Seven landscapes seen from seat 7A during the last seven minutes of flight DY617.
A month of looking out windows, seeing Eastern Europe pass by, scene by scene.
I spent a month looking out the windows of trains and buses, passing great murders of crows, power plants and haystacks, empty billboards, roadside crosses and teenagers bored at weddings.
Some views repeated themselves: endless fields of sunflowers; railway workers not working.
On a late Saturday evening this July, I boarded the sleeper train from Istanbul to Sophia. From there on, I travelled through Bulgaria and Romania, to Hungary, Ukraine and Poland.
Through thousands of kilometres on rail and road I followed the passing landscapes of Eastern Europe and recorded some moments, some views: Each a glimpse and gone forever, to quote the closing line in Robert Louis Stevenson’s railway poem.
“That’s a pike. I don’t like pikes. They’re bitey but not tasty.” (American tourist couple overheard at the local public aquarium.)
Since acquiring its very first marble sculpture 500 years ago, the Vatican museums have grown to become one of the largest museums in the world with over 70,000 works attracting some 28 billion visitors a year.*
Behold the Laocöon sculpture, the Raphael rooms, the Transfiguration, St. Jerome in Wilderness and the ticket line longer than the 3.2 kilometre Vatican state perimeter!
See the Sistine Chapel with its ceiling and Last Supper by Michelangelo and its silence continuously broken by guards shouting Silenzio!
See the crowds, see the back of the person in front of you, get a contraband selfie stick poked in your ear.
So I recently visited the Vatican Museums for the first time in ten years. Not much have changed since my last time. I still love the place. I still tried to beat the crowds. I still failed spectacularly.
* number based on a rough guesstimate.
Giddy tourists petting stone genitalia. Families collecting pokemonkeys. Terrified small children whose fathers, inspired by the sculptures, try to juggle them. Yup. It’s the Vigeland sculpture park.
My girlfriend and I rented a lighthouse on an uninhabited islet.
That’s the ratio between townsfolk living in Geiranger year-round and cruise passengers visiting during the tourist season.
When Wikipedia declares the place a “tourist village” you know it’s going to be bad. Cruise tourism in Geiranger can be traced back to summer of ’69. That’s 1869, of course. Since then, Geiranger, with its year-round population of 255, has grown to be the second busiest cruise port in all of Norway, with an estimated 320,000 passengers from close to 200 ships. Jeez.
Unremarkable photographs from an unexceptional place. For my friend Njord.
At a kid’s grave you leave toys and teddys. What do you leave at your dog’s final resting place? Tennis balls of course!
Trench dogs. Proper canine war heroes dead of exhaustion after pulling 40 wounded men off of a battlefield. Pups having been too brave in the Paris traffic. Also some cats. And a horse. A chicken even. Yes. And a monkey.
These are dead animals interred at Paris’ Le Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques. Or – as my girlfriend told the Über driver – le cimetière des wouf-wouf.*
I try to visit at least one graveyard on each trip when travelling. Usually I end up on war cemeteries, like Arlington or Douaumont, but sometimes something special shows up, like Moscow’s Novodevichy Cemetery. Or this.
This. This is peculiar. The place is silly and sombre at the same time. A completely over-the-top thunder storm set the mood when we visited (at what was probably much the same time as I was admiring the tomb of Bibi the Bichon Frise, a lighting strike at another Paris park electrocuted eleven children at a birthday party. Jeesh).
An old, deaf cat lady at the cemetery who obviously couldn’t hear the thunder still felt something thunder-y in the generel atmosphere and tried seeking my advice on whether to take shelter. My French being limited to mispronounced high school-Victor Hugo-highlights, I tried hand-signalling, failed miserably and took a taxi to the Deyrolle taxidermy showroom where I fell in love with a stuffed platypus valued at €22.500.
Backstory: My girlfriend tried ordering an Über for us, but the driver who obviously hadn’t heard of this place before refused to believe there was such a thing as a dog cemetery in Paris. So when my girlfriend was tired of repeating “Cimetière des Chiens” to a man who seemingly thought she was trying to say something else, she decided to drive the point home by barking at him.
Paris is trying to one-up their competitors by building their own “Eiffel tower” three times the size of the original monuments in gambling cities Las Vegas and Macau. Tourists are thrilled though.
Pardon the sillyness. But really. Not five minutes had passed before a timid, young Hong Kong-fellow had asked me to help him frame his Eiffel-tower-as-erect-penis-selfie. Classy. And classic.