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Author Archive | Heidi Sequenz

Kosovo – a country or not?

Kosovo became a kind of magic word, after the war in former Yugoslavia. It was constantly on the news, but very few people understood what the complex issues really were. 2015 I met the first “real” people from Kosovo, MEPs from Vetëvendosje during a meeting Vienna. It was then that my interest in this tiny country grew more intense. When Ulrike Lunacek, presented her book „Frieden bauen, heißt weit bauen“ (Building peace, means building wider) in 2018, I simply knew I had to travel there. It took three more years until I set foot on Kosovo’s soil on a hot summer day in July 2021. Twenty years after  Kosovo declared itself independant from Serbia it is not even recognized by all EU-memeber states, mainly those who have issues with minorities in their own countries, like Spain, Romania, Slovakia, Cyprus and Greece. The main problem: Serbia still sees Kosovo as a part of Serbia, especially in the north of the country the population is predominantly Serbian.

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Slovakia by train

Gigantic fortresses, beautifully restored medieval towns, great hiking in the Tatra Mountains and unspoiled nature. Travelling in Slovakia was the most stress-free trip I have ever had, mainly due its flawless public transport system. I basically drifted through the country, using almost exclusively local trains. I had a vague idea of where I wanted to go, so the trip turned into – hey I really like it here or let’s move on.

Slovakia’s capital Bratislava is only an hour away from my hometown, the only place I every really visited in this neighboring country. What a mistake! When the Corona Virus limited travel and long-distant travel did not seem a wise thing to do, I figured why no give it a shot and simply got on a train leaving near my very home, with a few pieces of spare clothes in a daybag.

Leaving Vienna with no really clue as where to travel in Slovakia

 Trenčín

A few hours later I pulled into the city of Trenčín in the Váh River Valley in western Slovakia near the Czech border. Trenčín huge fortress up on the hill can be seen from Everywhere in town. I loved my hotel and even more the superbly restored historic center with its tree lined street full of little shops, cafes, and restaurants. A short climb from the center to the castle and the view from above over the valley is worth the hike. The interior is vast and there is lot to see, towers and dungeons to be climbed up and down. Also, definitely worth a trip up the city tower what must have been the city gate once. The dome of the synagogue, the spire of churches and a sea neatly red roofs stretch out before your eye.

The castle can be seen from everywhere in the city

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Kievan Rus – the cradle of Russia it does not want to be

Kievan Rus – the powerful East Slavic state founded in the 9th century – is seen as the beginning of Russia and the ancestor of Belarus and Ukraine.  The shining copulas of the many churches and monasteries are clear evidence of  Kiev’s historic importance. Nowadays many Ukrainians would rather have all historic ties to Russia  cut and forgotten.

Kiev Majdan – gigant poster reminding of protest in 2014

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Haiti 1996

The idea to travel to Haiti was born in a beach bar in Cabarete / Domincan Republic on X-mas Eve 1996. A few days later four of us had found a guide plus driver, crossed the border in the north of the country and dove into a world that was so different from anything I had ever seen before, despite my numerous travels.

Road from border to Cap-Haïtien

 Once France’s richest colony in the Caribbean, I found a country so very poor, with an infrastructure next to non-existent. But also a country that  freed itself from colonial rule in 1804, almost 100 years before African empires became colonies.

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Qeshm Island – Iran’s most southern point

You wonder where that place is? An island off Iran’s southern coastline, in the strait of Hormuz. On a clear day you may even see the northern tip of Oman. A very dry place with lots of hidden gems: deep canyons, the most bizarre rock formations and stunning beaches. The culture on this 150km long island is so very different from the rest of Iran. The vast majority of its people are Sunnites, darker skinned than most Iranians and the general feel is more of an Arab country. The lack of large urban centers gives it a rather traditional rural appeal that on the other hand is very relaxed.  Quesm Island is also the perfect hub for visiting smaller, nearby islands like Hormuz or Hengam.

Chahkooh Canyon

 

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Lemberg – Little Vienna in the Ukraine

Lviv, or Lemberg as we call it in German, has been on my radar since I was a kid. I overheard elderly people talking about Austrian soldiers being in sent to Galicia as a punishment. Soldiers of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy. I listened to stories of people wading in ankle-deep mud, a place at the end of the word, void of any signs of civilization. That got me interested.

Rynok Square surrounded by 44 pretty colorful houses of different styles and periods.

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Japan at Cherry Blossom Season

Japan had long spooked around my head, especially a trip during the cherry blossom season. In 2015 I finally did it. My homebase was the city of Zama, near Yokohama, at my friend Laura’s house. She had lived in Japan for many years and was about to be transferred to Italy, so I figured now or never. In 10 days I travelled Nippon on my own all on public transport, to Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Miyajima Island. Never is a Rush, taking all the time I needed.

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Tokyo- bustling and energetic

My friend Laura welcomed me at Narita Airport and we figured to overcome my jetlag let’s explore Tokyo straight away. I dove right in, from peaceful Meji Shrine to crazy Takeshita Street with its Harajuku girls and watching 2,500 people scramble through Shibuya Crossing in one go. Dogs adorned with jewelry and dressed in fancy clothes still did surprise my after all this.

Meja Shrine, worshippers performing a cleansing rituals before entering the Shrine

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Imperial Kyoto – cherry blossom captial

The old capital of Japan has everything an imperial city prides itself –  old Buddhist temples, gorgeous gardens, imperial palaces and Shinto shrines. But above all, Kyoto is most famous for its cherry blossom.  In Gion, the entertainment district I drifted under a roof of cherry blossom, dined in traditional restaurants, got tipsy on sake and caught a glimpse of a geisha.

Kinkaku-ji – The Golden Pavilion

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