Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide


Google Maps Street View

Google Maps Street View is wonderful! Recently I was writing this story about a drunken man in New Orleans. I wanted to find the exact place for my blog map, but I didn't remeber even the name of the bar in question, and I had only a faint idea of the whereabouts of the hostel we stayed at that time.

So first I Googled 'hostels new orleans'. Hmmm... that Marquette House sounds remotely familiar. Let's see where it is. Carondelet Street? Equally familiar sounding. So let's take a look with Street View. Hey, that's it! There's even the spot we parked our car!

But how am I going to find the bar we were? Ok, I vaguely remember the short route we walked to the site. It's fairly easy to navigate in Street View by taking small steps at the time. It must have been on St. Charles Avenue, because the street cars run here... no, this must be the wrong direction, how about the other way... Igor's? That looks familiar... and they have laundromats, that's it! That's the place!

It was almost like walking there again ...well, not at all, but you get the idea. I also found some photos taken inside the bar, so that was definitely the same place we walked in almost ten years ago. It's one thing to cast your mind back to some far-off trip you've made ten(s of) years ago but being able to 'walk' the very same streets on your screen certainly adds to the memory.


Elephant Penis in a German Ship

Maybe about 25 years ago I was traveling with a youth orchestra (I played the sax) by bus from Finland to Holland or Belgium, to some brass band festival. We made a stop in Lübeck for just a few hours and we youngsters got some time of our own to spend in the Old Town.

Photo © Stefan Nagel
One of the older guys in the orchestra knew about a museum ship parked next to the Altstadt in the Trave River and the bizarre sea voyage exhibition in it. He particularly stressed that they have a giant elephant's penis there. An elephant's member? That is a must-see! So of course we boys bolted to the ship to see this remarkable wonder of the nature. The Museumship MS Mississippi was docked there indeed, and the sign at her entrance promised an exhibition from overseas, miracles and mysteries of this world.

We entered this dark and dusty, moldy and musty exhibition in awe. It was like a childhood dream come true, like a live illustration for old Tarzan books or Tintin comics. We were surrounded by literally thousands of curiosities: skeletons, masks, stuffed animals, primitive weapons, insect collections, shrunken heads, relics, idols of gods, skulls, animal horns, models, sacred items of different religions, old diving gear, figureheads, miniature ships, board games, constrictor snakes, chests, art, statuettes, seashells, anything you could imagine and beyond.

Photo © Stefan Nagel
The items were collected by a German adventurer and explorer Reinhold Kasten and his wife Mady during their tens of years on the Seven Seas, several times around the world. Many of the exhibits were wonderfully  labeled with little stories, of which we Finnish boys unfortunately understood very little. There was a teeth set of a savage man-eating shark with a list of stuff that was found in its stomach, including a shoe, human flesh and a pocket watch that was still ticking. There was also a stuffed giant constrictor snake which had stolen and swallowed a 2 week old baby straight from a hammock. Or a giant skull of a white elephant that was shot by maharaja after it killing two of his guards. And indeed there it was, locked in a glass showcase (obviously so that nobody could steal it), a stuffed or mummified or embalmed, well, somehow preserved, very big, no, gargantuan exhibit: the elephant phallus. *Tee hee hee*

After witnessing the Beavis & Butthead'esque culmination of the exhibition and before leaving this spectacular hanseatic attraction we discovered a chest full of Chinese paper knives lying on the ship floor near the counter. Pure kitsch! Only couple of Deutschmarks each! My knife has been decorating my home to this day.

SS Prinz Heinrich aka MS Mississippi was built in 1909.
Unfortunately the more than 100 year old MS Mississippi is not moored in the Lübeck Altstadt any more. The ship has been moved couple of times already and she's nowadays being restored to be relocated at her original berth in Leer with her original name Prinz Heinrich. The fantastic sea voyage exhibition with thousands of its wonderful items was moved in a lighthouse-museum in Warnemünde, but it was closed in November 2009. Needless to say, the magic of the exhibition was surely gone already as soon as the exhibits were moved away from the historical ship. But alas, now nobody can see the marvellously macabre sea voyage spectacle at all any more. They don't make these kind of museums these days. Never ever underestimate little boys' amusement towards animals' reproductive organs. Look, it brought me to this unique, mysterious and now sadly lost museum!

This blog entry is partially based on Stefan Nagel's article about the museum ship Mississippi. Thank you also for letting me use the photos.


Ice Swimming in Finland

 As a Finn living in Finland, it would be so very wrong if I didn't promote our national sport in this blog: the ice swimming. Nah, I'm kidding, it's really not the kind of an activity every Finn does on weekly basis in wintertime, but it's quite popular anyway. The idea is simple: Wait until the lake or sea is frozen. Make a hole in the ice or arrange it so that a spot in the lake won't freeze. Go dip yourself into the hole. Take your time to stay couple of minutes dripping wet in the freezing air before going in a warm place (typically sauna) again. You will get an extraordinary feeling of enjoyment. 

Notice the underwater pumps that keep the water
moving and preventing it to freeze.
If you have sauna available, it's good to repeat the procedure couple of times. Depending on the size of the hole you can even swim a bit. All kinds of health benefits are promised, like decreasing of stress, and better resistance, but very little of it is scientifically proven. Nevertheless, your general feeling will certainly be different for the rest of the day. Some people get more energetic, others want to just wrap themselves in a shawl, and cuddle up in a sofa corner with a glass of wine and a good book.

Myself, I found the activity about five years ago and have ever since taken care that I'll go for a swim during at least couple of times a winter. Nowadays I also try to take every foreign visitor to ice swimming if they are up to it. An English friend of mine, a photographer in Leicestershire, didn't even need my encouragement, the decision to take the chilly dip had been made already before they even left UK. Respect.