Talsperre. Zurück in Nanyue hatten wir noch Zeit um ein Hühnerbeinchen zu knabbern, die historisierende Innenstadt zu sehen, die Pilger zu beobachten und den zweiten Tempel der Stadt zu besichtigen. Hier gab es keine Pilger und westliche Touristen sowieso nicht. Schon seit Guilin hatten wir keine Kaukasier mehr gesehen. Hinter dem schönen Tor gab es einen Hof mit drei Tempeln. Ein Mönch machte Christian auf eine riesige 107 Jahre alte Eiche aufmerksam. Die jährliche Wachstumsfase ist hier in den Subtropen viel länger, bei uns wäre sie in der gleichen Zeit nie so dick geworden. Hinter den Tempeln gab es ein großes Kloster mit unzähligen anderen Tempeln, offenen Gängen, Essensräume mit alten Tischen und Schränken, Gebetsräume mit gelb bezogenen Höckerchen, Innenhöfe und Gärten. Alle Bauten hatten hohe chinesische Holztüren mit aufwendigen Holzrahmen vor den Fensterchen. Ein Mönch sprach mich an und fragte immer wieder das gleiche. Er konnte gar nicht glauben dass ich kein Chinesisch konnte und schüttelte mitleidig seinen Kopf. Wie kann man so blöd sein, dachte er. Das Städtchen Nanyue hat außer den 1200 Jahre alten Haupttempel keine alten Gebäude zu bewundern, aber die Innenstadt wurde fast völlig in einem historisierenden Stil aufgebaut. Die zwei und dreistöckigen Häuser waren weiß und hatten geschwungene graue Ziegeldächer. Die Holztüren, die gleiche Sorte wie in dem Tempel, werden am Tage bei Seite geschoben. Es gab Hunderte von Läden die alle Räucherstäbchen und Böller verkauften, die roten Verpackungen sahen schön bunt aus. Die jungen Ladenbesitzer verbringen ihre Zeit mit surfen in ihrem Smartphone, die älteren spielen Karten, Domino oder Majong. Mit dem Kopf auf dem Tresen dösen oder schlafen ist auch populär. Changsha Wenn wir die nette junge Dame nicht neben uns im Restaurant gehabt hätten, hätten wir es nicht gewusst: Nanyue hat einen Bahnanschluss mit dem Hochgeschwindigkeitszug. Der Bahnhof lag viele Kilometer, etwa eine Viertelstunde mit dem Taxi, außerhalb der Stadt. Erst jetzt verstand ich die etwas poetische Beschreibung dieser Berge: „Die 72 Gipfel des Heng Yang.“ Die Berge stehen oft einzeln in der Landschaft, sie ragen unmittelbar aus den flachen Reisfeldern hinauf. Schon die Anfahrt zum Bahnhof ähnelte die eines Flughafens. Die Straße war breit und flach, sie wird abends von vielen Straßenlaternen beleuchtet, der Straßenrand war mit Blumen und Büschen bepflanzt. Das Bahnhofsgebäude war größer als der Flughafen Berlin-Schönefeld. Es fahren etwa zwei Züge pro Stunde, wir brauchten nicht mal eine halbe Stunde zu warten. Die Chinesen können wirklich was leisten, ein so riesiges Hochgeschwindigkeitsnetz in so kurzer Zeit zu bauen ist schon unglaublich. Alle paar Minuten brausten Züge mit über 300 Stundenkilometern durch den Bahnhof, richtig beängstigend. Der Zug war pünktlich, wir rauschten gleich los. Noch im Bahnhof hatten wir schon 70km drauf, kurz darauf 305, Wahnsinn! Wir fuhren 25 Minuten durch viele Täler und Tunnel, und rasten an kleine Dörfchen mit weißen Häusern vorbei. Der Bahnhof von Changsha ist größer und viel futuristischer als der zukünftige Flughafen BER, unglaublich. Auch die Auffahrt war gigantisch, man kann es gar nicht glauben. Schon gleich sahen wir, das Changsha ein ganz anderes Kaliber Stadt ist als Hengyang. Überall entstehen hier neue Stadtviertel mit hochaufragenden Türmen, 20 Stockwerke, 30 oder höher. Alles sieht sehr organisiert und sauber aus, nur der Verkehr ist genauso chaotisch wie überall. Können die Chinesen nicht einmal in ihrer Spur bleiben? Motorräder sieht man hier kaum noch. Die wurden von Nanning, Guilin und Hengyang immer weniger. Das hat wohl mit den höheren Lebensstandard zu tun: Hier fährt man Auto. Das Crowne Plaza steht an der Kreuzung des lokalen Kurfürstendamms und der Fußgängerzone. Ein etwas schäbiges Hochhaus mit 25 Stockwerken umgeben von Baustellen. Gegenüber wurde gerade ein ganzes Stadtviertel geschleift und unter der Fußgängerzone wird eine Metro gebaut. Innen ist das Hotel sehr luxuriös, es ist angeblich das Beste dieser sieben Millionen Stadt. Viel weißer Marmor auf dem Boden, dicke Teppiche, Kristallleuchter. Weil wir unseren Plan verändert hatten waren wir einen Tag früher gekommen und hatten diese Nacht kurzfristig im Internet gebucht. Drei Leute halfen uns am Empfang und verstanden überhaupt nichts. Sie wollten uns immer wieder zwei Zimmer geben. „Kingsize?“ fragte der Rezeptionist immer wieder. „No, two beds!“ sagten wir immer wieder. Immer wieder zeigte ich auf die Daten: eine Nacht für die volle Rate am 07-04, dann zwei Nächte, am 08. Und 09. für die Staff-Rate. „I have rooms with a connecting door.“ „Not two rooms, one room! One room with two beds!“ Das war doch zum Mäusemelken. Was ist denn so schwierig an einer Anschlussbuchung? Irgendwann klappte es doch. Wir bekamen ein tolles Zimmer im 16. Stock (#1623). Auch hier gab es einen dicken dunkelblauen Teppich mit eingewebtem Goldrand, große Betten, große Kissen, Decken wie flauschige Wolken und im Bad war viel schwerer weißer und dunkelroter Marmor verbaut worden. Die Aussicht ging direkt auf die vorher erwähnte Kreuzung. Vor allem abends mit den Lichtern der Hochhäuser war es hier fast wie in New York. Heute Nachmittag haben wir einen sightseeingfreien Tag. Wir bummelten durch die Fußgängerzone, ich fand ein schönes Hemd und danach durch die kleine Gässchen hinter den Hochhäusern. Changsha ist keine spektakuläre Stadt, es gibt keine Hochhäuser über fünfzig Stockwerke oder schöne historischen Gebäude. Aber die Stadt is angenehm, die Straßen breit und gepflegt, in den Gassen lebt man wie einst. Es gibt leckere Sachen zu knabbern (spicy potatoes!) und es ist überall sauber. Die Leute sind hier auch relaxter als im armen lumpigen Süden. Wir kamen zum Fluss. Ich hatte nie von dem Xiang Jiang gehört, aber er ist so breit wie der Jangtse. Mitten im Strom liegt eine Sandbank, die den Fluss über viele Kilometer teilt. Sie gab der Stadt ihren Namen: Changsha heißt wohl „sandige Insel“. Es gibt eine schöne baumbestandene Corniche. Heute, ein Sonntag, genossen viele das schöne Wetter. Es wurde getanzt, Karaoke gesungen oder Domino gespielt. Hinter der Kaimauer, unten am Fluss, gab es unter Sonnenschirme Stühle zu mieten. Zehn Yuan, inklusive Tee. Eine Stunde schauten wir auf den schnell fließenden Fluss. Sie führte viele Äste mit sich, Zeugen von dem Sturm vor zwei Tagen. Mit Kies und Sand beladene Schiffe tuckerten vorbei, rechts floss der Verkehr über die Stadtbrücke, die vielen Fußgänger auf dem Weg zur Insel – ein Erholungspark – sahen aus wie Ameisen. Unsere Stühlevermieterin schien mit einigen anderen Familien auf einem Ponton im Strom zu wohnen. Ihr Mann schipperte mit einem Bötchen die Leute hin und her. Schön hier! Zu Hause hatte ich noch Zeit eine Runde zu schwimmen. Leider sehen die chinesischen Hotelpools immer aus wie eine öffentliche Badeanstalt. Gemütlich sind sie nie und auch das Wasser könnte wärmer sein. Trotzdem werde ich die nächsten Tage immer schwimmen gehen. (Ausflug nach Wuhan, Provinz Hubei) Taxifahrer fahren immer unterschiedliche Routen, wahrscheinlich um den Fahrpreis in die Höhe zu treiben, aber oft kann man auch gar nicht fahren wo man es möchte. Überall gibt es Baustellen, oder Gitter auf der Straße verhindern das links abbiegen oder wenden. Für uns ist das eigentlich ganz gut, man sieht mehr von der Stadt. Ich sitze immer vorne und fotografiere. Bilder die nach vorne durch die Windschutzscheibe gemacht werden sind oft ganz gut, Aufnahmen aus dem Seitenfenster werden meistens unscharf. Gestern hatten wir vom Hochgeschwindigkeitsbahnhof außerhalb der Stadt zum Crowne Plaza 26 Yuan bezahlt, heute mussten wir für die Tour in die Gegenrichtung 53 bezahlen. Dafür fuhren wir kilometerlang entlang des Xiang Jiang, konnten uns an den schönen Gartenanlagen erfreuen und sahen den riesigen Kopf - 35 Meter hoch! - des jungen Mao am Ende der Insel. Von hier schwamm er an seinem 65. Geburtstag zum anderen Ufer. Schon eine Leistung wenn man sieht wie schnell der Fluss fließt. Als wir abends von Wuhan zurückkamen war es schon dunkel. Jetzt sah die Stadt wieder ganz anders aus. Der Fahrer wählte nicht den direkten Weg durch die Stadt mit endlos vielen Kreuzungen und Ampeln, sondern fuhr über eine Hochstraße. Von hier sah die Stadt toll aus. Changsha ist sehr kompakt gebaut. Es gibt viele Viertel die in einem Stil hochgezogen wurden (meistens zwischen 20 und 30 Stockwerke hoch). Oft wurden die Spitzen all dieser Häuser angestrahlt, oder an den Rändern gab es Neonröhren. So sieht es aus als hätten die Häuser eine Krone auf. In der Innenstadt wird es dann kommerzieller. Die Fassaden sind oft bunt beleuchtet, vieles flackert. Vor dem alten Bahnhof bogen wir in „unsere“ Straße, die Wuyi Road ein. Viele Kilometer fährt man hier über eine zehnspurige Straße geradeaus, das sieht sehr imposant aus. Wir ließen uns zu „Carrefour“ fahren und mussten diesmal 35 Yuan (knapp €4) bezahlen. Christian wollte noch mal shoppen (er hatte bei Carrefour in Wuhan T-Shirts gefunden aber nicht gekauft). Inzwischen machte ich Bilder von den beleuchteten Hochhäusern in der Umgebung. Von hier zum Hotel waren es nur wenige Hundert Meter. Dienstag Mao Tse Tung ist in Hunan geboren, etwa 100km westlich von hier. Sein Dorf ist ein Pilgerort geworden. Wir sind beide keine Fans von ihm und haben uns den umständlichen Weg in die Provinz erspart. Aber auch hier in Changsha gibt es mehrere Stätten die an ihn erinnern. Hier hat er eine Lehrerausbildung gemacht und später unterrichtet. All diese Plätze kann man besuchen. Wir entschieden uns für das städtische Museum wo man im Garten das Haus besuchen kann wo er gelebt und seine ersten konspirativen Versammlungen abgehalten hat. Der Eintritt zum Gelände ist frei, man muss aber seinen Ausweis vorzeigen. Am Ende der Auffahrt steht eine riesige Mao Statue auf einem hohen Sockel. Im Rücken stehen Tannen, dazwischen wehen rote chinesische Fahnen an hohen Masten. Die Atmosphäre im Garten ist locker. Großeltern spazieren hier mit ihren Enkeln oder fahren sie im Kinderwagen durch die schönen Anlagen. (In Süd China gibt es keine Kinderwagen, da werden die Kinder getragen) Es wurde getanzt oder Gymnastik gemacht. Das Haus war ganz einfach, hatte drei Schlafzimmer mit schönen chinesischen Betten. Bei den Meetings an dem kleinen Küchentisch ist leider nicht viel Gutes herausgekommen. Wir fuhren wieder quer durch die Innenstadt zu dem Tianxin Tempel. Auch diese Sehenswürdigkeit befand sich in einem ausgedehnten Garten. Die Anlage war sehr schön gepflegt. Hier im Herzen von China ist es jetzt Frühling, die Bäume haben frische, hellgrüne Blätter, die Azaleen und Rhododendren blühen. Es gab eine künstliche Felsenlandschaft, ältere Männer saßen an Steintischen und spielten Brettspiele, unten auf dem Platz tanzten die Frauen. Der Tempel sah nachgebaut aus, war aber sehr schön. Im Tempelinnern war ein Museum eingerichtet, auch hier überall viel Mao. In einem Nachbartempelchen wurde klassische chinesische Musik auf der einseitigen Geige gemacht, eine Sängerin sang Peking Oper. Bestimmt hohe Kunst, aber ich bin ein Kulturbanause, für mich war es ein schrecklicher Katzenjammer. Jetzt fuhren wir über den Fluss zum dem Yuelushan Park. Hier wollte ich ein schöner Aussichtspavillon und eine alte Universität besuchen. Aber in China findet man nicht immer was man erwartet. Der Taxifahrer setzte uns vor einem großen Tor ab. Dahinter erwartete ich diese Sehenswürdigkeiten. Es gab keinen Eintritt zu zahlen, aber ein Sessellift kostete 30 Yuan. Viele Treppen weiter oben fanden wir diese auch. Sie fuhr aber nicht wie von mir erwartet zu den Sehenswürdigkeiten, sondern über viele Hügel zu einem Aussichtspunkt auf die Stadt. Macht nichts, es war sehr schön. In luftiger Höhe knabberten wir die Paninis und Kuchen die wir unterwegs gekauft hatten. Die Tour ging eine halbe Stunde. Mit mal kurz wieder runter laufen war da nichts, wir fuhren auch wieder runter. Die Sicht auf die Stadt wurde immer diesiger, es wurde auch immer dunkler und kälter. Das sah nach Regen aus. Wir verzichteten auf die nächste Sehenswürdigkeit. Die Insel im Fluss müssen wir uns bei dem nächsten Besuch an Changsha anschauen. Um halb drei waren wir wieder im Hotel. Gleich darauf fing es an zu regnen. Wir brauchten noch Geld und mussten noch mal runter zu einem ATM. Gar nicht so einfach in China. Man muss viele Automaten versuchen bis auch mal Geld raus kommt. Inzwischen regnete es richtig. Christian kaufte noch einige T-Shirts bei Carrefour und wollte noch eine Luxus Mall sehen. Klitschnass kamen wir da an. Wir packten unsere nassen Ponchos in den Rucksack, die chinesischen Damen bekamen ihren nassen Knirps vor der Tür in ein Tütchen verpackt. Das Center war langweilig, wir fanden aber ein japanisches Restaurant. Endlich gab es mal ein Restaurant mit brauchbaren Menükarten. Bis jetzt waren Restaurantbesuche immer gescheitert wegen der Menükarten: Immer alles nur auf Chinesisch und keiner im Laden spricht Englisch. Wie soll man da wissen was es gibt oder wie man bestellen soll? Einmal in Sanya, in einem Restaurant mit einigen Fotos von Gerichten, wollte ich weißen Reis zu meinem Fisch, ich zeigte auf ein gebratenes Reisgericht, machte ein Strich dadurch und zeigte dann auf weißes Papier, auf mein weißes T-Shirt, auf die weiße Zuckerdose. Wurde nicht verstanden, ich bekam trotzdem meinen fettigen Reis mit Schweineschwarten und Gemüse. So schwer wie hier in China etwas zu essen zu bestellen war es noch nirgends in der Welt. Hier in diesem japanischen Restaurant gab es Hochglanzbilder von allen Gerichten und dazu eine englische Beschreibung. Unsere Nudelsuppen war lecker, die Portionen groß, der Preis niedrig. Zum Schwimmen blieb noch ein bisschen Zeit, Christian packte schon mal ein. Die Abende gehen immer viel zu schnell vorbei. Ich bin auch immer so müde vom vielen laufen und will dann nur noch ins Bett. Diese Berichte entstehen meistens nachts wenn ich irgendwann nicht weiterschlafen kann. Ich versuch es noch mal. In wenigen Stunden fahren wir nach Kanton.

Ile-de-France Visit: 2012-5
2012-07-01 - Das erste was einem auffällt wenn man neun Jahre nicht mehr Paris war, ist das alles so neu und sauber aussieht. Früher war der Ostbahnhof eine riesige graue Baracke, jetzt sieht alles frisch renoviert aus. Die alten gusseisernen Hallen sind noch da, aber die Einbauten bestehen jetzt aus gestyltem Stahl und Glas, die imposante Fassade wurde gesandstrahlt, hell und sauber leuchtet der Sandstein. Nach kurzem suchen fanden wir das Holiday Inn in einem Pariser Altbau gegenüber. Die Fahrt von Reims hatte mit dem TGV nur 50 Minuten gedauert, wir waren zu früh da und das Zimmer war noch nicht frei. Wir ließen das Gepäck lagern und spazierten los. In einer Markthalle in der Nähe fanden wir nicht das richtige zum Essen, wir entschieden uns später für Miso-Suppe und Sushi. Überall um uns herum war die Stadt wie neugemacht. Waren früher die Häuser natürlich genauso schön wie jetzt, sahen sie aber oft ganz schön kohleverstaubt, grau und staubig aus. Jetzt kann man sagen dass die Stadt durchgängig renoviert worden ist. Ganze Straßenzüge geben sich weiß und beige, und überall gibt es hübsche Geschäfte, Cafés und Restaurants. Olle rauchige Kneipen wie früher sieht man nicht mehr. Auch braucht man keine Angst mehr zu haben sich auf den holperigen Gehwegen die Knochen zu brechen, die Trottoirs sind fast alle durchgängig asphaltiert worden. Weitere positive Änderungen sind die geringere Verkehrsdichte und die vielen Fahrradwege. Überall gibt es ein elektronisches Fahrradvermietungssystem, für uns aber leider undurchschaubar. Die Leute hielten ihre Karte kurz vor einem Poller und schon klickte das Rad frei um es nach Benutzung an eine andere Station wieder anzuschließen zu können. Wir sahen uns unterwegs die Kirchen und hübsche Gebäude an. Überall wo wir etwas Interessantes sahen liefen wir hin. Es macht Spaß so planlos durch die Stadt zu laufen weil es überall schön ist. An den Grands Boulevards reihen sich die Warenhäuser aneinander: Lafayette und Printemps, beiden mit prächtigen Fassaden und vergoldeten Kuppeln. Es war Samstagnachmittag und überall rappeldicke voll. Wir ließen uns von der Menge treiben und auf einmal lotste uns eine Touristengruppe in die Oper hinein. Hier in dem vergoldeten Souterrain konnte man Karten für die Pracht weiter oben lösen. Wir ließen es gut sein und spazierten weiter zum Place Vendome. Wenn man hier die Schönheit der Gebäude, den Luxus der Geschäfte und Hotels sieht, kommen einem, wenn man an Berlin denkt, fast die Tränen. Deutschland, Berlin, hat den Krieg verloren, aber ganz gewaltig. In den Tuilerien war der Bär los. Oder eher der Hund. Man wundert sich über die vielen Hunde, obwohl man weiß dass die Pariser zuhause kaum Platz haben. Wer kann sich schon eine größere Wohnung leisten als ein „Studio“ von 24qm, angeboten beim Makler in der Rue de Rivoli für schlappe €278.000? Kein Wunder dass es hier in Paris noch überall ein in Berlin fast ausgestorbenes Phänomen, Waschcenter, gibt. Wer will oder kann schon auf so einem teuren Quadratmeter in der Wohnung verzichten? Vom Garten aus bietet das Louvre eine imposante Kulisse, zugleich schüchtert es einen ein. Bei Touristen ist das Museum nur mäßig populär. Man weiß nicht wo man anzufangen soll und kommt nie zu einem Ende. Es gibt mehr als 35.000 Exponate, wovon 2500 Gemälde. Die beiden Flügel sind über 700 Meter lang. Frust ist so vorgarantiert! Wir waren schon gefrustet von den Klo-Preisen von €1,50 in der Fressmeile! Wir schafften es nicht mehr ganz zurück zum Hotel, die letzten zwei Stationen fuhren wir mit der Metro weil es anfing zu regnen. Der ganze Abend goss es. Ich hatte mich um acht Uhr mit meinem Kollegen Vasi, seinem Freund Peter und dessen Pariser Freunden im Marais verabredet und kam da klitschnass an. Die Kneipe war so voll und wir standen so ungünstig vor der Toilettentür, dass einem fast die Luft ausging wenn die Leute an uns vorbei drängelten. Peter verriet mir den Grund für so viel Trubel: Von sieben bis neun war Happy Hour und dann kostete ein Bier nur €4.20 statt normalerweise €6,40. Ein Schnäppchen! Auf dem Heimweg und viele Biere später goss es immer noch! Schon um zehn Uhr standen wir an diesem Sonntagmorgen auf dem Place St-Suplice vor der gleichnamigen Kirche im Quartier Latin. Wir hatten beiden gut geschlafen in unserer 16 Meter langen Suite, 50% Rabatt für das Frühstücksbuffet bekommen, es regnete nicht mehr und wir freuten uns auf die gewaltige Klangfülle der Orgel aus 1781. Der Sound war wirklich gigantisch, die Musik modern. Die Messe zog sich in die Länge, einige Touristen waren das ewige Aufstehen und beten Leid und blieben einfach sitzen, nur die Japaner machten alles mit. Die Orgelmusik der Psalmen war sehr schön, ebenso das lange Nachspiel nach Ende der Messe. Überall waren die Wahllokale geöffnet, aber man sah kaum Wähler. Vielleicht war es immer noch zu früh. Alles scheint in Frankreich erst spät los zu gehen. Wir spazierten in Richtung Eiffelturm, sahen noch eine wunderschöne klassizistische Kirche deren Messe gerade beendet war. Die Wände und die Decke waren bunt bemalt, die Kuppel vergoldet. Da passten die Priester, die in ihren weißen mit viel Gold abgesetzten Kutten durch die Kirche schwebten, gut rein. Viel Gold gibt es auch an der Kuppel des Hotels des Invalides, die letzte Ruhestätte Napoleons. Es ist mir ein Rätsel warum dieser Kriegsverbrecher so verehrt wird. Hat er doch unzählige Kriege angefangen und Millionen Menschenleben auf dem Gewissen. Aber in Berlin ist es auch nicht anders. Unser hochverehrte Alte Fritz hat bei der langwierigen Eroberung Schlesiens auch Hunderttausende in den Tod getrieben. Am Eiffelturm war die Hölle los. Irgendwie scheint dieser Turm der Kulminationspunkt des französischen Tourismus zu sein. Hier sind alle da! Und alle von überall! Dazwischen rabenschwarze afrikanische Jungs die versuchten Eiffeltürmchen (ab einem Euro) und Eiffeltürme (ab acht Euro) zu verkaufen. Wenn die Polizei auftaucht rennen sie weg. Genug der Kultur! Christian möchte jetzt Shoppen! Wir fuhren zum östlichen Ende der Stadt, zu einem großen Markt. Am Porte de Montreuil, vier Stationen vor dem Ende dieser Metrolinie, strömten alle aus dem Zug. Hier ist man plötzlich woanders, im Orient? in Afrika? Frankreich ist hier weit weg. Schon zwei Schritte weiter stehen Verkäufer mit irgendwas herum, Tasche oder Tuch parat um schnell mit der Ware abhauen zu können. Legal ist der Markt erst auf der anderen Seite der Périphérique. Endlos erstrecken sich die Marktstände entlang der Autobahn. Kleidung, Schuhe, Ramsch, Schlösser, Töpfe, Stühle, Bücher…. Christian stütze sich gleich auf einen Schuhstand. Es handelte sich hier augenscheinlich um einen Laden für Einbeinige. Auf einem riesigen Haufen lagen lauter Einzelstücke. Der Preis: Chahari, also vierzig Euro. Diese Pakistanis mit ihren Dreitagebärten machten ein gutes Geschäft: Hob man einen Schuh hoch, tauchten sie gleich in den Haufen um dessen Pendant zu suchen und steckten das Paar in eine Plastiktüte. Zahlen, bitte! Nach diesem blau weißen Einkaufserlebnis bummelten wir bis zum Ende dieser Exposition. Christian war mehr interessiert an die Exponate, sprich Ware, ich konnte mich an das Personal und deren Besucher nicht satt sehen….mein lieber Herr Gesangsverein! Kurz vor Mitternacht stand ich auf dem Butte de Montmartre vor dem angestrahlten Sacre Coeur und schaute auf die Ville de la Lumière. In dieser tropischen Nacht saßen die Stufen voller Touristen, es wurde getrommelt, Indische Typen verkauften Heineken Bier und Wasser. Vor 44 Jahren saß ich mit einer Klassenfahrt zum ersten Mal hier und war begeistert. Dies hat sich nicht geändert: Paris war und ist für mich die schönste Stadt der Welt. Um ein Bisschen in der Vergangenheit zu bleiben: Anfang April 1979 lernte ich auf dem Flughafen von Katmandu Peter and Sheila kennen. Die beiden waren auf dem Weg von England nach Australien. In Birma hatten wir unterschiedliche Pläne, aber den ersten Tag in Rangoon verbrachten wir zusammen. Wir wollten uns in Bangkok wiedersehen, was aber im damals noch handylosen Zeitalter daneben ging. Groß war die Freude als wir uns später in Chieng May auf der Straße wiedertrafen. Diesmal verabredeten wir uns genauer in Bangkok und reisten von da an sechs Wochen zusammen durch den Süden Thailands, Malaysias und Sumatras. Zwei Jahre später war ich mit meiner Mutter in Bangkok und wie der Zufall es wollte waren die Beiden genau an diesen Tagen auch da. Wir trafen uns damals im InterConti und verbrachten einen Tag zusammen. Ein Jahr später besuchten wir sie in ihrem Haus in London. Das war das letzte Mal dass wir uns gesehen hatten. Ganz aus meiner Erinnerung waren sie aber nie. Meine Mutter sah einmal beim Frühstück, wie Sheila das neue Päckchen Butter einfach in die Butterdose gab, ohne sie vorher abzuwaschen. Wenn meine Mutter das ausnahmsweise zuhause auch mal machte, sagte sie immer: „Heute machen wir mal Peter und Sheila.“ Dies erzählte ich Christian, und so blieben uns der Spruch und die Erinnerung an den Beiden über die Jahrzehnte erhalten. Vor einigen Monaten fand ich Peter im Facebook. Wir schrieben ein Paar Mal hin und her, er wohne seit sechs Jahren in Paris und arbeite als Reiseführer. Und so trafen wir uns nach so langer Zeit wieder. Wie eh und jäh setzte sich der ehemalige Schauspieler und Tänzer in Szene: zwei Stunden über sein Leben zu sprechen reichten lange nicht. Nach 32 Jahren Ehe hätte es Probleme mit Sheila gegeben und er war in das Gartenhaus gezogen. Sein Umzug nach Paris war da eine Lösung, die Beiden verstanden sich jetzt wieder besser. Er hatte ein halbes Jahr lang eine neue Freundin gehabt und ganz happy gewesen. Seine jetzt 20 jährige Tochter war auch in Paris und studiere seit zwei Jahren Jura an der Sarbonne. Was ganz neues in seinem Leben war eine fünfjährige Beziehung mit einem Ägypter der ihn aber gerade verlassen hatte um zu heiraten und Kinder zu kriegen, um im Alter „nicht alleine zu sein“. Der Typ habe ihn fünf Jahre wie eine verschleierte Frau behandelt, drei Mal war er wegen dessen Eifersucht in einer Schlägerei verwickelt gewesen, einmal sogar mit Polizeigewahrsam. Ich hatte aber schon das Gefühl dass er diese Beziehung, die sein Leben so völlig auf dem Kopf gestellt hatte, vermisste. Es blieben uns jetzt noch zwei Tage für Paris. Am ersten Tag war ein großer Happen weg wegen unseres Treffens mit Peter. Das war bei „Les Halles“. Diese hatte ich noch als gusseiserne Gemüse- und Obsthallen in Erinnerung. Später wurden die schönen Hallen abgerissen und ein scheußliches unterirdisches Einkaufscenter mit überirdisch noch scheußlicherem Dach gebaut, eine grässliche Ansammlung von Buden, Treppchen und kleinen molligen Gärtchen. Gottseidank schien ich nicht als einziger dieser Meinung zu sein. Der ganze überirdische Schrott war inzwischen abgerissen worden und es waren Arbeiten im Gange hier ein großer Park zu bauen. Nachdem wir uns verabschiedet hatten bummelten wir durch den Quartier Latin, über den Boulevard Saint Michael und in meinem Lieblingspark Jardin du Luxembourg. Hier aßen wir leckere Chicken Wings von Quick. Das erstaunliche vom kulinarischen Frankreich ist, dass es hier pro Kopf der Bevölkerung mehr „MacDo’s“ gibt wie in Deutschland, dazu noch eine eigene Boulettenkette, „Quick“ eben. Der letzte Tag sollte für „Marchés“, Märkte, benutzt werden, aber irgendwie klappte das alles nicht so. Erstens waren die Angaben aus dem Internet sehr ungenau: „zwischen da und da“, „in der Nähe von Metro sowieso“, oder der Wochentag war falsch: dann gab es leere Stände, aber keinen Markt. Immerhin kaufte ich auf einem Markt in der Nähe des Eiffelturms ein bronzenes Pferdchen. Irgendwann hatten wir keine Lust mehr und gingen zum Jardin des Plantes. Hier gab es einen kleinen Zoo, alles schön altmodisch, wie so vieles in Paris. Der Botanische Garten war in Vergleich zu Rennes enttäuschend. Es reichte jetzt aber auch. Wir waren jeden Tag etwa zehn Stunden pro Tag auf den Beinen gewesen und auch heute kamen wir erst gegen acht nach Hause. Christian ging jetzt packen und ich fuhr noch mal in die Stadt „für ein letztes Bier im Stehen.“ Es war jetzt richtig warm geworden und halb Paris saß auf den Terrassen. Auf dem Rückweg sah ich ein vietnamesisches Restaurant und aß auf deren Terrasse eine „Pho“ Suppe. Endlich mal ein Moment Ruhe um die Pariser Bevölkerung zu beobachten. Die ist ganz anders als in Berlin. Ich schätze dass fast zehn Prozent aus Afrika stammt und noch viel mehr aus arabischen Ländern. Aber irgendwie sehen alle französisch aus in ihrer Kleidung und Lebensstil. Auch klucken sie nicht so zusammen in ihrer eigenen Clique: Freundesgruppen und Eheleute sind oft bunt gemischt und alle plappern Französisch.

Ionian Islands Visit: 2012-6
2012-06-04 - Funny enough, the cheapest flight back from Zürich to Berlin was via Corfu with a 10,5 hour stop. So I connected a short visit to four new cantons with a day in Greece. Opposite the airport is a taxistand and with the driver of the first taxi in the line I agreed a five hour tour over the island for €120.The driver was good and fast, I could make fotostops along the way. We drove along the eastcoast up into the mountains and had a coffee unter the oldest tree of the island in Strinílas, the highest village at 630m. Than the climb up the highest mountain, Pantokrator, 910m, with a little monastery from the 17th century and a bunch of antennes. The view from here is fantastic, you can even see Albania. After crossing the beautiful countryside with grapeyards and olivegroves we came to a viewpoint to oversee the fantastic westcoast and the Angelókastro Fort. Down at sealevel in Paleokastritsa we had time for a greek salat along the beach. Than we crossed the island again and visited the beautiful Archíllion, Sissi's Castle. A picture of Mouse Island and the Vlachérna Monastery endet the trip. I got of in the outskirts of Kerkyra and walked to the old city centre. This town with three big fortifications, little streets, squares and the big Esplenade is just beautiful. After dinner on Evangelistrias Square I walked back to the Airport to fly back to Berlin. The ten hours here were really well spend.

Israel (other) Visit: 2012-3
2012-07-21 -

Jammu and Kashmir (except Ladakh) Visit: -

Jiangsu Visit: 2011-4
2013-02-11 - After a two hour flight from Guangzhou (10.10 – 12.15 with China Southern Airlines) we arrived at Nanking’s / Nanjing’s Airport “Lukou”. We took a taxi to the hotel. A fantastic new highway connects the airport with the city. Before entering the city we passed on the left side of the street a huge Stalinist style building topped by a massif dome. It looked like the local headquarters of the communist party. Later at home I tried to find out what kind of building it was, but I did not find any pictures or information about it in the internet. After driving under an incredible cluster of viaducts we drove towards Nanjing’s skyline, topped by the seventh highest building in the world; the 381 m high (450m with the antenna) “Greenland Square Zifeng Tower” with the InterContinental Hotel between the 47th and 88th floor. We got a room in the 51st floor, room 5118, for €49 per night, with an amazing view on the Xuan Sea Park. Even twenty story apartment buildings looked small out of this perspective. The room had wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling windows plus power curtains. The walls of the bathroom were made of glass. You could relax in the bathtub and watch TV at the same time. The hotel was conveniently located near the Gulou Subway Station. The brand new subway brought us to the Sanshan Jie Station, near the main entertainment district of the city. Here you can see the 1500 year old Confucius Temple and some rebuild and newly constructed Ming Style buildings. The whole atmosphere of this area is a bit kitschy, but the rest of the downtown area was so internationally modern, that at least here you had the feeling to be in China. In the river there were little Chinese dragon boats for rent. Nearby, there were some shopping streets in traditional style with hundreds of little shops. In one little street there must have been more than fifty shoe shops. Of course Christian had to add two pairs, one multicolored one and one brown pair with yellow shoelaces, to his already enormous collection. In a Chinese style shopping center we ordered noodles. The food was absolutely terrible; we had to leave the place after one bite. I am sure that the Chinese cuisine is quite good, but it is not easy to order the right thing. After dark, our 88 story hotel was covered with blue lights. For a while I went swimming in the exclusive hotel spa, but the water seemed a bit cold for me. So we enjoyed the luxury of our hotel room and the million lights of the city. A push on one of the buttons next to my bed and slowly the curtains opened and showed us another sunny day. After breakfast at the McDonalds opposite the hotel, ( The company only gives staff a 50% discount on food and beverage in Europe, eating in the InterContinental Hotel all the time would be too expensive.), we took a taxi to the Zijin Shan Park, a forested area near town with a lot of interesting sights. We were two flight hours north of subtropical Guangzhou and springtime only just started here. Some bushes were green, but most of the trees were still virtually bare. An exception was the cherry trees; they were in full bloom. It was amazing to see how enthusiastic the people were about this. Lodes of people came to see the cherry blossoms, armed with pick nick baskets and heavy cameras. We started our tour through the park at the Sun Yatsen Mausoleum. Dr. Sun is seen as the father of modern China and died 1925. The construction of the large scale site started 1926. After passing through a Ming-style marble gate with a blue tiled roof you have to climb 392 steps to get to the actual mausoleum. Christian was not amused about so much action, his heart couldn’t cope and as a result we only saw the main building from down below. Now I regret this very much. A tourist bus train transported us to another part of the park. After finishing an instant noodle soup, common fare in gourmet China, we visited the grave of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang from the 14th century. This is a massive stone fortress with a Chinese gate style building on top. Its walls are red and the curly roofs are covered with orange colored tiles. Beautiful! Its extensive gardens are surrounded by high walls. Also here there were some beautifully blooming cherry trees. Now we got to an area of the park where the garden paths were flanked by immense stone statues: lions, camels, elephants and horses. This lane led to another palace. Bad enough we were running out of time and had to get back to the city to see the famous city walls. We took the chair lift to the top of the 448m high Zijin Shan, made some pictures from the hazy city below and walked down the steps on the other side. Back in town we took a taxi to another famous tourist sight: the Jiming Temple right next to the city walls. This temple consisted of several prayer halls, builds closely together and connected by steep stairways. All the buildings had curly roofs and the streets below were lined with cherry trees and absolutely packed with photographing people. We walked through the maze of temples and climbed the city wall. From here we had a fantastic view on the nearby lake and the skyline behind it: the enormous gleaming white tunnel-like structure was the brand new Main Railway Station from where we would take a high speed train to Suzhou the next day. I regret so much that we didn’t have the time to walk over the Chinese white marble bridges to get to the little islands in the lake. A day and a half is definitively too short for a beautiful city like Nanjing. We were just in time at the street again, to catch the last sunrays on the cherry blossoms. The sidewalks were packed with people and everybody was absolutely thrilled by the overhead beauty. Children were held up high between the trees to make unforgettable pictures. We took a taxi to the Hanzhong Lu Street to enjoy the neon lights and the apartment stores and shopping centers. What a luxury! Nanjing is beautiful! I was glad to get back to the hotel now. I didn’t feel well and overnight I started to get really sick. This was the prize I had to pay for my long swim in the cold water of the artificial lagoon in the gardens of the InterContinental Shenzhen. Now I wish I had only used their heated inside pool! Suzhou My night in our 51st floor luxury room was not too good. I spend more time on the way back and forth from the bathroom as in bed. There was something wrong with my bladder and I felt awful. The next morning I was really sick, but we had to go on. The concierge had gotten train tickets for us and a new luxury hotel was waiting for us in Suzhou. We took a taxi to Nanjing’s Main Station across the lake from the hotel; it had just opened its gates. I have never seen such an enormous station building. And everything was perfectly organized. The oversized screen on the rear wall showed all arrivals and departures in Chinese; the times, train numbers and platforms were shown in Latin. So it was easy to figure out what train was ours. Our ticket consisted out of a solid credit card sized paper ticket with an electronic code. To get to our platform we had to pass several electronic gates, which only opened minutes before the departure of the train. In this way, it was virtually impossible to end up in a wrong train. The 218km trip in China’s bullet train took only one hour and two minutes, with a speed of over 330km. Too bad, that it is not allowed to photograph stations or airports in China. Many of them would deserve lots of pictures. Suzhou’s Main Station was impressive, but a bit confusing. It took us some time to figure out the exit. Once more we needed our electronic tickets to be able to pass the last gate. We had learned our lesson in Shenzhen and as always had the concierge of our last hotel write down in Chinese the name of the next one. This didn’t help us in Suzhou though, as the hotel was so brand new, that nobody seemed to have heard about it. Our friendly female taxi driver made a few calls with her taxi operator, to no avail. Now we gave her the telephone number from the InterContinental and so somebody from the hotel could guide her to our destination. The hotel was part of a futuristic area of town on the side of an enormous lake. The old center of Suzhou was miles away from here. The 24 story hotel tower stood on its own surrounded by empty highways, a canal and an enormous designer style shopping center. That was good for Christian, because I was happy to be able to go to bed; I was really sick now. Christian made a tour through the neighborhood and I fell asleep right away. We had a beautiful room again, nr 1785. The wonderful bathroom could be opened from two sides and so it formed an integral part of the room. Of course the room had two queen size beds again. Next to the wall-to-wall window we had a large round table with two chairs. Christian had found a supermarket and a “German Bakery Store”. After eating I felt a bit better and we took a taxi to the center of town, about 20km away. We crossed a bridge and walked through a pedestrian area to some temples. These were nice, but the surrounding buildings seemed too new. The Chinese don’t like old stuff very much. They prefer to tear down old buildings first and then rebuild them, “new antiques” are a “in”. We had to go back to the hotel now. I felt too weak to walk around any longer. I had fever and was coughing the lungs out of my body. Back in the hotel I asked the concierge for a pharmacy. He didn’t know the word. I wrote it down and he looked it up in the computer. Now he understood my question, but the answer didn’t seem easy. China doesn’t seem to have pharmacies. After some discussion with a colleague he wrote us down an address in Chinese. We took a taxi and expected to be driven to a pharmacy, but we got to a little building behind a parking lot, surrounded by new twenty story high apartment blocks. It seemed to be a small health center. Some medical staff was walking around. They found an English speaking nurse for me. She explained me that they could not give me any medicine without a prescription and since there was no doctor available, it would be better for me to go to a hospital. She explained the directions to the taxi driver. It’s “not far” she told us. Not far were at least another four kilometers. We got to a hospital in the middle of a new residential area with ultra-modern twenty story glass-and-steel apartment buildings. Along the driveway, through the fast immaculate front garden, were pictures with the curriculum vitae of the medical staff. The reception area looked like a lobby of a big hotel. At the desk one of the girls could speak English well. I had to tell my problem, show my passport and pay a fee of about €3,50. Just minutes later I was presented a Chinese health card. I was in the system now. I was send to an empty waiting area. I did wait some time, but since nothing happened I vertured out into the opposite corridor and found a doctor in his office. This guy could speak English quite well. I assumed that he had studied in the US, but he told me that he just visited San Francisco once for an international meeting. The doctor took his time, examened me and wrote me down a list of six different medicines to swallow, inhale or rubb onto my chest. At the pharmacy next to the reception area they delivered it to me within minutes. This evening I had to stay in bed. Christian saw to it that I took all the medicines in time and did my inhalations. I must say that things did get better soon. The next day I felt strong enough to do some sightseeing. We took a taxi to the old town again and visited some of Suzhou\\\'s famous gardens. They were nice, but had a bit too much of stone to my taste. From the fishermans garden to the garden of politics we took a riksha. That was fun and we saw a lot of this relaxed city. After returning to the hotel we strolled through the shopping center next door. How do all these shops survive? In the huge halls, stores with all the luxery brands were lined up, but there was hardly a custumer in sight. We walked through a super exclusive supermarket with floors out of black marble and a cathedral high ceiling. It was just amazing to see what they were selling there: All the fruits and vegetables from around the world, hundreds of cheeses, any brand articles from anywhere! And who the hell needs fresh milk flown in from France, the Netherlands or New Zealand? The next morning we took the high speed train (top speed 331km) to Shanghai.

Jura Visit: 2012-10
2013-11-30 - The ICE train from Berlin to Basel had a 20 min delay, but I still had time to get my ticket for Porrentruy for SF22. I had been to Basel before and had not particularly liked it. Arriving by train from the North, the city doesn’t show its best side. Here the town seems to consist out of a collection of garages, small industries and minor construction sites; all entirely covered with graffiti. The Basel SBB Station is a rather big affair with a large main hall and a “passerelle” to the tracks with small shops and food stalls. This station is thé entry point to Switzerland. All passengers from Western and Northern Europe pass through here. Today it was a Sunday and not too busy. On the platform there were just a few people waiting. Now the train was gliding smoothly through a rolling countryside. Here, Switzerland is quite densely populated. All the announcements were made in German. Laufen was the last German speaking town and almost everybody vacated the train. The scenery became more rugged and the train didn’t stop in this scarcely populated area. The next announcement came in French and we stopped in Delémont. This town became the capital of the new Canton Jura, founded in 1979 on a wave of anti-Bern separatist feeling. My plan was to visit Saint-Ursanne, a bit further west, first. But in Delémont’s station, the train stood forever. It didn’t move. Swiss trains have to run exactly on time because of the many one track stretches. So in many stations, trains make long waits to make it easier to always be on time. When there is a delay, the next hour the train will be on time again. I was tired of waiting and got off. Visiting cities on a Sunday is not a very good idea, especially on rainy Sundays. So the impression I got of this city was perhaps not quite in accordance with its daily reality. The area around the station was not very nice. It was a mix of old and new, but in a bad way. The buildings didn’t fit together at all. How can the country allow this to happen? Beautiful old villas were dwarfed next to 15 story concrete apartment blocks; ugly school buildings as annexes to beautiful classic buildings, what a shame! No wonder that there was hardly a human being in sight! Anyway, the old city was very nice. The main street with the eighteenth-century Hotel de Ville is just beautiful. The small square in front of this ornate building was the scene - in 1947 - of a historic demonstration which sparked the subsequent liberation movement. Traditional fountains were adorned with flowers, a bit further along was a castle and from the church gardens I looked down on the valley and the surrounding hills. I walked back to the station and didn’t have to wait long for my train to Porrentruy. On the way, the scenery of steep hills and small lush valleys was just beautiful, especially when I passed Saint-Ursanne, just visible on the left, down below in a deep river valley. The countryside around Porrentruy is less dramatic, but the town itself is very beautiful. I had made a reservation for the Hotel de la Gare for CHF50. The room without bathroom was just as big as the price, but clean. The lady downstairs was rotating alone in her busy “bistrot”, serving beers and ice cream for the Sunday afternoon crowd. This place seemed to be the “hot spot” of the city, most likely since many, many years and visibly unchanged ever since. A note on the door said that service was “limité” to a “plat du jour” during lunchtime from Monday to Friday, starting October 1st. The only other place I had found “ouvert” around the hotel was a restaurant in “la Gare” with absolutely amazing prices: starters from CHF20 upwards, no thank you. Good that Christian had prepared a large collection of sandwiches for me. Those would be my dinner later on. I had to hurry up now to see the town before it got dark. The street leading into town, the “Rue Gustave Amweg”, was adorned with turn-of-the-century villas. All of them different: some were in German “half-timbered construction” style, others with ornate woodwork or in Italian or French style. One beautiful house, the white walls painted with soft grey ornaments, could have been flown in from Florence: beautiful! This town must have been really rich onetime. First I had to look for a way up to the castle. I found it near the fourteenth-century Porte de France, a typically Swiss building with a gate under a tower. On the way I passed an old factory building with a newish annex, so ugly! And that just below the castle, I couldn’t believe it. The castle was at the edge of town; behind it started the green hills of the Jura. The chateau was quite impressive. The building consisted of different wings, but left the courtyard open to the valley. From here I had a fantastic view on the old town. I hurried down and was early enough to make some pictures from the ornate facades and the medieval fountains along the Grand Rue. Later in the twilight and the dark, the city was still beautiful. The lightning was done by old-fashioned street lamps shining with a yellowish light. The place reminded me of Prague, but without the tourist crowds. I didn’t sleep very well this night. I always thought that I would stay the same guy forever, who doesn’t care about comfort, who is just happy to have a place to transfer him from today into tomorrow. I slowly have to admit to myself that I am not the same person anymore as I was 35 years ago. Before I got the job at the InterContinental Berlin, I travelled through India and South-East Asia, and slept in dormitories for months in a row. I think that I have to say goodbay to that kind of traveling. The many luxury hotels I stayed in spoiled me. Now I’m an old spoiled brat! The hard pillow bothered me and I could count the individual matrass springs peek into my back. Now my back hurts me and I can’t fall asleep again. I cannot continue typing my story in the computer either, because it’s running out of power. The Swiss sockets are different from ours and no cute pageboy in sight to bring me an adapter. Since the service was “limité” I left the hotel (through the backdoor, the key I left on the table in my room) without any breakfast. Good that Christian’s sandwiches still lasted. I got a through ticket again for today’s tour: Porrentruy – Saint-Ursanne – Glovelier – Chaux-de-Fonds – Neuchatel – Ins – Murten – Ins – Biel, the whole trip for CHF54. I left at 08.07 and it took only ten minutes to get to Saint-Ursanne. The old station building had hardly any space between the steep rocks and the sloop. The walk to Saint-Ursanne was very nice. A tunnel led me under the tracks and then I saw the little town in the valley ahead of me. Fifteen minutes later, I stood in front of the picturesque sixteenth century Porte de St-Pierre. I went through this gate and couldn’t believe my eyes. This wasn’t Disney Land, this was real. Narrow cobbled streets with pastel colored houses furnished with brightly painted window shutters, all of them with luxuriantly blooming window boxes. On the square stood an early gothic church, hidden behind meticulously manicured lime trees. Inside, its Romanesque choir was filled with lavish baroque ornament. Already I had crossed the town and came through the Porte de St-Paul on the other end of town. I walked up the forest road to get a view on the town from the other side, but was hindered by the thick foliage. I walked through this lush forest for a while along a small creek. After crossing some meadows I got back to town. A third gate, the Porte de St-Jean, led to a narrow old bridge over the river. This morning I was the only tourist, but the five hotels and several more restaurants could tell that this place must be a popular tourist destination. It took the train only five minutes to get to Glovelier. Here I changed to a private train company. A bit apart from the station, more or less on the street, stood my next train. It looked more like a streetcar then a train. This railway line followed the North-East, South-Westerly direction of the Jura mountain valleys and passed along lots of little villages and hamlets. If you wanted to get off you had to push the “stop” button. The train passed a lot of places without stopping; therefore we had long waits in the bigger towns, where connecting bus services existed. Remarkable is the fact, that there are a lot of Africans in French speaking Switzerland. Even here in this very rural area, you see a lot of black faces. How did they succeed to enter this beautiful country? Anyway, most of them seemed to speak French fluently and that makes their integration easy. At the beginning, the scenery was quite amazing. We came through narrow valleys and passed old farmhouses amid tiny meadows with just a few cows in it. Later on the valleys got wider and less steep and the farms got bigger with more cattle. It seemed that we were on a plateau quite high up. Now the villages got even bigger, we stopped at several towns and must have left the Canton Jura by now.

Kazakhstan Visit: 2007-6
2015-01-25 - Organized tours are not my thing, but to get to certain places they can simplify the trip a lot. My travel mate Christian wanted to go to Asia again, that was fine for me as well, as long as I would see something new. We agreed on Tibet. Not a real country, but it would at least feel like one. Then I found this tour with \\\\\\\"Lernidee\\\\\\\". The trip to Lhasa would start in Almaty, if only for a day. At least I would get a real country-point on this trip. Berlin is often seen as a gateway to the east. We are a city still firmly attached in the former \\\\\\\"Ostblock\\\\\\\". Strange enough we had to fly to Frankfurt first to get to Almaty. Weird also, that we didn\\\\\\\'t meet the group before the flight. Everybody checked in for themselves we would not meet each other until we arrived at the airport in Almaty. As usual I slept most of the time, but Christian looked around in the plane and was quite sure that some of the passengers had to be members of our group. After the passport control we were rounded up by Olga. That wasn\\\\\\\'t a problem here as we were standing out of the crowd. All the other people around were Kazakh or Russian. Olga happened to live in Berlin as well. She had studied in Leningrad until she had met her German husband. Until now she had accompanied groups through Central Asia, mainly Uzbekistan. This was going to be her first trip to China. We were herded into an old soviet style bus and without any further explanation brought to the hotel. It was pitch-dark outside, but still there might have been something to tell about the city. The hotel, the Astana International, was truly soviet style, but ok. We were offered a soup after we had gotten our room keys. The tour would start at ten. A bit late I thought when you only have one day to spend in town. I was pushing Christian for an early breakfast. It consisted out of the usual eastern fare of greasy sausage and salads with mayonnaise. We still had some time left for a short stroll. The hotel was a four story prefabricated building. Many buildings nearby looked similar. But it didn\\\\\\\'t look as bad as it sounds. Almaty does have a Russian feel. Especially on the street corners there were traditional Russian buildings around and the new ones stood back a bit. Trees along all the streets were hiding their ugliness. We made the first uncertain steps into this new world and walked through a soviet style shopping center. On the way back Christian said \\\\\\\"I saw a nice lady in the group, I think we should talk to her.\\\\\\\" Back in the hotel, she was waiting in the lobby for the tour to depart. We introduced ourselves, and from the first moment Guni and the two of us got along very well. Until now she is one of our best friends. The day was quite a catastrophe. Perhaps it wasn\\\\\\\'t, perhaps I was the (unsocial) catastrophe. The others seemed quite satisfied. I wasn\\\\\\\'t and my complaints and subsequent itinerary changes saved the day at least a little bit. From the hotel we were driven downtown where there were some historical buildings like an old orthodox church entirely made out of wood and surrounded by a beautiful park. Nearby there were some other historical buildings and an impressive soviet war memorial. So far, so good! We drove around a bit and got to the National Museum. It was a new building and the artifacts on display weren’t all that interesting. I would rather see the InterContinental Hotel not too far from here. This was not possible Olga said. We would be leaving soon. But it took another 45min until everybody came back to the bus. I could have easily gone there during this time, annoying! In the distance there were some impressive government buildings, but we did not get close. Olga repeated that there was actually not much to see in Almaty. Now we drove up into the beautiful mountains and we saw the first strange sight: at least for me it was strange, to drive up to an old ice scating stadium - MEDEO - and look around there for half an hour. The place must have been famous, because some GDR skating stars trained here. I am not very interested in sports so I might see things wrong. Annoying was the fact, that right behind the stadium, there was an enormous dam. After asking if we would drive up there I got the answer that the road wasn\\\\\\\'t save to drive. Curious as always I ran up the 800 steps to see that the reservoir was almost empty, but the mountains behind the lake were very nice. Christian stayed behind with the others. Later he told me that Olga had looked puzzled as she saw me running up. 35 minutes later I was back in the bus. They weren\\\\\\\'t waiting for me though, I wasn\\\\\\\'t the last one. We continued driving upward to a yurt under a tin iron roof. I must say that the idea was not bad to show us a traditional tent. But I soon found out this happened to be our lunch stop. And this lunch almost took an hour and a half! Imagine sitting in a tent for an hour and a half without windows, surrounded by snow topped mountains!!! We drove back to town to a ropeway to enjoy the view on the city from the Kok Cube viewpoint. There were some very nice open air cafés, why hadn’t we enjoyed lunch here? Good that I didn\\\\\\\'t know what was happening next, otherwise I would have freaked out right away! We came back down, not to see the sights, but to see the \\\\\\\"artwork\\\\\\\" of a local Russian artist. The \\\\\\\"art\\\\\\\" consisted of some painted old wood. The house was in the middle of nowhere and after five minutes we could have left. I think Olga planned to stay here until dinnertime. She was very proud that she had organized a visit to this famous artist for us. Now I started pressing for change. We hadn\\\\\\\'t seen the city yet! She answered again that there was not much to see in Almaty. I said that I would like to judge that for myself. At least we could go to see a shopping street? \\\\\\\"There is a street called Arbat, like the Arbat in Moscow, but there isn\\\\\\\'t really anything to see\\\\\\\" she said. So what? This street turned out to be quite nice, the more as we finally came to see some locals. Many Kazakh are really good looking. Some look Russian, other slightly Oriental, but a lot more butch. A bunch of about 15 cows was dancing in the street. Not the real ones of course, but puppets about 40cm tall. After walking around and seeing some historical architecture, we went to a restaurant again. The place was good, the food was nice. To show that we liked the food, everybody was eating a lot. Finally the table was cleared to bring the main dish. Olga hadn\\\\\\\'t told us that this food was just the appetizer. Everyone was filled up already. The main dish had to go back to the kitchen. What a waste! Way too early we walked over to the train station. A whole coach had been reserved for the 27 of us. No need to put up with the locals. We were four in one compartment, it was quite comfortable. I slept like a log. At daybreak we travelled through a flat empty space and passed a few traditional wooden villages, in the distance we could see Lake Balkhash. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere we stopped at a station to tank water. It took a while, time to get off the train and make some pictures. All trains seem to stop here, there was a lot of action on the platform. A few babushkas tried to sell some local products like fruit and eggs. More apparent where the dozens of dogs. They could immediately spot the difference between locals and tourits as they were only bagging for food from us. There was another stretch of quite boring scenery until a GDR style border came into view: fences, watchtowers, and a few military barracks. At the border station, the wheels had to be shifted to normal gauge. This process would take about two hours, we had to get off the train and used our time to have lunch in the village with the poetic name “Druzhba”. It was quite nice to walk through the village, it had a real Kazakh feel with its Soviet style architecture, mostly prefabricated, three story high buildings, some looking quite rundown and shabby. The restaurant was quite good, the staff very friendly. It was already dark as the train started moving again. A soldier came in, sat down with us and asked for our passports. “Did you know that Kazakhstan is the 9th biggest country in the world?” he asked proudly, “we are just slightly smaller than Argentina, very few people know that”. I didn’t realize it was that big, reason enough to come here again. I slept already as military music woke me up, we entered China!

Kosovo Visit: 2010-5
2012-07-18 - In Mai 2010 the weather was dreadful all over Europe. Also in Berlin it poured incessantly. On the way to the airport it poured, it poured in Budapest and on arrivel in Prishtina it still poured. I had hoped for better weather in the Balkans.
This turned out to be my last flight on Malev. Just as Budapest Airport got its beautiful new terminal Hungary’s national airline went bankrupt. In Prishtina the slot schedule seemed to be tight, we landet just after Air Berlin and Edelweiss. Hundreds of people were thronged in front of the passport control. It took ages to enter the country. Chaos at the baggage claim, good that I always travel with less than two and a half kilo of stuff in my backpack.
In front of the terminal building there was a long line of taxis. I expected the usual third world hassle, but here things were well organised. The driver explained to me in broken German that there are 72 taxis in Prishtina and he showed me the list with all the taxidrivers. At the airport the drivers have to wait their turn. I said that it had to be good business with all these hundreds of people arriving at the same time. “No” he said “You are the only one, until now everybody got picked up by friends or relatives. This is my fouth day without business.” It turned out that he and his family had lived in Germany for six years, but had been repatriated recently. A hard life here compared to living in the German welfare state.
He brought me to one of the best hotels in town, Hotel Afa, where I got a single room for €35 and left me his mobile number in case I planned to do a tour. In the hotel I asked the English speaking receptionist about the bussystem in Kosovo, but he let me know “that there is no bus system when you don’t speak the language….”
Between the rainshowers I did some sightseeing in Prishtina. It is not a very beautiful town. There is a lot of contruction going on, on roads, mosks, an enormous cathedral and appartment buildings, but I it did not get the impression that any of these projects was to be finished soon, if ever.
Like all Balkan towns Prishtina has a pedestrian zone with some shops and a lot of cafés and restaurants, all with big terraces. So there were lots of places to hang out, but they were not very inviting with this kind of weather. Downtown, hundreds of pictures, most of the men, are attached to a long fence, all of them disapeared or died during the Kosovo war.
On a covered terrace in the pedestrian zone I had a cappucino for one Euro. On the other side of the street a statue of Mother Teresa was watching me. “Why didn’t you come to see me?” she seemed to say. In March 1979 I was staying in a hostel in Sudder Street in Calcutta. Next door were Mother Teresa’s headquarters. It seemed that she went to prayer every morning at six o’clock and everybody could take part in the service. I just never woke up in time. I had no alarm clock and the caretaker did not provide this kind of service. Now, after travelling many times in Africa and other corrupt places on earth, I understand that he expected a tip. No tip, no wake up call!
At the end of the mall is the socialist style Grand Hotel Prishtina, a lttle further the unfinished cathedral. The following crossroad is called Rr.St.Ul. Bill Clinton. He must have done a lot of good for this moslem country, it seems that they forgave him his escapades with Monica.
I didn’t know anything about the local cuisine so I was happy to find a Chinese restaurant where I had a “Peja Birra” and a “Chicken Tjap Sui”, a dish that kept me going in many places around the world.
Now the sun came out, but the city didn’t get livelier. I had a wonderful icecream in a grand ice-cream parlor, a beautiful two story place with a gallery to look down on the local upper class and the very good looking uniformed staff. Back in my hotel I sms-ed my driver Xhemajl. A few minutes later he phoned back, but than handed the phone to his daughter who could speak German fluently. For a whole day tour through the country including some Serb monasteries we agreed on €90.
Xhemajl picked me up at the next morning at seven and turned out to be a very nice guy. His German wasn’t very good, but he got by. We started with a Serb monastry east of Prishtina. The Gracanica Monastery was heavely fenced with barbed wire and sandbags with a Swedish flag over it. Together we walked over to the soldiers, we had to present our ID’s. Xhemajl wasn’t allowed in. The place was really neat, it must have been renovated recently. Besides me there was nobody around, except some old serb women in the church. As always I lit a candle for Gamilla.
Now we drove back via Prishtina to Pec (Peja). On the way we had a coffee in the four star Hotel Nora. “Mire se vini” (Welcome) said the waiter. This hotel was a bit like a spaceship in the middle of this war torn country. When you just see totally destroyed villages and shelled ruins all around you, it is a bit of a shock to see this new place with its immaculate lawns and gardens.
Pec isn’t very interesting. It’s quite small and a lot of buildings seem to stand idle. We had a late breakfast in the “Qebaptore te Bucuku” Restaurant. On the lower front side off the bar was a huge metal tub covered by a big cast iron griddle. I think there was charcoal in the tub. Anyway, the cook was extremely macho and made a big show behind his steaming steaks. We had a kebap with a salat and warm crispy white bread. Very nice.
15 km south of town is the Decani Monastery. Just to see this place it is worth travelling to Kosovo. The monastery is very isolated and also very protected by the KFOR (Kosovo Force, since June 1999 Kosovo has been administered as a UN-NATO protectorate). We had to leave the main road for a few kilometers and came to a sort of primitivly build BerlinWall. Xhemajl parked the car about fifty meters before the checkpoint and we slowly walked up to the grimm looking place. A female soldier came out, controled our documents and gave us two small different coloured laminated documents we had to present at the next checkpoint. We drove another kilometer or so when a soldier summoned us to park. My driver had to stay in the car again and I was told to walk up to the sandbag bunker. Here the Italiens were in charge. I presented my passport and the other plasticized document. Another soldier came and escorted me to the entrance of the monastery about 50 meters away and told me to wave to get picked up again. My God, this procedure was worse than getting through Checkpoint Charly in Berlin in the darkest days of the Cold War!
Inside I seemed to be the only tourist. It had started drizzling again, clouds were passing in front of the dark steep slope behind the monastry wall. It was a big place! Ample gardens, a little forest with tall trees, some old foundations made of pebble stones, whitewashed two story buildings with wooden balconies, a red church. Inside, behind a stall with religious souvenirs, a sad looking nun. When I talked to her in English she shook her head, the same reaction when I tried German. I bought a couple of postcards, she took some coins out of my hand full of change.
I thought I had seen the place as I passed coincidently through a gate, just now to see the main sight: a big old Serbian church on an immeculate green lawn, surrounded by two and three story high monk quarters. No monks to see anywhere though. Instead a battalion of soldiers in camouflage uniforms apeared at the churchyard and entered the church. I walked behind them and tried to figure out where they were from. All quite dark and good looking guys, Turks perhaps? Turks in their former province of Kosovo visiting a church? No! I asked one of them: they were KFOR soldiers from Romania! They all ignored the “No Pictures” signs. Due to them I also made a lot of pics from this beautiful Serbian church. All the high inside walls and also the ceiling were completely covered with orthodox saints. Furthermore the precious wall that seperates the sanctum was glittering like gold and covered with icons. Hardly surprising that this place has to be protected against the Serb hating Kosovars.
Leaving the place the procedure went in reverse repetition. I was happy to get back to the main road. This had really been a very grimm example of the difficult situation in the country. Without KFOR and NATO the country would most likely fall right back into civil war. Who is paying for all this military luxury?
Our next stop was at a busy restaurant overlooking an old Türkish bridge. Very conveniantly, a new bridge was build right next to the old one: No chance to add this bridge on Kosovos World Heritage Monuments list. Don’t the Kosovars follow the problems in Dresden? We had a coke and continued to Prizren.
This town seems to be the prime holiday destination of the country. Despite the lousy weather Prizren was full of people on this rainy Sunday afternoon. In medieval times this town was tha capital city of Serbia, now the place looks more Turkish. The almost 500 year old mosk was under renovation after the destruction of 1999. Some of the churches were burned down during clashes in 2004. On the hillside behind the town most houses are destroyed as well, but in town most of the buildings along the river seem to have been renovated recently. We had a late afternoon lunch in the Besimi Restaurant next to the mosk. Now we had to find out if from where the bus to Tirana was leaving…. (next episode: “Albania”)

La Pampa Province Visit: 2016-11
2016-12-18 - The name of the city gives you the feeling of a far away place and it is the case. It took us eleven hours to get here from Buenos Aires and five hours out to Bahia Blanca two days later. In between there is hardly anything else then super flat countryside with meadows and some cows. Santa Rosa was a pleasant place, but it lacks of sights. The busstation is in the middle of the city. We arrived after midnight and took a taxi to our hotel which, to our surprise, was only one block away. Even at this time of the night the area near the busstation was alive with people sitting outside enjoying the beautiful summer evening (November). The next day we took a taxi (which was nonsence as it wasn’t far at all) to the main sight of the city, the Laguna Don Tomas. A lake in the middle of nowhere might be a sight by itself, but it was really disappointing to us. The park along the lake was neglected, plastic garbage was drifting along the shore. We strolled back over the main boulevard had an icecream and a coffee and arrived at the beautiful Plaza San Martin where we had a mediocre lunch. This city defintively isn’t a tourist destination. At the end of the Avenida San Martin there are some modern government buildings in well kept gardens. In the sidestreets of the plaza we found some nice old buildings (the old trainstation and the Teatro Espagna). We made pics of them all, enjoyed the beautiful evening chilling on several terraces and took the bus out to Bahia Blanca the next morning. On the way back from Bahia Blanca to Neuquén we came through a little part, about 65km, of La Pampa Province again between Buenos Aires Province and Rio Negro Province (to La Adele where we crossed the Rio Colorado into Rio Negro Province).

Leningrad Oblast Visit: 2017-7
2017-07-25 - There is a superfast (1.15min) new train connexion from Saint Petersburg’s Finlyandsky vokzal to Vyborg. I had high expectations about Vyborg, but I was disappointed. If Vyborg is not high on your list you better wait a couple of years, because there is a lot of renovation going on. Some buildings are ready like the Round Tower or the Hermitage Vyborg, some are under construction, mainly the churches, but many wait for their renovation and some buildings are total ruins with only the facades standing. The same applies for the Castle on a little island in the harbour. Parts of it are renovated, but the mighty tower is still under construction. In the castle there is a dusty museum about the history of Vyborg, mainly in Russian. I walked all the bridges, streets and parks, of the old city centre, had a late lunch and then took a train back to beautiful Saint Petersburg.

Lorraine Visit: 2012-5
2012-07-01 - Zwei Stunden fuhren wir von Dijon durch eine leicht hügelige sonnendurchflutete Landschaft weiter nach Norden, endlose blühende Rapsfelder, Wiesen voller Löwenzahn und weiße Maidornbüsche, kleine Flüsschen, aus den urtümlichen Städtchen ragten Kirchturmspitzen und überall viele, viele glückliche weiße Kühe. In Nancy hatten wir drei Stunden Zeit. Es gab keine Schließfächer so zog ich die Rolltasche durch die ganze Stadt. Es gibt eine schöne Kathedrale, kleine gepflegte Parks und vor allem den Platz Stanislas, rund 1750 von einem polnisch stämmigen Prinzen erbaut. Er schaut in der Mitte des Platzes von seinem Sockel auf die berühmten goldverzierten Gitter zwischen den Barockpalästen. Eine kleine Arc de Triumpf führt zu einem weiteren länglichen, baumbestanden Platz mit am Ende nochmal einen kleinen Barockpalast. Daneben steht eine gotische Kirche umgeben von hübschen Häusern mit davor vollen Terrassen, wir waren nicht die einzigen Touristen hier. So ein kleines Schmuckkästchen aber auch. Ich wäre gerne länger geblieben. Nancy liegt zwar an der nord-süd TGV-Strecke, aber nicht an der ost-west Verbindung. Mit einem kleinen Zubringerbus fuhren wir 35 min über die Autobahn nach Norden. Hier steht ein moderner Bahnhof mit großen Parkplätzen mitten im nichts. Es war erstaunlich viel los hier. Der Bahnsteig war voller Menschen, und auch der Zug war voll. Diesmal fuhren wir richtig schnell und in weniger als einer Stunde waren wir in „Champagne-Ardennes“.

Lower Normandy Visit: 2012-5
2012-07-01 - Kein guter Anfang des Tages: Dunkle Wolken beim Frühstück. Der Busbahnhof, 40 Meter vom Hotel, geschlossen! Aber wir hatten doch Tickets gelöst für heute? Glücklicherweise stand hinter dem Haus ein einziger Bus: unser Bus zur normannischen Küste. Ganz so schlimm wie am 1.Mai in Lyon war es also nicht! Achtzig Minuten lang fuhren wir durch eine schöne, aber dunkle Landschaft mit leichten Hügeln, einzelnen Bauernhöfen, vielen, vielen Kühen, Rapsfeldern bis zum Horizont, immer dunkler werdenden Wolken und noch dunkleren Schieferdächern in den kleinen Dörfern. Schon von weiten sah man den Mont-Saint-Michel wie ein riesiger gusseiserner Pickelhaube über die Landschaft schweben. Kurz vor dem schlammigen Ufer gab es den gewohnten Touristenquark mit endlosen Parkplätzen, Shopping Centern, Restaurants mit flämischen Muscheln und einem Reptilienpark. Ein Lichtblick: Seit dem 28. April können Autos und Busse nicht mehr unmittelbar vor der Insel auf dem Damm parken. Demnächst soll dieser Damm durch eine Brücke ersetzt werden damit eine weitere Versandung der Bucht verhindert wird. Außerdem sehen die Parkplätze unmittelbar vor einer so schönen Kulisse richtig scheußlich aus. Es nieselte leicht, aber von der Bushaltestelle waren es nur wenige Hundert Meter zum Klosterberg. Hinter der Stadtmauer verläuft eine Gasse mit Fachwerkhäuschen mit Touristenrummel. Wir kletterten links zwischen den feuchten Schieferdächern eine endlose Treppe hoch. Zu sehen gab es von hier oben kaum was. Die Küste war ein grauer Streifen, der Horizont vernebelt, der Hauptturm der Klosterkirche in den Wolken versteckt: Heute war nicht der richtige Tag. Zufällig war es jetzt kurz vor zwölf und in der Kirche fanden die Vorbereitungen für die Mittagsmesse statt. Neben uns läutete ein Mönch die Glocken Er musste lang kräftig ziehen bevor es oben anfing zu bimmeln. Vor dem Altar knieten einige Mönche und Nonnen in weißen Kutten. Es wurde jetzt hübsch gesungen und gebetet. Im Französischen hört sich alles sehr schön an, aber eine halbe Messe reicht. Der Weg zurück fuhr durch unzählige Kapellen immer weiter runter. Wirkt die Hauptkirche oben mit ihren hochaufstrebenden hellen Fenstern noch recht freundlich, wird es weiter unten immer dunkler. Kaum ein Lichtstrahl verirrt sich in diesen wuchtigen Kapellen, winzige Fenster und mächtige Säulen versperren den Weg. Das ist ja finsterstes Mittelalter hier. Wie die hier früher gefroren haben müssen. So ein Mist! Jetzt regnete es richtig und wir mussten zurück zur Bushaltestelle. Wegen dem religiösen Hintergrund dieses Ortes werde ich Christians Worte nicht wiederholen. Klitschnass saßen wir kurze Zeit später im Bus, kamen aber 80 Minuten später trocken in Rennes an.

Lower Saxony Visit: 2013-12
2013-12-13 - Niedersachsen 04. and 05. December 2013 HANNOVER Guni - we met her on our trip to Tibet - drove us from Frankfurt to Hannover. She visited her friend Helga and we stayed at the Ibis-budget behind the Hauptbahnhof. Hannover looked a lot nicer than during our last visit three years ago. There is a lot of construction going on, former empty plots are finally built up and some ugly buildings from the 1950s or 60s were torn down and replaced with new ones or had gotten a facelift. Around the Opera House there are still some nice old buildings, also the massive Hauptbahnhof survived the war. The mayor part of the downtown area is new though. The Christmas Market and the Christmas decoration made the city look very festive. December is a wonderful month to travel through Germany. The next morning we took the train back to Berlin.

Lucerne Visit: 2012-6
2013-12-09 - Lucerne is a beautiful town. I spend a few hours here on the way from Canton Zug to Canton Obwalden. The station is a modern building from 1991 and replaced the old station that burned down in 1971. A small part of the original building is still standing in front of the new station on Bahnhofsplatz. From here I enjoyed the view over the Vierwaldstättersee to the northern part of the city that boosts a number of very nice grand hotels and churches. The famous landmark wooden bridge burned down as well, but has been rebuilt. I crossed over this bridge to the other side of the Reuss River. This is the oldest part of town. There are lots of beautiful houses here, many covered with murals. Further up is the City Wall. There is a stretch where you can walk over and have a great view over the city, the lake and the snow covered Alps. Back in town I visited the Hofkirche and the Franzisanerkirche. In Switzerland the churches are often accessible, with nobody in sight to protect all these pieces of art. Back at the station I walked further on an elevated walkway along the southern shore of Vierwaldstättersee until it was time to continue to Sarnen.

Maranhao Visit: -

Mato Grosso Visit: 2016-10
2017-03-29 - Mato Grosso Cuiabá Since this is my fourth trip to Brazil and the country is huge, it takes a bit of time and money to get to a new province. I flew from Palmas, Tocantins, to Cuiabá, Mato Grosso via Sao Paulo in 2.15hrs and lost one hour because of the time change and gained the hour again during the 2.10hrs flight to Cuiabá. The way Brazil is cut into different time zones is really strange. At least here in Cuiabá the day lasts until seven o’clock, better as Joao Pessoa or Natal in the same time zone where it gets dark at five. I wanted to get a taxi outside, but the taxidrivers send me back into the arrival hall to the Prepaid Taxi Stand. I had to pay 72R$, just over 20€ to my hostel downtown. Later in the taxi I saw that the ticket quoted 57R$! This was the first and only time in Brazil where I was ripped off with a taxi. 57R$ would have been too much as well, as the hostel was only 8km away. This morning in Palmas I had paid only 60R$ to get to the airport, a trip almost thrice this distance. Before entering the Downtown Area of Cuiabá we passed a huge replica of the Statue of Liberty. It seemed to be the oversized logo of a local department store. I dropped my stuff at the hostel and walked to the nearby obelisk marking the geographical center of South America as calculated in 1909. There was nobody around to ask to make my picture, so I took a selfie. My hostel was not very nice, but cheap. In the morning no breakfast was served. I decided to have breakfast at the busstation where I had to get a ticket to Campo Grande anyway. It was a 30min walk through a boring strech of town. I got my ticket for the next day and found a tea stall. I got some empenadas and coffee, but no place to sit down. This country can be so uncomfortable! I walked back to bring my ticket, money and passport back to the hostel and started my sightseeing program. The city is quite big and it was a long walk to the historic center. There are some nice churches and a small colorful area with old houses. I saw the Museu Histórico de Mata Grosso and the Museu de Arte Sacra next to the Santuário Eucarístico Nossa Senhora do Bom Despacho. It was Saterday afternoon and slowly all the shops and restaurant started closing down. On the way back to the hostel the worlds most famous American hamburger restaurant saved me from starvation. Tomorrow is a Sunday, a day I always use for travelling in South America. My bus to Campo Grande will leave at seven.

Mato Grosso do Sul Visit: 2016-10
2017-03-29 - Mato Grosso do Sul Campo Grande Mato Grosso do Sul is a big piece of Mato Grosso with the seize of Germany that became a province of its own just forty years ago. I got the impression that this Southern part of Mato Grosso is much more affluent than the North. I really enjoyed the twelve hour bus trip from Cuiabá to Campo Grande. It is a landscape of endless meadows with white cows with rolling hills or escarpments in the background, big farms, mowed roadsides and hardly any rubbish. Also Campo Grande looks much better well off than Cuiabá. There is not a great deal to see, but I nevertheless spend a pleasant day here. First of all the hostel where I stayed - the Oka Brasil Hostel - was very, very nice and perfectly located. I made walks in the enormous Parque das Nações Indígenas (it was a Monday and the modern art museum was closed), went to the Shopping Campo Grande with an enormous Food Court and walked along the Av Afonso Pena to the historic center of town. The city has a dynamic feel, there is a lot of construction going on and they are building nice looking appartment blocks. The city looks very clean as well. At 20.30 I took a bus to Sao Paulo arriving there mid afternoon.

Mendoza Province Visit: 2016-12
2016-12-17 - Mendoza must be a special place, I just don't know why. Late afternoon we arrived after a seven hour trip from Santiago de Chile in a blistering hot city and left the sightseeing for the next day. That wasn't a good idea as the next morning it poored. The temperature had dropped 20°. Nevertheless we set out to find all shops closed. We heard it was a religious holiday, Maria Imaculate Concepcion. No place is more boring than a Latin American city on a holiday and even more when it rains. We got wetter and wetter, but were lucky to see a sightseeing bus. But: you could only enter the bus with a ticket and the ticket office would not open for another hour. We gave up and went back to bed. In the afternoon it cleared up, so we saw the five squares. Well nice, but a bit neglected. The museums were all closed as well. We walked to the famous gates of the Parque General San Martin and passed dozens of nice restaurants without customers. The next morning we took the bus to San Luis.

Mexico D.F. Visit: 2013-1
2013-11-08 - \"The flight time to Mexico City will be twelve hours and five minutes!\" hörten wir aus dem Cockpit. Ganz schön lange. Glücklicherweise hatte ich von dem Flug von Berlin nach Madrid kaum etwas mitgekriegt. Zu Essen gibt es auf dieser drei stündigen Flug sowieso nichts, also schlief ich unmittelbar nach dem take-off ein. Nach dem Start unseres Anschlussfluges war ich auch gleich wieder eingeschlafen und nach dem leckeren Moussaka genauso. Nachts schaute ich ab und zu in die Sterne, aber eigentlich kriegte ich von dem langen Flug kaum etwas mit. Irgendwann meinte ich die Lichter der Bahamas zu erkennen, aber das was Quatsch, wir flogen von Nordwesten stundenlang über die USA. Vasi und Peter haben auch ziemlich gut geschlafen. Genau wie auf dem gleichen Flug mit Christian bekamen wir die Einreisezettel erst kurz vor der Landung. Damals schrieben wir noch als der Flieger schon über die Landebahn rumpelte. Die Einreise war ganz problemlos. Ich wechselte €50 um das prepaid Taxi bezahlen zu können und schon brachte uns ein netter Taxifahrer durch die 20 Millionen Stadt zum zentralen Platz, dem Zocolo. ($M200) Ich hatte das Holiday Inn vom 03. an reserviert. Leider hatten wir keinen billigen Tagesflug bekommen und so standen wir am 04. erst kurz nach sieben auf der Matte, mit dem Vorteil gleich einchecken zu können. Das Frühstück gab es in der 6. Etage. Das kalte Restaurant und die eisige Terrasse hatten einen tollen Blick auf dem Zocalo mit der großen Catedral Metropolitana. Bei nur 8° blieben wir lieber drinnen. Wie immer mit Buffets aß ich viel zu viel. Es gab jede Menge warme Sachen, vor allem die Hähnchenfilets in grünen Chillystreifen waren ganz lecker. Unsere Bustickets bekamen wir nicht wie es der Rezeption gesagt hatte im Hotel Ritz in der Fußgängerzone sondern am Busbahnhof neben der Metrostation San Lazaro. Die Metro hat sich seit unserem letzten Besuch sehr verbessert. Nicht mehr ganz so voll, viel heller und es gab viele neue Durchgangszüge. Der Preis ist aber unverändert niedrig geblieben: 3 Peso. Das sind etwa 5 Tickets für e in Euro. Der Bahnhof San Lazaro ist riesig: Nur durch Zufall fanden am Ende eines breiten Ganges den richtigen Schalter. Ich kaufte drei Sitze in der \"Platinum\" Klasse für 729 Pesos pro Person. Mal sehen ob die höchste Buskategorie genauso gut ist wie in Peru oder Mittelamerika. (War sie nicht, kein Bordpersonal und kein warmes Essen an Bord) Jetzt hatten wir Zeit für sight seeing; die riesige Catedral Metropolitana, (mit einer großen Krippe mit fast lebensgroßen Figuren) die Kirche daneben und zu den schönen Plätzen des Centro Histórico. Die Straßen waren fast überall restauriert worden, die historischen Gebäude ebenso. Auch die Märkte sahen viel zivilisierter aus; auch in Mexiko steht die Zeit nicht still. Sehr schön sind die Plaza Santo Domingo mit einer hübschen Kirche und eine längliche Marktarkade und die Plaza de Loreto mit viel grün und einem plätschernden Brunnen in der Mitte. Was Christian und ich letztes mal nicht gesehen hatten waren die \"murales\" von Diego Rivera. Jetzt schauten wir uns einige seiner berühmtesten Malereien in dem \"Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso\" an, ein wunderschönes dreistöckiges Gebäude mit einem auf allen Stockwerken von Arkaden umgebenen Innenhof. Vom Garten im Innenhof konnte man die Bilder schon sehen. Viele Bilder stammen auch von Zeitgenossen Riveras. Allesamt handeln sie von den heldenhaften Kampf der Massen gegen die herrschende Aristokratie. Stalin wäre entzückt, meine Begeisterung hielt sich in Grenzen. Wir liefen über die \"Republica de Cuba\" um eine Nachtclub für den Abend zu finden. Das blöde von Google Maps ist, dass sie zwar die Straße richtig zeigt aber nicht die Nummer. So fingen wir hinter dem soeben besuchten Kolleg an, die Bars fanden wir aber erst nach vielen Cuadros später am anderen Ende dieser Straße. Auf dem Plaza Tolza in der Nähe des wunderschönen Hauptpostgebäudes aßen wir auf einer Terrasse. Ich wählte Nochos (geviertelte und fritierte Tortillas) mit einem Schälchen flüssigem Käse. Dazu gab es Dips: etwas grünes Scharfes, etwas rotes Scharfes und zerschnippelte Tomaten, Petersilie und Zwiebeln. Lecker und leicht! Vor der Nachbarterrasse stand ein Sänger mit einer Gitarre, er sang wie eine strangulierte Katze, dann kam er auch noch rüber zu unserer Terrasse. Man muss ganz schön selbstbewußt sein so in der Öffentlichkeit zu singen und dann auch noch Trinkgeld zu verlangen. An dem, in der Nähe gelegenen \"Palacio de Belles Artes\", erinnerte ich mich noch. Nicht mehr an seiner Ausrichtung. Wir liefen genau 90° falsch und machten einen riesigen Umweg zurück nach Hause. In einer Straße gab es mindestens 40 Läden mit Hochzeitskleider. Alle ausgestellten Brautkleider hatten eine Wespentaille. Seltsam, weil fast alle Frauen in Mexiko überhaupt keine Taille haben. Ich schleppte mich regelrecht nach Hause, auch Vasi und Peter waren jetzt ziemlich am Ende. Um null Uhr 21 deutsche Zeit kippte ich in mein Bettchen und schlief keine fünf Sekunden später ein. Zweieinhalb Stunde später klingelte der Wecker um neun Uhr Ortszeit. Am liebsten wäre ich liegen geblieben, aber ich riss mich hoch. Wenn man an seiner Müdigkeit nachgibt verschiebt man den Jetlag auf den nächsten Tag. Das nutzt gar nichts. Vasi hatte sich nur ausgeruht, Peter hatte geschlafen. Ich entschied zuerst noch die \"Zona Rosa\" einen Besuch abzustatten. Von der Metrostation \"Insurgentes\" liefen wir kreuz und quer durch diesen belebten Viertel. Überall gab es hier volle Kneipen und Restaurants, alle mit lauter und noch lauterer Musik. In der Tat fanden wir einige einschlägige Kneipen voll mit jungem Gemüse. Nicht so das wahre für drei Herren im fortgeschrittenen Alter. In der \"Insurgentes Sur\" sollte es auch noch was geben. Wir liefen endlos viele Blocks nach Süden. Als wir endlich da waren sollten wir umgerechnet €7 Eintritt zahlen, die spinnen doch. Nur drei Blocks weiter gab es endlich wieder eine Metrostation und wir fuhren wie ursprünglich geplant zur Station \"Belles Artes\". Gerade als wir in die \"Republica de Cuba\" einbiegen wollten sah Peter eine Regenbogenfahne. Wir entdeckten eine Bar mit dem aufschlussreichen Namen \"Bar 69\" Wie überall in Mexiko City muss man sich erst abtasten lassen von einem Türsteher. Hier brauchten wir aber nichts zu bezahlen und konnten nach oben. Die Bar bestand aus einem trüb verspiegelten Raum. Ich lief zur Bar in der Ecke und fragte nach drei Bier. Die Dame hinter dem winzigen Tresen zeigte mir die verschiedenen Biere. Ich entschied mich für das exotisch klingende \"Indio\". Ein Kellner neben mir bekam die Flasche von der Dame. In dem Moment drängelte sich ein anderer Kellner an mir vorbei und versuchte dem ersten Kellner die Flasche zu entreißen. Es entstand ein kurzer Kampf wobei der zweite Kellner siegte. Der erste Kellner bekam von dem zweiten hinterher noch mal einen mächtigen Hieb mit dem Ellbogen in die Rippen gesetzt. Die haben hier wohl ihre eigene Regeln. Jetzt stürzte er sich auf die große Tonne mit Eis und die darin schwimmenden Bierflaschen und suchte die nächsten zwei Flaschen Indio Bier. Ich sollte mich setzen, er würde uns servieren. Ich machte mich auf einen stolzen Preis gefasst, aber ein Bier kostete nur 28 Pesos, etwa €1,80. Für dieses Geld bekamen wir noch eine Show zu sehen. Leider war die als Bühne benutzte Tanzfläche kaum beleuchtet und so konnte man die Transe kaum sehen. Die Toilette war auch ganz interessant. Ein Typ stand mit einer Klorolle herum, nicht schwer zu erahnen weshalb. Nach dem Pinkeln sagte er irgendwas mit manos. Ich sollte mir in dem wenig verlockendem Ambiente die Hände waschen. Ich drehte den Hahn auf, kein Wasser. Aber er stand schon hinter mir mit einem Schälchen Wasser aus der wenig sauberen Tonne neben ihn. Dann bekam ich ein Stückchen Klopapier zum abtrocknen. Er freute sich mächtig über meinen Tipp von 5 Pesos. Jetzt gingen wir doch noch ins \"Oasis\". Hier war high life. Die Aufmachung war wie ein richtiger Nachtclub. In dem länglichen Raum stand links vorne die Bar. Rechts und links an den Wänden gab es hohe lange Betontische mit festen Hockern. Davor beidseitig eine doppelte Reihe kleine runde Tische. In der Mitte blieb eine schmaler Streifen als Tanzfläche. Die wurde aber genutzt! Die Musik war ein Mix aus Mexican Latino und Disco. Am populärsten war natürlich die mexikanische Musik. Die Paare fassen sich dabei an die Hände und in endlosen Drehungen über den Kopf schaffen sie es sich trotzdem sich nicht zu verheddern, Wahnsinn! Auch wir wurden von den Leuten aufgefordert zu tanzen. Ich bekam den Rythmus und die Drehungen gar nicht hin. Ein Künstler der seine Bilder im Handy zeigte, gab mir eine regelrechte Tanzstunde. Ohne Erfolg. Der Abend war total lustig und wir gingen erst um drei nach Hause. Super, denn am nächsten Tag hatten wir den Jetlag hinter uns. Samstag Nochmal ein großes Buffet, nein! Ich kann mich nicht beherrschen, es hat keinen Sinn. Um die Ecke, auf dem Zocalo stehen immer Nepper, Schlepper, Bauernfänger herum um die Leute in die Restaurants zu kriegen. Zwei stürzen sich auf uns. Wir folgten ein adrett angezogener Kellner in die erste Etage. Für dreier Tische gab es auf dem schmalen Balkon keinen Platz. Im Restaurant selber war es zu langweilig. Nach einer Minute standen wir auf und gingen wieder runter. Diesmal brachte uns ein Typ in Jeans mit einem Fahrstuhl ins obere Geschoss. Hier gab es eine wahnsinnige Aussicht auf dem Zocalo. Das Wetter war heute viel schöner als gestern. Das Essen war aber nicht so toll, ich bekam gebratene Eier auf labberigen Tortillas unter der ubiquitären glasig grünen Soße. Peter hatte einen Club Sandwich mit Chips aus der Tüte statt Pommes und Vasi war auch nicht begeistert von seinem Käseomlett. Auf Brot mussten wir lange warten. Auf jedem Fall wurden wir satt und es war erstaunlich billig. Gestern hatten wir hinter der Plaza Santo Domingo eine Frida Kahlo / Diego Rivera Ausstellung entdeckt, aber waren zu müde gewesen rein zu gehen. Heute liefen wir dahin zurück, selbstverständlich zuerst wieder in eine falsche Richtung. Die Ausstellung an sich bestand aus vielen Fotos der beiden Künstler, manche fotografiert in dem uns bekannten \"Blauen Haus\" von Frida. Ihr haben wir es zu verdanken dass Christians Küche so gemütlich in gelb und blau eingerichtet ist. Die Ausstellung, na ja, aber die beiden gehören nun mal zum nationalen Kulturheiligtum. Aber das Ausstellungsgebäude: toll! In den Ruinen eines zweigeschossiges altes spanisches Konvents wurden fehlende Fußböden oder Balkons in Beton gegossen und wunderbar eingefügt. Der Innenhof wurde von einer Betonwand abgeschlossen. In den hohlen Türmen wurden Eisentreppen eingesetzt und vor den mächtigen Fensterbögen Glaswände gestellt. Alles sehr, sehr geschmackvoll. Dazu war die Ausstellung gratis. Wir waren jetzt wieder an dem schönen Plaza Santo Domingo und liefen abermals in Richtung des Torre Latinoamericana, bis in den sechzigern das höchste Haus Leiteinamerikas. Dieses Hochhaus ist für mich immer ein Richtungsweiser in der Stadt. Im Palacio de Belles Artes besuchten wir weitere murales von Rivera. Ich bin froh diese berühmten Bilder mal gesehen zu haben, aber mich dafür begeistern kann ich nicht. Er muss ein ziemlich von sich selbst eingenommener Typ gewesen sein. Frida stand immer nur in seinem Schatten. Dabei finde ich sie die bessere Künstlerin. Aus irgendwelchen Gründen haben wir es vor einigen Jahren nicht zu ihrer Ausstellung in Hamburg geschafft, das bereue ich noch heute. Das Palacio de Belles Artes ist übrigens ein hinreißend schönes Gebäude und so auch das Wahrzeichen von Mexico City. Von außen ist sie aus blendend weißem Marmor gebaut, in einem Stil wie sie in Paris während der vorletzten Jahrhundertwende populär war. Vorbilder könnten das Grand- oder das Petit-Palais am Concorde gewesen sein. Innen setzt sich dieser üppigen neobarocken Stil nicht durch, mehr eine Mischung aus Jugendstil und Bauhaus. Sehr schade zu sehen ist, dass das von außen so wunderbare Dach mit Kuppel und die zwei sich anlehnenden Halbkuppeln nur eine einfache Betonkonstruktion ist. Vielleicht war den Bauherren das Geld ausgegangen. Gegenüber steht das imposante \"Sears\" Kaufhaus, das \"KaDeWe\" von Mexico City. Wir liefen aber weiter über den völlig renovierten Stadtpark \"Alameda\". Christian und ich waren hier auch spazieren gewesen. Damals gab es hier Sandwege oder einfaches Pflaster. Jetzt liefen wir über makellose graue Marmorwege. Es gab wunderbar eingepflanzte Anlagen und einige üppig sprühende Springbrunnen. Heute war es Samstagnachmittag und es war die Hölle los. Trotzdem war alles sauber, nicht mal eine Zigarettenkippe war zu sehen. Da kann man nur sagen: armes dreckiges Berlin! Wenige Gehminuten hinter dem Park kreuzt die Avenida Juarez den mächtigen Paseo de la Reforma. Inzwischen sind hier weitere Hochhäuser gebaut worden und der Paseo sieht bald so aus wie die Avenida Paulista in Sao Paulo, nur viel grüner und mit viel imposanteren Springbrunnen. In dieser Gegend scheint Geld keine Rolle zu spielen. Schon von der Kreuzung sieht man die riesige Kuppel des \"Monumento a la Revolution\". Ursprünglich, um 1900, sollte hier ein neues Parlamentsgebäude entstehen, aber die Revolution kam dazwischen. So wurden die Pläne ein wenig Modifiziert und aus dem halbfertigen Rohbau wurde ein 1938 fertiggestelltes nationales Denkmal. 2010 bekam das Gebäude und den Platz davor abermals einen Facelift. Man kann jetzt mit einem Glasfahrstuhl zu der 65m hoch gelegen Aussichtsplattform fahren oder sich von den unregelmäßig spritzenden Fontänen bespritzen lassen, ein bisschen wie vor dem United Nations Gebäude in Genf. Viele Kinder und Jugendliche liefen klitschnass durch die Fontänen obwohl es heute kaum wärmer als 20° waren. Ringsherum machten viele Familien ihr Weekend Picknick und saßen ringsherum auf den Sandsteinplatten. Hinter dem Monument fanden wir endlich was zu knabbern. Es war noch Zeit um das Schloss von Kaiser Maximilian und Kaiserin Charlotte im \"Bosque de Chapultepec\" zu besichtigen. Für einen Restaurant Besuch fehlte uns aber die Zeit. An einem Stand hinter dem Monument aßen wir Tortillas (kleine Mais Fladenbrote) mit frisch gebratene hauchdünne Schinkenscheiben und dazu die allgegenwärtigen grünen und roten Soßen. Lecker und irre billig. Peter bestellte noch eine Coca Cola dazu und wir mussten umgerechnet nur etwa €2,70 bezahlen. Es ist erstaunlich wie ehrlich die Leute hier sind. Den doppelten Preis wäre ja auch noch im Rahmen gewesen. In dem vier Quadratkilometer großen Park war die Hölle los, aber Platz für alle. Hinter dem \"Monumento a los Ninos Heróes\" ging es hoch zum Schloss. Die Rucksäcke mussten wir abgeben. Mit Christian war ich auch hier und ich empfand das Schloss diesmal genauso reizend wie beim ersten Besuch. Erstmal ist die Aussicht auf die Stadt ganz toll, man schaut bis zum Horizont über den mächtigen Paseo de la Reforma, und in der anderen Richtung hinter dem Park sieht man das InterConti zwischen mehreren Hochhäusern. Hier hatten Christian und ich damals gewohnt, sehr schön, aber ein bisschen abseits. Anderseits ist das Schloss selbst sehr schon. In der Belle Etage hat es einen wunderbar bepflanzten Innenhof und man kann von außen in die Wohnräume schauen. Alle sehr geschmackvoll und nicht überladen eingerichtet, richtig wohnlich! Ich könnte gleich einziehen und bräuchte nichts zu ändern. Wir liefen zurück zur Metro. Erstaunlich das Peter das Streckennetz schon fast auswendig kannte. Ich musste immer wieder auf den Plan gucken welche Umsteigebahnhöfe wir nutzen müssten und in welche \"dirección\" es dann weiter ging. Ein Umsteigebahnhof vor dem \"Zócalo\" heißt \"Pina Suárez\". Hier stiegen wir aus um noch was zu Futtern zu finden. Unmittelbar bei uns hatten wir nichts richtiges gefunden. In dieser Straße mit dem Namen der Metrostation war die Hölle los. Die Tauenziehenstraße in Berlin wirkt dagegen wie eine Dorfstraße. Wer soll den dies alles kaufen? Nur wie viele Schuhläden gab es schon hier? Zehn? Zwanzig? Fünfzig? Das ist doch alles ein Wahnsinn. Zu Knabbern gab es hier nichts, wir bogen in eine Seitenstraße ein. Gegenüber einen ungemütlichen Chinesen sah Vasi ein kleines Restaurant. In dem viereckigen Raum gab es noch mehrere freie Tische. Wir saßen an einem Tisch in der Ecke unmittelbar an der Tür. Bis wir was ausgesucht hatten war das Restaurant auf einmal voll, erstaunlich. Jetzt kamen zwei alte Musiker rein und packten ihre Gitarren aus. Das war hier ja wie in Kuba, toll! Die beiden spielten und sangen soooo schön, richtig professionell. Gott sei Dank drehte ich gleich ein Filmchen. Nach vier oder fünf Liedern machte der Alte seine Trinkgeldrunde. Er muss richtig gut bekommen haben weil es gab noch eine Zugabe von mehreren Liedern. Jetzt sah ich dass sein Kumpel nur ein Bein hatte, der Arme. Inzwischen war das Essen da. Peter und Vasi hatten eine Zwiebelsuppe und eine Knoblauchsuppe bestellt, dazu noch zwei unterschiedliche Steaks. Ich hatte mit Käse überbackene Tortillas. Es war unheimlich reichhaltig. Man muss hier in Mexiko sehr aufpassen dass man nicht zu viel bestellt. Wir liefen zurück zum Hotel über die \"Calle 5 de Febrero\". Noch mal Schuhgeschäfte, noch mal Klamotten. Ein kuppelgekröntes Kaufhaus war über fünf Etagen angestrahlt wie in Moskau. Über der Straße brannten die bunte Weihnachtsbeleuchtungen und Himmel und Menschen waren unterwegs. Es sah aus als gäbe es auf dem Zócalo eine Demo. Die Leute standen vor einer riesigen Videowand, die Musikanlage war gewaltig. Auf dem Bildschirm lief ein Eistänzer seine Kur. Direkt live von der Eisfläche nebenan. Was die bei den Temperaturen für Energie brauchen! Jetzt ging ein Feuerwerk los. Wir waren genau zur richtigen Zeit da. Zusammen mit der bunten Weihnachtsbeleuchtung an den Wänden dieses 220 x 240m großen Platzes richtig überwältigend. Wahnsinn! Wir mussten noch mal schlafen. Sieben Stunden Zeitunterschied verkraftet man nicht in zwei Tagen. So richtig fit und ausgeschlafen war ich nicht als der Wecker um 21 Uhr ging. Wir wollten noch mal ins \"Oasis\", es war unsere letzte Nacht in dieser Weltstadt. Heute waren wir zu früh. Erst langsam füllte sich der Laden, aber als die mexikanische Musik anfing stürzten sich viele auf die Tanzfläche und legten gleich los. Manche Paare kriegten nie genug. Sie drehten und drehten, während sie ihre Tscha-tscha-tscha, ihre Rumba und Sambaschritte machten. Um zwölf kippte ich fast um vor Müdigkeit. Durch die Fußgängerzone liefen wir (und Tausende andere) zurück nach Hause. Morgen um 9.30 fahren wir nach Veracruz!

Minas Gerais Visit: -

Misiones Province Visit: 1995-1
2016-10-16 - After an early start from Foz de Iguazu we arrived in San Ignacio Mini about four hours later. We made a walk through the ruins and walked back to the road. The moment we got there a bus approached. I raised my hand and the bus stopped. Unbelieveble but true, it was a through bus to Asuncion. We arrived there two hours after midnight.

Moscow Oblast Visit: 2017-7
2017-08-08 - To see something of Moscow Oblast, my choice fell on Sergiev Posad, just an hour by train North-East from Moscow. A good choice, because this place is part of the Golden Ring towns and amazingly beautiful. We took the 09.20 train from the Moskwa Jaruslavskaya Voksal and arrived in Sergiev Posad at 10.23 (R265/€3,75) We took the 16.00 train back to Moscow to get there at 17.09 (R250/€3,50) That gave us plenty of time to see the sights and have lunch. It was just a short walk to get from the station to the monastery, what followed was shock. Oh my God, we couldn’t believe it! This place was just raided by tourists. The parking lot in front of the monastery was filled with rows and rows of tourist busses, most of them had information boards with Chinese characters behind their windshields. What a difference with the day trip from Moscow I had made some ten years ago to Suzdal on a cold December day and where I had had the impression to be the only tourist. It was a bit of a struggle to get through the masses of Chinese tourists at the entrance gate, but once inside it got better. The monastery is very spacious, there is enough room for everybody and there are lots of things to see, not everybody is at the same time at the same place. I found the place really amazing. It reminded me of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Keo, in Bangkok. Surrounded by a high wall and just full of religious buildings. Peeping around any new corner was a surprise: cathedrals, churches, chapels and an amazing big hall all surrounded by beautiful gardens. After we had seen the monastery we went out and walked around the walls from the outside where there were hardly any other tourists in sight. We also had the town for ourselves, had a relaxed late lunch in an Italian restaurant and walked back to the train station. We were a bit early, I saw a hairdresser and I had a haircut (R200/€3) before we got back on the train.

Nakhichevan Visit: 2017-9
2017-10-22 - Nakhichevan, or Naxcivan in Azeri, has always been a place I wanted to visit, but did not really dare to go to. I am happy I made it on my second Caucasus trip and it was actually very easy and unproblematic. I got to Tiflis on cheap flight from Amsterdam with PEGASUS Airlines via Istanbul, arriving well after midnight. The next morning, I walked over to the train station to get a ticket for the night train to Baku. I got a first-class ticket for just 85,19 Lari (30€) for the same evening at 19.30. Second or third class were much cheaper and would have been ok as well, as there were very few passengers on board. The compartment had two beds, the other one occupied by a lady who was not happy to see me. She bribed the conductor and disappeared to another compartment. Lucky me. Before midnight we passed the border. (Think of the validity of your visa) The border controls almost took two hours. Leaving Georgia was easy, the officer controlled my Passport and gave me my exit stamp. The train continued for a while to get to the Azeri border, here it got really official. I counted nine people hovering around me. Security staff, some girls in uniforms, different officers controlling my passport and my electronic visa. One officer asked if I had been to Armenia. “Of course not!” An office was set up in the last compartment where everybody had to go one by one. Here my picture was taken. Finally, I got my entry stamp. After a while the train continued. We arrived a bit late in Baku by 09.30 After checking into my hostel near the old city, I looked for a travel agency to book a flight from Baku to Nakhichevan-City. None opened until 11.00 After my breakfast I found one open. The lady in charge was confused about my wish to fly to Nakhichevan. After many calls she told me that she could not help me. I should go to “28 May Metro station” and look for travel agencies with the sign “AVIAKASSA”. I took the Moscow style Metro for the incredible price of €0,10 to “28 May” and walked around to find an AVIAKASSA. I did, but also here they could not help me and send me to a building called “SILKWAY”. They gave me inaccurate directions, it took me while, but finally I found the place, called “SILKWAY travel” It was a big and very busy office. At the reception desk I got a waiting number, a wrong one as I found out half an hour later. I got my new right number and had to wait forever to see my number appear on the screen. But now it went quick. I chose my time out of four flights every day, presented my passport, paid 35€ and got my ticket. It was three o’clock by now, oh my God! After touring Azerbaijan for a week, I got a taxi at 05.30 in the morning to be at the airport at six. The flight was at eight. The taxi driver took me to the new airport although I had said Terminal 2. Never mind, the old terminal is just next door, gleaming in neon lights like a wedding cake and it was nice to see the spectacular new terminal. Perhaps nonsense, but I did not dare to make any pictures. Check-in was quick, now it was a long wait until boarding. Not much happened here. This whole former international airport is only used for the four flights a day to Nakhichevan. The flight from Baku to Nakhichevan takes an hour and a half, because the plane detours Armenian territory by flying over Iran. There is no Passport control between mainland Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. The first impression of Nakhichevan is positive: the airport looks modern and new. In front of the airport there was a long row of yellow taxis, none of them doing any business. I started asking the drivers if they spoke English. “Rusky” I heard, but no English. Almost at the end of the endless line of yellow taxis there was one single red one with a female driver. “Do you speak English” I asked. “Yes, little” she answered. Better a bit of English than nothing I thought, and I showed her the map with the marked places I wanted to see in Eastern Nakhichevan. We agreed on 40€, I am not a good business man. Nakhichevan consists out of more or less, one valley between the little Caucasus to the North, shared with Armenia, and the mountains across the border in Iran to the South. One striking mountain raises from the valley floor, Nakhichevan’s landmark. The first impression of this little republic: dry, good four lane roads, flowers planted along the road and very, very clean. Our first stop was Culfa at the Iranian border. The main sight was the modern train station. The border runs right behind the station building and along the road. I saw the Iranian flag and some watchtowers behind the barbed wire fence. My driver picked up a hitchhiker and dropped him a few miles further on. He paid her with a couple of kilos fresh grapes. Our next stop was a bridge with four arches across a small river, build in the 14. century a bit of the main road. Too bad they are constructing new buildings nearby. We passed a very dry moon-like area with some interesting rock formations. Now the high mountains in the background came closer and we reached Ordubad, where I enjoyed a late breakfast in a historic building that was build deep down into the earth and covered with golden domes. I wonder what is was built for. After we drove through this very clean, but not very exiting town we drove back to Nakhichevan-City where I stayed in the excellent Hotel Tabriz. I still had the whole afternoon to see the city. This town is very organized, very clean, there are some historic landmarks to see, like the Mausoleum of the Momine Khatun. There are some shady parks to stroll around, a nice view over the lower parts of the city and the lake just South of town. The evening I spend in the roof garden restaurant of my hotel. A real nice place and such good value for money! There are lots of Iranians on holiday here, but I did not notice any Western tourists. The next day after breakfast, my driver came to pick me up, we had agreed on 30€ to the Turkish border with some more sightseeing on the way. I wanted to see a mausoleum in Qarabaglar. It took us a while to find the place, but suddenly I saw the tower on the left side of town. We drove through a village over a mud road, along mud dwellings and came to mud wall. An opening was cut into it and I found the sanctuary. It was under reconstruction. Soon this centuries old mosk will look like new, like most historic places in this republic. There had to be a holy spring with a more modern mausoleum nearby, but my driver did not understand what I was taking about, and so I didn’t find that sight. We drove through a scenic village instead where I made my last pictures. Now we got close to the border. I told my driver that she could drop me, and that I would walk along the long row of trucks, but it was good that she didn’t understand me or listen to me, because she brought me all the way to the start of the line and asked different people if they could take me across. She to me to get into a car with four people in it already. The driver showed me a ten Lira note. I did not have any Turkish money, I gave him €5 and my last Azeri change. Now the border crossing was easy. I just walked after the other three guys, the driver stayed in the car. There was a total of about five controls. I had to show my stamped electronic Azeri visa, my new Turkish visa, we had to cross the no men’s land and then followed the next five controls and visa checks on the Turkish side. The whole procedure took about an hour and a half. The driver dropped me in Igdir, about 85km further West. By now it was mid-afternoon. I checked into the best place of town, the Star Hotel, and ordered a taxi to take me to Dogubayazit to see Ishak Pasha Sarahi. At night the city was full of celebrations (Ashura) of men beating themselves. The sword swinging guys made me stay inside. The next day I got a bus to Kars and Posof, got to the border with a taxi for 12,50€, walked across in just 15min, was lucky again to get transport to the next town, Achalziche (with a huge castle) for 20€ and took the following day busses to Kutaisi to catch my budget flight with WIZZ-air back to Berlin.

Nepal (other) Visit: 2010-4
2014-01-09 - April 1979. In March it started to get very hot in India, and slowly I worked my way up in a Northerly direction. After a few days in Darjeeling and hiking up Tiger Hill from where I could see Kanchenjunga (8591m) I crossed the border in Kakarbhitta near Siliguri. I was travelling with a British guy who had been working in Australia and who was on the way back to his home country. A couple of days later he would change his plans. At the border I changed money but complained with the money changer, that he gave me only big notes. One of the notes was 1000 Rupees. “Don’t worry” he said, “in Nepal we don’t have a problem with small change like in India.” That was not true! Together with our one month Nepalese entry stamp we got a US$10 voucher for the Casino in Kathmandu. We boarded an evening bus and twelve hours later we arrived in Kathmandu early in the morning. We stayed together in Thamel, did some sightseeing in town and in the evening we walked to the Casino. They changed our voucher to chips we could use for the different games. I have absolutely no clue and lost my chips very quickly, but my friend started playing Black Jack with some Indians and seemed to be successful. I left him there and went home. He came back at four in the morning with $700 in his pocket! The next evening he won another 150! At that time an enormous amount of money, when you think that I had spent in India only $350 in three month, including a two months train ticket! He decided on the spot that he wouldn’t go home and keep on travelling! Kathmandu was a beautiful town with traditional architecture and hardly any modern buildings. The Kathmandu Guesthouse was out of town surrounded by rice patties. Also the airport was way out of town. There was hardly any traffic. They told me that there were only 700 registered vehicles in the entire country. Only around the Royal Palace electricity existed, the hotels and restaurants had their individual noisy generators. There was no running water either; people went to wash their clothes and themselves in “tanks”. Durbar Square and the temples along the river looked as they had done for hundreds of years. The city was incredibly dirty. Every second or third step you did, ended up in some kind of shit: from cows, monkeys, dogs or worse. All natural dirt though, at that time glass was rare and plastic virtually nonexistent. Now, 35 years later, things did not change for the better. I hired a bike and peddled through the rice fields to Patan and Bakhtapur. Also the big stupas in Kathmandu used to be out of town surrounded by patties and gardens. Now the whole Kathmandu Valley is filled up with concrete and nowadays this city, being surrounded by mountains that prevent winds to blow away waste gas, is one of the most polluted places on earth. I could cry! I took a bus to Pokhara, it took me almost an entire day to get there. Phokara was, and still is, a very pleasant town along lake Phewa Tal. Like in Thamel, there were lots of nice places to stay or eat. I wonder who taught the Nepalis to bake such excellent cakes! Tourists had a good time in 1979! The prices for food and lodging were even lower than in India. Even barefooted travelers could afford a warm shower in their lodge (All day long old women were carrying buckets of water from the lake to the lodges, fill the containers on the roofs, let the sun heat them up and enable the tourists to clean up most pleasantly by mid-afternoon.) In the train, on the way from Varanasi to Calcutta, my luggage had been stolen (everything except my money and documents) and since I was travelling on a (very) low budget, I had not been able to replace things: I was not equipped for a trek. My sandals were not suited for a walk through the snow and I had no warm clothes. So I decided just to walk up to “Poon Hill”, the more as no permit was needed for this small trek. There was one essential item I bought in a second hand shop: A little plastic container to have some water during the day. As I soon found out, there was a leak in the bottom, I had to take care to keep the thing upside down in my small backpack. As there were no roads leading into the mountains, you just walked out of Pokhara to start the trek. It took a few days to get to Tatopani via Beni, where I enjoyed the hot springs and washed my clothes, then retreated to Ghorapani. I remember that there was an endless stairway leading upward, a never ending 1750m, to get there. Every day, I used to get up at dawn, to arrive at the next village early, to get a good room, and more important, blankets, as I had no sleeping bag. Even with them it was freezing cold every night, and my live long problem with my bladder may have its origin on this mountain trek. The scenery of this part of Nepal is great, the villages beautiful. The rhododendrons are blooming in April: the contrast of the red flowers against the blue skies or white snowy peaks is stunning. Every tourist in Nepal seems to climb Poon Hill. In the middle of the night they wake you up and all the tourists of all the lodges in Ghorapani (2750m) climb up to Poon Hill (3210m) armed with candles and torches. On the top there is a lot of pushing and shoving to get a good spot on top of the platform made out of scaffoldings. I was lucky with the clear weather and enjoyed a fantastic sunrise. The Annapurnas (8091m) and on the opposite side Dhaulagiri (8167m) were clearly visible. My last day, the walk back to Pokhara, was terrible. I had run out of money but for the 1000 Rupee bill. Nobody would accept it. It was very unpleasant to have to go hungry and thirsty with money in your pocket. Finally I found somebody to change the bill into nine hundreds. The problem was that I still did not find anything to eat or drink in this village. Now I wanted to get back to Pokhara as soon as possible. I followed the clear track until I reached a little wall in the middle of the rice fields. Where to go, left or right? I followed the small track to the left, it ended in the fields. Then I tried the right path, same thing! I must have made a mistake and tried the left path again to no avail. Slowly I started to become desperate, my thirst became unbearable. In true exasperation I sank down on the little wall and saw that the track continued right behind it…… Somehow I made it back to Pokhara, but this day had been terrible. Back in Kathmandu I ran into people I had met in Rajasthan and enjoyed their company. My visa came to an end and I flew to Burma and on South-East Asia for another four months. My next trips to Nepal were the Everest Basecamp Trek in 2006 (see my pictures), around the Annapurnas in 2008, a short stop in Kathmandu coming from Bhutan in 2010 and soon I will start the Langtang Trek in March 2014.

Neuchatel Visit: 2012-10
2013-11-30 - La Chaux-de-Fonds My “Rough Guide” had warned me already that this wasn’t a very attractive town and that was true. Often I am a bit wary about other people’s judgments, but this time the authors were right. This city with the funny name “La Chaux-de-Fonds” had been rebuilt on a strict grid system after being destructed by fire in 1794. The result was a town with endlessly long parallel boulevards that didn’t make the place very cozy. Worse than that was the mix of old and new. At least eighty percent of the buildings of this city of 35.000 people were very nice edifices from 200 years ago. The rest is just awful. Apart from the fact, that high-rises have been put up at the most unlikely places, a lot of crab has been added to these beautiful homes. Originally the whole thing had been set up with lots of space, so most of the houses had big front gardens. What they did now, was built a shop or a garage in front of their houses. So wherever you look, you see these ugly flat roofed concrete boxes, terrible. After crisscrossing the city for about an hour I took the train to Neuchatel. Neuchatel My friend Ingo always tells me that I am moaning a lot in my travel stories. I have such a privileged lifestyle, I shouldn’t be so fussy. Well Ingo, relax, because here comes a place I have nothing to complain about. Absolutely nothing! Because Neuchatel is so beautiful! Really beautiful! This must be one of the nicest cities in the world to live in. The old city center huddles against the serene Lake Neuchatel. Further inland, the castle with a thirteenth-century church right next door, dominates the city from its rocky outcrop. Higher up there are the newer “turn-of-the-century” suburbs with a never ending collection of palaces and villas surrounded by vineyards. Like the audience in a giant amphitheater they look down on the large collection of seventeenth and eighteenth century buildings in the center of the city. These look as if they were “carved out of butter”, the color of the local yellow sandstone. From the station, already quite high up on the hillside, I walked up even higher to get a bird-eyes-view on the castle. After zigzagging under the railway tracks a couple of times, I found some nice outlook spots to make pictures. Than I undercrossed the tracks once more, descended into a small valley and climbed up to the castle. The flat space is so limited here that it was hardly possible to make any photos. The outside of the church was under reconstruction, but the interior was nevertheless accessible. A very simple early Gothic choir welcomed me. The ceiling was dark blue and covered with golden stars. Very little, decorated this ancient church. On the left hand side of the altar, there was a collection of wooden figurines, all about life-sized and in colorful medieval dress. They personalized devout knights and princesses. Strange! I have never seen anything similar in a church! I made some pictures from the city center below and walked through a labyrinth of alleys and stairways to the lake. Neuchatel has a beautiful promenade along the water. A century ago Geneva, or even Monte Carlo must have looked like this. A promenade, where time had stood still. A promenade, with beautiful views on the crystal clear lake. Beautiful three-story houses with French balconies and traditional window shutters lined the waterfront. Blooming flowers were planted along the whole promenade! Everything was beautiful here, and so clean..….. Spotless!!! The breathtaking highlight of this hymn-of-praise is the Hotel Beau-Rivage and the gardens in front of it. I made a lot of pictures of the wonderful flower arrangements. I think the climate and soil are better here than in the Netherlands; I wouldn’t be able to copy these flowerbeds in my garden. On the way back to the train station I came along the turn-of-the-century grand post office building with the names of all the important states of the world, carved out into the butter colored sandstone. My little home country “Pays Bas” was among them. Mentioned in one line with big states like “France”, Royaume Unis” or “Japon” and “Chine”, which is quite a thing isn’t it? One or two blocks from the lake, I found some lovely small parks, memorials and statues. Further up there were several palaces with beautiful gardens and numerous fountains. In Switzerland you never have to spend anything on drinks, because wonderful naturally tasting water ripples everywhere.

Neuquen Province Visit: 2016-11
2017-05-24 - The people of Neuquén are pround to tell you that NEUQUEN is always NEUQUEN, mirrored or not. We arrived in Neuquén after travelling almost eight hours by bus from Bahia Blanca. The trip passed different landscapes. East of Bahia Blanca it’s mainly meadows, but further West, after crossing a little tip of La Pampa, it gets more scrubby. It’s not real nature, the plots are are fenced off and cattle is roaming around. The same picture is true for the eastern part of Rio Negro Province untill we reached the Rio Negro itself, where there is a lot of fruit production. High poplars protect the fruit trees from the Patagonian wind. This goes on for ever until Cipolletti. Then we crossed the Rio Neuquén and entered Neuquén. This city seems to do very well compared to the small humble towns we had passed on the way. The bus crossed the whole town to the big modern busstation West of the city centre. We took a taxi back to our hotel near the Museo de Belles Artes and made a walk around the Parque Central. Here we found the huge Monumento A Las Caidos En Malvinas, the Falkland War is a big issue in Argentina. These allegedly Argentinian islands were floating in a big artificial lake without water. A bit futher is the old railway station, now used for a small stretch of railway line connecting Cipolletti with Neuquén. The next day we made a walk along Av. Chel Olascoaga, a green boulevard with an amazing amount of monuments celebrating numerous Argentinian and local heros. After lunch we took a taxi to the Paseo de la Costa, a few kilometers south of the city centre. Here a park has been constructed along the Rio Negro and it is really, really nice. You can walk along the river and have a fantastic view accros the water on the hilly wooded opposite shore. You have the feeling to be somewhere far away, like Canada or so. People jog, bike, sunbath and enjoy themselves. This place is the highlight of the city and makes it worth getting here. The next morning we took a bus to Bariloche. At first the scenery is a bit dull again, just flat, dry and scrubby, but after a few hours the landscape was changing slowly. A big lake appeared on the left hand side of the road. It got a bit hilly, the first conifers appeared. Then I saw hazy snow capped mountains in the distance. It became more mountainous, the endless artificial lake still at our left. The mountains behind the lake got really rocky and steep now, the scenery was just gorgeous. We passed some low mountain passes and we saw Lago Nahuel Huapi in the distance. Close to the lake we left Neuquén province and entered Rio Negro Province and drove along its Southern shore to reach Bariloche after about six hours.

Nidwalden Visit: 2012-6
2012-06-09 - The Capital of Nidwalden is Stans, a nice very Swiss town near Luzern. The main sight is the Dorfplatz surrounded by typical Swiss houses, all with window shutters and the amazingly big St Peter and Paul Church for such a small place.

Niger Visit: 1990-1
2013-02-07 - New Year\'s Eve 1989 I flew from Brussels to Niamey. I had visited my parents in the Netherlands and my cousin Betty in Belgium. Ingo joined me in Brussels from Berlin after changing planes in Düsseldorf. When we reached Niamey his luggage had not made it. Thank God, all his necessities like malaria-tablets and his mosquito-net where in his daypack. At the airport they conforted us that the luggage might not have been discharged and might come on the planes stop back from Lome. At the very last hour of the old year we were at the airport again to find out that the luggage had not arrived. I could imagine a nicer way to celebrate the new year. (The early evening we had spend time in a buzy beer bar in downtown Niamey.) We stayed two nights at the \\\"Gaweye\\\" Sofitel. My colleague Iris from the reservation office in the InterContinental Berlin had gotten a 50% rate reduction for us. The hotel is beautiful, has a nice pool and is situated near the bridge over the Niger. From the room we had a beautiful view on the river and the university on the other shore. Opposite the entrance was the National Museum, build in sahel style. The city is quite spread out, with just a few higher buildings like the hotel and university. All these buildings are build in the beige colored sahel style and fit in well. Except at the hotel we did not dare to take any pictures. At the market Ingo bought an extra pair of trousers. Only one silverly shining pants fit him. Later our insurence asked us for the bill (haha). On all the pictures he just looks awful, the more as Christian had given me a lot of old shirts to use and give away to the poor. Now we had to share this old stuff. In the afternoon we took a taxi to some villages about 20km out of town where we did take some pics and had a drink in a local bar. On the way back to Niamey I made my best African picture: a herd of goats with a couple of shepherds in the Sahel. The next day we went to the busstation early. We found a bus to Maradi, but it took hours to fill up. We did not leave until mid-afternoon and so we only saw the scenery for a few hours. We arrived in Maradi around midnight. People in the bus had told us where to find a place for the night. The way there in the complete darkness was scaring: agressive dogs were barking very close by. We pointed our flashlights towards them and bend over constantly as if we were looking for stones. Thank God we made it to the \\\"Hotel Jangorzo\\\" without being bitten. The next morning we got a bus to the nearby Nigeria border (\\\"do you have a present for me\\\" - I gave him my nicest shirt) and we reached Kano by mid afternoon.

Nigeria Visit: 1990-1
2013-11-08 - March 1985 In MARCH 1985 Ingo and I had made a two week trip through West-Africa. It had not been very successful. First of all the time had been too short, five countries in such a small amount of time is nonsense. Second we had underestimated the problems incurring with our visa applications – pure stress – our passports with our Nigerian visas arrived one day before departure, and third, we were so lightheaded to enter the plane from Abijan to Lagos in our t-shits and it was absolutely freezing inside. We both got sick and it is no fun to travel when you don’t feel well. Nigeria, on this trip Lagos, was one of the most horrible places I have experienced on earth. At the time of our visit, the Nigerian government had implemented ridiculous monetary regulations. The government had a monopoly on money-exchange with a rate at least five times less than the real value. (Contravention to these regulations: up to 20 years imprisonment). So the prices were absolutely out of proportion. A night in a four star hotel would have cost us almost DM1000, we found beds in a hostel for about DM60 per person. There were eight people per room in bunk beds, no cooling system, nightmare toilets. In the hostel we met an Indian guy who offered me to show me the city. I was happy to have somebody around with me. Ingo had a cold and stayed in bed. He showed me the downtown area with Lagos Island and Victoria Island. I did not dare to take any pictures so I can remember very little. Off the big traffic congested streets the slums seemed to start right away and people seemed to dwell in cardboard boxes. It was really stinking, awful. The Indian guy brought me to the beach and said good bay. It was really hot and sunny, but I found a shed with a bit of shade and fell asleep instantly. When I woke up I had the feeling that somebody was watching me. A big guy came up to me and told me quite aggressively that I had been sleeping in his place and he wanted money! We haggled some time, since I only had little money with me and I had to take a taxi back to the hostel. Finally we agreed, but it was no fun to stay any longer. Since I had run out of money I went to a bank to change a traveler check and that took me over two hours! The next morning Ingo suggested to go to Ibadan for a day, but that meant that we had to change money again, I that might have taken half a day again! So we stayed in town and walked around Victoria Island a bit. We went to a super market and bought a loaf of toast bread, not to die of starvation. It cost DM20. In front of me someone bought a chicken for DM100. We were happy to leave Nigeria the next day and fly to Cotonou, Benin. NIGERIA JANUARY 1990 I work in the InterContinental Hotel Berlin as a bellman. African guests were arriving and on their luggage tag I saw that they were from Kano, Nigeria. On the way up in the elevator I told them that I would be visiting Kano in three weeks on a trip from Niger to Burundi. I saw that they thought I was crazy, but nevertheless in the room the gentleman gave me his card. He seemed to be a lawyer. Three weeks later we arrived in Kano from Maradi, Niger, at midafternoon. We checked in in the Daula Hotel, Murtala Muhammed Way. By now the currency regulations had normalized and we could afford a normal hotel. Immediately we took a taxi to these people. At the address of the business card there was a two story office building with a parking area in front of it. In the entrance hall there was a glass box with young lady in it. I was asked if I had an appointment. I showed the business card and was given a form to fill out. I filled in my name and the reason for the visit. She took it, put it on a silver plate and disappeared behind a solid wooden door. Just minutes later she came back and told us that we could go in. The gentleman was sitting behind an impressive desk in a big office room. He stared at me shook his head and called: I cannot believe it, I cannot believe it! He grabbed the phone and called his wife: Mary, you know who is here! Peter from the InterContinental! Now he called his secretary: What car is available? Just minutes later we were sitting in a car with an invitation for a dinner party the same evening. The very friendly driver toured us around the city. The old town comprises of a large area of one story houses made of clay, the streets are nicely shaded by enormous trees. The heart of the city is a big square with the Emirs Palace and a big domed mosque. We were driven back to our hotel to clean up. Later we took a taxi to John and Mary and we were introduced into their private residence. There were some African and British friends around and we enjoyed the dinner served by some nervous untrained staff. We had a nice evening and everybody was quite amazed about our plans to cross Africa overland. (We did not succeed and took a few flights). John drove us home personally and we thanked him for this great introduction to Nigeria. The next morning we took a bush taxi to Maiduguri 600km further east. The driver drove like a madman, the airflow through the open windows felt like a hurricane, and within six hours we arrived in this dreadful town. Like the Daula Hotel in Kano, the Lake Chad Hotel in Maiduguri was just a shade of its former self. Nigeria seems to have known better times then when we were there. The town was not really a town, just an accumulation of busy markets and with barely a building in sight. We spend late afternoon and the evening in the hotel, eating pepper soup with bread rolls plus a Spanish omelet. As there was no coffee available we had tea. The next morning we reached the border of Cameroun after a two hour drive. Also here the scenery was not very exciting. Just flat, almost treeless, but covered with long hard grass and bushes. I did hardly see any agriculture, but once in a while herdsmen roamed the plains with a stick on their shoulders, tending their goats. After leaving Nigeria and entering Cameroun, we travelled another two hours through the same scenery on a taxi-brousse to arrive once more at a border: Chad.

Novgorod Oblast Visit: 2017-7
2017-08-08 - Novgorod Oblast is my upbeat (apart from Moscow and Saint Petersburg where I have been several times) for I hope a long-lasting adventure to travel to a lot, if not all Russian Oblasts and Autonomous Republics. As always at the beginning of a new adventure I was a bit nervous to travel by myself through the Russian country side. I walked early from my hostel near the Moskovski Vokzal in Saint Petersburg to the Avtovokzal just off Ligovski Prospekt across the Obvodny Canal. I found the bus station by following some people carrying a lot of luggage. I had written down the details of my destination and without any problems (you need your passport) I got a bus ticket to Veliky Novgorod for 9 o’clock (arr. 12.30) 195km for R450 (about €6.50). The bus appeared on the information board with the platform number. This bus station is very organised. The bus ticked indicated the seat number, which everybody respected, but after pulling out of the station a lot of people chose another seat. The bus was fairly comfortable, but looked a bit old-fashioned with its curtains. The bus made a couple of stops along the highway or in some little towns. About halfway there was a toilet stop at a gas station with the possibility to buy some snacks and drinks. We were in Novgorod Oblast by now, the scenery along the (not always four lane) highway was a bit monotonous. Birch forests, small villages with wooden houses, some meadows without cattle, little agriculture. I have no idea how people survive in these villages. We arrived in Veliky Novgorod exactly on time. Five minutes later it started raining. From the bus station it was about a twenty minute walk to the centre of town where I stayed in the very nice Hotel Sofia, just a few steps off Sofiykaya ploshad, the square facing the Kremlin. The lady from the reception suggested Restaurant Dom Berga for lunch. A good suggestion, I went there again for dinner, as all other places suggested by my travel guide seemed to have closed down. Strange for such a famous tourist town. I criss-crossed the area near the restaurant where there are a lot of historic churches, some of them open for visiting and covered with frescoes. Visiting the churches in their neglected gardens is like stepping back in time. The Kremlin is in a lot better shape and seems to have been renovated recently. Some towers and parts of the wall are still under construction. I was lucky to see a man playing the enormous church bells near the Cathedral of St. Sophia. The cathedral itself was closed despite the fact it was a Sunday. The weather cleared up and I walked around again to make pictures of all the churches and sights in the sunlight. The Kremlin is surrounded by well-tended gardens and along the inner ring road I found some nice Stalinist architecture as well around Sofiykaya ploshad. As a whole, Novgorod was a good and easy introduction to travelling the Russian country side. The next morning at 7am, I took the only direct bus available to Tver, an eight and a half long bus trip of about 400km for R975 (about €14).

Obwalden Visit: 2012-6
2012-06-09 - Strange enough, the beautiful little town of Sarnen, the Capital of Obwalden is not mentioned in the thick 645 page “Rough Guide to Switserland.” Just out of town is the Sarner See giving a fantastic view on the snowy mountains around Giswilerstock (2011m). Just outside town is a beautiful barock church and right behind the hillside is covered with old wooden swiss farmhouses, leading up to a chapel on a small hill with a beautiful view over lake. I enjoyed the hike through the meadows, lots of jingle cowbells and no tourists around, fairytale Switzerland. The small Canton of Obwalden has an enclave, Engelberg at 1050m, that can be reached by travelling through Nidwalden. The town is entirely surrounded by high mountains. The train passes through a four km long tunnel to get there. Thick clouds prevented me to take the cable car to the Titlis, but I enjoyed the beautiful Benedictine monastery.

Para State Visit: -

Paraguay Visit: 1995-1
2012-06-12 - Very late we arrived by bus from Puerto de Iguazu and Misiones in Asuncion. The hotel opposite the busstation was absolutely terrible. The breakfast was served on the roof and absolutely disgusting, definitively one of the worst breakfasts I experienced anywhere in the world. Almost everybody left the food and drinks untouched. To be able to pay the bill for this delight we went to a bank to change money. A guy standing in front of us in the line overheared our complaints, turned around and said: "Ich habe ein Hotel, ihr könnt ja bei mir wohnen!" After changing money he joined us to the hotel. We paid and picked up our stuff and he drove us to his place, the "Hotel Schwabenland". We were really spoiled in this place. His wife washed our stuff, we enjoyed wonderful German food and in the evening we joined a German dinner party. We met the right people at the right time and got some addresses of German emigrants in the Mennonite region of Filadelfia. More important, we heard that since a few weeks there was a new bus connection with Santa Cruz in Bolivia, the next bus leaving in five days! Two days later we set off to the Grand Choco and met two families in Filadelfia. They supplied us with bicycles, we visited a few farms and had a good time. A few days later at four in the afternoon we boarded the bus and soon we were driving through total darkness. There was a short stop to eat and drink a bit, the busdriver being served like royalty. Everybody watched him. When HE was ready, you had to board the bus immediately. The driver is the king. When HE had to pee, you could also pee. Anja was sleeping and I got out with some others. Everybody peed immediately next to the door. I walked a few steps further to see the amazing stary sky in the dark. The same moment the bus set off again. I ran to the door and bounced on it and cried and cried. Thank God he stopped. If I had reacted two seconds later I would have been left behind, withoud food, without something to drink, without a passport, without money......
Anja woke up the next morning at the Paraguay - Bolivian border. She was not surprised to see me...... The total tour from Filadelfia to Santa Cruz took 35 hours.

Paraiba Visit: 2016-10
2017-03-05 - While travelling the two and a half hour bus trip from Recife to Joao Pessoa, the south of Paraiba seemed to be less densely populated than the first stretch of the trip in Pernambuco. It is a little more hilly here, more forested and because there are less people around to pollute, less dirty. Closer to the city, that changes, what a mess! Entering JP, this city looks pretty grim, but once in the city it gets better. I think Joao Pessoa is a very pleasant place. The busstation is located near the old historic center of the city. The beach is seven kilometers further East. I stayed in a very nice hostel, Frederica Hostel, a few hundred meters from the beach. The owner had spend some time in Bali and one could see that! This place had a lot of style. My first afternoon I made a long walk along the beach road. There are no skyscrapers here, along the Joao Pessoa beaches the houses reach four stories only. There are nice streches of beach and pavillions between the road and the beach, offer nice bars and good restaurants. Here I had some my tastiest and best value meals anywhere in Brazil. The next day I had a motorbike to drop me at the Ponta do Seixas, the easternmost point of the Americas. This wasn’t a good idea, I should have rented him a bit longer to bring me to the beach and back to the hostel. This area is very isolated from the city, I did not feel safe at all to walk to the beach. The monument itself, an obelisk, is on a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. But of course, right on the beach I would have been a bit further East. It is a long detour to get there. I walked a while along the road, but there was not a human being in sight and after half a kilometer or so, I gave up and walked back to the nearby museum built by Oscar Niemeyer. The building itself is fantastic, the exibition was nothing special. Now I had to get back to town from this empty place. After a long wait, a bus came and drove me back into town. I was lucky to be able to pay cash -R$3- usually you need a card to pay in Brazil. I got off at the beginning of the beachroad and enjoyed the long walk along the beaches. I had another excellent meal at one of the beach pavillions and took a taxi to the Sao Francisco Monastery in the historic center of town. It’s a beautiful place with a collection of churches and chapels, a museum with religious art and antique furniture. I spend a lot of time here because of the torrential rainshowers outside. Once it dried up I saw the rest of the town. Quite nice, but like everywhere in Brazil they built some awfull new highrizes alongside century old buildings. From the Lagoa, a circular pond within a nice park, I found a bus back to my hostel. The next day I took a bus to Natal in Rio Grande do Norte.

Parana State Visit: 2016-11
2017-03-29 - Paraná Curitiba I arrived in Curitiba by bus from Sao Paulo, a beautiful six hour trip through heavely forested hills, mountains and along some beautiful artificial lakes. The highway follows the valleys and matches into the scenery. Arriving in Curitiba after two weeks of oppressiv hot weather was such a relief! In was raining a bit with only 18°! Just over a week ago I had been in Teresina with 38°! My excellent hostel in Curitaba was located in a villa a bit outside the downtown area. I arrived just before dark. Since walking around in the dark didn’t appeal to me, I was happy I could join a group of Brazilians from Rio. They brought me to a German Brauhaus. We had German saucage. I chose Berliner Currywurst. I never knew that currywurst tasted like that, but the beer was good. The next day I spend the morning in the Centro Histórico. The area seemed a bit dead to me, although there were a lot of shops around. Most of the historic buildings have been renovated recently. Too bad that there are some tall appartment blocks built at random. I walked through all the little streets and squares and made lots of pictures, a kind of Peter’s Street View. I had lunch in a Japanese restaurant. I love the fact that Brazil has a substantial Japanese minority: You always find some good non-greasy food in this country, especially in it’s Southern provinces. For me the best part of town was the area between the historic center and the Oscar Niemeyer Museum. This is the Government District. Very alive, with well kept gardens, lots of good modern architecture and the sensational Oscar Niemeyer Museum itself. This huge, but simple white structure, with some eyecatching elements, like stairways, a curved driveway, or a missing ground floor, stands by itself on spacious grounds. The best part of the exhibition was the part about Oscar Niemeyer himself, featuring models of some of his most famous buildings in Brazil and overseas. There is a lot more in this city to keep yourself entertained. The very modern bussystem for example with their spacy busstops. And there are lots of monuments in this area. I also like the German aspect of town with German names everywhere. One of the biggest shopping centers is called Shopping Mueller. At the other end of town I found a nice shopping center in a former train station, Shopping Estação. The next morning early I took a bus to Brazils most German town: Blumenau.

Pernambuco Visit: 2016-10
2017-03-05 - In January 2006 we flew into Recife from Belém and stayed in the wonderfull Hotel Central in Boa Vista, near the historic centre of town. This hotel is allegedly the oldest hotel in Recife and has a very nice colonial atmosphere. Day and night someone serves the old fashioned cage-like elevator. The windows in our room featured window shutters, but no windows and no airconditioning either. We enjoyed the natural warm tropical air. The historic centre of town kept us busy for two days and we enjoyed Recifes nightlife as well. For me, Recife is one of the most pleasant cities in Brazil. We made an overnight trip to nearby Olinda and an other day we spend at the beach in Boa Vista. They served us a dilicious big fish under our beach umbrella! Later we walked a long stretch along Av Boa Viagem. This must be one of the most beautiful beach roads in the world. What a fantastic skyline! After four days we flew to Salvador. Just one year later, in February 2007, we came back to Recife for three days. We flew in from Fortalesa and out to Rio. This was before I joined MTP. We flew over Alagoas and Sergipe, I regret that now! We stayed two nights at the Hotel Central again. I heard that the hotel has been renovated recently, but that the atmosphere still lingers. My last trip to Recife was in October 2016. Recife was the cheapest Brazilian city to fly into from Berlin. I just stayed for one night in a hostel between the airport and the beach in Boa Viagem. I had breakfast in one of the luxury hotels along Av Boa Viagem and made a long walk along the beach. The skyline grew even more spectacular over the last ten years. (I only stayed one night in Recife as I planned to come back at the end of my four months long trip, but changed my mind, and flew back from La Paz instead.) I took a taxi to Recifes bus station, 17km away from Boa Viagem for R$50 and bought a bus ticket to Joao Pessoa, 120 km, for R$30. Totally out of proportion. As soon as we left super clean Recife, it got super dirty. Garbage everywhere! The scenery along the road to Paraiba was not very nice. There is almost no jungle left, the agricultaral areas don’t look well kept and there are small houses, garages, delapidated industrial buildings and ruins everywhere. Plus lots of garbage! A lot more than ten years ago! What a shame!

Piaui Visit: 2016-10
2017-03-23 - Piaui From Natal I flew via Fortaleza to Teresina, arriving mid-afternoon. The airport is located within the city and only four kilometers from downtown. In Brazil Teresina is known as the hottest city in the country and it was. People take their siesta serious, and until six pm you see hardly anybody outside. Teresina is about 850km further West than Natal and the sun sets about half an hour later here, around six o’clock. I had time for a walk over the shady main boulevard, the Av Frei Serafim. There are still some nice old buildings around here. The catholic church at the end was closed for renovation. In front of it stands Teresina’s most beautiful building, the Palacio de Karnak, the official seat of the governor. This boulevard locates some luxury hotels, restaurants and shops. What I missed was a place to sit outside. After a lot of walking around I found a little beergarden, "O Paulistano", just one block North of Av Frei Serafin in the R Magalhaes Filho. After sunset the small restaurants on Frei Serafin put out plastic tables and chairs where I had some more beers and enjoyed the temperature go down from 38° to around 30° around midnight. The next day I took a motorbike taxi to Teresina’s most important sight, the Sesquicentennial Bridge crossing an affluent of the Rio Parnaiba, with a 100m high viewpoint on top of the main pilon. A rocking elevater brings you up. The bridge was inaugurated in 2002 for 150th anniversary of Teresina. The bleu foil covering the windows ruins the view. I had lunch at the food court of the nearby Teresina Shopping Mall. From there I took a motorbike taxi to Timon in Maranhao, across the main stream of the Rio Parnaiba. There is not much to see here and it wasn’t a new MTP point for me either as I had been to Maranhao’s capital Sao Luis ten years ago. The rest of the afternoon I spend at the business district of Teresina. Just West of the Governor’s Palace there are some more nice old buildings like a former monastery with the tourist information office and many souvenir shops, an old theater, churches and squares as well as a covered market and many quadros of shops. I quite liked this city. It felt very relaxed and safe. The next afternoon I took a flight to Palmas in Tocantins via Brasilia.

Poitou-Charentes Visit: -

Provence-Alpes-Cote d\'Azur Visit: 2014-12
2015-01-18 - The third week of December we made a weeklong trip along the Riviera. We flew in in Marseille. I had been here once in summer 1977 arriving by ferry from Tunis and had been very impressed of the white coast and the white city. We arrived very close near the Old Harbor, the fortifications at the entrance an impressive sight. 37 years later the fortresses are still there, now accompanied by two modern museums. I am not a fan of modern architecture in the middle of an old city, but these two buildings are really well designed. We stayed in the stylish Hotel Dieu, in an old castle built between the 12th and 17th century. The hotel is built a little higher up behind the Town Hall and overlooks the harbor and in the distance the landmark Église Notre Dame de la Garde. In 2013 Marseille was European Cultural Capital and has been beautifully restored. The whole downtown area around the Old Harbor has so much class and style, fantastic. Now the whole New Harbor area is under reconstruction and will be completed soon. The terrace of a huge new Shopping Centre overlooks the New Harbor, cruise ships are anchored right next to it. The view from the Église Notre Dame de la Garde is great. Cannes was next where we stayed in the Carlton Hotel, a landmark in the middle of the Bd de la Croisette. Ten years ago we were here and like than we got a room with a view on the Mediterranean. For the time of the year the weather was amazing, around 20°, and in the sun much warmer. At the beach in front of the hotel tables had been set up and people enjoyed lunch in the sun. One week before Christmas! We really like Cannes. It is a small nice town, nice shopping, wonderful to wander the little streets. Most time we spend at the Croisette though, enjoying the sun. Last time we visited the islands, this time we made a day trip to Antibes and saw the old center of town and the harbor with enormous yachts! There is not one boat under 100 million Dollars here we were told. Then Nice. It was the first time I was here. Ten years ago my friend had refused to go here. “Kein Mensch kennt Nice” he said, “was sollen wir da?” I tried to convince him that Nice was the biggest city in the Cote d’Azur and possibly the most beautiful place as well, without success. Years later he told me he had seen a documentary about the Cote d’Azur in television and said : “Warum waren wir dann nicht in Nizza? Die Stadt sieht so toll aus!” I told him that he didn’t want to go there. Now I understood why. In Dutch and French this place is called “Nice”, but in German “Nizza”…… Anyway this time we made it and the place is just gorgeous, absolutely out of this world. Because of the great weather everybody was out on the Promenade des Anglais and the Quai des États-Unis. We took the elevator up to the Colline du Chateau for a great view. The Old Town below makes you feel like being in Italy. Next to the Place Masséna is a park with a pond where you can walk over the water like Jesus……..

Punjab State Visit: 1979-1
2015-08-17 - I came by train from Lahore, a two hour trip for just 60km. Pakistan was not the most pleasant country I had seen till so far and for me Amritsar was nothing less then paradise. The Golden Tempel was breathtaking, I could not believe the colors around me. After I visited the temple I ended up in a small restaurant and ordered all the dishes from the menu, that is from the board on the wall. In Pakistan the food had been quite terrible and after two weelks there, I was starving. The restaurant turned out to serve South-Indian fare, I could not believe it: masala-dosa, dosa with chutney and sambar, idli and somasas. Everything absolutely out of this world. I\'ll never forget! In the evening I took the night train to Delhi.

Quintana Roo Visit: 2013-1
2013-11-08 - 18 – 20 Jan. 2013 Quintana Roo? Nie von gehört! Den Yucatán kennt fast jeder, aber Quintana Roo? Die Yucatán-Halbinsel ist auf drei Bundesstaten aufgeteilt. Der Staat Yucatán bohrt sich von der Nordküste wie ein Keil zwischen Campeche und Quintana Roo. Im letzteren Bundesland wird das große Geld verdient. Hier gibt es die berühmten Strände und die großen Bettenburgen. Und von hieraus überschwemmen die Touristen auf ihren Tagesausflügen die gesammte Halbinsel und die archeologischen Stätten. Schon um halb sieben standen wir vor unserem Hotel in Chichen Itza und warteten auf das bestellte Taxi. Nichts. Die Rezeptionistin rief noch mal an und Gott sei Dank kam jetzt eins. Vielleicht würden wir den Bus nach Cobá doch noch schaffen. Statt zum Busbahnhof in den Nachbarort zu fahren bot uns der Fahrer an, uns mit dem Taxi nach Cobá zu fahren. In Mexiko wird man nicht abgezockt. Alle Verbindungen stehen mit genauen Preisangaben auf einer einlaminierte Liste. Der Preis war ok und nach anderthalb Stunden Autobahn mit vielen Straßenschwellen setzte er uns vor einem Frühstücksrestaurant in Cobá, gerade im Bundesstaat Quintana Roo, ab. Der coole Carlos servierte uns das Frühstück im ersten Stock eines reetgedeckten Restaurants. Er war noch ganz jung, sprach aber ein bisschen englisch und stellte sich vor. Er hatte perfekte Manieren und die Eier kamen genau so wie wir sie begestellt hatten, toll! Peter blieb beim Gepäck, Vasi und ich liefen zu den Ruinen. Noch stand nur ein einzelner Bus auf dem riesigren Parkplatz. Das sollte sich aber bald ändern. Kaum hatten wir die große Pyramide gefunden kam eine Welle Touristen nach der andern reingefegt. Manche Gruppen ließen sich von Rikschafahrern durch das 70qkm große Gelände fahren, andere fuhren selbst mit dem Fahrrad. Wir schauten uns die große Pyramide an und liefen noch eine Schleife entlang kleinerer Bauwerke. Trotz der immer stärker anschwellenden Touristenströme war es ganz angenehm hier herumzulaufen. Die Ruinen bildeten eine Einheit mit der Natur, sie waren nicht so übertrieben ausgegraben und renoviert worden wie in Chichen Itza, außerdem gab es hier keine Händler. Peter saß vertieft in seinem “e-book” er hörte uns nicht mal kommen. Wir hatten abermals ein Taxi für die Weiterfahrt nach Tulum gefunden. Wir hätten vielleicht irgendwann einen Bus gekriegt, hätten dann aber nochmal vom Busbahnhof ein Taxi zu unserem Hotel am Strand nehmen müssen. Wir verstauten unser Gepäck und gut eine Stunde später standen wir vor dem “Yoga-Shala” Das Zimmer war noch nicht fertig. Der Australier und seine mexikanische Frau schienen ihr Hotel auf Yoga-Art - sehr relaxed - zu führen. Statt selbst kurz anzupacken vertrösteten sie uns auf eine Stunde. Unsere Zimmermädchen in Berlin würden für ein derart einfaches Zimmer zu putzen keine zehn Minuten brauchen. Wir liefen zum Strand. Fantastisch! Dies muss wirklich eines der schönsten Strände der Welt sein. Unter den großen Palmen reihen sich die reetgedeckten Bungalows und Restaurants aneinander. Der helle Sand, pulverfein! Das Wasser, türkis! Die Wellen, riesig! Wahnsinn! Wir aßen was leichtes in “unserem” Restaurant am Strand. Das Yoga-Shala befindet sich auf der anderen Straßenseite und hat nur ein Frühstücksrestaurant an der Straße. Das Essen hier war nicht billig, fast so wie in Deutschland, aber die Qualität war in Ordnung und das Ambiente sehr schon: Alles war aus natürlichen Materialien hergestellt, unten am Strand rauschten die Wellen, die Palmen wedelten in der leichten Brise. Die Leute am Strand waren durch die Bank weg jung und hübsch; alles Yuppies oder junge Leute mit als Beruf Sohn oder Tochter. Sie ahlten sich auf der sandigen Terrasse in der Sonne oder surften in ihre Apple-Computer. Wir schienen hier die einzigen alten, armen Würstchen zu sein. Der Tag ging schnell vorbei mit schwimmen, spazieren an der Flutlinie und essen. Durch unsere Taxifahrten hatten wir fast einen Tag gewonnen. Morgen fahren wir zu den Mayaruinen von Tulum. Mittwoch Die „zona hotelera“ von Tulum besteht aus einem dichtbewaldeten Gebiet entlang des Strandes. Man sieht dass die Hotels versucht haben ihre Bungalows und Restaurants zwischen den Bäumen zu bauen ohne all zu vielen von denen fällen zu müssen. Wahrscheinlich werden die meisten Hotelgärten auch gegossen, es ist hier viel grüner ist als in der Natur. Die zweispurige Asphaltstraße ist fast vollständig von Bäumen überwachsen und bildet einen langen grünen Tunnel. Wir liefen in Richtung Tulum, unser Hotel befand sich 7,5km von der Stadt, und fanden irgendwann ein Taxi dass uns zu einem Frühstücksrestaurant fuhr. Das Lieblingsrestaurant unseres Taxifahrers sagte uns nicht so zu, wir fanden ein schönes reetgedecktes Restaurant etwas weiter auf der anderen Straßenseite. Das Frühstück was sehr gut, das Personal sehr nett, aber die Besitzerin war eine Hexe. Es war wirklich unverschämt wie sie vor den Augen der Gäste mit dem Personal umging. Die netten Kellnern schienen vor ihrem Geblöke ziemlich immun zu sein und hatten den Gesichtsausdruck eines nepalischen Jaks auf einer Hochgebirgstour. Die Ruinen befinden sich ein ganzes Stück von der Stadt entfernt an der Küste. Das Ruinengelände ist wie ein schöner Park angelegt, die Ausblicke auf das türkisfarbige Meer waren fantastisch. Himmel und Menschen waren unterwegs, was hier allerdings sehr entspannt und friedlich ablief. Ein Strand heißt \"turtel beach\" und darf von den Touristen nicht betreten werden. Angeblich sollen hier Schildkröten ihre Eier ablegen. Zwei Arbeiter waren gerade dabei den Strand von angeschwemmtem Unrat zu säubern. Es gab nicht nur jede Menge Algen und Seetang, sondern auch viele Plastiktüten und Plastikflaschen. Bei der Säuberung gingen sie äußerst pragmatisch vor und im Nu sah der Strand wieder tadellos aus: Der ganze Müll wurde zusammen gerächt und dann auf eine Plastikplane geschoben. Jetzt gruben sie eine Mulde. Dann fassten die beiden die Plane an seine vier Ecken und kippten den ganzen Plunder in das untiefe Loch. Jetzt noch schnell ein paar Zentimeter Sand drüber: fertig! Noch etwas mitgenommen von diesem Anblick konnte ich den tadellos sauberen Park nicht mehr richtig genießen. Ich machte meinen Unmut breit bei der Tante, die uns außer den Eintrittskarten auch noch eine Bootsfahrt hätte andrehen wollen. Natürlich fühlte sie sich nicht zuständig. Dieser alte Idiot ging ihr richtig auf dem Sack. Nachdem ich meine Geschichte drei mal vorgetragen hatte, bat ich sie noch mal eindringlich doch mal einen Vorgesetzten zu erzählen was ich soeben beobachtet hatte. Mit Sicherheit \"in vain\". Bei der Hexe aßen wir eine leckere Pizza. Wir beobachteten wie sie mit ihrem Kombi vom Großeinkauf kam. Ein Teil schleppte sie selber ins Restaurant und forderte den Barmann auf den Rest zu holen. Der ging einmal hin, kam mit ein paar Sachen zurück und stellte sich wieder hinter seine Bar. Auch der andere Kellner hatte wenig Lust, was ein langer Wortschwall der Hexe zur Folge hatte. Alles im Beisein der Gäste. Als die Pizzen schon längst gegessen waren und wir zahlten, war der Wagen noch immer nicht ausgeladen. Der Rest des Tages gehörte dem herrlichen Strand. Ich machte im Zimmer Siesta und kam erst als die Schatten der Palmen die strandnahen Schaumkronen berührten. Ich muss meine jahrzehntelange malträtierte Haut ein bisschen schonen. Donnerstag Wie eine Phönix aus der Asche, nein, viel viel schöner steigt die Sonne morgens kurz nach sechs aus dem Meer. In Campeche hatten wir einen herrlichen Sonnenuntergang ins Meer erlebt, hier waren wir auf der anderen Seite der Yucatán Halbinsel. In der Morgendämmerung war ich wie gestern wieder schwimmen. Peter und Vasi waren heute morgen auch mitgekommen. Peter verschmähte die noch kühlen Wellen, aber Vasi und ich genossen den frühmorgentlichen Dipp. Er erinnerte uns an unserer Traumreise auf Boracay. So früh morgens gab es keine Taxen. Irgendwann kam uns ein Taxi entgegen. Auf dem Beifahrersitz lag ein Haufen frischer Brote. \"Diez minutos, diez minutes\" rief er aufgeregt, als er hörte das wir zum 70 km entfernten Playa del Carmen wollten. Tatsächlich kam er innerhalb dieser Zeit wieder, sichtlich glücklich dass in der Zwischenzeit kein Konkurrent aufgetaucht war. Wir bezahlten etwas weniger als der einlaminierte Standartpreis: Er hatte vergessen die sieben Kilometer vom Strand in die Stadt Tulum dazu zu berechnen. Als er seinen Fehler bemerkte stellte ich mich stur. \"Ok,ok\" sagte er immer wieder. Er wollte diese für ihn gute Fahrt nicht vermasseln. Von Tulum bis Playa del Carmen sind es knapp eine Stunde über eine vierspurige Autobahn. Die Landschaft besteht wie auf der ganzen Yucatán-Halbinsel aus niedriger Wald. Auf der rechten Seite der Straße gibt es vereinzelte bombastische Eingänge zu großen Resorts oder Golfplätze. Hier wird augenscheinlich nicht gekleckert sondern geglotzt. Playa del Carmen ist ein langweiliger Touristenort mit einem schönen Strand, aber ohne die herrliche Brandung von Tulum. Wir holten uns gleich Tickets für die Überfahrt nach Cozumel und hatten noch Zeit zu frühstücken in einem französischen Lokal wo keiner französisch sprach und es keine Croissants gab. Die Überfahrt war herrlich, wir saßen auf dem Oberdeck in der gleißenden Sonne. Das niedrig gebaute Playa verschwand hinter uns, bald sahen wir die ersten Hochhäuser von Cozumel. Ganz besonders hübsch ist die Insel nicht, aber dennoch voller Touristen. Es gibt eine schöne Strandboulevard, aber das Städtchen hat nichts eigentümliches und ist voll auf dem Tourismus ausgelegt. Am Ende des Boulevards fragten wir einen Taxifahrer was eine Inselumrundung kosten würde. Nach kurzem Überlegen entschieden wir uns für ihn. \"First I want to see the InterContinental Hotel, and than the other side of the island\" sagte ich ihn. Das InterConti war etwa sieben Kilometer hinter der Stadt. Direkt hinter der Ausfahrt gab es ein hier in Mexiko typisches bombastisches Tor mit unserem Logo. Beim Pförtner trug ich unser Anliegen vor als Hotelangestellter des InterConti Berlin uns dieses Schwesterhotel anschauen zu dürfen. Mit seinem Walky-Talky fragte er um Erlaubnis. Kurze Zeit später, nachdem wir durch einen Tunnel aus großen Palmen gefahren waren, wurden wir vor dem Hotel von einem Kollegen in Empfang genommen. Alle waren sehr nett, es war fast ein kleines Nachhausekommen. \"Do you like to see a hotel room as well?\" fragte der Rezeptionist. Die Anlage war riesig aber ganz offensichtlich schon aus der Zeit als PanAm in den Sechzigern und Siebzigern sein Hotelimperium aufbaute. Zwischen einem Überfluß an Beton kamen wir von der offenen Lobby zum Poolbereich. Niemand im Wasser. Ich wunderte mich warum wir hier keine Übernachtung bekommen hatten. \"From tomorrow on we will be fully booked\" sagte der Kollege. Schade! Es sah hier trotz des Sechziger Jahre Stils ganz luxuriös aus. Hinter dem Pool gab es einen kleinen Sandstrand, daneben ein großes offenes reetgedecktes Restaurant. Jetzt liefen wir weiter und kamen zu den Zimmern. Die Leute am Ende des endlosen offenen Ganges mußten gut zu Fuß sein. Vielleicht wurde ein Abholservice mit Golfbuggies angeboten. Die Zimmer waren groß und hatten alle eine eigene Terrasse mit Zugang zu einem weiteren hauseigenen Sandstrand. Dazu zwei Badezimmer: ein reguläres, und ein nach oben Offenes wie in Bali. Toll! Wir bedankten uns und fuhren gegen Uhrzeigersinn um die Insel. Der Fahrer erzählte allerhand interessantes. Diese Woche würden 28 Kreuzfahrtschiffe anlegen. Was da für Geld reinkommt. Auch erzählte er dass die Arbeit auf der Insel von den Insularern selber bestritten wird, es gibt keine Gastarbeiter vom Festland. Alle arbeiten während der Saison ununterbrochen. Im knallheißen Sommer und in der Regenzeit gibt es dann viel Freizeit. Die Insel ist genauso wie das Festland durchgehend bewaldet, aber durch den nährstoffarmen Koralboden weniger üppig bewachsen. Wir hatten jetzt die Ostseite der Insel erreicht. Die Insel steht hier unter Naturschutz und es gibt kaum Bebauung. Eine Ausnahme bilden einige Beachparks, ein zwanzig Zimmer Hotel und ein paar Bars und Restaurants. Wir kamen zu einem Beachpark wo Kreuzfahrtreisende einen Strandtag einlegen können. \"Here at the Paradise Beach I get free coffee and food for one dollar\" erzählte er, dazu noch zwei Dollar pro Tourist, egal ob sie was ausgeben oder nicht. Uns sollte es recht sein. Vor dem Betreten des nächsten Beach Parks erzählte er uns, dass es ein besonderes Inselgetränk gibt, \"Coco Loco\", mit als Basis frischem Cocosmilch, dann Tequilla und anderen harten Sachen die nach entsprechendem Rühren oder Schütteln in die Kokosnuß zurückgekippt werden. Ich ging gleich zur Bar und bestellte so eine Nuß, die Stimmung stieg schlagartig an. Bei dem nächsten Stopp in einer Jamaika Bar mit Reggea Musik noch mal und schließlich eine dritte Nuß bei dem Kiosk von \"El Mirador\", wo es eine schöne Aussicht über das Meer gab. Es gab noch einen Stop bei einem offenen Restaurant, hoch auf einer Felskante gelegen und mit einem fantastischen Blick auf einen naturbelassenen Strand und das türkisfarbige Wasser. Hier mußten wir aber schon passen. Eine ganze Nuß pro Person reicht voll aus sich ein \"poco loco\" zu fühlen. Dunkele Wolken zogen jetzt auf. Ab und zu gab es einige Regentropfen. Der nördliche Teil der flachen Insel ist für Autos gesperrt. Wir fuhren schnurgerade zurück zur Inselhauptstadt San Miguel. Nachdem wir am Hafen Karten für die Rückfahrt besorgt hatten, aßen wir überraschend gut und billig im Restaurant \"Fat Tuesday\". Warum gerade Tuesday war mir unklar, meines erachtens würde man von so große Portionen Fritten, Hamburger, Fischstäbchen oder Tacos jeden Tag \"fat\" werden. Das Wetter wurde jetzt immer schlechter. Durch das offene Hafengebäude fegte der Wind. Wir hatten Glück uns zeitig in die endlosen Schlange einreihen zu können und so früh an Bord zu kommen. Einmal auf dem Meer wurde is immer stürmischer, es wurden Kotztüten verteilt, die bald auch benutzt wurden. Bis auf einen gräßlichen Speichelfluß konnte ich es trocken halten. Ich war sehr froh nach einer knappen Stunde wieder in \"Playa\" zu sein. Cancun Jetzt fuhren wir zum dritten Mal über die Autobahn nach \"Playa\". Schon kurz vor sieben waren wir am ADO Busbahnhof gewesen. Wann wir mit welchem Bus fahren würden verstand ich nicht ganz. Auf jedem Fall konnte ich keine Tickets kaufen. Ein Bus kam, war aber nicht der richtige. Nach einiger Zeit kam wieder ein Bus. Der Typ am Schalter winkte, ich kaufte die Tickets und ein paar Minuten später fuhren wir los. Dies war ein Überlandbus von irgendwo und er konnte uns die Plätze erst verkaufen als klar war dass es tatsächlich welche gab. Nach gut anderthalb Stunden sahen wir die ersten Hochhäuser von Cancun. Diese sind in Mexiko höchst selten. Fast jeder, sogar in der 20 Millionenstadt Mexiko City, scheint hier ebenerdig oder höchstens im ersten Stock zu wohnen. Die Autobahn fuhr direkt durch die Stadt. Rechts gab es eine riesige Mall, sowie wir in Veracruz gesehen hatten, dahinter zwanzigstöckige Hochhäuser, entlang den großen Kreisverkehren sahen wir protzige Autosalons mit vor allem deutschen Autos. Anscheinend gab es hier einen Markt für teuere BMW\'s und Mercedes. Wir fuhren an unserem Hotel \"Antillano\" vorbei, noch über den nächsten Kreisverkehr hinweg und schon waren wir am ADO Busbahnhof angekommen. Auf dem Weg zum Hotel frühstückten wir in einem großen Restaurant. Dies war definitiv das fettigste Frühstück meines Lebens. Es war von der gut verpackten Serviererin vielleicht nett gemeint, aber eine ganze Schale Natchos mit Hackfleisch, dick überbacken mit Käse und triefend vor fett war zú gut gemeint. Sie sah übrigens aus als wäre sie gewiss nicht dieser Meinung. Das Zimmer im \"Antillano\" war überraschend groß, obwohl es das billigste Hotel war was ich im Internet gefunden hatte. Wir liefen über die autobahnähnliche Avenida Tulum zu dem großen Einkaufscenter zurück. Peter und Vasi fanden ihre Lieblingsstrandschuhe, \"genauso teuer wie in Hong Kong\" sagte Vasi strahlend, \"die sind in Berlin viel teurer!\" Wir brachten diese neue Schätze zurück ins Hotel und liefen weiter in nördliche Richtung. Hier war es richtig Mexikanisch. Touristen schienen sich hier nicht zu verirren. Die Stadt ist wie alle neueren Städte hier ziemlich hässlich. An der Endstation einiger Buslinien gab es eine offene Bude wo Hähnchen gegrillt wurden. Wir aßen zusammen ein ganzes zerhacktes Huhn mit Reis. Ganz lecker und irre billig. Zurück im Zentrum sah die Stadt im Dunkeln viel hübscher und lebendiger aus als am Tage. Und weil wir heute noch ausgehen wollten, ließen Peter und ich sich für wenig Geld die Haare schneiden. Keine zweihundert Meter vom Hotel gab es eine Disco. Wir hatten uns im Hotel ein bisschen ausgeruht, aber waren trotzdem viel zu früh da. Wir bezahlten einen Pauschaleintritt und durften jetzt so viel trinken wie wir wollten. Die Auswahl war beschränkt auf Wasser, Cola, Tequilla oder Bier. Wir wählten noch mal Tequilla, aber ohne Orangensaft schmeckt das Zeug langweilig. Das Konzept des Managements lautete anscheinend \"mehr ist mehr\". Mehr Raum, mehr Personal, mehr saufen und mehr Krach. Die Musik war ohrenbetäubend und Kommunikation nicht möglich. Es gab ununterbrochen die gleiche Musik, nach dem zweiten Tequilla mit Wasser gaben wir auf und gingen nach Hause. Samstag Cancun hat ein gut ausgebautes Bussystem. Wir fuhren von unserer Avenida Tulum zur \"Zona Hotelera\". Die Hotelzone von Cancun ähnelt sich mit Miami, Varadero, oder rein geografisch gesehen, auch mit der kurischen Nehrung. Eine langgestreckte Landzunge erstreckt sich ins Meer. Hier in Cancun ist sie nach sieben Kilometer abgeknickt und nach weiteren zwölf Kilometern käme man wieder zum Festland. Mir nicht ganz im Klaren über die Dimensionen dieser Retortenstadt, drängte ich die beiden zum Aussteigen alsbald wir das Festland verlassen hatten. Wir standen vor einem Holiday Inn. Alles um uns herum war sehr sauber, aber auch ein bisschen eintönig. Wir liefen durch einen nie enden wollenden Park. Links die Hotels, rechts die langweilige Lagune, die Ufer bewachsen mit Mangroven. Von den Stränden gab es zunächst keine Spur. Irgendwo versuchten wir zum Meer zu kommen, aber strandeten auf einer Baustelle. Einige Hotels später schafften wir es unbemerkt durch eine Hotellobby und an einem Pool vorbei zum Meer zu kommen. Ich wurde dann doch von einem Wachmann entdeckt der mir unmissverständlich klar machte das Hotelgelände zu verlassen. Alle Strände in Mexiko sind öffentlich, aber hier gab es gar keinen Strand. Über eine kleine Promenade an einer verwaisten Hotelmall vorbei gelangten wir wieder zur Straße. Es gab hier eine Brücke. Die Landzunge schien aus einer Reihe von Inseln zu bestehen. Am Horizont sahen wir die \"Isla Mujeres\", eine Art von Koralleninsel wie - nur einige Hundert Kilometer südlich von hier - Caye Caulker und Caye San Pedro in Belize. Jetzt kamen wir zu einer Reihe fünf Sterne Hotels wovon das \"RIU Palace Hotel\" mit einem großen Loch in seiner fast 20-stöckiger Fassade richtig spektakulär aussah. In der Halle gab es viel Chrom, schwarzer und grauer Marmor und lila Möbeln, nicht so mein Ding, aber doch ganz schön protzig. Nebenan gab es endlich eine legale Möglichkeit zum Meer zu kommen. Hinter einem Einkaufszentrum gab es einen Hafen mit Fähren zur \"Isla Mujeres\" und einem kleinen öffentlichen Strand. Peter und Vasi erfuhren, dass man von hier über dem Strand zum InterConti käme. Es war zwar kein durchgehender Strand - wir kletterten über Felsen, folgten einen gepflasterten Fußweg und suppten über Berge von nassen Seetang - aber schafften es trockenen Fußes zu unserem Schwesterhotel zu kommen. Von hier aus sah das Hotel nicht besonders aus. Es bestand auf zwei Seiten nur aus Brandmauern: Alle Zimmer hatten Meerblick. Das Hotel hatte einen schönen Strand, aber wie in \"Playa\" gab es auch hier wenig Brandung. \"Unser\" Strand in Tulum war einfach nicht zu toppen. Unbemerkt liefen wir durch den Garten. Ich machte einige Bilder von dem Pool. Eine lange Rampe führte in die Hotelhalle. Wie im InterConti Cozumel schien auch hier der Bauherr des Hotels mit der Betonindustrie unter einer Decke zu stecken. Ich war froh das Hotel kennengelernt zu haben, musste aber nicht traurig sein hier nicht gewohnt zu haben. Jetzt war es nicht mehr weit zum \"Knie\". Ein weiteres RIU Hotel sah aus wie ein Luxushotel an der Cote d\'Azur. Wir erfuhren das RIU Gäste in allen anderen RIU Hotels die Fazilitäten nutzen dürfen. Wir aßen ein Süppchen, liefen durch einen leeren Einkaufscenter und fuhren dann mit dem Bus weiter. Nach vielen Kilometern und nach vielen, vielen Hotels kamen wir endlich zu einem großen öffentlichen Strand. Das Wetter hatte sich plötzlich verschlechtert. Die Sonne war hinter dicken fetten Wolken verschwunden, aber es regnete nicht. Ohne mich groß eincremen zu müssen konnte ich am helllichten Tage ausgiebig baden. Ich finde Cancun nicht so toll, große Strandhotels sind nicht so mein Ding, aber der Strand hier ist fantastisch. Ich konnte gar nicht genug kriegen von den großen türkisschillernden Wellen. Immer wieder versuchte ich die größten Wellen zu erreichen und immer wieder wurde ich von den kleineren zurückgedrängt. Vasi war ebenso begeistert, aber Peter scheint keine große Wasserratte zu sein. Jetzt liefen wir eine ganze Weile über den Strand zurück. Ein Hotel schien Seebad Prora als Vorbild gehabt zu haben. Über hunderte von Metern zog sich der Betonklotz hin. Von Kraft durch Freude war aber nicht viel zu spüren, die Leute saßen gelangweilt herum, keiner war im Wasser. Irgendwann hatten wir genug Bettenburgen gesehen und schafften es unbemerkt durch die Gärten und die pyramidenartige Hotelhalle des \"OASIS\" zurück zur Straße zu kommen. Wir fuhren ins Zentrum zurück, machten ein Schläfchen und stürzten uns nochmal ins mexikanische Nachtleben. Zwei Typen am Strand hatten uns einen weiteren Tip gegeben wo wir an diesem Samstagabend ausgehen konnten. \"It\'s near the MacDonalds\" hatten sie gesagt. Aber \"near\" ist ein sehr dehnbarer Begriff. Wir suchten eine Weile an der Av Tulum als Vasi die Kneipe schließlich in einer Seitengasse bemerkte. Auch hier waren wir viel zu früh. Außer viel Personal, ein Besitzer der uns unbedingt bewirten wollte, laute Musik und eine Airconditioning auf \"full blast\" gab es hier nichts zu erleben. Nach unserem Bierchen zahlten wir und gingen. Wir tranken noch was auf einer Terrasse bei uns in der Nähe und gingen ins Bett. Morgen früh fliegen wir zurück nach Hause

Ras Musandam Visit: 2012-1
2012-01-17 - We were travelling all seven Emirates and decided to try to get into Ras Musandam as well. Because we were not sure if our rental car would be insured in Oman we left the car near some restaurants about 200m from the border. Dibba is devided into three: The southern part, Dibba Muhallab, belongs to Fujairah. The middle part, Dibba Muhallab, to Sharjah and the nothern part, Bayah, to Oman.
The soldier at the border hardly looked at our pasports and waved us through. As there were no busses or taxis in sight we just walked into town. As I made a picture of a beautiful blue domed mosk, a car stopped and a guy offered us to show us around. Than, Achmed from Egypt, gave us a two hour free tour: the mosk, the traditionell houses in the mountains, the palm gardens, the Golden Tulip Hotel, the harbour. All very beautiful, very traditional and very, very clean. At the end he bought us two traditional dancing sticks as a souvenir.....

Republic of Congo Visit: 1990-1
2013-11-20 - This time the flight was on time, I arrived in Brazzaville at sunset. Entering the country took a long time though. I thought that the people were impossible here. Huge tall guys in uniform, police or army, were standing around me and trying to intimidate me. It was really difficult to keep cool and I had to defend myself in, at that time, insufficient French. I insisted again and again that I had a visa and that I had paid all the expenses for it in Berlin and that no further payments were necessary. Finally they gave up and gave me my entrance stamp. I took a taxi to the Meridien and told the driver about our problems at the CAR border in Garoua Boulai. Now we drove up the stately driveway of this four star French hotel and who was walking there: INGO! I called from the open car window, but he didn’t hear me. Later he said that he did hear me, but did not believe what he heard. I paid and got of the taxi in the middle auf the driveway. We were so happy to meet again, and so quick and trouble-free. Ingo’s trip had been without problems. He had got a taxi-brousse to Bouar, about 155km from Garoua Boulai and had spent the night there. In the evening he even had had a good time in a bar with “de l’ambience”. The next day he had covered another 444km to get to Bangui. The atmosphere there was just as grim as in Cameroon, he had not attempted to take pictures in town. The only two were taken from his room on the River Congo. The next day we walked around the town. There are only a few buildings in town and a European style shopping arcade. We went to the train station to get a ticket to Pointe-Noir. First Class! And we insisted on a seat reservation. Reluctantly the attendant printed the tickets and the reservation. He repeated several times that a reservation wasn’t necessary. Of course we did not believe him and wanted to be sure. The next morning there was hardly anybody at the station. There was only one guy besides us in the whole car. Again I noticed that trains are something un-African. Normally one travels on a Toyota pick-up in Africa. Pointe-Noire was not the bustling beach resort I expected. We did find a hotel near the beach, but we were about the only guests. We did a bit of swimming, but the water was really cold and the weather wasn’t warm either, about 22°, amazing because the equator runs through the Congo. We found a taxi to bring us to the Diosso Gorge, 19km North of Pointe Noire. This gorge is called the Grand Canyon of the Congo, with red cliffs rising up to 50m out of the green jungle. We made some nice pictures there. When we were back in Pointe-Noire the driver suddenly wanted twice the money. The price we had made out with him was only for one person. I got angry, but Ingo was really furious. It got a real row in the street and a policeman came. With his help we finally came to a solution. We had to pay a bit more, but not twice the price. We returned to Brazzaville the next day and stayed our last two nights in a very nice hotel called: Hotel Olympic Palace Brazzaville. The hotel only had 27 rooms all facing the beautiful garden with the pool. And all the rooms had names of flowers instead of numbers and were all individually appointed: our room was called passiflore / passion flower. On our last day we walked to the Congo River and followed its stream. Not far out of town we saw the first cataract, the reason that this river is so hard to navigate. Between the dense vegetation we made a few pics of it and also of the skyline of Kinshasa. From here we could clearly see the InterContinental Hotel where we would stay the next day.

Republic of Srpska Visit: 2013-6
2014-01-09 - Vielleicht 25km südlich von Mostar bogen wir links ab. Die Straße war jetzt nicht mehr so spiegelglatt wie vorhin, wir mussten langsamer fahren. Wir durchfuhren bosnische und kroatische Dörfer, es gab Moscheen mit schlanken türkischen Minaretten und kleine aus Naturstein gebaute katholische Kapellen und Kirchen. Rechts auf einer Bergkuppe gab es ein großes Schloss. In diesem Städtchen, Stolac, gab es unzählige Cafés und Restaurants. Bis hier scheinen noch viele Touristen zu kommen. Einige Kilometer weiter sah es ganz anders aus. Seltsamerweise wurden hier die sonst üppig bewachsen Berghänge abgeholzt oder abgebrannt. Die Gegend sah richtig trostlos aus. Hier wohnte kaum ein Mensch. Wenn es keinen Straßenschild gegeben hätte, hätte ich es nicht gewusst: Wir durchfuhren jetzt die „Republik Srpska“! Angeblich streben sie ihre staatliche Eigenständigkeit an. Ich möchte mal wissen wie sie hier überleben wollen, hier kann man höchstens Ziegen hüten. Es gab verlassene Gehöfte, aber weiter östlich auch schöne Dörfer. Was dem Wohnungsbau betrifft scheinen die Serben ein anderes Finanzierungsystem zu haben als die Bosnier. Da wird erst mal angefangen und gebaut solange das Geld reicht. Irgendwann wenn die Finanzen es erlauben wird dann weitergebaut. Die Serben scheinen mehr unser westliches System zu folgen, denn alle Häuser sahen fertig aus und hatten neue rote Ziegeldächer. Ich hatte Samir gefragt ob wir nicht noch mal Kaffeetrinken könnten – hier in der Republik Srpska – damit ich eine Rechnung bekommen würde. Jetzt gab es einen großen Zufall: Der Bus von Herzec Novi nach Sarajevo machte gerade an dieser Tankstelle eine Kaffeepause. Und gerade mit diesem Bus fuhr die Verwandschaft zurück die zwei Wochen im gleichen Apartment Urlaub gemacht hatten. Nur wenige Kilometer hinter unseren Stopp in Trebinje verließen wir Bosnien. (Ein Kaffee-Expresso kostete hier übrigens nur eine Mark zwanzig: das sind Preise!) Es gab ein ganzes Stück Niemandsland und danach reisten wir problemlos nach Montenegro ein.

Rhone-Alpes Visit: 2012-5
2012-07-01 - Heute wurde der Tag überschattet von zwei Sachen: Am Freitagmorgen, einige Stunden vor unserem Abflug, wurde Christian geplagt von Rückenschmerzen. Irgendeine Rippe hatte sich ausgerastet. Tapfer hielt er die nächsten Tage durch, aber heute verschlimmerten sich die Schmerzen. Was sollen wir da bloß machen? Dann hatte Christian etwas gelesen, was er nicht verstand. „Da steht was dass die Standseilbein am 1. Mai nicht fährt.“ „Ist doch nicht so schlimm“ meinte ich, „heute ist doch erst der 29ste.“ Erst nach und nach wurde uns die Dimension von dieser Meldung bewusst. Immer wieder sahen wir diese Zettel: keine Metro am 1. Mai und auch kein Bus! Wahrscheinlich auch keine Taxen. Unser Hotel befand sich am Rande der Stadt. Vom Bahnhof aus erreichbar mit der Metro und einer halben Stunde Fußweg, oder mit Metro und Bus. Auf jedem Fall saßen wir hier mehr als sieben Kilometer vom Hauptbahnhof. Im Hotel wusste die Rezeptionistin von gar nichts und der Restaurantkellner zuckte nur mit den Schultern. Nach einigem hin und her entschieden wir uns die zweite Nacht zu stornieren und ein Hotel in der Nähe des Bahnhofes zu suchen. Die Bahnfahrt nach Lyon war sehr angenehm gewesen. Es war nicht viel los im Zug und wir hatten einen Tisch um unsere frischen Baguettes zu essen. Die ganze Strecke ist sehr bergig, man rauscht durch Täler und Tunnel. Im Bahnhof Lyon Part-Dieu bekamen wir am Automaten für €4,90 eine Tageskarte, gültig für den ganzen öffentlichen Verkehr. Lyon hat vier Metrolinien. Für die Bahnhöfe wurde viel Beton verbaut, fahren tun nur ganz kurze Zuge bestehend aus zwei Wagen. Wir stiegen in Saxe Gambetta um und in Valmy aus. Hier kamen wir durch eine dörfliche Wohngegend. In einem kleinen Park wurde getrommelt und eine große Gruppe verschleierter Frauen und Mädchen tanzte einen Reihentanz: Bienvenue en France! Das Holiday Inn Écully liegt unmittelbar an der Autobahn, aber fast vor der Tür gibt es auch drei Buslinien: Die Nr. 3, 5 und 19, die alle eine Metrostation anfahren. Wenn man das weiß ist die Lage gar nicht so schlecht. Außerdem wurde das Hotel erst in Januar eröffnet, das Zimmer war geräumig mit Couch und Bad und das für nur €30 plus 50% Rabatt aufs Essen. Zuerst fuhren wir mit dem Bus zurück zur Metro und stiegen „Vieux Lyon“ aus. Hier gibt es Anschluss auf zwei „funiculaires“. Zuerst fuhren wir durch einem steilen Tunnel hoch zu dem Wahrzeichen der Stadt: Die Basilique Notre-Dame Fourvière. Diese Kirche aus dem 19. Jahrhundert ist berühmt für seine Mosaiken. Der Boden, die Wände und die Decke sind überzogen mit Millionen von kleinen Steinchen. Unter der Kirche gibt es ein Gewölbe mit noch mal einer Kirche mit bombastischen Säulen. Draußen war es sonnig aber sehr windig. Wir genossen die kristallklare Aussicht auf Lyon und liefen den Hügel runter zur Altstadt. Jetzt fuhren wir mit der anderen Standseilbahn hoch nach Saint-Juste. Auch von hier gibt es schöne Aussichtspunkte auf die Stadt. Am Hang schmiegen sich zwei Amphitheater aus der Römerzeit. Wir ruhten uns auf den alten Stufen aus und liefen danach runter zur Altstadt. Die Fassade der romanisch, gotische Cathédrale St-Jean aus dem 11-16 Jahrhundert ist mit Steinmedaillons verziert. Auf dem sonnigen Vorplatz der Kathedrale und in den engen Gassen des Vieux Lyon war viel los. Auf dem Place de la Baleine spielte eine Band, die Terrassen ringsherum waren voll besetzt. Es war wirklich sehr schön hier. Zurück im Hotel nutzten wir noch unseren 50% Rabatt im Restaurant. Die Steaks am Abend waren etwas zäh, aber das Frühstück war gut, und zogen danach um ins „All Seasons“ am Bahnhof. Genau nebenan gab es ein riesiges Einkaufscenter. Christian ging zum Carrefour und ich stöberte nebenan in einem Buchladen herum. Nach über einer halben Stunde kam er endlich wieder. Ohne Einkäufe und ohne Getränke. In dem Supermarkt konnte man nur mit einer französischer Kundenkarte einkaufen, oder man müsse sich stundenlang an den langen Schlangen anstellen. Tolles Konzept! Glücklicherweise gab es noch andere Supermärkte und wir machten wieder Picknick auf einer Parkbank. Spatzen pickten unsere Brotkrümel auf und fütterten damit ihre Jungen. Nebenan am Flussufer übten sich die Skater und Biker in wilden Sprüngen und dahinter lag am anderen Flussufer der Rhone das große Hotel Dieu, ein Jahrhunderte altes leerstehendes Krankenhaus, dass jetzt allmählich renoviert wird. Dahinter liegt der riesige Place Bellecour. Von da geht eine wunderschöne Fußgängerzone ab. Überhaupt ist die ganze Halbinsel zwischen Rhone und Saone vollgestopft mit wunderschönen Häusern, Kirchen und Verwaltungsbauten. Ich habe nur ein modernes Haus gesehen, da war ein H und M drin. Am späten Nachmittag fing es an zu regnen. Vom Gare St. Pierre fuhren wir mit der Buslinie 3 zurück zum Gare Part Dieu. Christian trotzte den Regen und ging noch mal zu Carrefour. Auch diesmal vergeblich. Gegen acht Uhr klärte es sich auf und ich fuhr noch mal mit der Metro zur Place Bellecour um mir die Reiterstatue von Louis XIV anzusehen. Sie sah gegen den rotgefärbten Himmel ganz toll aus. Kreuz und quer lief ich durch die Gassen und entdeckte noch das Théatre des Célèstins aus dem Jahre 1792, den wunderschönen Place des Jacobins und eine Gasse mit Dutzenden von Restaurants. An der Saone machte ich noch einige Bilder des Abendhimmels und fuhr dann mit der Buslinie 3 zurück.

Rio de Janeiro State Visit: -

Rio Grande do Norte Visit: 2016-10
2017-03-05 - For R$40 and within three hours time, the bus covered the 190 km from Joao Pessoa to Natal. From the busstation I took a taxi to my hostel in Ponta Negra 14 km south of downtown Natal. Most hotels and hostels in Rio Grande do Norte’s capital are actually located in Ponta Negra. My hostel told me not to use public transport to and not to walk around Natal Centro as the place was not safe. The first thing they ask me when I checked in, was if I were interested in a tour to the Dunes de Genipabu. I booked the tour for the next day. Today I still had time to go to the beach. The Praia de Ponta Negra is three km long, features soft yellow sand and a constant surf. The backdrop of houses and hotels is not very nice, this could be anywhere, but the particalarity of this beach is the huge dune at its Southern end, the Morro de Careca. The next day’s tour was good. I had to pay R$90 plus R$10 for a ferry boat. The tour lasted ten hours and was good value. We were five in the buggy. The driver Roberto (sounded like Hober) drove like a madmen along Ponta Negra’s beaches, then between the Atlantic Ocean and the Parque das Dunas, an eight kilometer long National Park with sanddunes. Followed a spectacular skyline with 20+story highrises and an equally spectacular bridge, the Pte. Newton Navarra, connecting the peninsula with downtown Natal with the mainland. While crossing the bridge you can see the Forte dos Reis Magos, a four hundred year old fort. North of the river there are no more highrises, just one or two story houses under the palm trees. In the distance you see the white beaches and the Dunes de Genipabu. The dunes were great, although very touristy. Speeding up and down the dunes with buggies, sand sliding, camel riding in Arabian clothes and so on. We continued over the beach for 15 kilometers and ended in a buggy traffic jam in a small village. Here a raft crossed the buggies over a river. On the other side we continued speeding over the beaches, sometimes through the water. Fun, but I wonder if this highway speeding with hundreds and hundreds of buggies a day does the beaches any good. Followed a drink stop in the booring BarDaLagoa, a bar on the beach of a small lagoon. The place looked like a swimming pool. We continued to the dunes of Jacuma. Here you could do all kind of steep slides, but also enjoy some beautiful desert scenery. The dunes were extremely clean, but right outside the dune areas there was garbage everywhere. What a shame! After a visit to an expensive beach restaurant we speeded back over the beaches to Natal. The next day, a Sunday, I spend at the three kilometers long Praia de Ponta Negra and walked all the way down to the Morro de Careca to see that this enormous sand dune is fenced off now to prevent erosion. The next day I flew to Teresina via Fortaleza.

Rio Grande do Sul Visit: 1995-1
2016-10-16 - In Montevideo we booked a night bus to Porte Alegre for the following evening. Since we had seen the sights of the city we made a day trip to Punta del Este the next day and returned to Montevideo late afternoon to pick up our luggage and go to the bus station to take the bus. We were overtired and fell asleep right away. In the middle of the night I woke up at a busstation and what did I see: Punta del Este. Oh my God we had travelled 260 km for nothing. Porto Alegre we did not like very much, it was dull and grey and felt unpleasant. In the eveing we checked out of our hotel and took a nightbus to Curitiba.

Rio Muni (Bata) Visit: 1989-1
2013-11-26 - From Malabo we flew to Bata on the mainland Rio Muni and stayed at a three story hotel right on the beach. Bata seems more of a backwater than Malabo, but sports some nice colonial buildings including a pink colored baroque church. Here the same picture of empty shops and no visible activity. How do people survive here? The afternoon, we spend walking along the deserted beaches. In the morning we were lucky to find transport further south, we could sit next to the driver. The load area was covered with a whole stack of tin iron sheets. The streets in Rio Muni are a lot worse than in Bioko. None of them are sealed, we were lucky that it wasn’t raining. Our jeep had a few breakdowns, but we made it to Mbini by late afternoon. We came to the end of the road. This must have been a kind of harbor one time, as there still was a kind of concrete jetty leading into the river. Here we found a “Parador”, a bar with a few simple rooms. The lady in charge made boiled fish and spaghetti for us. The evening we spend with the locals drinking beer and watching the fire flies. Mbini has an atmosphere of the end of the world. A big river - Rio Benito - floats into the sea here. The other shore is still Equatorial Guinea. They told us that in order to get to Gabon we had to travel further south. In a small community like this, our stay did not go unnoticed and the next morning a jeep pulled up to bring us to Acalayong where we could get across the Rio Mitemele. The driver was a very nice heavy guy, openly complaining about the government. Since we have these black guys running the government nothing works he said repeatedly, and every time he confirmed this statement, he slammed on the wheel. This part of the country is very thinly populated, but all the small villages had a church, sometimes not more than a wooden barn with a cross on the roof. In Acalayong there was no ferry boat in sight. There was none. Traffic with Gabon was kept up with small boats made out of hollow tree trunks reinforced with some shelves. We boarded one of these boats and we set off crossing a huge expance of water. We passed several small islands and landed on one of them. This was Gabon? I still don’t know. Anyway, we just seemed to be here to pick up new gasoline. It all seemed a bit illegal to us - filling up the jerry can out of a range of bottles - but everybody was quite relaxed and we could make some pictures. We had to board the boat again, now we toured for hours between many islands covered with jungle. In the distance we saw a bigger village, may be Cogo. It was already getting dark when the boat finally landed on deserted Cocobeach. “Ici c’est Gabon” said the boats men. It was just a short walk to get to the road and people helped us to get transport to Libreville. Two hours later at the reception of the InterContinental Hotel they told us that we needed an entry stamp. So the next morning we had to take a bus all the way back to report at the local police station, where we got our entry stamp without problems.

Rio Negro Province Visit: 2016-11
2017-05-24 - Rio Negro, Bariloche We stayed in Bariloche twice for two days, the town was ok, but I had expected this place to be a bit nicer than it actually was. We had a very nice hotel, the View Hotel, and a room with a view on the lake, but also on the biggest eyesore of town, an oversized 13-story government building in the middle of the city. Also some other buildings, mainly hotels, were outright ugly: too big, wrong materials, non fitting architecture in this environment. I cannot understad that in a city that lives from tourism, makes itself so faceless and ugly. In the 1940s a very nice city hall was built in German style, actually it looks more German than anything I have seen in Germany, but with the 13-story eyesore next door not really enjoyable. A bit off the city center we found some nice pre-war villas in German-Swiss style. The next morning we made a walk westward in the direction of the snowy mountains, but that was no fun. A lot of traffic is squeezing through town, but sidewalks are narrow or non existent. Even before the last row of houses the sidewalk came to a complete end and we had to walk through the dirt. After loosing quite a lot of nerves we got to an old ropeway. We took it up although 120 Pesos seemed expensive for the short way up. It was well worth it though as the view on the lake was fantastic. We walked back to the center of town where all the roads seemed to be under construction. At some houses they were adding some woodwork, at least they seem to try to gain back some of the lost German atmosphere. We wandered to the lake again into an easterly direction. At least here there was a boulevard along the water with some nice buildings: colleges, schools and a nice church. The next day we took the bus to El Bolson, where we stayed three days. Also this place didn’t have the laid back hippy feel anymore as I expected. We seem to have come too late for these places. Nature was still great though. The bus tour along lakes and through the mountains was fantastic as was the taxi tour we took through the mountains with a fantastic view on El Bolson. The best trip was our day along the shores of Lago Puelo in neighbouring Chubut Province. We enjoyed the trip back to Bariloche and made a day trip to the Llao Lloa Hotel. This trip was really beautiful. The bus passes along many beautiful villas, here the rich and famous in Argentina own a house. Many villas are built in German style and fit in well with the backdrop of rocks and snowy mountain peaks. The Llao Lloa Hotel is absolutely out of this world. You can get real close to the building, but the hotel is impossible to enter when you are not staying there.

Rwanda Visit: 1990-1
2013-11-20 - We arrived in Rwanda from Goma, it’s like entering paradise! Gisenyi is a beautiful town. Here the Rwandan upper class has its villas along the shores of Lac Kivu. We walked along some beautiful boulevards, with palm trees and blooming bouganvillae. We past the hotel Méridien, amid beautiful gardens. Besides this hotel, we did not dare to take any pictures, being so close to the border. We took a bus to Ruhengeri, about 53km further east. On the way we had a view on the Virunga Volcanoes on our left hand side. This area must be one of the most fertile places on earth. The farmers use their plots in three levels: first the palm and fruit trees, than the bushes with cacao, tea or coffee and finally the vegetables and salads. Ruhengeri is a town just south of the Virungas. We stayed in the Muhabura Hotel, a nice place with an outside terrace with a beautiful view on the volcanoes. The staff was very friendly, especially the bartender. I think this was the tallest guy I ever saw. Also the soldiers I saw walking through town were huge. Early morning we made a walk out of town in the direction of the Ugandan border. We passed some markets with thousands of people buzzing around. The next day we took a bus to Kigali and stayed in Hotel Bienvenue. I planned to make a tour to the mountain gorillas, but Ingo wasn’t in the mood to look at the apes, so we agreed to try to get to the Akagera N.P. and see a bit of the countryside as well. We found a travel agent and they had Rwandan tours on offer: a tree day tour to the NP with stay in the two main lodges, including a car with driver, for DM1500! This was a lot of money for us and way above our normal budget. The next morning at eight we expected our driver. Nobody! We waited and waited, but nobody came. We started to worry, that the DM1500 we paid were lost. We were just preparing to walk to the travel agent as a guy with a jeep turned up. Without making an excuse that he was late or introducing himself, he suggested to have a coffee and breakfast first. I could not believe the imprudence: comes almost an hour late and wants to start with a break! The trip to the park is nice. Rwandan scenery is very diverse for such a small country. The further east we came the lower it went and the drier it became. Very remarkable are the enormous red brick churches in the little towns and villages. As we entered the park, the scene had changed completely and we had the feeling to be back in Kenya: hilly and dry, and with acacia trees as the prevailing vegetation. The Gabira lodge was very nice. We had a room in the garden wing completely build out of natural stone. The gardens were beautiful and very well tended. After checking in we made a safari. We saw lots of Impala, some Thomson Gazelle, Zebra, Dik-dik, big herds of Gnu, as well as Marabous and Vultures. The dinner in the lodge was wonderful, like being in Europe, or to be more exact, like France. The lady who ran the place was from France and for her cuisine she used the same vegetables and herbs as she would use at home: “Touts les ingredients sont de ma propre jardin!” she told us proudly. The next day we took our time to get to the Akagera Lodge. On the way we saw Wildebeest, Buffalo and some Lions. We came close to the enormous Ihema Lake and watched the Hippos floating around. Here there were different kinds of Monkeys and Baboons around as well. The Akagera Lodge is absolutely out of this world: build on a slope of a hill, from the restaurant and the rooms you look out over an endless landscape of rolling hills, planes and lakes. Some tame Impala and Dik-dik were roaming the lawn, the pool was built on an edge, just behind it there were some huge acacia trees with on top of them a swarm of Marabous, always busy to take off or land. These birds are ugly when they sit, but look stunning when they’re flying. I swore to myself: when I become a millionaire I will spend an entire holiday in this lodge! Breakfast was served on the terrace, overlooking the pool, the gardens and the amazing view. All the meals were included, but when I ordered some boiled eggs, our driver, who was sitting at the table next to us, came over to tell us that the eggs were not included in the tour. I got so angry by this remark, I absolutely freaked out. Here we were sitting in paradise and this guy made a fuss about a couple of eggs. I told him that this was ridiculous for a three day tour with a prize of DM1500. “DM1500?” he repeated, he had to sit down to digest this enormous sum of money. He was quiet now, but had destroyed the unique ambience of this heavenly breakfast. The atmosphere in the jeep this last day wasn’t good. We were on the way back to Kigali and the Garden of Eden around us got lost: we only saw empty dry planes without animals. Suddenly big black flies flew into the jeep. Our cool driver panicked: Tse-tse flies! With our Lonely Planet we managed to get them out and we closed the windows quickly. Now they were sitting on the engine bonnet, no matter how fast we drove. These disgusting beasts are responsible for the total absence of wildlife. Just before we were leaving the park we saw animals again. We dared to open the windows again and got out. After some good bay pictures we left the park and drove back to Kigali where we stayed in the same hotel again. Our last day in Rwanda: we took a bus to Butare and changed into a taxi-brousse. It was just a normal car. In the front seat there were two guys next to the driver, and we were sitting in the back, sharing our seat with a Tutsi soldier. This guy must have been even taller than the bartender from the Muhabura Hotel. His knees were floating next to my ears, he had to bend his neck to keep his head clear of the roof, plus that he had to keep control of his oversized Kalashnikov: impressive! The giant got off in the last village before the Burundi border. We drove off, but strange enough after a few minutes, we made a stop on the side of the road in the middle of the bush. Some guys turned up loaded with huge sacks, most likely containing potatoes. We were in the middle of a smuggling transaction! Not pleasant as we find Africa nervy enough when everything happens legal. The sacks were loaded in the back and next to us as well as the two dirty little guys. Thank God, they, plus their load, got off just before the border near a small river, most likely the actual border between the two countries. We were happy that they were gone and we crossed the border without any further incident.

Saarland Visit: 2013-12
2013-12-13 - 01. and 02. December 2013 MTP Nr. 386 Already a long time I was waiting for a chance to go to Saarland, the last Federal Republic in Germany I had not visited. Now I had a few days off and I found a train ticket from Berlin to Saarbrücken for just €39,75 (with Bahncard) one way for the two of us. I think that is very cheap when you think that Berlin is only 80km from Poland and Saarbrücken is right on the border with France. The train left Berlin at 05.33 a.m. We changed trains in Frankfurt and arrived in Saarbrücken at 01.20 p.m. We stayed in a B&B Hotel behind the train station for €53. When we arrived at the hotel, there was nobody around at the reception. We had to check in with our credit card at a machine. The room was nice but the beds very small, too small as we would find out at night. It was a Sunday, four weeks before Christmas, and the city was converted into one big Christmas Market. It was amazingly busy, with I think about half the visitors from France. Saarbrücken must have been heavy destroyed during the Second World War, but has been partly rebuilt. The station is new, as well as the square in front of the station. A little further there is a new shopping center in a renovated old building, the Europa Gallerie. Here we would have a Thai snack the next day. The Bahnhofstrasse is not very nice and looks like any German pedestrian mall. This part of the city must have been badly hit during the war and been rebuilt during the 1950s and 60s. Ugly, faceless and booring. It was a surprise that we suddenly found ourselves in an old part of town. A small square was filled with Christmas stalls and had a very nice atmosphere. It was really busy here. We had a French cheese-sausage in a bread roll. A pedestrian bridge was leading to the other side of the Saar River and the Christmas Market continued there. The square in front of the castle mount was packed. We climbed the massive stairway in front of the church to the castle. In the big hall on the top floor of the castle was a jazz concert going on. People were sitting on tables drinking coffee and eating cakes, a traditional past time for Sunday afternoons in Germany. This central part of the castle must have been hit by a bomb and was rebuilt in modern style entirely out of glass. The big square behind the castle was beautiful and also filled with stalls. At the other end of this longish square was the old city hall built in Baroque style. All the buildings around were also built in a similar style. We were happy to see that an old and traditional part in the town had been preserved. A bit further another part of town had been reconstructed. Ludwichskirche on Ludwichsplatz is the landmark of Saarbrücken. The doors of the church seemed to be open as there was a large crowd standing in front of it. Festively dressed people were entering the church. There happened to be a concert with an orchestra and a choir. We sat down and minutes later we enjoyed a one and a half hour long concert for free. On the way back to the hotel we had a Thai soup and went to bed early after this long day. The next morning we made an early start to the “Saarschleife”, with train and bus about one hour West of Saarbrücken. Here the River Saar makes a 180° curve and floats back parallel for about five Kilometers. The view point is high up on a hill, the river in the deep narrow valley below. With bus and train we drove back to Saarlouis. This is a pleasant small town founded by Louis XIV as a reinforcement of his eastern border. Parts of the fortifications still exist und are currently under reconstruction to form a park. Only parts of the city were destroyed during the war and an old quarter near the city walls boosts hundreds of bars and restaurants. There must be a lot going on here during the summer. We had a snack on the Christmas Market and continued to Völklingen, just ten minutes from here. The Ironworks in Völklingen is on the World Heritage List after it was closed in 1992. The entry was €12 and well spent. When you want to understand the whole process of steel production, you need at least three or four hours. The place is huge! But also when you just look at the structure as a piece of art, the place is fascinating. The weather was great, the contrast of sun and shade of this massive amount of steel awe-inspiring.

Saint Petersburg (City) Visit: 2017-7
2017-07-25 - This was my second time in Saint Petersburg, the first time I was here three and a half years ago in December and I must say that the city is a lot nicer in summer. Also there has been a lot of renovation going since then and the whole city looks in better shape and more organised. A lot of restaurants have been opened with a more international standard. The week I was there in December and due to the cold weather I did a lot of sightseeing in museums. This time I just criss-crossed the city on foot to enjoy the summer weather, the parks, the architecture and the good food. I made a day trip to Vyborg and one to Peterhof. I really like St Petersburg. I will definitively come back to see more of the city and its surroundings.

San Luis Province Visit: 2016-12
2018-08-01 - San Luis Province is located in the heart of Argentina and looks very Argentinian: very flat, endlessly green, almost treeless and meadows full of cows. The bus from Mendoza to San Luis takes about three and a half hours. San Luis was the first city we visited where it was very hot and where the siesta was perfectly observed. Until about 6pm there is hardly anybody outside. Since we only had one afternoon, we did our lonely sightseeing dispite the heat. The centre of town is very nice and clean, but all the shops were closed until about five. After 2.30 all the restaurants are closed at well, except for some fast food places. There are some nice squares, like the Plaza Independencia with the historic Casa de Gobierno and the Inglesia de Santo Domingo and the Park Plaza Pringles with the Cathedral and the pleasantly green Av. Illia leading to the renovated former train station. The MUHSAL, the Historical Museum of San Luis, was open. We enjoyed the very interesting exhibition about the Argentinean history. As soon it was dark everybody got out and the city center got incredibly busy. All the bars and restaurants put their tables and chairs outside and by eight all these places were packed. The next morning at 11.10 we left from the very modern bus station for Buenos Aires. Before we left San Luis Province we made a stop at the busstation of Villa Mercedes, a small town surrounded by huge farms and lots of cattle.

Santa Catarina State Visit: 2016-11
2017-05-06 - The South of Brazil is a lot richer than the North, but of all the provinces here in the South, Santa Catharina gave me the impression to be the most affluent one. You hardly see any garbage, the garbage collecting system seems to work, also in the countryside. The lawns along the highways are neatly mown, the little towns and village look prosporous and well organised. Many businesses carry German names, at least the last names, the first names changed from Heinrich to Enrique, Johan to Joao, or Emil to Emílio. Blumenau's bus station is about six kilometers from the centre of town. I arrived late morning from Curitiba and took a taxi to the famous Parque Vila Germanica. Driving there was a bit disapointing as Blumenau looks just as boring as any other city in the South of Brasil and arriving at the Vila Germanica was a bit of a shock. The place is a small area next to a big modern conference centre. Nevertheless it was quite fun to walk through the two or three narrow alleys of this artificial German village. I made a lot of pictures, from the German style timbered houses and also from the shop windows with a lot of German stuff in it, like Lederhosen, Dirndl dresses, beer mugs and all kind of other German stuff you would hardly find in Germany itself. It was lunchtime now and I sat down on the terrace of a German restaurant and ordered Kassler, a typical German pork dish. What came was no Kassler at all, just two tiny pieces of dry something meat with half a helping of mashed potatoes and some overcooked white and red Sauerkraut. And expensive! Tourist trap at its best! I took a taxi to my hostel, Blau Hause. Places here need to have some kind of German name to do business. Blau Hause might look German for non-German speakers, but it is perhaps an exotification of blue house. Blaues Haus or Das blaue Haus would be better I think. Anyhow, the place was very nice. A villa with a garden and a pool, a nice place to hang around. It was a pleasant walk to the historic center of Blumenau, there were some nice historic villas and a church on a hilltop on the way. After passing a nice alley with high palm trees and a monument of the city founder Hermann Blumenau with an ajacent Beer Museum, I got to the centre. Like anywhere else in Brazil they built some nondescript high apartment buildings here and there, but still, the place is very nice. Some timbered houses are more extravagant than any I have seen in Germany, very photogenic. Also here you see many German names, like the name of the mainstreet: XV de Novembro, subtitled Antiga Wurststrasse. In a German bakery shop I wanted to eat a Schwarzwälderkirschtorte, but it was out of stock. I had chocolate cake instead. A piece so big and rich that I had to skip dinner. The next morning, a Saterday, I took the bus to Florianopolis. The city is located on Ilha de Santa Catarina connected with the mainland by two impressive bridges. By the time I arrived, most shops had closed, the city was dead. I walked the fifteen minutes or so from the enormous busstation to the Floripa Hostel. This was the only hostel downtown, as most travellers prefer to hang out along the beaches on the East coast of the island. I was so stupid to get too much sun when I was young, can’t go into the sun anymore, so I put myself up here. I seemed to be the only tourist in this place. The hostel had the feeling of a cheap hotel, sleeping four in a room. Nevertheless I met a nice roommate who offered me to show me the town. We walked the one and a half block to the sea and I was amazed. This city has one of the nicest skylines of any city in Brazil. It’s perhaps not Rio or Recife, but the kilometers long row of twelve to 15 floor high luxury appartment buildings is just fantastic. The six-lane wide highway runs through a many kilometers long park together with bike trails and jogging paths. After half an hour we came to a big shopping center, Beiramar Shopping, where we went to the food court. I had sushi. Thank God there is a Japanese community in this country who knows how to cook! We continued our walk along the sea for a few more kilometers. Once in while there were penals with information about our solar system. In the beginning Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are quite close together, but then it takes a lot of walking to get to Jupiter, Saturn or Pluto. It does give a good impression of how big and empty space around us is. The next day I walked over to the local bus station. It was Sunday morning, but is was busy. I joined the longest line with people with beach gear, expecting them to go to the most pupular beach. A bus came and filled up, I had to wait for another bus to come. I could enter this one and the bus left in an Easterly direction. After some time we got to another busstation and everybody had to transfer to other busses. I followed the folding chairs and towels again. This time I didn’t have to pay. The bus drove direction South-East now and soon we came to the sea. The Island of Santa Catarina is a bit hilly, sort of dry, quite populated and not very attractiv, but the beaches I saw on the way were very nice. Almost everybody had vacated the bus by now, but I could not decide where to get off. Finally the bus driver told me to leave. Praia, praia he said to me and pointed to the left. I followed his advise and after about half a kilometer I came to a nice beach, Praia Solidão. At the end of this long stretch of beach there were mountains, behind the beach hills with a few houses. Lucky people! What a location! I walked to both ends of the beach, then back inland and followed the signs to Saquinho. This was a smaller beach, also with very few people around. At the end under the high mountains I climbed over the boulders a bit further until I got stuck. Later I saw on the map that there is another beach a bit further South than this one, but on the lagoon side of the island and not reachable from here. Now I saw that Praia Solidão and Saquinho are interconnected by climbing a small hill in between. The good thing of these beaches is that there is lots of space, white sand, nice surf. The bad thing: nothing to eat or drink. I had not thought of that and had to go back to the bus stop. I waited forever, but finally a bus came to bring me back to the interchange bus station. At least I got some water there, boarded another bus at random, but this one only hit the villages around the lake in the center of the island. From my bus window I had not seen even one single restaurant. I had to go back to town. The Florianopolis local bus station is right next to the historic center. There were only few people around, Sundays are awfully boring in South America. In the court yard of a nicely renoved former train station, there was a row of restaurants and terraces. I lone guitar player tried to create some ambiance. All waiters tried to guide me to their terrace, I picked the busiest one. Good choice, the freshly made lasagna with fries, rice, salat and mixed vegetables was fantastic and not expensive. Despite the touristy ambiance, not a tourist trap this time! After lunch I saw the governor’s palace, a beautiful historic building, where I was the only visitor. After that, I tried to enter some churches, all closed despite it was Sunday. I gave up and walked back to the hostel, made siesta like everybody else and strolled along the costanera at night. Today is Monday and my last day in Brazil. First I had my laundry done, then I walked over to the historic center again to find it busy and alive. It was actually very nice here now. Lots of shops were open. There were cafés with small terraces, great for people watching. Late afternoon and evening I walked along the costanera, the Av Beira Mar Norte, again. Unlike other cities in Brazil where it gets quiet after dark, here, along the seafront, it gets really busy. Everybody seems to walk, run, bike, skate, do exercise at the open air sport facilities or hang around at one of the open air beach cafés. Wonderful. I love this city! Tuesday morning I left for Buenos Aires, a 30 hour trip. I crossed Rio Grande do Sul again, where I had been 1995. Just before it got dark the bus came through Porte Alegre. Oh my God what a mess compared to Florianopolis!

Santiago del Estero Province Visit: 2016-12
2018-08-02 - After travelling together for a month through Argentina and Chile, I took my friend from Berlin back to the airport in Buenos Aires and had to start travelling by myself again. From the airport I went to Retiro to book a bus for the same night. I found an overnight bus with Chevallier, (A$1616) which had already become one of my favorite bus companies in Argentina. The bus left at 20.30 There was an evening snack and a breakfast box in the morning. I woke up shortly after six and arrived shortly after ten, so I had four hours to enjoy the flat shrubby scenery of this province four times the seize of the Netherlands. The bus past some very small towns without stopping. I don’t know if this was Santiago del Estero Province already, I did not see a borderpost. These towns had a very laid back atmosphere to say it carefully. We arrived at the spacy bus station near the center of town crossing the Rio Dulce and a series of fly overs. From here it was only a short taxi trip to the Hotel CENTRO, a very pleasant good value hotel. I could check in right away and starting exploring the town. It was still busy, but after twelve it started dying out and by one o’clock there is hardly a soul on the street. Here in Santiago I found out that it is better value to eat the main meal of the day in the afternoon. Many restaurants have a two or three course lunch special on offer. In the evening the restaurants open very late for dinner and the same food gets much more expensive than. I was very happy to have found Restaurant GARMILLA. I made siesta like everybody else and got up just before nightfall. Now the city was packed. Santiago is a really nice town. On Plaza Libertad you find the Iglesia Catedral, some beautifully restored colonial style buildings and a long row of restaurants with terraces for relaxing and people watching. The next morning I walked all the quadros of the city center, found some nice churches, a monastery, some beautiful old buildings and walked over to the park along the Rio Dulce. There you find some nice garden cafés and a number of monuments, one of them of the founder of Santiago, Captain Don Francisco de Agurre. At night I was happy to meet some people from BsAs who invited me to stay with them around New Years Eve. We met again two weeks later, that was great. The next morning I took a bus to Tucuman. (2.5 hours, A$180) Termas de Rio Hondo, still in Santiago del Estero, seemed to be a pleasant town. Half an hour later the bus crossed the border into Tucuman Province.

Sao Paulo State Visit: -

Sao Tome Island Visit: -

Sardinia Visit: 2018-5
2018-06-05 - On google.flights I found an incredibly cheap flight from Berlin to Bergamo and the next day another incredibly cheap flight to Sardinia, so I had to visit this island. The flight went to Cagliari, a city, I must admit, I had never heard off. It was good the plane brought me here, otherwise I might never have seen this place, which would have been a shame, as this city is amazing. I stayed in Hostel Marina in the middle of the Centro Storico. From here it was just minutes to the main sight of town, the Bastione Saint Remy where the square on top of the building, accessible via an impressive tower-like staircase, is the actual sight. The view from this square is fantastic, especially at sunset. Like a massive steamer, the Città Storico with the Bastione as the bow, stands on top of the city with views on the harbour and the Mediterranean. The whole city is a wonderful place to walk around with a fantastic cathedral, city walls and gates. The row of buildings along the harbour are very impressive. The next day I took a bus from the bus station (across from the train station) to Pula on the South-West coast, €3,10. Pula is a small town with some nice cafés on the central plaza. From here I walked six km through fields full of flowers to the Roman ruins of Nora located on a narrow peninsula stretching into an emerald blue sea. There was quite something to see here, mosaics, a well-preserved theatre and villas. The same train that had brought me from the airport the other day, took me very conveniently for just €6,70 to Oristano, where I stayed in the very nice Mariano IV Palace Hotel. There isn’t very much to see here, nevertheless the small historic centre of town is very beautiful. To spend my time, I walked to the 12th century Romanesque Basilica Santa Giusta a few kilometres out of town not far the sea. The next day I took the train to Sassari, €11, saw a little train departing to Alghero and jumped on board, €3,10. It was quite a walk from the train station to the old town, but well worth it. Despite the fact, that the place is very touristic, it preserved a lot of its charm. I walked over the city walls, enjoyed the view over the sea, visited the sights and took the train back to Sassari. I was lucky, as this weekend there were celebrations going on with markets, music and sport events. The centre of town is very beautiful with great squares, beautiful buildings, gardens and boulevards with palm trees, everybody out and so well dressed. Wonderful! The next day I took a bus for €3,10 to Castelsardo and spend a beautiful day here. There is an extensive castle on top of a steep rock with great views over the sea and overlooking the meadows below, which were full of flowers, mainly corn poppies. So amazingly beautiful, that I spend half the afternoon there. My last day I spend in Olbia, the train from Sassari was €8,10 Olbia is quite a nice place, but it was a Sunday and it was a bit quiet in town. The coast North of town must be beautiful, I will have to get back one day. In the evening I took a cheap flight to Paris.

Schaffhausen Visit: 2012-6
2013-12-10 - Schaffhausen The first time I visited the Rhine falls of Schaffhausen must have been in 1963 when I was 11 years old. It was on a trip with my parents when we were on the way back to the Netherlands from Northern Italy. I was very impressed and had remembered the falls - the biggest waterfall in Europe - ever since. This time I took a bus from Büsingen to Schaffhausen. The driver had sold me a day card, so I could take another bus (nr 1) from the train station to the falls and back to the station. The falls are four kilometers west of Schaffhausen near the small town of Neuhausen The computer voice announced the bus stop where to get off. I can hardly think of an easier country to travel in as Switzerland. Their public transport system is amazing, so are the prizes. From the bus stop I walked down along a few streets and some stairways. The falls are freely accessible; there is no entrance fee to be paid. Viewpoints and stairways are made as close to the water as possible; I followed the water all the way down. The amount of water passing the falls was amazing. The last days the whole of Central Europe had had some of the heaviest rainfalls I can remember and this fact would cause the biggest floods ever in Austria and Germany. As for me I was lucky to be here just now. The falls finish in a sort of basin and from there the river makes a left curve. I followed the river until I saw the whole waterfall, with a breadth of 150m and 23m high, just in front of me, really spectacular! On the other side of the river the scene is dominated by a castle, Schloss Laufen. I crossed the river a bit upstream from the falls over the railway bridge. When you want to see the falls from the castle side you have to pay. It was too late to visit the castle and took the bus back to Schaffhausen. This is a really medieval looking town with city walls and towers out of natural stone and some duskily narrow streets and squares. I strolled around for some time and then walked back to the station. I jumped on the next train to Zürich and was surprised to get there non-stop 37 minutes later. In fact I have to rewrite this narration about Schaffhausen. I just started to write a little story about Thurgau as I found out that Stein-am-Rhein is not in this canton at all, but in Schaffhausen! I spend about an hour and a half in Stein-am-Rhein before I went to Büsingen. Not only the Swiss / German border makes strange swifts and turns, also the borders between the cantons are far from straight. Near Stein-am-Rhein the left bank of the river is in general Thurgau, the right bank Schaffhausen. Stein-am-Rhein is on the right side, but the train station on the left side is strange enough also Schaffhausen. It is a square piece of land about the size of a square kilometer. So to put things right for this 03 June 2013: I started in Zürich, Canton Zürich, than Frauenfeld the capital of Thurgau. After visiting Konstanz in Baden-Würtenberg, Germany I travelled along the Rhine in Thurgau again and got off at the train station in Stein-am-Rhein in canton Schaffhausen. I walked across the bridge to the old part of town to the many beautiful houses covered with murals. I made only a few pictures, because I ran out of batteries for my camera. Back on the train after a few hundred meters it was canton Thurgau again. I got off in the pleasant old town of Diessenhofen, crossed the old wooden bridge and was back in Germany. Here I walked along the right bank of the river for about two kilometers to reach Switzerland again, canton Schaffhausen. After about one kilometer I crossed the border again and was in Germany again, in the enclave Büsingen. I had a beer on German soil in a café and then a few kilometers further West, I had something to eat in a Chinese restaurant. I jumped on a bus to continue to Schaffhausen, see the falls and the town and got back to Zürich, canton Zürich, the same evening, pffffffffffff!

Schwyz Visit: 2013-6
2012-06-09 - 12-06-09 In the Canton of Schwyz I took the old fashioned cable car up the Urmi-Berg near Brunnen. Down in the valley there was no staff around. After looking around and feeling a bit like an intruder I saw a note that I had to lift up the hook of an old fasioned telephone, push a button, and wait for answer. A voice told me to sit down into the single small cable car and wait. After a few minutes the doors shot and the thing started moving upwards. Halfway the other cable car passed by empty. This mountain didn’t seem to be a tourist hot spot. At 1140m I was welcomed by the caretaker. Next door was a small restaurant with a terras. I had a Buure-Schüblig-Wurst and a coffee and enjoyed the view on the Urner See and the snowy peaks around the Gotthard. After a little hike up I reached a rim and could look down north to see the Zuger See. Down again I was surprised that the centre of Brunnen was very pretty. From the Urmi Berg it looked quite modern and booring. I continued by bus in direction Schwyz Post, took an other bus to Schwyz Bahnhof and realized too late that by doing so I had bypassed the centre of town. Since I was running out of time I left it that way and continued by train to Einsiedeln, a beautiful trip through lush valleys and steep grey rocks. Einsiedeln has a big monastery, with a 1000 year old pilgrimage tradition. To me it looked almost as huge as the Escorial near Madrid. The church interior was an impressiv kind of barock with as dominating colours some strange greens and purples. 2013-06-05 Almost to the day one year later I am back in the town of Schwyz. This time I am travelling from Zürich and planned to visit the cantons of Schwyz, Uri and Glarus in one day. I had to change trains in Arth-Goldau, but still arrived within one hour. The train station of Schwyz is a bit out of town, but a bus brought me up to the centre (Schwyz Post) in a few minutes. Just after getting of the bus I was amazed to see many snowy peaks around me. The scenery around town is just beautiful, as is the town itself as well. The town square is surrounded by beautiful white town houses, the city hall is completely covered with murals. I walked out of town to get a view from above: just beautiful! Lush green meadows with jingle bell cows, the snow covered mountains all around and a huge monastery style building that turned out to be a college. I walked back into town and visited the Bundesbriefmuseum where, besides a lot of flags from various battlefields, you can see the Charter of Confederation from 1291 of the first three cantons of Schwyz, Nidwalden and Uri. Now, more than 700 years later, Switzerland consists out of 26 cantons. Five kilometers further south is the small town of Brunnen, where I had passed through by bus one year earlier. The center of town is a nice walk of about ten minutes from the station. The town is superbly located on the eastern end of Vierwaldstättersee. The same lake continues south under the name Urnersee. Along its shore there are many traditional hotels. I looked up to the Urmiberg where I had been one year earlier. I walked back to the station and continued my trip to Flüelen in Canton Uri.

Shanghai (District) Visit: 2011-4
2013-02-12 - In no time China\'s bullet train took us to Shanghai. This time the hotel, the \"InterContinental Puxi\" was very well located just a short walk from the train station. Christian was not too happy to carry our big bags over the pedestrian bridges though. At the reception the lady suggested us to stay at the \"Club Floor\". I was very surprised that she offered us club access with our tiny rate. Usually I do not even dare to ask for it. For another 200Yuan (about €20) our breakfast and dinner would be included. I could not believe it! The \"Club Floor\" happened to be a seperate 18 story building behind the 30+ story main building. We got a room on the 17. floor. Well, this room was quite something. We opened the door and gazed through the integrated hallway into the big bedroom. Again we had gotten two queensize beds. In front of the wall-to-wall window there was a big couch and a round desk. The bathroom area next door had about twice the size of a standard hotelroom. A television had been integrated in the enormous mirror above the two wash basins. To my opinion the round bathtub in front of the wall-to-wall window was big enough to accommodate at least five people (in Bangkok I would have checked it out!) but the highlight of the room was our \"living toilet\"! As I opened the glasdoor of the toilet, the lid automatically opened and the toilet flushed. As I found out later the toilet seat was pleasantly warmed up. To the right there was a little box attached to the wall with five main buttons: rear cleansing, rear cleansing soft, front cleansing (sounds squirmy) dryer and stop, as well as several minor ones: oscillating, pulsating and rinse cycle plus a small screen with some up and down buttons. Anyway, being still a bit sick and having an unsteady stomach, I spend a lot of time here trying out the different possibilities. (of course our little friend flushed automatically when you stood up!) Our huge windows allowed us a free view over an unendlessly new residential area of twenty story buildings. Down below, an old quarter was being torn down. I am sure that our free view will be upstructed by new highrises when we stay here the next time. On the way back to the station accross Hengfeng Road, we found a little restaurant serving soups. We ate here several times, but it was strange that the same soups tasted entirally different each time. From the Shanghai Train Station we took the Metro to Pudong. I must say that I was a bit disappointed. We got back to the surface in an old residencial area and saw the skyscrapers in the distance. The architecture of many of the skyscrapers is fantastic, but the buildings are standing far apart. I think that the skylines of New York, Chicago and especially Hong Kong still look much more impressive. (Nine month later I would be in Dubai, which is skyscraperwise by far the most awe-inspiring place! ) We walked straight up to the \"Shanghai World Financial Center\" . With 492m this is the highest building in Shanghai and in China and looks sensational with a \"window\" in its top part. A \"Skywalk\" in the 100th floor is hanging from the top of this window. From here the view on the 420m high \"Jin Mao Tower\" is great. This third highest building in China is definitively the most beautiful skyscraper in Shanghai. The \"Grand Hyatt\" is residing in its upper floors. (no reason for me to swich to this chain though!) It was quite hazy today, we should have waited for better weather. I could make out the buildings around the Renmin Square, but our hotel was hidden in fog. After eating a rather tasteless Vietnamese \"Pho\" in a soulless shopping center, we took the metro back to town and got off at the East Nanjing Road. This is a pedestrian street leading to Renmin Square and continuing as the up-market \"West Nanjing Road\". Around Renmin Square (more a park than a square) there are some beautiful \"skyscrapers\" from the nineteen twenties and thirties, all between about ten and twenty stories high. On \"Nanjing West\" well-known western brands like \"H&M\", \"Marks&Spencer\", \"Max Mara\" and many, many others have there flag-stores here, all nicely framed in supermodern facades. I wonder how these shops exist, as there were hardly any shoppers around. It was dark by now, and from the \"Jing\'an Tempel\" metro station we got back to the train station and walked over to the hotel. The staff in the \"Club Floor\" was very nice. One of the girls told us that she would like to work abroad to improve her English, but that the Chinese government would not issue her an exit visa. The ambiance and the food were nice, but I was sad that this might have been my last stay in a five star hotel. (Everybody can imagine our joy as the InterContinental returned to Berlin two months later!) The next morning we took our breakfast in the very big, very modern, but not very cozy restaurant in the oversized lobby. In China, \"big, bigger, huge\" seems to be the equivalent for \"good, better, fantastic\". As a European I see this slightly different. Now I found out why they had given us the upgrade to the Club Floor. The hotel must have been quite empty, every tiny bit of business done helped. Only a tiny area of this huge restaurant was accessable. Much to Christian\'s discomfort, all guest were seated together in a small area, although the whole place was illuminated. The next morning we would eat in the club again. Today was a fine day, the fog was gone, the sky was blue and the sun felt nicely warm. Christian wanted to see some nature after so much concrete and we set off to the botanical gardens. From a nearby metro station we took a taxi and were surprised to see the long lines in front of the cash box. A lot of people seemed to have had the same idea. Time for some people watching: There were a lot of young families with their spoiled bratt, often the only child in an extended family. Ones inside these kids were allowed to do anything. Walk through the flower beds, climb on statues and trample on the scanty lawns. Often their parents didn\'t behave much better. Everybody seemed to want to take pictures from their loved ones ín the flower beds and not in front or behind them. In short, we had a nice day, but it was not really relaxing. Especially in the green houses it was so busy, that we had to leave after two minutes. The best part of the garden was the \"Dutch\" section with hundreds of different kinds of tulips. Most popular were, like we had seen in Nanjing, the cherry trees with their white blossems. Late afternoon we went to the \"French Concession\". I had the feeling that this area had been rebuild. Old buildings must have been torn down, to be rebuild more \"beautiful\" with a collection of stylish bars and cafés. I was a bit disappointed.. A bit further, there was an authentic antique market, but I didn\'t find anything special. We had a soup in one of the nearby cafés and still had some daylight left to visit the \"World Expo\" site. The red upside-down German pavillion was still standing. We didn\'t get near though. Most buildings were sealed off from the public. After this long day we were happy to come home, enjoy sushi in our club floor restaurant and take a bath in the enormous bathtub. Today Christian wanted to check out some of the local markets. This one was not too far from the hotel, only a few stops away by metro. The first part of the market area we reached, was a place to get low quality electronics as Christian had to find out soon. He always seems to be interested in low prices and never worries about bad quality. Not a good idea as he would find out soon. The i-pet he bought did not work properly, the money was gone. A bit further along this big road it got very busy. There were bars along the street to prevent the masses of people to overflow the street. A lot of shops sold cheap jeans and my size is no problem here in China, I\'m about average. Stupid enough I had forgotten to fill up my wallet and Christian had spend all his money on the i-pot. There was no other way than to go back to the hotel to get some cash. We lost a lot of time this way. Very annoying. We took the metro back and had a soup (in the restaurants where they taste different every time) on the way to the hotel, got some money and took the same route back. Travelling by metro is fast for long distances, but for shorter distances it is better to take a taxi, we lost too much time. Anyway, I got my jeans. We were near the Suzhou Creek now, the little river that is flowing into the Jangtse at the start of the Bund. It was nice to walk along this river and be away from the crowds. The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed the blooming trees. There are some beautiful colonial buildings around here, especially the International Postoffice with a big tower with nice old world statues around it, the Broadway Mansions, an art deco hotel from the nineteen thirties, the Astor House, the first western style hotel in Shanghai from 1846, and the Russian Consulate right next to the 1907 Waibaidu Bridge. From here we had the first full view on the skyline of Pudong. From this perspective the skyscrapers looked much more impressive than when you are in Pudong itself. We walked along the Bund now. It\'s always good to save the best for the last day. After some socialist memorials in the Huangpu Park, the actual Bund starts with the former British Consolate. From here on, the Bund forms a one kilometer long row of historical buildings, all of them with an interesting history. Now we took the \"Bund Sightseeing Tunnel\" to Pudong. What a disaster! A subway connection was constructed in an old pedestrian tunnel under the river. I expected a Shanghai style super train. Instead it was a very slow and booring ride to the other side. To pop up the thing, the operators had installed some disco lights on the way, embarrassing! We made a short walk to the Oriental Pearl Tower and than took the odd thing back to the Bund. I got dark now and the lights were turned on to illuminate the old buildings. Beautiful! The view on Pudong was sensational. I take back what I have said about Pudong before. All the skyscrapers were illuminated and wild commercials were flashing. Is China still a communist country? We didn\'t make it to the end. It got too cold and we were tired. Next time in Shanghai we will spend some more time here. We took a taxi and were surprised how cheap that was. Next time we will take taxis more often. One can see more and it saves a lot of time. After a last bite in the club we packed for our early start the next day. We took a taxi instead of the Shanghai Magnet Train. Ahead of us was a long trip to Moscow, with an long layover in Sheremetjevo

Shenzhen Visit: 2011-3
2013-02-10 - To get to the border of China from Hong Kong is very easy. We took the subway from the nearest station to our hotel, the Grand Stanford, which happened to be “Hung Hom” Station. From there to the border “Lo Wu” Station is 34 km further north and that just takes 45 min. To pass the border is a very straightforward procedure. From the train just follow the signs to the different checkpoints, for Chinese citizens, Hong Kong residents or foreigners. Present your passport (we got our visas in Berlin), your passport gets stamped and you are in China. The station is quite big on the Chinese side. We changed our surplus of Hong Kong Dollars and went looking for a taxi. In front of the station there was not one in sight. A guy took advantage of our situation, promised to find us a taxi and guided us to an adjacent parking garage. As there were no escalators to get higher up we had to carry our heavy bags over some narrow stairways. Finally we got to an old little bus, not a taxi. This couldn’t be right, especially as he asked for a fantasy price to bring us to the InterContinental Hotel. Christian was furious that we had to carry our bags down again. We went back into the main hall to look for some sign. Nothing! We went out again. Then I saw a Caucasian guy and asked him where to get a taxi. “Over there,” he said “there you’ll see hundreds of taxis.” It was true. Just hundred meters further under an overpass there was definitively one of the biggest and best organized taxi stands I have ever seen. There were at least five platforms next to each other so the line moved very quickly. We put our bags into the trunk of a taxi and got in. Now the taxi driver didn’t understand where we wanted to go. The taxi behind us wanted to pull up so we couldn’t get out again and had to leave. I spelled the hotel name at least ten times very slowly and clearly: “in-ter-con-ti-nen-tel-ho-tel”. Without any result! Brand names seem to be translated here or pronounced completely different. Even the word “Hotel” didn’t seem familiar to him. So I made a sigh for him to drive on. Now we both concentrated on the buildings in the hope to see a hotel. I saw one on a corner and made it clear to the driver to stop there. At the reception nobody could speak English, but they understood the word “hotel”. I asked for a pen and drew five stars on a piece of paper and pointed my finger on them and said “hotel” again. Now they understood that I was looking for a five star hotel. The word “InterContinental” didn’t mean anything for them though. One guy wrote some characters on a piece of paper. This I showed our taxi driver. He smiled and we drove off. Soon we pulled up the driveway of an impressive looking hotel. In the lobby I asked a bellman if he knew the InterContinental Hotel. He said yes, disappeared in the back office not to be seen again. The concierge had an eternal relaxed telephone call. Finally he finished. He spoke English fluently and wrote me down the name and address of our hotel. Outside, Christian just put back the bags into the trunk as the taxi driver thought we had arrived and had taken them out. The poor guy really didn’t understand what was going on. Now I could show him the name and address in Chinese. The InterContinental happened to be on the outskirts of the city, but close to some of the main attractions: “Splendid China” and “Chinese Folklore Villages” and also “Window of the World” showing miniature replicas of some of the world’s most famous buildings. We only had time for the first two, but apart from the usual Chinese lampion kitsch, they were well worth the visit. Temples from around China including Tibet were either moved here or build as a replica, all in beautiful gardens. We took the subway in front of the hotel to a downtown shopping center. The place was surrounded by really high skyscrapers. Too bad we had only one day for the city, we have to come back some time. The InterContinental Shenzhen is really sensational. The theme is “Spain”. The lobby is huge, really impressive, staff wears torero or flamingo uniforms, there are colorful bull statues on every floor, the rooms and bathrooms are huge and beautifully designed and every room has a balcony! And then the garden! There is an inside pool, but outside the hotel offers a lagoon with a real sandy beach with palm trees. I stayed in the cold water too long and got a cold. March is clearly a bit too early for outside swimming. In the evening we had a beer and a snack in one of the galleon’s anchored in the artificial lagoon. Very nice! Bus travel doesn’t seem to be high on the list of the average five star hotel guests. It took the concierge quite a while to find out the bus connections to Foshan. Finally he was able to reserve an early bus for us. I was happy to get a through bus without having to change in Canton. He wrote us the name of the bus station in Chinese as well as the name of our next hotel in Foshan.

Sinai Peninsula Visit: 2012-3
2012-04-03 - From Eilat it is just six kilometers to the Taba Border and it costs about NIS50 by taxi. On this monday morning we were the only people crossing. At the first gate a lady with an American accent checked our passports. We walked along some flowerbeds and come to a long building. At the first counter we had to pay an Exit Tax of NIS103. We walked further and came to the next counter were we got our Exit Stamps. Three seconds later we were standing in a Duty Free Shop. Perhaps another 200 meters further was the Egyptian control. The building looked quite shabby. There seemed to be no real system. We were send to the back to fill in the forms, our passports were taken back to the front, were we had to pick them up again. Than again to the back of the building to get out. 200 meters further was another control at the street. We walked about one kilometer and there was another control where we had to pay the entry fee of 75 Egyptian Pounds. We could not pay in Dollars or Euros and were send back to the Hilton next to the Egyptian border control to change. This time we took a taxi and payed and passed without any problems.
We had a wonderful day at the Taba Heights InterContinental Hotel. The next day the same taxi drove us to St. Katherine's Monastery, we stayed in the adjacent Guesthouse, very nice. Took a camel tour up Mt. Sinai. Than a day in Sharm el Sheikh. A day is ok, but that is more than enough. Two hours in Dahab, also more than enough and lunch in the "Sahare-Beach". This is a backpacker place with reed huts for about 10€ a night, very, very nice. You can relax in the bedouin tents and nestle in the pillows while enjoying the very nice food. The last to days we spoiled ourselfs again at the InterCon Taba.
The exit out of Egypt was quick, but at the Israeli control there was a huge Russian group ahead of us and so it took well over an hour to reenter the Holy Land.

Solothurn Visit: 2012-10
2013-11-30 - Solothurn To reach the old city center of Solothurn I walked out of the station slightly left. On a Kenyan safari the ranger would say “ten o’clock”. Minutes later I gazed across the remarkably wide Aare River, witch floats out of the Bielersee and into the River Rheine further north. The skyline with palaces, towers and domes was quite remarkable. The canton Solothurn stayed catholic after the reformation, perhaps because of this fact Solothurn presents itself as a mix of Switzerland and Italy. It has its usual share of pastel colored houses with window shutters and window boxes full of flowers, but at the end of the main street stands the grand St Ursen cathedral and before you reach it, the huge Jesuit church on your right. Both are built out of white marble and show an opulent baroque style. Their interiors make you forget that you are north of the Alps. I got a bit jumpy now, because I didn’t want to miss my late afternoon train from Basel back to Berlin. I decided (wrongly) not to make a stop in Olten and proceeded to my next and last Canton (and herewith my last new point in my MTP list) Basel-Landschaft.

St. Gallen Visit: 2013-6
2013-12-11 - Without realizing it I was already in Canton Sankt-Gallen before I visited the capital city of this canton with the same name. On the first day of this four day trip through North-Eastern Switzerland I had a bit of time after visiting Aargau. After getting back to my base Zürich, I asked at the Tourist Information Desk at the Hauüptbahnhof what I could do late afternoon. They suggested me to take the train to Rapperswil. The train did not run along the lake as I expected but further inland, I could not see the lake during the trip. Rapperswil turned out to be a real nice town. From the train station I walked along the lake to Fischmarktplatz, a square open on the lake side, strolled through the little streets behind it and walked up to the 13. century castle to enjoy the view from above on the lake and the Alps. I thought I still was in Canton Zürich, but when I checked my guide on the way back to Zürich I found out that Rapperswil in canton Sankt Gallen. On my fourth and last day I made a tour through the two Appenzell cantons and visited the town of Sankt Gallen. It was in a bit of a rush the whole day as I did not want to miss the famous abbey library. From the station I ran through town to get there in time. I made it and had about half an hour to enjoy this amazing place. Too bad one couldn’t take pictures. The cathedral was still open as well and almost just as impressive. Such a big church for such a small town! The St. Laurenzenkirche was also open. I enjoyed this more modern church with its walls entirely covered with symmetric designs. The area near the station is impressive as well. These big office, bank or government buildings must have been built around the 1920s. Real great, grand and impressive architecture!

Svalbard Visit: -

Tabasco Visit: 2013-1
2013-11-08 - 08 10 Jan 2013 Veracruz, Villahermosa Die ganze Strecke von Veracruz nach Villahermosa ist flach, tropisch, feucht und die Städtchen sehen wenig attraktiv aus, es gibt viel Beton und nichts historisches. Die Landschaft ist struppig, mal wird auf kleinen Feldern Mais, mal Bohnen angebaut. Manchmal stehen auf kleinen Wiesen ein paar Kühe herum, meistens ist die Landschaft leer. Die Fahrt dauerte von 8 bis kurz vor 15 Uhr. Nur in der Stadt Coatzacoalcos, die gerade noch im Bundesstaat Veracruz liegt, hielten wir am Busbahnhof an. Viele stiegen hier aus, kaum welche ein. Bundesstaat Tabasco In Tabasco sieht es genauso aus, vielleicht noch feuchter und sumpfiger. Am Busbahnhof von Villahermosa läuft wie im ganzen Land alles organisiert ab. Man braucht keine Angst zu haben dass jemand das Gepäck klaut. In der Halle wird das Gepäck herausgegeben und die Nummern werden genau kontrolliert. Wir holten die Tickets für den nächsten Morgen für Palenque und für die Weiterfahrt nach Campeche übermorgen. Für die Taxis gab es eine kurze Schlange. Ein Mann fragte alle Leute wohin sie wollten und dann wurden die Leute die in eine Richtung wollten in ein Taxi gesetzt. Wir fuhren zu dritt für nur 40 Pesos zum Crowne Plaza. Das Hotel musste schon etwas älter sein und bot etwa den gleichen Standard wie das Indigo Hotel in Veracruz. Nur das gewisse Etwas fehlte hier, es sah alles ein bisschen lieblos und langweilig aus. Ein richtiges Stadtzentrum oder eine historische Altstadt scheint es hier in Villahermosa nicht zu geben. Für 50 Pesos fuhren wir mit einer weißen Hotellimousine zu den \"Galerías Tabasco\". Das Hotel liegt ziemlich am Rande der Stadt. Überall steht was herum, in Hotelnähe vor allem die Showrooms vieler Automarken. Trotzdem sieht alles wegen der üppigen tropischen Vegetation ganz ok aus. Die \"Gallerías\" sind aus viel Beton gebaut und umgeben von noch mehr Beton: dem \"Centro de Convenciones\", dem \"Palacio Municipal\" und dem \"Planetario\". \"Wie lange muss man dann Architektur studieren um solche Gebäude entwerfen zu können?\" fragte ich die beiden....... Wir gingen gleich zur Fressmeile, wir hatten ja weder gefrühstückt noch zu Mittag gegessen. Peter bestellte eine mexikanische Hühnersuppe. Es schient ihn etwas besser zu gehen. Vasi ebenso, aber bestellte noch Natchos dazu. Ich bestellte Schweinegeschnetzeltes, Kartoffelpüree und \"frigoles refritos\" (braune Bohnenmus). Die Süppchen waren lecker, mein Essen auch, aber die Natchos kamen nicht als ein Schälchen Chips, sondern als riesiger Berg auf einer Holzplatte, überbacken mit Hackfleisch und Käse. Es war alles ganz lecker aber kaum zu schaffen. Man muss einfach weniger bestellen. Zum Baden war es doch noch zu kalt hier. Wir spazierten ein bisschen um das Hotel herum. In den Bäumen vor dem Hotel war die Hölle los. Große schwarze Vögel trafen sich hier für die Nacht. Ich machte ein Filmchen, man kann ihr Geschnatter hören. Hinter dem Hotel gab es ein Holiday Inn mit in seinem Vorgarten ein mexikanisches Restaurant. Zum Abschluß des Tages trank ich hier zum ersten Mal meines Lebens einen \"Tequilla Sunrise\". So was trinke ich sonst nie, aber an den \"Caiperinhas\", \"Cuba Libres\" und Vasi’s Lieblingsgetränk mit den vier O’s, \"Pinohcolohdoh\" (in Brasilien und Kuba) habe ich eine nette Erinnerung. 09. Jan. 2013 Schon kurz nach sechs fuhren wir zum Bahnhof für unseren Ausflug nach Palenque im Bundesstaat Chiapas. Ich hatte mein langärmliches Hemd aus Dubai an und trug meinen Schal, trotzdem war es für mich im Bus zu kalt und ich holte mir einen Schnupfen. Um halb sechs waren wir zurück in, wie wir jetzt immer sagten „Villa Herr Moser“ und liefen vom Bahnhof zur Kathedrale. Sie bestand nur aus einem kleinen Raum unter riesigen Türmen. Das Hauptkirchenschiff muss irgendwie zerstört worden sein. Viel Altstadt gab es hier nicht. Wir sahen einige alte Mauern und leer stehende alte Häuser, das war alles. Wir bummelten noch ein bisschen über die \"Paseo Tabasco\", es wurde dunkel und wir fuhren zurück zum Hotel und genossen die mexikanische Küche in dem Restaurant im Vorgarten des Holiday Inn nebenan.

Thurgau Visit: 2013-6
2013-12-12 - Thorgau. The capital of the Canton Thorgau is Frauenfeld. I had made an early start from Zürich and so, at eight o’clock in the morning, I arrived at its modern train station. Frauenfeld is not mentioned in the “Rough Guide” Switzerland and that was a wise decision of the authors as the place is nothing special. But since I am visiting all the Swiss cantons, I try to visit all the capitals as well. The town is built on a hillside. The main church does not look very special. Some soulless modern apartment blocks are built right next to it. Some older buildings have been nicely renovated, but the main street downtown is very busy with ongoing traffic and that does not add to the atmosphere. I walked back to the train station and continued my trip to the German town of Konstanz in Baden-Würtemberg. Back in Thorgau from Konstanz the tracks follow the left bank of the Rhine River. Because of the unusually heavy rains of the last days, the river more resembled a lake than a river until rocky shores narrow the river down. Here I made a stop at the beautiful little town of Stein-am-Rhein in canton Schaffhausen. From the station a bit higher up, I walked down to the river and crossed the bridge at this narrow point of the river. From here you have a nice view on the town on the other side and the castle towering above it on a steep hill. I did not make it to the castle, but made an extensive tour through the broad main street and the little alleys leading to the water or to some gates through the city wall. The buildings on the main street are completely covered with paintings showing pastoral scenes or heroic moments of the city’s history….. Back in the train I reached Diessenhofen in ten minutes. I got off and walked to the old town on a steep hillside right next to the river. Since hundreds of years an old wooden bridge crosses the Rhine. There is only space for one car and hardly any space for pedestrians. The bridge resembles a wooden tunnel. Here I left Thorgau, the opposite shore belongs to Baden-Würtemberg in Germany. Along the right bank of the river I walked westward to the German enclave Büsingen.

Ticino Visit: 2003-9
2013-12-12 - We arrived in Bellinzona with the „Postbus“ from Tirano: This is a beautiful and comfortable trip and to take our small dog on the bus was no problem. The problem was that our 12 year old dog Gamilla had had a cancer operation on her bladder and had to pee all the time. When we were travelling by train that wasn’t a problem, as trains usually stop long enough to get off at the stations quickly and let her pee on the platform. Our “Postbus” though travelled not stop. No fun for Gamilla. Good that we had an ample supply of diapers in her travel bag. The whole trip was just beautiful, especially the trip along the northern coast of Lago di Como. In Bellinzona we stayed in the three star Hotel “Albergo Internationale” opposite the train station. Not to have an “accident” in the hotel with Gamilla, I carried her all the time and covered the bed with diapers. At night I kept her tightly on the lead next to me all night. All went well, except when we went down the next morning: Just outside our room in front of the elevator I put her down to put my jacket on. The same moment she peed and left a big puddle on the carpet, embarrassing. We cleaned the mess as good as possible and left the hotel. Bellinzona is a beautiful town with few tourists, as most people seem to prefer to stay on the shore of the big lakes. We visited the old town and the impressive city walls and the Castelgrande and the Castello Montebello. We were short of time and did not see the third castle higher up the hill. One can easily spend a whole day in Bellinzona, next time here I won’t rush. We took the train to Lugano, about 30 km further south, everything just beautiful here. We criss-crossed the town and walked along the lake. Than we took the train to Locarno about 40 km from Lugano. This town was even more beautiful. We strolled along the waterfront under palm trees to the beautiful little Bosco Isolino park, through the narrow alleys off the old town and then with the Madonna del Sasso funicular to a viewpoint in 395m and then with a cable-car up to 1350m to a plateau with a fantastic view over the Lago Maggiore. Back in town we walked to the station to take the train to Brig in our next canton Valais. Once more we had to transit Italy to get there. First we took a train to Domodossola. After half an hour another train brought us to Brig, where we arrived well after dark.

Tocantins State Visit: 2016-11
2017-03-23 - Tocantins Palmas The best about Palmas is that you get a point on your MTP list. I flew into Palmas from Teresina. The distance between these two cities is only 835 km, but I had to fly 1935 km via Brasilia. I would have preferred to take a bus, but I couldn’t find a good connection. I arrived around midnight and was surprised to see that there were still a lot of people out to enjoy the cooler evening air. The terraces near the roundabouts were packed, people were jogging or doing exercises in the parks. Cool evening air in Palmas is around 30°, at day time it is around 36°. The province of Tocantins was founded at 1988 and its capital city Palmas in 1990. It is a planned city, and as all planned cities I have seen (Brasilia, Canbarra, Yamassoukro, Lelystad, Chandigarh) it is way too big and lacks any city-feel. I stayed in the very pleasant Mac Hotel, just East of the main square surrounded by a few blocks with two or three story buildings. The main square, Praca Girossóis, with the claim to be one of the biggest in the world isn’t a square at all, but a boring park. It is the location of the state capitol – in my opinion a very ugly building – and a small memorial museum, the Memorial Coluna Prestes, with some information about a revolutionary movement back in the 1920s. This small white pavillion is a creation of Brazil’s famous architect Oscar Niemeyer and a real gem. Further West there are some nondiscript ministry buildings. South of the square there is a mall, Palmas Shopping, with quite a good food court. These were the things I covered on foot. To see a bit more I took a motorbike taxi. The driver did a good job, not only he showed me the artificial lake of the Rio Tocantins I had asked for, but also the campus, a little marina and an artificial beach, the Praia da Graciosa. The rest of the day and evening I spend on the terraces of the pavillions near the roundabouts. The next afternoon I flew to Cuiaba via Sao Paulo.

Tver Oblast Visit: 2017-7
2017-08-08 - It took the bus from Veliky Novgorod more than eight hours to reach Tver. As a compensation the bus covered the 400km for only R975 (about €14). In Tver, the bus made a stop in front of the train station. I saw my Hotel Turist on the other side of the street and got off the bus. The hotel seemed a relic out of socialist times, the check-in took a long time. Not only the main page and the Russian visa were copied, all the other pages as well. A lot of forms had to be filled out and signatures to be given. I had no clue what I was signing. Despite the eternal lasting check-in, the drab exterior and dull lobby, I got a very pleasant room for little money. I had a snack at KFC next to the train station and walked towards the downtown area, around four km from there. It was almost five by now, but since daylight lasts until ten at least, I still had plenty off time to see the city. I walked down Chaykovskogo prospekt, quite a pleasant street with some nice parks, churches and chapels. Just before the bridge over the Volga River I found a very nicely renovated area built in Stalinist style. There were well tended squares and gardens full of flowers and statues of Lenin and other heroes. I crossed the bridge to see some dilapidated Stalinist buildings and churches, walked along the Volga to the next bridge, crossed the river again to see the fenced off Catharina the Great’s Road Palace. Back in town I coincidently found a very nice pedestrian street were I had dinner on the terrace of a Japanese restaurant. The miso soup and the suzhi were superb and very good value. The restaurant scene of Russia changed a lot compared to my first visit in 1978! It was dark by now and walked back to the hotel. I never had an unpleasant feeling though. Russia seems to be quite safe to me. The next morning I walked accros the street to the train station to get a train to Moscow. I wanted to take the train instead of the bus because of the traffic jams before and in Moscow. The train I got was comfortable despite my third class ticked (platskart), that is a dorm carriage with 54 open berths for R1198 (around €17 for 176km). That is a bit more expensive than the bus, but also more comfortable.

Uganda Visit: 1991-1
2012-01-25 - After spending the day on Mount Elgon, we arrived quite late at the border and stayed in Tororo. The next day we reached Jinja. We stayed in the New Bellevue Hotel. The vue of the place was belle, but the hotel was definitively not new. Jinja had some beautiful old buildings though and an amazing golf course along the effluent White Nile. Kampala was not so special, but the Sheraton Hotel was quite nice. We stayed in the 10th floor and had a balcony.
We stored the main part of our luggage and took off for a week long tour through Western Uganda.
In Mbarara we stayed in the old colonial University Inn and enjoyed the garden and the oldfashioned embiance. To be able to enjoy the beautiful Virunga Mountains, we got off the bus some 10km before Kabale. Of course we got off too early, it was much further than 10km. We walked for hours and reached Kabale in the dark. We finally found the White Horse Inn in the electricity free town. The place was packed with military, all Tutsis who had their Headquarters here, ready to invade Rwanda as it was just a short while after the genocide. The soldiers stayed in tents in the garden, the commanders had rooms. Luckily we did get a room and got lovely service: oil lamps and two jerrycans with hot and cold water. It was quite an experiance to be surrounded by giants. It was also getting dark as we reached the Lodge in the Queen Elizabeth National Park. We had to walk a few kilometers from the main road. Nobody ever did this the receptionists told us.....lots of lions around. The next day they drove us back to the gate.
In Kasese we stayed in the Saad Hotel. We made a day trip to the Ruwenzoris, but time was too short to really see the mountains. We got a glimps of the snowy summits though.
The hotel in Fort Portal was wonderful: really old, colonial style, with a nice garden and a view on the Ruwenzoris: the Mountains of the Moon Hotel.....
To get back to Kampala you can take the public bus at 8, or a bit more expensive a minibus at 6. The hotel got us two tickets for the minibus. The next morning at 6 we waited at the gate, but the bus did not come until 06.30. We were 19 people including the driver and the co-driver. After about two hours the bus stopped suddenly. The co-driver said: "Robbers...they are armed" Luckely I immedately pulled my valuebles out of my camerabag, slipped them into my t-shirt and closed my jacket. I told my friend to do so as well. The girls behind us shouted "get out of the bus". I stumbled out with my camarabag. A soldier with a kalashnikov said something to me. "I don't understand" I said. An other soldier a little higher up said "handbag" I dropped my bag. Than he moved his gun towards the jungle and I ran and after a few meters fell into a hole. My friend fell over me. Seconds later the three or four robbers drove off in first gear. Evidently they didn't know how to drive. We climbed out of the hole back to the track. Everybody came out of the jungle. A few minutes later the bus came back. They must have decided to flee the other way. Again we fled into the jungle. When we did not hear the bus anymore we came back to the track. Everybody had lost everything, but we at least had our tickets, passports and money and most stuff in storage in the Sheraton Hotel. We knew that the public bus from Fort Portal would come. After about two hours we could mount the bus. At the next checkpoint the police was alerted by walky-talky.
At about four o'clock we arrived in Kampala and went straight to the Police Headquarters. Everybody knew about the robbery. We were accompanied to the highest Police Officer. As we entered his office he started laughing. "What are you doing here, ha ha ha, others never come, ha ha ha" I tried to explain that we needed a report for our insurance. "Ha ha ha, others never come, because they are all shot....." Than he told that usually robbers kill their victems first, and than rob them...... We went back to the Sheraton to pick up our stuff and left for Entebbe for the night and stayed in the Kipedo Guest House. We were terribly bitten by mosquitos that night. Our dear nets were gone. The next morning we flew to Addis Abeba. The insurence covered the loss of my expensive autofocus (in 1991 a unique)camera.
More than half a year later, in July, I got a letter from the police to see them. I could not think of any wrongdoing, I don't even drive a car. "Well it is about your armed robbery in Uganda" they said. "How do you know about it" I asked. "From Interpol New York" they said, "It is a big thing and we have to know in detail what happened" After my report they told me to contact the German Embassy in Kampala.
Almost a year after the robbery, on Jan 15. 1992 I got a letter from the German Embassy in Kampala that "some stolen items had been recovered" and if I wanted them back. I wrote that I was especially interrested in the filma, and also the cameras. Another four months later, almost one and a half year after the robbery I got a call from Rosenheim, Bavaria. "I work at the embassy in Kampala and I have your cameras....do you want to pick them up?" I jumped on the next nighttrain and the next morning called the guy and he brought the camaras (and films) to the station. "What happened to the robbers?" "In jail" he said, or dead, nobody survives a Ugandan jail very long...." The cameras were both broken, the films ok, they even took some pics with one of them....the robbers or the police?

Ukraine (Other) Visit: -