Saturday, September 12, 2009

pictures from Tunisia

Mainly downtown Tunis and the suburb of Sidi Bou Said...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

pictures from Algeria

A view of the street from the hotel lobby

A view of the countryside from the bus to work

A grand mosque under construction

nobody messes around with these guys

graffiti on a side street in Mostaganem

Dropped an aitch

Saturday, August 8, 2009

DEATH: Violent, Occasionally Sublime, Always Guaranteed - 2

Before the final moment of truth for the bull, there are several increasingly bloody stages by which the bull is reduced from a rampaging, unstoppable killing machine to a panting, disoriented, tortured creature - still too proud and uncomprehending of its destruction.

In this picture you see a magical moment when the prey and the killer are as one.

This bull had been particularly brave - charging tirelessly, shaking off the banderillas (harpoon pointed shafts), feinting, attacking, taking the fight to its tormentors.

The matador finally managed to pierce its heart with his sword, and waited tensely for it to fall. But the bull just refused to die. It kept standing there, spurting blood from its mouth and from the multiple wounds, panting and staring at the man.

And then something happened. Something beyond the contest passed between the bull and its killer. The matador, perhaps, had his own moment of truth.

He slowly inched his way to the side of the bull, placed his cape on its back and started caressing its back, with his head hung as if in silent prayer for the bull's soul.

Only then did the great animal finally decide to give up and die.

The thunderous applause that followed was as much for the magnificent beast as for the matador.

But let us begin at the beginning to understand why this was such an unequal, unfair contest.

(to be continued)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

DEATH: Violent, Occasionally Sublime, Always Guaranteed - 1

These are my impressions of my first visit to a bullfight in Spain.

I delayed writing this because I wanted to read Hemingway's "Death In The Afternoon" before I started and I'm glad I did. Whatever I have written here is as a candle next to the sun when compared to the book. I recommend that everyone reads the book. Irrespective of the subject, it's exquisite writing. And on the subject itself, it's like a seductive bible written by a questioning, amoral believer.

I went to my bullfight in Barcelona which perhaps was not the ideal choice. Catalonia is just barely Spain. All things Catalan are fundamentally at cross purposes with the rest of the country.

The very fact that the bull fight still survives in Catalonia is in itself a salute to the law of the land and it is also, as yet, a symbol of the overarching but tenuous string of federalism that still binds this frisky province to the rest of the nation. Catalans in general do not approve of bullfighting and for years now have been waging an intense political campaign to ban the "sport" in their state.

It was a glorious, sunny Sunday afternoon. Across the road from the venue, there was a small group of anti bullfight protesters holding placards, sullen and silent. Carefully watching over them were three beautiful, tough looking policewomen.

There was a steady stream of people, mostly Spaniards and the mandatory sprinkling of American and Japanese tourists, buying tickets at the counters and strolling into the building. The mood was rather business like.

The ticket prices were reduced, I was told at the hotel reception where I booked mine, because the bulls on that day were not as big as they ought to have been.

Now here's the essence of the Spanish bullfight:

Six magnificent bulls, each weighing on an average half a ton, which have never faced a man in a ring before, will be killed one after the other before the evening is done. No bull leaves the ring alive. And when you see these proud beasts prancing into the ring with their skin glistening, their muscles rippling and their head held high, you realize that the bull has no idea of its imminent death.

For everyone else, that - the bull's death - is a given. A guarantee. The end result is always the same. (Well, almost always, but I'll come to that later).

How these six deadly, glorious creatures meet their inevitable end, one after the other, in the course of the evening is the story. The spectacle.

The entire drama is governed by a very elaborate and strict set of rules. These rules define each stage of this unequal contest. These rules attempt to lend a sense of balance to what is essentially a carefully choreographed series of assassinations. As if six Caesars were first corralled and given some space before being attacked. And killed.

The truth is that even the most accomplished of bullfighters has absolutely no chance of survival with even the most cowardly or reluctant of bulls, if they were to meet one on one, both unaided, one armed with a sword and the other with two lethal horns, and if the rest of the steps that precede the final encounter between them were eliminated.

As I said, this really is not a "fight". It is an assassination.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

3 Ganja Stories

I read these pieces in the police update section of The Hindu over the last few weeks

Woman held for growing ganja plants

Staff Reporter

BANGALORE: An employee of a private medical institution was arrested here on Tuesday night for allegedly growing marijuana plants at her rented house.

On a tip-off, the Viveknagar police raided a house on 2nd Main of Viveknagar Extension and seized 16 marijuana plants, generally known as ganja plants, being grown in pots. The police arrested Asha Christopher (32), a nurse at a medical institution in Wilson Garden.

The accused is a native of Wilson Garden, and the police said she was estranged from her parents and her husband. The police said that she had rented the house on the fourth floor of a building seven months ago, where she was allegedly growing ganja plants. The marijuana plants were planted in two flowerpots and placed in the portico. During the course of investigation, the accused confessed to planting and growing them for a few months. However, she did not reveal about the origin of ganja seeds or about her associates, the officer said. Asha was subjected to medical examination here on Wednesday, and the police have requested the Forest Department to assess the value of the seized plants. A case has been registered against the accused under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985.

BANGALORE: Two men with criminal antecedents died after they stabbed each other following a petty quarrel in J.J. Nagar police station limits.

The police gave their names as Zabi (23) of Padarayanapura and Yasin (27) of Mominpura. Around 11 p.m. on Sunday, Zabi and Yasin, who were drunk and were smoking ganja near the Mominpura burial ground, started quarrelling over money. Following a verbal duel, the two attacked each other with knives. As the two suffered injuries in the abdomen, their relatives rushed them to hospital. The two died in the early hours of Monday, the police said.

Man arrested on charge of selling ganja

Staff Reporter

BANGALORE: Siddapura police on Saturday seized 23 kg of ganja from Aiyappan (40), a resident of Byrasandra.

According to the police, Aiyappan was caught when he was selling ganja from his car to college students in Doddakallasandra.

The police arrested him and recovered four kg ganja from the car. Later, based on information provided by him during interrogation, the police searched his house in Byrasandra and seized 19 more kg of ganja. According to the police, the value of the seized ganja is more than Rs. 1.5 lakh in the international market. The police suspect that Aiyappan used to get his stock from Afghanistan. Further investigation is on.

Now, which story is the real rocknrolla here?

The nurse got some fat cops to walk up and down four flights of stairs; she got the Forest Department to do some urban evaluation and she has successfully gotten herself booked under an exotic act for which the trial might go one for the next 3 years...

Meanwhile 2 losers killed each other around midnight in a cemetery and Mr. Aiyappan is probably out on bail and holidaying with his business associates in Dubai (via Afghanistan!).

My vote is for that stoned nurse...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A butcher slaughtered...

Is there any lesson at all for humanity in the ugly story of Prabhakaran's life? And, if indeed there was one, will anyone even remember it a few weeks from now?

I distinctly remember that The Hindu initially used the term "freedom fighters" to describe VP and his gang back in the 70's. It was very thrilling to read.

But as the years rolled by, that romantic, heroic fiction of a modern day Che, a Tamil Robin Hood, an Asian Castro, a veritable "hero", turned out to be just that: fiction dosed with a large slug of wishful thinking.

The evidence was there for all to see right from the early days - the serial assassinations of political rivals; the murders (executions) of close aides who were perceived as potential threats; the cynical, nerveless massacre of innocent civilians; a complete disregard for international protocol - all the pieces were in place, but no one in the Indian media was willing to recognize them as such. VP was too good a story for the media to play spoilsport. And politicians of all hues gleefully jumped on the bandwagon for their own devious, filthy reasons.

In the final count, Prabhakaran wrought more damage, permanent damage, to the legitimate aspirations of Sri Lankan Tamils than all the Singhalese governments of the last 50 years put together. Prabhakaran single handedly circled the history of the Tamils with a dark, black ring of shame with his psychopathy and megalomania.

It is chilling to reflect that only if Prabhakaran had been even a fraction more politically savvy he might have actually won the mantle of international legitimacy that he so craved.

Makes me wonder about the thing they say about people always getting the leader they deserve!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Does India have to be alarmed, or even worried, about Obama's Outsourcing Promise Kept?

I'm no economist but no ostrich either. This morning I bent my mind around the furore created by Obama's ending of tax breaks to U.S. of A companies that invest and create jobs abroad.

The way I see it, there is a fundamental law of efficiencies that governs ALL activity. In it's simplest form (the only form that I can understand, given that I do not have an MBA, not even a cheap, mass produced, mail-order, Indian one, let alone a fancy phoren one) this law, I think, works like this: Inefficiencies in any system are either eliminated or the system dies.

So, if by preventing the export of American jobs, Obama's measure leads to greater efficiencies in the impacted companies, then the universe is anyway unfolding as it should and the countries that temporarily lose those jobs will move on to find better products to sell to the world in order to prosper.

If on the other hand, as claimed by some experts, this is a retrograde move and American companies become less efficient because of this, then eventually American products will cease to be attractive and the world will stop buying them (Chrysler, anyone?). Again, the countries that were temporarily affected will eventually find their rightful space provided they still have attractive products to offer the world.

Either way, in outsourcing too as in all industries, there is a constant, inexorable tectonic shift towards ever greater productivity, profitability and what have you.

Even if Obama had done nothing, India would eventually find itself priced out of the market if it did not constantly chase efficiencies by, just for example, moving the BPO jobs out of locations like Bangalore (that are already pricing themselves out of the market) to smaller cities and towns. And by other similar policy and governance activism - both big and small.

So, if we did not give in to this Great Indian Desire To Dramatize and just sat back and reflected for a moment, this whole thing just might be a blessing in disguise. A gentle poke up the collective Indian gluteus maximus, so to speak, that wakes us all up from this pleasant picnic that was the BPO BOOM.

After all, till a decade ago "BPO" was as new a concept to us as "3G Telephony" now is...

And, it's not like this entire "BPO" thing is India's birthright. Just happened that the Chinese, the Russians and the Brazilians didn't know English and we did....

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Is Hotmail Dead? Shit, yes! It's atleast in Intensive Care....

No, but seriously. Some indian lightning rod sold this to gates for lots of money a long time ago and all was the first e-mail account i ever had. it's like fucking i was an adolescent, Caucasian German around the time the second world war started or some shit....i mean i just jumped on the bandwagon, din know better.







Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Footloose in Barcelona – 2... La Rambla

I was staying in a lovely hotel – the Gran Hotel Havana – in the center of Barcelona. It is a refurbished, heritage building dating from the 1880’s and the service was a nice mix of “business class” efficiency and laid back luxury. It was bang in the middle of all the touristy hotspots – the most famous of the Gaudi buildings, the “Las Ramblas” Street and the Gothic Quarter.

So, the first morning I had a big, slow breakfast and went gallivanting.

At this point let me state for the record that I had Beer wherever and whenever it pleased me. So, I shall not be specifically mentioning all the Beers that I had. What you, as my virtual companion on this ramble, could do is just imagine a cold, invigorating Beer at any point in the narrative where you feel that a Beer would have been welcome and then, imagine quaffing it at your own pace. Better still, dash outside right now and get a couple of Cold Ones, come running back and sit back, relax and continue...

Bueno! Great! Vamos!! Let’s go!!!

La Rambla is a tree lined avenue with a wide platform or walkway running down the middle. This ancient street with a precisely documented history dating from the middle-ages has enough heritage to keep a suitably inclined tourist occupied for several days.

But what captivates and usually blinds the average visitor from all this history is the stunning array of street performers dotting the entire length of the central platform.

From an Amazonian Fruit Case...

to Enchanting Twin Angels...

to The Hollow Man...

via Che Guevara...

and a WWII Japanese Soldier,

these street performers – either solo or in duos - recreate brilliantly detailed themes.

The custom is for the tourist/traveler to drop a few coins into the cup in front of whoever catches his or her fancy and then have the photo/s taken by someone. If, perchance, you should try to take photos without paying your due, you would most likely get a middle finger or a pair of ugly, glinting eyes flashed at you.

I guess that these "performers" are seriously busy and marginally impoverished “workers” making a chancy living.

I’m also guessing that there are “dues” to be paid daily. Mafia? Police? Collective? Frig, I dunno! But for sure, it ain’t for free - the space, the permission, the protection et al!!

Till you get there yourself, take a look at this excellent, “official” Barcelona tourism website.

I wish Indian city administrations or private parties with a stake in the travel industry, like luxury hotel chains, would do half as much for all the beautiful, fascinating places in our country!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Footloose in Barcelona – 1. Some musings on tourists vs. travelers

After Frankfurt and Vienna, Barcelona was a sensory orgy. The whole feeling was one of animation.

Humor, architecture, football, anger, bullfight, protest against the bullfight, the sexuality in the policewomen - everything seemed to have an edge to it. Not razor sharp but still palpable - as if the denizens were perpetually just a step away from some very personal tipping point, and at the same time still quite comfortable with the idea of gently pushing the envelope.

The people were more casual, both in attitude and attire. Language was a problem because English was not as easily understood as in the DACH (Germany, Austria and Switzerland). The weather was glorious and I had just a single day of meetings to get over with before three days of carefree loafing…

Well now, you know, I hate to think of myself as a tourist.

“Tourist” implies a certain disconnect. Like humans in a zoo. I mean humans visiting a zoo. They stand at a distance and gawk. They seldom have even a rudimentary understanding of the “specimens” they are gawking at.

In the first chapter (Why Look At Animals?) of his incredibly dense “About Looking”, John Berger gives his take on how animals in zoos are basically marginalized props designed to cater to an abstruse, perverse need of the human visitors to relate to certain, very personal but distorted interpretations of an already misrepresented reality.

Similarly, I feel that tourists too chase some personal chimera that they wish existed. In the heat of this shallow chase, tourists invariably render the locals into marginalized props – bit actors in an enormous set piece. A tourist feels no need to understand. For the tourist, the travel is a diversion. It’s an activity or an experience that was bought and paid for, with little or no obligation on his or her part to participate in the reality on the other side of the invisible cage.

A traveler on the other hand, weaves his existence slowly and seamlessly through the fabric of the land that he travels in. Like a single, short, peripheral but harmonious thread in a vast tapestry. The traveler becomes, for a moment, a part of the “reality” of the space that he shares with the natives.

And truly great travelers leave at least a little something of value behind while taking a personal treasure with them as they move on.

Unfortunately, I suspect that these days I am more often tourist than traveler. But what the fuck, with the dollar rate being what it is, true travel is a pipe dream for me anyway.

Barcelona, allelujah, was perfect for me, the tourist.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sunset over the Kabini

Just back from 3 days at the Kabini River Lodge. This is perhaps the finest "value for money", "world class" wildlife resort in South India. This is all the more significant because it's run by an Indian state government organization - Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) which runs the Kabini River Lodge is a unit of the Government of Karnataka's Tourism Department.

The wildlife density in the jungles just outside the gates of the resort is so high that no trekking is allowed - only escorted jeep or boat safaris. Leopard and tiger sightings were freely reported (with photographs to prove them) by other groups on each of the days that I was there. Unfortunately for me, neither leopard nor tiger wanted to see my mug so I had to be content with close encounters of other kinds like:

- Wild elephant (including several lone tuskers, a 4 day old calf with an irritable mother and a family of 7 that was fast asleep on the roadside when we surprised them)
- wild boar
- mongoose
- spotted deer
- gaur
- sambhar
- langur
- malabar giant squirrel
- jungle fowl
- blue jay (indian roller)
- jungle babbler
- white bellied woodpecker
- flame back woodpecker (this is what the naturalist called it but I can't seem to find it in the The Book Of Indian Birds)
- scalybellied green woodpecker
- jungle owlet
- magpie robin
- jungle myna
- common myna
- green imperial pigeon
- red wattled lapwing
- crested serpent eagle
- changeable hawk eagle
- peacock and peahen (including an enchanting dance by a lovestruck peacock. The peahen didn't give a damn and just plonked on by)
- hoopoe
- racket-tailed drongo
- kingfisher
- great cormorant
- hornbill in flight - not one but three! (next to impossible to see when you are on foot inside the jungle. We saw this from a boat by the river bank)

...and numerous other splendid creatures that nobody had the time to help me identify.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Tamil inscription on a pillar inside Angkor Wat

I saw this on a pillar in the topmost chamber of the Angkor Wat (the most famous structure in the Angkor Temple Complex)

it says: ...gangai jameen madu(rai?) jilla...The village head or zamindar of ...gangai in the Madu(rai?) district....

This certainly did not look or feel like random graffiti by any tourist in the last hundred years. There were many completely uncovered and more legible inscriptions on other pillars which looked like japanese or chinese or whatever. It was sheer serendipity that I happened to walk past this pillar and that I knew how to read Tamil. There were zillions of Japanese milling about and I couldn't get better shots.

In the National Museum at Phnom Penh I also saw an exquisite statuette of Lord Muruga (Skanda) astride a peacock with its neck subtly stylized like a phallus photography was allowed and I didn't have money for the catalogue.

A stroll through Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Jan 2005

I am going through all my old photos and thought I would share some of them...

In 2004, I was having a terrible time at work and things in general were getting unbearable. So I decided to take a break.

I arrived in Bangkok by a night flight from Bangalore just as the tsunami was roaring across half the world's oceans, but I didn't know this then. I learnt about it only some 15, 20 hours later because I went to sleep as soon as I found myself a room.

In the following two weeks I went from Bangkok to Ayutthaya to Poipet (border town) to Siem Reap (Angkor), then across the Tonle Sap to Phnom Penh and finally Saigon. It was a slow, lazy wander and total value for my money in the sense that when I got back to my cubicle war I was sufficiently charged up to win some battles and improve my general situation.

The Angkor complex is a "must see before you die" destination...

But Saigon was the charm champ of my itinerary. What struck me most about the Vietnamese was that they seemed to have truly forgiven (but not forgotten) the past. The place was swarming with loud, middle aged Americans - "Vietnam Veterans" revisiting old haunts. The Vietnamese were invariably polite and considerate towards them, perhaps in deference to The Dollar. Perhaps.

Whatever might have been the reason for the equanimity of the Vietnamese, the truth of course is that this apparently peaceable, diminutive people engaged the most powerful army in the world for 20 years and eventually beat the shit out of it. Not very long ago. In 1975.

The Saigon General Post Office.

The Saigon General Post Office. The atmosphere inside reminded me of the Madras GPO on Beach Road in the seventies and early eighties. Designed by Eiffel.

Tender Coconut vendor.

Facade of colonial era apartment block.

War veteran. 

He was selling lottery tickets (note the bunch in his hand) and was completely chilled out - not anxious, not grabbing, not really keen on making a sale - and friendly. He spoke a little english and I bought a ticket from him more as a handshake of camaraderie than a doling out of mindless largesse. Cool, laid back encounter.

A peep over a wall...

A saigonese family having a quiet afternoon with their dogs..note the man of the house in the hammock.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Rendezvous with Vienna

Vienna was all spotless streets and stately buildings and sedate boulevards.

I was staying in a quiet, clean hotel in a quiet, clean suburb with a quiet, efficient suburban rail connection handy.

The "happening thing" was the Tutankhamun And The World Of Pharaohs exhibition that was in town as part of a world tour, so I went. It was a little weird walking through a re-created pharaonic burial chamber somewhere in the middle of Europe but the exhibits were timeless, fascinating. The exhibition was nicely curated with a melodramatic audio guide that captured, in a rather kitschy way, the sense of adventure that must have accompanied the so called "discovery" by Howard Carter in 1922.

One piece that simply paralyzed me was the bust of a princess with an elongated head, very similar to this one.

I'm not sure if this is a picture of the exact same bust that I saw because the website (from where i copied this image) says that this is a picture of a statuette in a Berlin museum. I couldn't take my eyes off her and I couldn't help thinking that this woman, this being, this sexy creature, MUST have been an extra-terrestrial.

At the end of the exhibition, as always, there was a merchandise mela at the exit. I'm almost a 100% sure that every single thingy in the store there had been "Made In China". So much for King Tut's Treasures and their impact on the future.

I stepped out of the museum into bright sunshine and started wandering around the city center. Everything was so orderly, so clean, so elegant. Everyone was, oh so well behaved.

Where did they hide all the drunks and the rowdies and the weirdos, I wondered.

Over a soothing beer in a busy cafe, I thought about all the famous Austrians I had heard of, or read about...

The list was quite impressive:

Adolf Hitler (yes, he was born an Austrian and took up German citizenship just a year or so before assuming the dictatorship of Germany);

Niki Lauda, the F1 champ;

Ferdinand Porsche, founder of the iconic automobile marque;

Johann Puch, founder of a motorcycle manufacturing company;


the Rothschilds;


Another notorious one (after Hitler) - Kurt Waldheim;

And then, finally, to balance the list off - Simon Weisenthal, the Nazi Hunter....

Oooh!!! Not bad a list for a little speck of a country, eh?

Then, just like that, I remembered the Big Austrian Flavour of the Season (not Red Bull), but: Josef Fritzl.

Some guy in this oh so well ordered country does something like that in his house and nobody..NOBODY...not even his wife...knew absolutely anything about it for something like 20 years???!


These guys are so smart and so "watchful" of their surroundings but they didn't notice something so serious; such bad ass action going on in their own backyard for all those years?

Was there an explanation?

Chillingly, Waldheim, an Intelligence Officer in the Nazi Army (the Wehrmacht), eventualy, actually, got to be their President as recently as in 1986?!!!! I quote from Wikipedia:

By 1943 he was serving in the capacity of an ordnance officer in Army Group E which was headed by General Alexander Löhr[6]. In 1986, Waldheim said that he had served only as an interpreter and a clerk and had no knowledge either of reprisals against civilians locally or of massacres in neighboring provinces of Yugoslavia. He said that he had known about some of the things that had happened, and had been horrified, but could not see what else he could have done.[4]
Much historical interest has centered around Waldheim's role in Operation Kozara[7]. According to one post-war investigator, prisoners were routinely shot within only a few hundred yards of Waldheim's office[8], and at the Jasenovac concentration camp. Waldheim later stated "that he did not know about the murder of civilians there."[8]
Waldheim's name appears on the Wehrmacht's "honor list" of those responsible for the militarily successful operation.

Fritzl was also an ostensibly successful man and an alleged authoritarian. Do these people perhaps just crave for authority to be imposed on them, I wondered. Is feudality genetic? Maybe there really is an Austrian Syndrome?

These were my thoughts.

I understand that stereotyping and bigotry are easy vices to acquire. Beery judgementalism is effortless and free, especially on a holiday. I know very little about Austria, Austrians or their everyday realities. Still, these were my thoughts and I share them here without apology.

I quickly finished what was now an uneasy and stale beer and found my way back to my hotel. King Tut and his Treasures seemed a distant, aberrant memory. Overall, it was not a very satisfying day off.

Rhine Valley Cruise Freebie

I was on one of those tourist trap Day Trip + Rhine Valley Cruise from out of, I think, Frankfurt. It was a hot day and everything was dull and normal until a big buzz erupted on board and on the banks of the river. There was this completely naked young woman just walking and running about all over the place around that park that you see. The locals were as perplexd and amused as the tourists. The woman was followed by a photographer with an expensive looking camera. It was probably a funky photo shoot for a product or a magazine.

And yes, the energy level on the cruise spiked quite remarkably after this interlude. :-)

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Rhine Valley Cruise

This post has been a long time in the making. Loads of weird and interesting things have happened to me since I last posted and I'll try to quickly catch up chronologicaly with whatever I can still remember.

Sometime towards the end of last summer I went on some official work (I still had a job then) to Frankfurt, Vienna and Barcelona for about 10 days. In between frantic meetings and mad dashes from hotels to airports to yet more hotels I managed to have myself a pretty good time.

Frankfurt was a limp, weary smudge of a city. The most famous landmark is apparently the airport and they have guided tours of the place...I said "Nein, danke!" to myself and instead took a guided day trip to the Rhine Valley.

The guided tour itself was a classic tourist trap replete with a witty english speaking guide, an insipid fixed menu meal at a quaint restaurant and some half hearted wine tasting. For some reason the waitress at the restaurant got a little frisky with me and even playfully lifted a chair and made as if to hit me with it. I couldn't be bothered to decipher her heavily accented english...furthermore, she was a big made Bavarian girl so I didn't get too excited.

The Rhine valley was an amateur photographer's delight with picture postcard settings at every languid curve of the river. It was the last week of summer and the Germans far outnumbered the tourists at all the restaurants and inns that dotted the shore. There were hundreds of families in cars and scores of gangs on superbikes ripping up and down the autobahn - everybody generally having a great time.

At one place there was a sudden spike of excitement when a stark naked, beautiful blond girl walked down to the shore and then weaved her way through a crowd of perplexed but amused holiday makers. She was followed every step of the way by a cameraman and I guess it must have been a photo shoot for a magazine or a TV show or something.

I shit you not about this - I have atleast one photo of the girl. But you'll have to wait a while till I load it 'coz I don't have a laptop at the moment (and why that's so is another story).