With the topic of refugees and terrorism very much in the news, this novel by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis, is written for our time and makes for illuminating reading.
Two impoverished Roma boys are scavenging for something to sell in the ruins of an abandoned Soviet military hospital. Purportedly to improve the lives of themselves and their poverty-stricken families in a rural village of Hungary, one of the boys embarks on a radical plan. Far away in middle class Denmark, Red cross nurse, Nina Borg inadvertently risks her own life and those of her family, to assist a group of Hungarian refugees but little does she know her actions will have disastrous ramifications.
“Jobbik. It had to be Jobbik, taking to the streets to protest the Jews, Communists and Romas from ‘ruining out nation.’ Lusja straightened herself up pursing her lips as though she had found something disgusting on her shoe. ‘God spare us from any more racist, goose stepping idiots.’ The driver turned in his seat. ‘Jobbik aren’t racists,’ he said. ‘They’re just for Hungary.’ Lusja straightened up in her seat and stared daggers at the driver, 128 pounds of indignant humanism versus 260 pounds of overweight-but-muscular nationalism. ‘And what kind of Hungary would that be?’ she asked. ‘A Hungary clinically scrubbed of all diversity? A Hungary where you can be arrested just because you skin is a different colour? A Hungary where it’s totally okay for Romas to have a life expectancy that’s fifteen years shorter than the rest of the population?’
A novel that is carefully crafted and well-balanced, allowing you to understand both sides, their personal motives and furthermore, to feel empathy for the characters woven into the story line: The studious brother who in one brief moment is denied a legal career and betterment for himself, and his family, only because of a racially slanted agenda, his quest to save his wayward orphan brother who, by way of contrast, chooses an extremist, crash-through course of action, and the consequences for each; the innocent bystanders; the well-meaning humanitarians in Denmark, the terrorist thugs and ordinary residents of homogeneous, suburbia integrating with ‘foreigners’.
Are they all helping or hindering the cause? What toll does it take, personally, on those who help the less fortunate, the traumatized, the dangerous, and those on the fringes of society?
In the face of a changing Europe, this Scandinavian novel illuminates some salient points to ponder about inter-related events that shape our modern lives.
Other Novels by these bestselling authors: The Boy in the Suitcase
Each Monday, I post a mystery photo, or occasionally a mystery object on my blog. I encourage you to leave a comment, if you think you might know where this week’s mystery photo, was taken. If you guess correctly, I will credit you the following week and post a link to your site/blog. Guest contributions are always welcome.
Where in the world would you find this object? And what is it?
Last week’s Mystery photo, seen below, was located in the home of Gelato and hotels, Stresa, in the Italian Lake District.
I received a number of guesses and it proved difficult for many, so the additional photograph helped the following people nail it. Well done!
Although it was Friday and we spent most of it flying over Asia and the Middle East, we were to move backwards in time and experience Friday a second time. It was shortly after 6 am Friday when we landed, so the start of Friday again!
Our Lufthansa flight was on the then new and so enormous A-380, which has two floors of seating. With the Lufthansa CEO and his entourage taking up most of the senator class on the Upper deck, (spotted later on German TV, otherwise would not have had the foggiest who he was), it then took us almost a full hour to board this mammoth, flying monster that had just come into service; so recently in fact, that it still smelt new. I must comment that the cabin was very well insulated, which did cut down on that awful vibrative noise one gets during long haul flights.
The Crew were not very friendly, but not unfriendly either. Just a presence, could not really say a verbal one, more a physical one. As for the passengers, the man next to me was either Russian or East European and he was the best flight neighbour I have had yet. He just curled up and went to sleep, and I did not hear ‘boo’ out of him all night. The other side of the plane consisted of a large group of square-headed, severely blonde gentlemen with no. 1 crew cuts, shouting in what sounded like an angry Deutche. But then German sounds like an angry language, sometimes.
Frankfurt airport itself, is huge and extremely difficult to get one’s bearings in unless, of course, you go directly out to an exit. On passing through Passport control, we were asked about our itinerary as happens when you are a foreigner. I must say that the customs/police were very kind and friendly, as was our taxi driver, (who was hell bent on breaking the sound barrier, getting us to our hotel in Offenbach, a satellite town of Frankfurt. He was from Pakistan, ( aren’t most taxi drivers?) and he told us how he had a near fatal car accident when he first started driving… eeek! Something he tells his customers to reassure them, no doubt……
To our delight, our room at Sheraton Offenbach was made available for us straight away, at 7.15 am, which was either by good fortune, or because we were part of a large tour group that was commencing the next day. So, after settling in, we toddled out to find what Offenbach had on offer….excuse the bad pun/Dad joke.
What we found was a small Christmas market, focused on food, in the “main” (again excuses for the pun/Dad joke), a wonderful Cafe at the Rathaus, where hot chocolate would be served to you for a meagre $1.20 Euro, but who am I to complain? (Especially when I am used to paying $6.00AUD).Also, a medium sized indoor shopping centre with some wonderful clothes shops, just a short stroll from our hotel. Heidi and I spent most of the day there buying jumpers and t-shirts, also some jewellery that was a bit more stylish than the mainstream shops back home. We loved it and found many a bargain and some nice new winter gear. When I visited Germany in 2004, everthing was so expensive, now…. things were very inexpensive. Was the AUD performing that well against the Euro?
It was rather cold and we started to feel it, but nothing daunted, we did spot a squirrel in the nearby Palais park, and it was far too tempting to not chase this little fellow into the park. Whilst the Autumn leaves periodically dropped around us, we attempted to get a good photo of the illusive creature (which turned out to be a blurry shot anyway). The Palais building, pictured below, is now a conference centre for the hotel, but looked like something that the Von Trappe family might have once owned. The outside temperature was about + 5 degrees, but felt a little colder, presumably after our Singapore sojourn, and we had not yet acclimatised to the cold.
Busing Palais Offenbach
Something else we had yet to learn about Offenbach was where to find good local eateries and we were somewhat put off by the name of some of the food at the supremarket and Christmas markets such as “Super Dickman.” (The mind boggles but there we have it…) Opting for something safer, we purchased some simple bread rolls from the Supermarket, (it’s always good to check out the local’s food ) and found some delicious pastries as well, which were more than satisfying. The German bakery treats were to become so familiar to us and indeed part of our permanent body shape for the next 3 weeks and hopefully not part of our body shape for three years. They are sooo good!!!Come nighttime, we dined at the hotel restaurant and the prices, once again, I have to say were moderate, compared to Australia. I had a delicious prawn pasta dish, seen below, in its triumphal glory and Heidi had a bolognaise that would have easily fed 6 people!!!
Travellers tip: If you are used to having still water with your meals, then beware, in Germany you have to specially request still water and pay for it, or they will provide mineral water in a bottle for you, again at a price.If you just ask for ‘water’, they will give you the version with bubbles, or ‘gas’, as they say. In other words, sparkling mineral water. You have to ask for ‘still vand’, or ‘still water’. Perhaps because it is much colder in Germany than at home, noone seems to drink still tap water here. You can see our requested ‘water’ in the background of this picture, where we learnt this lesson very quickly. Water was something we pondered about on our first night in Germany.
The top of the World… From Mt Pilatus, Lucerne, Switzerland. From there, one can see the Bernese Oberland, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland…fabulous. And this is was our destination this morning, by Cable car and Gondola. Once upon a time, citizens thought it would bring bad luck to climb Mt Pilatus, but now, millions of tourists visit every year, without any kind of disastrous consequences. In winter, one might see snow at this altitude, but not this year…. no snow to be seen in early December, at least. Nevertheless, the views are still spectacular in weather such as this: it was sunny, mild but not cold!! Ordinarily, the mountain is covered with fog in the morning, but not so today! The vistas were ours, to be seen.
The entrance to the Mt Pilatus Gondola attraction…
Going up Mt Pilatus in the Gondola
Up we go…
Our gondola’s wheels whirled and bumped along the track taking us higher and higher. Below, we could see quaint Swiss style houses with ever so neatly packed timber piles, and a summer toboggan run.
Several fellow passengers started to get a bit nervous with the ever-increasing height…. but this was not a time to opt out, so up we went, higher and higher. “Just look out, not down, or up”, I reassured them.
Up ,UP, UP, the Gondola went…until….
….we came to the end of the Gondola cable. Then it was time to get out, of the Gondola, but the ride was not completely over, as we weren’t yet at the summit of Mt. Pilatus. Now we were to squish 40+ people into another cable car, that had the maximum capacity of only 40. Slightly disconcerting to say the least, as it swung back and forth, like the pendulum on a clock, in mid air. It reminded me of thescene in one one of those James Bond movie scenes…. when was Roger Moore going to pop his head through the roof to rescue us?
And then, the thought struck me, we have to go down in this thing, again…..with 40 + people….
Don’t you just love the shadow Mt Pilatus throws in the next photograph? It looks like some ancient mythological giant..
the incline suddenly became EXTREME…. but it was only moments later that we arrived at the summit…
The summit views were mind blowing! And we still weren’t at the very,very top. That required a short walk, about 50 steps, (Seniors are warned!) that took us to the very highest point possible, where a small hut, possibly containing metereological instruments, is located. This is where the incredible photo opportunities abound.
A small cafe and souvenir shop is located inside the building, where you alight from the Cable car. It was here that I bought a rather lovely Swiss watch, one that had a leather band with edelweiss and the Swiss emblem embroidered on it. And no surprise: it keeps great time! Well, I confess I also did HAVE to get the mandatory T – Shirt, to say I had made the 7000 ft Ascent. Possibly my highest ascent to date. (We don’t have too many high mountains in Australia).
On the way down, I pondered why the return journey passes ever so much quicker. Then just a short coach ride took us back to the Astoria hotel in Luzern itself.
The breakfast we had earlier,that day, provided by Hotel Astoria, in the building next door, was nothing to write home about…. ( so much for Swiss cuisine) so we headed straight for the Bakery, opposite Bucherer. And yes, we did collect both THOSE souvenir spoons, on the way. What did I eat…? I could not resist a Berliner donut, deliciously decadent, and so incredibly unhealthy, don’t you agree? Sitting on the shores of beautiful Lake Lucerne, in the glorious sunshine, temperature an almost perfect 6 degrees. The moment so fabulous, I decided to text my work colleagues back home in Australia. Just thought I should share…..did not think afterwards, it was the middle of the night and probably woke some of them up…oops..
SHOPPING in LUCERNE
If you arrive in Lucerne late on a Thursday night, you will find the shops open til late, but many shops such as Casa grande, which is one of the main souvenir shops do close during the daytime around lunch for 2 hours, so you are warned!!! The Swiss are quite protective of their midday siestas. As for what to buy here: it is expensive, but if you stick to locally made goods, (ie. Swiss made), you can snag a good buy.
Souvenirs to buy include: Swiss knifes, Swiss watches, Swiss army knives, ( I bought one for each of my family, with a variety of gadgets suited to their particular needs). I got myself one of the very best kitchen knifes you could possibly get, at Bucherer.http://www.bucherer.com/ It is fine quality, not hideously expensive, perfectly weighted, and will last forever! I love it. Also a great souvenir. Made a mental note not to forget to declare it to Customs, did not want to tell my husband I would be late home as I had been arrested!
I am repeating something from the previous post, but feel it warrants a seondary mention: You simply must try a Swiss fondue which I had tried the night before