This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Docklands

docksIn my hotel room there is an old aerial map of the London docklands, the way they were when the Port of London was the largest port in the entire world. The Thames river winds across the land, out to the sea, and Londoners built basins between the zigzags of the river. In the late 19th century dozens of docks, basins, and ponds created a mosaic map with exotic names such as Lavender Dock, East India Dock, and Canada Pond.

Not much is left of these docks today. The Port of London was born, grew up, and then sank into poverty and disarray. Then the same thing happened as happens to so many neglected neighborhoods: someone finds them ruggedly charming. And so today much of the area is gentrified. Today a banker across the river at Canary Wharf can spend money in staying in a fancy business hotel that takes the guests across the river in its own ferry.

(Docklands, London, United Kingdom; April 2019)


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Candles

wanamakerPoor Edward II. He just wanted to love and play king, while his ”allies” ran the country into the ground.

And in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse I finally understood how one can create sufficient light to brighten up an entire theater stage or castle dining hall. In the time of LED lightbulbs we forget how much light just one candle can give.

(London, United Kingdom; February 2019)


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High above London

skygardens-2Last work trip of the year calls for celebration. Unfortunately my date for the night called in sick and I enjoyed dinner over London all by myself. It is quite a sight to see St Paul’s cathedral far down below.

Someone had the bright idea to turn the Sky Gardens bar into a live music venue, without considering the absolutely awful acoustics of a glass-domed rooftop. I was glad to be behind another set of glass, in the terraced restaurant. The Sky Gardens would be a great location for studies on how noise affects the health and growth of plants.skygardens-1(Sky Gardens, London, United Kingdom; December 2018)


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LCY

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)