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Book Review: Night Train to Lisbon

By on Mar 26, 2014 in Books | 0 comments

First published in German in 2004, the first English edition of Night Train to Lisbon was released in 2008. Last year, a film based on the book came out – something for a later review. Deeply literary and philosophical, it is a book which divides opinion, but it will certainly leave you thinking.  Year of release: 2004 (German edition); 2008 (English translation) Author: Pascal Mercier Translator: Barbara Harshav Rating: 4 stars The Book This is the story of Raimund Gregorius, a staid and predictable professor of ancient languages who lives his life to an entirely set routine, quietly impressing his students with his outstanding knowledge and total reliability. Until one day, when a woman in a red coat writes a phone number on his forehead and leaves him with the whisper of one word in his mind: Português. For the first time, Gregorious abandons his routine. He tracks down...

A Lisbon Literature Tour

By on Mar 18, 2014 in Europe, Travel | 6 comments

We were standing on the Santa Justa bridge in Bairro Alto, looking out at Lisbon’s terracotta rooftops spilling down the hillsides. The sun, now a deep orange, was just hitting the tops of the church spires, bathing the whitewashed buildings in rays of burnished light. The Rio Tejo glinted and glimmered in the distance. It was the second-to-last stop on my Lisbon Literature Tour. My guide, Rafael, was explaining part of a story in which two people, fleeing from Europe in the Second World War, are desperate for tickets for the ship bound for America. A man offers them the two tickets they need, in return for one evening spent in his company, wandering through Lisbon’s streets as he tells his sad story, and how it is that he came to be in Lisbon, giving up two tickets to freedom. “You must remember this for me,” says the man, as he bids them goodbye. “For I...

Cultural Berlin in 4 images

By on Mar 12, 2014 in Europe, Photography, Travel | 1 comment

Toting my camera around Berlin was a rewarding experience and – as my friends will wearily attest – I took a lot of photos. The blend of architecture, from soviet blocks to modern glass, the free rein given to graffiti artists, and the open-air museums offering both iconic history and stunning art, offer a particularly potent blend for the photography-mad. I’ve narrowed down my vast album of wonky, blurred and not-perfectly-composed images, taken in excitement and haste, to these four, which show some of Berlin’s main cultural attractions.   East Side Gallery A huge, reconstructed section of the Berlin Wall in Kreuzberg gives some impression of the scale of it, and of the eerie Nomansland in between the two sides. The wall is covered in original artworks from 1990, celebrating freedom and expressing political messages. Due to huge amounts of graffiti, some...

Nikolaiviertel: Berlin’s oldest district

By on Mar 3, 2014 in Europe, Travel | 2 comments

Berlin is an indisputably cool city. It is the punk-rock, graffiti-artist, high-school dropout of European capitals – the kind of character I am vaguely in awe of, slightly scared of, and will just never be. I was definitely in awe of the city; of its restored sections of Wall, complete with murals and graffiti, of the real-life punks, with shaven heads and hundreds of piercings, of the monumental, soviet, East Berlin architecture. But then, on our last morning in the city, my friends and I discovered Berlin’s oldest district, Nikolaiviertel, and I felt like I had found my little piece of Berlin. Nikolaiviertel is unmistakably medieval in appearance and character, though most of it has been restored since the Second World War. It is right at the centre of Berlin, between the Rathaus and Cathedral, very close to Alexanderplatz. But its small jumble of streets, just wide...

Five memories of Kensal Green

By on Feb 26, 2014 in Travel | 1 comment

After five months of living in London, I’m leaving to set off on a peripatetic few months through Europe. In that funny trick that time plays, it feels as though I have been here for much longer and shorter than five months; rhythms and routines feel so familiar that I might have been doing them forever, but at the same time there are hundreds of places I still haven’t seen and so much which still feels new. For now, I’m just bidding farewell to Kensal Green, my London home, but I know that this city will call me back time and again to experience more of what it has to offer. Five memories of Kensal Green 1. The small-town, independent high-street atmosphere, so close to the centre, and the cute little tube station I could call mine. It has no boring service notices, but instead an inspiring quote to welcome weary souls home. Telling us to dream, succeed, to be kind...

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