Monday, November 15, 2010

Rehearsals of History

Regarding the history of Asia, one finds many occasions where later events of global history seem almost to have been rehearsed on a smaller scale. A prime example is that of World War II. Freed from a euro-centric view, it had an early start in China. The events of Shanghai here seemingly a small scale representation of what soon after was to cover almost the whole word, with mostly all later participants already present (in form of Shanghai’s concessions).

From a certain point of view, might not the ominous Great Game be regarded similarly as a rehearsal for a Cold War, here played out mostly between Britain, Russia and China on the grounds and interests in and of Tibet? A chain reaction of open and (much more) secret missions and spies throughout the Himalayan region, where finally Russian actions spurred British reaction, which in turn led to Chinese re-assertive demonstrations of power.

All of this, naturally, played out much different than the real Cold War. Czarist Russia left the scene crumbling away, the Qing followed not much later, and finally Britain left the scene of India and (most of) Asia; leaving Tibet, which had seemed little more than a plaything tossed between the larger powers, to finally deny the race to become a nation-state like all else around it and be gobbled up by the interests of the only powerful ones left (or having re-entered) on the scene: (communist) China.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Home by the lake

For about one week now, I am living with my sweetest in his flat in Luzern, Switzerland. This magical disneyland-esque Town by the beautiful Vierwaldstättersee (lake Lucerne). Before arriving here, I spent a week in the beautiful mountains of Graubünden, together with my father. Below is a selection of impressions from those days.

Imaginary journeys

Last night, I spent much of my time in imaginary journeys once again. The starting point, this time, was Istanbul, that mysterious place where Occident and Orient almost kiss. My count has just been there, doing what he and I together almost but then never did.

My journey began at the waters of the Bosporus, with two whales. One was a friend who came to see me and spend some time together, the other (appearing only later) was an Orca and rather bent on the opposite of friendship. Finally, all gates held and no harm was done. Thus my dream-self set out from Istanbul over the waves of distance and on to those wonderful places my mind so often circles around. In dreams, of course, time is even less important than when awake, and on the physical landscape of the world, too, it doesn’t force a single time.

Like that, a part of my dream-self flew over the sea to Alexandria, and then slowly returning upwards along the coast, visiting Jerusalem and Damascus. Also, I travelled into the lands and they were the lands of dream and magic, where great Kings and beautiful Queens had created lands and cities of wonder. Fairy tales of towers, domes, deserts and those elusive princes of the Persian realm.

Though at the same time, the other half of my dream-self remained near Istanbul, still with my whale friend, and received another very special guest. From the multi-coloured lands of far away and many dreams came the lady Peony, as a dear friend of old, to do what she always does: tell me tales and dreams of wonderful places. In my dream, as is the nature of dreams, she wore part of the appearance of a very wise professor of mine, and with that ladie’s voice, she told me about Dimashq and about the countries that lie east from there, and then east again and even further. Passing Samarkand, Tashkent, desert after desert and oasis after oasis along the many great ridges of mountains that rise into the endless blue sky above. She told me, quite probably, of my most favourite colour blue and of imperial porcelain, for that is indeed what she just yesterday did.

In fact, I do not know how far east I finally travelled this night, for most of my (and her, in my dream) attention was on the much closer near east of the distant past – just there at everyone’s fingertips in the reality of dreams.

And what better way, then, of waking up my sleepy beloved next to me than with the enchanting tunes of The Silk Road Orchestra, once I had left to magic of this night’s dreams.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pictures of a Journey

By now I’ve more or less successfully reintegrated into my life here in Vienna. Arriving from two weeks of Sun and warmth to a gray wet morning in Austria wasn’t an easy challenge to my acquired tranquillity, but it survived. And some days later, to everyone’s surprise, the weather (having been abysmal over the time of my absence, as I’ve been told) started a sudden dash for summer. Finally.

Those two weeks of being with lovely people, as well as being able to enjoy my own silence and solitude were (as we say in German) “balm for my soul”. Though the wind was sadly often much too sleepy, we’ve been quite lucky with the weather. Only one day of rain (and hail) forced us to stay inside the boat and harbour, otherwise the sun shone down on us out of mostly clear blue skies.

click on the images for their bigger versions or have a look at the album itself: here

As we made our way round the island of Corsica, we were rich in time to gaze, even idly, at the slowly changing scenery of this fascinatingly beautiful little land. Over the clear blue and turquoise waters, lined with cliffs and sandy beaches, rise lush green hills and slopes leading up as far as snow-clad peaks amidst the clouds. Patches of glacier ice glittering in the sunlight.

Napoleon supposedly said (in his earlier, more Corsica-romantic days) he could recognise his island by its scent. Crossing over from northern Sardinia, where our trip began, it was indeed the scent that greeted us first. While the island’s shoreline slowly unravelled itself from the haze of distance, we drew in this fascinating spicy perfume, a blend of plants and herbs, trees burnt wood. As always in the countries of the Mediterranean, I feel the earth itself, filled with sun and lush memories, wears this special perfume.

click on the images for their bigger versions or have a look at the album itself: here

On the water during the day, we spent our evenings in a stream of small picturesque villages, hardly being more than one line of houses embracing a small harbour, and bigger, proper pirate bastions with winding alleys and little piazzas. All that with the soundtrack of everybody speaking French and Corsu (the Italian-rooted own language of Corsica).

Later, after reaching the island’s southern tip again, I off to cross Corsica once more on my own and not returning to northern Sardinia with the others to take the ferry to Italy from there, as I had done when I arrived two weeks before. I left by bus and soon, in another town, switched to Corsica’s little train, the u trinighellu (“the rattling one”). Leaving a seaside town with palm trees and sandy beaches, an hour later one finds himself climbing over endless viaducts high up into the mountains, feeling soon rather like in the Alps than on a Mediterranean island. Along with the change of altitude, the vegetation and its smell changes, too, firs and mountain-forest low vegetation passing by outside the train’s window.

click on the images for their bigger versions or have a look at the album itself: here

Sadly, the little rattler was almost entirely filled with noise Germans, which lessened the atmosphere a little, for me. To my great delight, everybody took me for a French person (including the Frenchman next to me) and I happily played along to keep up my disguise. After passing the island’s capital Corte high up in the mountains, the train empties of tourists and begins its slow descent through the mountains and returning to the sea, now almost at the island’s other end.

Back on mainland Italy, I spent one night in Florence, having two days to explore the city (which I knew so well lately from its early renaissance virtual incarnation). Rather than visit all the museums and risk the famous Stendhal-syndrome, I soaked up the city’s feel by getting to know it with my feet. Naturally, I also did see David (giving me an incredible rush of goose bumps at first sight) and a few other things. Finally, I was glad to board my night train back to Vienna on Sunday evening, after a journey full of big and small marvels alongside an equally revealing journey through my tumultuous inner self. Luckily, I emerged with a happiness and tranquillity I hardly dared to hope fore.

click on the images for their bigger versions or have a look at the album itself: here

And as the one adventure ended, another one was just beginning.

lîlam nyinnyan sîmâ nganamainnâ jâshainâtur rerat. sîmâno avenahanan shaitel irat yul aith khidronarông. ta ha nâfrîshâme dingne cägthanno lhät. bât nyinnyamainam shairôlâsham.

Friday, May 14, 2010

I am leaving now

Indeed sadly, this time there is no occasion for posting a version of Leaving on a jetplane, so the post will have to make do without…

My dear People,
My dear Bagginses and Boffins. And my dear Tooks and Brandybucks, and Grubbs, and Chubbs, and Burrowses, and Hornblowers, and Bolgers, Bracegirdles, Goodbodies, Brockhouses and Proudfoots. – ‘ProudFEET!’ – Proudfoots. Also my good Sackville-Bagginses that I welcome back at last to Bag End. Today is my one hundred and eleventh birthday: I am eleventy-one today!

I hope you are all enjoying yourselves as much as I am.

I shall not keep you long. I have called you all together for a Purpose. Indeed, for Three Purposes! First of all, to tell you that I am immensely fond of you all, and that eleventy-one years is too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits. I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.

Secondly, to celebrate my birthday. I should say: OUR birthday. For it is, of course, also the birthday of my heir and nephew, Frodo. He comes of age and into his inheritance today. Together we score one hundred and forty-four. Your numbers were chosen to fit this remarkable total: One Gross, if I may use the expression.

It is also, if I may be allowed to refer to ancient history, the anniversary of my arrival by barrel at Esgaroth on the Long Lake; though the fact that it was my birthday had slipped my memory on that occasion. I was only fifty-one then, and birthdays did not seem so important. The banquet was very splendid, however, though I had a bad cold at the time, I remember, and could only say ‘thag you very buch’. I now repeat it more correctly: Thank you very much for coming to my little party.

Thirdly and finally, I wish to make an ANNOUNCEMENT. I regret to announce that – though, as I said, eleventy-one years is far too short a time to spend among you – this is the END. I am going. I am leaving NOW. GOOD-BYE!

Bilbo at his Birthday Party, in: J.R.R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings

My backpack is almost packed, my flat is almost ready to be locked and left slumbering, my life is very much in need of taking a break (now that is already a little too late for this break to be at the just-right-moment) and I myself am almost ready to go out of the door. From there, the road goes ever one and on, as we know, and I’m curious to see how this little adventure ahead of me will turn out. Or rather, these little adventures that lie ahead of me.

Take care, see you later. I’ll be back in the first days of June.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

An escape

I’m not only planning an escape, like Bill Murray does in Lost in Translation, but it is now just around the corner. Today, I biked through the rainy gray gloom to the train station and bought my tickets all the way from Vienna to Livorno, Italy.

After a day of travelling, changing my vehicle 3 times until I’m in Livorno, I’ll board the ferry to Olbia, Sardinia, in the late evening. There, I will meet up with my sister, father, and another friend of theirs to set out sailing around the island of Corsica pour deux semaines.

After that, I’ll go back to Livorno and from there to Firenze, where I plan to spend one night and enjoy the city which I visited long ago and now basically only remember in its digital reconstruction in Assassin’s Creed II. Should I want to go back after that, I’ll take a night train to Vienna. Otherwise, I’ll probably go back to Corsica, or maybe Elba or somewhere else, rent a little room and “write off all the pain from my heart” as a friend phrased it. Well, that is a tempting dream for sure.

Otherwise I’m trying to manage my daily routine and a little more than mere physical presence at the university, but it is still really difficult most of the time. I’m looking forward to the sea and the landscape, the different smells and languages, my sister and father, and so on. Also, I greatly look forward to being without the daily computer and internet.

As every time, I would have liked to arrange with some friends or acquaintances to meet while I travel, but this time I seem not be that lucky. So: If you’re reading this and are in any of the places I’ll be going to in the second half of May, then by all means drop me a line; but drop it quickly.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tied up tightly in the net

Imagine older times, you don’t even have to go back that far. Knowing someone, being together and sharing each other, then going apart, breaking up. In times before ever present internet, before the permanent communication and sharing of (insignificant) news on social platforms. How easy it was to go apart and be apart, get a healthy distance. When you weren’t with a person and could, in fact, be without that person.

Today, the easily woven networks and connections keep reminding you of every person, if you want it or not. The curious mentality of befriending people virtually, being an easy click and so very often made without almost any connection in the real world. Unfriending however seems like an impossible step, a real attack. One can, in some areas, select to hide people, but then still one is far from achieving anything like social silence or even distance from anyone one wants.

So this means, instead of being able to busy oneself with ones’ life as usual and other things, one has to develop the ability to quickly and radically cope with that change of relationship, not only in and about oneself but also about the other. Because rather sooner than later, you’ll be witness to that other’s new activities and relationships. Instead of growing a distance slowly, in some secret garden with tea, lush green solitude and English garden furniture, one remains tied in the net and force fed all those meanings and all those meaninglessnesses.

I, for one, have no effective means of dealing with this. Maybe you do? Suggestions are always welcome…

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Our story, you say, is like a beautiful book or movie.

Looking back on all the time we had, all the things we did, all the paths we walked, it shines bright and full of love. And there we sit, you and me together, full of love and despair. We have never walked our path with only mind or heart.

Bird and Fish can fall in love.

And love is always strongest. So strong it spanned our distances, held us together and drove us on. Our love kept us warm in lonely cold and soothed us when we burnt. It would have kept us together for a long time, even after it lost the power to save us from hurt.

But where will they build their nest?

We sailed on dreams and hopes, syncopating alongside each other forming our heavenly symphony of two. We’ve seen the limits of our measure, the range of our chromatic progression through its twin-centred universe. And with all the harmonies that our two melodies spun, we failed to make home in one rhythm and one baseline.

The bird can make a nest on the water.

And now we did the one thing that needs more love than even living love itself. The most terrible pain is that of giving the greatest gift and preserving our symphony not in the future but in the past. Sealed with love and with tears, paid with indescribable pain and leaving us both, alone and together, stranded on a white shore – bruised and healed.

The fish can fly.

Alongside this most terrible pain, the most beautiful thing has survived. Everything is lost, all things are saved. Our melodies run free now, arching through a long reverb and carrying on with the most silent tones and the smallest breath. Uneasy, alone and small, nothing is lost. Our music survives, we survive, change key and the whole world transforms. One line ends and two new ones are born from it.

Here is another hope from me. It is going to be fine.

[quotations in italics: Richard Powers – The Time of our Singing]

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Coming Back

When I got off the bus from Budapest to Vienna today, the air was scented with early spring hope, just like it had been in Budapest this morning. Returning to this “real world” of mine after a month of being away to different places feels rather like coming back from spending half a year in a string of different alternative universes.

On this last bus trip of holiday-February, I finally finished Richard Powers’ The Time of our Singing, certainly one of the most moving and inspiring books I’ve read so far. Finishing the last chapters of this book’s fantastical journey as well as events from the last weeks put me into an emotional state that I can not put into words. A blend of feeling enriched, drained, grown, broken, sad and tranquil.

Having arrived back from England last night and then travelled back to Vienna today, university life and all it incorporates will start again tomorrow. With a chance of it being one last time. Though making statements like that usually results in something going wrong.

I have pictures and stories to tell of times in Budapest, in Tyrolia (Austria, Mountains) and in England. These will come soon. Now I need to unpack my pack back, wash my laundry, revive my flat. And among the top priorities: rejoice with the piano.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

a bird

(written for the blog on 19.09.2008 and so far not published)

this is fiction

outside, the leaves of an apple tree jiggle in the wind, like hot air rising up from the grass and distorting the vision. i sit in the kitchen and rest my head on the back of my chair, tilting it to one side and watching the light outside. sunshine.

as i sit, and think and move and my cup on the table steams lightly, aimless thoughts circle my head. the music is playing in the living room, but i stay in the kitchen and watch the world outside. for this moment, nothing seems pressing. no agenda to attend, nothing to prepare and nothing to remember and do. the simple act of sitting and watching, in this very moment, how it should last.

in my dream, i recall, there were walls covered with plants. overgrown with grass and fern, some trees even. everything sprouting just there, vertically, suspended. and i remember running my fingers along the leaves, wet with moisture.

yesterday, after she left, i noticed a big bird outside, right where we had been sitting. black and stout it seemed to linger and, turning its head from one side to the other, search for the last bits of our conversation still hanging in the air, hovering a little longer. as i watched that bird, it seemed the strangest creature to me. how infinitely different not merely in appearance, but as a whole, as a living entity. me, enclosed in my world, and the bird somewhere else, somewhere neither i could go nor it could leave.
soon after that, it flew away over the trees, over the houses, to some other place in some other world, where it might meet more of its kind, or be alone and move its head and taste the remnants of a human conversation.

Friday, January 1, 2010


新年快乐!Happy new year!

Byebye 2009, hello 2010; once again a fresh full year ahead. Once again, the unique feeling of the first day of the year. Then, getting used to a new number, looking forward to the change of seasons, to things to come, time to pass, another birthday, too. Time will pass quickly, I suppose, as it did last year. Many things might happen, let’s hope many are good. I had a very nice New Year’s Eve, this time.

In school, when I had my Jostein Gaarder period, I ventured to memorise all the sayings of Jose and Ana’s Manifesto (from: Jostein Gaarder – Maya) together with my dear friend Sarah of those days. Despite never making it beyond saying number 28, they have remained at the back of my mind and every now and then I go back and resolve to memorise them again. Now, not long ago, I began translating them into Sablung. And for the beginning of the New Year, here is today’s respective metaphor:

Es gibt eine Welt, der Wahrscheinlichkeit nach grenzt das ans Unmögliche. Es wäre viel begreiflicher, wenn es ganz einfach gar nichts gäbe. Dann könnte sich auch niemand fragen, warum es nichts gibt.

līs it sr', lāsīluṅ ha jhāsilmaim lüyet.
chai thinaṣ sru ṣī zeboprachaī ṣīn
lau naṣ it lhaṣmane tam hā' to'.