This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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Boats larger than houses

Stavanger-4Standing still and exploring the oceans. Old and new, side by side. The ship, serving as home for any guest for a few weeks at most, is much larger than a four-storey house, serving families for generations. Which one will outlast the other? My vote goes to the already aged house.

Stavanger harbor is beyond verbal description. Somehow the narrow inlet is able to house 6-8 huge cruise liners at once. And somehow, the town is able to carry all the visitors plus the ships as backdrop, and still seem quaint and peaceful.
Stavanger-1(Stavanger, Norway; June 2018)

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lcyI love little airports with ingenious designs. Such as Lukla airport in Nepal. Or here, where planes pocket-park by the gate, a runway shares a stretch with the taxiway in a hairpin loop, and where access to the city is fast and by tube. London City airport is the handiest little airport. Never mind that the terminal looks like a bees’ nest and there is no place to sit down. No lounges and no priority security either – because being near the financial district, of course everybody here is priority and elite flyer. It is the small things that count – and LCY will make my commute from my new hometown so much smoother.

But tonight I am en route from hot sunny London to rainy, chilly Stavanger, Norway.

(London City Airport, London, United Kingdom; May 2018)

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Dear Cambridge

cam-4Dear Cambridge,  you’re supposed to look the same every time I visit you. You are one of the oldest university cities in the world. Your colleges, chapels, greens, and squiggly side-streets are supposed to look just like they did 2 years ago – or 200 years ago, no difference.

And so, dear Cambridge, why is Fitzbillies closed, sold, reopened, and changed? Why are there new shopping malls? What’s with the modern architecture boom around the train station? And goodness me the rush hour traffic, how can it take 20 minutes to drive into town, as if one were walking?cam-2And why on earth is Ryder & Amies only selling official English university apparel with a huge American college style font, in worst case embossed in a fluffy fabric? It was bad enough that a fudge shop opened on King’s Parade when I lived in Cambridge (the shock was softened by the fact that it was fresh artisan fudge, after all).cam-3Thankfully, lining up for a taxi cab at the train station is still as difficult as ever (I try to ignore that there now is an official Uber pickup spot as well, next to a brand new hotel). I was also delighted to note that the train traffic was as non-functional as possible: instead of 5 services to Cambridge per hour there was 1 (and half an hour late), due to a train company timetable change that needed several months to optimize, causing trains to miss drivers and drivers miss trains. Good old England.
cam-1(Cambridge, United Kingdom; May 2018)

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Platform 9 3/4

kingsxOut of all these people crowding to take a photo of the luggage trolley crossing the wall into platform 9 3/4, only very very few actually try to run through the wall. I think the newspapers once wrote about one who tried and bashed his head quite badly. Probably a Cambridge student (nobody else has that kind of humor). Perhaps just as good, as ever since I lived in the UK, tourists have flocked around the entrance to Harry Potter’s school “bus”, Hogwarts Express.

Curiously, platform 9 3/4 is between platforms 8 and 9. Also, J.K. Rowling once confessed she thought of an entirely different station. Namely, Euston railway station. Although, little does it matter. Muggles are obviously not the sharpest of the lot.

(Kings Cross railway station, London, United Kingdom; June 2018)

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Ghosts in the window

uusikaupunki-1Who is the turn-of-the-century couple peeking out through the window? And why is the street sign first in Russian and only then in Finnish and finally in Swedish? Uusikaupunki is filled with old wooden houses containing many mysteries. And so many stories, if only they could even whisper of half of what they know.

By the waterfront there is a house filled with the delicious, huge, Nordic kind of sugar donuts. As it is a guest harbor, some come from far to have one. When I was a child, this town is where summer began (and ended).uusikaupunki-2(Uusikaupunki, Finland; June 2018)

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In Utrecht

utrechtI thought I agreed to give a keynote talk in Copenhagen. It turned out to be in Utrecht. Glad I noticed it in time to book my flights. But I lost two days of work and I had to again travel to my absolute un-favorite country in Europe. After 15 years, I could barely recognize much of Utrecht. Perhaps it is just as good.

Fortunately, my hotel room was large enough to fit an entire dance floor. And there was a tub so squeaky clean I could not resist. Do you know what happens when you pour bath foam into a bubble bath? By surprise, I do now. Bubble overload.

(Utrecht, the Netherlands; June 2018)

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One country, two seas

dkbeachWith its brackish water, its smattering of islands between Finland and Sweden, and limited and slightly altered flora and fauna, the Baltic Sea is an inland sea and far from an ocean. Every seven years a huge saltwater swell pushes up the salinity gradient a notch, and slowly the rivers trickling down into the sea change it back towards sweet.

The animals and plants living in the Baltic Sea are the sturdiest, most adaptable ones that don’t mind the in-between conditions. Sweetwater perch and pike thrive in the sea. Seagulls and large cormorants don’t mind the smaller fish to eat. The herring has become a bonsai variant, called Baltic herring in English and something entirely different from herring in Swedish and Finnish.

Denmark is the gate to the Baltic Sea and its two coasts look like two separate worlds: its West coast (above) looks like any ocean shore, while its East coast (below) looks like a lake, which is what the Baltic Sea coast mostly resembles.

How convenient: if you live in Demark just pick your kind of seascape. dkbeach-2(Denmark, May 2018)