Quiz time! Can you guess which famous leader used to live here? He must be turning in his grave.

Today a Chinese restaurant (“Peking Duck”), but once upon a time a very infamous man had his residence and offices behind these doors. Can you guess who? Ten points for the right answer to this quiz; five points for the most original reply. Read the answer below.

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The truth behind the duck:  Mr. Mengling Tang from China is the owner of a Chinese eatery in the Voßstraße in Berlin, exactly on the spot of the entry to Adolf Hitler’s “Neue Reichskanzlei” – the new chancellery. The building didn’t survive the ravages of war, within a few years after completion, the home of the brutal, weirdly mustachioed dictator was destroyed by allied bombs. Dear Adolf probably wouldn’t have clenched his little fists with pleasure, if he would have known about the repurposing of the site where his ugly government building (designed by his favorite architect Albert Speer) once stood. But then again, Maybes he is, in purgatory.

A visit to the ossuary of the church San Bernardino alle Ossa in Milan, Italy

It is the attempt that counts. A piece of art, on the verge of the macabre.  San Bernardino alle Ossa (Saint Bernhard of the Bones) is a church in Milan, not to far from the Cathedral of Milano, by itself an inconspicuous building. This church is best known for its ossuary (a skull and bones collection) in  a small side chapel.

In 1200s, the local cemetery ran out of space, I am not sure why, but one guess could be that famine struck northern Italy. A room was built next to the church to hold bones to tackle that problem. After all, you cant simply throw corpses in the river or burn them, can you? The result is a haunting, octagonal room, with hundreds of skulls stacked to the ceiling. As the church suffered from some catastrophes, and needed to be rebuild a couple of times, this work of art is in actuality much younger.

What struck me during my visit was the perfect symmetry with which the bones and skulls are stacked. The creators invested a lot of time to get it right and to make it esthetically halfway acceptable (if you go for that kind of thing). What I also wondered was how they separated the flesh from the bones. Were these people first buried, and the skeletons dug-up later? A human body may take about 1-2 years to be free of flesh, depending on its location, e.g. a body in a field will decompose much faster than a buried human (see my novel Two Journeys for more grisly details).

The skulls were all small, much smaller than the ones I saw in anatomy class. I suspect that most belonged to children, as only few seemed to be adult-size. An alternative explanation would be that these people were very small – perhaps it was indeed a famine? One or two skulls had impressive deformities; elongations at the back.

Click on any of the pictures below to enlarge.

Skull and Bones

San Bernardino alle Ossa – Stacked Skulls in the Ossuary

A scary sight: these stacked skulls and bones. Isn’t that Mario on the left?

 

Stack ’em ! Quite artistically done, yet still macabre. You’ve seen one ossuary, you’ve seen them all.

A nightly walk through Doha, Qatar #Travel #Reporting #ArabianNights

View of the amazing skyline of Doha, Qatar. On the left the Corniche, on the right the Persian Gulf. How exotic can it get?

Doha skyline

Doha Qatar – skyline

Below: a section of the Doha  souk where traders specialize in selling pets, birds, dogs, cats, tropical fish…  you name it. Exotic ones too, like this parrot. Nice fluffy kittens and puppies, most very passive or sleeping. Personally I couldn’t buy anything here, I felt pity for most of the poor animals. The health of these animals is doubtful too, many cats and dogs are bread under terrible conditions, like in mass production. I am not sure the government in Qatar controls this in any way. Interestingly, few pets are actually visible in the streets: no dogs definitely, and the cats that roam about are all obviously wild outcasts, and ignored.

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Another part of the souk of Doha. Like most areas in Doha, this is a modern, new area, so not overtly exotic. For this needs getting used to; I love old buildings. The shops are specially interesting for tourists that like to purchase gold jewelry, I’ve heard that it is possible to make a good deal. Dozens of jewelry stores. Many pleasant restaurants line the pavement… as a special service to the clientele, air conditioners (those big grey boxes visible in the picture) are put on the pavement (outside!) to blow cold air at the diners. Now, that’s exotic. People in Qatar have few worries about CO2 – energy is free, there are hardly any trees in the country, and it is already hot and human, so what negative effect could climate change have in addition?

Doha, Qatar. A #briskwalk after work.

I had forgotten why I took this picture. It wasn’t because of the building in the background, but because of the cars: all 4WD vehicles. It is rumored that the average Qatari has a 4WD for daytime, a sports car for the evening and a special desert car for the weekend.

This picture, taken at the corniche, shows a spa with the picture of the Qatar emir – which is shown all over. I took this photo mostly because of the full moon over the Persian Gulf.

Before Qatar struck gold with natural gas, pearl fishing was one of the main industries (referred to in Jules Verne’s “20000 leagues,” if my memory doesn’t fail me). This sculpture, with a man-high pearl, can be found in the port.

Learn more about my travels: www.clemenssuter.com/tag/travel

Is there any sight in the world more beautiful? Sunset over the Mediterranean next to the isle of Capri

We traveled to the tip of the Amalfi coast, and just as we arrived, the sun hit the horizon. Isn’t this simply amazing ? And is that a green ray? The spot where I made this movie is a secret travel tip, but per your request I can provide the map coordinates to this very secluded spot and the excellent restaurant located there ;-) (do ignore the sounds of the jerk with the tractor that you can hear in the background ;-)

Guess which town I visited in the fall? Pölser, kjötbullar & …oumph!

A bit of rain, a small room underneath the roof in a quaint hotel in the old town – that was Stockholm! Cyclists raced through the streets, endangering tourists and themselves, an amazing sight! I had a chance to try out “oumph”, a soy-based veggie substance that tastes surprisingly good, but as far as a quick internet search revealed, it is currently only available in the Nordics :-(

All in all, of you have a chance, try to visit this amazing capital!

Top 5 impressions from Cairo

I had about two hours off, so I grabbed the opportunity for a walk through the city center of Cairo. Very few tourists about, but many Egyptians who used the day for shopping – this was a religious holiday, and most Egyptians had a day off.

Below: a beautiful old mosque hidden deep in the narrow streets drew many local visitors. I tried to enter as well, but the doorman shouted “tomorrow!” And banged the door shut in my face. I presume they were just calling it a day. I checked my watch and it was almost five.

Below: in the absence of a guide or guidebook, neither purpose, name or history of the sites that I passed could easily be determined – yet their beauty was unchallenged. There is satisfaction in letting a town work on you, without constantly studying facts or staring into a smartphone.

Below: a boy selling bread in the street. He had a devastatingly loud whistle to get attention – this didn’t work too well, as he wasn’t selling much.

People out for a stroll and shopping. Merchants of the same trade share the same street: one street is full with dealers of carpets, another street for electric appliances, and yet another alley for shops that focus on metal pots and pans.
The city is overflowing with people, millions and millions. The pictures do not bring this across, but Cairo is all about people, people and people.

Photos from Egypt – more about my trip to the country of the Pharaos

The top photo shows a new development area with mansions being build for (upper) middle class; a social group that seems to be growing in size. However, as the picture elsewhere in my blog www.clemenssuter.com shows, not everybody is benefiting from economic opportunities – which aren’t really marvelous: the Egyptian pound dropped in value by half (!) in 2016. The picture at the bottom shows travelers from many different origins at Kuwait airport. The plane to Cairo suffered terrible delays, I arrived in Cairo at 2am.

Read more here: www.clemenssuter.com

A trip to the Middle East. Impressions and Photos from Qatar

Qatar is an emirate on the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia is the next door neighbor, with Qatar itself sticking out into the Persian Gulf and bordered by the sea on three sides.

First impressions

it was VERY hot and unexpectedly humid. Qatar is a desert country and I thought it would be hot and dry. Not so: the hot and humid air swapped in from the Persian Gulf. Qatar is very tidy and modern. The people who I met were industrious and friendly, yet perhaps a bit aloof.

Some Qatar facts

2.5 million people live in Qatar, of which 10% call themselves Qatari and have the hard-to-get passport. An Emir rules the country. Large natural gas reserves drive the economy. The vast majority of people come from other countries: they want to find work with better pay than in their home country. Taxi drivers and technologists, you meet people from all kinds of countries.

A hot and moist view from the hotel.

Above: An early morning view from the hotel. Persia / Iran is on the opposite side of this body of water.  Kuwait is on the left, and the Emirates are on the right.

Below: The high-rise opposite of the hotel. None of these buildings are older than 10-15 years. Qatar is booming, and constant renewal is underway.

View from the Hilton

Experience the heat

Below: All buildings are air-conditioned. I entered my hotel room, and it was stunningly cold. I put the air-conditioner up to the 27C (it was on 18C originally), and after a few hours the temperature was halfway OK. On the other hand, as I walked out of the hotel lobby, the heat and humidity hit like a hammer, it felt like 50C. That was only on the first day, the following day was much better. Or did I get used to it? In any case, I wondered what the high of summer would be like. Locals said that depending on the time of year, a hot and very dusty wind blows from Africa, the Khamsin, which can cause a sense of nausia.

Leaving the hotel. The heat was excruciating.

Taken  together: an intriguing country. I was glad that I visited for work, as I am not sure what sites a tourist would want to visit. Qatar is a desert country, with not much to see. Doha is a newly built ‘island’ of high rises and businesses. There are very few trees, and anything that is old or broken is replaced.

More travel news here.