Archive for December, 2013

As long as I can remember I have been reading books. My mother used to have a large library of books, in a solid oak book case along the living room wall. All books were behind glass. The books I read when I was only 9 years old where history adult books. There was always a fascination for history and the lure of the international world, strange and far away cultures and countries. 
Notwithstanding the quote hanging on my wall (pressed in wood): “On apprend plus dans les Bois que dans les Livres.” (you learn more from nature than from books), I have to admit that there is a lot to learn from books. I may even go as far as to say: “all good people have libraries in their homes and they read”.  For me a home is not a home without walls of book cases filled with books. We are not talking about paper backs, or the odd books one takes out at the local library. I am blessed to live near the Central Public Library in Victoria, BC. Despite my many own books, accumulated in many languages throughout my life, I am an avid borrower of the books in our library. They come in many languages and are among the best classic and newly published editions one can imagine. The way I see it, “when choosing a book to read, I am expecting to learn from it”.  Bad language won't do at all. A book has to be intelligent, imaginative, informative and interesting enough that you do not put it down.  When I was still in Europe, I belonged to a good Buchgemeinschaft, acquiring the latest in science, religion, sociology, psychology, philosophy, history, and politics.  Later adding travel books. And an entire library in itself on horses, the American West and the history of the  North American Natives. During the time of post-war WWII there was a lot going around with communist activities and actions. We picked up tracts at the largest universities – those are all pamphlet books which are neither for sale, nor on loan at any library. Of the classic writers, my favorites are the Russian authors. It is always said, that any private collection should include those three books:  Le Petit Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery), Karl Marx: Das Kapital; and the Bible (which I do not have, but instead “The Bible in History”). 
Do I want to get rid of my books, because some acquaintances are telling me so ? No. I always get suspicious if someone telling me “why don't you get rid of your books ?”  Doesn't that remind you of certain evil people in history, who were burning books ???
In my international travels, be it in Europe or anywhere in North America, I always – when renting an accomodation somewhere to stay – will choose a location near a library. And get myself a library card.  Of all plastic cards, a library card is the important one.  Be it Grande Bibliothèque Montreal, QU, Bibliotheque de Quebec, R. Saint-Joseph Quebec City, Konstanz Germany, or even the most beautiful of them all The Library of Congress in Washington DC, where I also got myself a library card. For me it is easy to do so, if not for the very reason of having completed my Master of Science in Library Science at the University of Syracuse, New York. So, whoever is suggesting “to get rid of my books”, I am telling them “this is Adolf Hitlerism”.
Talking about 'book burnings': Thousands have taken place from Antiquity throughout the centuries [ ]. Yet, I cannot imagine one intelligent person who does not enjoy reading a good book. When it comes to books, I prefer the written on paper kind, not your Amazon/Kindle Fir hand held e-books type. Where books also come in handy: Languages, learning and maintaining one's own mother language. Just as travel opens your mind, so does a good book. 

Saint Petersburg Russia visit

Before the city was built, the area was still a part of Novgorod, dating back to the 9th century, a trade center by the Baltic Sea. Peter The Great (Пётр Вели́кий, Pyotr Velikiy 1672-1725), the builder of the city, was instrumental in opening the city to its Western influences. One of Peter’s main goals was to regain access to the Baltic Sea and Baltic trade. In 1700 he started the Northern War with Sweden, which lasted for 21 years, and resulted in a victorious Russia taking the vast lands on the Baltic coast as its spoils of war. During the course of the war St. Petersburg was founded (1703) on the delta of the Neva River. It truly became a European centre of culture. Peter designed the city as another Amsterdam and Venice. Having visited St Petersburg recently and also having lived in Holland eight years and visited Amsterdam many times, I can say it is in many of its aspects reminiscent of the streets of Amsterdam, with the difference that the grand boulevards (such as the nevsky prospect [ ]) in St. Petersburg are of a much grander scale. I walked it from the shores of the Neva back to Hotel Moskwa. This is a city I would always enjoy to re-visit.

I had joined an organised tour group from Germany – flying from Berlin to Saint Petersburg with Rossiya Airlines. Our group then met at St. Petersburg’s airport. It is almost imperative to go with a tour group, because of the wealth of cultural sights this city has to offer. I would have missed many where I to do this on my own. We stayed at the Hotel Moskwa, a huge (couple of blocks long) hotel, so big that it feels like a small city when coming down for breakfast. And what a breakfast it was, huge amounts of diverse healthy foods, fabulous. The city of St. Petersburg is one of the few grand cities in European style which has so much to offer in cultural history, buildings, churches, and museum treasures. I enclose here the first instalment only of my visit: Summer Palace of Catherine The Great of Russia, Tsarskoe Selo, Pushkin, Pushkin (Russian: Пу́шкин) is a municipal town in Pushkinsky District of the federal city of St. Petersburg, Russia, located 24 kilometers (15 mi) south from the center of St. Petersburg proper,[6] and its railway station, Detskoye Selorussia_reduced