Book impression: “Nonluoghi” by Marc Augé

I found this book at the Italian bookstore while I was scanning the shelves for something that would somehow bring light on a topic I am familiar with, but not knowledgeable. As a former frequent traveller, the cover with the airport symbols caught my eye. I started reading it at a quick pace, then stopped and started over, equipped with a higlighter and a pencil, in a more study-like mode. It is a short text but it contains a lot of starting points for further analysis, reflection, observation, thought.

As I finished the book I found it intriguingly close to Calvino’s “Le città invisibili”, as both see the city (and per extension the world) as a mix of socially meaningful locations, impersonal places, traces of the past, people both as individuals and more or less part of the society. Maybe in the future I would read both books again, to pick up the cities in Calvino’s book and link them to the relevant part of Augé’s text.

While looking for links about the author I found this interview, held twenty years after the publication of this book. I listened to it today, enjoying the dual French-Italian quiet voices not less than a deeper, more philosophical, more symbolic view of the non-place – a place that is more a blank canvas and is seen as a crucial component of the globalisation process.

For further reading I would suggest to start with Marc Augé’s Wikipedia page and follow links. The French version has a longer bibliography, while the English version has more about his career and the development of his theoretical apparatus.

I’m sorry that such an intense book is not really shining in my short post, but I recognise that it left me with a sense of wonder, of “OK, I need to reset many of my opinions on so many things”, so it actually cleaned up space in my head – which is refreshing and sometimes necessary.

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.

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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.

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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!

Book recommendation: “Vögel in der Stadt” (Birds in the city) by Klaus Richarz

Here is one more German book that I would like to recommend to people who are interested in birds and are learning German! It’s actually more for an upper intermediate level of German, but it’s worth reading it at a slower pace, taking the time to translate words and understand syntax.

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Klaus Richarz presents the most common bird species that live in or near human settlements, with many tips for successful observations, appropriate feeding, and detailed instructions on how to build nest boxes. The appendix includes further reading on specialised books and websites, as well as links to birdwatching associations. The book is pleasant to read, with shortish chapters and beautiful watercolour illustrations:

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I found this book in my local library, but I’m inclined to buy it, so that I have it at hand anytime and I can re-read it and make notes about new words. And maybe take inspiration for watercolour paintings too!

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!

Trip to Rome

Last week I traveled to Rome with a small group of friends. It was my first time in Rome and I was very curious. I was a bit afraid of finding too many tourists and too many cars, but it was actually not so crowded (except for a few monuments). We had a pleasant week walking around, admiring Rome’s historical heritage, and not last, eating delicious food 🙂

As we arrived to our apartment, we were greeted by the calls and low flybys of many parakeets, which settled since years in the nearby park, as well as in several green areas of Rome. My friends didn’t care much about the birds, but I did, as my way of getting familiar with a new place by inspecting its plants and animals.

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Reflection of San Pietro’s dome

I didn’t make pictures at the famous locations, because I preferred to give my attention to the place than to my camera. There are plenty of good pictures of Rome’s landmarks already 🙂

I noticed the forest of old-style TV antennas on roofs and took several pictures of them. I later realised they reminded me of the cover of Calvino’s “Le città invisibili” – a book that I love and keep re-reading.

I was unhappy with the visit to the Cappella Sistina, because there was a thick crowd and it was noisy. I am glad to have had access to it, and I guess that it would be hard to limit the number of people inside without creating endless queues outside. I wonder if there is any time when the Cappella Sistina is not as crowded as that.

We left Rome with a lot of places still to see (not surprising!) and we plan to come back maybe in spring, when the weather is already warm, but the vegetation is greener and flowers abound. I already look forward for this second trip!

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