Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
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The moment I stepped inside the Anne Frank House, a shiver shot up my spine and my hair stood on end. As I climbed into the rafters where eight Jews were secreted during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in World War II, a lump rose in my throat and I fought back emotions that threatened to bring on tears. By the time I left the place where Anne Frank hid – the place where her family was betrayed by an unknown collaborator – I was devastated. Questions swirled in my head. How can human beings be so evil, so hateful? How they can so easily decide that a life is not valid because of a chosen religion or an ethnicity? Outside once more, I sat on a curb, unable to move for the longest time.

The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam

The blacked out windows of the two medium brown brick buildings are the telltale sign of the house where Anne Frank and her family were hidden from the Nazis, until betrayed by an unknown person or persons.

Later, despair became sadness. I turned down a narrow side street in Amsterdam’s city center. Buildings of nondescript red brick were punctuated by windows, like an endless row of phone booth cubicles. A rat-tat-tat on a window pane made me stop. I peered into the dark interior from where the knock came. As my eyes adjusted, I saw a man, wearing a wig, black bra, and nylon stockings held up by a black garter belt. His thick body hair curled over the top of his stockings and his cherry lipstick was askew. Our eyes met and before I could avert mine, his huge hands beckoned me inside. I have wandered into Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District. Read More

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There are many criteria by which the greatness of a city might be judged, but the height of its skyscrapers and the number of residents are not among them. For me, the nobleness of a city is measured by its devotion to the arts, so when I read about Amsterdam’s ARTZUID 2015, the biennial display of outdoor sculptures from some of the world’s greatest artists, I knew that this Dutch city had to be on my travel itinerary.

My timing could not have been better. I had booked a Viking River cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest, so I tacked a few days onto my trip to attend the event’s opening press conference and have an early peek at the sculptures. As the only person at the press gathering who didn’t speak Dutch, I was shepherded to the head table by Maarten Bertheux, who kindly translated snatches of the presentation by his fellow co-curator, Rudi Fuchs.

Co-curator Rudi Fuchs explains his vision for ARTZUID 2015

Co-curator Rudi Fuchs explains his vision for ARTZUID 2015

Now in its fourth iteration, ARTZUID is unique among outdoor sculpture shows in that it invited 21 of the world’s finest sculptors to display multiple works, something normally only done in a museum setting. Fuchs imagined sculptures promenading along the broad, leafy medians of Apollolaan and Minervalaan boulevards. “As the greenery of the trees was so high up, the sculptures would need to be majestic and epic. I envisaged people wandering among them and looking up at these robust figures. I could also see tall sculptures moving amongst the people. But perhaps my imagination was getting the better of me.” Read More

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Two years ago, a good friend of mine casually remarked that my travel photos were good enough to be postcards. That got my creative juices flowing and I began researching using my photos for travel ePostcards. I found numerous websites that allow people to upload photos from their smart phones, which are turned into postcards that are sent via snail mail, but a collection of high-quality, professional travel photos that could be used for ePostcards was nowhere to be found, and so the idea for Wish You Were Here ePostcards was born.

It took all of those two years to develop the website, Wish You Were Here ePostcards, but today I’m happy to announce that travelers can now use my photos from more than 300 destinations around the world to send ePostcard for just $1.00 ($4.75 for five cards or $9.00 for ten cards). Wish You Were Here saves travelers the hassle of finding a post office or struggling to be understood in a country where they don’t speak the language. Not only is the $1.00 price less than it would cost for a paper postcard plus postage, sending travel ePostcards saves trees and helps the environment. It takes just a few moments to fill in the recipient name and email, sender name and email, type in your message, and click on send. Customers are then directed to a Paypal window for payment; those who don’t have a Paypal account can pay with a credit card. See below for a screenshot of a travel ePostcard from Berlin.

An ePostcard from Berlin, sent from Wish You Were Here

An ePostcard from Berlin, sent from Wish You Were Here

In addition to providing me with a new outlet for my travel photos, I am at an age (63) where I am examining my life and wishing I had done more to help. Read More

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Ask any Cuban to describe Salsa (Son) music, and the word sabor will inevitably creep into the conversation. Though the word translates literally to “flavor” in English, it is one of those Spanish words that has a deeper meaning – so deep that it might be said to be a spiritual principle. At the very least it implies sensuality, a joyful experience, something profound and heartfelt, a taste of the very soul.

I enjoyed learning about the history of Cuba, meeting Cuban artists, and tasting the creative new cuisine emerging from paladars, but to me the real essence of Cuba lay in its music. Like the indescribable sabor, however, it is difficult to find the words to describe the kind of spiritual experience that Cuban music provoked in me. Rather than try to tell you – which would not do it justice – I decided to show you some of the musical experience that Discover Corps provided during our eight-day tour of Cuba in the video below.
 

I was a guest of Discover Corps during my stay in Cuba, however, the receipt and acceptance of complimentary items or services will never influence the content, topics, or posts in this blog. I write the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

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His real name is José Fuster, but in the hood he’s known as the “Picasso del Caribe.” It was easy to see how he got the nickname Picasso of the Caribbean. From the top floor of Proyecto Fuster, I gaped at acre upon acre of art that Fuster had created, using millions of multi-colored ceramic shards.

Giant campesino surveys the compound at Proyecto Fuster

Giant campesino surveys the compound at Proyecto Fuster

As a young man, Fuster had studied the work of Picasso, Gaudí, and other contemporary artists in Europe. Upon returning to Cuba he bought a small wooden house on the outskirts of Havana to use as his studio, and began transforming it into one colossal work of art. Today, every inch of the walls, columns, benches, and even the roofs within the compound are covered in mosaic scenes that, more often than not, depict the peasant life he knew as a child. A giant sombrero-wearing campesino looms over roosters, fishermen, palm trees, and scenes from Santaria religious ceremonies. Whimsical giraffes mingle with stick figures that resemble Navajo gods. Read More

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For decades, travelers to Cuba have raved about the island’s stunning beaches, sipped icy cool Mojitos…and complained about the food. With dining options limited to State restaurants, run by government employees who had no incentive to get creative, Cuban food was monotonous at best. Thankfully,  paladars – restaurants in private homes – are rapidly changing that stereotype.

Lobster lunch at Bodega Las Brisas, a paladar in the small village of Cojimar, near Havana, Cuba

Lobster lunch at Bodega Las Brisas, a paladar in the small village of Cojimar, near Havana, Cuba

Paladars have always existed under the communist regime. Prior to 1993 they were illegal and thus hard to find, but during Cuba’s economic crisis of the 90’s, the government rethought its policies. In 1993, they legalized 117 forms of self-employment, which included enterprises such as home barbershops, mechanics, and and massage therapists. Paladars were legalized and given the right to have 12 seats and serve up to 20 clients per day. It was a slow beginning. The government still controlled what could be served (the sale of seafood, horsemeat, and beef were prohibited), and severe shortages of even the most basic ingredients, like salt, made it difficult to get creative with the cuisine. Read More