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Ostalgie: What is freedom, anyway?

This Sunday marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I’m brought back to my first visit to Berlin, a divided city then. Crossing from West to East Berlin, we had to exchange 25 Mark (about 20 USD) into 25 Ostmark (East Mark). We could not bring East German currency out of the […]

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Berlin, I love you still

In 1983, Berlin was still marked by war, but a grand city still. Today, it’s even grander. And where Rome has beauty and chaos, Berlin has beauty and order.

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Catalonia – a new European state?

Something is different in Catalonia. Independence flags wave from windows and balconies all over the region, long after the national day, 11 September.

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Scenes from a Bahraini mall – empty elegance

Manama, Bahrain, 29 September 2009 It’s 6:30 pm and I’m in Moda Mall at the World Trade Centre, wondering where all the people are. Moda is a huge shopping centre with high-end boutiques. Just from where I now sit, I see Louis Vuitton, Dior, Emporio Armani, Versace and Fendi. And where I sit is in […]

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Reading the past with the Rosetta Stone

The British Museum is one of my favourite museums in the world. Yet, like many museums in the western world, the British Museum should probably return some of the artefacts to their country of origin. One of these is the Rosetta Stone, a stele from 196 BC. It belongs, if not in Rosetta, at least […]

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Pyramiden – an Arctic ghost town

I’m in Pyramiden, once a showcase of the Soviet Union, a perfect mining community, set between mountains, glaciers and fjords in the Svalbard archipelago. Today, it’s an Arctic ghost town. The decision to abandon the settlement was sudden, its implementation even more so. The inhabitants were given just hours to pack their bags and leave. […]

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Barentsburg highlights

Barentsburg, you say? Where on earth… ? The Svalbard archipelago has four settlements of significant size, one of them is Russian. Norway has sovereignty over the archipelago, but the Treaty of Svalbard ensures all parties equal access to scientific and economic activities in the islands. Enter the Soviet Union. Since 1932, Russian company Trust Arktikugol […]

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