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Saturday, 11 February 2017

VISITING VYPIN ISLAND - a lovely excursion from Cochin


Chinese fishing nets, Fort Cochin


Goat on a boat: on the ferry from Vypin to Fort Cochin


Like Venice and Istanbul, Cochin is a city where water plays an important role both functionally and aesthetically. The Cochin ‘metropolitan’ area that includes Fort Cochin, Mattancherry, the modern city of Ernakulam, Willingdon Island, and other islands is infiltrated with waterways that flow past them and out into the Arabian Sea. These watery channels are alive with shipping, lined with fishermen, flanked by warehouses, and swarming with waterfowl. The sun reflects off the waters, producing a rare quality of light that heightens the beauty of the area.

The historic city of Fort Cochin with its many historic buildings, its Chinese fishing nets, and its colourful shoreline, makes for a wonderful place for tourists to linger. I have visited the place three times in two years, and Cochin’s attraction simply continues to grow for me.

The elongated island of Vypin (aka ‘Vypeen’) runs in a north-south direction, its southernmost tip being across the estuary from Fort Cochin. Two ferries connect Vypin with Fort Cochin. One carries foot passengers only, and the other carries both vehicles and foot passengers.

Ticket office for ferry at Vypin


The first time that I crossed to Vypin on the foot passenger only ferry, I noticed that a section of the boat was reserved for ladies only. Indeed, the queues for the ticket boot were segregated by gender. Lately (2017), I did not notice any separation of male and female passengers.

Leaving Fort Cochin, the ferry passenger gets a good view of the Chinese fishing nets on one side, and of the waterfronts of the Brunton Boat House and its neighbours (such as the old Aspinwall warehouse complex).

The ferry captains have to navigate carefully, so as to avoid colliding with all manner of craft: everything from ocean going liners and enormous dredgers to tourist pleasure boats and smaller craft used by the local fishermen.

Boats moored at Vypin


As the Fort Cochin shore begins to recede and mingle with the heat haze, the Chinese fishing nets of Vypin get nearer. Behind them, it is not difficult to see a couple of huge cylindrical structures, which are part of an oil refining site near to the Arabian Sea shore.

Belts in a small shop in Vypin


Both ferries dock at the aged, rather shabby Vypin ferry terminal, which until recently contained an even shabbier café, The Sealand, now closed. Passing through the terminal, we reach a line of small shops that face a parking area where multi-coloured busses and auto-rickshaws park. These busses carry passengers to a variety of places including Ernakulam and beaches at the northern tip of the island.

Detail on a private house in Vypin


The southern shore of Vypin is a peaceful contrast to the relatively busy shore of Fort Cochin, which faces it across the water. A good paved footpath follows the shoreline, passing several Chinese fishing net set-ups, upon whose ropes and wooden structural elements sea birds roost. On a recent visit, most the avian population consisted of white egrets. Landward of the path but partly hidden by the dense foliage of luxuriant gardens, you can just about spot low dwellings.



Taking one of the paths that lead away from the sea, one enters a series of narrow lanes lined with domestic residences surrounded by lush gardens. Wandering around these lanes reminded me of the lesser visited parts of Venice. There was hardly anyone around, little or no traffic, and a lovely calm silence.



The village of Vypin is built around The Church of Our Lady of Hope, (aka "Nossa Senhora Da Esperança"), which was built during the Portuguese occupation in 1605 AD (see picture above). Along with many other Roman Catholic buildings in the Cochin  district, it was badly damaged by the Dutch in 1663, but has been restored lovingly since then. Usually this is closed except for early morning masses. My wife managed to persuade a passing nun to get the sacristan to open up the church for us. While its interior (see picture below) is not as grand as some of the churches we saw in Goa, it is nevertheless worth seeing. A great anchor hangs from the northern wall of the chancel. A highly-revered effigy stands in a glass-fronted cabinet covered with a curtain near the southern wall of the church.



A short walk through more narrow lanes brings one back to the ferry station. Whereas the passenger only boat is quite comfortable for passengers, the boat that carries vehicles is less so. Passengers congregate at the covered foremost part (the bow) of the boat. Cars and vans are tightly loaded onto the ferry, and then the two wheelers motor bikes and scooters) squeeze their way into the remaining spaces including at the bow of the ship where foot passengers congregate, trying to avoid being knocked by mirrors or getting their feet run over by wheels.



Disembarking, one realises how peaceful Vypin is in comparison with Fort Cochin. This is not to say that Fort Cochin is not particularly unrestful (as is the city of Ernakulam); it is just far busier than that  peaceful haven Vypin.

The vehicular ferry at Fort Cochin


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Church hall on Vypin Island next to Church of Our Lady of Hope 

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Thursday, 15 December 2016

EDWARD LEAR IN BANGALORE

 

Telicherry (Kerala) sketched by Edward Lear in 1874


On September, the 24th 1874, Mr Edward Lear (1812-1888), who was staying in Bangalore (now ‘Bengaluru’), wrote in his diary:
Walked to Orr and Barton’s and got my photographs…”

Lear is best known for his nonsense verse, lesser known as an artist. Although never as successful as his contemporaries (e.g Holman Hunt, Lord Leighton, Alma-Tadema, Turner, Millais, and Rossetti,) in the 19th century UK art world, he was a wonderful landscape artist. In addition, he was highly skilled at depicting flora and fauna (especially birds: he was said to rival Audubon). Oddly, his talents did not extend to great representations of the human form except in comical cartoons, at which he excelled.

Restless, Lear travelled the world in search of the ‘picturesque’. He visited many places, including Albania, which is what got me interested in him in the first place. He recorded his travels in sketchbooks, and later transformed some of these into oil paintings - the medium which he hoped to master - but never really managed. Lear described his trips in diaries that he later published as travel journals, his pen producing portraits of the places almost as eloquently as his fine sketches and watercolours.

Recently, I discovered that Lear visited India (including Ceylon). He did so at the invitation of an old friend, Thomas Baring - Lord Northbrook, who had become the Viceroy of India in 1872. I bought a reasonably priced second-hand copy of Lear's "Indian Journal", introduced and edited by Ray Murphy (published in 1953). Unlike his other travel journals (e.g. for Albania, Greece, Corsica, and Southern Italy), this book contains Lear's actual diary entries rather than a later polished-up literary version of them.

Lear describes almost every day of his trip to India, which lasted from November 1873 until January 1875, when sickness and bad back pain forced him and his Albanian servant Giorgio to end their rambles, which had taken them from the heights of the Himalayas to the deep south of India and through Ceylon.

The trip was dogged with problems: logistic, illness, food, and so on. Yet, even on the worst of days, Lear found something redeeming to write about. Lear enjoyed Indian 'local colour', but was often less than lukewarm about British colonial social life. He preferred the ‘really Indian' places to those places favoured by the British. Many a place where the British liked to spend time relaxing were loved because, to use Lear's words, because of their: 
un-Indian qualities."

Lear visited Bangalore twice. His first sojourn was between the 13th of August 1874 and the 21st of that month. He arrived there on a train that passed through:
Arkonam … at the junction of the Bombay-Madras and Madras-Malabar lines.”
At this his junction in Tamil Nadu, now known as ‘Arakkonam’, he had to spend a night in a waiting room. In Bangalore, he took rooms for himself and his servant in the Cubbon Hotel, which he did not rate highly on arrival. However, a few days later, he noted:
The food at this hotel is good, and the service quiet and unobtrusive…”
Kora Chandy wrote in “The City Beautiful” by TP Issar (published1988):
“…let me turn to Infantry Road and the present office of the Commissioner of Police. Some 100 years ago, it was the leading hotel in Bangalore, called the Cubbon Hotel. The facilities it advertised included a ball room, ‘complete suites of the bachelor’s apartments’ and ‘carriages on the premises. In the early years of the century the British Resident purchased this property and his office was located there until 1928…” 
In 1911, the Cubbon Hotel still existed, when it was leased by Spencer’s, which was then in the hands of the Oakshott family.  The Cubbon Hotel was rated along with the (still extant) West End Hotel as being above average in Murray’s “Handbook for Travellers in India, Burma, and Ceylon” (10th edition, published 1920). Therefore, the Resident must have purchased it sometime after 1920. Maya Jayapal writes in her “Bangalore: roots and beyond” (published in 2014):
“… the Cubbon Hotel… was constructed in the prevailing style of colonial architecture, sometimes called Greco-Roman. It is now the police commissioner’s office…
A photograph (see below) in TP Issar’s book confirms Jayapal’s description of the architecture. 



Lear considered Bangalore:
“… an odd place, not over beautiful, but contains three picturesque bits and, I think, one general view. The tall coco-palms are a chief characteristic, but the queer houses are odd indeed…”
On the 15th of August, he visited the Lal Bagh gardens, concluding that:
“… he had never seen a more beautiful place, terraces, trellises, etc., not to speak of some wild beasts. Flowers exquisiteThere is something very rural quiet about this placewalked with Giorgio to some granite rocks, and a little tank, where I drew till it began to rain, ven I cum back…”
This little excerpt exposes Lear’s liberated approach to spelling. I have visited Lal Bagh often, and have seen its large tank, which contains an island. The large tank is separated from a smaller one, often filled with waterlilies, by a causeway. I am not sure about which water feature Lear was writing. Next day, he visited Ulsoor Tank, but arrived too late to sketch it. The Tank, which is still in existence, is a veritable lake with several islands in it. Zafar Futehally and Kora Chandy writing in Issar’s book, noted:
It extended over an area of 125 acres and was constructed by Kempegowda II during the second half of the 16th century.”
It supplied drinking water to the civilian and military population of Bangalore until the 20th century.
That day he praised Bangalore in his diary:
This station is very extensive and populous, and seems in some ways the pleasantest I have known in India. A sort of homely quiet pervades everything, and the air is delightful, ditto flowers. Birds are numerous but make absurd noises.
All over India, Lear remarked on the peculiar birdsong he heard. He left Bangalore on the 21st of August, heading for Madras.

Lear returned to Bangalore on the 23rd of September 1874, arriving by train from Salem. His journey had not been uneventful.  Near ‘Cajdoody’ (this is probably modern day Kadugodi, which is on a railway close to Whitefields, and, relevantly, a couple of still-extant large bodies of water), a bridge was down. Lear wrote:
Descending from the carriage, we had to walk along a narrow edge of clay by the steep side of the embankment; this was … difficult. … Next, a descent, with a crowd of natives, and still more awkward pass over loose planks to a boat … ferried across deep and rapid water, the result of a broken tank which had so swollen the stream as to carry away the bridge. Then came a hoisting up slippery wooden steps … to the level of the other train…
Lear and Giorgio arrived exhausted in Bangalore on the 23rd of September 1874 after a thirty-minute train journey from the flooded area. It was the following day that he visited Orr and Barton’s to collect some photographs – of what he does not say. Throughout his visit to India, Lear bought photographs, which he might have used to remind him of places that he had seen.

On my last visit to Bangalore in 2016, I bought some jewellery from Barton’s, whose extensive shop is within Barton Tower on MG Road. From its earliest days, it had been a jeweller but it came as news to me that it was also known for its photography. The 1920 Murray’s guide to India (see above) lists “Barton & Sons” both as a jeweller and a photographer.  One of the Mr Bartons must have been an exceptional photographer. M Fazlul Hasan writes in his “Bangalore Through the Centuries” (published 1970) that when an equestrian statue of Sir Mark Cubbon was unveiled in March 1866, many photographers rushed forward to ‘snap’ it, but:
Owing, however, to the fading light and other difficulties, only two, Major Dixon and Mr Barton, succeeded.”

Bangalore was not Lear’s last port of call in India. He went on to visit several other places including Sri Lanka before returning via Kerala to Bombay, and thence back to Europe. It was noticing that he had visited Barton’s, a shop I know well, that prompted me to write this piece based on the lesser-known travels of a well-known cultural figure of the nineteenth century. 

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Thursday, 24 November 2016

DESIGN MUSEUM IN LONDON




CLOTHES WITHOUT AN EMPEROR

In 1837, the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen wrote his “Kejserens nye Klæder” (‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’). Two tailors weave some new clothes for the Emperor. No one can see them because they were invisible, they had no substance at all, they did not exist.

London’s Design Museum has just (November 2016) moved into what used to be the Commonwealth Institute (‘CI’) in Holland Park. Its construction was completed in 1962. I remember visiting the CI in the early 1960s, when its gloomy interior housed exhibits from various parts of the Commonwealth. I was more impressed by the building’s then original and fantastic architecture than by its contents.

The CI building remained closed and disused from long before the beginning of this century until this year when it re-opened as the Design Museum. The building’s exterior has been well-restored, but is somewhat hidden from the road by two ugly ‘rectanguloid’ (or box-like) low-rise tower blocks, which are an affront to both good design and good town-planning. I imagine that letting or selling space in these two buildings helped pay for the restoration of the former CI building.

The interior of the old CI building has been scooped out and replaced by a wonderful new interior, an exciting space worthy of a museum that is dedicated to design.

Sadly, the exhibition fails miserably. Leaving the splendid atrium, the visitor enters a series of ‘galleries’ crammed with ‘icons’ of (mostly) 20th century design. The cluttered exhibition spaces reminded me of charity shops or jumble sales. The only difference between the museum and the latter is that the objects on display are in better condition than those in jumble sales or charity shops.

The newly located Design Museum made me think of Hans Christian Andersen. The building is splendid, both outside and inside, but the exhibition does not deserve such a fine building. The clothing is great, but the Emperor is missing.


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Tuesday, 15 November 2016

DISCOVERING JEWS IN BANGALORE






About ten years ago, an American Jewish acquaintance, who had just completed a tour of southern India, complained that he had seen no end of Hindu temples and Christian churches, but only one synagogue. Well, I was not surprised. Once in Venice (Italy), a religious Jew on learning that I am Jewish asked whether my wife (a gentile), an Indian, is Jewish. That got me thinking. I calculated that randomly meeting a Jew born in India was extremely improbable – it is less than 0.0005%.  So, to write about the Jews of India is to describe a minute proportion of the country’s vast population. And as I write, that proportion is only likely to diminish.

While idly flicking through the Eicher street atlas for Bangalore, I noticed, quite by chance, that the city has a “Jewish Grave Yard”. I have visited this cemetery several times. It contains less than sixty graves, but together they open a window that provides a good overview of the Jewish people who have lived in India. The story of India’s Jewry has been described in detail elsewhere (for example: “India’s Jewish Heritage” edited by Shalva Weil and “Shalom India” by Monique Zetlaoui). I will present their tales as viewed through a south Indian lens.

Jews have lived in what is now Kerala since time immemorial. They lived on the Malabar Coast in, for example, Kranganore and Cochin. It is said that St Thomas came to India to convert them into Christians. He failed miserably, converting, instead, the other people who he found living there.  A grave in the cemetery commemorates Elias Isaac, who came from Cochin to Bangalore to act as the schochet (ritual slaughterer) to the Moses family.  Today, there are one or two elderly Jews still living in Kerala.

The oldest graves in the cemetery mark the resting places of Subedar Samuel Nagavkar (1816-1904) and Benjamin Nagavkar (1877-1910). Samuel might have served the Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar, who donated the land for the cemetery in 1904. The Nagavkars were members of the Beni Israel community, whose origins are obscure. According to the historian HS Kehimkar, they claimed to have come from “the North” to India in about 175 BC (BCE). Many of their community still live in and around Maharastra State.

There are several other graves bearing names of Beni Israel Jews. Tor example: the horse trainer Sion E Nissim (1900-58), one of whose horses, Commoner, won the Indian Derby; Mrs Abigail Jhirad, daughter of the Subedar; and Joshua Moses Benjamin  Bhonkar (1920-2005). The latter (aka ‘Joshua Benjamin’) was both a writer (“The Mystery of Israel's Ten Lost Tribes and the Legend of Jesus in India”) and a Chief Minister in the Government of India.

Whereas the origins of the Malabar and Beni Israel Jews are obscure, this is not the case with the Iraqi Jews, who came to India from the Middle East beginning in the 18th century. Many of them settled in Bombay and Calcutta. The most famous of them being the Sassoon family.

The Bangalore cemetery contains graves for the following families from Calcutta: Ezra, Elias, Earl, and Moses. Edward Earl (1910-1953) was the proprietor of the once well-known Earl’s Pickles company.  Calcutta used to have a large Jewish community, including the Moses family, who are buried in Bangalore and originated in Iraq.

Ruben Moses (1871-1936) left Iraq to join the California gold rush. He left California for India in 1906, following the disastrous San Francisco earthquake. He headed for the Kolar gold fields, but ended up in Bangalore, where he founded a shoe store in the city’s Commercial Street. The store, which is now occupied by Woody’s veg fast-food outlet, was once the largest shoe retailer in southern Asia. His home, now long since demolished, contained a prayer hall where the city’s few local Jews and Jewish visitors from all over the world came to wordship along with the Moses family.

What did the Jews do in Bangalore apart from what I have mentioned above? Poor Moses Ashkenazy(1957-1982) was a student, who died of an overdose of drugs.  Sassoon Saul Moses (d. 1975) was a ‘hawker’, as were many of my Lithuanian Jewish ancestors who arrived in South Africa in the 1890s. The widow Rebecca Elias (1927-1992) lost her husband early, and then worked in a needle factory in Bangalore. GE Moses and Isaac Cohen, neither of whom are buried in the cemetery, were, respectively, a clothes retailer and an auctioneer. The grave of RE Reuben (1877-1939) records that he was “Malarial Supervisor of the C&M Station Municipality”. I wonder whether he ever met the Nobel laureate Sir Ronald Ross (1857-1932), the pioneer of the fight against malaria. Reuben’s place of work is mentioned in Ross’s papers.

Troubles with anti-Semitism in Europe and, later, the outbreak of the Second World War (‘WW2’) led to other Jews entering the Indian Judaic scene – refugees and soldiers. They are well represented in the Bangalore cemetery. But, before describing some of them, let me not forget the Russian-born Saida Abramovka Isako, who died in 1932. She was the wife of FY Isako, who was proprietor of the ‘Russian Circus’. Her coffin was carried on a bier drawn by white circus horses. I imagine that the burials of the German refugees Siegfried Appel (1906-1939) from Bonn, Gunther and his mother Mrs Rahmer from Gleiwitz, and Dr Weinzweig, were less memorable. Carl Weinzweig (1890-1966) was a dentist (his surgery was in MG Road), as was Gunther Rahmer.

Amongst the military personnel that passed through Bangalore during WW2, was the future President of Israel, Ezer Weizman, who was stationed at an RAF base in the city. His name appears in the Moses family guestbook. Sadly, the cemetery records the casualties of war, who died in the city. These include Yusuf Guetta (1921-1943), who was evacuated from Ben-Ghazi in Libya by the British in 1941, and Private Morris Minster (1918-1942). Minster served in the South Wales Borderers Regiment and was initially buried in the grave yard. His stone remains, but he has been moved to a large Commonwealth war cemetery in Madras.

The “Jewish Grave Yard” in Bangalore encapsulates the story of the larger of the Jewish ‘groupings’ that have lived in India. The cemetery is so unknown that even a few of the Jews who have lived in the city have been unaware of it. I have met the heirs of the Jewish refugee from Germany, Mr Jacoby, who introduced popcorn and machines for making it to India and settled in Bangalore. Their nearest and dearest are resting in peace in Christian cemeteries, of which there is no shortage in Bangalore.

At the beginning, I mentioned that India’s Jewish population is diminishing. Over the years many Jews left India. My wife, who went to school in Calcutta, remembers that the city had many thriving synagogues and that there were several Jewish girls in her class. When we visited Calcutta four or five years ago, we saw three synagogues. Two of them were well-maintained, by Moslem caretakers, as is Bangalore’s Jewish cemetery. The third that we saw appeared to be about to crumble.

India can be proud to remember that, unlike so many other countries, it was not anti-Semitism that caused Jews to migrate. Just as so many other Indians have left the country to better their economic prospects, so did the Jews.


An album containing annotated photographs of all of the graves in Bangalore's 'Jewish Grave Yard' may be purchased as an e-book (or a paperback) by clicking HERE



Tuesday, 8 November 2016

EXPLORING ALBANIA






"REDISCOVERING ALBANIA"

A new book about Albania by Adam Yamey



Albanian people live all over the Balkans and in the Middle East, not to mention those who have migrated to Western Europe and the USA in the last two centuries. Subjects to a series of foreign rulers over the millennia, some of them now live in independent countries, which are governed by Albanians: the recently formed Republic of Kosova (‘established’ 2008), and the longer-established Republic of Albania (‘established’ 1912). Adam Yamey’s book, “Rediscovering Albania”, is about the latter, although some references are made to the former.

Adam, who has been interested in the Balkans – especially Albania – for many decades, first visited Albania in 1984, when the country was governed by a repressive regime headed by Joseph Stalin’s fervent admirer, the dictator Enver Hoxha (1908-1985). The country was then ‘hermetically’ sealed off from the rest of the world, even more so than North Korea is today. The only way for a tourist to visit Albania in 1984 was on a closely supervised guided tour during which the Albanian authorities did their best to ensure that the visitor only saw what they wanted. Their aim was to send tourists home with the impression that Albania was a ‘paradise’, which other countries ought to envy and emulate. In order to create that impression, the foreign visitor was not allowed to talk to, or otherwise communicate with, Albanian citizens; not allowed to stray from the tour group; not permitted to eat in the presence of Albanians; not allowed to take photographs of whatever interested him or her; not permitted to carry certain reading matter including religious works; and so on. Despite these restrictions, Adam came away having had an interesting view of the most beautiful country in the Balkans.

Enver Hoxha died in 1985, and was replaced by Ramiz Alia. Five years later, two years after the Berlin Wall was officially breached, Albania’s Stalinist dictatorship ended. For the first time since independence in 1912, Albanians began experiencing the closest they ever had to true democracy. In the beginning, it was not easy. During the early years of Albania’s post-Communist existence, there were many problems to be faced. For example: complex internal politics; the break-up of its neighbour, the former Yugoslavia; a civil war in 1997; Kosova’s struggle for independence.



In May 2016, Adam paid another visit to Albania. He and his wife hired a car and toured the country extensively – from the high mountains in the north to the Greek border in the south and the Macedonian border in the south-east.  On this trip, Adam and his wife could: talk with any Albanian whom they met; travel wherever they wished; eat and drink with Albanians; take photographs without restrictions; carry whatever reading material they wished; and so on. They came away from the country with favourable impressions and happy memories.

During his latest trip, Adam kept a detailed travel journal. This formed the basis for writing “Rediscovering Albania”. The book charts Adam’s trip through Albania, providing personal anecdotes and observations that give the reader an idea of what to expect when visiting the country. But, there is much more.  Wherever Adam went, he heard things from people, and saw sights that aroused his curiosity. On his return to London, he investigated what he experienced in detail. “Rediscovering Albania” describes Adam’s trip in the context of: Albania’s troubled history and vibrant present; the reports of earlier travellers (Francois Pouqueville, Lord Byron, Edward Lear, Edith Durham, and many others); and the opinions of Albanians, whom the author met during his journey. Also, the book includes comparisons of how the author found Albania in 1984 with what it is like today in 2016. The resulting text is an informative and entertaining introduction to one of Europe’s most fascinating, but undeservedly lesser-known, countries.

The book, which is available as a paperback and an e-book (Kindle format), contains two maps and many photographs.

As Adam took far too many pictures to be included in one book, he is posting them gradually on a Facebook page (which can be accessed and viewed by those who have no Facebook account). Visit:


To buy a copy of the paperback: click HERE


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Saturday, 17 September 2016

A bunker in south Albania








Bunker by Lake Ohrid, near Pogradec


Most of the defensive bunkers constructed in Enver Hoxha's Albania were in the form of hemispherical concrete domes (see illustration below). 

Here, I describe an unusual one that I saw next to Lake Ohrid, just north of Pogradec.



Typical Hoxha era bunkers (near Lin)

Near the village of Memelisht (north of Pogradec), we examined the huge bunker on the lakeshore (illustrated above). It was like an elongated egg in plan. Part of it protruded into the lake, and the rest caused the road to curl around it. Its entrance faced inland. 2 gun slits faced north - one slightly towards the west and the other slightly towards the east. A third faced south towards Pogradec. I peered inside, and saw a central passage with doorways leading to 3 side rooms. The corridor was clean and painted white. A few discarded bottles lay on its floor. This ‘bunker’, which was so different from other bunkers that we saw in Albania, puzzled me. Valent at the hotel believed that it had been built by the Italians to control the road between Elbasan (and the north of Albania) and the south of the country as well as Greece. This seemed a reasonable explanation for its existence and positioning.
Does anyone know exactly who built it. Was it the Italians, the Albanians, or someone else?
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Sunday, 11 September 2016

M E T R O P O L I S

 


There are 2 places in London that remind me of some of the sets in Fritz Lang's film "Metropolis" (1927): the common parts (vestibules etc) of the Barbican Centre and the escalator hall of Westminster Underground Station ( rebuilt in 1999).

At Westminster there is an interchange between the Jubilee Line and the Circle/District Lines. The sub-surface Circle/District lines are separated from the far deeper Jubilee Line by a series of ecalators. The latter are housed in a huge concrete lined space. The whole ensemble is grey and gloomy, lit by lights that both illuminate and at the same time emphasise the gloomy nature of this futuristic collection of escalators, steel tubes, and other structural elements. I use the word 'futuristic' with reservation as this place resembles, as already mentioned, the sets of a film made back in 1927.

Full of human life, this interconnecting hall is rather inhuman - a collection of machines for moving hordes of people from A to B. It reminds me of factory assembly lines. Worth visiting because it is an extrordinary visual and psychological experience - and because it helps you to travel through the metropolis.


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