... in tourism

Swine flue / Flying slums

One of the biggest idiots of our times, ryan air’s Michael O’Leary who has an opinion on just about everything is quoted by the german news website Spiegel online to have claimed that the swine flue ‘only affects people living in slums in Mexico and Asia’ and that ‘people flying short haul in Europe this summer will fortunately not die of the Swine flue’. Funny thing is that Ryanair flights can best be characterized as flying slums, which would make O’Leary a slum lord in addition to be a general nuisance and an idiot.

Fierce, savage, and above all, dangerous....

25 May 2008 | 217 words | imagination popular culture tourism islamofobia

Naeem posted a little gem of a text to the nettime mailing list earlier today. it describes the rising popularity of sheik-themed romance novels and begins with one of the best sentences i have read in while:

“It seems that an Arab man can now get on the cover of a romance novel in the United States almost more easily than he can get past airport security: According to the Chicago Tribune, the sales of sheik-themed romance novels have quadrupled in the years since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Up to 20 of these novels per year, with titles like Expecting the Sheikh’s Baby, The Sheikh’s Virgin, and The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No, go through print runs of 100,000 copies or more. Typically, these stories feature a white American or British heroine who travels to a fictional Arab country (messy real-life politics aren’t welcome in the world of romance fiction), becomes involved with an Arab prince through accident and/or circumstance, and ultimately marries him. Some of these sheiks* are polished business magnates, while others hark back to the Valentino-style desert Bedouin of yore. But they all have a few things in common: All of them are rich and powerful, all of them are irresistibly sexy, and all of them are dangerous.”

More proof that GPS is evil

18 May 2008 | 284 words | maps technology tourism xenophobia namibia gps

[see previous evidence here, here and here]. Over at BLDGblog Geoff Manaugh reflects on a feature in the last edition of WIRED that praises GPS and user generated map files for allowing rich westerners to travel through remote parts of the world (Namibia in this case) without the need for local guides. In ‘the digital replacement of the natives‘ Geoff argues that this trend – should it become more widespread – will probably be devastating for local economies based on tourism:

I can’t help but wonder what this might foretell for local economies based on guided tourism around the world. For instance, a small group of American tourists comes through your village, eating PowerBars and looking at handheld GPS devices. They don’t go to any restaurants; they don’t ask any questions of anyone; perhaps they don’t even rent a hotel room. For all economic purposes, it’s as if they were never there. They were more like surreal poltergeists wearing Vasque boots, reading Jonathan Safran Foer on a Kindle. What better way to avoid meeting Namibians! Just use their electrical grid to recharge your gadgets, pay no taxes, and leave.

I’m left imagining the inverse of this situation, of course, in which a small group of Namibians shows up in London. They ask no questions, eat at no restaurants, and avoid all hotels – before going off to wander round the countryside, sleeping in tents. It would all seem rather mysterious.

‘Mysterious’ is definitely to soft of a term here: in post 9/11 reality ‘mysterious’ is synonymous with ‘suspicious’ which, (especially if you are not white and handle high tech gadgets) is very likely to result in 90 or so days of detention without charge.

Sushi in Suhl

25 Dec 2007 | 701 words | food germany east germany 90s tourism japan

So i am at my parents place (somewhere in the middle of eastern Germany some 2 hours south of Berlin) for the holidays and naturally we are talking about food most of the time. My brother just informed us of his (outrageous) plan to make Sushi for lunch. how insane is this? Making sushi somewhere in the middle of nowhere where all the shops are closed and even if they were open they would still not be selling fresh fish (my brother informs me that he has frozen fish that he intends to use, yuk!).

Now my father says that it is not such an outrageous thing to make sushi here as this area (provincial eastern Germany) used to have the best japanese restaurant in the whole of europe in the 70s and 80s. sounds a bit insane to me (why would the best japanese restaurant in europe be located deep in the provinces of (then socialist) East Germany) but apparently this has indeed been the case (if you can trust the interwebs, which of course you can’t):

In the late 60s some crazy east German engineer bought a restaurant in Suhl (local joke: ‘Suhl is so close to the edge of the world you can see Zella-Mehlis‘) and transformed it into the best Japanese restaurant in Europe [the following is my own crappy translation of a badly written article that appeared in a local newspaper on the occasion of Rolf Anschütz’s 75th birthday on the 4th of May 2007]:

In 1960 Rolf Anschütz became an apprentice Chef and started studies to become an engineer. In the mid 60s he bought the wine-bar “Der Waffenschmied” [pk: the Armorer] in Suhl. He had the idea to transform it into a Japanese restaurant since the time in the chef-school in Leipzig: Only among the people from the land of the rising sun the culture of food preparation constitutes the primary element of the national culture as a whole. He was fascinated with this observation and went to great length to create his own japanese restaurant:

41 years ago the chop sticks were hand made in a local carpenters shop and the rice bowls were sourced from a pottery shop in nearby Rümhilde and the engineer himself cut off the legs from chairs and tables to bring them to japanese proportions. He also hung cloth to the walls to simulate a far eastern ambience and on the 14th of february 1966 he started serving japanese cuisine in the GDR!

At that time he could not foresee the success that ensued over the decades to come – but a legend had been born that day in Suhl. A day that should change his life once and for all: The restaurant deep in the province quickly became insiders tip for culinary events and after japanese journalists had started reporting about this culinary highlight back in Japan reservations for a meal needed to be booked 2 years in advance.

The restaurant was running at full capacity and in 1978 he in introduced the japanese ‘Gastmahl’ [pk: guest meal] that was celebrated according to traditional rules – including a common bath of the guests before the meal. At this time the “Waffenschmied” belonged to the most respected japanese restaurants outside of Japan. In Europe it is the undisputed number “1” followed by Brussel and Japan [pk: since when is Japan in Europe?]. The whole world came to visit Rolf Anschütz: from South American cattle barons to Japanese tourists for whom it became a must to visit Rolf Anschütz in Suhl. More than 96.000 guests from Japan ate at “Der Waffenschmied”. In total more than 2 million visitors from 126(!!) countries were guests at this exceptional Restaurant and 186.000 among them took part in the bathing ceremony.

Apart from this rather dubious newspaper article there is not much information to be found online. however it seems that a feature film about the restaurant is in production at the time of writing (IMDB lists ‘Sushi in Suhl‘ as ‘in production’) and the film seems to have received production money from the film fund of the German federal state of Hessen.

Rolf Anschütz in the “Waffenschmied”

Rolf Anschütz with japanese guests

Future generations will be lost...

09 Jul 2007 | 331 words | amsterdam maps tourism stupidity gps

And i mean this literally. I have already written about the degrading orientation skills of London cab drivers, but in the last couple of days i noticed a much more alarming trend. on three occasions i have spotted people using those irritating gps based car navigation units to walk(!) around town. Friggin’ insanity! what do people think they have brains for these days?

First time i noticed this was in the phone shop where two female japanese tourists enquired about the stand alone gps units and bought one although the sales-clerk warned them that it only had map data for the Benelux on it. They replied that they were fine with Amsterdam and Bruxelles and needed nothing else, bought it and left the shop. Then the other day i saw a group of tourists wandering along the canals one of them holding one of these units in his hands. Tonight cycling back form central station i noticed two teenage girls walking along the street both of them staring on the screen one of them was holding one of these devices in her hands:

This time i actually stopped and asked them what they where doing with with that thing. they replied that they used it as a map as they were not form here (obviously! – judging by their accent they came from some Scandinavian country) and that it was in fact much better than a map as they never managed to properly read traditional maps anyway.

I think this fundamentally disturbs me. makes me wonder if people will start removing parts of their brains in order to lose weight. On the bright side this of course points to a much better future for the inhabitants of major touristic hotspots as they won’t be asked for the directions all the time anymore. Thinking of this, this might actually mean that one day in the near future drunken British males will be able to find the amsterdam red light district by themselves…

I am(not)sterdam

02 Sep 2006 | 29 words | amsterdam photos tourism

Here are some pictures I took with my camera phone during todays i am(not)amsterdam radio ballet organized by the balie in the framework of the ‘the public desire‘ weekend:


Right now i am at the media shed in Southend on Sea (a.k.a.the end of the world) just out of London where mongrel is hosting a launch party for two new projects: Hairy MP’s & Telephone Trottoire. One of the people giving a speech is Yoshitaka Mouri of the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts & Music. He just showed Lampedusa, a disturbingly beautiful project about the ‘two sides’ of the island, by Frederico Baronello & Takuji Togo:

Lampedusa is the southernmost summer resort island of Italy, the border between Europe and Africa. In recent years there has been a massive and constant influx of immigrants who try to illegally enter the country by setting off in small boats from the coast of North Africa. The CPT (Centre for the Immigrants’ First Acceptance) is a detention house next to the airport of Lampedusa. Here, foreigners who have been denied refugee status are sent back to Libya, and arriving tourists are welcomed to visit the island. There is also a space of the island cemetery dedicated to the refugees, many of whom died trying to make the journey across the Mediterranean to Europe.

Check it out here (and make sure you have sound enabled).

True artisans...

06 Jan 2006 | 281 words | argentina tourism design

Tomorrow we will be going from El Calafate to the Monte Leon national park on the Atlantic coast. This is a 6 hour drive on unpaved roads and we wanted to take along yerba mate. missing the required gear (gourd and bombilla) i set out to get us a set:

El Calaftate being a tourist town and this being Argentinia every second shop in the centre sells mate sets with either the name of the town the province, the country or good knows what other touristic symbol (penguins, wales, gauchos, Diego, Che, evita, sheep, etc…) or imagined proof of autenticity inscribed or engraved on it.

All i wanted though was a simple mate set with no added bullshit on it. I finally found a stall in the artisans passage of the high street. Someone was hand-decorating wooden gourds and he had a couple of plain ones that he used a raw material. When i asked them how much one of the plain ones was he told me that they are not for sale because he had yet to decorate them. i told him that i wanted a plain one and that i would pay the same price as for a decorated one, but he refused to sell it. I asked him ‘why?’ and he replied ‘because we are artisans’.

I have always detested hand crafted stuff exactly because of this almost missionary drive of the craftspeople to unleash amateurish decorations on the rest of humankind and i have never understood why at least half of the worlds toursits buy this kind of crap and take it home.

One more reason why i am glad to be born after the industrial revolution.

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: