Category: Europe

I take a shared taxi to Saint-Pierre, formerly the biggest and most important city on the island. In 1902, the people thought a valley would save them from the lava flows of the erupting Mount Pelée. They didn’t know the concept of a pyroclastic flow that would just traverse the valley. When the flow came, nearly 30.000 people died and the sole survivor (at least this is how the story goes) was the prisoner Ludger Sylbaris. He had to spend the night in an underground dungeon that proved to be the only secure place in town. […]

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I arrive on Montserrat with the small boat from Saint John’s in Antigua. It is dark when we arrive but my bed is ready, I had made a reservation. Montserrat is an internally self-governing British Overseas Territory and in this way a remnant of the British Empire. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state and appoints a Governor as her representative. Executive power though, rests with the Montserrat government. The links to Britain are more important if it comes to foreign relations and defence, or in case of Montserrat being struck by a natural disaster. […]

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August 2011: My friend Hannes and me are looking for somewhere to go cycling. It should be beautiful, not too far away and challenging. Why not head to Switzerland? We actually start in Germany (Mittenwald) and cycle a day through Austria along the river Inn before reaching Switzerland. We are in the heart of the mountains now and cross the Albula Pass (2315m), Oberalp Pass (2044m), Furka Pass (2429m) and the Grimsel Pass (2164m). To say goodbye to the mountains we cross the Glaubenberg Pass, at 1543m the lowest but starting in Sarnen at 485m it is still a lovely ascent. […]

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In April and May 2010, I called Riga home. I tried to turbocharge my future career 😉 by doing an internship at the German embassy. I had a good time because Riga is a beautiful city, the embassy work was okay, my colleagues were friendly, I spend quite some of my free time with one of them and I had some good flatmates making the time very enjoyable.
At the embassy, I had to work in the basement, but the basement had class. […]

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In 2001 and 2002 I had spent about eleven months in Saint Petersburg. I had just finished school and had to fulfil an obligation to the German government. Military service was still obligatory but you could avoid running around with guns by doing social work and you were allowed to do that in another country. I worked in the children’s hospital No.15 and played with the children. I also took care of Vova, a physically impaired boy of 13 years. That were my tasks. […]

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I head to Romania to watch a football match. My team, the VfB Stuttgart, plays Unirea Urziceni. The stadium in Urziceni isn’t suited for international games so they play in the Steaua Stadium in Bucharest. The ticket is 6€ and the flight costs me 88€ which brings the total to 94€, the same as I end up paying for ticket (54€) and train to see the home game. We play badly and give away victory too easily. […]

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In February 2008, a university excursion brought me to Kraków (as well as Berlin, Leipzig, Wrocław and Prague) to visit churches. We had spent a whole semester going through different ideas how a church service should be conducted and how the architecture of a church interplayed with the service. Stereotypically, there are remarkable differences between denominations. In traditional Catholicism the service was to be celebrated by the clergy and the parish was merely allowed to have a distant look at the whole proceeding. Still today, many churches have the altar far removed from the seating area and often several steps up. […]

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We are in a hurry, time to go back home. We planned to take a train from Rijeka in Croatia but there were none so we rode our bikes over the border to take Slovenian trains. Again no bikes on the trains to Austria so we get off in Jesenice and ride up the beautiful valley of the Sava. The Wurzen Pass is the crowning achievement of our trip. Not particularly high but 18% steep.
Some impressions from crossing Slovenia: […]

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Dubrovnik is a cultural shock. A city of immense beauty but it is full of tourists. We wish ourselves back to Montenegro and Albania. But the tourists know why they are here, and they are right. We stay, for the first time on this trip, on an official campsite. It is dreadful. Yes, having toilets and showers is nice but everything else is a lot worse than pitching our tent somewhere in the beautiful nature. And it is pricey. […]

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Montenegro’s Coastline is short so I tell the story quickly. A nasty landfill on a slope leading right into the Mediterranean, unbelievable. The glamorous and beautiful island resort hotel of Sveti Stefan, unfortunately not open to casual visitors. Kotor fjord, the sea has cut deep into the land and the mountains rise high. A wonderful landscape you would rather expect in Norway than in Montenegro. Kotor is a beautiful city, we ride out the whole fjord with our bicycles. Moneywise it is convenient, Montenegro has piggy-backed on the Euro.

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You notice the bunkers immediately. Still in Macedonia, you peak over the border fence and you see the first follies in concrete. Enver Hoxha ruled Albania from 1944 to 1985 in a backward form of communism. The bunkers are the most visible symptom of his paranoia. In the first years after World War II relations with Yugoslavia were very close until a total break, mirroring the break between Tito and Stalin, occurred in 1948. This cut-off included closing Albania’s border to the west, north and east. That lasted until 1990. With Greece in the south Albania was technically still in a state of war anyway. […]

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The trip started in Greece (Thessaloniki) but about the only thing we did there was heading straight to Macedonia. No, wait a second, we also rode on something that resembled a highway more than anything else for about two kilometres and we were hit by a heat-wave. Temperatures are above 40°C and I pay for it with total exhaustion on the first day. We basically go from supermarket to supermarket; they are always cool and they have cool drinks. […]

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I visit Minsk in May 2006 on a university excursion. We focus on social projects and spend only limited time exploring the city. The evenings are great fun. A few years ago, I had spoken with a recent visitor to Minsk who compared its charm to a freshly raked cemetery. The city is still fairly bland, somehow subdued, but a few bars have by now appeared on the scene. […]

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My only visit to Ireland so far has been a short cycling trip starting in Rosslare Harbour (coming from Wales) in the Southeast to Dublin (leaving to the Isle of Man). Kilkenny was the only settlement of any note we visited besides Dublin. We were fully self-sufficient, equipped with a tent and cooking equipment so we rather stayed out in the nature. […]

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