This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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The Jackson Five (Two) of the 18th century

salzburg-4Today I learned that Mozart’s father was a tour manager for his two young child prodigies Wolfgang Amadeus and Nannerl. No school, no normal life, and years of touring around playing concerts in European courts. Wolfgang Amadeus was five years old when they started. I mentioned this to a friend who immediately retorted, “just like Michael Jackson’s father managing the Jackson Five.” Indeed, Mozart’s family was a Jackson Five of the 18th century. salzburg-3Perhaps father Leopold was a parent prodigy, too? How else do you have unwavering faith in your four-year-old to even think of teaching him minuets, and the basics of composing sheet music. Surely there must be potential in any child who is able to scrabble a composition down in scrawny hand with ink blobs galore at the age of five, when most children still learn how to write single letters. And surely there were hundreds of hours spent at the piano and with ink quill in hand, as even child prodigies need practice.

But what did little Wolfgang think of kids his own age who, growing up in a household with certain means, surely had time to play? What was it like to tour European courts and have to become popular with kids of royalty and servants, over and over again? How long and strange would little Wolfgang’s Facebook friends list have been, had he had one? The Cook’s son from a summer castle in Tuscany; the youngest prince of France, with lots of likes from his jealous friends who didn’t get to do a concert tour of three years before the age of ten.
salzburg-15(Salzburg, Austria; July 2019)


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Sightseeing at the cemetery

cphcemetery-2As with everything in society, there are cemeteries that are more trendy than others. Cemeteries that are elite and attract many notable people, and celebrities wishing to be notable. In the case of such cemeteries, to be cool one unfortunately has to be dead and buried. This is how it is at Assistens Cemetery in Copenhagen: the list of poets, philosophers, American jazz musicians (?!) and scientists buried here is long. cphcemetery-1If you are into grave-sightseeing (really!), two notable graves on your list should be Hans Christian Andersen, the man behind the fairytales The Little Mermaid and The Emperor’s New Clothes; and Soren Kierkegaard, the man behind existentialism. cphcemetery-4If you are just into strolling and picnics, a basket of delicious goodies and lots of time is recommended. And no, it is not morbid to have a picnic here – people do it all the time. When the cemetery was first built, 250 years ago, it was so far from the city center that people probably made a picnic out of the trip anyway.
cphcemetery-3(Assistens Cemetery, Copenhagen, Denmark; June 2019)


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The real New York City

manhattanAs I stood by the DUMBO waterfront I tried to calculate how many people these huge boxy buildings on the opposite shore would contain, any given moment in time. This is the Manhattan skyline as as we know it. “As WE know it”. Because really, just 150 years ago it was like any old town. And just 500 years ago, when Europe was restless because of religious reformations against the Catholic church and Shakespeare wrote his famous plays, Manhattan was mostly swampland. With mosquitoes.

Times Square was a crossing of two rivers and a beaver pond. There were salt marshes and grasslands and forests, all home to turkeys, beavers, elk, and those mosquitoes. The area holding up the skyscrapers I was looking at was sea floor (much of lower Manhattan is landfill). This is the real New York. If this is news to you you might like this excellent article by the National Geographic.

My view of Manhattan is a fart in the history of time. Quickly formed, possibly also not very durable. And yet this is the “iconic” New York “we all know”. Hudson, visiting in 1609, knew the beavers. I doubt city kids today know beavers from anything else than school books (sorry, educational internet websites).

Were do New Yorkers go to rewild? Is Central Park enough or does one have to leave this once so lush and bountiful island?mannahatta.ngsversion.1502920743252.adapt.1900.1

Lower photo humbly borrowed from “Before New York”, National Geographic, September 2009

(New York, USA; April 2019)


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History underground

brooklyn-6When learning about a foreign city, one can go to history museums. Or art museums. Or the more random museums, like the New York transport museum, hosted in an old unused subway station. And learn how, long ago, subway trains had nearly stylish rattan imitation seats.

Or how, even longer ago, before there were subway trains there were streetcars, jam-packed with gentlemen in hot sweaty suits and ladies with two-meter circumference of crinoline squeezing together like sardines in a can. In rush hour surely the streetcar spilled over with skirt hoops and lace and top hats. brooklyn-5The most interesting detail of the Transport Museum is the advertising on the walls of old train cars. Much of it is from WWII, and the strangest references were made to the war. It is also a reminder of how the government raised its own citizens’ money to fight a war outside of US turf by issuing war bonds yielding less than the market rate of other reasonable investments.

Some lovely soul has also been fixated with turnstiles. Yes, turnstiles. There is a collection of probably every single model of turnstile used in the history of the NYC subway. And that is surprisingly many – we just do not pay attention. Someone more attentive did – and collected them all. 🙂brooklyn-4(NYC Transport Museum, Brooklyn, NYC, USA; April 2019)


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DUMBO

brooklyn-3There are photos of the Brooklyn bridge. And then there are photos of people taking photos of the Brooklyn bridge. Same goes for DUMBO beach and the Manhattan skyline. Some heavy cropping was required to weed out tourists in red and orange jackets, absolutely not suitable for being in the frame.

Photography is always reality enhanced. But the fabulous, urban views from DUMBO are real. And so is the lovely restaurant by the waterfront across the beach, with a glass of cool wine if you prefer.brooklyn-8(Brooklyn, USA; April 2019)


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The Duomo in winter

duomoThis was my first visit to Milan without visiting the Duomo. No time, you see, as I only passed it while walking to dinner. I am not a religious person, but I quite like the ambiance of this church, especially during Sunday mass.

In summer, the square is crowded and people wait in zig-zagging lines to enter a security control. In winter there is no security control, nor masses of tourists lining up. The church is still the same. As it took the best of 600 years to complete into its current state, hopefully it will still remain the same for another 600 years to come. Unless tourists of the future only care about virtual reality representations and tours.

(Milan, Italy; January 2019)


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The Pantheon

rome-6“Pantheon” means “of all gods”. Was this really a temple of all gods? Or many gods? One would like to think it was once a site of inclusion of faiths, not exclusion. But perhaps the Romans just had so many gods they built one to serve the most important ones?

This is how Rome could have looked like still today if people had continuously found use for the buildings once erected. Even 1900 years later the Pantheon is still fully functional – and admired by throngs of visitors every single day.
rome-5(Rome, Italy; September 2018)