Olive trees

Olive trees are one of the most characteristic features of the Mediterranean. Olive plantations range from terraced fields in mountainous areas in Greece or the Balearic Islands to huge fields of many thousands of trees in southern Spain or Italy. Their cultivation goes back to the classic antique times of the Romans and Greeks and there are trees which are hundreds, sometimes even more than a thousand years old and have acquired bizarre shaped trunks by many years of pruning. However, their existence is threatened. Since 2013, a tree-killer, a bacterium called xyella fastidiosa has killed millions of olive trees in Italy and is now also traveling to Spain and Greece.

This behemoth on the Greek Island of Lefkada must be more than a thousand years old
The only way of getting rid of the disease is by burning whole Olive forests
Since many farmers refuse to burn their old trees, the disease is very difficult to contain

Scrap metal

Probably the world’s most famous railway scrapyard is outside the town of Uyuni in Bolivia. End of the nineteenth century Uyuni became a rail hub for the mining industry. From here trains brought the ore to the port of Antofagasta in Chile. The line is still operating, but in the middle of the previous century the mining industry collapsed. About 60 years ago, many of the engines not needed any more were dumped outside Uyuni at the border of what is the world’s biggest salt flat, the Salar de Uyuni. And there they still are, partly scrapped for some of the more precious metal like the copper of the fire boxes, covered in a thin layer of rust but otherwise well preserved in the dry desert climate

The abandoned engines now are a tourist attraction.

There are plans of turning the site in a museum. However, in my view, any development would destroy the atmosphere of the site


Fall is the time of mushrooms. I always admire people who disappear into the forest, come back with a bag of mushrooms, use them to prepare a nice dinner and …. survive. I can only take pictures, and I would not even believe Google, who tells me that this is a Tapinella atromentrosa or Velvet rolltrim. If this is the case, it would not be edible and probably poisonous.

Boat Spotting

Rotterdam is Europe’s biggest port. A long peninsula separates the two entrances and is a fantastic place for boat spotting. The northern entrance leads to the older inner port and is mainly used by river boats and container ships. The southern entrance leads into the ore and coal port and the oil terminal and sees the big tankers and bulk cargo ships carrying more than 200.000 tons of ore. Some people spend whole days there, but sometimes the air from the refineries and industry is so bad that it gives you a headache

Fisherman watching a boat race


Pollard willows are a typical characteristic of the traditional dutch landscape. They were planted along ditches. The young branches were cut to provide material for basket weaving. Today few people still weave baskets. Cutting the branches is too much work and nobody bothers. When the branches are not cut they grow thicker and the trees become unstable and topple over in storms. Slowly the traditional pollard willow alleys disappear

Willows reflected in a flooded field


In the 17th century tulip bulbs became an object of speculation. In 1637, the price of a single flower bulb could reach a price of up to ten fold the yearly income of a skilled artisan in Amsterdam. Later the same year the bubble burst and fortunes were lost as quickly as they had been earned before. However, the flower bulb industry is still doing well in the Netherlands and numerous varieties of tulips as well as daffodils and gladioli are cultivated. “Tulip mania” became a metaphor for economic bubbles of prices high above the actual value.

For me it is always surprising how the sensitive flowers can survive the severe Dutch weather. Storms of wind force 8 and torrential rain are no rarity in the main flower season between March and May.

More photos and a longer story on my blog: https://h-s-coronastories.blogspot.com/2021/05/corona-walks-3-flower-fields.html

All you need is law

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s the german company GrĂ¼nenthal Chemie marketed the use of thalidomide under the name contergan as a medication useful against morning sickness, sleeplessness and anxiety. It was also used as a sedative for pregnant women, although it was never tested on this particular group. The use of contergan led to numerous miscarriages and birth defects, in particular severe deformations of the limbs. The reason was an enantiomeric impurity, which was difficult to detect with the means of the time. There were 10,000 victims in 46 countries. It took a long time and numerous law suits to get at least financial compensation for the victims.

A man with deformed arms walks up the staircase of the metro station Eberswalder Strasse in Berlin. By pure coincidence, the sign above the entrance has an advertisement for a law firm “all you need is law”

Bulb fields

The coast along the north sea between the French-Belgian border and and the northern tip of the Netherlands is one long stretch of sandy beach. Behind is an area of dunes. The sandy ground behind the dunes proved to be perfect for the cultivation of flower bulbs. In spring the colorful fields are a popular attraction for tourists. The flowers are not marketed but discarded. Only the bulbs are harvested, dried and sold.


My neighborhood was built in the first two decades of the 20th century. The building plan left lots of space for green. In the spring the display of flowers in the gardens add to the ornaments of the art deco houses. The use of bricks in different colors was typical for the time. Only the oldest houses got names