Lake Chad is vanishing …

... and a secret desaster lurks around the corner!

The map of „The New Yorker“ demonstrates the situation dramatically ...

THIS LAKE WAS ONCE THE SOURCE OF LIFE FOR MILLIONS! With 22 600 sqkm it was bigger than Israel or Slovenija, four times bigger than Lake Albert and bordering the states Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad. And now? Lake Chad has shrunk by ca. 95 %!!! The northern basin is desert now, part of the Sahel Zone of the Sahara. It started in the 1970s, nobody knows why, and presently the dozens of inhabited island are rapidly becoming more like dunes. About a 100 00 people once existed there, but the goverment forced what’s left of them (ca. 55 000) to leave their traditional habitats. But since these tribes were robbers by tradition, nobody living on the mainland (so to speak) wants them. So they are poorly reorganized in camps in the hot Nowhere – right in the desert. Their cattle herds die, water is scarce, food almost non-existent – and nobody cares! They are dying by the thousands, and the disappearance of Lake Chad will change a significant part of Central Africa. The world isn’t aware what’s happening on the shores of what was 40 years ago a vast water basin, with navigation from country to country, trading routes by boat, fertile land and a never ending source of water. Look at the splendid map, La Tigre made für „The New Yorker”: The green indicates the former size of Lake Chad, the blue is the actual status.

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CHRISTMAS Are The Japanese Christians?

No, but clever businessmen – and great copyists ...

Pre-Christmas in Tokyo – wow!

JUST LOOK AT THIS PHOTO, I just got from my friend Hans and his Japanese wife Yoko: Tokyo, exploding in christmas decorations. My god, the Shopping Mall close to the Ginza looking like the „Christkindlmarkt“ in Nuremberg! Everything is artificial, no tree had to die for these basically christian decorations in a Buddhist land. No green needles visible, just lightbulbs in a dozen colors. You won’t see anything which has to to with what happened in Bethlehem 2017 years ago. Well, let them have their own way with what we invented. I just wanted to show you that you wouldn’t feel lost in the Japanese capital in the next four weeks …

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Need A Nice Hotel in Venice?

I got one! The „Bucintoro“ – personally tested by me ...

The hotel is the corner building ...

... here it is on the Venice map ...

... and that's one of the hotel's cabins

THERE ARE MANY POSITIVA WHICH CONVINCED ME. First: The location opposite San Giorgio, 10 minutes walk from Piazza San Marco and the Giardini, 5 minutes walk to the Arsenale – and it’s right on the shore of the big Canale, the Giudecca. Second: The „Bucintoro“ is „a Firstclass hotel with a trick“, because since it is named after the state bark of Venice’s elected ruler, the doge, the rooms are, you wouldn’t believe it, mahagonny paneled ship’s cabins! Third: The rooms are pretty small but cosy, with a similarly clever arranged nautical interior, wooden shutters at night and when you breakfast in bed, you are looking through the windows over the water onto San Giorgio. Breathtaking! Fourth: They got a nice terrace in front, ideal for a „Venice watching“ sundowner. Fifth: They serve a fabulous breakfast (and equally good meals). But within 3 Minutes walk are some of the best „people’s restaurants“ on the smaller waterways. Sixth: The concierge service is old fashioned outstanding – there is nothing which can’t be done! Seventh: If you travel by boat, the stop is just alongside of the hotel. Summary: I can’t think of a better place to stay in Venice, but have a close look at their price policy: The room rate might change from almost 400 Euros (ca. US$ 470) to 130 Euros (ca. US$ 150) for the same room during the year, depending on the events in town like the Biennales. Oh, by the way: For a visit to the Art Biennale you should book the „Bucintoro“ a year in advance to get a reasonable rate, but book it – it’ located right in the center of the activities (you don’t need a vaporetto or any transport to get you to the exhibits). When I reserved a room, I contacted booking.com, but a friend of mine just called the „Bucintoro“ directly and managed, I’m almost ashamed to admit, a better room rate. But he didn’t like it. You know why? The storing capacity for his toilet articles in the bathroom was too small, he said! Oh, what a tragedy …

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TRAVELS A Nice Discovery In Alsace

It's a one-room-accomodation only – but better than some posh suites ...

The cottage close to the channel ...

... the one and only room

... the nostalgic bathroom ...

... the cottage with the garden ...

and the location in Alsace

MY ADVENTUROUS FRIEND JÜRGEN* FOUND IT (well, he finds a lot all over the globe, from Slovakia to Sichuan, Galicia to Gilgit), and as always I don’t hesitate to use his informations, they are always to the point for the modern traveller (but possibly not for the tourist). This time: The „Schleusen-Häuschen“ La dantelle in Eglingen (adress: Ecluse 25) in the department Alsace (France), 45 km from Colman. „Schleusenwärter“ means „Lock-Keeper“ in German (Alsace was a German province for ages), that’s the guy who operates the locks on the inland-channels, connecting rivers and lakes, making an overland-waterway possible, despite different shipping levels. They had nice little cottages close to their locks, and since some (maybe most) of the channels are computerized, work automatically or are not un use anymore, lock-keepers are not needed nowadays but were allowed to keep their cottages. This one in Eglingen is one which still belongs to the lock-keeper, he just moved a bit further on, he and his wife take care of the accommodation, service it and if you are in need of anything, just call them (for the traditional French breakfast for instance) – and Jürgen writes: „Absolutely super cosy, just one big room, splendidly furnished with antiques, a wonderful traditional, nostalgic bathroom with all modern comforts, whatever you need – the lock-keeper will supply you with, he is a great frenchman and his wife a treasure. La Danielle is absolutely quiet, fairytale-like romantic and a real lovenest.“ The price varies (season, weekend, holidays), but the minimum seems to be 88 Euro (ca. US$ 95), the maximum 118 Euro (ca. US$ 130) per night. The booking is easy, just ask at Google for „Schleusen-Häuschen in Eglingen“.

* Prof. Dr. Jürgen Aschoff, Neuropsychiatrist, Publisher, Antiquarian, Author, Photographer, Tibetologist and Burmese Tattoo Expert.

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The Art Of Fumiko & Hiroshi

Bonsai and pottery on the highest level ,,,

One of Fumiko's Bonsais ...

... and a tipical Hiroshi ceramic

MY FRIEND HANS, whom an unexpected and unjustified stroke of fate (because he didn’t cause it by doing anything wrong) shackles to his bed forever, told me the following story from his second fatherland Japan (his wife Yoko is Japanese and he has written most valuable books about this country): „I’m doing everything, to make an exibition of my friends Fumiko and Hiroshi in Tokyo a success. I know Fumiko for more than 30 years. Nowadays she is probably Japan’s most famous Bonsai artist. No wonder – she comes from a well-known Bonsai family, her grandfather was the founder of ‘Bonsai cho’, the Bonsai village in the outskirts of Omiya. Up to his death, her father Kato San took care of the Bonsai trees of the emperor and almost once a week he went to the imperial palace. For many years now Fumiko lives with her husband Hiroshi in Nasu. She has a beautiful nursery there and Hiroshi produces pottery and ceramics. He has studied his profession in Finland which might explain his unusual style, never seen bevor in Japan – and so delicate, that one hesitates to touch his wonderful works of most fragile art. One even wonders, how Hiroshi manages to manufacture things like this, which – so far – only Mother Nature was able to produce in form von rare orchids or deep-sea creatures.“ I don’t know, if the creations of Fumiko are more admirable than those of Hiroshi. But I convince myself that there is no need to compare Bonsai with potterey …

 

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You Look For A Nice Hotel in Munich?

Try the „Olympic“ – it's small, nostalgic and ideally situated ...

The hotel in a traditional house ...

... in the the gay quarter of Munich

IT’S MY LIFELONG EXPERIENCE: Homosexuals guarantee good service. In the air and on land. Leave them an almost dead part of town and some month later it becomes an entertaining, lively (and suddenly expensive) quarter. The hotel „Olympic“ is not run by gays – but is situated right in the center of the predominantly gay „Glockenbachviertel“ of Munich. A small hotel in a reformed apartmant-house, not belonging to any chain, run by a charming lady, full of art, with a fabulous breakfast (says my daughter who just stayed there), with a lot of green around (für nice and safe strolls), only a 5 minute walk from townhall (just have a look at my map) and two subway stations around the corner. You will find very few mass-fabricated but a lot of nostalgic furniture (the „Olympic“ has just some dozen rooms), and the rates are reasonable: 95 – 180 Euro for a single (most of the time 120 Euro), 160 – 250 Euro for a double (usually 160 Euro), and 15 Euro for a safe place for a car. The adress: Hans-Sachs-Str. 3 in D-80469 Munich. Email: info@hotel-olympic.de.

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Travel To East-Germany – Without Visa!

It's very small nowadays, but very nostalgic – and worth a visit ...

Sieht von Außen nach nichts aus ...

... bis Koni hinter der Bar steht!

THE AUTHENTIC REMAINS OF THE ONCE PROUD COMMUNIST PART OF GERMANY are … – a bar-saloon-restaurant, called „Koni’s Center“ in the town of Neubrandenburg. It’s a private museum for the nostalgic hungry and thirsty curiosity-seekers, run by a guy with a strange humour and a vast collection of GDR souvenirs. His name, not surprisingly: Koni. Adress, very fittingly: Friedrich-Engels-Ring 62. Welcome back in the Paradise of the Workers and Peasants! Long forgotten local politicians like Ulbricht, Honecker and Sindermann (but Stalin and Lenin as well) adorn the walls, there is an gobelin, showing Ernst Thälmann, the furniture are authentic socialist-german, the lamps once illuminated offices in East-Berlin, and if you look closely, you discover a massive bust of Felix Dsershinski, founder of the Secret Police in the Soviet Union. It’s all pretty haunting, but the atmosphere is okay, the drinks and the food better than „once“, and it doesn’t mean a thing when Koni appears in the uniform of the „Volkspolizei“ (the feared est-german police force) behind the bar. „Koni’s Center“ is, if nothing happens, open from 6 p.m. to 1 a. m. To avoid surpise, just phone beforehand: 0049 395/58 23 620.

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AUCTIONS You Want A Piece Of A Pope?

There is a original gold-embroidered Mitra for sale ...

The price is 4500 Euro

John Paul II wearing a Mitra

HONESTLY, I DIDN’T KNOW THAT PART OF A POPE’S WARDROBE IS AVAILABLE. But in November (2017) they auction an original Mitra in Munich. It belonged, so the catalogue says, to the Polish Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) – one of these ceremonial hats, used in pompous appearences, called Mitra. In this case, since it is embroidered with gold-threat, showing a Maltese cross and twigs of laurel, the official name is „Mitra ornata“. From the back hang two (silk?) bands, decorated with John Paul’s personal crest and again the Maltese cross. I tried to find a picture of the Pope, wearing this one, but couldn’t, the stamp from Serbia comes close. The price? It’s called for 4500 Euro or ca. US-$ 5000. The auction date: 14th./15th. of November. To get in touch with the auctioneer use his e-mail adress: contact@hermann-historica.com

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SPICES I Break The Boycott for Iranian Saffron!

A friend from Tehran always smuggles the floral gold ...

So verkaufen die Perser ihren Safran

OH, IT’S SO INCREDIBLE EXPENSIVE! Well, they harvest cheaper Saffron nowadays in Spain, there is even an international „Fake Trade“, but by far the best still comes from the Iranian province of Khorasan. Saffron from there will cost you ca. 5000 Euro or US$ 5500 per kilo (= 1000 grams). They produce 3 different kinds, called „Pushal“, „Sargol“ and „Negin“, but I can’t tell the difference. I only know that the price for 1 gram varies from ca. 4.50 to 7 Euro (add 10 % for US$). That’s 10 times the price of silver (and 1/7 compared with gold). It comes in air-tight small plastic bags (like tea bags) or very flat plastic boxes looking like transparent discs, the size of beermats, or in rectangular boxes, looking like sealed matchbooks. They sell it in portions of 1, 2, 3 or 5 grams, but if you can afford it, they will be happy to offer you kilo-packages. The international boycott still looms over the Iran, but (as you might know from your continued secret purchases of Persian caviar) there are always channels from Tehran, held open by mouth-to-mouth propaganda, to supply you with whatever you want from there. Next time just ask for Caviar and Saffron! Like my friend Mansour, who always stuffs his suitcase with saffron bits, was so far never stopped at any border and sells me (and dozens of other clients) the precious spice for the affordable local price in Iran. The disc I show here, is typical „Pushal“, the information is printed in Farsi only and it contains 1 gram.

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IDEAS Surprising News from Vietnam …

How a lady invented very special public libraries

„Roaming Thuy“ (left) with readers at one of her „Library Temples“ ...

MY OLD FRIEND HANS HAS AN INTERESTING FRIEND IN HANOI. Bui Tui Thuy, nicknamed „Roaming Thuy“, dreams of becoming an artist, but so far works in a normal 9 to 5 office job. But her creativity is overwhelming and she told Hans about her latest activity, and he related it to me: Roadside libraries, where people exchange their old books for new ones! „Roaming Thuy“ uses the hundreds of old „ghost shelters“ along the countryside roads (all over Southeast Asia, looking like „bird houses“ on stilts), where superstitious people used to pray for protection and forgiveness. But in Vietnam, a country of socialist Marxism, ghosts got almost extinct and the shelters, some even call them mini-temples, are not used in the old sense anymore. When „Roaming Thuy“ discovered the possibilities, she filled them with the books she had finished reading, added a „How o do ..“ notice – and hit a jackpot: Readers understood the idea immediately, brought their used books, took one they hadn’t read so far, and the idea became a country-wide success …

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