Saturday, 29 May 2021

santa bona

Early eleventh century Augustinian nun venerated on this day, Bona of Pisa, helped conduct pilgrims on their journeys and is considered the patroness of tour guides, couriers, flight attendants as well as her well-touristed home town. Her father a Crusader in the Holy Land, Bona made no fewer than four sojourns there to visit him and see to his well-being and after being taken hostage by pirates and necessitating a ransom and rescue by her compatriots, redirected her focus to the route of Santiago de Compostela, undertaking the arduous trip ten times and leading others along the way.

Friday, 25 December 2020


Perhaps best known for her debut hit song that despite being sung in entirely French circumvented the language barrier and charted across Europe Voyage, voyage, the performer Claudie Fritsch-Mentrop was born this day in Paris in 1952. Plus loin que la nuit et le jour (voyage, voyage).

Saturday, 28 November 2020

the great bed of ware

Via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump, we are directed to one unusual artefact of the Victoria & Albert Museum collection in the monumental and for the time of its acquisition in 1931 for a princely sum of four thousand pounds budget-breaking piece of furniture.

Originally housed in the White Hart Inn in the town as sort of a tourists’ draw for the stopping off point a day’s journey outside of London to points north, the massive four-poster bed—at three metres wide big enough to accommodate four couples—and was built by carpenter Jonas Fosbrooke in the last decade of the sixteenth century with Renaissance style marquetry and ornament inspired by Hans Vredeman de Vries—and to add to its history and provenance, couples have carved their names or initials in the headboard to mark their stay and is mentioned by name in Twelfth Night (circa 1601) and works by Ben Jonson and Charles Dickens.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020


langue and parole: a poly-lingual whistle-stop tour illustrating what foreign languages sound like to non-speakers   

a critical tourism map: whilst most visitors’ guides are irrepressibly positive about their attractions, this revealing map of the Norwegian capital hopes to make people think about the darker side of the past—via Big Think 

in this world: an hour of cool Soviet era jazz

test pilots: first human passengers take a ride in the experimental, levitating hyperloop (previously) in the desert of Nevada 

ohrwurm: you’re welcome—see previously    

mnemosyne: an iterative technique to vastly improve recall (see previously)—from the illustrious Mx van Hoorn’s curio cabinet

the ephemeralist: selecting random pages from archives of thousands of old publications, this bit of coding seems as good a substitute for social media as any—via Kicks Condor

the word rooster is an eighteenth century American invention to avoid saying the word ________:  an educational and invigorating swear quiz from Helen Zaltzman

Friday, 6 November 2020


photos veritables: antique pre-prepared vacation picture albums  

necessitous men are not free men: FDR’s 1944 second, more equitable Bill of Rights 

conformal cyclic cosmology: Nobel winning astrophysicist Roger Penrose shares his Universe origin hypothesis 

la sape: Tariq Zaida documents the fashion of the sapeurs and sapeuses of Brazzaville and Kinshasa—reminding me of this other subculture  

author, poet, composer: the amazing virtuosity of Gordon Parks 

das neue europa mit dem dauernden frieden: revisiting an early proposal for the European Union, divided into Kantons converging on Vienna (previously

dss43: Deep Space Communication Complex re-establishes link with Voyager 2 

scarfolk & environs: a road & leisure map for uninvited tourist

Sunday, 25 October 2020

a la ronde

Inspired by their decade-long tour of the continent, two independent cousins, Jane and Mary Parminter, heiresses of a Devon vintner, set about in 1795 to build accommodations for themselves and to house their many souvenirs with their self-conceived hexadecagonal country retreat in Exmouth.

The central storey contained the living quarters with a central octotagonal corridor as a spoke opening on to eight outer chambers—each room with communicating doors so one could chase the sun throughout the day, moving from nook, library and parlour from east to west before entertaining and retiring. The interior is fitted with folding and collapsing features that minimises loss of usable space to the cottage’s angles.  Learn much more about this remarkable property at Amusing Planet at the link above.

Thursday, 15 October 2020


mega project: unrealised plans from the 1930s to divert the Thames and reclaim land in central London—via Things Magazine  

messiner effect: researchers achieve room-temperature super conductivity with a novel metallic hydrogen alloy—via Kottke 

crying wolf: a misinformation training exercise (see also) in Nova Scotia goes awry—via Super Punch  

sea of seven colours: a tour of a pristine island reserve off the coast of Colombia 

minuet: ะšะพั€ะพะฑะตะนะฝะธะบะธ was not Tetris’ only theme tune  

karlลฏv most: deconstructing and rebuilding a fourteenth century bridge in Prague to span the Vltava

Thursday, 17 September 2020


Presumably sourced to the agnomen of Marcus Tullius Cicero (previously), which itself means chickpea or garbanzo bean, in reference to the orator and statesman’s loquacity of speech, a cicerone is a mostly antiquated way of identifying (possibly self-appointed) a guide or docent who conducts sightseers in touristed locales and explains items of historic and artistic interest for their benefit and edification.
During the age of Grand Tours, such retained escorts and chaperons were known colloquially as bear-leaders (referencing the cruel and medieval practise of bear-baiting and conducting the poor animal from village to village) and were responsible for keeping their charges out of trouble whilst ensuring that they got the most educational value out of their trips abroad and had due appreciation for the places they visited. In the United States, a cicerone is a by-word and certification programme for a sommelier that specialises in beer who can speak to hobby-brewing, glassware and food-pairings.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

ibiza on ice

Six months on, the Guardian profiles the resort town of Ischgl and the clientele it attracts and how its party lifestyle and aprรจs ski venues became an incubator for COVID-19 and helped the epidemic turn pandemic. There’s lots of scapegoating and finger-pointing to sort through but the consequent spread and back-tracking seem rather incontrovertible. The bar where most of the contagion is traced, Kitzloch, was shut down on 10 March with the entire town quarantined from three days afterwards until 22 April.

Saturday, 12 September 2020

arrivals and departures lounge

Though it was endearing to see a family undertake a cancelled trans-Pacific vacation or to tour airports with a sense of nostalgia and Wanderlust, Singapore Airlines’ plans to take travellers aloft on actual flights to nowhere both starting and ending at Changi airport (the city state bereft of domestic travel opportunities) seems wasteful and perverse. What do you think? Circling the runway is very resource intensive and an economy that need to maintain such circulation seems childish and like a bit of grifting that we’d do better to move beyond and not let a cloying attempt to save a market with no rehabilitation further take down the environment with it.

Sunday, 6 September 2020

frรคnkische schweiz

Located in the uppermost pocket of the Franconian Jura and originally bearing the name the Muggendorfer Hills, we had the privilege of touring the region previously “rediscovered” and romantically marketed at the end of the eighteenth century by a couple of law students from the University of Erlangen who wrote about enthusiastically, followed by a 1820 volume by a local historian who coined the new endonym die kleine Schweiz and now had the chance to see it again for a few fresh impressions over the weekend.
First we entered in County Kulmbach the market town of Wonsees with its medieval Felsenburg (rock castle) Fortress Zwernitz, hewn into the dolomite stone, originally the family seat of elevated peasants called the Walpoten—a so-called ministerialis line, that is serfs raised up as servitors and agents into positions of responsibility within the class system of the Middle Ages.
While not technically free and independent, these families held social power and could cultivate their estates and pass along their wealth to the next generation, with equal status accorded to men and women.
Beneath the tower and keep is a seventeenth century cliff garden called Sanspareil landscaped around some strange rock formations and with oriental follies—reminding H and I of the gardens at Veitshรถchsheim or Schwetzingen.

Next, following the Burgen- und the Frรคnkischen BierstraรŸe (the region having the one of the highest concentrations of traditional breweries in Europe) we came to a village called AufseรŸ, named for the stream that flows through it, dominated by a castle and chapel with a clutch of some pretty fancy chickens in the property opposite the courtyard who were eager to have their pictures taken by us paparazzi.

With a few detours through Plankenfels and Waischenfeld, we stopped at Burg Rabenstein—a well-preserved Spornburg, a spur castle which is constructed where natural topography aides in its defences that also featured a quite good restaurant, a dripstone cavern and a bird-of-prey demonstration. The intact castle is one of the best conserved—most are ruins but romantic ones—along the route and was originally also in the capable hands of the Rabenstein ministerialis family, who were eventually able to buy the property and ennoble themselves. The castle appears as the main stage for the 1995 wildly popular PC game Gabriel Ritter sequel “The Beast Within”—I was not familiar but I think it was like the equivalent of the King’s Quest saga.
After securing a campsite (we had miscalculated a little and instead of the season’s end like we thought it was busier than expected) in the Veldensteiner Forest outside of Pottenstein, we returned to GรถรŸweinstein with its Burg and basilica minor designed by Balthasar Neumann as a pilgrimage destination.
Our last stop on the way back to the campsite, we drove back through Pottenstein and visited the town, crisscrossed by canals, more fowl not shy of the camera and a row of sleeping ducks (I did not know they did this) and dominated by towering karst towers.
The town is absolutely awash with roses of all sorts; learn more of the story behind that and Saint Elizabeth of Thรผringen at the link up top.
We looked at the rock formations from another perspective in the Tรผchersfeld neighbourhood of Pottenstein on the way out of Little Switzerland and on our way home.
While not on the itinerary, our last impression for this visit was of the ruin of Burg Neideck, towering above the Wiesen river valley and considered the icon of the region, just outside of the town of Muggendorf

Thursday, 20 August 2020


Via compatriot internet caretaker Nag on the Lake, we learn that troublingly the Tower of London’s resident corvids (see previously) are straying from their home, uncaptivated and driven to distraction by the lack of tourist traffic.
While lore holds that Charles II in 1675 just after the restoration of the monarchy (I wouldn’t take any chances either) first ordered the ravens to be cared for after receiving the prophesy that the crown and tower would both crumble if the birds departed, others source the mythology as a Victorian bit of whimsy, whom were rather probably more morbidly attracted to the spot in the first place due to all the executions and encouraged to remain because their scavenging habits that kept the place tidy. Whatever the case, I hope they’re not compelled to stray too far and that the crowds can return soon.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020


Whilst the great wide open spaces of Iceland are even less peopled with visitors from abroad than usual and recognising the therapeutic, cathartic effect that a good scream (especially since public displays of terror are being discouraged) into the void can have, one of the country’s tourists’ boards have installed loud-speakers and live webcams in various pristine, remote spots around the island that will release one’s frustrations into the wilderness. One can also sample the anguished wails submitted by others at the website plus find links to more resources and coping methods—aside from primal scream therapy—for those in distress and those simply needing to de-stress.

Saturday, 11 July 2020

bailey and bergfried

Though this castle built on a rocky spur (Spornburg) dominating an adjacent valley of the Moselle, a tributary called the Ehrbach, that we visited on the way home had the feeling of an empty playground for adults the Ehrenburg was quite unexpectedly spectacular and has a rich, well connected history dating back to at least the twelfth century.
In part conserved through all the tumult by its first documented mention in a deed by Barbarossa referred to as a slighting (Schleifung), that is the intentional damage to a high profile property to reduce its strategic value—
probably not making the castle worth the taking as it would have been a liability to defend. In this milieu, the castle, a baronet, was involved with territorial feuds among the knightly gentry and the Church for control of trade and taxes, forming an alliance against Trier and Luxembourg with Eltz and other occupied castles in the area, finally surrendering claim on the castle with the extinction of the family line after a conflict with the Koblenz erupted and brought in those new disruptive inventions of gunpowder and the canon in the fifteenth century, making Ehrenburg less tenable.In normal times, the venue outside of the town of Brodenbach is host to many cultural events and medieval re-enactments.

Thursday, 9 July 2020


Again passing through the Calmont, we got a chance to inspect one of the monorail cars that climb the steep hillside so pickers can collect grapes and tend the vines on some of the sheerest arable cliffs in the world—I couldn’t say I’d enjoy the ride, seeing the track tapering off vertically in the distance.
Taking a slow, meandering drive along the many curves and turns, we stopped at the village of Lรถsnich (Losuniacum), a typical wine-growing town with this beautiful 1906 Jungendstil (Art Deco) Winzervilla by representative architect Bruno Mรถhring, who also designed many of the outstanding buildings of Traben-Trarbach.
Next we proceeded to the main town of the Central Moselle, Bernkastel-Kues.
There H and I explored the market square—with an ensemble of medieval Fachwerk (half-timbered) buildings including the Spitzhรคuschen and the abutting vineyards partially enclosed by the old town walls and learned about the local wine’s reported restorative properties (see also) that gained the town prominence enough to get trade privileges and a defensive castle—the partially ruined Burg Landshut dominating the town from above, the stronghold overseeing trade in the region traded between France and Prussia over the course of several skirmishes before finally sustaining damage due to a fire that could not be brought under control during a plague outbreak in 1692.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

burgen und bunker

Having decamped early, H and I packed and headed along the Moselle first to the well-preserved village of Beilstein, whose untouched charm is sometimes compared with Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and is dominated by the ruin of Castle Metternich, one of the holdings of the noble house of prince-electors and also the namesakes of the sparkling white wine (Sekt) Fรผrst von Metternich.
Later on, we continued to the town of Cochem, settled since ancient times by the Celts and Romans and with its first documented mention in 886.

Towered over by an imperial castle (Reichsburg Cochem) whose immediacy was already confirmed by the mid-twelfth century, the residence was sacked by French forces during the War of the Palatine Succession (der Plรคlzischer Erbfolgekrieg) in 1688. The compound lay in centuries in a state of disrepair until purchased by a Berlin businessman in the late 1860s and rehabilitated in the Gothic Revival style of the day, though true to the original form.
Not a day to spend in an underground bunker even if tours had been available, but maybe something to see next time—there lies in an unassuming neighbourhood a formerly secret safe—der Bundesbankbunker, disguised by two houses above it that contained a reserve of fifteen billion mark banknotes that the West German government could put into circulation in case of economic disruption from the Eastern bloc. The money never needed to be used.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

voyage, voyage

As an evangelist of the temperance movement, on this day in 1841—capitalising upon the extension of the Midland Counties Railway, Thomas Cook (previously) organised the excursion to bring a group of anti-drink campaigners from Leicester (presently under restriction of movement) to a teetotaller demonstration in Loughborough, some eleven miles distant with Cook himself acting as steward and chaperone to some five hundred individuals willing to pay a premium to have the arrangements sorted out. Some four years later, he took parties on journeys to Liverpool and Scotland—this time not busing-in out-of-state agitators, finally cementing his reputation soon after as a tour agent with one-hundred and fifty thousand journeying to the 1851 Great Exhibition in London followed by a continental grand tour of Belgium, German and culminating in the 1855 Parisian Great Exhibition.

Friday, 22 May 2020


๐Ÿš: the ad hoc bus stop benches and chairs of suburban Tokyo has personality—via Super Punch

pop! six! squish! uh-uh: an homage to Chicago’s Cell Block Tango for confining times

crenellation: a virtual tour of some fortified cities around the world—we’ve been to a few of these places ourselves

as was the style at the time: a treasury of Old English customs and superstitions

sneezeguard: personal barriers designed to lure diners back in restaurants

signs point to no: ProPublica charts out the trajectory on America’s states’ road to recovery and a safe reopening—via Maps Mania

pilot programme: the shareware history of Photoshop’s prime competitor and driver of innovation

๐Ÿ: reminiscent of this exotic travelogue, we are enjoying these Pacific voyages—via Boing Boing

Sunday, 17 May 2020

sehenswรผrdigkeiten oder rhรถn around the world

Taking advantage of the bright weather but with an abundance of caution, H and I took a windshield tour meandering through a few nearby locations, first stopping in Helmershausen, a settlement filled with half-timbered (Fachwerk) buildings founded in the foothills of the Thรผringen highlands by our old friend Count Poppo VI and endowed with a really out-of-proportion village church.
Completed with the Baroque stylings of the mid-eighteenth century as a showcase for the minor nobility of the area, its towering steeple and ornately decorated wood panels have earned the village church the sobriquet of “Dom der Rhรถn”—the cathedral of the region.
Next along the way we saw the Bernhรคuser Kutte, a sinkhole and protected geotope, with a depth of up to fifty metres across a relatively small surface area unique for the state.
After a bit more of taking in the gorgeous green scenery at speed, we stopped to see the Kirchenberg—fortified church compound, Wehrkirche Santke Albanus, dedicated to the British protomartyr—of the town of Kaltensundheim (see above), an impressive Gothic structure in whose hall Caspar Bach, great cousin of the forefather of the musical family, Veit Bach, was married to Susanne Markert, the daughter of a prominent local tailor, and established the cadet branch of the family after they had immigrated from Hungary around 1520.

Too early?
We are very fortunate to live such a beautiful region and in proximity to such new sites and history to discover.  We want everyone to be safe and want to model the right behaviour, because we are all in this together and all of our actions count, no matter how seemingly inconsequential.   
We hope to take to heart and practise how that privilege is not to be flaunted but exercised only if and when it’s safe to do so. Cover your face, keep your distance and wash your hands and perhaps most importantly, know that these places and the whole wide world will wait for you and be yours to explore once this is over.

Saturday, 28 March 2020


expansion pack: kit and ideas for remixing new board games by combining pieces and platforms of classic games one already owns—via Kottke’s Quick Links

video phone: the teleconferencing tool that’s being forced on many of us is a privacy and security nightmare whose long-term liabilities far outweigh the benefits of seeing colleagues in pyjamas

razliv haystack: a look into how the mythos of Lenin fuelled the early Soviet tourism industry

stay sane, stay safe: a graphic design community’s rapid response to promote positivity

at home everywhere: with at least a quarter of the world’s population under at least partial lockdown, a design duo has turned national flags into houses

utica club: beer steins Schultz and Dooley (voiced by Jonathan Winters) advertise Matt Brewery’s flagship beverage

tossed dallas: Tuna Antipasto and assorted silliness—see previously

mashrabiya and mezzanine: a celebration of balconies