A hustle through Brussels

My only full day in Brussels started out less than promisingly, with a spitting cold rain pelting me as I left the city’s central station and tried to sort out where I could go before getting soaked. I had no map, no real plan – only a short list of things to see and do…

It’s about (Amster)dam time

When you’re a teacher, you count a year not by the January to December cycle like normal people do. We’re an August to June lot, counting a “year” as the school year like some kind of alternative planet we follow instead of the sun. To be fair, we are mostly on alternative planets when one is…

Churches and squares everywhere 

Chinese New Year in Macau – Day 2 – A tour of old colonial Macau If you don’t go to Macau to gamble or shop, you go to Macau for history. I’m not a gambler – and I’d probably be a poor one even if I tried – and I don’t particularly go in for…

When you need a little (or a lotta) Christmas

A German Christmas story – Berlin – Christmas markets It is difficult to explain how a German Christmas market smells. A bit of a heady combination of spiced red wine, cinnamon, cookie batter, sizzling sausages, damp earth from a recent rain, and baking bread – it is all of these things and more. My first market…

Signal lost. Turn right.

Chinese New Year in Macau – Day 1 – Arrival by ferry crossing We were very tired, we were very merry— We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry; And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear, From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere; And the sky went…

A hobble around Museum Island

A German Christmas Story – Day 5, Berlin – Museum Island Despite a very swollen and rather stiff ankle, I wrapped it up with sport tape and an ankle support sock and set out for Museum Island, a UNESCO heritage site on the River Spree known for its architecture and concentration of art and artifacts….

The long shadows of war and wall

A German Christmas story – Berlin, Day 4 – Berlin Wall Memorial & Jewish History Museum It was hard to drag myself out of the hotel the next day after staying up half the night watching news footage about the Berlin Christmas market terrorist attack. The hope that it had been only an accident quickly faded away…

The landscape of terror has not been forgotten

A German Christmas Story – Berlin, Day 3 – Topography of Terror (afternoon) Germany is very upfront about the Holocaust. The Topography of Terror Documentation Center stands near a long stretch of the Berlin Wall on the former site of the Gestapo and SS headquarters. It is a low, modern building which seeks to lay…

Apfelstrudel and outdoor art on the Wall

A German Christmas story – Berlin, Day 3 – East Side Gallery (morning) My morning breakfast so far had consisted of a cappuccino and some kind of sandwich at Starbucks. I mixed it up a bit and went across the street to a different coffeeshop. Shocker! I had my usual cappuccino but ordered apfelstrudel instead for…

From Prussian splendor to post-war gloom

A German Christmas Story – Day 2 in Berlin – Checkpoint Charlie and Schloss Charlottenburg I fell asleep early the night before and did not make it to a Christmas market after all. However, I unashamedly got thirteen hours of sleep after a restless night before leaving for Berlin and almost none on my flight,…

I am not a jelly doughnut, but that sounds good anyway

A German Christmas Story – Day 1 in Berlin Ich bin ein Berliner. Those were the first words used to introduce me to the conflict in Berlin, and indeed, the Cold War in general. Since I was only five years old when the Berlin Wall was torn down, I have no memory of the Cold War…

The Forest of Wisdom

Diary of an Autumn Leafer – Heyri Artist Valley & Paju Book City  If you tell a bibliophile that there’s such a magical place as a “Book City”, then it had better live up to its moniker. Add in 8 m high bookshelves and something called “The Forest of Wisdom”, and just point me in the…