Rom

St. Peter’s from Castel Sant’Angelo

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Le due torri

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Venezia

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Unter Thal

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Cultural heritage, brought to you by …

Asian tourists take each other’s photos in front of European cultural icons, the Austrian chancellor, Bavarian politicians at all levels seem quite concerned with protecting their respective cultures from encroachment. How well do we all understand the extent to which our grasp on our culture, our history, our selves is mediated through an increasingly hyperactive capitalist lens?

Samsung was all over Greece last year.

What would be the effect here if instead of the Samsung logo there were a moon and star: Presented by the nation of Turkey? Presented by Islam?

In addition to praying oneself, here there is the possibility of prayer by remote proxy. I’m thinking an ordained priest officiating and a group praying have more cred with God than a lone individual. No option yet to have your prayer presented by Breitling or Samsung, but maybe next year.

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The Value of Freedom

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Austerlitz

This was Alexander I’s position. The cairn was built on the 100th anniversary of the battle.

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Auschwitz

Each of these sites is really quite different from the others. Here I stood in line to receive a time-stamped ticket. I now wait 45 minutes to stand in line for my allotted entrance time. For hours this morning I was alone at Birkenau, meeting only occasional individuals or pairs. We trudged past each other with wordless grim-faced gazes and disappeared back into the fog. Thursday I hiked through the woods around Sobibór by GPS, watching and listening for guards. Something is very wrong here. I keep looking at that snack bar, but I’m not going to put its photo on my blog. I just can’t do that.

The middle of the middle placard.

What does it mean to be an adult, to smile and make rabbit ears over a friend’s head while having your photo taken under the Arbeit Macht Frei sign at Auschwitz?

There are crowds walking about with audio tour headsets on. Each time I’ve tried that – most recently at the Solidarity Center in Gdansk – I don’t like it and take the thing off. It turns me into a voyeur, consuming packaged entertainment, listening to someone else’s thoughts, not my own.

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Auschwitz II – Birkenau

Dynamited gas chambers and crematoria

The ponds are filled with ashes of the murdered.

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Płaszów

Apartment buildings directly across the street – the sign above is in this photo to the right.

These are the monuments I am especially drawn to. These men and women chose to fight. When survivors who are interviewed are surprised at the proposition that they had a choice, because at the time they felt they could not not take the actions they did I understand that, too, and respect them all the more for it.

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