This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Quick dip into Italy

AlpsSwoosh: across the Alps and into a way-too-fancy airport hotel where I spent a good 6 hours in a meeting. All I truly experienced of Italy was the sveltering heat outside and a plate of penne all’arabbiata.

Some crew and ground handling chaos later: swoosh back over the Alps again. Such is the life of an employee of a global company – until we run out of oil, or all the flying picks on my conscience too much.

(Over the Alps; June 2019)


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Good morning, Turin

turin-5Good morning, Turin. And what a cold and bitter morning it is. Even the rooftop pigeons are nowhere to be seen. Come to think of it, how come we only see pigeons when the temperature is relatively warm? Where do the thousands of pigeons living in any major European city go to on cold winter days? They must have places to warm up of which we know nothing. They must have secrets.

(Turin, Italy; January 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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About business hotels and un-mindful living

milanhotelI took this picture so I could complain about the uniformity and lack of identity of business hotels. But now I think such a complaint would sound obnoxious, privileged, and humble-bragging about my supposedly “glitzy” working life. Yes it entails lots of sleek hotels in exciting cities. Yes it entails lots of flying and yes I have two airline elite tier membership cards.

When I do not notice anything wrong with the hotel, this suffices. When I do not see torn carpets, dirty floors, and unclean sheets. A good business hotel is supposed to support a busy person’s busy day, make meals and exercise and rest smooth and easy. The sad thing is that many business hotels are actually gorgeous if one only looks at the details. But seldom people do, as they all seem to look alike these days. And so we are completely unappreciative of the way the colors harmonize, how the couch upholstering feels luxurious to the touch, and how sometimes even the corridors have a calming scent.

Humans are masters of adaptation, and adaptation means getting used to a new normal so quickly and so well that one does not even notice what is happening. Whether it is the lack of light in the winter, the bad quality of air in a city, or sleek and beautiful surroundings of hotels, we quickly begin to take the current state of things as granted and do not pay much attention to how different it was compared to where we came from. This is not ingratitude, it is survival of the most adaptive. It is also the opposite of mindful living.

And so, instead of being bored, I intend to work on becoming more mindful: of the shine of the marble floor, of the absolute comfort of my pillow, and of anything that makes me relax after a busy day.

(Milan, Italy; January 2019)


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Sunset over the Tiber

rome-2The sun set over the Tiber and the Vatican, like it has done for thousands of years. For us this meant good wine with spaghetti cacio e pepe, a traditional simple wonderful Roman dish with cracked black peppercorns and cheese.

Did the “ancient Romans” from the times of the empire have black peppercorns? Probably not. Just like they did not have tomatoes, corn for polenta, nor eggplants – all staples today in Italian cooking. Instead of salt the Romans used a (probably terrible-smelling) fermented fish sauce, similar to today’s Thai fish sauce.

But there was honey, all sorts of nuts, bread, cheese, olive oil, and of course lots of wine. And in the best cases, some intellectual discussion in place of the never-ending war talk.rome-1(Rome, Italy; September 2018)


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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)