a unique perspective on this crazy world

Posts tagged ‘colin thubron’

re-inventing your past ;)

I am pretty sure I have blood on my hands.  I am at least half Viking – and given the mayhem the Vikings allegedly caused in my other homelands, I may well be a little more…

I have now finished Colin Thubron’s excellent book, “Shadow of the Silk Road” and questions of ancestry, tribe and history are subjects he addresses over the course of many nation states, ethnic groups and shared versions of history (accurate or not).  Reinvention is not a modern concept.

We have always lived in half-truths, in perceptions, in mythology.  History is an imperfect science so we never know exactly what happened in the past – although it is getting a lot harder in the age of social media.

But, luckily for the Vikings, there were no selfies or embarrassing posts on Facebook of the pillage you were hoping to forget… so Vikings can do a little rearranging of history without anyone being able to know for sure if it is just wishful thinking.

My knowledge of ancient history is improving but it is still shaky so I keep an open mind when it comes to the Vikings.  No society is composed of only bad guys – and you need to understand the context in which people behave before you can even consider passing judgement of any kind.

norwegians like boats!

This is the right mindset in which to enter Trondheim (the next stop on Hurtigruten).  It used to be called Nidaros and was Norway’s first capital city.  It was a port of departure for Viking expeditions.  Apparently Leif Eriksson is Leiv Eiriksson in Norway, the dude who discovered Canada – Viking no matter what direction I turn 🙂

I take a little issue with the Hurtigruten info that says the first export of American goods to Europe took place in Trondheim in 1100 AD.  That stuff came from CANADA, dude 🙂  At the time, I think it just came from Newfoundland.  But not America…

The really big thing to see in Trondheim is the Cathedral.  I have

cathedral of many genres

cathedral of many genres

seen a lot of churches!  This is country 48… but I was impressed!  It is something new.  A little Viking, a little Gothic, a little Baroque… a piece of history, which is always more messy than people seem to remember.

you decide if he was really a saint...

you decide if he was really a saint…

It’s not too often a Viking becomes a saint and is the centrepiece of the market square.  It’s not clear if he was a great guy – or just a great politician.  But it does seem Vikings elected leaders so it’s nice to see some non-royal on display.  Someone who had to do something for that sainthood beyond just be born into the right family…




how do you spend your days…

world press photoI wrote about the World Press photo contest in an earlier post.  The first time I checked it out I was on my way to Egypt in the middle of the first democratic election in its history so it was especially poignant to see all the photos from the Arab Spring.


world press photo contestThis time the poignant photos were from the Philippines.  I was in Australia when the storm hit so saw lots of coverage along with lots of talk of global warming.  Sadly a lot of the winning photos depict conflict and devastation.  That is, of course, the stuff of photojournalists.

The contest though is about photography so there are some happy photos too.  And all sorts of interesting subjects, from a cougar stalking the Hollywood sign to a lady who has rescued so many stray dogs it seems there is no room left for her.

It’s a fascinating mix of subjects and points of view to consider.  It definitely makes one examine one’s own life and – in my case, appreciate how easy my life is and how privileged I am.  The winning photo this year is beautiful and haunting, like a master painting.  It depicts migrants standing on a beach on the coast of Africa, holding up mobile phones trying to get a signal so they can communicate with the people they’ve left behind and give an update on their progress in finding a better life.world press photo winner

As I noted last time, it starts in Amsterdam but moves around so check it out if it comes to a city near you.

It was also a way to escape from the rain in Amsterdam.  It is a city that is noted for its “four seasons in one day” weather but this time there seemed to be only one – I think it was winter.  It was windy, cold, with lots of persistent rain in any event.  It was pretty miserable but it’s still hard not to love Amsterdam.  And one has to admire the Dutch, biking with an umbrella in one hand!

I still haven’t written about last year’s trip to Amsterdam so I am going to mix it up a bit to hit some of the highlights from both visits.

For now we will stick with culture.  The other thing that got me to drag myself across town in the pouring rain was an exhibit at the Hermitage.  The Hermitage in Amsterdam is pretty cool.  I have been there on most visits as the concept is that they will bring a subset of the 3,000,000 (I think) objects from the Hermitage in St Petersburg to Amsterdam as part of a special exhibition.


The current exhibition is called The Silk Road and it provides a glimpse into centuries of world history.  There are artifacts from all kinds of countries, some that sounded familiar and some not.

I learned quite a bit of stuff from the exhibition but what was most interesting is that the Silk Road wasn’t just an ancient highway.  It was a network of intrepid merchants and few travelled the entire length of the trading area.  There was a lot of desert and camels involved and oases were key.

It certainly makes my current trip around Europe look like a piece of cake.  Without all those early entrepreneurs, our current 24/7 world would not have been possible.  They carried silk, spices and other hot commodities but they also carried ideas and influence.

It all definitely makes you think of your daily life, your goals and your impact on the world.

p.s. I also picked up a book on the Silk Road by Colin Thubron since I needed some English language reading material 🙂  Why haven’t I discovered him before?  Highly recommended!



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