This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Singapore: mulling it over in Haji Lane

hajilane-2Deep in what was once called “Little Arabia” and now renamed “Kampong Glam”, sits a lane that once was poor, then totally dead, and now a hipster mecca with artsy boutiques and little independent cafés and bars. The two-storey, colonial style buildings are decorated with street art and at night, music is booming. Here you can grab a cocktail, while a street down into the heart of “Little Arabia” you cannot find any alcohol (or non-halal food) at all.

This is Singapore: layers upon layers of culture, morphing into something new by quick swings of time. What once was dead is now the heart of cool. And in the midst of it all stand old buildings that have seen so many trends pass by. Not sure what they think of their current coat of paint. hajilane-3Singapore is ever-evolving, but it is also very orderly and safe. What else could it be if one is fined 300 SGD (170€) for eating a durian fruit at the hotel, 500 SGD (300€) for eating or drinking on the subway, and 2,000 SGD (1,200€) for smoking in the wrong place? Perhaps this is not the most constructive way to encourage good behavior, and it certainly is not the way to function in a positive space, but it works. This, combined with a pleasant and polite demeanor makes the busy society work at least in the superficial view of the visitor.

One cannot help but wonder if such is the only way? If threatening by proper punishment is the only way to “encourage” large masses to adhere to rules that make living pleasant for all? While waiting for a train at the MRT station I watched a video reminding me that molestation is a serious offence. Victims were encouraged to shout out for help, indicating they had been touched and by whom, and passers-by were encouraged to interfere. Molestation in Singapore is an Outrage of Modesty, punishable by prison AND caning. Yes, caning. In the 21st century. hajilane-1But as long as I do not eat durian or smoke, and nobody accuses me of molestation, I should be just fine with a glass of wine here on Haji Lane. And perhaps some Middle Eastern cuisine for dinner, while darkness descends on the golden domes of the Masjid Sultan mosque.kampongglam-1(Singapore; July 2018)


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A wooden town

porvooPerhaps once this was a busy street, crowded with horse-drawn carriages, pedestrians in fine suits and long dresses, and dogs and children running around? Now it is simply quiet and idyllic, with greens shooting up between the cobblestones that get to rest most of the day.

Porvoo was founded in the 13th century but has probably burned down many times since. Most of the houses currently standing are from the 19th century. As it is once again fashionable to cherish old houses, perhaps these houses could survive longer than most wooden buildings used to do (before they happened to burn down into ashes)?

(Porvoo old town, Finland; July 2018)


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Lazy days in Bordighera

bordighera-2Plastered, ochre and sand-colored houses with moss green window shutters. Stone slab pavement. A few potted plants. Sparrows chirping in the alleys. A group of locals having pasta with wine for lunch underneath a parasol. Bordighera must have been the same already centuries ago. bordighera-1A century ago one could reach Bordighera from Paris in “just” 24 hours, and London was not much further away. Claude Monet found much to paint in the stillness of hot, languid Bordighera summer days. George MacDonald came over to warm his Scottish bones and to write of fantastical, sometimes dark places while sitting in the shade from the scorching sun.

Bordighera is also one of the two locations André Aciman thought of when writing Call Me By Your Name. Because there are only a few places where days pass in such a lazy pace that there is time to discuss the origins and meaning of the word “apricot”.bordighera-3(Bordighera, Italy; July 2018)


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Muro dei cani

alassio-6It is not easy to paint the personality of a human from his or her face. It must be even more difficult to paint the personality of a dog, underneath the fur and fluff. And yet this unknown lovely artist did manage to trace the outline of over 300 unique furry persons, all lined up on a concrete wall by a park in Alassio.

The one in the middle looks like it is up to mischief only – and quite unlike any dog I have seen.

(Alassio, Italy; July 2018)


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On the wall in Alassio

alassio-5Jean Cocteau sure did love the Riviera. His self-portrait is on the Muretto wall by in Alassio, and he self-handedly painted an entire fishers’ chapel interior in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Cocteau’s portrait ended up on the brick wall in Alassio nearly 10 years after Hemingway’s autograph, though. The story goes that the local café keeper wanted to show off his famous visitors, and asked a few of them to sign a couple of colorful tiles. In the dark of the night they went up on the wall. When nobody complained, he kept adding more. Today the wall stretches across the entire train station square, with over 500 named tiles of visitors to the city; like a guest log  for “those that matter”. Who decides who matters is something I would like to know, as the famous jetsetters’ hangout Caffé Roma is long gone.
alassio-4(Alassio, Italy; July 2018)


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Party palazzos

genoa-7No, this is not the Versailles. This is not even in France. The Italian aristocrats knew how to build palazzos, too. And in Genoa they built an entire street of palazzos. Imagine it as any other neighborhood: families living next-door to each other – except for instead of a house or an apartment each would have a gilded castle to themselves, complete with rooftop gardens large enough to serve cocktail parties and balls. genoa-6And while we are imagining: what must it have been like to know that any given night there was some dinner or ball attracting dozens of carriages into the tiny street? Oh the hubbub. And oh the shame, if one was not invited.
genoa-5(Genoa, Italy; July 2018)