Maison Bellevue, Munster, France

Ever caught a whiff of a wild dog pining to be released from its chain? In that case, you’ll be approximately familiar with the smell of Munster cheese. This unpasteurised “gem” is hand-crafted in farm cottages dotted throughout the Munster Valley of Eastern France, and testifies to the “terror” of the terroir around these parts.

MUNSTER, ALSACE, FRANCE: A fine range of cheeses is on sale at the weekly town market

But Munster is no monster!

What is now the city of Munster just recently celebrated its 800th birthday. Munster is now home to the world-renowned Munster Jazz Festival (next to be held from January 8-15, 2018), which brings some of the world’s top jazz talent to this picturesque city. The creator of the festival, vibraphonist Michel Hausser, has played with such top talent as Lionel Hampton and Stephane Grapelli, and Australia’s own trumpet legend James Morrison has twice played in the Festival.

Right in town Bellevue Apartments, founded by veteran hoteliers Suzanne and André Haumesser, are perfect as a base for exploring Alsace and the surrounding areas.

Alsace, France: A fine view of Munster town, from the heights of Obersolberg

Each with two bedrooms, TV, kitchen, living area and panoramic views over Munster, the apartments are great for families. The first floor apartment is particularly plush, with gourmet kitchen, balconies and fine antique furniture.

Maison Bellevue apartments are now managed by the Haumessers’ daughter Gabrielle, who in delightful style presents the weekly Forever French program on Sydney’s Eastside Radio (89.7 Mhz FM, at 8 pm Wednesdays):

Whatever you do in France, don’t miss Munster. You may even get addicted to Munster cheese – but don’t count on it!

 

 

The Thomas E King Memorial Library

Thomas E King, an esteemed member of Global Travel Writers, sadly passed away last year. He has left a vast collection of travel books, journals, maps and associated literature. Now, thanks to the efforts of award-winning travel writer Louise Southerden, Tom’s collection has found a new home in a cafe that will be devoting a whole room to the collection. Louise will also be giving travel writing workshops at the cafe:

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OK – we can now reveal the location! It’s at Lucy Williams’ totally laidback Williamsburg Cafe, in Lennox Head NSW. You’re invited – provided that you promise not to spill your coffee on the books!

Berlin: Ghosts of the Cold War

 

View from our apartment on Leipziger Strasse, Berlin
View from our apartment on Leipziger Strasse, Berlin

We’re staying right in the heart of Berlin, on the 19th floor of a refurbished apartment complex on Leipziger Strasse in the Mitte or Central district.

Two U-Bahn (Underground) stations lie within a few minutes’ walk. Strangely though, the 2-stop journey to the gleaming new glass-and-steel Hauptbahnhof (central station) requires a tortuous transfer at the gloomy old Friedrichstrasse station. Why so disjointed?

Berlin Hauptbahnhof (central station) building
Berlin Hauptbahnhof (central station) building

 

And whatever happened to Unter den Linden, that once-grand boulevard running east from the Brandenburg Gate? It was a mess when we came last year, and much of it still is.

Such questions do have answers. Today’s Berlin makes better sense as you come to appreciate the city’s tortured history and the apparent determination to reunite East and West. Unter den Linden remains a construction site while work continues to restore the missing links in the U-Bahn (underground train) network.

Stasi Museum, Berlin, Germany
Stasi Museum, Berlin, Germany

Berlin’s idiosyncratic personality is said to date back to the Cold War days, when young West Germans made their way to West Berlin to enjoy free tuition and exemption from military service. West Berliners lived day-to-day alongside a hostile presence, the Wall and the regime behind it.

Today, the Berlin Wall has all but vanished, although token stretches remain as canvasses for street artists too young to remember life in a divided city (including the East Side Gallery and the Mauerpark, or Wall Park, in the gritty Prenzlauer Berg district).

Stallholder(s) at Flohmarkt am Mauerpark (Sunday flea market at Mauerpark) Berlin
Stallholder at the Sunday flea market at Mauerpark, Berlin

If you weren’t born yesterday, and remember when the Iron Curtain collapsed 25 years ago, do visit Berlin whilst you can still witness vestiges of the old, alongside the new.

This post was contributed by Philip Game
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Another look at the world refugee crisis: Cisarua, Indonesia

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These guys at the Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre, in the green hills above Bogor in West Java, Indonesia, are learning how to play Aussie Rules football. Unless Australia changes its hard-hearted attitude towards refugees, this could well be the nearest they ever get to becoming what used to be called “New Australians”. How is it that  Australia has become a world leader in institutionalised cruelty towards refugees and asylum seekers?