Trip to Amsterdam

Last weekend we have been visiting a friend in Amsterdam. It was my first visit to the city and in fact to the Netherlands, and it was a pleasant and interesting stay.

IMG_20180721_140344IMG_20180723_113432IMG_20180723_224410

I’ve been surprised by how many buildings in the city centre lost their alignment, due to the instability of the soil underneath. I find amazing how the houses stay habitable and still look pretty and well-kept.

The weather was hot and dry, as in many places in Europe and around the world, and the vegetation was suffering a lot. The contrast with the greenhouses and gardens of the Hortus Botanicus was striking.

I even found time to sketch a bit, and chose three different windows from the houses around the square where we were stopping for a drink.

IMG_20180723_125333

I’d like to come back to visit more landmarks and get a better picture of everyday life. If any of you have been to Amsterdam and surroundings and wish to share impressions and tips, I’d be very grateful!

Advertisements

Pictures post: tour to Müggelsee, Berlin-Köpenick

Yesterday I went for a walk around lake Müggelsee in the south-east corner of Berlin. It was a wonderfully sunny day and I snapped a few pictures:

The highlight was the ferry trip, for all passengers 🙂 The walk around the lake was nice thanks to the tall trees which provided shade, even if they were also masking the view. It was a long walk, but also refreshing and very quiet. I plan to go to Müggelsee again and maybe rent a kayak to paddle around 🙂 Will keep you posted for sure!

Outdoors in Berlin: hikes suggested by Berlin Forestry Commission

Berlin is known for being a capital city with extensive green areas, both within the city and around it. Many wooded areas include waterways and lakes, and are beloved hiking destinations for Berliners and tourists.

A wonderful collection of hikes has been made available by the Berlin Forestry Commission, on the city’s website and in two books (as far as I know, only in German, but the level of German is not scary. Anyway, it is always possible to translate the webpages on the fly.). I have bought the books and regularly pick a destination for our weekend’s tours, and so far I have been very happy about the choice of trails, the thorough informations about landmarks along the path, and the reasonable length of each hike. I tend to make few pictures while I walk, so here are two pictures from Lake Tegel that I made some time ago:

I hope this tip will come handy for your next Berlin visit!

Visit to the Museum for Communication Berlin

IMG_20180224_154647

Some time ago I visited the Museum for Communication in Berlin, for the first time in many years that I live here. It was a pleasant experience: I was kept interested by the various ways in which the content was presented, the interactivity of the exhibition (especially in the first floor, with quizzes, robots, and various other funny art-like devices). I was not the only one having fun: there were two groups of children, who ran across the museum in detective suits, looking for specific items and solving riddles, following a tour designed by the museum. As children learn and remember by doing, I find that this kind of tour was a terrific idea to let them have fun and be active during the exploration of the museum.

There was definitely a lot to see! I was especially fascinated by the ceramic insulators display, and the lovely set of historical and iconic post-horns. Among the postal carriages there was an old Italian model from late 1800s that had “Impostazioni” written on the side – in modern Italian, “impostazioni” means “settings”, especially in the IT domain; at that time, it meant “items transmitted per post”. Funny and interesting find!

Outside the museum there are traffic lights, whose poles are completely covered by stickers. A closer look allows to recognise the museum stickers, which work as a ticket, and that one wears during the museum visit. Apparently, visitors who just exited the museum have taken the habit of peeling off the sticker and transferring it to the nearest pole. The whole looks both shabby and artistic:

IMG_20180224_170455

That’s a museum I surely will recommend to friends who visit Berlin, and to anyone who hasn’t visited it yet 🙂

 

The migration route

This weekend I have been at FOSDEM in Brussels, to meet the usual immense crowd of open source software enthusiasts:

panoramio-jansen

… and to help with the management of the Geospatial devroom together with Johan Van de Vauw. I’ll write more about this in another post, because this one is dedicated to the way to and back from Brussels. The way back, especially, that took me and my friends back to Italy.

As I lived in Italy, my geeky friends and I used to rent a van and drive all the way up to FOSDEM. I taught them the route that my family travelled since I can remember, as I moved from Belgium to Italy at two years old. It felt like teaching them my migration route, and passing on our knowledge of the good rest spots, cheapest petrol stations and so on. I have moved to Germany four years ago and didn’t have the chance to travel that route anymore, therefore it was a special joy to drive back with my friends once again. I took pictures like mad, like a tourist, and I was moved to tears when I heard my friends talking about the places along the way with more confidence than myself.

We left FOSDEM on Sunday evening, headed south. We had dinner in Belgium and continued towards Luxembourg, surrounded by snow. Belgium’s highways are lit, an exception in Europe. We stopped at a hotel in Luxembourg for the night.

The next morning we were greeted by sun and cold.

IMG_20180205_082911

We quickly drove through tiny Luxembourg and entered France, following first the directions to Metz and Thionville, passing alongside the “highway cathedral”, the Église Saint-Joseph et Saint-Louis, then following the signs for Strasbourg:

Approaching Strasbourg there was snow again. We passed under the wildlife bridge (apparently used only by hikers, instead of deer and other large mammals), and through forests, white with frozen snow.

We didn’t drive through Strasbourg, and took the road for Karlsruhe instead; we exited the highway and crossed the border with Germany at Gambsheim, over the Rhine. We had booked a table at the Rhinkaechle, but arrived a bit too early, so we walked around the mighty hydroelectrical dam and its fish pass, one of the two largest passes in Europe:

After the meal and the required barge-spotting at the locks, we entered Germany and drove to Basel, where we would enter Switzerland:

The leitmotiv of Switzerland are the tunnels (the longest being Gotthard and Seelisberg) and the mountains:

We came out of the Gotthard tunnel to meet the blue twilight at Airolo, and drove uneventfully south until the border crossing at Stabio-Gaggiolo and finally Varese. The pictures came out increasingly blurred, and moreover it is a very familiar part of the road for me, so I didn’t take many.

Thanks to a comfortable car and change of drivers, we didn’t arrive too tired at our destination. It was great for the driver to have cruise-control, and for everyone a smooth ride at high speed.

I cherish this route and I’m happy to drive along it every now and then. For my friends it has become part of the FOSDEM experience, and the occasion for endless discoveries along the way (especially restaurants and industrial masterpieces). I thought about my affection for this route, that I felt stronger than the love of the places where I lived. And happier, too.

Trip to Trentino – feeling home

Trento, rosso ammonitico

I found a few pictures from our last trip to Trentino and I thought about my strong feeling of belonging to that region. I lived there four years, and left with sorrow, as I quickly grew attached to its landscapes and peculiar history – human and natural, back to the dinosaurs and the ammonites in Trento’s pavements.

Every time I come back there, I feel an increasingly impatient joy when recognising mountain peaks, buildings, landmarks, and finally breathe again the many scents that were so familiar, and the overall freshness of the air. I definitely feel coming back home, then I feel puzzled because my home is currently somewhere else. Are they comparable? Will my current home ever become similarly familiar and yet remote, at the favour of some other corner of the Earth?

Val Campelle, Lagorai

Trento, ponte san Lorenzo

It’s hard to say. When I lived in South Africa I had the same feeling of home. I wonder how I would feel if I travelled back there.

Buffalos  @ Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve

Double book recommendation: “Kobane calling” by Zerocalcare and “D’autres vies que la mienne” by Emmanuel Carrère

Yesterday I finished reading “D’autres vies que la mienne” and took a moment to let the feelings sink. It was a moving book, that I read page by page as if I were listening to someone, letting their words decide the speed of narration. Carrère talks about the stories of members of his close family and of dear friends, as he wanted to portrait “other lives but his” in a direct and simple style. While reading, I felt taken very close to the people in the book, as if they were old friends. Carrère has a way of describing facts and perceptions that made me feel respectful while learning of very personal, often tragic, life events.

When I talked about the book to a friend, I realised that my feelings while reading looked much like the ones I had when reading “Kobane calling”, a comic book about Zerocalcare’s non-reportages in Rojava. Despite the apparent lightness of the chosen medium, the stories of the people he meets are portrayed as life-like as possible, hard and uncertain.

I felt that both authors opened me a direct connection to other people, in a way that these very people were the centre of attention – not the authors, nor me the reader. It would have been easy to bend these lives to make them more cinema-like, more appealing to my reader’s eyes; or to let the author show off their drawing/writing skills, or even to make use of the facts to squeeze out some general morals; I felt none of that. Both authors wanted to mention that their point of view was unescapably partial, and that they were humans as much as the people they portray in their narrations. I felt, together with them, the most sincere respect and admiration for people who bravely and modestly deal with the difficulties of their lives.