A glittering city.
Just some photos from a climb on an unrestored part of the Wall near Badaling, about 90 minutes from Beijing.
We stayed at Great Wall Fresh, a delightful homestay just near the wall.
Train travel in Japan is really wonderful. You can reach almost any place and the trains are fast and clean. We used bullet trains (shinkansen) and the regular local services to go from Toyama, near the coast, to a little city further south called Takayama. Hopefully these photos convey just some of how lush, green and lovely the scenery was, winding over rivers and past mountain villages with little gardens, all impossibly bright in the hot sun.
Takayama itself is quaint and friendly with plenty of streets and buildings just as they were centuries ago. We stayed in a traditional hotel called a minshuku, with sliding doors and mats on the floor.
On the way back, I got the view from the other side of the train. Lucky me.
I took the train to Condobolin for a few days. It was a calming experience. The train leaves from Central Station in Sydney and goes all the way to Broken Hill. I ate a finger bun and drank some instant coffee. I felt in touch with the Australia of my childhood.
When I got to Condobolin it was all regal buildings, wide streets, sun, silence and a big Australian sky.
Utes In The Paddock! It’s a big, evolving public art project.
It’s fun to be a tourist sometimes. And it would have been absurd to leave North America in a few weeks without having seen Niagara Falls.
Two hours from Toronto by coach, the falls straddle Canada and the USA and since the Canadian side is soaking in Americana (a Hershey’s store, Elvis impersonators, a Coca Cola milkshake shop and Planet Hollywood), I can only assume that the American side is covered in red and white maple leaves. (Unlikely.)
Yes, the town is tacky and I didn’t bother seeing any of the wax museums – my only wander into a casino was a disappointment. But the falls themselves really are vast and loud and stunning, and on a hot day like yesterday, the cool spray felt a bit like a blessing.
Two days before returning to Berlin I watched the aching and beautiful film Auf Der Anderen Seite (The Edge of Heaven). What I love about Fatih Akin’s films – besides their emotional depth and lingering sadness – is their keen eye for the “ordinariness” of life in Germany (and Turkey). Streetscapes, kitchens, university cafeterias – it’s as real as can be. It was the perfect way to practise my German.
I spent a year in Berlin as university student. I was young and free and my days and nights were, well, extensively documented on social media – why not? But some things don’t show up in Facebook photos: the smell of baking bread in the U-bahn stations; hands make sticky from drinking Club Mate; the first glimpse of early sunrise in the summer, when your night is still in full swing; the heavenly taste of Kristallweizen with a slice of lemon.
It was all like I remembered, but I’m (maybe) a real grown-up now. More inclined to enjoy organic ice cream than 50c tequila shots (grassy, sweet Zubrowka is another matter); more excited about eating Turkish food at normal dinnertime than at 4am. This time around, I was able to tick off the two activities that I somehow never found the time for in 2011 – cycling in Tempelhof, the vast empty space in the city that used to be an airport; and visiting the über smart modern art museum, Hamburgerbahnhof.
Some examples of food worth going crazy for:
I don’t think I could ever get sick of Berlin. It has a wonderful creative spirit and wears its history on its sleeve. Its citizens are interesting and interested in preserving its unique place in Europe and the world. It’s a crossroads for young people from everywhere, and in the summer, when gardens are growing out of control everywhere, it’s a real fairytale.
You know what the funniest thing about Canada is? It’s the little differences.
Forget the wonders of the world for a minute. Well, maybe the CN Tower can stay. These are some ordinary things that one can see in Toronto, snapped on my smartphone.
“We say there are two seasons in Saskatoon: winter and ‘construction’,” said my prairie friend Steph. The idea, of course, being that all the building and roadwork that accumulates during the long winter must be completed in the brief burst of summer. When I arrived in Saskatoon, construction season had begun. The skies were clear and the bright sun was smiling down at the flat, dusty landscape. There was reason to celebrate. In winter, temperatures colder than -30 celcius are commonplace. My mother was born in Saskatchewan and has relayed stories of locals tying a rope between their front door and their front gate in order to find their way through the yard in a blizzard. My grandfather has told me that a person ‘snowed in’ in their car would probably die – if the car was off, then of cold; and if the car was on, then of carbon monoxide poisoning.
But enough of that misery. Saskatoon in the sun was a delight and it was showing on everyone’s faces. I could only imagine the whole place covered in ice, but it showed few signs of that on the day that we walked along the South Saskatchewan River. There is a sculpture park close to the banks. The Bessborough is one of the oldest buildings in the area. Very stately. A beer, liquor and food festival called Top of the Hops attracted a whole lot of locals and was pretty raucous fun. As it turns out, the province has plenty of breweries and distilleries – and people who love to have a good time. Little glimpses of old-world prairie life are there, too – like the “two-step” that everybody started dancing at the end of a Friday night. I might be returning in August – the summer festivals and parties will be mostly over, but the open space and friendly spirit will surely be the same.