Everyone photographs the Dome - in clear sky and in characteristic clouds and with a sunset to admire or a sunrise to desire. But Florence is a cell - captured tourists weave through the charms in the labyrinth of the Renaissance!
Museums are magical places - they aren't simply places for exhibiting the creativity of the human but observation platforms, barometers of our cultural development, monuments of innovation and success.
It started beautifully. A saturday with a wonderfully refreshing weather in Brussels (waking up at 5 in the morning on Saturday to catch my flight). Arriving in London city centre before 9 was a gorgeous experience - don't you just love the city (any city) in the early mornings on the weekend before it has fully woken up? When people in the streets are still collecting themselves - their trash, their stories, their pride. First stop: a very charming neighborhood in East Putney (and with that name, it already felt as British as it gets). I kept repeating to myself "right, left, right, left" (when crossing the roads). Of course arriving that early meant, I actually woke my hosts up. But they were fine with that - admiring my fresh looks, my london hipster style (or so they said about my white shirt, my blue flannel trousers, and my vellum safari green leather jacket (enough self-shoulder tapping)). I told them we don't have time to linger - London was waiting to be explored. And so they dressed up quickly and we went out - to, of all places, first Notting Hill. But I was for the first time to see that London as charming as it was, has nothing of the solidity, stability, or millennia-propensity for aging as Rome did. Apparently the Brits are fond of bricks but the type of bricks that do not last for centuries but for A century, piping that is better left outside just in case something happened, and rooftops that better leak inside, than to delegate the water-allocation to the street canals. But it is perhaps one of those cities, like Paris and Venice, where a person should live once in their lifetime for several years. And then move on. Will see when my time for this might come.
I continued walking the afternoon (mostly in the area of king's cross station - beautiful area). The sun was shining, the birds were singing, people were jogging, others were smoking (after all it was the hipster area), and I was just absorbing trying not to behave like a foreigner (although, to an extent, in London everyone is a foreigner). I walked and walked and then went to the old city walking along the Thames, enjoying the tourists making fools of themselves, taking pictures (to document attendance) and enjoying the odd buildings (like the infamous "pe#is building" [censored for the kids]).
In the evening I went to a housewarming party of a friend bringing cornflakes (so that she never goes hungry), a beer (so that the house is always spirited), and garlic (to keep the evil spirits away). It quickly turned into a full-house party but I also needed to get to the other end of London for a commemorative anniversary celebration. We celebrated with a floating cheese cake (they say they didn't have enough time to freeze it properly). I had the strawberries that select over from the decoration, we all had a glass of red wine and went to bed early.
Day 2: Weather had turned Londoner but it was necessary - a whole weekend of sunshine would not have showed London in its true colors. I took the underground, observing people, guessing who came from where and who was doing their walk of shame, laughing at the tourists with their funny umbrellas (true Londoners aren't afraid of the drizzle), figuring out the physics of double-deckers. and picturing Dickensian characters. And that's when I felt like a character from a book myself. Isn't this the point of tourism - to lose yourself in the city, to become someone else for a while, to see the people around through a new pair of glasses, to drink that love potion that gets you high. And that's how I felt walking along a friend - high.
Last weekend I paid a visit to one of my most favorite cities again - Berlin. With a much more cultural program this time ..., well, ok, with about 3 hours more of culture time this time around, I saw the city from above and the city from the past. The marvel of the Bundestag is there, certainly. I think I was more fascinated by the technology (you know, those audio guides which are smart enough to know where exactly along the long spiral you are), or by the architectural ingenuity (the mirrors adjust their position according to the position of the sun in order to reduce glare and at the same time to make sure that the German decision-makers get enough light not to strain their eyes). The Saturday was cold, light was diffused and every step along the long spiral felt like a new needle pressing in on my lungs. The cold doesn't last, however - it is only psychological - the vapours coming out of my mouth are the serpentiles that feed my visual system with signals that my brain primitively misappropriates. The texture of the streets that still remember the heaviness of tanks and the lightheartedness of freedom. The fresh smell of the ice crystals in the air raise the bar - the expectations and preparation for the stale smell of the old buildings - the smell that has permeated the walls and the pain for half a century of conversations about and against ... walls. And the hugs - because no matter where you are, they always mean the same - "thank you"!
[In the wake of the 10-year anniversary of Jacobs University, my Alma Mater, I did some reminiscing.]
Having come to, back then, International University Bremen, in 2004, I had long hair, some interest in international relations, and exclusive interest in academia. I came to Jacobs because, frankly, its value proposition appealed to me - I.e. They accepted my application and offered me financial support. Little did I know what my next years will bring. And just as well because who would have believed it. It is now 7 years down the road and I've been at Jacobs for more than 6 having moved on only very recently. So, now after I have left and have acquired a more objective view, you ssk me what Jacobs means to me.
Well, Jacobs means a world to me. Not THE world, because Jacobs and it's people are from an entirely different world. We live in our heads, you know - in a bubble - a mass bubble of brains (and the occasional smoking body - which doesn't stay smoking for long - stress plus pizza at 2 in the morning isn't a great combination). We live up there, trying to solve the world issues - we look at them with this curiosity of a child.you know the type of curiosity - the idealistic one - the world needed fixing so, let's just go ahead and fix it. And this is what will make a 10 year anniversary just a small stone on the road - like IUB rocks. End point: outside of the bubble.
Jacobs means to me a dream. No, not because most of the time anyone is simply asleep. Not because the years there passed as quickly as a dream, nor because I dream about them all the time. But because in a dream you can make anything happen. And so can you at Jacobs - that's where everything actually happens. And this is what will make a 10 year anniversary just a small stone on the Jacobs road. Destination: Neverland.
And Jacobs actually means to me a family. Not because whenever We go there, We will meet a person We know, nor because when we go there and We meet someone we don't know We will be able to start a whole-night conversation out of the blue; not because when we go there, We will always have more than 600 beds offering to host us. Jacobs is family because you cannot choose it (and neither can it - that's the magic about the admissions process), because it takes you naked, exposed and vulnerable and you aren't ashamed or scared of it; because it will is like the word "miracle" tattooed on your butt - no one sees it, but you know it is there and it is your protection (besides, it makes you cocky which always helps); because it loves looking through old family albums and showing the world what the children of Jacobs have accomplished. And this is what makes these recordings pages of the perpetually growing album of the Jacobs university offspring. Let's proudly show the world what our family has achieved, paving the road to Neverland.