In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
In the footsteps of Jesse Owens at Berlin’s forgotten Olympic Village
As the curtain comes down on London’s golden Olympic summer, Paul Scraton explores the Olympic Village from the darkest Games in history, Berlin 1936.
This blogpost first appeared on the Slow Travel Berlin blog
What do you do with a building when it symbolises some of the darkest days of your country’s history?
It’s a common question in Berlin and elsewhere in Germany, and one which was certainly asked of the various venues built for the 1936 Olympics.
Of course, Germany was awarded the Olympics before Hitler and his National Socialist cronies took power, and indeed many of the designs were already in place, but the Olympic Stadium and its surroundings still symbolise a Games where Hitler was determined to show to the world the power and the glory of his three-year-old Thousand Year Reich.
When one thinks of what was to follow over the next decade, it is not much consolation that the Games were less the “Hitler Olympics” than the “Jesse Owens Show”.
But the African-American athlete’s exploits on the track were more triumphant and glorious than even the best of Leni Riefenstahl’s cinematic efforts; and perhaps it is this history that has allowed the Olympic venues to shake off the taint of their history, most gloriously during the 2006 World Cup where – 70 years after the Olympics – the world came to Germany and was greeted not with swastikas and triumphalism, but a wonderful celebration that even Fifa’s rampant commercialism and Zinedine Zidane’s flying headbutt could not sour.
But if the Olympic Stadium, renovated and restored for 2006, was granted the opportunity to write a new chapter on its football pitch and track – who can forget Usain Bolt’s world-record breaking 100m during the 2009 World Championships – what of the other venues built for the 1936 Games?
Padlocks removed from Ponte Milvio
Thousands of padlocks have been removed from Rome’s Ponte Milvio bridge in an attempt to protect the ancient structure.
On Monday, three patrols of police armed with bolt cutters started to remove the ornamentation that covered the bridge, intending to put an end to a trend inspired by Federico Moccia’s novel, ‘Ho voglia di te’ (I Want You).
The bridge over the River Tiber, was constructed in 206 BC and is one of the oldest bridges in the capital. Attached to the lampposts and railings by love-struck couples, the padlocks have been inspired by Moccia’s characters, who fastened a bicycle lock around a lamppost and threw the key in the river to signify their eternal love.
The padlocks however have been deemed hazardous by authorities due to the weight the ancient bridge supports. The city council said rust from the locks and their chains, had been eroding the fabric of the bridge and feared it would cause permanent damage. The bill to remove the love tokens was passed with a unanimous vote in December last year and work will be carried out throughout this week to remove all signs of the decorations.
The padlocks, which have been accumulating on the bridge since the book’s release in 2006, have been strongly opposed by many residents. In 2007 a 50 euro (£40) fine was introduced by the mayor at the time, Walter Veltroni, for couples found attaching padlocks to the bridge and in the same year, a lamppost partially collapsed under the padlocks’ weight. Three years later, after further complaints from residents saying the lovers’ tradition equated to vandalism, the council began cutting the padlocks. However, many tourists enjoy the trend and Moccia himself has defended ‘padlock-mania’.
BAA blames Olympics for fall in traffic at Heathrow and Stansted
BAA, the airport operator, has blamed the “Olympics effect” for a fall in passenger numbers at Heathrow and Stansted in August.
The company said traffic through Heathrow in July and August was “lower than expected and the shortfall is not expected to be recovered later in the year”.
BAA, owned by the Spanish group Ferrovial, reported that visitors to Heathrow fell by 1.9 per cent to 6.5 million in August, while they tumbled by 5.2 per cent at Stansted. Passenger numbers fell by a more “pronounced” 4.6 per cent at Heathrow in the first two weeks of last month, against a 0.3 per cent rise over the rest of August at Europe’s busiest airport.
A BAA spokesman said: “This suggests a continuation of the ‘Olympics effect’ reported in July, with UK passengers staying at home, as well as non-Olympic visitors from overseas choosing to defer their journeys.”
Heathrow’s European scheduled traffic suffered, with only Norway and Denmark growing by 4 per cent and 1.2 per cent, respectively.
Sailboat navigates once-frozen Northwest Passage
A three-man sailing expedition for the first time has navigated the once-frozen Northwest Passage, a perilous Arctic route made accessible only because of melting caused by global warming.
For centuries explorers sought the Northwest Passage as a faster way to trade goods between the Atlantic and the Pacific. But until now, it has been blocked by ice.
Explorers including Martin Frobisher and Henry Hudson tried to find a route but failed.In 1845 a two-ship expedition led by Sir John Franklin attempted to find the passage. It disappeared, with all its 129 crewmen.
This week the Swedish sailboat, the 9.4m Belzebub II, navigated through McClure Strait, northernmost waterway on the edge of the Canadian Northwest Territories.
The crew – American Morgan Peissel, Canadian Nicolas Peissel and the Swedish owner of the vessel, Edvin Buregren, 35 – said it was the first time that a vessel other than an icebreaker had breached the passage.
They chronicled their three month long expedition on their website belzebub2.com.