Before this trip all I knew about Rwanda was that there had been a horrendous genocide years ago and, they had silver back gorillas. I vividly recall watching with horror the “ethnic civil war” that erupted in this beautiful country. The simplified media view at the time was ethnic tensions that had exploded….I thought to myself , how can a country or its people ever recover from this ??? Impossible! The scale of the genocide, the way in which ordinary people, neighbours, co workers and even friends slaughtered one another was (and remains largely) inconceivable to me. So when our guide collected us from Kigali airport around 1pm and suggested we first stop at The Memorial Remembrance and Learning Centre in Kigali I jumped at the opportunity to try to better understand what happened in 1994. http://www.kgm.rw It’s a beautiful memorial reminiscent of the Holocaust Museum in Nuremberg in that it serves not only to show respect for those murdered but also implores us not to forget, to learn from our past atrocities. Entrance is free and they offer audio tours, books etc, the cost of which goes towards maintaining the centre and of course they welcome donations. Interned here are the bodies of 250 000 victims of the genocide, allowing them a final resting place and those who mourn them a place to find what solace they can. The children’s room tries to pay its respects by giving a personal face to some of the children slaughtered placing their photos above information such as name, age, favourite foods and playthings. The Memorial rightly places this atrocity in the greater context of world events and shares other acts of genocide and politicides that have occurred in history.Continue reading “Rwanda : no easy answers”
3 days is definitely not long enough to really experience a city with as much history and as complex and cosmopolitan as Berlin but it was enough time to make me keen to go back for more. Our accommodation was perfect. We were staying in Potsdamer Platz on the 12th floor (an elevator, no stairs thank goodness!) in one of seven blocks making up the Sony Centre with its beautifully designed buildings, a mix of residential apartments and offices tower above with The Sony store; Starbucks etc below along with a plethora of pubs and restaurants their table and chairs spilling out to encircle a little fountain. This is all enclosed with a domed roof of steel and glass, open above the buildings and on the sides but covering the centre courtyard itself. Continue reading “Berlin: Sony Centre, The Berlin Wall and The Tiergarten”
A 5 hour trip by train transports us from Munich to Cologne. This time our apartment was far more what I am familiar with when staying in Europe. An old building with a narrow winding staircase. Puff puff, pant pant, we lugged our luggage up, assisted by some kindly German chap who noticed us struggling to get into, as it turns out, the wrong apartment. Continue reading “Cologne: Cathedrals and Chocolate”
Some of us have to work even while travelling. Lucky for us not Ann nor I. So we left Pierre to his business meeting and set out to find the Radius Tour office at the station. Our group was large so we were divided between 2 tour guides; an Aussie, with a loud voice and a dog called Bernie and a lovely Spanish lass called Lucia. I was hoping we would be in Bernies group. Ann, having just realised that Salzburg was in another country (Austria,…but you knew that of course), was hoping that the fact she had left her passport back at the apartment wasn’t going to be a problem. It wasn’t. And, while we ended up in Lucia’s group, she turned out to be warm, funny and very well informed. ..plus Bernie travelled on the same train so I got to scratch him behind his silky little ears anyway.
We set off fairly early to meet the tour to Nuremberg at the station all bundled in our beanies and gloves. Nuremberg has a long and complex history; the site of both the former Nazi rally ground and the Nuremberg trials where some of the worst perpetrators in the Nazi regime were held accountable for their crimes against humanity. The bus journey took us out onto the highway and through Bavaria with its fields and fields of asparagus and hops. As you might have guessed Bavaria is an agricultural district and the largest hop growing region in the world – and when it comes to hops the Bavarians know what they’re doing, they should, they’ve been doing this since the 8th century. ¾ of the crops are exported, the remainder is used to supply the 1300 breweries in Germany, half of which are located in the Bavarian districts.
Our welcome to Munich began even before we disembarked the plane. “Ladies and gentlemen” said the voice over the intercom as people shuffled restlessly in the aisles, “I don’t know if you have heard but we are experiencing a strike at the moment that affects security, baggage handling and the fire personnel. As a result many flights have been cancelled and you may experience some delays….”
Marrakesh is the most modern of all the cities I have seen since arriving in Morocco – even more so than Casablanca. There are KFC’s; McD’s and Zara boutiques everywhere. A crazy blend of developing and developed world. It’s busy and cosmopolitan and here for the first time I see local women as well as tourists, (soooo many tourists) with hair and arms uncovered.
Outside the medina walls the smell of human urine mixes with that of donkeys and the fumes from the cars and buses. Within the medina it is much bigger than Fes el Bali (old Medina in Fes) it is also filthier, (It reminded me of Naples) now it is not only organic waste from the stalls and donkeys but human litter and oil and grease from the many, many scooters that race in what seems a suicidal manner around the narrow lanes and yet, somehow avoid hitting anyone..that I see at any rate. I wonder at the fact that poverty and litter are so often correlated… Is it a self defeatist sense of not deserving better? Does anyone know if any research has been done regarding this?
As do most road trips in Morocco, the drive to Aït Benhaddou, our next stop takes a while and Pierre and I try to find a place to eat lunch which we saw recommended on trip adviser. As it turns out we can’t find the place we originally planned to go to but after bumping along barely there mud paths through palm trees and around earthern plastered homes, giving way to the odd donkey and boys on bicycles, we came across a most charming looking place.