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Thursday, 01 May 2014 00:00

Road trip to a new Europe

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 caravan

 

It's a sublime and sleepy spring afternoon in Słubfurt, and Michael Kurzwelly is pontificating from a tree stump in the central square of the city he founded. "I am not German, French or Polish," he says, "but European. When you have lived in many cultures, you cannot stand to exist in only one."

Kurzwelly lives in a picturesque university town that conventional maps know as Frankfurt an der Oder. The river that marks the eastern edge of the city is also the limit of the German state: on opposite bank sits the Polish town Słubice. As a sworn transnationalist, Kurzwelly did not feel at home in either Frankish Frankfurt or Slavic Słubice. His own identity, he says, was '"the identity of being in between." And so he dreamed up a polis of his own: Słubfurt, "the first city located half in Poland and half in Germany."

Thursday, 19 December 2013 00:00

The spirit of Euromaidan

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The escalator at Maidan Nezalezhnosti metro station in Kiev is the longest I've ever seen. It takes a few good minutes to reach the top, which leaves plenty of time to form expectations about what lies at the end of the climb. Yet nothing you read in the news or see in pictures truly prepares you for what happens after you come out of the underground. The Independence Square (or Euromaidan) is a kind of Hemingwayesque resistance city. It smells like burnt wood and rusty iron and improvised kitchens. Here and there fires lit in old trash cans give rise to grey columns of smoke. A few hundred people are already on the Maidan at 9 am in the morning, most of them holding tall Ukrainian flags.

In the centre of the main boulevard, a festival-like stage hosts speeches from opposition leaders and public figures, as well as live performances by popular Ukrainian artists. On the left hand side, there is a large banner of Yulia Timoshenko's elegant portrait looking towards the sky. People are silent and still, listening to the words coming from the stage. I can't understand a word of Ukrainian except when they say "Slava Ukraini!" (Glory to Ukraine), to which people reply unwaveringly, in perfect sync "Heroyam Slava!" (Glory to our heroes).

Next to the stage, on the Trade Unions House - now a bastion of the "revolution" - a huge screen displays a pixelated livestream of those speaking into the microphones. On the other side of the boulevard, a tall metal Christmas tree is now covered in Ukrainian flags, posters made by protesters and cartoons of Ukrainian politicians and Vladimir Putin. No sign of police or the feared Berkut officers anywhere. No sign of traffic or anything that doesn't serve the purpose of the protest. The Maidan belongs to the resistance.

For some 20 days straight, tens of thousands of Bulgarians have taken to the streets, protesting against the newly-elected government, in office for only a month. Riots brought down the previous government in February – what has happened to make tensions mount once more?

Friday, 28 June 2013 10:38

EVERY DAY I’M CHAPULLING!

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Facing tear gas and water cannons, Istanbul's youth gets creative over the Gezi Park events.

wallwritings_small
Photo: Julia Schulte
Anti-Erdogan slogans on walls

Recently, Istanbul's biggest Open Air Festival took place. For six days, young people turned the city's main square into a party area. There was camping, there were concerts and discussions. Families with young children joined as well as tourists, who took pictures on barricades and demolished cars, turning a revolution into a fun park site. The mobile traders, always business-minded, sold grilled fish and köfte, sesami rings, tea, coffee, water – and also diving goggles and simple face masks against gas attacks. You could get Turkish flags and Guy Falkes masks. The square was overcrowded during the day but even at about 4.30 am, when the Muezzin chants for the first time, you'd find people wandering around, chatting, eating. Also, someone always had to guard the barricades and claim territory by spraying new slogans on walls and streets. Starting with 'Tayyip istifa' (Tayyip resign) and 'Her yer Taksim' (Taksim is everywhere), people got more and more creative.

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