Travelreport

Travelreport

Tales from around the world

Senegal is cut in two by The Gambia. This results from the colonial folly that granted the British control of the Gambia river for 200 miles (320 km) inland and ten miles (16 km) on both sides of the river. The area south of The Gambia is called Casamance and is considering itself as distinct from the rest of Senegal. People living there belong to another ethnic group and are mostly Christian contrary to the Muslim majority in the rest of the country. The existence of The Gambia also hindered exchange between the two parts of the country. […]

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The Gambia is the smallest country within mainland Africa and shaped as only a colonial administrator can dream up a country. It stretches 200 miles (320 km) inland along the Gambia river and 10 miles (16 km) north and south from the river. Towards the coast it is a bit wider with straight borders, drawn up on a map and not shaped by events on the ground. It was a British (and before that Portuguese) “possession” darting into the French Senegal. […]

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I enter Senegal by boat, crossing the river of the same name from Mauritania. Rosso is a provincial town and as I see no ATM, I change a note of 20€ to have some cash. A minivan drives down the road slowly and someone shouts Saint-Louis. They stop for me. I have seen this in many parts of the world where transport operates on the we-leave-when-full-maxim. They prowl the streets to fill up the car and as this saves me the walk to the bus station I hop on. It should have made me suspicious […]

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You don’t have to feel bad if you have never heard about this country. Actually, even right on the ground, the Western Sahara is hard to find. I know it is there, but I honestly see no trace.
Western Sahara is one of the most sparsely populated territories on earth. It mainly consists of desert flatlands. Along the bus ride from Laâyoune to Dakhla I remember hardly any settlement of size. It is a barren landscape, […]

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I consider my visit to Morocco as a passing-through. Better to spend more time in the harder to reach countries that will come later on my journey. I can always come back easily to Morocco. But if I am passing through, I try to do it in style. Travelled in a direct route from my point of entry, Tangier, it will be more than 1,300 kilometres before I leave Morocco and enter the Western Sahara. Counting in the Western Sahara, as that disputed territory is under Moroccan control, it will be 2,240 kilometres. Makes sense to break the journey a few times. […]

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In 2011, there was no question that I would go on my first visit to the African continent. Not because I already knew all the other continents, I didn’t, but because I wanted to explore Africa most of all. I had a very enjoyable three-and-a-half months getting from Cape Town to the island of Zanzibar. Africa was wonderful. The landscapes were fantastic, the people friendly, I fell deeply in love with Africa’s wildlife and travelling was easy enough. Communication in the (bar Mozambique) English-speaking countries was a breeze. After leaving beautiful and interesting South Africa behind […]

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Barcelona’s Basílica de la Sagrada Família, the Basilica of the Holy Family, has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site without even being finished. Construction began in 1882 as a conventional church building but just one year later the famous Antoni Gaudí took charge and transformed the project into a personal fantasy. A church unlike any other church building you have ever seen. The architect devoted the rest of his life to the project but when he died in 1926 less than a quarter was complete. Construction, solely relying on private donations, has been slow and ongoing ever since. […]

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The world is fighting Covid-19 in 2020. In spring the unthinkable had happened and borders sprung up even between members of the European Union. A visit which was so easy just a month earlier, was suddenly impossible. Over the summer restrictions were relaxed and travelling became possible again. The Portuguese handled the situation well, cases of the new disease remained relatively low and that spared the country an extreme lockdown like in neighbouring Spain. By September the number of new cases was picking up all across Europe. Risk areas were determined, some travel restrictions returned and at least in Germany there was a possible catch. […]

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Gramais is the smallest independent municipality of Austria. A tiny village, about twenty houses, at the end of the valley. That’s all there is. The one restaurant is closed on Mondays. It is beautiful, the Lechtal Alps rise steeply and on a clear day the beautiful Leiterspitze is visible in the distance. There are no big hotels, buses are not allowed on the road, Gramais has spared itself to get overrun. […]

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I arrive very sceptical. There is a lot about Dubai not to like. An agglomeration of glitzy shopping malls, where appearance often seems more important than substance. Artificial neighbourhoods that have been built into the sea in the shape of palm trees and Dubai’s idea of a tourist experience seems to be a visit to one of the many theme parks or a motorized excursion into the desert. The Youth Hostel is expensive and there is not even internet.
But the better I get to know Dubai, the more I realize that there also is a lot to like. […]

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The sun is close to the horizon as the plane descends on Muscat. It is clearly visible how barren hills intersect Oman’s capital city into various areas. Unfortunately, no bus connects the airport to the city centre but some of the people I ask offer to take me to a place with public transport. They turn out to be doctors from Syria who fled the conflict in their country to work in Oman. They are full of praise for Germany and grateful that we accepted so many Syrian refugees. They offer to give me the taxi fare to Mutrah, the district of Muscat where my hotel is, but I refuse. […]

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The Sundarbans is a mangrove area in the delta of the river Ganges. It is a mix of closed and open mangrove forests, land used for agricultural purposes, mudflats and barren land, and is intersected by multiple tidal streams and channels. Four protected areas in the Sundarbans are enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Sundarbans are shared between India and Bangladesh, I visit from the Indian side as tours are easier to organize and a lot cheaper. […]

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I am very keen to go to Bangladesh. And I also dread going. Bangladesh is one of these unfortunate countries that is associated nearly exclusively with bad news. An extremely low-lying country threatened by climate change and rising sea levels, where millions might one day be forced to leave their homes. Where are they supposed to go? Bangladesh is already crowded. Its population density of 1,181 people per square kilometre is the highest of any country besides city states and island nations. And there is many of them, currently more than 150 million. […]

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In the summer and autumn of 2015, I was able to visit all the major countries of East Asia in one trip, allowing me to understand their historical and political interconnectedness. South Korea is shaped by the troubled relationship with its North Korean brethren and its history with Japan, where the troubled past is spilling over into the present. I am a big fan of South Korea. It is a country with history, beautiful landscapes, friendly people and tasty barbecues. In contrast to the Korea further north, South Korea is accessible. But sometimes South Korea also leaves me speechless. […]

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Kyushu is the southernmost of the big Japanese Islands. It is mountainous, and Japan’s most active volcano, 1,591-metre-high Mount Aso, is on Kyushu. There are many other signs of tectonic activity, including numerous areas of hot springs. The most famous of these are in Beppu, on Kyushu’s eastern shore. I arrive in Beppu after nightfall and meet a Japanese-Austrian guy and soon find myself heading with him […]

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Shikoku is one of Japan’s main islands and is south of Honshu. Shikoku is considered a bit of a backwater and the most traditional of the islands. Historically, it had been rather isolated but that changed with the construction of three imposing bridges linking it to Honshu. I arrive by ferry from Hiroshima and the trip is fabulous. The ferry is near empty and I can have a seat with a perfect view as we move through the Inland Sea of Japan, most of the time close to the shore or to one of the many, many islands. […]

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If you love temples, Kyoto is for you. The city was chosen as the seat of Japan’s imperial court in 794 and remained in that position for eleven centuries until 1869. The city was arranged in accordance to traditional Chinese feng shui. It escaped widespread destruction in WWII and is considered the cultural capital of Japan. In fact, its cultural heritage probably saved it from obliteration. It was removed from the five-city list of targets for a nuclear attack on the personal urging of the US Secretary of War, who had visited the city several times. […]

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I stayed six weeks in Japan and left with the feeling that I never spend so much time in a country while understanding so little about it. Japan is fascinating but Japan felt very distant. Much of the fascination lies in the fact that Japan is the only country I can travel to that is of similar wealth than my own but with a totally different culture. I find it extremely interesting that Japan has often found very different solutions to very similar questions that arise in society. A few examples? […]

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I fell in love with Hong Kong on my first visit in 2002. I love condensed megacities that grow into the air as ground to build on is scarce. I was taken by Hong Kong’s scenery. Hong Kong is mountainous; the peaks of Hong Kong Island reach up to 552 metres surpassing even the highest skyscrapers. And it is by no means all city, planning authorities have made sure that a clear distinction between the city and nature is upheld. […]

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