Cembra – Italy. Since the Dolomites were made World Heritage sites by UNESCO in 2009, the number of Alpine hikers and tourists has grown exponentially. But if you tire of the crowds and of finding mountain refuges and valley hotels booked out weeks and months in advance; if your mind spins from juggling the Südtiroler German names with those the Italians have been trying to impose on Alto Adige ever since they annexed it from Austria after WWI (how does Grassleitenpass become Passo Principe?), there is a valley not yet over-run by the international tourist industry and which is pure Italy without the noise, hustle and bustle: the Val di Cembra. Continue reading “Val di Cambra: Escaping the crowds in Trentino”
If you are nearing retirement or have retired and you are looking for that great adventure which will take your breath away, both literally and figuratively, or just need to clear your mind to start a new life, then the Dream Trail from Munich to Venice is perhaps what you want. The trek, known in German as the Traumpfad München-Venedig, may sound awesome but if we could do it, so can you. All you need is a couple of months, a few thousand dollars in cash and a lot of determination.
It is late June and Sonja, 62, and I, 61, are off to one corner of Munich’s Marienplatz square having our photo taken while tourists crowd in front of the Gothic Revival Town Hall and wait for the colorful Rathaus-Glockenspiel clock to sound its 43 bells with 32 colorful life-sized figurines re-enacting a 16th century fairy-tale in a 15 minute show.
Gas stations ran dry last week when unions blocked the refineries. Other employees threatened to shut down nuclear reactors. Public transport is expected to grind to a halt this week. Police, teachers, prison guards and more are joining the movement. All of this to protest a mild labor reform law aimed at reducing unemployment.
President Hollande insists he will not back down even though violence in the streets, despite a state-of-emergency, has the government fearing tourists will stay away this summer.
It is truly a case of ‘The Cid‘ in which there is no honorable way out for all sides meaning the worst is possible.
Libreville, Gabon: When President Ali Bongo celebrated Press Freedom Day on May 3, the vast majority of Gabon’s press boycotted the event and held their own meeting elsewhere in Libreville, the capital. Speaking before a handful of pro-government media, Bongo complained that the opposition press demand subsidies but spend their time insulting him, once again demonstrating a 50 year Bongo family tradition of confusing state finances with private assets. “The press is against me,” he lamented. Bongo’s statement underlined the extent to which Gabon’s media landscape is polarized as we head to presidential elections in August. Continue reading “Gabon’s media landscape is a mess”
Paris: France is bankrupt. In terms of the Maastricht criteria, French public debt is 97% of GDP, or roughly two trillion euros. But add to this, the off-balance-sheet debt (estimated at over three trillion euros) such as pensions (19 billion euros a year deficit), unemployment insurance (over five billion/year deficit), health care system (15 billion/year deficit) and other social guaranties supposed to finance themselves and the real debt of France is an astronomical 242% of GDP. Yet, labor in France refuses to hear of reform. Students, who have never worked a day in their lives, are marching with public service employees and fighting police in the streets. Continue reading “French Civil Servants, Students would rather sink than swim”
Béziers, France: Anybody who has visited France’s beautiful old cities knows you must spend as much time looking where you step as you do admiring the sites, lest you trod in dog poop —- a walk you could call the ‘dog-crap-shuffle.’
The mayor of the southern French city of Béziers is fed up with dog owners who don’t clean up after their pets have relieved themselves on the city’s sidewalks. He announced on Friday he is calling on science to find and fine the culprits’ owners. Continue reading “Béziers Tired of the Crap – DNA Testing for Dogs.”
Paris, France: Muslim fundamentalists are challenging France’s ‘line in the sand’ and the battle is now in one of the most prestigious of French institutions founded by Napoleon.
The French ‘Grande Ecole’, Sciences Politiques, was Tuesday the scene of a very strange event which is creating quite a tempest in France: Hijab Day. Muslim students at the school called on their fellow female students to wear the Islamic headscarf for a day in a bid to “demystify the cloth.” Continue reading “Islamic Veil:The Cloth of French Discord.”