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Day out London: Kingston-upon-Thames and the fickle king

I’ve long been curious about all the little upon-Thames towns (partly due, no doubt, to having seen one too many episodes of Midsomer Murders, or read one too many Daisy Dalrymple mysteries). There’s an array of them: Henley-on-Thames, Staines-upon-Thames, Richmond-upon-Thames, Kingston-upon-Thames…

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Zanzibar and the senses

Wandering around Zanzibar as I arrived, fresh from the Dar ferry on a tropical March afternoon, my first thought – and my last when I left a week later, as it turned out – was that this enchanted African island speaks to all our five senses. Here’s what I mean: sight : the sun setting […]

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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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