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Archive for the ‘Foreign Travel’ Category

“When Pawel looks into the mirror, he can still sometimes see a neo-Nazi skinhead staring back, the man he was before he covered his shaved head with a skullcap, traded his fascist ideology for the Torah and renounced violence and hatred in favor of God.

“‘I still struggle every day to discard my past ideas,’ said Pawel, a 33-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jew and former truck driver, noting with little irony that he had to stop hating Jews in order to become one. ‘When I look at an old picture of myself as a skinhead, I feel ashamed. Every day I try and do teshuvah,’ he said, using the Hebrew word for repentance. ‘Every minute of every day. There is a lot to make up for.’

“Pawel, who also uses his Hebrew name Pinchas, asked that his last name not be used for fear that his old neo-Nazi friends could harm him or his family.

“Twenty years after the fall of Communism, Pawel is perhaps the most unlikely example of the Jewish revival under way in Poland, of a moment in which Jewish leaders here say the country is finally showing solid signs of shedding the rabid anti-Semitism of the past.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

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“Egypt’s most senior antiquities official will visit Britain tomorrow to push on with a campaign to have the Rosetta Stone returned from the British Museum to its native country.

“Speaking in his offices, amid piles of Pharaonic books, museum records and archaeological dig requests, Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said he would not be swayed by the British Museum’s refusal to return the item, which he considers the ‘icon of Egyptian identity’.

“Dr Hawass, who will meet egyptologists in London, has been encouraged in his campaign by his success in securing the return of five ancient fresco fragments from the Louvre in Paris. Dr Hawass is also pursuing the return of the Queen Nefertiti bust from Neues Museum, Berlin, the Dendera Zodiac from the Louvre and a bust of the pyramid builder Ankhaf from the Boston Museum of Fine Art. Dr Hawass, 52, said he has an ‘entire department’ working to uncover evidence of other stolen Egyptian antiquities.

“‘We have evidence, direct evidence, that proves exactly what was stolen. For all of our history our heritage was stolen from us. It is important for Egyptians that it is returned,’ he said.” (cont’d @ TimesOnline)

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“It was a revolution that began with a lie.

Vaclav Havel, the dissident leader who spearheaded the Velvet Revolution that overthrew communism in Czechoslovakia and kicked off twenty years ago on November 17, 1989, once declared that ‘truth and love must triumph over lies and hatred.’ Yet the revolution — its name a reference to the clenched fist in the velvet glove — was sparked by a false rumor that to this day remains a mystery.

“On Tuesday, thousands of Czechs are expected to march through the streets here, to the sound of wailing sirens and the growls of police dogs, eerily replicating a non-violent student march, 20 years ago, in which police rounded on demonstrators and rumors spread that a 19 year-old mathematics students named Martin Smid had been brutally killed. Scores had indeed been violently beaten. But no one, in fact, had died.

“Jan Urban, a dissident leader and journalist who helped to disseminate the lie, recalled in an interview that news of the alleged death had spread quickly, helping to wake a nation out of its collective apathy and lighting the spark — eight days after the fall of the Berlin Wall — for the peaceful rebellion that culminated in the regime’s demise.” (cont’d @ NY  Times)

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lonely_planet“It was bought amid a flurry of raised eyebrows and has sat uneasily in a global broadcasting and media stable ever since — and yesterday Lonely Planet was once again the subject of speculation, uncertainty and possibly even a little controversy.

“The backpackers’ essential guides to, well, pretty much everywhere may, it seems, be heading back into the uncharted territory of the marketplace, barely two years after BBC Worldwide paid £90 million for the company.

“As part of Lonely Planet takeover in October 2007, its founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler, who published their first guide — South East Asia on a Shoestring — 34 years ago, were left with a 25 per cent stake, valued at A$67.3 million before the credit crunch, which they could have sold to the BBC at any time before Saturday.

“However, BBC insiders said yesterday that the Wheelers’ put option had been extended, triggering speculation that the broadcaster is preparing to offload the travel publisher, whose original purchase has so damaged its reputation.” (cont’d @ Times Online)

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pg-32-brothel-AFP-g_251491s“A Berlin brothel is claiming the title of Germany’s first ‘green’ sex establishment after offering clients eco-discounts if they can prove they arrived by bicycle or public transport.

“The concept has been dreamed up by the Maison d’Envie (House of Desire) brothel in the city’s fashionable Prenzlauer Berg district where Germany’s Green party won 46 per cent of the vote in last month’s general election.

“Regina Goetz, the former prostitute who runs the establishment, explained yesterday: ‘The environment is on everyone’s lips around here and it’s pretty hard to find a parking space, so we came up with the idea of an eco-discount of €5 (£4.60) for anyone who leaves the car at home.’

“Ms Goetz, 56, said that the recession had cut the brothel’s turnover by almost half, but the introduction of eco-discounts has proved so successful that business was virtually back to normal again.” (cont’d @ The Independent UK)

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Stencilled graffiti on wall in Tarnow, Poland “celebrating” anniversary of destruction of World Trade Center towers on 9/11 (May, 2008). [Click image to enlarge]

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Venice Gondola“With the splash of her oar, nine centuries of taboos in this romantic canal city shattered as [Giorgia] Boscolo passed a rigorous exam of brains and brawn to become Venice’s first official female gondolier — or gondoliera in Italian, a term that didn’t even exist until her achievement made it necessary. . . .

“Boscolo’s breakthrough propelled her into the ranks of what can no longer be described with complete accuracy as an elite fraternity, made up of bluff and hearty boatmen whose presence along Venice’s winding waterways seems as timeless as the city itself.

“Fewer than 500 gondoliers are licensed to navigate Venice’s network of 150 canals. They’re a fairly macho bunch, instantly recognizable in their jaunty black-and-white-striped shirts, lounging lazily against the bank-side walls waiting for tourists to hire them or letting loose the occasional low whistle at women who walk by.

“They are heirs to a tradition stretching back nearly a millennium, when the signature banana-shaped boats first began plying the waters as a quick and easy means of transport. The men who captained them became indispensable fixtures around the Venetian lagoon, proud of their skill and bonded by shared experience.

“As is inevitable when such a testosterone-laden citadel is breached, not all of Boscolo’s new colleagues have been thrilled about her entry into their midst. Some grumble sotto voce that she’s become too big for her britches, upending the old order and hogging all the attention.” (more @ LA Times)

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