All 14 entries tagged Cities

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November 26, 2007


ArthurArthur’s Seat is an extinct vulcano, it is over 250m above sea level, the first of it’s two words is the same as Arthur Vick, and it is the slope that we are now ascending. A path right in front of one of the British queen’s dwellings, Holyrood palace, splits into a left, into the hills, and right, up along the city’s edge. We have taken the latter option, assuming we would be on the top in no time. As soon as we started to walk up, a drizzle set in. It is the first rain that we got since our arrival more than a day earlier.

But the path is endless and in the meanwhile it has taken us from halfway up to all the way down again, all this time scratching the city’s edge of residential quarters. When we’ve finally reached the path that really takes us up, the drizzle becomes accompanied by wind – heavy, continual bouts that nearly tip us over the edge, it´s scary!

But then the top. A soft grassy slope, where we lean against the wind. My spit flies more than 10 meters. A short climb and we’re at the real top. We hold on firmly, because I can all too clearly imagine myself just flying straight into the Firth of Forth on the other side of town. We look out over a majestic view of a great Georgian city. The castle hill (another extinct volcano), the crazy-design Parliament, several churches, the disorder of Old Town and the rationality of an enlightenment-informed provincial capital in New Town. The monument hill, complete with Roman-style columns, and the cemetery just a stone’s throw away where David Hume has his final resting place.

A view over a Great City with capital letters, from a majestic hill top, what else does one desire? Well, a safe descent would be something. Because we still want to roam the Royal Mile, see other people eat haeggis (since I’m a vegetarian) and go in and out of tourist shops selling exactly what we expect them to sell: checkered scarves and kilts. Edinburgh is one of these cities that are comfortable, not too busy about themselves and make you want to stay a bit more. To have a Scottish ale and wonder about what exactly it is that makes Scottish people different from the English, and subtle yet sure difference. And that’s just what we’ll do when we’ve come down from Arthur’s Seat.
panorama of Edinburgh

September 11, 2007

In Münster

Skulptur Projekte Münster
Dit weekend was ik in Münster. En viel daar met mijn neus in de boter.

Dit jaar viert de stad weer het skulptur projekte Voor dit alle tien jaren terugkerende kunstfestival werden over de hele stad sculpturen en alternatieve kunstwerken verspreid.

Een kaartje geeft de wandelroute aan. We gaan op weg. Langs de plas waar de kleine rivier de Aa op uitkomt, de Aasee, herinnert het werk van pop artist Claes Oldenburg aan het eerste project. Poolballs (1977) toont, niet anders dan de titel suggereert, drie enorme poolballen. Ik laat me vertellen dat studenten uit die tijd uit protest (en ook een klein beetje uit dronkenschap) geprobeerd hadden die ballen de Aasee in te rollen. Hetgeen ze niet lukte. Enkele stappen ervandaan toont Diffuse Einträge (van de Deen Tue Greenfort) een mestwagen zien die constant water in het meer spuit. Wat bedoeld de kunstenaar? Waarom die nutteloze stroom water?

The Lost ReflectionWe lopen verder langs de kant van het meer, hetwelk men in het Duits om onverklaarbare redenen Meer noemt. In het midden drijft een plastic zwaan. Het verhaal gaat dat daar vorig jaar een (echte) zwarte zwaan verliefd op was geworden. Het met zijn leven verdedigde. Echte liefde is tenslotte (in elk geval een beetje) blind.

Dan komen we bij de Torminbrug. Daaronder staat een groepje mensen te wachten. Waarop? Plotseling klinkt daar het zachte gezang van een vrouw. Het is muziek uit Jaques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, een opera. Plotseling klinkt van de andere een kanonstem op de zoetgevooiste melodie die we aan onze kant horen. Samen beleven we iets dat verdacht intiem lijkt daar onder de brug waar we het verkeer overheen horen zoeven. Dit “kunstwerk” heet The Lost Reflection en uitgevoerd door Susan Philipsz uit Ierland.

Minder Magritte dan het lijkt...En er is nog meer interessants te beleven in de stad. Het Graphikmuseum Picasso opende dit zelfde weekend toevallig in samenwerking met het Landeskriminalamt een tentoonstelling over kunstvervalsing. Vele pentekeningen van Picasso met de vervalsing ernaast. Maar ook hangt er vervalst (en echt) werk van Schmitt-Rottluff, Dalí en Miró. Alleen al om het spelletje van “raad welke de neppert is” al de moeite waard. Hetgeen aardig lukte als men ze naast elkaar had gehangen…

May 09, 2007

Dismantling a Myth: Turks in Berlin

KurfurstendammBerlin is known to be a multicultural city that attracts mostly (South) Eastern European groups. Especially the area called Kreuzberg has renown as a multicultural – read: Turkish – part of the city. For many years now, the story is going around that “even within Turkey, only Istanbul has a larger population of Turks”, that is to say: Berlin would be the largest “Turkish city” outside of Turkey, and the second largest in the world.

This rumour, however, must be sent to the land of fables. And this for the simple reason that within Turkey there are at least two cities that are larger than Berlin. The Berlin Bureau of Statistics website states a figure of 3,4 million Berliners; this compares to populations of around 9 million in Istanbul and anything between 3,5 and 4,5 million in Ankara. Moreover, Wikipedia estimates that there are only 116.000 Turks in Berlin, making it at the best a provincial Turkish town outside of Turkey.

That brings up some other fabulous stories. 1) Is Paris really the second Portuguese city in the world, only after Lisbon? I have only been able to find evidence that it has the biggest population outside Portugal. 2) Poles in London. Figures of around 100.000 have been dropped; I have not been able to find anything more than something around 676.000, divided between all “other white” groups. Thus, in fact an even considerably larger number of Poles might be possible.

Who knows of other major population groups in foreign countries? Russians in Warsaw? Chinese in Singapore? Fins in Stockholm? Britons in the Algarve?

April 05, 2007

Andalucia te quiere

Seville from aboveWent to Andalucia on holidays. Couldn’t believe what I saw… It’s so nice it makes you weep!

To start off in a mundane tone. In a plebescite held last month, to quiz Andalucians on their opinion of the new Statute of Autonomy, only some 30% turned up. Why do I mention this fact? Because I find it incredible. With such a beautiful land, wouldn’t everyone want to keep it as much for themselves as they could? On the other hand, Andalucians probably have better things to do than going to the voting urns. They prefer to walk the streets of their picturesque cities, lie on their amazing beaches or have coffee in small cafes where they flirt with the most beautiful waitresses of Spain.

In eight days, we saw Cordoba, Seville, Malaga, Granada, and half of the east coast, the Costa del Sol. I was mostly struck by the vastness and wildness of the countryside – kilometres on end of mountain ridges, steep valleys, houses built into rocks, olive trees. Then it surprised me just how green Andalucia actually is. Although it lacks the deep green of northern vegetation, there is still an abundance of woodland and plantations, as well as England-styled grass-green hills.

I personally liked Malaga the most, but it entirely depends on your taste of cities. Seville and Malaga for example are, besides 200-something km, also worlds apart in city layout and atmosphere.

But to go short, more than ever so far have I experienced the richness and preciousness of Spain, the seeming infinity of little spots to discover, summer houses on the most amazing locations, Germans and Britons whom, despite the unoriginality of their holidays still, and with good reason, consider themselves in a type of European paradise.

February 21, 2007

Places to Visit Before the Sea Rises (2): Venice

Venice high waterVenice is an Italian city by the side of the Adriatic sea. You knew that.

And did you also know it was constructed on some 118 islands, probably in the year 472, by some Roman refugees? I bet some of you clever students did. Other facts about Venice are: Marco Polo came from there, as well as the word “ghetto”. Furthermore, the History department at Warwick organises a term in Venice for Renaissance History students.

And another fact: it is a place you should go and visit before the sea rises. No, sorry, apologies, that´s an opinion. The fact is: the city is built at an elevation of zero metres above sea level. That is: current sea level.

The rising sea level, of course, means a serious disaster for a city like Venice, where the water has easy passage and has such an impact in the city infrastructure and daily life. The city and its lagoon, being on the world heritage list (1987), are moreover a site of special attention. Yet it was only last year that an expert commission began to bow itself over the impact of climatic change for six heritage sites, among them Venice. Also Berlusconi, when still president of Italy, started an investigation into the possibilities of placing floodgates.

For the moment it seems the water is kept away. Yet how long can it last? And are there real possibilities to save Venice if the sea simply continues to rise? In either case, there are loads more “Venices of the North/South/East/West”, so pick yourself another one if you were too late. Or will all of these disappear as well?

If you have any suggestion for another unique place that is under threat of being eaten up by the advancing sea/ocean/lake/river, let me know.

February 05, 2007

Places to Visit Before the Sea Rises (1): Giethoorn (NL)

GiethoornThe first part of this hopefully series-to-be of unique places at low locations looks at Giethoorn, “the Venice of Holland”.

Giethoorn is a village with some 2,200 inhabitants in the heart of the Netherlands, and part of what is known as the Dutch “bible belt”. I reckon it’s rather low, probably below sea level, although I don’t have the evidence to prove it. For convenience’s sake, just believe me, as about half of the Netherlands is below sea level.

The somewhat touching comparison with Venice comes from the many canals that were dug throughout time, leaving the village with some 175 or more bridges. If you’d come and visit the place, you’d be best of doing things by boat. The village has gotten some reputation with the rich and famous; actors, a cartoonist and an author have gone to live there. Moreover legendary Dutch film maker Bert Haanstra shot his first film here, a film about two competing fanfares, suitably titled Fanfare.

Either way, as much as you have to hurry up visiting this unique place, so do I. Haven’t actually been there myself yet.

If you have any suggestion for another unique place that is under threat of being eaten up by the advancing sea/ocean/lake/river, let me know.

December 10, 2006

Volver a Valencia

Ik bij het waterZes dagen alweer dat ik voor het laatst op mijn blog schreef. In de tussentijd ben ik na anderhalf jaar teruggegaan naar Valencia, en vandaag gesterkt teruggekomen in mijn geloof dat ik wel goed zit in Barcelona.

Het weer was geweldig bij aankomst op donderdag, en ook de reis is, ondanks de 350 km afstand, redelijk comfortabel te maken in vier uur met de bus. De hele tijd totaan zaterdag werden we vergast op een bijna vlekkeloos blauwe lucht en de verademing van minder toeristen en meer vriendelijke, Spaanssprekende lokale bevolking. Mario, mijn Duitse huisgenoot-sinds-een-week en fiere medereiziger tijdens deze trip, was zelfs zo onder de indruk van het grote cultuurverschil op zo’n kleine afstand dat hij het liefste was gebleven.

In best korte tijd hebben al met al heel wat gezien en gedaan. Ik ben teruggeweest in de drie memorabele cafe’s waar ik ook in maart 2005 was. Terugkomen naar vertrouwde plekjes in buitenlandse steden is altijd een leuke activiteit en ik was blij te zien dat ze nagenoeg niets veranderd waren. Verder hebben we de echte paella (origineel uit deze stad) geprobeerd, aan het strand, en de uitgedroogde oude rivierbedding die langs het centrum loopt een groot deel doorgelopen. In deze bedding zijn nu parken, sportvelden en speeltuinen aangelegd, met als spectakelstuk bij de monding een nieuw futuristisch museumgedeelte. Anderhalf jaar geleden werd eraan gewerkt, nu is bijna alles klaar en opengesteld. Al met al genoeg te zien en te doen, Valencia is duidelijk klaar voor het evenementenjaar 2007 waarin ze o.a. de Americas Cup voor winnaar Zwitserland gaan organiseren.

En toch was ik weer blij om naar de nukkige grote stad Barcelona terug te keren, against all odds. Valencia is kleiner, toch voel ik me vertrouwder in Barcelona. In Valencia kom je bekenden op straat tegen en als je uitgaat, toch hou ik er juist van in de massa van Barcelona op te gaan. De mensen in Valencia zijn merkbaar opener en hartelijker. Toch voelde ik toen ik een paar Catalanen aansprak op het station en een soort arrogante lange neus Franse-stijl als antwoord kreeg: “ah, ik ben weer bijna thuis”.

Museum area, ValenciaFuturisme in Valencia

Placa de la Reina, ValenciaPlaca de la reina van bovenaf gezien.

Klik ook hier om meer foto’s te zien van ons reisje.

November 06, 2006

Oh, Gràcia!

Carrer Gran de GràciaThis weekend I spent quite a few hours in Gràcia, a beautifully tranquil place after the centre’s touristic madness.

On the border of the Eixample district, it’s streets are to some extent rigidly planned and grid-structured. But I’m not sure if it forms de facto part of Eixample. Actually, I don’t think it does. From what I understood, Gràcia, back in the good old days, used to be a town outside of Barcelona which was then swallowed up by the ever expanding city. This can be seen in more instances, for example with the neighbourhoods of Sarría and places beyond Hospitalet.

Either way, this separateness of the barrio, as I soon discovered, makes for it’s complete and refreshing difference. Narrow streets with thick-packed leaves, a different kind of people, and many great cafes, each of them one I wouldn’t hesitate a moment to enter and spend the whole day.

So much, that after lingering around on the Saturday, I returned on the Sunday evening to discover more of it. The street that has alternative cinema Verdi in it, no clue what it’s called, has a whole bunch of cosy, folksy restaurants and bars in it, and the food they serve isn´t too bad either, as my Warwick co-Erasmusee and me soon discovered.

Oh Gràcia! It’s such a great place to spend Sundays, sitting, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes (although I have abandoned them at the moment), looking at the people. Doing nothing, or, at the most, exchanging anecdotes of the previous night.

October 19, 2006

Kiev! Київ!

Kievشĸ´Ä¸´Ä! I am in Kiev, the Ukraine!

This week I’m visiting Europe’s most eastern country for the first time, and with good reason, I’m visiting my girlfriend here. The city is really nice and complete, which is really no surprise when you know it has around six million inhabitants.

I’ve been taken to quite some nice bars in little side streets that you would maybe not find so easily without local guides, but mine are great. When you come to visit Kiev too, make sure to visit Bar 44 and Cafe Opera (next to the opera house, of course). And drink some local wodka, something which will be hard to avoid anyway. And if you have little money to spend, try paid hitch-hiking, it’s a wicked thing I haven’t seen anywhere else before.

October 14, 2006

London on an Autumn Day

Panic in the streets of LondonToday, my dear readers, I made a city walk through the centre of Britain’s capital London.

I’ve arrived to England yesterday afternoon, to spend a nice reunion weekend with old friends, and am staying in Camden. It’s been good seeing everyone again and catching up a bit, each one of my friends living in another country, going to another university, taking a different course. Just being together is already enough to make my month.

However we did go out into the city today. Every single time when I come to England, and even more so in London, I am surprised by the sheer amount of people in the streets, the busses, and the narrow crammed underground trains. This is the biggest city of Europe at its busiest man.

In fact, too busy for my taste. And I thought to myself: it’s becoming time that the authorities split this city into two independent cities.

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