Ethiopia – Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa is the capital of Ethiopia. It is the 4th highest capital city in the world.  2400 m  above sea level. Bogotá, Colombia (2600 m); Quito, Ecuador(2850m) and La Paz, Bolivia (3650 m) are higher still. It is a bustling city with more than 3 million  inhabitants.  The air is thin and you need to be careful to use sun protection, as you don’t feel burned before it is too late. It seemed to me that the air pollution is pretty bad in Addis. This combined with the high altitude make wandering around in the city harder than normal.

I don’t think that Addis is going to win an award for the most beautiful city any time. It is dirty and polluted. Garbage anywhere. People anywhere. But it has pockets of interest. I like the  Piazza area a lot. Ethiopia was never colonized but Italia occupied the country in 1939. And the Piazza still have some old world appeal. I prefer this any day compared with fast drying concrete. Italians left some beautiful buildings. Of couse by now it is run down and ill maintained but still there is a lot of charm.

I will ask anybody going there to very careful with your valuables. Not that Ethiopia is an unsafe place, but poverty can drive some to extremes.

The Tiglachin monument  (English: Our Struggle) is a memorial to Ethiopian and Cuban soldiers involved in the Ogaden War. It was built under Mengistu Haile Mariam on Churchill Avenue in Addis Ababa. (It is sometimes erroneously called the “Derg Monument”, but the monument does not honor the Derg regime.) The monument is composed of various elements: a central statue, a 50 m tall pillar, two wall reliefs on the sides and two squares where the portraits of Cuban soldiers are visible. (WIKI)

I like the fact that this was a gift from North Korea. Obvious the ties with NK is not existing no more with the exit of the DENG. But I think it is a beautiful monument and happy it exist still. Big red star on the top. What not to like?

The Addis Train station is interesting. Even though it seems there hasn’t been  a train for ages (2002) , there is a guy protecting the building against prying eye of the tourists. He has enclosed a big area in front of the building and sitting in the middle on a chair with a stick. Not to be messed with.  Even though it cannot be considered a military secret anymore, why give up your steady job?

There is a cafe on the premises. Everything is very civilized like 100 year ago. The lack of train passengers is outweigh by the passenger from the nearby Busstation.

During my stay in Ethiopia I found myself very fond of mixed Juices. It is a life saver. .

Addis is hard to like. It has some redeeming qualities. It is very in your face experience like you can find in the big cities in India but it is definitely interesting in its own right.

 

Ethiopia Addis Ababa Taxi.

They have some old bangers roaming around in Addis. Some would think that they should be dead, but the force is still strong with them.

The owners/users make them work with whatever means possible. Often they are so beaten up that most of the interior is missing. And only the most essential is working.

I had an experience going to Addis Airport. I thought I had a deal with a taxi driver going to the airport at 3 o¨clock in the morning. But probably due to the Ethiopia/international time confusion he didn’t show. Found a taxi with a driver sleeping in the backseat. Knocked on the window, and he was fine taking me to the airport. There were no door cards and hardly any upholstery.  It took forever to wake the old dinosaur in a cloud of black smoke.  I think it must take special skilled driver to manage one of these old taxis. Most of the gears didn’t work and the engine misfired on at least 2 cylinders. The noise was incredible. No electricity was working so no lights. Thank god there are streetlights most of the way to the airport. The driver did one thing I liked. He locked all the doors. Maybe he had some bad experience driving in the dark, or maybe he was concerned about my security. Don’t know. Anyway it got the job done. And even though you might think that it is dead by now, I am sure it will take many year before it goes out of circulation.

I like the old battle scared Taxis. By now Ethiopia is having their own car production. So it is only a question of time before there relics will disappear. Good for most people. I for one am going to miss them.

 

Bulgaria Sofia Pigeon Lady.

I saw her sitting on the pavement with all her pigeons when wandering around the streets of Sofia. I couldn’t help being a little fascinated. I have seen Pigeon people before fx. outside the blue mosque in Istanbul, but they didn’t seem to like the pigeons much. This lady was having a special connection with the birds. She was a lovely old lady.

When seeing somebody like her, I always think about her life and why she is making a living feeding the birds. In her case I am sure it is a labor of love.

Ethiopia – The country of myth and dreams of Grandeur.

Ethiopia is a fascinating country. Very beautiful and half of the country is situated on a plateau making it close to heaven. The culture is very different from the rest of Africa. It ticks all the boxes for making it an interesting destination. It is not an easy country to travel in.  Depend of course of your comfort level. And for a cheap skate like me it is very hard to keep your cash in your pocket. But there is a lot to see, and Ethiopia has a lot of mouths to feed and you should be ready to pay for the privilege for visiting this incredible country.  Actually this is not a problem. The regrets are as always the things you do not do.

 

First the important stuff.

VISA:  You probably need.  Online;  https://www.ethiopiaevisa.com/

In reality you do not need to apply. You can easily get one when you arrive. But check it out before  arriving at the airport.

Ethiopia Airlines: https://www.ethiopianairlines.com/

This is important if you are planning to do a lot of flying. Ethiopia is a vast country. Getting from A to B takes a lot of valuable travel time. So flying is a nice option. If you arrive in Ethiopia with EA you will get a huge discount on internal flights. Sometimes like whopping 70 %

Ethiopia time. Don’t get me started. During my time there it made things a little difficult as I was on normal time and the Ethiopians were on local time. Ethiopians use a 12-hour clock, with one cycle of 1 to 12 from dawn to dusk, and the other cycle from dusk to dawn. It makes perfectly sense to adjust time to follow daylight and in that way follow a normal work cycle.

Ethiopian calendar. Well – Starts end of August and is 7-8 years back in comparison with our calendar. The Ethiopian year has 13 months.

Guidebooks are nice: LP or BRADT. Either is good. On the funny part getting a boat ride in Bahir Dar the tout insisted that he knew Bradt. The Bradt he knew was a man. This is funny – because Bradt is a woman (Hilary) and the guy who wrote the Ethiopia book name is Phillip.

Bring USD. ATM’s are available and sometimes working. There is a black market for USD, but I wouldn’t use it.

Haile Selassie (in office 1916–1974); Still today he is treated with respect all over Ethiopia. Asked older people will say that everything was better under his rule, even though he didn’t do much for the average Ethiopian. He ended his life under the DERG and his remains was found under the toilet at the imperial residence in Addis. So his life ended much different that he lived it.

What I find really interesting is why is Haile Selassie born as Ras Tafari, is considered a God 8000 km from where he ruled? All the way to Jamaica. 

Rastafarians regard Haile Selassie I as God because Marcus Garvey‘s prophecy – “Look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned, he shall be the Redeemer” – was swiftly followed by the ascension of Haile Selassie as Emperor of Ethiopia. (BBC).

Rastafarians regard ‘Ethiopia’ as their homeland and believe they will eventually return.

So it all comes down to timing, that Haile Selassie was regarded as “God for the black race”. He didn’t at all think of himself as a God.

ONE LOVE – Jaws

Home of Romania’s Ceausescu opened to the public

Home of Romania’s former president Ceausescu opened to the public marts 2016.

http://www.palatulprimaverii.ro

After visiting the Casa Poporului I wanted to see how Ceausescu lived privately. The home of the former dictator of Romania is now open to the public. To be completely earnest I do not think it is anything special. But I kind of needed to see it. Please note that it is only open Wednesday to Sunday, between 10.00 – 17.00.

It is a nice house but for a dictator of a country it is kind of humble. The mosaics in the pool area was impressive. Liked the greenhouse on the first floor and the gold bathroom. According to guide the former president had a weak spot for peacocks. Some of the decedents are still living in the garden. And of cause comparing how the inhabitants lived then , the house provides for some pretty amazing features. Downstairs was a private cinema. According to the guide, Ceausescu like Westerns. Their clothes is still hanging in the cupboards, which made the thing come to live. The house is very original. It wasn’t robbed after the  dethronement.

While Ceausescu kept his countrymen on strict food and fuel rations in an effort to repay the nation’s reported $13 billion foreign debt, he and his family enjoyed fabulous privilege. This understates that “liberté, egalité, fraternité” is only words. So while the Romanians went hungry, there was no shortage in the  Ceausescu home. Romania did pay the loan faster than expected. The suffering of the people must have been great. Even when the loan was paid back, the sanctions wasn’t lifted. Ceausescu was without touch with the people. He lived in his own world with himself as the centre of attention, having big spectacles on the Stadium, celebrating his own grandness.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_debt_of_the_Socialist_Republic_of_Romania

Megalomania is the first thing that I think of when addressing the former ruler of Romania. Maybe it is just that to much power in one person is not a good thing. And it is not just in history megalomania is seen. Just look towards the worlds greatest nation? As Marx said:
“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”.

Romania Bucarest Nicolae Ceaușescu vision.

Bucharest is close to being one of my favourite cities. I really like the atmosphere. I like just getting lost in this wonderful city. In many ways there is an adventure around every corner. One of the thing I definably wanted to see was Nicolae Ceaușescu grand vision. The massive Casa Poporului. People’s house.

http://cic.cdep.ro/en/opening-hours-and-tariffs

Ceaușescu was a simple man with very little education. He rose to be the president and surrounded himself with a personal cult. He won respect in west when he didn’t want to send troops to fight in Czechoslovakia 1968. But he was a brutal Dictator and his vision of grandeur made Romania one of the purest countries in the former East block.

I think he was very careful about his legacy. He wanted to leave something to remember him by. The Casa Poporului and Bulevardul Unirii are the best examples. The boulevard leading up the  Casa is longer than Champs-Élysées in Paris. (3000 m) and there is nearly no shops and it ends blind at the Casa Poporului. To build this nearly 40 000 people was relocated and 7 sq. km of Bucharest was demolished. In retrospect this is just a waste. I think most Romanians would like to live without. It commemorates a difficult time in history and the building are to very little use.  Here’s a view down the boulevard.

Casa Poporului is a massive building. According to Wiki it is only second to the Pentagon building in size. 365,000 m2 and a estimated weight of 4,098,500 Tons. Only 400 of the 1100 rooms are ready to use. The building is sinking 6 mm a year. It comes complete with  eight underground levels, the last one being an antiatomic bunker, linked to the main state institutions by 20 km of catacombs.

Ceaușescu was a paranoid man. According to the guide, he did not want air-condition afraid of being gassed. This meant elaborate tube system leading oxygen from outside ventilating  the Casa.

The inside of the Casa is beautiful made. Between 20,000 and 100,000 people worked on the site, sometimes operating in three shifts. Thousands of people died at the People’s House, some mention a figure of 3,000 people (Wiki).

It is kind of depressing to see this monument of one mans ambition to build his own legacy on the bodies of his own population. Self-promotion instead of the good of the people. Today it is a wall of shame of a chapter of the Romanian history most people a trying to forget.

London Street art

London Graffiti.

It seems like the success of Banksy have done a lot to promote and spread Graffiti all over London. The quality of the work is amazing. I took a couple of picture of the ones I liked the best.

The quality of the work is impressive. And it is far away from teenagers with a stolen spray Cans going mad tagging all over. It is an art form.

England London weekend break

LONDON – Weekend Break

Been To London for 4 days. It was not my choice. I was there with my 17 year old daughter and she had decided that London it is. Been to London a few times, but it is long time ago. London haven’t changed much in the 10 years I haven’t been there. And in many way it has. It is a noisy polluted place. And we both love it.

The National History museum

It is amazing that you can get into “The National History museum” for free. It is a brute of a building and there are so many things to see. The dinosaurs I personally would give the miss. To many people there. And it is slow going. The whale in the admission hall was impressive. The exhibition about the volcanos I think was trying to hard. Wanted to many thing. The animals and insect were amazing.  It is a absolutely worth seeing.

http://www.nhm.ac.uk/

The Imperial War Museum

http://www.iwm.org.uk/

My choice was the IWM. “The Imperial War Museum”. Being a cheapskate, this is free too.  It is a museum about mostly I. and II. World War. I like the Holocaust exhibition best. It was heart-breaking to see people telling about the hardest time of their lives. The people never got into details, maybe it is in the details all the sorrow is hidden? This made me think of my visit to Auschwitz.

Birkenau and Auschwitz

I have been to Birkenau and Auschwitz. And in many ways it is a peaceful place with birdsong and trees It was hard to think that 1,1 mio. people lives ended there. In 1979 the collection of 110 000 shoes 3 800 suitcases was put on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. This raises the discussion of dark tourism. My personal thought is that there is no way you can forget about this. Visiting this site will make you remember. And we do need to  learn from history.  And in Auschwitz there is definitely nothing to laugh about.

http://auschwitz.org/en/

Back to the IMW – I think it was a fine museum. Well organised. I liked the spitfire in the sealing. Nice to see one in real life. And did I say It’s free….

LONDON A WALKIN CITY

For me London is a walking City. It is a way to get a city inside your skin. You have the smells, the fractions of speak, the motor noise and the people. For a pedestrian London is not ideal. Seem to me somebody have prioritised cars over people. Take for instance the light signals. You are waiting for ages for green. And you need to hurry to survive. More than ones we had to run for our lives. Maybe it is a way to deal with overpopulation….o) You can compare the London traffic as a pedestrian like playing Russian roulette. I seems like people are forgetting to be nice most of the time, when they enter a vehicle.

Harrods

We went to Harrods

https://www.harrods.com/en-gb

I remembered that my old English friend had a hard time understanding that a store is worth seeing. But it is. The food marked have been moved to ground floor. Specially the fish made an impression. But the diversity of food and the interaction between people is interesting. I remember seeing an Arab delegation of woman and children walking on the pavement in front of Harrods with a tail of Harrods employees carrying their purchases.   They were heading to a handfull of  Bentleys. Another time there were a woman playing the harp in one of the room on the ground floor. We liked the Egypt staircase. And was wondering about the lack of prices on the  expensive stuff. Well I guess “If you have to ask, you cannot afford”.

HIGHGATE

https://highgatecemetery.org/

It is a wonderful place if you can say this about a cemetery.

One of England’s greatest treasures

“Highgate Cemetery has some of the finest funerary architecture in the country. It is a place of peace and contemplation where a romantic profusion of trees, memorials and wildlife flourish”(From Website)

It is a nice break from the hustling and bustling of “The Big Smoke”. It is a Victorian cemetery where the headstones and nature is struggling. And it seems like nature is slowly winning.  It is a huge place, even though the West wing was closed for a film set when we were there.  The pièce de résistance is definitely that Karl Marx  is buried here. On the more informative side, sources tells that there were only 11 people attending his funeral. Comparing with his later impact, this is not overwhelming .But it is a wonderful and strange place, and a must see.

Camden

Camden marked is great. Haven’t changed much. It is easy to loose yourself for hours. So much stuff to buy.

https://www.camdenmarket.com/

I would like to recommend “Fish and Chips” from Oliver’s. Chunky Fries, mossy pears and wonderful fish. Have no similarity with the greasy stuff I got in the 80 ‘ties in a newspaper. For me Camden is a place for people watching. It have been a magnet for the alternative for years. It is a place that is struggling with commercialism.  To have the look do not necessarily give food on the table. Sunday is the big day. They will probably close the nearby  tube station when the crowds are getting to much. On the fun side, there was a very tall man with a sign. “Help a hippie to get high”. I though that was hilarious. I also like the t-shirt with the Darth Vader mood swings and the Banksy pillows. It is a funky place. They have a Amy Winehouse statue there. I am not sure she’s been there much, but I think she in many ways is a good ambassador for Camden.

WONG KEI

One thing I want to show my daughter is  Wong kei

http://wongkeilondon.com/

It is a restaurant in Chinatown. And even though the food is ok it is not the reason to go there. Unfortunately during the years it have changed owner. Before I was a wonderful place with the most rude staff imaginable.  Once a man was standing up complaining that he haven’t got the dish he ordered. The staff of little Chinese made a human chain surrounded him. Pressed him to the door while he was arguing. And out he went.  Before the also had metal mugs and plates. These could make a lot of noise when thrown down on the table. Nowadays it is a more peaceful place. I miss the old staff…..

PRIMARK

https://www.primark.com/en/homepage

Well – I am not a shopaholic. But Primark on Oxford street is a great place with great prices and quality. The good thing about it, is there is a café on the top floor. Here I can relax while the daughter is running wild.

PRET

https://www.pret.com/en-us

Pret is a business concept I really like.  The fresh food concept is much needed elsewhere. We spend a lot of time in Pret. It is a great place tom hang. I like the story about the Pret gardener handling all the avocado’s himself to decide when they are ripe…

COSTAS

https://www.costa.co.uk/

For Coffee heads to Costas. Like the Brazilian coffee there. If you order a big latte, you get a cup with two handles. Guess it good when you have hang over?

THE TUBE

A day ticket is only about 12 GBP. Think maybe it could be cheaper still with an Oyster card. London get highest marks for the tube system. Fast and efficient. The musicians there are really good. And the acoustics are unbeatable.

Here is a couple of pic I like to share.

Everybody need a little royalty in their life. The hand can move and wave.

Who said MacD don’t have humour. Burger trash talk?

The sign says “You just missed us”

London came as a surprise to Me. It is swinging, it is funky. And it is not as expensive with the weak pound. Even the weather was better than I remembered. The food is wonderful. Bring your best shoes. The combination of walking and tubing is and excellent combination. I regret not taking to many pictures. But in some way it was for me a deja-vu  thing. I am envious on people going there the first time. They are in for a special treat.

 

Transnistria Tiraspol – Independence day celebrations.

Tiraspol is the second  biggest city in Moldova and the Capital of Transnistria, because Moldova do not recognize the existence of Transnistria and think of it a Moldova territory.

Transnitria is celebrating it’s independence day the 2. September. There is a military procession at 0900. And in Tiraspol they mean business celebrating Independence day. Everybody is out celebrating. Young as well as old. And they are celebrating extra hard, maybe because the state is surrounded by nations that do not recognize the existence of Transnistria. When under outside pressure people will tend to move closer together, like in war.

As a bonus, if you cannot make it the 2nd September, there is also a military parade at 9 may to commemorate victory day in the great patriotic war. This of cause make the ties to Russia pretty obvious.

 

 

It is a Fantastic event. There is a Barbie going on all over. Food from the whole region is displayed. And a lot of people get their photos taken with people in folk costumes. Later a big band was playing and the president made a speech. The securities tightens. Lots of singing and lots of drinking.  There is also a another article about Transnistria. Link below

Transnistria – A perfect little Soviet sattelite state

It is a wonderful day out. People are very interested in why tourists are coming to Tiraspol. It seems like this country is in some way under the radar of the international community. I didn’t know about the country before I went there.   It click all the boxes of originality and interest, The lack of tourist infrastructure make this a great visit.

Was invited many times to join in the celebration.  And as a tourist, you needed to adjust your conduct. Normally when somebody approaches you, the parades goes up. Normally because somebody wants something from you. In Transnistria this was never the case.

If you can make it to the independence day celebration, you are in for a special treat. If not, go anyway. It is a special community trapped in a time wrap.

 

Bill Clinton Statue Pristina Kosovo

Kosovo’s Bill Clinton Statue.

 

On Bill Clinton Boulevard in Pristina Kosovo, there is a statue of Former President Bill Clinton. It is about 3 meters high, made of bronze and is carrying a book with the date 23-03-1999 on it. That made me wonder what Mr. Clinton is doing there. Obviously, this statue must mean something for Kosovo.

NATO started the bomb raids that eventually ended the Kosovo war at 23-03-1999, heavily influenced by Mr. Clinton. The Statue is a token of Kosovo’s Albanian population’s appreciation.

In 2009, Mr. Clinton made it to the Unveiling of himself. He said, “I never expected that anywhere, someone would made such a big statue of me” (quote; The Telegraph)

It is kind of fun to see a statue of a living person. In 2009 he was no longer president.  I am sure he has done god things in his time. But for me and probably most people I remember him mostly for the Monica scandal.

The Statue commemorates a difficult time in history and the formation of Kosovo. One of the newest countries in the world. This means something. Not like in Skopje, where it seems like the city have gone completely monument bonkers with kitschy statues all over the place.

The statue has been controversial. Obviously not all the citizens of Kosovo like it, especially if you are of Serbian decent.

It has been criticised for not looking like Clinton at all. He has for instance exceptional big hands. When I was there somebody has stolen the letters on  the base. And the surroundings are not very inspiriting . I was looking for the Hillary clothes store, that should be close by but I didn’t find it.

Bill deserves to be remembered for his part in ending this civil war. And nice to see his legacy is still living on in Kosovo.