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Blog 2009

31 December 2009
Isn’t it slightly unsettling if a restaurant advertises with the slogan: ‘Patience is a sister of wisdom’?

29 December 2009
New book titles that make me shiver: ‘The art of reading thoughts’, ‘111 reasons for being a Philistine’ and ‘Let’s face it: I’m overweight’

28 December 2009
I almost bought the complete DVD set of the Austrian 1970ies cult series ‘Mundl’ and this just because the set had a complimentary white ripped flannel undershirt reading: ‘My beer isn’t stupid’

27 December 2009
Quotes of real friends: ‘… and when you’re going to visit me in the US, make sure you come on a Tuesday. Tuesdays are good, I am free on Tuesday evenings!‘

26 December 2009
Family stories: Christmas lunch. The late grandfather’s ex-girlfriend has lunch on the next table. As one of the most unbeloved people ever – her nickname always was ‘the witch’ – people keep staring at her secretly. When she leaves the restaurant, she nods in the direction of the family. Soon after the family decides to leave as well and misses a coat. A family owned good winter coat. Instead of the coat there is a leftover shabby thin black coat. Angry and disgusted looks follow. The witch is accused. A group is sent over to her house. She swears she hadn’t taken the coat, brings out every coat she owns, proving her case. The group leaves unsatisfied and returns the shabby coat to the restaurant. The family exchanges stories and the most vocal one has a lot to tell about lost coats, umbrellas and hats. When he prepares to leave he finds out he is missing his coat; the coat that was waiting for its owner to come back to the restaurant.

24 and 25 December 2009
Merry Christmas!

23 December 2009
Driving home for Christmas with a thousand memories from any available radio station that Michael Schumacher made it back to Formula I. As if there was no other news at all. Well. Riving through Germany and Austria I saw quite some differences. While you can mostly drive as fast as you wish in Germany there are some ‘highway churches’ on the way. The message in Austria is much more direct. There you have huge billboards where the word ‘Death’ is crossed out with a seat belt.

22 December 2009
It is thawing; the guinea fowl is visible again!

21 December 2009
I love those invitations you get from social networking sites. XYZ indicated that you are a friend. Wow! It reminds me a lot of my time in kindergarten where other children would eventually ask you: Do you want to be my friend?

20 December 2009
In the morning I could still see the guinea fowl’s head. In the afternoon even that was gone and the guinea fowl is a mere hill covered by snow.

19 December 2009
It was minus seven degrees during the day, the streets are slippery and cars meander through Brussels icy streets. Even pet dogs were dressed. I saw one in a pirate dress with the Jolly Roger printed all over. Creepy.

18 December 2009
The guinea fowl is rather smelly and had to move out. It lives now on the terrace and is totally covered with snow which is as such rather unlikely for guinea fowls I assume. Besides, it is also rather unlikely for Brussels to have 10 centimeters of snow that seems to be here to stay!

17 December 2009
I saw a picture of the demonstrations alongside the climate change summit in Copenhagen. One poster I though was simply great in its simplicity. It read: There is no planet B.

16 December 2009
I got a guinea fowl as a present. To be precise it is a helmeted guinea fowl which must by no means be mistaken for a white-breasted guinea fowl, let alone a crested guinea fowl. No, it is not a real one, it’s made from terracotta but it is interesting. It has an enormous body and a very small head. Anyway I’ve been doing some research. Wikipedia lets us know that guinea fowls are social beings and are ‘normally monogamous’ although occasional bigamy has been recorded for the helmeted guinea fowl. How interesting. Furthermore there is a small and declining ethnic group in the south of Ethiopia called Karo. During festivals and dances men dress up as either guinea fowls or leopards. Well, one sort of understands that their number is declining.

15 December 2009
From my kinky quotes collection: ‘We have looked at so much material we’ve gone dotty.’

14 December 2009
Karl Lagerfeld recently said in an interview that he has still not shot the perfect photograph. I have the same feeling when it comes to my own pictures.

13 December 2009
I always forget how many interesting galleries there are in Brussels and how many nice details there are over all.

12 December 2009
Very nice t-shirt print: ‘Belgian chocolate addict’. I saw a very interesting muse today, maybe I can even involve that mannequin in my next exhibition!

11 December 2009
I love the creativity in this manual on how to hand wash! You shall never forget to start it all with wetting your hands (!), applying enough (!) soap and rubbing hands palm to palm. Also rotational rubbing involving the left thumb is a good idea it seems, and the rinsing with water should not be underestimated!

10 December 2009
And yes, I also noted down some new and interesting t-shirt prints in Ethiopia: One read simply ‘Nobel’ and another one ‘Mr. Zero’. Quite a different approach to life I thought. Another one ran around proudly with a t-shirt reading ’Pyromanist’ and a fourth one just let the world know: ‘In that case I chose dancing’.

9 December 2009
Still digging through some notes and memories of Ethiopia: What I particularly liked were some menus with really interesting dishes: There was ‘full with beard’, ‘raise with mean’ quite some offers of ‘paper steak’ and – my favorite – ‘chicken with raise’!
Even as a vegetarian I could think of going for that one, after all it comes with a raise! Although you never know if they run out of it and just give you a ‘raise with mean’ served next to a ‘full with beard’ who is up for a ‘paper steak’ really.

8 December 2009
By the way who came up with the idea that raw carrots are a good snack at evening receptions? As soon as you eat them while trying to have a conversation, you spit. And depending on the person you are talking to, you regret or embrace that fact.

7 December 2009
Real life has me back I fear. I saw my name printed as Ms. Brendel today. Well, what more can I say?
Maybe something slightly ironic: I carry home kilos of Ethiopian coffee, of those at least three different sorts of coffee for my parents. And what have they done in the meantime while I was away? They have changed their coffee machine for a Nespresso one that operates with coffee capsules…

6 December 2009
Thinking about Ethiopia: I have so many impressions, memories and so many images. I liked a conversation around my question of the whereabouts of the city center. I simply wanted a direction or say pointing somewhere would have been fine as well. Instead I was confronted with the honest question – that was not in the least cynical – ‘What does city mean?’ A good question I thought. I said well, in a city you have houses, streets, shops. When he heard shops he beamed and said, aha, yes, shops and pointed me into the good direction.

5 December 2009
I‘m back in Brussels with a severe cold. Who said that you could get a cold in Africa in the first place? Isn’t it supposed to be hot there all the time?
What I will definitely miss is a word that I really learned to like there: Ischi. It is often used and sounds mostly like a sigh. Ischi can mean many things. Sometimes it simply means yes or ok, then also: I understand, I agree, I see, let’s see, I will do what I can, you may think I will do what I can but I actually won’t, no, not quite, well, maybe. A very powerful word!

4 December 2009
Last day in Addis and so much was still to do. For instance last pictures needed to be taken, films needed to be brought to development and shopping (for the famous Ethiopian coffee) to be done. Exactly when I started to believe that I cannot do all what I had planned in my last day anymore and felt slightly stressed I saw a guy in a t-shirt that read: Too blessed to be stressed.

3 December 2009
About a 1.5 hours drive outside of Dire Dawa 7000 year old cave paintings have been found a few years ago. At first they seem to be quite disappointing given the long way and the bad roads leading there. One saw two or three rather faded images. But the longer you looked, the more you saw. There were hundreds of paintings, faded but still visible.
Dire Dawa on itself is quite a big city but only about 100 years old. Originally the Addis Ababa – Djibouti railroad should have connected Djibouti’s port with Harar and Addis. As the project developed, connecting Harar seemed to difficult and costly as the train would have needed to go through a very mountainous area and so the decision was taken to have a stop in what then was a small town; Dire Dawa. For me the most interesting site in the city was the train station with its many broken and discarded railway carriages and locomotives. A paradise for pictures of the neglected and the broken!

2 December 2009
From Dire Dawa it is about a one hour drive to Harar. After Mekka, Medina and Jerusalem, Harar is seen as the fourth most important Muslim city. Harar has a very intact city center that reminded me very much of cities I have seen in Yemen four years ago. Its 89 mosques are often tiny and hidden in people’s houses. Water is scare and water supply remains one of the most pressing issues in the region.

1 December 2009
Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar and advertises with 13 months of sunshine. Given that it was slightly raining during the last two days and else rather cloudy and July and August is the yearly rainy season I dare to doubt that promise.
I admit that flying to Ethiopia’s second biggest city Dire Dawa was much easier than driving again for 550 kilometres each way. On the other hand one also misses something when taking a plane, probably it is the feeling of travelling as such.

30 November 2009
I did not want to disappoint any shoe shine boy any more and so I took the car and went downtown in embarrassingly dirty shoes. Guess what, no shoe shine boy around. Not a single one, as if they were on strike or all had a day off. So I went back again still in dirty shoes. On the positive side I found a bunch of nicely broken muses.
Traditional Ethiopian restaurants often have hay on the floor and a corner where they prepare the coffee in the traditional coffee ceremony. In that corner there are also quite some animals, mostly rabbits and chickens. Mobile food it you will. What is logical but still slightly unsettling is that the amount of those animals decreases proportionally to the amount of food served to neighbouring tables.

29 November 2009
Due to unforeseen circumstances we stayed overnight in a real budget hotel in Dessie. The travel guide book would probably not even rate that hotel in its category ‘shoestringing’. Well, anyway, it was quite funny. I tried to convince the staff to give me a towel. After we discussed what ‘shower’ and ‘dry’ could possibly mean I really made them laugh when performing a pantomime of showering and drying myself with a non-existing towel. Anyway that was not necessary as there were a) no towels and b) no water at all. It was definitely an experience at Euro 2,- to put it that way.
Driving from Dessie to Addis took about 10 hours although the distance is a mere 400 kilometres. I tried to find rational explanations for what I saw but my only conclusion is that road works here are illogically planned and executed. The pattern is as follows: A stretch of about 500-1000 metres of relatively good if not excellent road is demolished and replaced by gravel or a dirt side road. The next stretch of about 500-1000 meters is left as it was before but gets worse and worse due to trucks that are heavily loaded with gravel. So one is forced to drive from pothole over bumps into the next pothole on a formerly good road, led sideways to a gravel stretch or a side road, back up on the asphalt stretch, down again and so on and so on. Instead of finishing one stretch and then going to the next, there are literally hundreds of these construction sites and of course works cannot be carried out at all places at the same time. What is also quite remarkable are big square shaped holes (about 10 cm deep) that are cut into good asphalt. Mainly that is done just behind crests or curves, naturally without any warning signs. Even a four by four car doesn’t pardon driving into a sudden hole easily. As if that wasn’t enough, various animal herds (lambs, goats, cattle, camels) tend to walk or rest on the streets and suicidal people seem to have declared it a national sport to run across the street only when a car is approaching. As soon as darkness falls groups of three tend to sit down on (!) the road for an evening chat. One can imagine more comfortable places. As the streets are not lit, driving past such groups makes your heart stop for a moment. The nastiest hurdles to driving safely are football sized stones on the street. As far as I can tell there are three reasons for those stones: One is that as soon as a car or truck breaks down, stones are arranged around it to block up the road for a while. While the vehicle might be removed after a while, the stones remain. Another reason is stones that have been thrown at animal herds in order to make them cross the street. And the third and probably most accurate reason for the majority of stones is bored children that place them there.

28 November 2009
Lalibela is THE highlight of a trip to northern Ethiopia! Its 900 year old monolithic rock hewn churches are breathtaking. There are eleven of those churches in two groups and one is standing freely apart. UNESCO has insisted on ‘preserving’ the churches from further damage (water, erosion???) by putting up equally breathtakingly ugly scaffolding and modern roofs on top of most churches. From an aesthetic point of view one can only wonder why it was necessary to do it that way. ‘Preserving’ the churches resulted in a large crack in one of them as some heavy machinery was parked on top of the church in order to install the roof…
Well, anyway one has to try hard and blind that out when looking at these masterpieces of human architecture. All of the eleven churches are still in use and different in style and decoration. King Lalibela wanted to build a second Jerusalem and had 40.000 people working on these churches for about 33 years. Most of them are connected through a subterranean network of corridors. Those corridors are not lit and it is said that this was done on purpose so that people could experience how hell could look like. For me the most beautiful church is the free standing church Bet Giyorgis. When walking towards it, the first thing visible is its cross-shaped roof. Later on one descends to the entrance and can visit it inside.

27 November 2009
When driving through the marvellous landscape it is striking how many unmanned offertory boxes there are even in the most deserted places. No church, no chapel, no priest but a tinny offertory box.
Juding upon various recommendations of locals, driving to Lalibela should have taken us between 6 hours and two days. What was more worrying was how they looked at the four by four car. In disbeliev they mumbled: You want to drive to Lalibela with THAT car? How many spare tyres do you have? Just ONE? And you dare to go like that? In fact it was long drive but then again the road was not that bad.
In Lalibela the traditional round hut is quite a special; it has two floors. There is a very nice new hotel (Tukul Village) that rents out either ground floor or upper floor of such a hut, combining traditional architecture with modern comfort.

26 November 2009
I see vasts amounts of haytsacks here in Ethiopia. Many of them walk on either two or four legs. When carried by people this is done by men using the inevitable stick they carry around. Haystacks on four legs are carried by donkeys, horses or camels. The interesting thing is that in all cases the haystack as such is about the equal in size. The only difference is the speed in which it is carried. Especially donkeys love resting at the middle of the street. Live in general happens on the streets. Most people lack a natural shortening reaction when a car is approaching them. I was told that the haircut of many boys in the countryside reflect upon that. Those boys are bald apart from two ringlets on their forehead. Although it is believed that nothing will happen to them these locks are there for security reasons. Should the kid’s guardian angel urgently need to act, he has to grab the boy somewhere and drag him off the street. Therefore those two ringlets come in handy.
What I was told, too is that instead of being celebrated yearly, birthdays are only celebrated shortly after a baby is born. A special bread is beaked for the occasion and the tradition is to break this crispy bread on the baby’s back. If is breaks and the baby does not scream, people believe that this will be a strong girl or boy. If the baby is crying, relatives pity the parents and wish them well with their weak child.

25 November 2009
Axum used to be the capital of a huge kingdom and is still perceived as the holiest city in Ethiopia. Today it is actually a small town and also when visiting most of the sights one is done with that in pretty much half a day. People believe that the Queen of Sheba has lived in Axum. The most impressive site are the obelisks or stelae. They are simply wonderful. After having been in Italy more than 70 years, the second tallest obelisk (about 27 meters high) has been returned to Axum in 2005. The tallest one (over 33 meters high and also carved out of one single piece of granite) is believed to having collapsed already during its erecting. It lies scattered into five pieces on the obelisk field but still is beautiful. I liked that one most, maybe just because it is so broken. All the obelisks are about 1700 years old and were used to mark tombs. Some of these tombs have been excavated and can be visited.
Another remarkable sight is a church where allegedly the ark of the covenant is kept and guarded by a monk. This monk is the only one who is allowed to see it and hands over this duty to his successor on his dead bed. Sometimes it is shown during religious festivals but covered up so they say. Nobody, not even the monk who is guarding it may open it.

As in many places, chats on the road here tend to start with the phrase ‘Where are you from?’. After having disclosed that I come from Austria, the answer I got today was quite stunning: ‘All right, I also come from the US!’ In general I decided not to protest anymore if somebody takes me for an Australian. What was slightly embarrassing the other day was when a waiter then introduced me to an Australian band with the words ‘meet your countrymen’. The Australians gave me a certain look when they found out that actually it was Austria…

24 November 2009
The street from Gondar to Debark was the first really bad dirt road and the way to Axum was even worse. It’s a drive from one bump to the next and through nothing but dust. When we finally arrived to Axum I was covered with a red layer of dust. There is financial support from the world bank for paving these roads. The project has been won by a Chinese company and has already been started. Chinese lorries, road rollers and excavators are visible all over the place. Ethiopia as such seems to be largely in Chinese hands anyways. Most recently paved streets have been built by Chinese companies and all masts of the one mobile network are brand new and Chinese. In the cities you see Chinese companies digging the roads to lay new fixed telecommunications cables. Chinese sneakers and clothes flood the weekly markets. Most workers are locals but all the foremen are Chinese.

What strikes me particularly when driving through the villages is the sheer multitude of tabletop soccer games. Judging from their design, those tables must be about 25 years old. I assume they have been imported at the time in bulk and distributed to most villages. Almost every bigger village and any city has about one, two or three of these tabletop soccer games and most of them just stand next to the main road. They are either surrounded by 10-12 children or 2-4 teenagers. In the first case the game is rather static; there are too many players around the table and thus there is not too much movement amongst the little soccer players on the table. In the latter case two of the 3-4 teenagers play the game with high concentration; the others seem to be there for moral support only.

23 November 2009
Maybe I have been assigned my own personal rain cloud after having spent more than six years in Belgium. Anyway it is quite interesting to notice that already in Bahir Dar it was slightly raining and people said this is by no means normal for this time of the year. In Gondar there were showers, too and here now in Debark it is really pouring with rain. Debark is 1800 meters above sea level and it is not only wet but also very cool. In the mountains today it was still sunny but also very cool but sort of expected given the altitude of up to 4600 meters. Those mountains are spectacular. At times they reminded me of the Andes in Argentina, at times of the Alps but then again they are different. There are trees and other very lush plants up until over 3000 meters, cows, horses, sheep and baboons live there and today we even saw buzzards and lammergeyers.

22 November 2009
Gonder is a treasure and a real discovery! Gonder had its golden times as capital of Ethiopia and seat of the empire in the 17th century. Palaces and ruins of palaces are a sign that show the wealth and power still today. Emperor Fasilidas even built a huge swimming pool, about 30 by 70 meters big, with a castle in the middle. It must have been truly splendid at its time. Even today they fill the pool up once a year during the most important festival in January and have children bathe in it. UNESCO has declared the palaces world heritage and they had all reason to do so. The dynasty is said to go back to the mighty queen of Sheba who reigned Arabia and most of eastern Africa at her time. It is also said that back home in Europe people just laughed about stories of an independent and sophisticated empire in Africa when early European visitors told about Gonder in the 17th and 18th century. They simply could not believe that this was even possible. Since the empire went down, most of the palaces have suffered and some of them are only ruins. The interior decoration and treasures were all taken out of the country and most of it is probably in different British museums.

What is very bizarre in the city itself are the Pepsi cola sponsorship activities. Most interestingly Pepsi even sponsors police control points at intersections. Those little huts are not only branded but also have man-sized Pepsi cola bottles on their roofs.

21 November 2009
In the early days they used to say ‚Mens sana in corpore sano’. Nowadays that reads ‘When your body heats, your mind chills.’ Having read that on a billboard the other day I had a relaxing morning in beautiful spa of the Kuriftu Lake Tana Hotel in Bahir Dar. Actually this splendid hotel and especially its interior design reminded me very much of the Flintstones. From Bahir Dar we drove about an hour to the Blue Nile Waterfalls which are nice but as always I am more thrilled by artefacts than by nature. Anyway it was very well worth the visit. From there it took quite some hours to get to Gondar, home of the emperors of Ethiopia’s early days. The landscape was as stunning as on the way from Addis to Bahir Dar and interestingly often reminds me of Austria and the Alps. I really have to redefine my picture of Africa.

20 November 2009
Lake Tana hosts over 20 cloisters on its many islands. We reached some of them by boat today and this was really and experience. They are peaceful and quiet. On some of these islands only priests and monks live. On others there are also small villages. The lake itself has the colour of the river in my hometown during my childhood; a light brown that looks sort of dangerous. The cloisters were all similar. Their shape was the traditional Ethiopian round hut with a straw roof. The sanctum sanctorum inside is square shaped and only accessible for priests and monks. On the walls of the sanctum sanctorum that you surround walking inside the round shape of the cloister building there are naïve paintings of diverse bible stories from the new and Old Testament. Much beloved are Saint George killing the dragon, the martyrs, the circumstances of all Apostle’s death, all stages of Mary’s life as well as the angels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. What was particularly fascinating were the little museum that hosted old Gondar, Axum and Lalibela crosses as well as old bibles dating back to as early as the 9th century (!).

19 November 2009
After more than 600 km driving we finally made it to lake Tana. The roads are in a very, very good state.

18 November 2009
Went to some excavations from prehistoric times in the south of Addis Ababa. Splendid and nicely presented!

17 November 2009
I estimate having seen about 80% of all mannequins in Addis Ababa during the last three days. It is a paradise for Broken Muses! What was especially nice were mannequins wearing glasses and all sorts of fractures. I think I experienced sort of a muse trance on those days, recognizing only very little apart from the mannequins. I have been to the Addis Ababa Museum though. There was a room ‘first in Ethiopia’ showing the then king driving the first car and operating the first telephone.
Apart from that I had some interesting discussions with my driver/Sherpa, for instance whether or why it makes sense to switch on the lights when driving downhill in neck breaking speed over a sand road. Or why it could be worthwhile asking the way after having gotten totally lost. Earlier on and just before the first real turn and maneuver, we had figured out that he has never driven an automatic car. After I had violently removed his left leg from the break, things went generally a lot smoother.

16 November 2009
My first impressions of Addis Ababa: It is a big and not too beautiful town that does not unveil its charms immediately. There are more Volkswagen beetles here than I have seen in a long, long time. And else of course the gap between rich and poor is enormous although not as bad as I experienced it in India.
People say that the Merkato is the biggest market in all of Africa. If you only search long enough I am sure you can literally really find everything there. The most bizarre sight I found was an area devoted to the production and sales of coffins. You can get anything there from the cheapest, carelessly assembled coffin made from raw wood, over carefully crafted and painted ones up to the upmarket coffin with cloth coating on the outside and a comfortable foam coating on the inside. What stroke me was that in another area I had seen matrasses in various shapes and forms. Not a single one of them was white: they all came covered in breathtakingly ugly patterned cloth. The same cloth or at least similar patterns were also used for coating coffins. There may be advantages in chosing similar patterns for both, who knows. In one corner children’s coffins were for sale. Those were rather on the simple and bare wood side but painted in bright pink. And they could be esily stampled by the dozen.

15 November 2009
Arrived to Addis Ababa late last night and spent a beautiful day here. I had a massage, took a lot of pictures of mostly broken mannequins, had a car cruise around the city, a drink in one of the most luxurious hotels and a great French/Belgian dinner. So I guess I had a very good first day here!

14 November 2009
Recent T-Shirt prints: ‘Your pizza has arrived!’ – ‘Idylls end in thunderstorms’ – ‘Sold out’ – ‘Future Artist’ – ‘Untitled’

13 November 2009
No problems with my name today but I am back to square one regarding my gender. I received the following invite, addressed to Mister Margit Brandl: Monsieur Margit Brandl, nous avons le plaisir de vous inviter à une table ronde sur le thème: “Irak 2010: année zéro?”

12 November 2009
Hadn’t I moved from time to time yesterday they would have taken me for airport inventory and probably dusted me sooner or later. Else I found that you see more men with backpacks at the airport than in the mountains (not that I would be in the mountains myself often but still). And there has been a clear shift in trends; while it is still cool to have something behind one’s ear it used to be a cigarette some years back and is a Bluetooth hands free device for your mobile phone nowadays.

11 November 2009
One should do a series of pictures in airplanes. Many people who most often don’t know each other and who also do not really want to communicate sit close to each other. Sooner or later almost all of them stare at a little screen in front of them, headphones on and show different stages of excitement.
Back from Lebanon. Well not exactly. I was flying over Brussels but needed to connect at Heathrow airport to finally go to Brussels. Standing 6.5 hours ahead of time in front of three screens that list flights for the coming hours and seeing that your flight is the last one on those screens can be rather depressing.

10 November 2009
Man is a creature of habit and worryingly so. After my late arrival the day before yesterday I did not notice, yesterday it was the evening small talk’s main topic and today it seems pretty normal: the ubiquitous military presence in Beirut/Lebanon. There are armed soldiers on literally every corner presenting their machine guns and often there is a fully fledged armed and camouflaged tank right next to them. All uniforms have the same camouflage pattern but differ in colors. There are blue ones, grey ones and khaki ones. The guns all look the same and very frightening but the guys as such are just very friendly. They chat, text, greet tourists but nevertheless a feeling of slight uneasiness remains.

9 November 2009
From the collection of well articulated offenses: ‘Your English is very good! Do you want me to speak more slowly so that you can understand?’
And, this time witnessed: An elderly gentlemen waves at a colleague of me and asks politely: ‚Are you asleep?’
Received comment: I notice that you were not kidding when you put my unfortunate comment on your blog. Your website appears to be a true reflection of who you are, creative, confident and willing to communicate on every level.

8 November 2009
Even during the financial crisis banks advertise. Brussels airport is decorated with a huge poster of PNB Paribas reading ‘The bank for a changing world.’ On the same spot there used to be a huge Fortis ad showing a red curve reading: ‘Life is a curve, where are you on it?’

7 November 2009
I saw a few beautiful broken muses yesterday in Paris and was suffering as I did not hav my camera with me. Today I spent a few hours in my darkroom, for the first time in months. It is such a thrilling feeling to see the picture slowly appearing in the developing liquid.

6 November 2009
Finally – after going by train to London Wednesday and from there by train to Paris I am on my trip back to Brussels. Well that’s what I thought. There is a high speed train between Paris and Brussels. I had an electronic ticket that required me to print out a paper ticket at the station using a code. Sure enough I could not print the ticket out in Brussels, as I had to rebook the whole journey and go straight from London to Paris. But the return trip remained valid and so I tried to get a ticket. What I found out is that I had a 7 digit code and that is what one needs for the Belgian electronic system. In Paris one would need a 6 digit code and sure enough it is not the first 6 digits of the 7 digit code. As the tickets are booked on codes and not on names, nobody could find the ticket. In the end I boarded the train and tried to convince the conductor that the print out of my lousy electronic booking confirmation is as good as a ticket. He ran away with my passport and for about ten minutes I thought he would either kick me out of the train (running 300km/h) or require an enormous fine. To my total surprise I got back the passport and a nod that everything was fine.

5 November 2009
From the collection of well articulated offenses: ‘If we do not pay attention, xyz will employ some lawyers and a few other unemployed people…’

4 November 2009
I am not good at taking trains, And also not very lucky in doing so. From tonight onward there will be a 4 hour strike. So my journey back from London to Brussels and my trip to Paris tomorrow are affected. Great. And on top of that, the Eurostar train got stuck in the channel tunnel. A creepy feeling I have to say. While one is beneath the sea, all engines went out, the lights went out as well and no information was given. After ages the conductor said that he was in ‘permanent contact’ with the driver. Well, probably he saw him running towards the end of the tunnel…

3 November 2009
I hear that in the UK an area where there is no Internet is called Not Spot as opposed to the inevitable Hot Spot. I like that. It reminds me of my trip to India and that mountain resort that I assumed to be just nature and thus a classical not spot whereby it turned out to be the best hot spot I’ve been to ever!

2 November 2009
I’ll go to Paris later this week and will take the high speed train. Somebody told me that I can travel paperless; all I need to do is filling in an online form. Well. I tried. And I found it odd. The website opened but instead of a form it showed an idyllic image of a train in the far distance and a ruminant cow whose ears move accordingly!
Received comments: Yup, the old Margit is back. The blog is just hilarious! H.
H. is right. The “old Margit” is back. But the “new Margit” (whoever that is!) is just, fine with me, too…. W.

31 October 2009
Sometime life is fair. For a number of days you are somebody’s Sherpa and then on the next day when you least expect it, someone is your Sherpa.

30 October 2009
I would never have thought so but a touristic Flamenco show can be fascinating! Wonderful rhythm and proud dancers!

29 October 2009
Arrived to Seville/Spain yesterday Tonight a colleague and me were was searching for the vibrant nightlife in Seville everybody spoke of. Somehow it is rather limited.

28 October 2009
My phone tells me that I tried to call myself 11 times today. I even left me a voicemail. Unfortunately I did not understand the message I left for myself on the voicemail.

27 October 2009
Seen as advertisement on a truck from a tires company: My sport is transport.

26 October 2009
Although it is not often publicly stated or if so very well paraphrased, passing things on has become a valuable job description of many people. Having said that, one must by no means underestimate the role of the forwarding function in modern day e-mail clients for growth and job creation!

25 October 2009
I’ve read it a few days ago in a newspaper and actually seen it in a leaflet in Austria this weekend: Penny, a food discounter with a budget travel agency subsidiary, actually offers journeys to outer space for 209.555 Euro – sold via their Austrian call center. This is no hoax but actually meant to boost their overall travel portfolio. Like they do for their food offer, they have a best price guarantee; if you see the journey to outer space for a cheaper price anywhere else, you get the difference back.

24 October 2009
I wanted to order a new (HP) keyboard online. Unfortunately the online shop said when I typed in that I wanted to have it shipped to ‘Belgium’: ‘We do not ship to Alaska, Hawaii and Prisons.’

22 October 2009
After a long period of relative name integrity I was called ‘Verena’ the other day as well as ‘Margite’.

21 October 2009
Last weekend I saw a toilet seat in a shop with Obama’s picture and the inevitable ‘Yes you can!’ printed on it.

20 October 2009
Everybody seems to be thrilled by social networking sites these days. After having reported on my dubious twitter experiences a while ago (29 April), I am now again amazed about the notification (!) of one of these websites that a number of people want to get in touch with me. One of them highlights a picture showing his well trained upper body; it can only be assumed that there might be a face as well but the possessor seems to suggest it can be disregarded.

19 October 2009
I have to quote a friend of mine who often says: ‘The fact that one is paranoid does not mean that they are not after you.’

18 October 2009
We all know that you can see the Chinese Wall from outer space. What seems to be less known is that one can also see the illuminated Belgian highways. On second thought who would have thought that the kingdom of Belgium and the ‘Middle Kingdom’ have that much in common?

  1. October 2009
    And what else is happening in the world? Well, Hugo Chavez is about to nationalize a Hilton Hotel on Isla Margarita. In London, an art event is just over where 2400 people stood on a pole on Trafalgar square one hour each. One I read was dressed in brown, giving the image of a piece of shit with an impressively big fly on his back. He was holding up a sign reading: 884 million people do not have clean water.

16 October 2009
I spoke at a conference earlier this week and received the following thank—you letter (I only quote the relevant part only): ‘Thank you very much for your participation at this week’s … Conference 2009. We really appreciate your contribution, and the part that you played in helping to make the event the success that it was. I very much hope that you both enjoyed the event, and also found it useful.’ Well obviously I could not hide my alter ego as the both (!) of us are mentioned.

15 October 2009
News News News: There is now a mobile page for reading the Brokenmuses Blog on a mobile device. Just bookmark that page http://www.brokenmuses.com/brokenblog-en.php on your mobile phone.

14 October 2009
A friend of mine just shared the following nice story, underlining that this really just happened in a Barnes and Noble coffee shop in the USA. ‘That will be $4.17. Do you have a Barnes and Noble card sir?’ ‘No.’ ‘No worries sir … hey good news get a refill today for only $0.50 when you return today before 11pm.’ ‘OK.’ ‘Here is your change. Thank you for shopping at Barnes and Noble. Have a love filled day.’ All that was delivered perfectly with a straight face and no doubt pre programmed as part of the customer service manual.
Well all I can say now is ‘Dear readers, thank you for reading the broken blog and we hope to welcome you back to our site soon again! Have a perfectly broken day!’

13 October 2009
Have a look at this website on Smart Logos With Second Thought To Make You Look Twice. It is really nice and thoughtful what simple images/logos can do. – Website is discontinued…

12 October 2009
I love online tools that – after having used them successfully for registering demands for approval – give you the insightful line: ‘Following requests have been granted or rejected …’ without of course giving you any hint how to find out whether they were approved or rejected. Probably the decision has not been taken and will never be taken. I thought this rather neutral half-sentence would be a wise answering line for any requests that come over social networking sites: Your request to connect to me has either been approved or rejected.

11 October 2009
I eavesdropped on a conversation on the table next to me in a Munich coffee shop: A: ‘You know I really like bears.’ B: ‘But they can eat you, too!’ A: ‘That’s right but you know when I went to Alaska I was very disappointed; I did not see a single bear!’ B: ‘That’s such a shame!’

10 October 2009
A bakery in Tyrol advertises with the following: ‘We bake wishes!’ and ‘You should give good things to your body so that the soul is eager to live in it.’ Well.

8 October 2009
Book title: ‘Kiss, bow or shake hands: How to do business in 60 countries’.

7 October 2009
Saw a photography exhibition by Jonathan Zuck; very inspiring!

6 October 2009
Word of the day: throttle.

5 October 2009
New t-shirt prints: ‘What is fashion?’ – ‘Future Billionaire’ and ‘It’s all about me’.

4 October 2009
Today’s Dilbert comic strip on Twitter is simply hilarious. We all know that Twitter is helpful.

2 October 2009
In 2000 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. What a title!

29 September 2009
I eavesdropped on the following conversation: A: What is that (xyz)? B: I have no idea. A: You can’t know everything. A little later: A: Where is (city xyz)? B: I have no idea. A: You can’t know everything. Again later. A: When will we arrive? B: I have no idea. A: You can’t know everything. There was not the slightest irony in all that.

28 September 2009
I cannot stand blurred photos, especially when they are huge and used as advertisements. I keep staring at them thinking to myself: Why? Why is there a trend towards blurred images?

27 September 2009
Who has invented those smoking rooms on airports? Since smoking is prohibited, smokers are forced into foggy chambers, most often unembellished glass cubicles. This is humiliating for the smokers and a source of cursory compassion for passersby.

25 September 2009
Thoughts on a Friday: Why do printer jams only occur during Friday afternoons or when in a hurry? Why is it more difficult to eat round sandwiches compared to longish ones? And why is mayonnaise always dripping out of sandwiches when one does not have a napkin? And why is mayonnaise still used for sandwiches at all?

24 September 2009
A new fast-food chain in Brussels is called ‚Take Eat Easy’.

20 September 2009
Just recently I had an evergreen conversation on what makes Brussels special and whether or not there is something like life quality in Brussels. Despite some drawbacks for me it is the surreal moment that makes Brussels worth living in. Twice a year (one was today) Brussels has a car-free Sunday. It seemed that virtually everybody was on the street, people were cycling, there were spontaneous flea markets. Roaming through the streets all of a sudden I found myself in front of a house, a tailor most likely, that had a bright red corset hanging out of his first floor window that was the top part of a long red carpet. Magritte couldn’t have painted a better picture of the surreal Brussels moment.

19 September 2009
The Champagne region i not far away from Belgium and today was the most lovely day to visit. I loved the Catheadral of Reims with its smiling angel, all the other beautiful sculptures on the outside and the windows by Chagall inside. I did not know that it is UNSCO world heritage. A visit to the Pommery champaign wine cellars was well worth the visit. About 20 million bottles of champagne are stored in about 18 kilometers of chalkstone cellars. The buildings on top seem like a castle complex, it is fascinating. I mused about buying a so called Salmanazar; a 9 liter bottle of Champaign but refained from it for a number of reasons. The Methusalem (6 liters) was also impressive but equally unhandy.

17 September 2009
I’ve spotted quite a number of new t-shirt prints: ‘Superlative conspiracy’, ‘Make me cupcakes’ and – next to a museum worn by a young girl: ‘I really don’t like art’.

16 September 2009
I’ve been to the new Acropolis Museum in Athens yesterday. It is truly splendid. The museum is replicating the acropolis uphill which you see from many places of the building. They’ve brought together many remains of the antique decoration. What impressed me most were the Caryatids.

15 September 2009
It is always interesting to see people working close to airport terminals. Since one world is sponsoring ‘electricity geysers’ on some airports, you see more and more people around those pillars, connected through cables. In Byzantine times we had pillar saints but as far as I know they were sitting on the pillars and were very ascetic. On second thought I guess I prefer that they’re sitting next to the modern airport electricity pillars and not on them.

14 September 2009
E-Mail programs are tricky and sometimes do more than they should. I just wanted to file something in a draft folder, addressed ‘to self’. Who can assume that I have a colleague whose name is Selfu to whom the message went automatically and who now probably muses about my message? I tried to recall it but in vein.
Unrelated to that but also oddly enough I got an e-mail saying ‘Dear Mr. Margit … you should rent a technical resource program’. I have no idea what that means but after just having admitted writing e-mails to (my)self, I did not dare to ask. Ah yes, the gender issue came up again with that as well!

13 September 2009
Notes on a Sunday: Went to cinema with 15 Euros in my pocket. Lost the money on the way. Found out in front of the cinema. Went home.

11 September 2009
I really like the new song by pink ‘Please don’t leave me’. But the best thing about it is the video.

10 September 2009
I had no idea that a) carrier pigeons are still used today and b) that pigeons really provide broadband capabilities. A story worth reading… Where can I get a pigeon?

9 September 2009
This online presentation is a very beautiful piece of art with some very thoughtful observations. I especially liked ‘Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful’ and ‘Don’t take yourself too seriously. No one else does.’ And ‘What other people think of you is none of your business.’

7 September 2009
Adding to yesterday’s butcher shop: Today I saw a Brussels bakery called ‘Boulangerie Sans Souci’.

6 September 2009
Close to Brussels’ south station there is a butcher shop called ‘Boucherie Stalingrad’.

5 September 2009
Just read in a brochure for woman travelers: ‘To concentrate your favorite shampoo and conditioner, just pour the shampoo into one pie plate and the conditioner into another. Place them in the oven at a low temperature (about 200-250°) for several hours. Much of the water will evaporate, leaving very thick liquids. Using a funnel, pour these liquids into small travel bottles and label them. All you need is just a few drops at a time, and they’ll last for weeks.’ I don’t know if I would want to do that.

4 September 2009
I was invited to a wedding in Bruges which was really nice. It reminded me once more how difficult it is to be the wedding photographer and was happy that I did not have the honor.

1 September 2009
A new muse is online in the friends-section of this website.

31 August 2009
A new museum opened. In their frequently asked questions section on their website they say the following about whether or not one can visit the museum now: ‘the museum will remain closed to the public until after its official opening.’ Well great!

29/30 August 2009
I’ve been away from Brussels recently and after a fist assessment three huge buildings have been torn down in the meantime. Not a big surprise. I have not been to Vienna city center in a while and having been there just now I find out that they have torn down a building in one of the major downtown shopping streets. And that is sheer unbelievable.

28 August 2009
Seen on a car today (advertising a company that obviously has to do with construction or better destruction): ‘Our mission – your demolition.’ Taken out of context I would not necessarily think this is a great slogan.

27 August 2009
French is really not my strongest side. So it happens that three young guys in a little car stop and ask me for the time. Or at least that was what I understood. Actually they asked the way to the station. They were at least as puzzled as I was but took it nicely and said they liked my accent.

26 August 2009
T-shirt print (pink on brown shirt, worn by a 30 year old): I’ve been dressed by my mum.

23 August 2009
Thinking about it raspberry juice is somewhat totally out. I guess peach ice tea has made the race and replaces raspberry juice fully.

22 August 2009
I have become a Billy Bryson aficionado and can’t stop reading his traveling books.

20 August 2009
T-shirt prints: ‘I am entitled to be grumpy’
‘Made in Jail IIII II’
‘Live beyond your means’
‘Real eyes, real lies, realize’

7 – 19 August 2009
Umbria, Rome. Well, Umbria does not feel like Italy at all. It is all neat and tidy and well kept. No dirt on the streets, plants are in pots and neatly arranged around the houses. Most little towns are on hilltops and from medieval or Etruscan times.
My best insight was that Baci, the hazelnut praline chocolate comes from Perugia. In every Baci there is a little paper with a quote or a proverb like: ‘Of all sentiments love is that which has the greatest need of leisure’ – Stendhal.
Perugia is overall the nicest and most enjoyable city in Umbria I thought. What was particular interesting was that there are escalators that bring you up to the historic city. So from various spots on the hill they’ve constructed escalators that bring you up and around so to say. Probably it is only possible in Italy to drill through historic walls and antique archeologically interesting ground in order to make life easier with escalators.
Assisi is a great spot for tourists, its double cathedral (one is above the other) is very impressive, Citta de la Pieve is enjoyable (especially the costume festival on august 15 was) and Orvieto is also a place one has to see (mainly again for the cathedral). Gubbio is allegedly the oldest medieval town which is still entirely intact and I must say it has something.
Else being in sunny Italy really felt like holidays with important questions: Do I have a second cappuccino for breakfast? Is it sunbathing or culture today? Do I read another chapter or will I just get lost in thought now?
The last day then in Rome was again totally different. Even in the middle of summer and in an incredible heat Rome is special and stunning. In quite a rush we saw Fontana di Trevi, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Campo di Fiori, Trastevere and San Giovanni in Laterano.

6 August 2009
Not underestimating the pandemic, warnings against the swine flu – or whatever it is called these days – have always quite some comic potential. I read today that the best way to avoid infection is to observe the following basic rules of hygiene (please pay special attention to the first two):
– Wash your hands and keep them away from your face.
– Cough hygienic: Keep your distance from others and cover your mouth with your – sleeve or a tissue.
– Make sure closed rooms are aired regularly.
– Keep your distance from others and avoid crowds.

5 August 2009
Pole Pole. Suaheli for take it easy.

4 August 2009
On 13 February 2009 I asked whether you can urge people who are already collecting bags of antique book shops to start a collection of sickness bags from airplanes.
Well, obviously you can. And people do much more than that. There is an online gallery for air sickness disposal bags. Most wanted these days: any pre-1970 bag. Somebody offers a free starter kit consisting of 3 bags of his choosing.
My personal favorite is Rafael Antonio Lozano jr. He is on a personal mission to visit every Starbuck’s outlet in the world. See his webpage. I especially liked the about me page.

2 August 2009
Summer slump in the newspapers: The only things that newspapers do is pondering the beer brand Obama recently drank while receiving guests in the white house garden, whether – on the eve of becoming grandfather – it is about time for Sarkozy to have a baby with Bruni and whether it is appropriate for a serious newspaper to have an interview with Brüno, Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest figure (as Cohen is not willing to have interviews as such and rather prefers posing as one of his alter egos).

1 August 2009
So this is it, one of THE Belgian seaside destinations, Blankenberge. Seen it, been there. No need to go there again in the middle of summer I guess.

31 July 2009
Belgian Artist Phebus has created a limited series of broken muses stamps.

30 July 2009
Austrian wafer manufacturer Manner now also sells Manner ‘soundbags’: handbags where you can connect your iPod. It has integrated boxes and replays music…

29 July 2009
Is the NASA video of the moon landing still copyright protected?

27 July 2009
Swine flu isn’t called swine flu anymore and also Mexican flu seems to be an outdated term. It has a very prosaic name now: Influenza A/H1N1. Anyway, a recent warning reads: ‘Personal hygiene is all the more important, especially in contact with people who are returning from a trip or vacation and in contact with other people in general – at work, for example. …
– Cough and sneeze into a paper tissue (not into your hands).
– Keep a physical distance from people who have cold symptoms
– Refrain from shaking hands
There are basically no grounds for panic.’
I especially like the last two lines!

24 July 2009
T-shirt print: ‘Secret society of vegans – saving the unicorns since the 90s’

23 July 2009
As my father would put it: Some people are really dreaming of lukewarm iced-lollies.

22 July 2009
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says in its article 24: ‘Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.’

20 July 2009
New pictures from Cairo/Egypt are online, amongst them many new broken muses!

19 July 2009
‘I can because I want what I must.’ Immanuel Kant

18 July 2009
In Bruck an der Mur there is a school for explosive engineering.

16 July 2009
T-Shirt print: ‘Reality is a stinky business’

15 July 2009
Sometimes you don’t know if something is a change of for a change.

14 July 2009
Even after many years of practice I find small talk tiring. And I still manage to go home hungry after an evening reception with food and drinks.

13 July 2009
The Finns are very curious people, they even have a competition for carrying wives.

12 July 2009
‘I am always perplexed when people say that a photograph has captured someone. A photograph is just a tiny slice of a subject. A piece of them in a moment.: Annie Leibovitz in At Work.

11 July 2009
‘Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.’ Mark Twain

10 July 2009
‘When you meet a man, you judge him by his clothes; when you leave, you judge him by his heart.’ Russian Proverb

9 July 2009
‘When I get a little money, I buy books: and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.’ Erasmus
‘My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.’ Abraham Lincoln

8 July 2009
Weird scenes on Munich airport… Many young people in traditional clothes stood there waving huge signs reading ‘To the international convention of Jehova winesses’ with which they welcomed about half the population of Japan.

7 July 2009
No all song texts are cunning. An example: ‘There are nine million bicycles in Beijing
– That’s a fact – It’s a thing we can’t deny – Like the fact that I will love you till I die.’

5 July 2009
Advertisement for a bookshop: ‘Shoot your own movie – read a book.’
And another t-shirt print: ‘99% angel’

4 July 2009
Can you claim doing sports regularly when you just run after planes or between gates at the airport respectively?
Latest spotted t-shirt print: ‘Greetings from Djibouti!’ I am sure not everybody has got a t-shirt like that.

3 July 2009
A few very insightful Wittgenstein quotes:
The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
What cannot be imagined cannot even be talked about.
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

2 July 2009
Dennis Meadows, who was part of the Club of Rome and co-authored ‚limits to growth’ said in a recent interview: ‚In the short term you often have to go complicated ways in order to change things for the better in the long term’ and ‘you have to sacrifice now in order to live better in the long run’.

1 July 2009
A friend told me about a quote by Henri Ford who said ‘When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.’

30 June 2009
My grandmother used to say; ‘Life isn’t a musical request programme.’
Today’ word: ‘muddle’.

29 June 2009
Today’s word is ‘cantankerous’.

28 June 2009
Nobel laureate Eric Kandel said in an interview ‘a human being is what he has learnt and what he remembers’.

27 June 2009
I wonder why politicians like Obama are so successful with slogans of ‘change’, ‘yes we can’ or ‘the time is now’. Change seems the most difficult thing to achieve for most people. Maybe it is because the marketing of these slogans imply that someone else will do it, that being for it is all it takes and the dirty work is done by others. I am curious whether the opposition will soon start marketing slogans like ‘too little, too late’.

26 June 2009
What else do you need on a Friday apart from a pigeon that shits on you, a PC that gets stolen and the police that says they were not informed about a stolen PC but instead about the fact that somebody had been taken hostage?

25 June 2009
Bertrand Russell allegedly said ‘Anything that can be put in a nutshell shall remain there.’

24 June 2009
New pictures at the Broken Muses start page.

23 June 2009
I ask myself what drives people to throw away things on the street. Today I saw a pair of boots on the streets. So somebody has left them behind. Why?

22 June 2009
After long months of relative stability regarding my name I was called ‘Birgit’ and ‘Margrit’ today. The latter is maybe a tribute to the recently opened Magritte museum in Brussels.

21 June 2009
Midsummer and it is raining cats and dogs in Brussels.

20 June 2009
I Can’t stop reading ‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts. It is one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in recent years.

18 June 2009
Trying to recover from bleeding hands, aching back and other pain from yesterday’s exhibition.

17 June 2009
Exhibition in Brussels in the Royal Arts and History Museum. My main take is that the secret of some people’s success seems to be having developed mastership in watching others work. Well, apart from that I refine my earlier assumption of personal hell (which was screwing together picture frames). Since I do pictures on aluminum support, that is no longer necessary. It now contains mounting and demounting easels. So it has changed a bit over time.
Some people but really just a few seemed to be interested in my pictures and said things ranging from ‘I really like them’ to ‘they all look so sad’ and ‘well I’m into art from the far east’.

16 June 2009
I read a most shocking article by a woman who survived a prison sentence in North Korea.

14 June 2009
Finally found some time again to work in the dark room. Facing my negatives I only realize today in how many places I have been lately: Budapest, Lisbon, Porto, Prague, Maastricht, New York, Munich, Cairo, Athens.
What else is new? There is now a news archive on the website. And I will have a half day exhibition next Wednesday in the Royal Arts and History Museum in Brussels.

13 June 2009
My best friend tends to say ‘Man should stay amongst themselves and play football.’

12 June 2009
Returned from Athens. I read a very interesting article on photographic retouching in the newspaper. Retouching is not only commonplace, it becomes so bizarre that celebrities start to look totally different from magazine to magazine.

11 June 2009
News in the section of t-shirt prints: ‘Three reasons to be a teacher: June, July, August.’
and ‘To do is to be. Socrates – To be is to do. Plato – Do Be Do Be Do. Sinatra.’

10 June 2009
Arrived to Athens quite late and had barely time to see the Acropolis. Such a great city. So much to see and no time really.

6 June 2009
Written above the entrance of a Brussels bookshop: ‘Carefully balanced on the edge of a hole in time’.

5 June 2009
My camera seemed broken. I am so relieved that it was only empty batteries.

4 June 2009
I got some very interesting feedback to this website today asking me whether I was suggesting James Bond is a ‘broken muse’?!

3 June 2009
Newsletters are always a fruitful source for my blog. I read today under a heading ‘joyful news’ that ‘we would like to take the opportunity to inform you of the birth of our new website’. Had I only known that websites just get born, broken muses would have been up and running years before 2005.

2 June 2009
A while ago I reflected on the fact that there are people who you can smell before you even see them. In elevators I sometimes get the feeling that you can smell certain people also still a while after they’ve left. I am not sure which is worse.

1 June 2009
What I forgot to mention about Cairo the other day was a very insightful button on the livery of every hotel employee reading: ‘Yes is the answer, what is the question?’ It was not always easy to get the question across, especially as it needed to be worded in a yes/no manner. Difficult to ask where breakfast is served or when to check out at the latest.

30 – 31 May 2009
A classical trip to Paris involving a visit to the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel tower, a boat trip on the Seine, a stroll through St. Germain des Pres and a visit to Versailles.
What was perhaps different to a really pure classical Paris trip was a tribute to the largest flea market of all times at Porte de Clinancourt where the bride, a broken muse in her wedding dress, is still sitting in the back of a shop for old metal.

29 May 2009
2 years of Broken Muses blog!

28 May 2009
WWF says without the environment there is no economy.

27 May 2009
While waiting for a takeaway pizza a woman with a dog on her arm entered the pizza place. She asked whether the owner needed a dog. He declined politely, not today. I was happy having ordered a vegetarian pizza.

26 May 2009
You can be registered in more than one country in Europe but it seems that you can only vote in the vote on the European Parliament in one country.

25 May 2009
I cycled to another bike shop in order to buy a lock. It was closed.

21 – 24 May 2009
My visit to Cairo already started of well. I was picked up by a driver who looked like Omar Sharif’s grandson and said his name was Honey. His two phrases were: ‘Welcome to Egypt’ and ‘no problem’. Without any problems he welcomed me to Egypt at least 15 times. We drove to the pyramids of Gizeh. Although I had of course seen them numerous times on TV or on pictures, the feeling of actually standing in front of them is hard to describe. There is a reason for calling them a world wonder. Being there and looking at them is stunning, moving. The Sphinx is equally impressive. How must the first discoverers have felt when seeing them? Of course there are numerous people who try to make the impression even better for tourists, they offer posing with camels or riding horse carriages.
The bazaar in the Islamic part of the city offers a wide array of obvious and not so obvious products. There are shops that manufacture hats or bind books. In between there are goats living on the streets and stands where you can drink freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. A must is the picturesque El Fishawy Café on the Khan El Khalili bazaar. More posh is the rooftop bar in the Nile Hilton that offers a splendid view over the city.
Coptic Cairo, the oldest part of the city as it seems is also most interesting. So is the Grand Egyptian Museum that hosts all the sarcophaguses, mummies, sculptures, tomb accessories and whatever one can imagine from the ancient Egyptian times. I guess one would need weeks to see all its treasures.
The City of the Dead is probably the thing that made the biggest impression on me apart form the pyramids. About a million people is said to live there in mausoleums and huts between the gravestones and tombs. It is a city in the city for the poorest of the poor, it has bus connections, shops and car repairs. The alleys have names and the graves numbers, so even mail can be delivered.

20 May 2009
I decided to ride a bike again. I cycled to the office, somehow managed to lose the lock. I then walked to a sports shop, the only one I know by the way, only to find out it has been closed down and replaced by a clothes shop. Somehow my cycling seems to be ill-fated.

19 May 2009
Wherever there is a construction ongoing you can be sure that there are people close by observing the scene. Is there a meditative aspect to construction sites and the change coming with it? Or is it just comforting to watch other people work?

16 May 2009
Art is beautiful but a lot of work. Karl Valentin

15 May 2009
Have a look at this real estate ad. Isn’t that THE brokenmuses apartment?

14 May 2009
I visited a brewery in Munich which was really interesting especially regarding the logistics. What was nice to hear was that at some stage in the fermentation process the beer is cooled and a certain amount of CO2 is set free. You cannot smell the gas and if you breathe in a certain amount that is lethal. In the past, many people died when entering the cooling rooms. So a way out was that the master brewer had a sausage dog, accompanying him to the site. Then he sent the sausage dog to the cooling room on a long leash. If the dog collapsed, the CO2 level was obviously too high. The respective dog collapsed but did not die. He eventually recovered but remained dizzy for a while. On old pictures it seems that you always see the sandwich dog next to the master brewer.

13 May 2009
Why are there dishes that are described as follows: ‘Fly fish caviar mousse on Castell Franco salad, asparagus spears in watercress vinaigrette and ciabatta bread’?

12 May 2009
… beauty is found in the everyday rather than in the ideal … Ann Temkin, the Blanchette Rockefeller Curator of Painting and Sculpture.

11 May 2009
Sentences you hear when shopping. Some of them sound pretty boring but make some sense, e.g. ‘Would you want a plastic bag?’ Others are a bit awkward like ‘Do you collect Disney stickers?’

10 May 2009
A wine and book lover recently told me that only red wine is real wine. White wine he thinks is just a refreshment.

8 May 2009
Some people think it is eccentric to read old newspapers. One could call them oldspapers. The advantage is that the chance of missing something important is rather low. On the other hand the problem is that one is never quite up to date of what is ongoing on the present day.

7 May 2009
At the airport I got a leaflet that draws your attention to various symptoms of what I thought was called the swine flu and what now all of a sudden is called Mexican flu. So at first, a whole species was discredited, now it is a whole country.

1 – 6 May 2009
An interesting fact I had not come across so far was that New York was briefly called New Orange after the Dutch had taken over briefly again from the British between August 1673 and November 1674. I found this nowhere in the Museum of the City of New York but only in a little brochure.
Being in the Library Hotel where every room has its theme and ‘please make my room’ signs read ‘please dust my books’ and ‘do not disturb’ is neatly worded ‘shhh, let me read’ all of a sudden New York seems to be all about reading. The theme of another bookshop was: Don’t judge a bookstore by its cover. Reading the daily paper, I came across an interesting article on the myth of multitasking and another one on the inventor and genius Nikola Tesla.
In New York Everybody between 16 and 20 seems to go crazy for Abercrombie & Fitch clothes. I saw many youngsters in the rain with paper shopping bags from the brand, protecting the shopping bag from the rain rather than themselves. The shopping bags show parts of the jeans and the well trained six pack of a male model. Allegedly the clothes are sold in dark rooms and so I wanted to check whether that was true. The first thing I saw was a gigantic poster of the shopping bag picture, a crowd of screaming girls, a girl with a Polaroid camera and – the model. I waked past the crowd, posed with the model and got a Polaroid picture of the two of us instantly.
http://www.abercrombie.com/anf/index.html
Else it was raining cats and dogs most of the time and freezing cold. Nevertheless I saw districts I haven’t seen before, like the Meatpacking district, the Upper East Side and some parts of Brooklyn. A real discovery was the Bar of the Mandarine Oriental Hotel, overlooking Central Park.

30 April 2009
‘I have always imagined that Paradise would be a kind of library’ – Jorge Luis Borges.
Also read today: ‘Busy loving, busy hating, busy laughing, busy going crazy’. And a new t-shirt quote: ‘There is no future in time travel’

29 April 2009
I don’t know whether joining twitter was such a success. Amongst the first ones who became my ‘followers’ were persons calling themselves ‘Harpi Bizarre’ and ‘I hate people’.

28 April 2009
I was informed about the following recommended health and safety procedures regarding the swine flu:
– Maintain good personal hygiene, wash your hands frequently.
– Avoid touching your face.
– Avoid people who are obviously sick.
And now my absolute favourite:
– Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and put your used tissue in a wastebasket. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands

27 April 2009
I think I will start a collection of insults. Heard yesterday: A person goes on and on about something. The next one says: ‘Recently I heard something really intelligent. Actually it was the opposite of what you just said.’

25 -26 April 2009
It’s a shame. I am in Porto and exactly today (April 25) is the most important Portuguese national holiday. Everything’s closed. Well, eventually one shop was open where I could buy the thickest sweatshirt ever as it is sunny but freezing cold. Who would think that this is possible in Portugal? Anyways, Porto’s center is UNESCO world heritage and although there are not many people on the streets and somewhat is seems like a ghost town and although half or more of the houses are empty or breaking apart, there is an irresistible charm to it. It is truly broken, which I of course happen to enjoy very much. I even found a few broken muses.
One should definitely have dinner in the Cafe de Paris, a drink in the Bar dos Livros (both Rua da Galleria de Paris), have coffee in the neo-baroque Café Majestic dating back to 1921 (Rua Santa Catarina) and browse through the books in the Llelo bookshop (Livraria Llelo, Rua des Carmelitos).

24 April 2009
There are exceptionally many blind people in Lisbon I think. During the last three days I saw at least 15. Today there was one on the streets passing me who wasn’t very good at it, yet. Although I tried to make space he still managed to hit me with his stick.
On the Mrs. Bean syndrome (© by a friend of mine; what she means by that is being enormously clumsy just as Mr. Bean): First I burnt my tongue today with a Pasteis de Belem (a cake and real Portuguese delight). Then as said I got hit by a blind person’s stick. When I tried to help someone at a lunch buffet I managed to hold my own plate in such a clumsy way that sauce was running all over my hand. And finally without George Clooney I was just unable to operate a Nespresso machine – producing only hot water.

23 April 2009
At a conference: A colleague referred me to talk to a person from a particular country. So I walked up to this person, introduced my self and said I was referred to him in order to talk to him. The I thought not so polite answer was: ‘I don’t think that this will be useful.’

22 April 2009
Visited Sintra/Protugal and got tremendously lost. When I finally discovered I was going around in circles, the police drove by. I managed to stop them. I must have looked very exhausted. The drove me about 15 km to the train station and dropped me there saying ‘enjoy Portugal!’.

21 April 2009
It is not easy to keep a poker face when somebody who is about to present a no-nonsense topic stands in front of a white wall while a video is projected and has a play-button projected onto his trousers.

20 April 2009
There is nothing such as a casual Monday. I went to the office casually as there were no meetings foreseen. Then a meeting popped up. So I prepared for it, got back home, dressed up, went to the meeting only to find out it was cancelled.

18 – 19 April 2009
Maastricht is a very interesting city. A new bookshop (Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen) has been built into an old Dominican church from the 13th century. Where the altar was, today there is a coffee shop. Not far from it, a 15th century Dominican monastery has been transformed into a modern hotel (Kruisherenhotel Maastricht). What used to be the Gothic church is now the central lobby. The bar is in the altar area there and the breakfast room in the gallery. The inner courtyard is also well done. A fountain sculpture with a rotating ship propeller creates a whirlpool that moves an ostrich egg up and down. Remarkable! And before I forget: The wasabi nut is also a common delight in Maastricht…

17 April 2009
It is always interesting to see what people throw away. A particularly stunning combination of parts of a Hoover and a broken icon.

16 April 2009
I read that in Stockholm a hotel was recently opened that has been built into a jumbo jet (Boing 747). The jumbo has been manufactured for Singapore Airlines in 1976. It is possible to sleep even in the cockpit! That’s the website of the Jumbo-Hostel.

15 April 2009
Prague is a beautiful city and interesting in many ways. Czech beer is world known and offered of course everywhere. Also in the mini bar of my hotel. The interesting detail though was that the cheapest item in the mini bar was a pack of condoms. The price was a third of the cheapest beer.

14 April 2009
A friend of mine has just started her wold-tour. She will go from Vienna to Madras, Sri Lanka, Singapur, Hongkong, Australia, to the Easter Islands and to Chile.

13 April 2009
Best selling books (titles only; 4 titles taken from the top ten of the non-fiction best seller list quoted in the ‘Standard’ of April 11): The hurt human being. The olive and us. Happiness rarely comes alone. Who dies healthily has more from life.

12 April 2009
I was stopped at the airport because I had 26 film rolls with me. Obviously the four ladies at the security check were well trained and spotted the camera on their black and whiter screen but the film rolls remained a miracle. They found it very suspicious that a person would export 26 film rolls from Austria to Belgium. The digital age has hit hard again.

10 April 2009
After cinema a huge Granny Smith apple landed just beneath me on the street. It came from above but there was no person visible who has taken the first bite and then thrown it. Weird.

9 April 2009
The wasabi nut has arrived to Bruck an der Mur! Furthermore there are now garbage bins for dog shit only.

8 April 2009
I hear that there are very interesting philosophy lectures at the university in Graz. They are well attended. Amongst others there is an older student who – much to the disgust of the other students – starts eating a strange kind of dark brown mash as soon as the professor enters the room. During the last lecture before Easter he did not only eat his brown mash but presented his false teeth and licked the rest of the brown mash off them.

7 April 2009
I got a chocolate Easter bunny. According to the package this is understood to be a hollowware made of bitter chocolate. Said hollowware has grim looks, is wrapped in a golden aluminum foil and has a brown bowtie as well as an amulet (!) on a ribbon.

5 April 2009
Kierkegaard said once: ‘You can make Wild ducks tame, but you can never make Tame ducks Wild again.’

4 April 2009
A new classic in the world of t-shirt prints: ‘Blame my sister’.

3 April 2009
A specialist told me that a bilby is an oviparous mammal.

2 April 2009
Just in time for Easter I came across a very curious trade mark case. The Austrian supreme court is seeking guidance on the concept of bad faith within the meaning of the Community trade mark legislation. The subject matter is chocolate Easter bunnies. The Austrian cholocate manufacturer Hauswirth has been challenged legally by its competitor Lindt&Sprüngli. Both companies produce golden chocolate bunnies at Easter time, both with gold-colored foil wrapping and a ribbon. Lindt also uses a bell on the bunny’s ribbon and has a three-dimensional Community trade mark of an Easter bunny wrapped in gold-coloured foil, with red and brown markings, wearing round its neck a red ribbon with a bell attached. The case is about the likelihood of confusion and more generally about the concept of bad faith when registering a trade mark that can be used against products which were already available on the market before the trade mark was registered. The interesting part comes in the opinion of the advocate general where the advocate general tries to define what an Easter bunny is: ‘Part of the mythology of Easter is an egg-bearing creature known as the Easter bunny. Different languages categorise the creature as a hare or a rabbit, and the English ‘bunny’ is perhaps flexible enough to encompass both. In Australia, where rabbits are viewed with disfavour, its mythological niche has been partly taken over by the ‘Easter bilby’ (although, given the animal’s possibly oviparous nature, one might have expected an ‘Easter platypus’). The article sold under the trade mark in issue in the present case is termed by its manufacturer ‘Goldhase’ in German, ‘Gold bunny’ in English, ‘Lapin d’or’ in French, ‘Coniglio d’oro’ in Italian, etc. Fortunately, the exact zoological classification of this (probable) lagomorph is entirely irrelevant to any of the issues in the case.’

1 April 2009
Recently a new sandwich shop opened in Brussels, brilliantly named for April’s fool day: It’s called ‘Fou’d Food’, crazy for food. This bar is close to a restaurant called Archimedes’ principle or better ‘Le Thé au harem d’Archi Ahmed’, pronounced as ‘Le Theorem d’Archimed’. Another nice name from my collection of interesting restaurant names in Brussels is ‘Et qui va promener le chien?’, so ‘and who is going to walk the dog?’.

30 March 2009
Many people are talking about the ‘Internet of Things’ these days. Recently I read it slightly misspelled, being referred to as the Internet of Thins. So it seems that the future Internet is only there for the really fit and slim ones.

29 March 2009
Brussels is known for chocolate. At Easter there are chocolate eggs everywhere and a particular shop advertises his giant chocolate eggs with ‘eggsplosion of taste’.

28 March 2009
News for the collection of t-shirt prints: ‘Animals taste good’ and ‘I recycle women’.

27 March 2009
Why is it often so that the answer to ‘please decide either – or’ is answered by ‘we believe that what you proposed this is the ideal way to go forward’.

26 March 2009
Conference in Cologne: It seems that the tensions between Cologne and Düsseldorf go as far as that the toilets in a Cologne conference venue are called ‚Düsseldorf.

25 March 2009
Is it really a sign of a rotting society when coffee shops advertise ‘breakfast until 5 pm’?

21 – 22 March 2009
News from the world of t-shirt prints:
Under a print image of the Brussels atomium there is a sentence in small letters reading ‘This is not Porto’. Or ‘Portugal apologizes for having invented the fado’ or ‚Download the whole Portuguese economy, just 20kb’. What I also found appealing was a handwritten ad in the shop windows of a shop selling handmade shoes reading: pretty shoes = pretty feet.

19 March 2009
Some buses in Brussels have a bright huge sticker nowadays reading: ‚This bus respects the environment.’ And then they block everybody’s way…

18 March 2009
On the Brussels Berlaymont building is a huge new poster reading: ‘Our food has become greener’ I’ve noticed. It takes ages for bananas to become yellow after you’ve bought them.

16 March 2009
From my series of meeting quotes: ‘It’s not a conference, it’s a real meeting with topics!’

15 March 2009
I tend to complain that there are hardly any ATMs in Brussels. Recently there are quite some at the airport at least.

13 March 2009
Nowadays there are more electricity plugs at airports, mainly due to the fact that a major airline customer loyalty program is sponsoring plug-in stations for charging phones and laptop computers. So people do not sit in the dirt between toilet entries anymore but gather around these charger stations. Their cables are now long enough to sit properly on the nearest benches. I have to say that I liked the humiliating image much more: businessmen in more or less tailor made suits sitting on the floor next to a power outlet…

12 March 2009
There is a new installation on the roof of the Musical Instruments museum in Brussels. It’s a huge bright blue brain.

11 March 2009
I am quoting from a Belgium Travel Advisory that a colleague of mine recently got from his travel agency:
– There is an underlying threat from terrorism, but nothing that you should be concerned about.
– Continuing political tensions between the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking ethnic groups [sic!] led to the government collapsing in 2008, but this is unlikely to lead to long-term instability affecting the security environment.
– Driving standards are improving but remain poor by European standards – this is the legacy of a lenient driving test and inadequate driver training.
– Hepatitis B: Recommended for … anyone who may have a new sexual partner, share needles or get a tattoo or body piercing.
– If you do not speak Flemish, it is usually preferable to speak English, not French, when speaking to a Flemish speaker.

10 March 2009
Recent studies seem to suggest that multitasking is not at all the great new approach that it has been said it was but makes people vulnerable to errors. More here. According to the study author David E. Meyer, director of the Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory at the University of Michigan, it takes far longer – often double the time or more – to get jobs done when people try to perform two or more related tasks either at the same time or alternating rapidly between them than if they were done sequentially.

6 – 8 March 2009
New tales from Absurdistan: Chaudefontaine is in a spa area and home to thermal springs. There is a fountain with two interesting warning plates. One reads that the water is definitely not drinking water. The other one reads that the water is not subject to any control whatsoever. Interestingly enough people are queuing there with empty bottles and canisters in order to fill them up with the water from the fountain.
Not far from the fountain is a public park with interesting signs, one of them forbidding dogs to pee in the park!

5 March 2009
From my collection of t-shirt prints: ‘Information Overload’

4 March 2009
A controversial statement in a controversial debate: ‚First of all I would like to underline that I agree with everything that has just been said…’

3 March 2009
New tales from Absurdistan: I got an invitation to join a running group. The advertisement read: ‘Coached by xyz you will learn how to smoothly run 5km in 10 weeks time.’ Well, 10 weeks seems generous for 5 kilometers. That gives you about 336 hours for 1 km or 20.16 min for each single meter. I guess that can be done not matter how untrained you are. Some snails may overtake tough.

28 February 2009
Ryanair’s CEO announced yesterday that in the near future his airline might charge customers to use its aircrafts’ toilets.

27 February 2009
From a newsletter: ‘There are apparent pro- and cons on the taste of coffee in the new offices. A ‘taste’ test session will be organized to potentially change the coffee.’

26 February 2009
Thinking about the concept of a bad bank, I hear some people think it might be cool being a manager there. Titles could be along the lines: vice president toxic assets – bad bank inc.

25 February 2009
Again trouble with my name: Today it was Margit Brandle.

24 February 2009
My name was spelled correctly on a conference badge!

23 February 2009
An American friend from California tells me that talking to me and listening to my accent is way more fun than listening to their governors Arnold’s. I guess that’s a compliment.

22 February 2009
From my collection of t-shirt prints: ‘I need some truth and aspirin.’ Fernando Pessoa

21 February 2009
Tales from hairdressers: A woman in her sixties enters the hairdresser at about 11 a.m. She has short hair. Approaching the first competent-looking hairdresser she says that she has to do a Mardigras parody of the local mayor later on the same day. In order to do so she wishes to also look like him which would involve pinning her hair down in order to model a bald head. Additionally she would want to have the one or the other long dark strand of hair – 20-30cm would do – that could be glued all over the bald head from ear to ear. The hairdresser’s mood changed quickly between disbelief, amusement and slight anger. Rather logically she argued that one cannot possibly model a bald head using – admittedly short – hair. When she saw the squashed hopes of that woman she advised to try find a wig that could eventually be shaved in order to resemble the mayor’s haircut.

20 February 2009
The rumor goes that there are acting librarians who refuse to read books that are written by female writers.

16 February 2009
For quite some time I hesitated to try. But I have to admit that there is a certain fascination in studio photography.

15 February 2009
Allegedly Daniel Craig alias James Bond has sleeping difficulties.

14 February 2009
I thought three crosses stand for signatures of people who can neither read nor write. Now I find out that it stands for kisses. Maybe for kisses of people who can neither read nor write, who knows?

13 February 2009
Can you urge people who are already collecting bags of antique book shops to start a collection of sickness bags from airplanes?

12 February 2009
There are very creative ideas out there how to sell things. What seems to become popular at the moment are raffles for houses. Read more here.

11 February 2009
I stumbled over a list of spa treatments from the Margit hotel on Margit island in Budapest. They offer things like a Hungarian wine cream massage, a body scrub with salt and fruit brandy and a honey and cabbage packing!

8 February 2009
A few updates: The pictures from Budapest (January 2009) are online now, click here.
The Wasabi nut has finally hit Belgium. I was told that a huge pile has been seen on a market in Antwerp. And last but not least: Bernd the bread (see blog entry from 18 January) has been kidnapped (!). After 11 days it could be liberated. Read more here on the kidnapping of Bernd and a related story about freeing Bernd.

7 February 2009
Is ‘Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän’ really the longest German word? That is highly questionable but there seems to be an interesting book on the subject matter by Guy Deutscher, called ‘The Unfolding of Language’.

6 February 2009
When crossing the street this morning a young guy with a suitcase asked me whether there were any cheap hotels around. He was searching for something in the range of 15-20 Euros. I pointed in a direction and said there was a youth hostel close by. He gave me a frightened look and said ‘No, never. I’ve seen a film about hostels…’ That left me slightly worried. What kind of films are out there on Brussels’ youth hostels? Or, even more worrying, what is happening there?

5 February 2009
I was again mistaken for being an IT administrator. Before the problem was reported I got a nice democratic opportunity to back out. The line read: ‘Do you agree that you are the correct person to ask about this?’

4 February 2009
On contradictions: I received an e-mail requiring me to immediately install a ‘mandatory’ piece of software. After explaining the obligation in more detail the inspiring next line reads: ‘The Installation at first is non-mandatory but it will become mandatory at a later stage, therefore we recommend that you install the software.’

3 February 2009
And again some news on my name: Yesterday I saw my name printed as ‘Margriet Brandel’ and today ‘Margit Brandle’.

31 January 2009
Some typically Austrian expressions: ‘and now again, nobody is to blame, right?’ (person searching for a culprit for), ‘is there still a Krone (newspaper) left?’ and (for taxis and busses) ‘just wait, I’ll take you there’.

30 January 2009
Austrian Airlines offers ‚home made dessert’ on their flights. Are flight attendants required to bring home made desserts for their passengers?

29 January 2009
Again some news on my name: I got a letter that was addressed to ‚Hanne Brandl’.

28 January 2009
A briefing that starts with the phrase ‘on the other hand’ is almost poetic, isn’t it? On the one hand at least…

27 January 2009
New tales from Absurdistan: A sign next to the elevator says: ‘The elevator is out of order’. On the sign there are workers with loads of cables and tools – obviously they are busy repairing an elevator. The elevator as such is working fine. It’s fast. No dubious sounds, so in essence much better than normal.

26 January 2009
There are actors out there that can vomit when requested to do so. Click here and then go to picture number 6.

26 January 2009
A real discovery was the Museo Atelier Canova Tadolini. It’s a sculptor’s workshop full of sculptures and today a restaurant.

25 January 2009
According to my guide book, the flea market in Transtevere is well worth a visit. Either it was too late in the day or it has just changed too much I can’t tell but nevertheless it was quite disappointing. Mostly cheap new clothes are sold there and not much more. What was really worth a visit was Ostia Antica. Ostia used to be Rome’s sea port and the mouth of the Tiber river. You really get a great impression on how life must have been in an old Roman town 2000 years ago. The site is really well preserved. What fascinated me most were the splendid mosaics.
Harry’s Bar is also well worth a visit, what a splendid restaurant!

24 January 2009
Unfortunately it was rainy and dark today and Rome’s Piazza de Fiori was rather deserted. If it is wet and miserable there it really is. Nevertheless we made it to the Vatican – or to the Vatican’s post office that is. The crib is still there although Christmas has already been a month ago. I read that they took it down but the Pope had it re-erected until February 6.
One of the really curious sites is the Purgatory Museum. It is smaller than anticipated. Basically it is one room in a side corridor of the ‘Church of the Sacred Heart’ in the Prati district of Rome. There are a few photographs of objects and some books or cloths which are said to be showing evidence of contact made to the living from souls trapped in Purgatory. Mostly it’s hand prints and fingerprints which appear to be burned onto the pages of books, bed linens and clothing. More when clicking here. Interestingly enough a lady offered to show us around. She was from south America and spoke Spanish.

23 January 2009
Rome at it’s best: I got to see a tiny little shop or say a doll hospital, specialized in repairing old dolls. They were more than friendly when I asked whether I could take pictures and when I disclosed that their shop was basically the reason for wanting to come all the way down there from Brussels, they were really flattered. Piazza Navona is even more beautiful than I had remembered but I have to say that quite some time has passed since my last visit. The Pantheon is a remarkable building and so is the Trevi fountain. The advantage of traveling to Rome in winter seems to be that there are far less tourists than one would expect. There are all kinds of rumors around who renovated Via Veneto,’s ‘Cafe de Paris’, I can only say the only thing I spotted was a nicely renewed café that pays tribute to Fellini. One of the most remarkable sights today was definitely the Capuchin crypt in Via Veneto. The walls are decorated with bones, just like in Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic that I have visited back in 2004. The legend goes that the bones of about 4,000 Capuchin monks have been used. Unfortunately one isn’t allowed to take pictures. More on a very curious website here.

22 January 2009
And again news on my name: In an e-mail today a US colleague called me Margaret Brandl.

21 January 2009
One of the English bookshops in Brussels sells ‚anti-establishment mints’.

19 January 2009
Also other people have their imaginations of their personal hell: Amongst the best ideas: Changing telephone numbers on endless piles of business cards. And: Being forced to attach documents on a prefixed website that does not foresee attachments.

18 January 2009
There is a puppet character called Bernd the bread. He is a white bread that is mostly grumpy, frustrated and depressive. What he really likes is staring at the south wall of his house, learning the pattern of his woodchip wallpaper by heart, reading his favorite magazine “The desert and you” and enlarging his collection of the most boring railway tracks on video. More at Wikipedia.

16 January 2009
Do I worry too much when I get suspicious about a cost estimate that starts with the words “Our objective is to add value to every client. Cost is only one aspect of value…”

13 January 2009
There are some odd diseases out there. A few days ago I read about the so-called Body Integrity Identity Disorder. This is according to the wikipedia definition a mental disorder implying a psychological feeling that one would be happier living life as an amputee and is usually, if not always, accompanied by the desire to amputate one or more healthy limbs in order to enact that desire. Read more and click here.

12 January 2009
I wrote a while ago that in my personal hell I will screw and unscrew picture frames with a non-fitting screwdriver for forever and a day. What I will be doing in addition is claiming missing airline miles.

11 January 2009
In Paris models who do life-modeling in art schools went on strike last month for higher wages and legalized tips. Read more (link).

10 January 2009
Kryolan, a company based in Berlin, is the biggest producer of artificial blood worldwide. Apart from blood, make up, hair colour and glue for artificial beards they also manufacture artificial excrement like faeces, vomit and pus. The aim is that these products look and feel as real as possible while at they same time they must not smell or taste bad. The main customer of the company is Hollywood. Interesting article (German only).

8 January 2009
I fear that pop songwriters are not the greatest poets: ‘I’m not a saint, but I’m not a sinner – and everything’s cool as long as I’m getting thinner…’ (from a new song by Lily Allen).

7 January 2009
The Brussels Broken Muses exhibition is now over.

6 January 2009
‘The human face never lies. It is the only map that records all the territories where we have lived.’ Luis Sepulveda 1998

5 January 2009
A new form of multitasking has emerged. People go to public toilets while talking on the phone and continue talking there.

4 January 2009
‘Our social personality is a creation of the minds of others.” Marcel Proust, 1918

3 January 2009
Finnish saying; ‚Maailmaa on jos jonnekin päin, sanoi akka, kun kepillä saunanluukusta koitti.’ How big and wide the world is, said the old woman while plunging out a stick from the sauna hut.

2 January 2009
Drove about 100 kilometers into the wrong direction. I vaguely recalled that the Hungarians call Vienna ‘Pecs’. Unfortunately it is ‘Becs’ for Vienna and ‘Pecs’ for a Hungarian city somewhere in the south close to the boarder with Croatia…

1 January 2009
After having been to the Astoria hotel’s fine coffee shop and the posh New York Bar in the New York Palace hotel the day before yesterday, to the Boston bar and the Gellert and Callas coffee shops yesterday, the Gresham Palace coffee shop was still on my list for today. Not that there wasn’t anything else to do here than sitting in coffee shops. The Museum of Fine Arts and the Szecheny Bath were also worth a visit.

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