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A Day in Washington D.C.

Being in Washington D.C. in 2018 you feel the turmoil on the streets. There are lively discussions between strangers about the country and it’s future. Very often between tourists from within America, many of them from conservative states, and mostly liberal and black locals. It’s a political town and one that tries to encapsulate the rich American history within walking distance. It feels like an open air museum sometimes, but there are different parts of the city of course. Like the American society itself DC is hard to grapple and can mean different things to different people. The city is interesting for sure and worth a visit.

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Azulejos of Portugal: 2019 Edition

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In 2015 I put up a series about Portuguese tile art on this website. The article is still one of the most clicked on here. A couple of years later I want to start the year with coming back to the topic and showing more of these magnificent Azulejos, as they are called. This time around though they are not as clean and shiny, they are more washed out, sprayed, beaten and even rusty. They tell stories of everyday life in Portugal, how nature blends in with them and how street artists use them as canvas.

Details of Portugal

This year again, as in 2017 before, I had the chance to visit one of the most picturesque countries in Europe and also my former home – Portugal. Most of the pictures I wanted to share with you from these particular two trips I did so already, you will find them here, here or here. However I did not share them all. There are some shots I didn’t yet put on the website. I combined them into the series below titled “Details of Portugal”.

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The Golden City

The “Golden City” of course is Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic or Czechia. It is one of the oldest cities in Central Europe and it was the most important metropolis in the region for many centuries. Prague was a multicultural city with Czech, German and Jewish populations living there and a tremendously rich place as well, being a cultural, political and economical hub in Europe. Because of that fact probably it was called golden, but also maybe because of the many golden tower roofs visible from afar or of the myths surrounding alchemists working in the city. There are plenty other legends about Prague of course, one well known is the story of the Golem, a monster who was said to live in the Jewish quarter. For sure though it can be said that over many centuries Prague accumulated an astounding assemble of architecture, reaching from medieval gothic buildings, to baroque and art noveau structures. No wonder the city is a living museum of European history today.

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Chess Players in Union Square Park

In this personal post my friend Lukas shares his thoughts about his passion for chess and the current state of the game in connection to a recent visit we had in New York. The picture were shot in Union Square Park.

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Chess has seen better days. Maybe it’s an underestimation of the current standing of chess, but the societal impact and prevalence of chess seems to be lower than in the past decades. If one does not specifically look for them, there’s few people around to have a casual game or to chat about the latest tournament results.

There are, of course, reasons for this. In order for a sport to be enjoyed and appreciated by the masses, skill must be apparent to the layman. Everyone can clearly see the skill on display when a professional footballer scores a spectacular goal, shooting the ball right past the goalkeeper’s fingertips, with only inches to spare. Chess is a different matter. The hidden reasonings of a complicated chess move can only be appreciated by people of an at least somewhat similar level of skill.

I’ve always found it fitting to compare chess to a language. It can hardly be enjoyed by people who do not understand it. It demands continuous practice or your proficiency will fade. And, not least of all, it takes two fluent speakers to create a good conversation. I’ve had a mixed relationship with chess over the years. I’ve had my past with chess clubs and tournaments, but the drain on my personal time was too significant to stick to it over the years. Most of my friends do not play, and meeting those who do gets more difficult by the year, as lives change and responsibilities pile up. Then there is, of course, the internet. Nowadays, people who need their regular dose of chess generally retreat to online platforms. This might be extremely convenient – as one can play anywhere, anytime – but something is lost on the way.

On a recent trip to New York City, one of the most important things on my personal to-do list was to visit the local chess-playing community, famous for playing in the parks of Manhattan. When I finally found the time, the weather could not have been worse. The mild temperatures of the past week gave way to sporadic snow and a bone-chilling, uncomfortable cold. I was wondering whether I’d find anyone to play at all. Still, even in such harsh conditions, I found people standing in circles, playing, silently watching or engaged in light-hearted conversation. Not only did I get to play my games, I got much more than that.

As I was sitting there, at Union Square Park, in the heart of one of the most awe-inspiring cities of the world, sacrificing pawns, knights and queens alike, bantering and laughing with complete strangers, I was reminded once again: it’s a sad thing if you can’t share your passions with likeminded people.