Him or me. Canadian and German perspectives on WW II in the Netherlands

Him or me. Canadian and German perspectives on WW II in the Netherlands

On the 14th of February 2020, exactly 75 years after the bombing of Dresden, the Dutch National Military Museum, opened the doors of an unusual exhibition. ‘Him or me’ turns an eye on the Battle for the Netherlands in 1944-45, seen partly from German perspective. Nazi-conscript Hans Kürten figures as one of the main characters in a display of exceptional artefacts, weapons, uniforms and vehicles (such as the V1 Reichenberg and the Tiger II tank). Next to Kürten’s story, the war experience of Canadian soldier Léo Major comes to life. In service of the Régiment de la Chaudière, Major was one of tens of thousands of Canadians who fought and bled for the liberation of Holland. Their sacrifice, however, is not well known. As of today, many Dutch are of the opinion that their country, indeed the whole of West-Europe, has been liberated largely thanks to the American war effort. It were Hollywood movies and TV-series that cultivated the image of Allied victory as an American tour de force, leaving little attention to the struggle (and bravery) of Canadian, British and Polish troops. Their willingness to give their lives for the liberation of Europe is acknowledged by the museum’s decision to set up its exhibition from Canadian point of view. At the same time, attention (though not sympathy) is given to the hardships of war that were all too real for German soldiers as well. Kürsten saw bitter fighting on the Eastern Front before being sent to Normandy. As his 116th  Panzerdivision ‘Windhund’ tried to stop the Allied invasion, Kürsten fell witness to more gruesome scenes. According to one...
In search of the Ruins of Gedi

In search of the Ruins of Gedi

Much is yet to discover about the Ruins of Gedi. The ancient town on the Kenyan coast gained weight as prosperous Swahili city-state throughout Africa’s Middle Ages. The bulk of its wealth Gedi originated by its importance as a coastal town in the Indian Ocean trade system. From the 7th century, trade networks linked this part of Kenya to merchant centres as far away as India and Oman. From these harbours, merchant ships would sail to East Africa, exchanging cotton and ceramics for ivory and slaves. Along the way, Arab and Indian merchants settled down along the Kenyan coast. As a result, exotic exchange gave birth to an unique Swahili culture, characterised by Islam inspired architecture and, for dinner, delicious chipati bread. Typically, Swahili language is a fusion of Bantu speech enriched by Arab, Hindi, Persian and Portuguese loanwords. However, turning back to the ruins, ‘Gedi’ is not a Swahili word at all. It were the Oromo who founded Gedi in the 11th century and gave the city its name (meaning ‘precious’ in their language). Known for being fierce horsemen, the Oromo built this complex as a command centre for future raids. Over the years, as new settlers came in, Gedi was redefined. By the fifteenth century, the city has turned from a military outpost into a luxury resort. Jewellery from exotic places In the centre of the city stood the royal palace. Here the sheikh – alternately Swahili or Arab – housed with his two or three wives. The royal family had their own private toilets – still standing today -, whereas their servants had to use the...
Estonia paves the way for free public transport

Estonia paves the way for free public transport

Next to beautiful beaches, Estonia hides another treasure up her sleeve: free public transport. What started as a political stunt in 2013, worked out to be a nationwide project. As of July 2018, everybody can use regional busses in most counties without paying a fare. Are they living the dream? All in for free transit Aiming on votes for the 2012 municipal elections, Tallinn’s mayor Edgar Savisaar held a public opinion poll to see whether his city was up for free public transport. An idea that didn’t quite bedazzle everyone. Firstly, critics said, the mayor stole the concept from the Social Democrats, who already put forward the idea in 2005. Secondly, opponents argued that the estimated transition costs (€ 60 million) would be a waste of public money. Those who could afford it, would still prefer driving a car. On the other side, 75 % of the voters gave green light to introduce the scheme, making Tallinn the world’s first fare-free transport capital in January 2013. All (and only) legally registered citizens could, after purchasing a green card (€ 2), hop on every means of public transport in the city. Reasons pro were plenty. Low income households saw their mobility increased, allowing them access to jobs. At the same time, the unemployed remained attached to society. Not only poor families with children would now be able to engage in leisure activities, also high income households were aroused to commercial activity in the capital. All in all, the experiment attracted newcomers. And, as more people registered into Tallinn, the city incomes from tax revenues made up for the annual €...
Racism in Sofia

Racism in Sofia

The events at Sofia – where Bulgaria vs. England had to be halted twice over racist abuse – seem all the more remarkable in the light of Bulgaria’s historical stand against racism. During WW II, the Bulgarians managed to save nearly all their Jewish citizens from the Holocaust. How did they do it?...
Las Ramblas on fire again

Las Ramblas on fire again

Heated scenes in Barcelona where protesters clashed with riot police. Not since the 1960’s and 1970’s, the city has witnessed street fights on such large scale. back then, communists, catholics and Catalan separatists joined forces to undermine Franco’s rule. Today Barcelona’s youths and immigrants, with too much free time, fight for distant ideals…...