Bruce Stainsby's Blog: Muttering from the mo

Isolation.

June 16th, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and in an effort to ‘level the curve’ we have gone into social isolation.

From a personal point of view there are good and bad aspects in being forced to become a hermit.

The case for:

If you are a recluse like me, isolation is rather welcome – now I have an excuse not to socialise. 

Our years of travel, especially in countries with a foreign language, have taught Thea and me to become dependent on each other’s company. We may have been in bustling cities like Barcelona, or Bucharest but in essence we were on our own.

Teaching myself new skills has been a lot of fun. 

I love T-shirts and except for the rare occasion, wear one every day. 

I also like to create my own bespoke designs, with graphics that are verbal, visual and hopefully amusing. 

In the very early days of the lockdown I started to develop a range of tees featuring the facets of our new norm. No hand shaking, no touching and lots of hand washing. 

Developing the graphics for these was challenging and rewarding and taught me a lot. See my previous post ‘It’s gone viral’

Trying to help some of my Bravo Tango Bravo (BTB) clients, to weather this pandemic storm, has also been a bit of fun and stretched the mind.

Also through BTB I re-engineered the T-shirts and they were presented to a poster company. The ideas were offered free of charge with the suggestion that they run them as a community service.

I have even approached some new businesses to see if I could help. A hand sanitiser concept for Bad Shepherd, a local craft brewer and a repurposing of reusable coffee cups for Think Cups in Sydney.

 

They all fell on very deaf ears.

My brother-in-law Mark, not a man to sit around and do nothing, decided to distil some 100-proof alcohol while in isolation. From this he is making Limoncello and a Botanical Gin.

Naturally he needed some labels.

I modified my own Limoncello label for him and designed a new one for the Gin.

In researching the history of Gin I discovered an interesting story.

During the Eighty Year War (1568–1648) in Holland, English soldiers drank it to calm their nerves, this gave rise to the name, Dutch courage.

This surprising fact naturally found its way onto the label. After all, everyone loves a ‘I didn’t know that’ moment.

Our holiday house at Sorrento has always been an enjoyable retreat. Over recent months, since our last overseas trip, we have been spending two to three days a week there. 

Now it’s almost become our home. 

The roles have been switched between Sandringham and Sorrento.

We are truly isolated there. 

The house is open, spacious and on a large block of land. There are only a couple of neighbours and they are a fair distance away. 

But best of all there are many more places to walk and the tracks are varied and very often almost empty. 

We have got to know the back streets of Sorrento and Blairgowrie very well and seen parts of the amazing coastline we didn’t know existed.

Before we made the move to Sorrento we were also finding interesting new walks in Sandringham. This was in an attempt to keep away from the crowds that were now overrunning our favourite beach paths.

These walks were made more interesting by trying to spot rainbows and teddy bears.

As part of a British idea to keep kids occupied, while in lockdown, they were encouraged to create rainbows and put them up in their windows or draw then on the footpath outside their houses. They then had fun finding them in their neighbourhood when they were allowed out for a walk with their parents.

Another similar idea, this one from New Zealand, was to put teddy bears up in places so they could be again spotted by the local kids.

I did spend some time drawing a teddy and a rainbow so friends could print them off and put them on show.

While in Sorrento I have been forced to become a handyman, or sorts, making repairs rather than having it done for me.

In Sandringham I even helped a new owner install a key safe. She thought that I was very good, while I was just happy that I didn’t stuff it up.

The downside to this is my toolbox is rather meagre, so every new task I undertake seems to require a new piece of equipment.

Fortunately hardware stores are still open.

Usually when were at Sorrento we would visit the video shop, in the cinema, and get a DVD for the nights entertainment.

Yes, there is still a video shop in Sorrento.

Due to the pandemic the video shop closed so we were forced into buying a new ‘smart’ TV, in order to avoid watching ‘Free-to-air’. Now we can, almost seamlessly, continue watching the same series we were watching in Sandringham.

I say “almost seamlessly” as the TV we have in Sandringham operates on Apple TV while the new one in Sorrento is an Android.

One is a Mac and the other a PC – how ironic.

Reading is another boost to my entertainment format.

I have been through about six novels since lockdown, not all of them great, but they do help to fill in the day and night.

Owning a Kindle means that as soon as one book is finished, I can easily download another one – without ever leaving the house.

It’s the perfect quarantine library.

I get more BBQ time at Sorrento.

The grill is on the back deck and out of the weather. So most nights, when it’s not raining and the menu requires it, I BBQ.

We even invented Scarborough Fair Chicken. Naturally it’s stuffed with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, all of which are now grown in our ever expanding herb garden.

I no longer carry cash. 

With so many businesses rejecting hard currency, I’ve gone digital. I’m now using an app to pay most bills – large and small. 

I’ve had $25 in my wallet for at least nine weeks. 

As international travel is off the agenda for the foreseeable future, I have started to revisit some of our past adventures.

In recent years, as we have done so much travelling, my blogs have become an electronic diary rather that an expression of my thoughts, attitudes and ideas. 

Now is the perfect time to reflect on what we have seen and done. So I have been going through many of my blogs and updated them with dates to make them more succinct.

The case against:

For a time there, when we were walking, people didn’t like you touching their dogs. This was rather a bore, especially when you are a ‘serial dog patter’ like me. 

Living 30 metres from a supermarket makes you complacent about planning your shopping. 

If we needed anything we could just walk over the road and get it. 

Now when we are in Sandringham we are trying to restrict time spent out of the apartment, so we have been forced to plan our menus. This isn’t easy, when most of our shopping has been on impulse. 

At Sorrento we are limiting our shopping to once a week, rather than four or five times per day as we have done in Sandringham. This has forced us to plan a menu rather than just come up with something on the day.

What a strange time it is.

In December I got the VicEmergency app because of the bushfire danger. Then, come April, I’m downloading COVIDSafe, for obvious reasons. 

As I have mentioned I welcomed social distancing, as it was a confirmation of my nomadic tendency. 

Then everyone discovered Zoom.  

Now People are meeting more than ever, even if it is in the cyber universe.

Many have found comfort in daytime TV and discovered programs that they would have never seen before.

Sadly, the only daytime TV we watched was the live streaming of a funeral. 

The advertising and marketing industries have been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn associated with COVID-19 and Bravo Tango Bravo is no exception.

I do miss the work I get from BTB, it has always been stimulating and an opportunity to develop new skills and keep up with contemporary marketing trends. Over the years I have worked on a variety of interesting clients and have learnt a lot about trucks, tradies, machinery and engineering.

Social distancing has forced the closure of sporting venues, bars, restaurants, schools, factories and a myriad other places, including airlines and even counties.

I must admit that I am missing the Friday night drinks we used to have at Hobsons in Sandringham and the odd meal out at a local restaurant.

However the biggest negative to this whole disaster is not being able to travel.

Again this year we had planned to spend several months in Europe and the US, starting in May. This new adventure was built around the wedding, in Italy, of a mate’s son and his partner, plus celebrating our granddaughter’s first birthday in Granada. This has now been cancelled and we have no idea when we will be able to reschedule our trip.

But to be very honest, this is a first world problem and we must consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to live the way we do.

There are millions around the world who aren’t as lucky and will be effected in ways we couldn’t possibly imagine.

It’s gone viral.

May 21st, 2020

As part of our forced isolation, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, I have been teaching myself new skills on the computer.

Part of this has involved developing a suite of T-shirts that dramatises the new ‘social responsibilities’ that have now become the norm. 

I already had a range of Tees designed and ready to print. These were having a go at the Federal Government for its lack of action regarding Climate Change and last summer’s disastrous bushfires. Coronavirus (COVID-19) has overshadowed these events and these Tees now sit on the back-burner as unfortunately do the issues.

A catalyst for developing the COVID-19 Tees, was a ‘Call to action’ to the world’s creative community from the United Nations. The article was published in the US marketing and advertising magazine AdWeek. It was seeking submissions from around the globe for creative people to come up with ways to promote social safety and a resolve to stop the pandemic.

I felt that T-shirts were a logical platform to express these ideas, especially if they had simple graphics done with a sense of fun. 

After all, humour has always been a great way of making a serious message memorable.

I had already designed three Tees and had them printed at Tee Junction, so it wasn’t too hard to come up with a few more and make a complete set.

I have also offered all these designs, free of charge, to Tee Junction and hope that they will promote and sell them on their website. I have asked them if the profits could go to a community charity supporting the effort of the First Responders.

As another initiative, I have taken the ‘It’s gone viral’ idea and developed a range of posters. Through Bravo Tango Bravo these have been offered to a poster company in the hope that they run them to promote social responsibility.

Let’s see what happens.

It’s sad but true and also very very funny.

April 24th, 2020

 

In the midst of all the plethora of pandemic pandemonium around COVID-19, we have been bombarded with a lot of rather humorous stuff.

I first saw this on Facebook and few weeks ago and laughed at it’s poignancy. As the weeks went on and more and more finger-pointing, back-stepping, back-stabbing and lunacy emanated from the White House, I kept on thinking back to this cartoon.

Sometimes political cartoons are the funniest and that’s because truth is often stranger than fiction.

Priceless.

March 11th, 2020

In the midst of all the gloom and doom, resulting from the Coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s refreshing to see someone with a sense of humour. Especially when it’s taking the piss out of all the idiots hoarding truck loads of toilet paper, in the slim chance that they are going to be put into quarantine.

I spotted this wonderfully improvised poster in a Sorrento fish and chip shop window last Saturday.

It was a long weekend and judging by the giggles from the many passers-by, it was having the right effect.

Is the Coca Cola Company clutching at straws?

February 29th, 2020

On our most recent trip to Berlin, I was surprised to see this street poster for Coke.

Roughly translated it proudly proclaims: ‘For serious pizza serve the original.’

I fully understand food and wine, matching, even food and beer matching, but food and Coke is just silly.

While the uptake of bottled water is growing worldwide, Coke’s market share, especially in Germany, is on the slide. Their worldwide business has shrunk by 2% per annum over the last ten years.

So it’s no wonder that they have adopted the rather bizarre strategy of trying to make a fizzy, sugar laden soft drink match with food.

We must take the politics out of climate change.

January 15th, 2020
Joel Pett USA Today 2009

Joel Pett USA Today 2009

 

Expecting that world leaders will adopt meaningful strategies to halt climate change is wishful thinking.

In the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference, held in Madrid, Spain, the majority of delegates came from the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This group consists of 197 parties and 165 signatories and they are sourced from existing governments.

There in lies the problem.

With popularism on the rise, so comes nationalism and an: “It’s all about me” approach to world issues.

Take Donald Trump’s America First foreign policy as an example.

Politicians aren’t concerned about the future of the world, only their own future prospects at the next election.

As Todd Stern — the US Climate Change envoy has said: 

“Climate change is not a conventional environmental issue … It implicates virtually every aspect of a state’s economy, so it makes countries nervous about growth and development. This is an economic issue every bit as it is an environmental one.”

A possible solution would be to take the power of these decisions away from the politicians and give it to the scientists. Both sides of parliament would, in a bipartisan election, vote for a group of eminent scholars. This would be the group that would devise the strategies and goals for our future wellbeing. 

They would be unencumbered by political divisiveness and bring a rational, science based logic to  the plan moving forward.

Obviously if this idealistic system was to work it would have to be adopted on a world wide basis.

I doubt that this could ever be achieved.

The other alternative is for people power to decide and that means that there needs to be more climate change activists and increased demonstrations – in other words revolution.

This may well work as has been seen by the reaction to seventeen year old Greta Thunberg’s growth of influence. She and her ‘School strike for climate change’ movement must be doing something right to have scared conservative world leaders and political commentators to the extent she has.

On December 12, 2019, Donald Trump, in reaction to Greta being named Time’s Person of the Year, tweeted:

“So ridiculous,” then followed up with, “Greta must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

So this so called world leader’s approach to climate change is to ridicule a teenager for having an opinion that differs from his.

Given the right incentive this people’s revolution could also extend to involving sport’s lovers.

On December 27th the ABC wrote:

“Extreme heat due to climate change could send cricket’s Boxing Day Test into extinction, researchers say.”

This article warned that if temperatures continue to rise, sporting events like the cricket would have to be greatly modified or even moved to another season.

There were crowds of over 200,000 at the Boxing Day test in Melbourne – they would not be pleased.

Then there are the other international public summer events like tennis, golf and the Grand Prix.

A sure way to put the average Australian offside is to threaten their sporting fixtures.

And there is the participation in summer sports by the Aussie sports lover. Just imagine the outcry if venues were to be shut down on days of extreme heat due to health risks. Tennis, basketball and netball courts closed while athletic fields, golf courses, cycle paths and even beaches would all be off limits on days when the air quality was poor.

It’s therefore no wonder that the authors of this particular article, the Australian Conservation Foundation, were encouraging Cricket Australia to take stronger climate change action.

I started to write this blog in December, before the full extent of the early bushfire season was evident. Since then, as the fires rage and spread from state to state, more news about the effects of climate inaction are hitting the headlines.

On January 9, 2020, news.com wrote this article:

“Australians believe there’s a climate emergency and want the country mobilised like it was during the wars.”

This introduced a research study, carried out by the Australia Institute, and done in November, 2019, before the bushfire crisis. It pointed out that almost two thirds of Australians want action on climate change.

Also on January 9, the ABC wrote:

“Australia suffers tourism blow from bushfires and air quality as US Department of State updates travel advisory.”

This was just a week after Tourism Australia launched a lavish television campaign, staring Kylie Minogue, aimed at getting more tourists to visit.

Then the next day, on January 10, the ABC’s TripleJ Hack wrote:

“Are we looking at the end of summer music festivals as we know them?”

This was as a result of four music festivals, Lost Paradise, Falls Festival, Day on the Green and Rainbow Serpent, either being cancelled or postponed due to bush fires or poor air quality.

Our government is even copping flack from overseas politicians, as seen in this Age article from January 10:

“British MPs attack Australia’s climate change efforts as bushfires rage.”

Australia’s emissions reduction targets were criticised as being inadequate and the Morrison government was urged to lift its game on climate change.

As British Labour’s spokesman for peace and disarmament, Fabian Hamilton, put it: 

“Any group of individuals who can look at those figures and continue to deny that global warming and climate change are real issues are equivalent to those people who still insist that the world is flat.”

He went on: 

“Yet, sadly, such individuals include the current President of the United States, Donald Trump; the current President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro; and – I say this with great regret, given what his country is currently experiencing – the current Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison.”

Even the European press is having a go at our government’s policies. This article in Deutsche Welle, the German state owned newspaper, wrote on January 10:

“The 2020 Climate Change Performance Index ranked Australia last out of the 57 countries for its climate policy, describing Morrison’s conservative government as a ‘regressive force’.”

Our politicians aren’t just being lambasted overseas but here in Australia. That’s if the latest opinion polls have any bearing on the matter.

This headline was in news.com.au on January 13:

“Scott Morrison suffers a brutal poll setback as another firefighter dies amid the Australian Bushfire crisis.”

The revolution has already started, with both the Liberal party and Scott Morrison taking a hit in the polls. And there is one thing that governments, on both sides of the floor, agree on and that’s public opinion.

Rupert Murdoch has suddenly found a conscience by pledging $5 million to the bushfire appeal. But whatever you do, don’t mention ‘climate change’.

And now his son, James, has come out and strongly criticised News Corp’s stance on the climate crisis denial. 

The future of the world shouldn’t be decided by ‘Old Farts’ like me but the people that climate change will really effect – the next generation. 

And if the effects of climate change play out, as they have so far this year, then that change will come sooner, rather than later – despite what the politicians think.

Side trips within Berlin. (September 2019)

December 20th, 2019

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September 2, 2019. Berlin, Germany. 

Having made two side trips out of Berlin we decided to see a bit more of the city itself. Parts that we had never been to in our numerous trips there.

Our first excursion was to visit the Berlin Television Tower or Fernsehturm in German. Surprisingly we had never visited this iconic building in all the times we had been to Berlin, going right back to our first time in 1972.

The tower is situated near Alexanderplatz, in the district of Mitte, an easy stroll from our hotel. This area was in the heart of the the old East German side. The tower was completed in 1969 and is visible from just about anywhere in the city.

Standing 368 metres high, it was a giant middle finger salute to the West. 

These days the main attraction is the viewing tower, with a revolving restaurant, which draws over 1,000,000 visitors per year. The viewing level is 203 metres above Berlin and from there you can get a great view of the city and most of the landmarks.

On the eastern side we could even see the Hotel Ibis, our temporary home for the last six weeks. The tower is such a landmark that the Ibis has a graphic silhouette etched into the glass doors throughout the hotel.

Ironically the tower has now become the most prominent symbol of the united Berlin.

 

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September 6, 2019. Berlin, Germany. 

It was the centenary of the creation of the modernist Bauhaus school of design in 1919. What better time to visit some of the architecture that became a legacy of their principles.

Siemens City or Siemensstadt was founded in 1913 by Siemens and Halske, the forerunner to today’s Siemens AG. The primary reason for its creation was to provide low-cost housing for the nearby Siemens factory.

The construction took place over many years and is regarded as a model of urban design. So much so that in 2008, together with four other modernist settlements in Berlin, it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Many architects were involved in the design of Siemensstadt, including Walter Gropius (1883-1969) who designed a very contemporary addition in the 1930s.

Walter Gropius was a founder of the Bauhaus and is regarded as a pioneer of Modernist Architecture.

Gropius studied architecture in Munich and then Berlin, where he joined the office of Peter Behrens, a founding member of the Utilitarian School. Other employees within the practice were Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier both influential in developing Modernist Architecture.

With the rise of Fascism in the 1930s Gropius was forced to leave Nazi Germany. He first went to Britain in 1934 and then the United States in 1937.

He died in Boston, Massachusetts in 1969 aged 86.

 

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September 7, 2019. Berlin, Germany. 

As part of the Bauhaus Centenary, the Berlin Gallery of Modern Art had staged an exhibition celebrating the milestone. 

The ‘Original Bauhaus’ Exhibition (1919-2019) covered the students, teachers and philosophy of arguably the most influential design school of the 20th Century.

The school was only open for 14 years in Germany but its influence has lasted for a century. It is regarded a the pinnacle of thinking in graphic design, architecture, industrial design and teaching.

As Deutsche Welle wrote on September 8, 2019:

“The original Bauhaus design school was opened in Weimar in 1919 by the legendary architect Walter Gropius.

The school moved to Dessau in 1925, and then Berlin in 1932, before being closed by the Nazi regime. The communist East German government was also initially critical of Bauhaus, before embracing its legacy in 1976 and having the original building reconstructed.”

Luck was with us yet again, being in Germany for this historic exhibition.

 

A side trip to Lindau, Germany. (August 2019)

December 8th, 2019

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August 26, 2019. Berlin to Lindau Island, Germany. 

It was time for another side trip from Berlin, this time to Lindau Island on Lake Constance.

We caught the ICE (InterCity Express) from Berlin HBH to Lindau HBH. This took up most of the day but the ride was very comfortable and the train had good internet, so I could work.

Once we were on the island we met up with our Swiss/Australian friends Denis and Martine.

We were staying at the Hotel Garni Viktoria, which was on the edge of town but still very close to the centre. The hotel wasn’t open when we arrived, so much to Denis’s delight, there was time for a late lunch.

Lindau township is very close to the Austrian and Swiss borders and is on the 0.68 square kilometre (0.26 square mile) island of the same name. It is joined to the mainland by a road bridge and railway dam.

A feature of Lindau is the harbour entrance to the port, with its lighthouse and Bavarian Lion statue, both built in 1856.

Once we had checked into the hotel we went for a walk around the town. We then came across the Hundertwasser exhibition Dreamcatcher For A More Beautiful World at the recently opened Kunstmuseum at the Inselbahnhof.

Friedrich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) was an Austrian born New Zealand artist, architect, environmental activist and opponent of ‘a straight line’ in architecture. This use of biomorphic forms  has led to him being compared to Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926) the famous Modernist architect from Catalonia, Spain and designer of Sagrada Família in Barcelona.

This was an exhibition of his painting and print making and his avoidance of the geometric was evident in the work on display.

 

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August 27, 2019. Lindau and the Bodensee, Germany. 

Lindau Island is connected to Lake Constance and the surrounding area by a network of ferries.

We decided that a day trip to Mainau would be a great way of seeing some of the lake and one of the most significant other islands.

We took the fast ferry to there so we would have enough time to explore. Even though the ferry was described as fast it still took nearly two hours to get there.

On the way we kept on seeing blimps in the sky over the lake. These came from town of  Friedrichshafen, home of the famous Zeppelin. 

A visit there was planned there for another day.

Mainau is described as a Garden Island and once you reach it you can see why. It’s geographical location gives the island a more Mediterranean climate than the surrounding country. This allows semi tropical plants to thrive in the more temperate conditions.

There are a number of historic buildings on the island but the main attractions are the gardens and the Arboretum. This garden of trees was created in 1856 by Grand Duke Frederich 1 and contains over 500 rare trees.

Mainau is administered by the Lennart Bernadotte Foundation and there are only about 200 people permanently living on the island.

To add to the tropical feel there is a greenhouse which also doubles a butterfly enclosure. 

Wherever you walk on the island there are also great views of Lake Constance. It is certainly a big tourist attraction and we found ourselves jostling for vantage points to get good shots of the attractions.

One of the architectural highlights of Mainau is the Castle Church of St Marien. This Roman Catholic church was built in the Baroque style between 1732 and 1739. It is richly decorated with ceiling frescos and alter paintings by Franz Joseph Spiegler (1691-1757). There is also rich stucco work by Francesco Pozzi (1704-1789).

We took the slow ferry back to Lindau which added another half hour to the journey. A relaxing beer and wine in the salon of the ferry Konstanz and the time seemed to go past very quickly.

 

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August 28, 2019. Lindau to Friedrichshafen, Germany. 

It was the start of the new school year for the refugees in Arnex. This meant Martine had to return home to supervise the enrolments for her French classes. This left Denis, Thea and I to go to Friedrichshafen to visit the Zeppelin Museum.

This time we were on a train, which was a much faster journey than the previous day’s ferry. Admittedly Friedrichshafen is much closer to Lindau than Mainau.

The centrepiece of the Zeppelin Museum, the world’s largest aviation collection, is the reconstruction and history of the Hindenburg.

The partial reconstruction of the Hindenburg measures 33 metres in length and gives a good idea how this monster airship might have looked back in 1937. It is complete with a recreated lounge, that surprisingly features Modernist furniture. 

The Hindenburg became a propaganda tool of the Third Reich, who totally rejected the work of the Bauhaus, a Modernist Design School that started in 1919.

The Hindenburg was designed and built by the Zeppelin Company in Friedrichshafen and operated by the German Zeppelin Airline Company. The commercial, passenger carrying, rigid airship flew from March 1936 until it was destroyed by fire, while attempting to land in New Jersey, USA, 14 months later in 1937.

Thirty six lives were lost in the fiery crash, with conspiracy theories abounding as to the cause. As there was a huge media presence at the landing site in Manchester Township, it became one of the most reported airship disasters. However the loss of life was considerably smaller than some of the preceding crashes. In 1923 the French Dixmude lost 52 lives. In 1930 the British R101 lost 48 and in 1933 the American Akron lost 73 lives.

Not the safest form of transport in the day.

Another feature of the exhibition was a beautifully restored Maybach Zeppelin. The Maybach Car Company was formed in 1909 by Wilhelm Maybach and his son and was a subsidiary of the Zeppelin Airship Company. 

Apart from the airship museum there is a side gallery containing an important collection of art from South West Germany. Within that exhibition there was a special section that related to the ‘Nazi plunder’ of German art.

During World War II the agents of the Third Reich plundered art from all over Europe, much of it was taken from the Jewish population that either left Nazi Germany or were sent to the concentration camps.

This art is now being gradually recovered and the exhibition detailed the forensic analysis that is required to trace this art back the original owners. Many of the paintings were exhibited so you could see both sides, the art itself and the side that usually goes against the wall. This was done because the frames, canvas and shipping notes are a vital link to tracing the art’s origins and returning it to the original owners or their relatives.

After lunch by the lake in Friedrichshafen we returned to Lindau and spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering around the streets. 

That was until the rain came.

There was an interesting portrait collection by Brigitta Loch in St Stephan Church. It was unusual to see art, other than the religious sort, featured in a church.

That night the three of us had dinner at a very German restaurant in a Bavarian pub. This was slightly out of the centre of town and we had to scramble back to the hotel, dodging the persistent rain.

August 29, 2019. Lindau to Berlin, Germany. 

After breakfast at the hotel, which we all decided was excellent value, we wandered into town for a coffee and then parted ways.

Denis was on the ferry, heading back to Switzerland to join Martine and we were on the train returning to Berlin.

It was a long train ride, interspersed with torrential rain.

A soggy end to our second side-trip from Berlin.

 

A side trip to Dresden, Germany. (July 2019)

December 4th, 2019

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July 23, 2019. Berlin to Dresden, Germany. 

We had been staying in the Ibis Hotel in Berlin for about 9 days and decide it was time for our first side trip.

After picking up the rental car, a Ford Fiesta from Europcar, we drove to Dresden. 

We did have a couple of stops along the way. 

The first was a coffee stop in Bestensee and then for a walk around Neuendorfer See. 

The Lake, which is both an inflow and outflow of the Spree, is a popular camping spot for Berliners with many permanent sites. The shoreline is flat with many bays and the surrounding area is covered in pine forests.

And apparently the fishing is also good.

We then drove into Dresden and found the B&B Hotel. This was out of the city centre and had two great features. Firstly it had free parking and secondly it was half the price of the inner city hotels and still within walking distance of the sights. 

After a stroll around the city we had dinner at a restaurant on the River Elbe. 

It was a rather quiet spot and we wondered where the action was in Dresden. After dinner we continued our city walk and discovered the Neumarkt Square. 

It was crammed with restaurants, serving a variety of cuisines – we will return there again. 

 

Dresden, zerstˆrtes Stadtzentrum

July 24, 2019. Dresden, Germany. 

It was a slow start to the day with breakfast at a local café before we headed out to do some sightseeing.

It’s lucky that there is any of Dresden left to see, considering the pounding it took in February 1945. 

Primarily a city of art and culture Dresden, unlike many other cities in Germany, wasn’t the home to vast industries. On the night of February 14 the RAAF deliberately bombed the Dresden city centre. The destruction of the city and the resultant civilian casualties, many of whom were refugees, was hotly debated, even before the war ended later that year.

Even now, 74 years after the war, Dresden is suffering again, this time from the tyranny of the far right. The growing concern about the rise of extremists in Dresden has led to the city council declaring a ‘Nazi crisis’ in the city.

Porcelain from Dresden is famous, so we headed to the museum to experience it first hand. 

Between 1602 and 1657 more than 3,000,000 porcelain pieces were imported into Europe.

In 1715 Augustus the Strong introducing porcelain to Germany. Much of the Oriental works that he imported came via the East India Company and is housed in the museum.

It’s a huge collection of 20,000 pieces but with limited display area available in the Zwinger only about 2,000 artefacts are viewable at any one time. 

Meissen Porcelain, which was derived from the Oriental version, was first developed in 1708. Again Augustus the Strong was involved, as he was instrumental in financing the construction of the royal factory in Meissen, near Dresden.

To protect the authenticity of Meissen Porcelain a logo was developed in 1720. The ‘crossed swords’ is thought to be one of the earliest forms of trademark.

The Zwinger is not only home to the Dresden Porcelain Collection but the Old Masters Picture Gallery and the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments. This Baroque palace was completed in 1728 and designed by the court architect, Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann.

August the Strong, on returning from a grand tour through France and Italy, decided that he needed something like Versailles for his own court. This ultimately resulted in the building of the Zwinger.

The buildings were destroyed by the carpet bombing raids of February 1945, however the collections had been moved by this stage and were saved.

Just around the corner, in the historic centre of Dresden, is the Semperoper or Opera House.

In order to see inside we had to wait for an escorted tour.

The building was originally designed by Gottfried Semper and built in 1845. Following a fire it was then rebuilt by the same architect in 1868. It was destroyed again in 1945 and then rebuilt to the pre-war design in 1985. 

The interior is a combination of Italian Neo Classical, Baroque and Corinthian styles.

When we reached the main body of the theatre there was a rehearsal underway. This was for an Australian production of Westside Story. We were told that, due to the rehearsal, we couldn’t take snaps in the auditorium. I pointer out to our guide that we had paid €6 to take photos and that we weren’t photographing the actors but the architecture. 

I don’t think she was impressed but we carried on regardless.

Outside it was over 32°C, so we continued our touring with a slow walk around the city. 

On our travels we explored the interiors of two of the largest churches in Dresden. 

Dresden Cathedral or Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (1739 and restored in 1962) and the Dresden Frauenkirche, the Lutheran Church (1726 and rebuilt in 1993). 

We expected the Lutheran church to be more austere than the Catholic. In fact it was just the opposite. 

The Lutheran church had a rather Baroque alter surrounded by a very spacious interior that was decorated in pastel colours. 

Naturally that night dinner was in the Neumarkt Square, at a Spanish restaurant, Bodega Madrid. 

With the evening temperature so balmy it seemed only natural to eat Spanish Tapas – outside.

 

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July 25, 2019. Dresden and a side trip to Bastei, Germany. 

This was our day to explore ‘The nature’ around Dresden, so after breakfast, this time in the hotel, it was into the Ford Fiesta for our drive to the south east.

Another heatwave was forecast for Europe, with temperatures into the high thirties. The car was a good refuge from the heat. 

I was about an hours drive to Rathen South. We then caught a ferry over the Elbe River to Rathen North, which is on the edge of the Saxon Switzerland National Park, a protected area of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. 

From there we had an easy walk around the Amselsee, an artificial lake or reservoir that’s only 55 metres long and quite narrow. There is boating as well as fishing, as the reservoir is stocked with trout. 

Then it was a very hard walk up to Bastei, a lookout over the Elbe River. 

The degree of difficulty was raised by the temperature, which was now into the mid thirties. 

Today little remains of Neurathen Castle, which you get to by crossing over the Bastei Bridge. This rock castle was first built between 1100 and 1200.

Bastei has been a tourist attraction for over 200 years. In 1824 a timber bridge was built to connect some of the stone formations. This was replaced in 1851 by the current stone one.

Bastei means bastion and relates to the towering rocks that formed a defensive ring around Neurathen Castle.

It was a tiring afternoon climbing around the Bastei rocks in the  37°C heat. We were therefore very glad of the air conditioning in the car on the return drive to Dresden. 

 

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July 26, 2019. Dresden to Berlin, Germany. 

After checking out of the B&B Hotel, which is more a walk-out than a check-out, as everything was paid up-front, we drove into Dresden. We then parked in one of the numerous underground car parks near the centre. 

Coffee was at the Solino Café and Bar Italiano, which is in the Glockenspielpavillon of the Zwinger Palace Museum. 

This is probably the best coffee in Dresden, well at least that we found. 

We arrived just in time for a performance of the glockenspiel. The bells were made in the famous Meissen porcelain factory and have only been part of the Zwinger since 1933. The carillon plays a short melody every 15 minutes and a longer one at various times during the day. The more extensive tunes are from Vivaldi, Mozart and Bach.

I have no idea what was playing but it was certainly a wonderful sound as we sat inside sipping our espressos.

This time we were in the Zwinger to visit the Mathematical Museum or to use its full name the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments.

Elector August of Saxony started the collection around 1569. In Saxony Elector Augustus was to mathematics as Augustus the Strong was to porcelain.

It was an important role of rulers to sponsor both the arts and sciences during this period

The understanding of mathematics and the associated equipment was a measure of power in the Renaissance period, so it was very important to have those instruments on display.

Today the museum is divided into four sections. The Cosmos of the Prince. (Instruments from around 1600). The Universe of Globes. (Terrestrial and celestial globes covering seven centuries). Instruments of Enlightenment. (Large telescopes and burning mirrors, which use the concentration of sunlight through a convex lens to generate great heat). The Course of Time. (Clocks, watches and automata from the Renaissance).

Animated graphics were used to augment the displays and add explanation. There was also a number of hands-on displays. 

An astronomical Clock, made in 1568 was a feature. It stood nearly a meter tall and not only told the time but indicated where the planets and constellations were at any given point. 

It took five years to build. 

After retrieving the car from subterranean Dresden we drove to Kunsthofpassage. This is in the Bohemian part of Dresden and features wacky architecture and funky cafes.

The complex consists of five courtyards where the buildings are decorated with various themes. 

There is the Yard of the Elements with the bizarre architecture that used downpipes. Courtyard of Light that used reflective surfaces. The Yard of the Animals with a number of animal reliefs on the building exterior. Courtyard of Mythical Creatures that are displayed in mosaic tiles from Portugal, Italy and Meissen. The Yard of Metamorphoses, which has two steles or freestanding monolithic pillars. In the evening they are illuminated and become lamps.

After this very contemporary interlude, from what was primarily a Renaissance experience, it was back into the Ford for the two hour return trip to Berlin.

Our first side-trip was complete.

 

Hawaii, USA. (May 2019)

November 19th, 2019

May 6, Waikiki Beach

May 6, 2019. Los Angeles, California to Honolulu,
Hawaii, USA.

Today we were leaving the continental United States and flying to Hawaii. 

This was the final stage of our three months adventure. 

Our trip to Honolulu took us via Kahalui. This was just a flight change for the very short journey to Honolulu, on the island of O’Ahu. 

As we came into land I could make out surfers on the waves – well we were in Honolulu. 

When we arrived I got the shock of my life to discover that there was an espresso bar and a craft brewery within the hotel complex. The coffee shop served coffee from locally roasted beans while the brewpub  had a range of beers from Maui.

The Waikiki Beachcomber was right on the entertainment strip and just over the road from the famous surf beach. It was certainly in the thick of it, so there was no excuse for not enjoying our six nights there. 

It had been a long day, as we were up at 5:30 in LA and had lost three hours along the way.  

Once we had settled into the hotel we went for a walk around the area.

The first point of interest was a statue of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku (1890-1968).

Duke Kahanamoku was native Hawaiian, five-time Olympic medalist in swimming, who popularised the ancient Hawaiian sport of surfing.

Duke was his given name, he was also known as ‘The Big Kahuna’

In 1914 he put on an exhibition of surfing at Sydney’s Freshwater Beach. He did this on a board made from timber purchased at a local hardware store.

That was the introduction of surfing to Australia.

In 1925, while living in Newport Beach California, he rescued 8 men from a capsized fishing boat. He did this with the help of his surfboard, which then led to surfboards being used in off-the-beach rescues.

He was not only an athlete but also an actor and a law enforcement officer, serving 13 consecutive terms as the sheriff of Honolulu from 1932 to 1961.

A striking, more  colonial, addition to the Waikiki beachfront is the Moama Surfrider Hotel. Built in 1901 it was the first hotel on Waikiki.

Naturally that night we ate at the Maui Brewing Co. They had an excellent selection of beers, as well as good wine and an extensive menu.

 

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May 7, 2019. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

We had breakfast in the brew pub, yes they were open from 7am. There was fresh tropical juice plus Avocado on Toast. 

The pub didn’t serve espresso coffee, we had to walk across the hotel foyer for that. 

We then popped into Avis, which was next door, and arranged a rental for later in the week. 

Part of our package with the hotel included free trolly bus rides, with unlimited use for the duration of our stay. The trolly takes two different routes around the Waikiki area and, depending on the driver, you get a guided tour as well.

There are a number of these trolleys, all provided by the hotel groups and even the airlines like JAL.

It seems to be a huge waste of resources as many of the busses passed by empty. I think that they could pool their resources and have one trolly system that ran more often and took everyone who had the passes.

We did one circuit to get a feeling of the city area then, on the next, hopped off at Diamond Head. 

Diamond Head is a volcanic cone and it dominates the skyline behind Waikiki. The name was given to the volcano by the British, who believed that the calcite crystals found in the caldera were diamonds. The Hawaiian name, Lēahi, is far more fitting as it relates to the dorsal fin of a tuna. Which is exactly what the silhouette of the rim looks like.

Although the walk to the summit looked hard there were numerous switchbacks that made it relatively easy. 

That evening, before dinner, we went to the free Kuhlo Beach Hula Show. 

This was a narrated history, with dancers, of the hula in Hawaii. The hula was originally developed by the Polynesians who first settled in the Hawaiian Islands.

These dancers on Kuhlo Beach were much more conservatively dress than you see in the movies. I think that this had something to do with the strangle hold the missionaries had and still have on much of Hawaiian society. They saw the dance as heathen and pagan. 

The show was an hour long and certainly worth it. The golden light of a fading sunset, the rumble of pounding surf, all set to the lilting tones of Hawaiian music.

Western cultures promote horse racing as the ‘Sport of Kings’. In Hawaii it’s surfing. The history of surfing in Hawaii goes back to the 4th century. When Polynesians migrated to the Hawaiian Islands they brought with them the art of board riding. It was belly boards to begin with then the long hardwood boards were used. The first sighting of a board rider by westerners was in 1779.

Surfing was a religious act and the Hawaiians would pray to their gods to find the good waves and seek inspiration on how to fashion the best boards.

The society was divided between noble people and the commoners. The nobles surfed on better breaks than the commoners and also had the superior and longer boards. Chiefs such as Kauai and Kamehameha were known for their ability and counted their surfboards amongst their most prized possessions.

These boards were enormous measuring over 7 metres (24 foot) in length.

When Captain James Cook arrived in 1778 he was closely followed by missionaries. Their strict religious piety, regarding clothing and their rules of only believing in their god, resulted in surfing almost dying out – just like hula dancing.

In 1905 things began to change when Duke Paoa Kahanamoku started a native surf club and revived the sport. Then in 1907 the author Jack London (1876-1916) and friends formed the Waikiki Swimming Club and opened up surfing to Westerners.

London was an atheist and social activist so it’s no wonder that he wasn’t concerned about offending the ‘faithful’.

It was London who coined the phrase ‘Sport of Kings’.

 

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May 8, 2019. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

In Hawaii, or at least in Waikiki, we paid a Tourist Tax of US$30 per day, per room. 

This gave us a number of benefits. 

As well as free rides on the Trolly Bus, we also got discounts at certain restaurants. This encouraged us to share our patronage around a number of places. 

For breakfast we went to the Hula Grill, just over the road. 

The breakfast was good but their espresso machine had ‘broken down’ so it was back to the hotel cafe for coffee – again. 

We then went for a long walk along the Waikiki beachfront, towards the base of Diamond Head. 

The weather was rather overcast and threatened rain for most of the day. 

Right along the beach there were surfers enjoying the small but consistent swell.

There are very few short board riders here, most tend to prefer the long boards. I guess this is partly due to the conditions but more to do with tradition. 

Duke’s Waikiki is right on the water and across the road from our hotel. We tried to book there for dinner, on two occasions, but couldn’t get a decent time. 

It’s a very popular restaurant. 

Waikiki is a hybrid, something between a tourist town and a surf coast. 

The streets are packed with tourists, of all shapes and sizes, many grossly overweight. There are three distinct groups, the mainland Americans are the largest, followed by the Japanese and finally the Australians, who are a substantial part of the mix. 

They are obvious by their accents. 

Then in the midst of this you get the surfers, male and female, young and old. All dressed in board shorts or bikinis, meandering along the main street, with their boards tucked under their arm and still soaking wet from their last wave. 

Wherever we looked around Waikiki there were Hawaiian flags fluttering over the rooftops. They look more British Colonial than American, with the Union Jack sitting proudly in the top left corner.

This is a constant reminder of Hawaii’s past.

Hawaii was settled by Polynesians somewhere between 124 and 1120 AD: similar to New Zealand.

Captain Cook arrived in 1778 but there is a belief that the first European to set foot in Hawaii was the Spanish captain Ruy López de Villalobos in 1542.

American immigration quickly followed Cook, led by Protestant missionaries. The Americans were there to set up sugar plantations, much as they did in the Southern US.

Sugar was the prized crop, with markets spread around the world, and Hawaii had the ideal climate to cultivate it.

Unlike the US, slaves weren’t used as labor, instead immigrants were brought in from Japan, China and the Philippines.

The Americans, wanting more control, rewrote the constitution, limiting the power of the King ‘David’ Kalãkaua and weakening the native Hawaiian’s rights. In 1898 the islands were annexed by the US and became the Territory of Hawaii, then in 1959 they became the 50th state.

It’s little wonder that the Hawaiians prefer to have the Union Jack on their flag – that must really piss of the ‘patriots’.

 

Banzai Pipeline

May 9, 2019. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

We opted to drive around O’Ahu in a Nissan Versa. All the travel guides suggested that the best experience is in a Jeep Wrangler or Ford Mustang, both convertibles of course. 

The Nissan was half the price and it was rather hot to have the roof down. 

Besides soft top motoring is not that much of a novelty to us. 

We stopped at the famous Banzai Pipeline. The surf was better in Waikiki, as there was only a small shore break at Banzai and nothing like the huge waves that are a hallmark of this well known break. 

We didn’t get a lot of snaps on our trip as there is a shortage of good pull-offs and viewing points along the way. 

On our return we tried to get a closer look at Pearl Harbour but found ourselves on a bridge heading towards the naval base. We were stopped, turned around and escorted off by a very pleasant security guard.

We were then sent on our way, but not before he checked my driver’s licence. 

On the way back to Waikiki we drove through the downtown area of Honolulu, which isn’t very big, and stopped at the Iolani Palace.

Construction commenced in 1879. It was designed by Thomas Baker, in what became known as the American Florentine style. It was the home to Hawaiian royalty from its completion until 1893 and boasted electricity and a telephone, even before the White House.

After the overthrow of the monarch, in 1893, the palace became the capital building for the provisional government until 1969. It was restored in 1978 and then became a museum.

It still remains the only royal palace on US soil.

On our island excursion we drove 215.6 kilometres (134 miles) around O’Ahu. This isn’t much but then it’s not a large island. 

 

The flag of Hawaii

May 10, 2019. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

We used the trolly bus again, this time to get down to Ala Moana Centre. 

Built in 1959, It is regarded as the largest open-air shopping centre in the world. 

It’s also the most valuable shopping mall in the US and one of the most valuable in the world

It is very large and I wonder if its world class status comes from the huge car park that is attached. There are 350 stores, restaurants and services spread over 220,000 square metres (2,400,000 square feet)

That night there were fireworks down on the beach. They were over in a flash and a bang and by the time we got there they were finished.

 

Duke’s Waikiki

May 11, 2019. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

It was Saturday and our last full day in Honolulu. It was also the one day in the week that the KCC Farmers Market is operating.

Again we caught the trolly bus, which has a special market stop on Saturdays. 

The market was primarily made up of food stalls but there was some fresh produce and flowers as well. It was also a place where there seemed to be more locals than tourists.

Wherever we went in Waikiki we seemed to come across ABC Stores. These aren’t operated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission but a chain of convenience stores that are based in Honolulu. They were opened in 1964 by the son of Japanese immigrant, Sidney Kosasa and sell a combination of groceries and tourist related items.

It’s not surprising that there are 178 hotels in Waikiki, what is a shock is that there are also 42 ABC stores.

There was a red carpet gala event being set up on Queen’s Beach, which is south of the main area, heading towards Diamond Head. 

This was part of the premier of the 10th season of the new Hawaii Five-0 series. 

The original police drama ran from 1968 till 1980. It was created by Leonard Freeman and stared Jack Lord (1920-1998) as Captain Steve McGarrett. Born in Brooklyn New York City he moved to Hawaii with the show. When Leonard Freeman died in 1974 Lord took over as executive producer.

McGarrett’s famous words, “Book ‘em Danno!” have become part of popular culture.

After the market we decided to go for a long Saturday lunch at Duke’s. This was our third attempt to get into this iconic beach side restaurant.

The chain of restaurants was named after the surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku and operates in Hawaii as well as California and Florida.

The food was just ok, however the location was stunning and worth the wait to get in. It’s practically on Waikiki Beach and you can watch the surfers catching the waves in front of you.

We had only a two minute wait when we arrived for lunch at 2pm, at 4pm the wait was twenty minutes and building.

Now large family groups were starting to pile through the doors. 

Come 6pm and there would be no chance of getting a table at all. 

The temperature has consistently been around 30°C, so it’s going to be a bit of a shock retuning to a Melbourne winter. 

After being on the go for three months it was a great decision to have six, very relaxing, days in Honolulu. 

 

May 12-13, 2019. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA to Melbourne via Sydney, Australia.

We were returning home and almost got caught out at the last turn. 

It was very fortunate that we had one last coffee at our hotel in Waikiki, as the only one available at the airport, was at Starbucks. 

We had travelled over 6,000 kilometres across America and not had to endure a Starbucks – I wasn’t going to start then.