“Three Travel Questions: Where are you from? Where are you coming in from? Where are you going?”
– from Flights, Olga Tokarczuk
© 2022 MDR Tashkent, Uzbekistan In which city did Alexander Solzhenitsyn miraculously heal from a stomach tumor that he chose the place to be the setting of Cancer Ward? Where did Mikhail Bulgakov’s widow hide the manuscript of Master and Margarita before it was published? To where did Anna Akhmatova evacuate during the Leningrad siege? For which city did Vronsky refuse an assignment significant to his military career in favor of Anna Karenina? In which city is the oldest Quran kept? Tashkent. It has played important roles in literary history, and literary history seems to be woven along the threads of daily life here. Three of Tashkent’s Metro Stations that I was able to pass through on my first day are dedicated to writers: Alisher Navoi, the greatest writer in Chagatai history; Abdulla Qodiriy, the nonfictional character of the novel, , which I read earlier this year, and writer of what is considered the first Uzbek novel; and Alexander Pushkin. The Devil’s Dance
© 2022 MDR Tashkent, Uzbekistan Abdulla Qodiriy, author of the first Uzbek novel, and nonfictional protagonist of Hamid Ismailov’s . Ismailov’s books remain banned in Uzbekistan. The Devil’s Dance
© 2022 MDR Tashkent, Uzbekistan The National Library of Uzbekistan, named in honor of Alisher Navoi.
© 2018 MDR Vienna, Austria The Austrian National Library (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek) turned 650 years old that year. Established as the Imperial Library by the Habsburgs in the year 1368, it is the largest library in Austria, boasting over 12 million items in its collection.
© 2016 MDR Istanbul, Turkey Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence. The museum created in tandem with the novel, and which won the European Museum of the Year award in 2014.
© 2016 MDR Ephesus, Turkey The Library of Celsus was the third largest library in its time, after Alexandria and Pergamum. Four caryatids grace the facade of the library: Ennoia for Thought, Sophia for Wisdom, Episteme for Knowledge or Understanding, and Apeth for Excellence. My camera focused on Apeth because it was the most well-preserved among the four. Apeth is usually associated with bravery, but it also portrays beings who engage their full potential, from strength to wit, to succeed in their endeavors. Women in the ancient world had few rights, but the virtues were represented by women.
© 2019 MDR Tangier, Morocco Ibn Battuta of the 1300s, whose tomb I stumbled upon while getting lost in the Tangier medina, was also a judge. But he is famously known as Ibn Battuta, traveler and writer. As one scholar insists, he is not the Marco Polo of the East, Marco Polo is the Ibn Battuta of the West. While both their travel tales are meant to be taken with a grain of salt, Ibn Battuta, lesser known, traveled more extensively. Ibn Battuta, traveler and writer. Marco Polo, traveler and writer. Jan Morris, traveler and writer. Gertrude Bell, traveler and writer. Ibn Jubayr, traveler and writer. These fascinating figures I have met through book pages, these travelers and writers! They know of a timeless and wondrous world where it is synonymous: traveler and writer.
© 2019 MDR Alexandria, Egypt This was an extremely lonely plane ride, but flying over this galaxy on land distracted me from my despondency and I remember having goosebumps as I gazed outside the airplane window. “This must be a special place,” I thought to myself. I was about to check the flight route map on my screen when the captain announced that we were flying over Alexandria! In this day and age, a library and a museum have distinct functions and are differentiated by the items that they safeguard. But what we know as the Library of Alexandria was a musaeum or mouseion (predecessors of the word museum) — a space supposedly inhabited by the muses. What a beautiful thought: To tend the mind as musaeum, a place where the muses reside. What do we keep in the museums of our mind?
© 2018 MDR Vienna, Austria Sigmund Freud’s residence turned museum. No id no entry. 😉
© 2018 MDR Vienna, Austria Cafe Hawelka is mentioned twice in the second volume of the graphic novel Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. The artist Adolf Frankl used to reside in the same building, and Cafe Hawelka was one of the establishments that gave rise to the culture of “kafeehausliterature” — coffee house literature.
© 2018 MDR Vienna, Austria Goethe. His was the first statue I encountered in Vienna when I expected it to be a composer’s.
© 2018 MDR Budapest, Hungary Statue of the great Anon.
© 2018 MDR Rotunda Library, Singapore National Gallery A library of art books and art history.
© 2018 MDR Library at Esplanade, Singapore A library dedicated to the performing arts! 2,308 square meters of music scores, books on music and musicians, music history, and recordings!
© 2018 MDR Library at Orchard, Singapore For literature and books on design!
Cecile Licad’s mother once relayed to us how she created a learning environment for her daughter: She saw to it that the piano was ready, as well as the chair and the books, so that all the little child had to do was play the piano. It must have been effective. She produced a Cecile Licad.
Singapore reminds me of such a mother. The first ad I noticed on the MRT upon arriving was that of the National Library Board’s “National Reading Movement” with the hashtag #ReadingNationSG. Singapore inspires her citizens to read by providing beautiful and strategically-located public libraries all over the city-state, making reading materials as accessible as hawker stalls. The Rotunda Library at the National Gallery is a great resource for books on visual arts, the Library@Orchard lures the literature and design lovers, the Library@Esplanade — Oh! I don’t even know where to begin about this one! One impressive library dedicated to the performing arts!
Because of this encouraged culture of reading, the most wonderful bookstores are also flourishing here! And what a joy to see these establishments teeming with young people! It has truly become a reading nation! As a tourist, this is what I want to emphasize about Singapore — not another picture of the Merlion, not Marina Bay Sands, not the Singapore flyer, not Universal Studios; because this reading culture is probably the best thing about Singapore. Well… that, and the food. The reading and the eating culture!
© 2018 MDR Library at Orchard, Singapore “That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.” — Jhumpa Lahiri
© 2018 MDR Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Rangoon, Burma) George Orwell was born in India and his mother was born in Burma where he spent life-changing years that influenced his writings greatly. This is at The Strand, a colonial-era building that has roofed Orwell who wrote a famous novel about my birth year, and Kipling who wrote lines like “the female of the species is more deadly than the male.” And there I was wondering, could it be true for book-butterflies, too?
© 2016 MDR Tacloban City, Philippines People’s Center and Library — one of the most beautiful libraries in the Philippines, which a friend and her merry band of “book-keepers” tried to redeem after 40 years of oblivion, termites, and Typhoon Haiyan when it became a shelter and precious pages were used as makeshift toilet paper.
© 2012 MDR Florence, Italy. Dante Alighieri’s birthplace.
© 2012 MDR Rome, Italy Goethe Monument at Villa Borghese and a random sighting of antique editions of his works at a flea market.
© 2010 Tonet Gorgonio – Hicks La Belle Aurore Bookshop, Cebu City, Philippines One of my most memorable performances as a pianist.