In this age of digital nomadism, we often forget how intense and ambiguous the relationships can be that humans entertain with geographic places. Some places attract us, others reject us. Some entice us, others bore us to death. Some places poison us, others intoxicate us only to eat us alive. In the same way as places are haunted by people and their afterlife specters, places can haunt us in return. They lure us to always […]
When I visited Marseille for the first time, I already knew that some of my favorite authors had been here before me. The writer and journalist Joseph Roth, for instance. I had a vague notion of him sitting in the lobby of some grand hotel by the Old Port writing his articles for the Frankfurter Zeitung. Or did he actually come to Marseille seeking shelter from the Nazis, to be right at the port and […]
Marseille has a record as an ancient city without monuments. The oldest city in France baffles visitors with a glaring lack of remnants from its twenty-six-hundred-year-old history, adding to its bad reputation as uncultured, poverty-stricken, and dangerous. For the longest time, centralist France seemed to have all but abandoned its greatest harbor, once a lifeline supplying the entire Hexagon with colonial riches. And until recently, the age-old trading hub has been unable to sell itself […]
Where I’m from, you learn what borders are from an early age. The fence separating my own little world from the neighbors’ garden was a demarcation line toward enemy territory. Neighbors’ disputes were said to be the germ cell of war. And plucking low-hanging fruit from a branch of your neighbor’s apple tree, I was taught, was the one-way entry point to a life of crime. Where I’m from, the petty-bourgeois values of domestic peace, […]
Sometimes you have to cross a line to find true happiness. Sometimes, crossing a line takes you from happiness to hell. If only it were so clear in which direction you are crossing. Life isn’t always signposted that well, and sometimes the signs to happiness and those to hell point in the same direction. Agnes Varda’s film Le Bonheur (1965, English Happiness) gaily depicts such a journey with an ambiguous orientation. Does the film come […]
Meeting up with a couple of people for an easy ride through the city—this would be any cyclist’s dream, if only there weren’t so many cars that prefer to have the streets to themselves. This is precisely the reason why there is Critical Mass. The concept originated in San Francisco, where the first bicycle gathering under this name took place on the last Friday in September 1992. Since then, the idea has spread, and bikers […]
Silk roads, one could argue, are the opposite of borders. While borders pose barriers to the travel of people and goods, silk roads promote exchange between different cultural regions. This is not to imply, though, that the flow of goods and people along old trade routes was ever without hurdles or dangers.
One day in September 2011, Alain Ducasse, one of the world’s most highly decorated chefs, walked into the Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant in Hudson Valley, New York. The main purpose of his visit being a photo shoot, he was served the epitome of a frugal meal—bread and butter. And yet, this simple dish featured the pride and joy of the restaurant’s co-owner and chef, Dan Barber. Single-udder butter is created from the cream […]