Why The Houses Look Down Into the Grachten …

Here I explain an oddity in Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

See, how they are leaning forward?

Amsterdam 2

... and that's the boom for the furniture

WHEN I VISITED THE FABULOUS FLUTIST FRANS BRÜGGEN in his many century old palais in the center of Amsterdam, I wondered why all the historical houses in the centre are leaning forward! The top of their facades were often over-hanging by ca. 45°, compared with the groundfloor! Was it a tribute to old age? Or is it due to the shaky ground with all that water and mud? Some house bow in a way, that the owners or architects had to implant iron clamps to keep the front from falling over. Then I discovered the reason: Land was so precious in Amsterdam and along the Grachten (= channels), most houses could only be just a few yards wide and therefore have four floors as a minimum.  Doors and especially staircases are traditionally very narrow. To move large pieces of furniture into the houses was/is almost impossible. Therefore they all have an in-built gallows or boom at a high point of the facade – to pull up things which can not be transported through the doors and staircases! And if the facades would be straight, in a 90° angle, the loads will bump against the front wall, causing damage to both. With the ropes being in free fall, because of the 45° facade, any object, even a Grand Piano, can be lifted to any desired opening. The bowing faces of Amsterdam’ old houses are no optical illusion but a clever trick, born out of necessity …

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Honors For The Red Heroes?

Try to find stamps with portraits of the great Chiefs ...

Indians

The 12 Chiefs – on Marshall Islands stamps ...

YOU WON’T SUCCEED, at least not in the USA! There the Red Indians didn’t even have voting rights in most states far into the 70s, and after they got back some of the privileges the Whites had stolen from them, they are still recognized only as a „folkloric element“, heroes of nostalgic novels and movies – just one got his portrait on a coin, almost none can be found on stamps, despite their highly decorative appearances. When I searched the internet, I had to click again and again, and finally I got a hit in a far-away region – the Marshall Islands in the Pacific! They issued 12 stamps for 60 Cents each, nicely assembled in a bloc, and showing the famous chiefs Tecumseh (a Shawnee), Powhatan (a Powhatan), Hiawatha (Mohawk), Dull Knife (Cheyenne), Seqouyah (Cherokee), Sitting Bull, Red Cloud and Crazy Horse (all Sioux), Cochise and Geronimo (both Apache), Chief Joseph (New Peace) and Pontiac (Ottawa). The Islands don’t have the least to do with the celebrated leaders of their tribes, naturally the stamps are issued only for the sake of collectors and their money. But nevertheless – a bad reason, a nice honor!

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Absolutely Silly Question!

But very interesting, if you start drilling in Auckland ...

Auckland

Start at Position 1 (Auckland), and you will appear on Position 2 (Marbella) ...

FORGIVE ME, I KNOW I SHOULDN’T ASK! But when I stood on Mt. Eden in the centre of Auckland, the biggest town of the Northern Island of New Zealand, the question came to me like a seagull: If I were to start drilling vertically into the ground, through the globe – where would I come out? Very difficult question. I would have guessed the opposite point would be near … – mmhm, where? Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, in Bergen

Auckland

Beautiful Auckland in New Zealand ...

Auckland

... and aweful Marbella in Spain

(Norway) or Tjumen (Southern Siberia)? Totally wrong. Look at my world map: Drill at position 1, all the way through Mother Earth, and you would come out at position 2, and that’s Marbella on the Costa del Sol on the Spanish east coast! Amazing! But geologists/geographer made a 100 % watertight calculation, even the author Jules Verne, knighted with abundant phantasy, hadn’t speculated. Well, that’s the post this time, no more, but isn’t it enough?

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Ever Heard Of Daniil Granin?

He was a Soviet Party lackey, but what a great travel writer!

Granin

That's his East German travel book ...

 

Granin

... and that's him in the 80s

I DISCOVERED HIM MUCH TO LATE, in the year of his death, this Daniil Granin (1919-2017). He was for ages the president of the Soviet Writers Union, responsible for the ostracism of his colleague Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. And he enjoyed such a privileged status, even under Stalin, that he could travel wherever he wanted, got enough money to do it and used it extensively. I don’t like his political attitude (a stiff communist, as long as Communism existed in the Soviet Union, and a liberal thinker afterwards), but even when he travelled in the Cold-War-Fifties and the precarious 60s, he was – amazingly enough – a fair observer, a man for whom humor meant more than ideology, and to read the commentaries of a writer from another world (about the Taj Mahal, the New York traffic system, the Japanese emperor, Indonesian temples or Goethe in Weimar) in such a literary quality is eye-opening. I read Granin in German, in editions which were published in East Germany only, and I regretted not to have known his „Travel Sketches“ (that’s how he called them) before I went to the destinations he had visited and written about. This Russian is definitely in one class with Waugh, de Beauvoir, Gide and Fleming.

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You Will Always Be Winning …

... with this miracle coin from the Internet!

Münze

That's how they offer the crooks coin ...

YOU KNOW THE GAME: „Pitch-and-toss“ or „Head or Tail“ – football/soc- cer games start with this throw of a coin, you are cheated out of your money in shady bars by artistic crooks and in Western movies professional gamblers are shot when they discover that their coins had two identical sides: heads and heads = eagles and eagles, numbers and numbers. No wonder you always choose the wrong side and lost! No, you decide, this won’t happen again, you try to protect yourself – by not playing again or by acquiring a crook’s coin. BINGO, they are offered between on eBay and other internet platforms for a modest price between 9 and 29 Euro! The most popular coin seems to be to 50 Cents piece (showing the amount on both sides naturally) and I wonder, why such a criminal tool is allowed to be sold publicly! A forger has to produce these so-called „Double Sided Coins“. On the other hand: Nobody would pay a 50 Cents amount with a 50 Cents-piece with cost 9 Euro minimum! No, but cheaters jubilate – and you too, when you never loose again while tossing with your friends. Without pinching money from them, naturally!

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Botswana Is Turning The Screw …

... and Safaris become more and more difficult!

Botswana

Me and my friends: It will never happen again ...

Botswana

... and how we loved those visits!

WELL, MAYBE THEY ARE WISE IN A WAY – protecting wildlife against tourism. The latest „security measures“ for the Okavango Delta, the Savuti, the Kalahari and so on are as follows: 1. You can build a camp with maximal 12 tents only! 2. A group which is lager than 18 people is not permitted! 3. And if you organize a group this large, you have to split it up and use two campsites! Fine, one thinks, the reasons behind those strict rules are understandable. But there is a big BUT (as I told you in a previous post already), and not a fair one: The government got a contract with an American billionairs group which buys all the luxury lodges (and constructs new ones), they dislike tourists who travel in tents independently, they want all travelers to book rooms in the lodges – which means a lot more money and a tighter control. So the old Safari romanticism dies, the campfire nostalgia, the „You & Me-Feeling“ between man and beast. After even I, a licensed game warden, couldn’t get an additional bed in a Safari group of 18, I say „Kwaheri“, „Good-bye“, „Au Revoir“ and „Auf Wiedersehen“ to the wonderful old world …

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Ah, Does Anyone Remember Bushkazi?

It was once the national sport of Afghanistan ...

Bushkazi

The postcard I got from Kabul ...

IT WAS BY FAR THE WILDEST SPORT ON EARTH! A kind of Polo match, called „Bushkazi“, with up to a hundred and more competitors, and the aim was to bring a dead goat or calf back to the judges table. Or what remained of it. It was „played“ on open grounds, as large as stretching from horizon to horizon, and damned the gardens and fields, parked cars and spectator stands, who came into the way of the cavalcade! The riders watching nothing but the animal’s carcass and the horseman who had it for the moment. They beat each other with whips and sticks, rode the others merciless to the ground, ripped the carcass to pieces while galloping at highest speed, and left a trace of blood and wounded, horses and men, and if a „player“ died, he was recognized as a hero who lost his life in honor. Then 50 years of war destroyed everything in Afghanistan, tradition, religion, the ruling system – and Bushkazi! It’s not „played“ anymore but there are still some people alive who mourn it. And these days I got a postcard from an former employee of my parents in Kabul and it was a nostalgic greeting, showing an old Bushkazi scenery, inscribed with the unusual, un-Afghani Christian well-wishing „Merry Christmas“ and „Happy New Year“. Why the postcard reached me in March instead of December, I can’t say. Maybe some guy in the Central Post Office in Kabul hesitated to send it, fearing the reaction of Taliban sympathisers …

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What An Amazing Membership Card …

... and the photo is not a fake, it's real, including the walrus !!!

Explorers Club

A beautiful shot from the Arctic ...

STUDIO AND EXPEDITION ARTIST DANIELLE EUBANK made it in 2014, sailing on the barquentine tall ship, „The Antigua“ (seen in the background of the card), to Svalbard in the Arctic. When asked about the image, Danielle wrote: „I captured this photograph in Raudfjorden, Svalbard. I waded into the water and the walrus came over to check me out. He was curious. I took several shots as I wanted a diagonal composition of the walrus and the boat. I was keen to capture the walrus looking at the camera. There was a fine, omnipresent sleet that lent a diaphanous spray across everything. I think it gives the photo a kind of mystery.“ Very true! I was so amazed by the scene, that I took the liberty to present to you my own Membership Card 2018 of the Explorers Club – in the hope to amaze you too …

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Fear Of Death Is Not In His Religion …

A friend of mine discovered this monk between earth and heaven

Sabine Magnet

A monk high up on a crossbeam ...

WHAT AN AMAZING SIGHT! A Buddhist monk in the temple district of Wat Puh Noi, close to the Sam Rot Not National Park in Thailand. A new building is erected around this statue of Buddha, and the monk couldn’t wait until completion and climbed (sprang, floated, flew, was catapulted, lifted by crane?) up to the highest crossbeam. Sitting on the hard steel, not wider than one foot, he reads a holy scroll, totally absorbed and far away from this world, mankind and any anxiety, closer to Nirwana and Reincarnation. Eating, drinking and other humane necessities? No problem, non-existing. Thinking of how to get down in the evening? Probably not. My dear friend Sabine Magnet, the German-Austrian Lyricist and author, discovered the monk while wandering through Wat Puh Noi, and took a whole series of pictures: Of the monk who is already halfway up to his final destination …

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We Are Underestimating Elevator Doors …

... and I can understand Connaisseurs who collect them optically!

The doors in „The New Yorker“ ...

I WAS REMINDED OF THE MISTAKE WE ALL MAKE by a page in „The New Yorker“ (shown here). The American artist Julia Rothman had 6 elevator doors, all in famous buildings of New York, beautifully painted and the readers were asked, to recognize them (some difficult, some easy). But the essence of this page was: There are lift entrances so unique, so pure in style, so fitting to the whole complex (preferably historical) that they should get their own chapter in art history. Just have a look at those 9 doors of Julia Rothman: one more significant than the other! You could/should each of them unhinge and give them an exhibition room in the Metropolitan Museum. And I know of many more elevator portals like those. Just think of the gorgeous (and creaking) French ascenseur cages of painted wrought iron! Or the Art Nouveau doors made of Lalique glass. The wooden masterpieces in German castles (installed after 500 years of climbing the stairs). I’m grateful to Miss Rothman and „The New Yorker“ for bringing this subject up and I’m waiting now for the architect/art historian to publish the book I’m waiting for. And should you discover a remarkable elevator door, please let me know.

The answers to Mis Rothman’s quiz: A Chrysler Building, B Hotel Carlyle, C General Electric Building, D Hotel Lexington, E Cities Services Building, F Empire State Building, G Tiffany, H Hotel Plaza, I Film Center Building

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