Gay Pride and Prejudice – Of Use and Abuse of Minorities

bildgaypridebuda

In a region as diverse as Central Europe, minorities have always played a major role. Numerous ethnic, religious, cultural, political, language-defined and more groups have emerged, evolved, survived, some benefiting from power relationships, others being persecuted. The Habsburg Empire basically consisted out of minorities. The history of Austria-Hungary is, if you want to look at it that way, a history of the interaction of small, overlapping clusters of people and their relations towards each other.

Clinging to a hegemonic system of old, not realising how the world turned under their feet, the Habsburg Empire ultimately failed. Nowadays, some of the former national minorities have their own states, but the question of who has a voice and whether it is heard remains acute. It is always a good idea to look at how “the power”, in this case the Hungarian government represented by Fidesz, handles minority issues and ask – have they learned?

So, I joined Budapest’s gay pride parade last weekend. As opposed to the last time I attended such an event, there was no police violence, but there were interesting observations to be made nonetheless.

Homosexuality, like anywhere else in the world, is a topic of ongoing debate in Hungary. Only recently, a court has overturned an older verdict, according to which labelling someone (namely ruling Fidesz party’s top-notch politician Máté Kocsis) as homosexual was to be considered as “defamation of good character”. A logic which only makes sense if A) you assume being homosexual comes with negative personal traits or B) legally speaking, something being offensive solemnly depends on whether or not someone is feeling offended by it – in which case I here and now declare that I feel personally offended by any exam grade that is not the highest grade.

But back to the pride walk.

It was generally an awesome thing. We danced through the streets, it was like a million degrees, very colourful, mainly young people around. It started at Budapest’s heroes square and ended in front of the Kossuth tér in front of the parliament.

Two noteworthy things I want to discuss about the pride walk in respect to my aforementioned question.

First of all, the police did seemingly everything possible to let no-one know about the pride walk. They prohibited anyone to join the march or even access the major streets in on its path anywhere except for at the starting point, hda even these gates closed until roughly half an hour after the march started. In some points, the fences were built 50m away from where the march would pass, and near the parliament, the perimeter was so far off, it was probably impossible to see the event from anywhere outside. Even though it is, according to organisers, dangerous to walk through Budapest with rainbow flags and the likes, this isolation of the march cannot be explained away with security measures.

I personally think that the city fathers (currently, there’s a Fidesz mayor) are somewhat embarrassed about events like this to take place in public spaces such as the Andrássy street, a world heritage site, and on the symbolism heavy Kossuth tér. They probably have use and no understanding for such emancipation movements, so trying to make it invisible – exactly the contrary of what pride walks are about – is the solution.

The other noteworthy observation I made was a Roma minority flag – a wheel on a blue and green background – hung on the main wagon.

Why a Roma flag on a queer pride walk?

In simplified terms, Roma and sexual minorities are enemies of the same ideology, one which advocates homogeneity, cultural hegemony and interprets derivation from the norm as dangerous.

Let me quickly introduce you to the concept of “group-focussed enmity” as researched for example by Bielefeld-based sociologist Andreas Zick: Scientists theorise an „ideology of unequal worth of groups“. As soon as people adopt the assumption that some groups are somewhat more valuable than others, they are prone to transfer this assumption to other groups, which is called group-focussed enmity. In other words:

  1. You assume that one group of people (say “gypsies”) are a homogenous group which is less valuable than “normal” people, hence its members share certain traits (other than the defining ones, whatever that is for gypsies; say you think all gypsies are being notorious thieves).
  2. You now transfer this idea to other groups and also assume that, say, refugees are one homogenous group of lacking worth, which’s members not only all share the defining trait that they seek refuge (which makes them refugees) but also share, for example, a hatred for women.
  3. Obviously, the groups considered of lower worth than your own will be endowed with negative traits. About the order “lower worth -> negative traits” rather than “negative traits -> lower worth”, I will write below.

What Zick and others found out, for example, was that in times of increased enmity against a new group – in their research Moslems in Germany – also enmities against other groups – such as classic antisemitic stereotypes – are on the rise. Even though aspects such as expression of enmity varies for different groups, there appears to be the common basis of an underlying mindset necessary for believing enmity against groups to be justifiable.

The Hungarian civil society, as almost any other society in Europe, has a long history and tradition of discriminating against Roma. Roma are generally viewed as a very homogenous entity, which is bullocks. Hungary alone has three major Roma groups speaking three major dialects of Romanes, the biggest one being Lovari. Generally, all variants of Romanes are influenced by other languages they came in touch with, hence varying all over Europe. Not even the nomadic aspect usually associated with Roma can be generalized, especially in modern day and age. The truth is; as soon as Roma no longer live up to Roma stereotypes, they are no longer visible as such and “disappear”.

These stereotypes in their negative form, in turn, exist and are nurtured to legitimize the marginalisation of the group. As discrimination studies have shown, what comes first in this process is not the stereotype out of which results a social conflict (“they are filthy, hence we must oppress them”) – but a social conflict out of which stereotypes result to justify social realities and power relationships (“they deserve how they are being treated because, uhm, they are filthy”).

The only thing that’s homogenous about Roma is the stereotype, the gypsy motive. This motive (more accurately the two motives; the mystical wildling and the parasitical thug; both nomads outside of “civilised” society), however, has been very stable and similar all over Europe since a bit more than 200 years.

The discrimination of Roma has been accordingly stout. Not so long ago, for example, thousands of people, most of the Roma, were evicted from their homes in Miskolc on an at best loose legal basis. I listened to the report of an ombudswoman to the Hungarian police about this incident, and it sounded like a pogrom. Reactions by officials to her report were somewhere between vague and ignorant and hence somewhere between sad and not surprising.

Now comes the interesting part: According to the ombudswoman, in this as well as in other incidents, affected Roma who tried to leave the country were stopped from emigrating at the airport. Apparently, the families were picked out from the cues by security in some kind of racial profiling. Why? I can only guess that at some deep level, an understanding of Roma being the doormat of the majority has entrenched itself in the collective police mind.

Ignorance and resentment – is this all Hungary’s current government has for minorities? Definitely not so.

Above Kossuth tér, two flags are hanging from the parliament building. One is, of course, the Hungarian flag, but the other one is the flag of the Székler.

IMG_20160702_172952

Parade end point at Kossuth tér. The Székler flag is on the parliament building right above the stage.

What are Székler?

These people are a minority speaking a variety of Hungarian and living in Transylvania – yep, the vampire place. Next to featuring the noble undead, this region used to belong to the Hungarian “half” of the Habsburg Empire. After the First World War, the newly emerged Hungary was considered a defeated power and thus stripped of vast lands, many of which were inhabited actually in majority by Hungarians (others not). Ever since, the associated Treaty of Trianon is viewed with grim in Hungary and strongly shapes the national identity and politics up until today.

Nowadays, Transylvania is part of Romania. Which makes sense, given that, even though it’s a very diverse region, the majority of the population and of the regions surrounding it speaks Romanian and considers itself Romanian since Romania exists.

The Treaty of Trianon was signed almost a hundred years and several major historical events ago, including the Second World War, in the wake of which Hungary sided with the Nazis, partially to regain the lost lands. It is unthinkable that Trianon is going to be revoked, and Fidesz doesn’t explicitly demand this. By hanging up the Székler flag on the parliament, the Hungarian government communicates perhaps not the wish to actually change anything about the geographical realities in Central Europe – but they certainly raise the claim of being a “big brother” to Hungarian minorities abroad, which is in turn welcomed by Hungarian nationalists and revisionists.

I tried to research what the Székler think about another country’s unilateral decision on Székler affiliation, but couldn’t find anything. They are probably split in opinion. After all, they have neither been asked, nor does this improve their standing with the Romanians and their government – which is obviously pissed.

For the Hungarian government, however, this is an easy way out. It weakens its ties with a neighbour country, sure, but improves the standing with large parts of its own population, which is taught in schools about how Trianon was the most unfair event of history. Also, big plus in the eyes of a populist: A cause which can never be reached is a useful banner to unite followers behind if all you care about is being the banner carrier. Doesn’t make sense? Look at Britain; the populist leaders reached their goal and now don’t know what to do with it. Every next step they can take will ultimately cost support. Fidesz will never take over the multicultural melting pot that is north-western Romania. Fidesz will just sit there, sulking at the unfairness of history and pretending to be the knight in shining armor to the oppressed.

So have those currently in charge in Hungary learnt from the past?

The surprising answer is “yes”.

It would definitely be “no” if the question was asking about if they learnt how to improve the situation of marginalised minorities, strengthen their voice and thus, strengthen democracy and civil society. But I fear that the core question Fidesz strategists ask themselves is rather something along the lines of “How can we use minorities for our own good?”. Which, monarchist romanticism aside, probably was the same question Habsburg leaders and the subordinate aristocracy had foremost in mind. And probably most other leading circles anywhere, anytime. At first comes maintaining power, then making sure said power is used for good.

Final note: The Hungarian parliament building also has, as ornaments inside and on the outer walls, statues of medieval kings of noblemen perceived as Hungarian. Not in the sense of trophies, but as legitimization. Same goes for the Holy Crown of Hungary, also medieval, displayed inside. This building is perhaps the most beautiful structure I ever saw with my own eyes, but it’s also a recourse to a glorified past, designed as the expression of a certain idea of leadership and a romanticised, timeless, frozen Hungarian identity.

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Is that tear gas or are you just unhappy to see me?

I used to tell my anxious relatives back in Germany, that in Istanbul, if you try, it’s easy to avoid street warfare and tear gas shelling. It’s still easy – though hampering – to get around the barricades. But I was totally wrong about the tear gas. As a foreigner, I believe to be obligated to not get involved in protest. In the past week, nevertheless, I was gassed twice while sitting in pubs and minding my own business, and today I witnessed a protest being dispersed in daylight attack. The second time I was gassed, yesterday evening, was rather harmless. But last week we had to run up to the highest floor of the pub. Still no idea what exactly happened that day. In this very moment, however, in Taksim and Kadiköy, barricades are being stormed again. Reason enough to write.

Tear gas selfie. The protest came to us, not the other way around.

Tear gas selfie. The protest came to us, not the other way around.

At first, to something seemingly off topic: In Turkey, there’s general conscription. Each family has or had offspring in the army. Sons of families living in western Turkey usually are sent to the eastern areas, into the provinces with a high Kurdish population. The Turkish army – that’s everyone’s children. Attacks against them inevitably are interpreted as attacks against all Turks. Like this, the “Kurdish question” is almost everyone’s personal business in Turkey. This is understandable, yet possibly intended. And even though the conflict thankfully has lost momentum as opposed to the 90s, when the PKK went around killing Turkish teachers to stop a perceived “turkification”, the trauma still lies deep. Mind you, though, that not every Kurd is automatically a supporter of the PKK or even independence. Especially actions against teachers have left a generation of Kurds without education, posing not only an economical problem for the region until today.

In western media, Kurdish peshmerga often get away rather well. Underdogs fighting suppression, female fighters without the stigmatic head scarf – that looks good to western eyes. It looks heroic. Heroes and terrorists – you can certainly find both in a population that’s estimated to count between 25 and 30 million individuals.

Obviously, this isn’t even a glimpse of the entire context you have to be aware of when thinking about today’s protests in Istanbul and general curfews in eastern Turkey. Probably, it’s safer to just assume that one knows barely anything. As a matter of fact, I had to ask around a lot to get an idea what was being protested against. Apparently, the protesters demanded more action from the Turkish side against ISIS, especially considering the situation for Kurdish fighters in Kobani. Earlier, protests in Kadiköy had usually been pacifist. Now how does this fit in? I recall that during World War II, the Nazi army was slaughtering Polish insurgents in Warsaw, while the Soviet forced waited only an artillery strike away, having the Nazis do their dirty work by eliminating potentially rebellious young Poles, yet later glorifying themselves as the liberators. Perhaps, Kurds and friends of the Kurdish movement (which includes many left-wing or alternative thinkers) are afraid of a similar scenario? I do not know.

Whatever may or may not be the reason for the protests, even if they would have been focussing around something as trivial as a new burger at McDonalds or something as obviously wrong as poisoning wells out of spite, it didn’t justify the routine reaction of the police force. In the middle of the day, in one of the centres of public life, they tear gassed the entire area to disperse some two or three hundred mainly peaceful protesters. I know they were peaceful because I saw them. First I walked between them to get to my gym, later I was working out and having an excellent view of the scene when the charge began. Anti-riot methods against something that clearly wasn’t a riot. The question is: why?

“Those who are resorting to violence are in treason” - Interior Minister Efkan Ala, also head of the department of irony.

Police marching up a main street in Kadiköy. All pictures are from a video I found here: http://videonuz.ensonhaber.com/izle/kadikoy-deki-kobani-eylemine-polis-mudahalesi

In case you ever wondered what tear gas smells like; imagine a mixture of rotten eggs, the sensation of suffocation and the genuine insight that your local administration can’t handle tension. But it is good at letting everybody know how it deals with problems without solving them. I looked for empirical research or official statements – Turkish or otherwise – arguing the use of tear gas. I couldn’t find any, even though I still think it would be an interesting read. Either way, in such a statement you wouldn’t find what very certainly is the key reason for the use of tear gas. It’s a form of collective punishment. A few cans are enough to let the entire area know who’s in charge. Ideally, residents will put the blame on the protesters rather than the police force. In either case, no-one will change his or her opinion on the subject in debate based on getting shitloads of toxin into his or her eyes. All tear gas does is dig the trenches deeper. That is not only the trenches between supporters of different ideologies, but also between the young generation and the police. “Us and them” doesn’t work out well for anyone in the long run.

What is worrying me about this is not only that I had to deal with red eyes and a trainer almost vomiting. Naturally, I worry about the health of individuals protesting (like the negotiating lawyer who got a tear gas can thumped against his head in an act of actually individual punishment) or the health of Turkish society. Tear gas also turns into an accepted way of dissolving protests in other parts of the world. Ferguson, Vienna, Hamburg – the use of tear gas isn’t new, but I fear it’s on the rise.

Sadly, I didn't find a view that includes the gym, but I'm looking at the water gun from the left. Saw the beam, not the vehicle.

Sadly, I didn’t find a view that includes the gym, but I’m looking at the water gun from the left. Saw the beam, not the vehicle.

So let’s be very clear about this: Tear gas is a chemical weapon. It’s forbidden in warfare, though strangely allowed in domestic riots. It’s the last thing the police can do before live fire. It doesn’t hit only those with malicious minds, but everyone, peaceful protester and supposedly uninvolved bystander alike. Using tear gas is enforcing state control for the sake of state control. And last but not least, it doesn’t end riots, it postpones them.

As seen, and smelled, again and again in Istanbul.

This stuff is already panic inducing when you can't see it. One might recognise the coloured balls on the side from an earlier article of mine.

This stuff is already panic inducing when you can’t see it. One might recognise the coloured balls on the side from an earlier article of mine.

Update: Meanwhile, protests got more intense all over Turkey, including violence from both sides. Obviously, I don’t support violence from either side, as it just provoces even more violence from the respective other faction(s). The current events show once again the administration being stranded in case of dispute, and also, sadly, exposes the fragility of Turkish-Kurdish relations.

Why I don’t like Russian war memorials

I’ve taken a fancy in Russia since quite a while. The availability of fine arts in Russia, Russian girls, pre-Soviet architecture, Russian girls, Russian history, Russian girls, etc. I guess it’s just this hint of exotica that’s connected to anything Russian, as it’s at the same time so similar, yet so different to the rest of Europe. Perhaps, I see Russia as an alternative Europe, one that has taken an entirely different path at some point. What is it that makes the difference? The stronger influence of Asian, Muslim and other cultures as compared to the Roman Western Europe, maybe?

Mosque in Kazan. The oriental influence can also be seen in onion-domed spires, though.

Mosque in Kazan. The oriental influence can also be seen in onion-domed spires, though.

In the wake of recent developments, it might be fruitful to take a look at something different, though, that has startled me about Russia. There seems to be an affinity towards patriarchism and strong traditional male symbols. Take Stalin, perhaps the biggest sadist and mass murderer in human history along with Hitler, Mao and Tamerlane (thumbs up to Southern Asia, for having a big proportion of the human population, but so far abstained from breeding a psychopath of this scale). Even though being indirectly responsible for the tremendous losses of the red army in the beginning of WWII, Stalin still has a considerable amount of fans, even among young academics, for “winning” said war. A completely different field; more than once have I heard (and seen) how sporty, brutish dudes with a strained decisive manner had much more of the feminine attention on parties in Russia than most of the other guys. Now I would include my personal experience, but, uhm, sociological experiments require a basic population of at least 1000 members to be relevant, and I just happen to have hit on 999 Russian damsels. Anyways, to see how Putin uses this cultural phenomena to his advantage, you can check out following this hilarious link or by observing his fight against what stupid people often regard as the least masculine behaviour of all, which is homosexuality.

A memorial I like: The Eternal Flame reminding about the victims of Stalins purges.

A memorial I like: The Eternal Flame reminding about the victims of Stalin’s purges.

The apparent Russian proneness in unreflected alpha males is, in my opinion, directly connected to their collective perception of the “Great Patriotic War” (aka the Second World War) in no less than two ways; by influencing it and by being influenced by it. I mentioned above how Stalin is regarded as the winner of the war*, but this goes beyond.

When I was in Veliky Novgorod, I saw a statue of a rising Soviet war plane. I asked my Russian friends what this was supposed to signify. The answer surprised me, as it was supposed to be a monument against war. Memorials I saw in Central Europe are usually simple. Names of the wasted lives engraved into stone, for example. Often, graveyards of fallen soldiers are transformed into memorials. In Cologne and Wroclaw I saw that parts of the cathedrals, which had been demolished in the war, had not been replaced in their former beauty. Those memorials, I think, remind people what war is about; death and destruction. While this kind of memorials also exist in Russian cities, what dominates are the other kind; rising MIGs, brute soldiers with edgy faces sternly observing the horizon, and tanks, lots of tanks. What comes into mind when you look at those memorials? Strength, I assume. If you pass by one of those statuary every day, sooner or later you will associate “war” with “strength”. It’s a positive implication, and turns “sacrifice” into a heroic concept.

Black tulip memorial in Yekaterinburg. What I'm talking about.

Black tulip memorial in Yekaterinburg. What I’m talking about.

This is the second connection between perception of the war and perception of “strong” unreflected alpha males. It’s also the one which worries me. Below, you will see a picture I found of a Russian soldier in a public school in Omsk, Siberia. Little kids, some as young as six years old, played to its feed every day. This is the ideal picture of manliness that automatically gets implemented into those little fellows; stern, decisive, unquestioning, probably never bothered learning a foreign language. Ironically, this specific fellow reminded me of the popular “Warhammer”-universe, home to numerous Sci-Fi and Fantasy games and stories. In this universe, just about every unit is a phallic symbol; huge, strong, never reflecting on their point of view, always happily giving their life for the superhuman “Emperor”. Fun Fact: If you take a closer look at the Warhammer universe, you will notice “commissars, resembling trashy Science Fiction interpretations of Soviet commissars in both looks and fanaticism. They also routinely shoot their own soldiers as soon as they try to retreat from the battle. Would you want a picture of those guys to hang in your children’s primary school?

Yeah, sure, he's standing on a broken swastika and that's cool, but he still doesn't look as if he'd drink wodka with me.

Yeah, sure, he’s standing on a broken swastika and that’s cool, but he still doesn’t look as if he’d drink wodka with me.

So as much as I like Russia (I actually have a book called “Traditional Russian Fairy Tales” on my e-reader right now), I think this connection of war and traditional perception of masculinity is dangerous. You can observe a side effect right now; ask any random Russian why Putin is being supported (or any conservative Turk about Erdogan our back in Germany in the 1930s about Hitler), and you will most likely hear “strong”. The implication is that strong men make good leaders (even though history often taught us the opposite). Obama, on the other side, is not perceived at strong at all. But this is what we want; the whole point of democracy is to prevent charismatic dictators from seizing power and turning their country into a swamp of corruption and injustice. After all, the “weak and indecisive” EU has been attracting all those countries who endured “strong” Moscowian rulers long enough.

Boy, I like Russia anyways. Like this song “Katyusha”; almost everybody in Russia could sing you this song about a (probably hot) Russian girl longing for her man who’s at war. But wait, isn’t it again a sign for the Russian identity mainly being based in the sacrifices of the Great Patriotic War? Ach, to hell with you, brain…

Or to Siberia.

Better to Siberia.

Russiaaaaaa <3 <3 <3

Russiaaaaaa ❤ ❤ ❤

* Of course, it wasn’t Stalin who killed Hitler in an epic battle between fantasy overlords like in this awesome comic. It were the Russian soldiers, engineers, factory workers and peasants who defeated the Germans. Stalin, however, purged all the experienced officers out of the red army in the late 1930s.

Memories of Turkey

My earlier articles have portrait a pretty dark image of Turkey. I wrote about institutionalised homophobia and politicians drifting away from reality (fun fact: Egemen Bağış, about whom I wrote the last article, was kind of sacked as a consequence of a corruption scandal shaking Turkey until today). Other news non-Turkish readers will receive from beyond the Bosphorus recently add up to this; just yesterday, protests rocked several districts in Istanbul. And even though this article will look at some bright sides of my stay, I want to give a brief overview of what’s going on.

My friend Stefan, an author, just arrived on Taksim on the way to a party. Two hours in Istanbul, already writing.

My friend Stefan Schürrer, an author, just arrived on Taksim. On the way to a party, two hours in Istanbul, already writing.

Ever since the Gezi Protests, in which traditional and especially government controlled media utterly failed while social media and independent websites excelled, the ruling AKP government seems to try to get back at the internet and rebellious youths in general. Recently, the Erdogan administration struggles with the political opposition, investigating policemen and lawyers, the high courts, prosecuted journalists, army generals demanding retrial, the elusive Gülen movement, etc. The cause for the recent protests was a law granting the government the right to easily block websites. It’s the newest of several restrictive laws passed by the AKP, which appears to know no retreat. Important human rights and economical associations heavily criticise the bill and call for president Gül to veto against it. In the mean time, government controlled media either advertise the bill, or denounce protestors as henchmen of the “Porno Lobby”. To explain the connection your mind probably can’t establish (partially because you’re still busy wondering about the Porno Lobby); porn is illegal in Turkey and porn sites are usually blocked. This is resulting in surprisingly open discussions among foreign exchange students of all origins and either gender focussing on how to get around the blockade mechanisms.

Me and Bermal in Ankara. Because what else would you do in the castle museum than break into their backrooms and try on their shit?

Me and Bermal in Ankara. Because what else would you do in the castle museum than break into their backrooms and take selfies while trying their shit on?

But regardless of Turkey fighting over its future, I enjoyed my stay in Istanbul. I’m not sure if it’s the Erasmus program or the mere size of Istanbul, but you can meet someone new every day if you want to. This luxury is at the same time a curse, since the size of the metropolis also makes it impossible to stay in touch with everybody. Many people criticising the Erasmus program claim that students don’t socialize with natives, and instead just hang out with each other. They say the exchange misses it’s point, but I disagree. First of all, I still had contacts with many lovely Turks. Something I noticed, by the way; countries people emigrate from (Russia, Turkey, East Timor) appear to be more hospitable than countries which experience a lot of immigration (Germany, France). Hungary is kind of in the middle. Back to the topic; even the folks who don’t have many contacts to the natives in their guest nation still meet a lot of foreigners from all different origins. It’s almost inevitable to finish an Erasmus semester without having friends all over Europe. Besides being super awesome for your personal development, even my grandma understands (without me even mentioning something in the likes) that this is a long-term strategy to prevent war such as the one she was born into.

Oh, and there are so many places I saw I’m not going to forget. My older articles featured astonishing Ephesus. In the later months, I stopped shooting pictures as much. I guess there was just too much to see. Being from Northern Europe, I’m familiar with the idea that ancient ruins are seldom and must be protected. What do we have in Germany? Some Roman bridges and lots of castles (I love castles). In Anatolia, however, masonry was already old at a time in which my ancestors probably spent their days hitting wooden clubs against their heads and being amused by the sound it makes. Ancient walls, amphitheaters, random towers from who knows which era; whenever I read about Alexander the Great, about Byzantine emperors, or the Sultans of the Ottoman Empires, I know that I walked where they walked. I crossed their paths. In some cases, I was inside their homes. I travelled within hours through territories the medieval army of German Emperor Barbarossa needed months to pass. To them, the bald mountain ranges seemed dangerous. To me, they were beautiful.

A random ruin in the side of a cliff. In Kappadokia as well as other areas in Anatolia, those are as common as Döner vendors in a German city.

A random ruin in the side of a cliff. In Cappadocia as well as other areas in Anatolia, those are as common as Döner vendors in a German city.

If you study, go abroad. The personal gains you make are unquestioned; empathy, self-esteem and self-awareness, decision-making abilities, critical thinking, socializing skills, and so on. But that’s nothing against the memories you will collect. Finish the time of your schooling passing through the institutions as fast as possible if that’s what you like. Later in your life, however, it will be nothing than a time of work in which vaguely every day was the same. Go abroad, change your environment, and you will not have one past to look back at, but plenty. After all, how do you even know you’re happy if being content is all you ever strived for?

Recently, I returned to Germany. The first thing I noticed (except for Germans being huge and having edgy faces) was that I apparently travelled through time. In my home city, nothing had changed. I know, many fellow travellers are being pulled into depression by this. I remember a story about a friend who returned from a year of work-and-travel in Australia. Back home, she worked in her kitchen and upon returning a tool to the exact same spot it ever was at, she burst into tears. Non-travellers might not understand this. It’s like you had another life abroad, one to which you will never be able to return to, nor see most of your friends you made again.

I personally developed an own strategy to fight post-travelling sickness; more travelling. Off to Eastern Europe next week.

Me in Cappadocia in autumn. Background: a medieval cloister inside the rocks.

Me in Cappadocia in autumn. Background: a medieval cloister inside the rocks.

On top of Ankara castle. They don't need handrails.

On top of Ankara castle. They don’t need handrails.

Farewell, Byzantine!

Farewell, Byzantine!