Countries, Culture

Vive La Republic of Barbados

I must have been one of the very few kids in Glasgow to be lullabied to sleep with old Republican songs… and because of that and my own journey I’m an avowed internationalist republican which is why today I say Vive La Republic of Barbados.

Now you’ve heard me wax lyrical already many times about the magical island of Barbados and my Kiss With Rihanna  and Rumba  there.

And Bim, as it is affectionately known (hence me being known on the island as Bim Jim) is the talk of the Scottish and British Travel scene with the Bridgetown route rolling out from Edinburgh next month.

Now to celebrate Barbados becoming the latest country to throw off the shackles of monarchy and go out on their own, here’s to all those nations who have taken their destiny in their own hands.

And decided to be governed by one of their own.

Now a true republic, just like a true democracy or a true anything these days in double speak, is a moveable object.

But you’ve got to start somewhere which is why we’re going with 160 (now Barbados have signed up).

All republics lead from Rome

And if you know you’re Classic History, and my Latin is better than my Ancient Greek then you’ll know that republic derives from the two Latin words res and publica (public thing).

So that’s one of the famous things that ‘the Romans did for us’ although, of course, if you’re British then it’s an experiment from which we’ve run far away.

Apart, of course, from a brief period from 1649-1660 when these islands of Britain and Ireland entered into a Commonwealth which was really a theocracy.

But while Westminster claims to be the mother of all parliaments (doubtful, and Europe’s oldest in Iceland might have something to say about that).

It’s Rome which is the mothership of all republics, and we have the good fortune that the Forum, the hub of Roman public life is still there.

No fools those Ancient Romans though with their togas as I found out when I almost fainted in the Eternal City heat in my modern clothes.

An Italian fixture

Venice: And let’s catch a gondola back to Padova

Now where Rome led the rest of Italy followed.

And chief among them was the 1100-year Venetian Republic which still styles itself thus and is hewn into every gondola and the very bricks of the Campanile.

Florence, Siena, Amalfi, Pisa and Genoa all saw what the Doges were doing and how fetching their hats were and followed suit.

But the republicaniest of all the republics and the longest-standing is San Marino.

And so what they lack in football skills (0-10 v England) they more than make up for in their political skills.

La Republique, mais oui

Je suis L’Empereur: Napoleon

Ah, yes, the French. like so much, would have us believe that they are the shining light of Republics.

So much so that they have had five of them ever since Corsican Napoleon got le ball rolling.

Notre ami soon decided though that L’empereur sounded so much better…

And he did that with one arm behind his back (or affectedly tucked in his jacket then).

It must be a poncey royal thing because the UK’s Prince Charles who very graciously decided to attend the signing-over papers to the Bajans (and bag himself some sun at the time) does pretty much the same thing.

And on a tangent we’ll not say anything about the carbon footprint, Prince Save The World.

None of us are perfect, of course, it’s just the rest of us don’t bleat on about it and preach to the rest of us who do hop on planes.

Middle Ages and Middle Europe

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

The breeding ground for republics in the Middle Ages was what we now know as Germany.

And a quick count chronicles 62 in the northern European powerhouse.

All of which would be a good exercise and excuse to traverse modern-day Germany with a Michael Portillo type notebook.

I’d have to start in my favourite German city Hamburg first of course.

There are some who have gone the opposite way to the Bajans and jumped from republic to monarchy like the Dutch.

Others who have had a brief dalliance with republicanism, Catalonia, and still have hopes of a return to those halcyon days.

Battle hymn of the Republic

Southern men: At the statue of Stonewall Jackson at Manassas

Yes, their eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

And while the North eulogised its Republic, the South too held its close to its bosom, albeit for just five years.

That said the Confederate States of America still exist in the hearts and minds of many in the Deep South.

As I found at the Manassas memorial to Stonewall Jackson in Virginia.

And you don’t need me to tell you that that was the first battle of the US Civil War.

Post-colonial

Cool for cats… in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

There were, of course, a rash of republics in the post-colonial world which is where Barbados join us now.

While in Africa and Asia the cry went up for the ‘public thing’ which alas all too quickly became the ‘dictator thing.’

And because of these precedents it ratchets up our hope that the South African Rainbow Nation experiment proves successful despite its challenges.

And the USSR and its satellites

The voice of Dresden: With Ingrid in Dresden

Dogmatic ideologists, of course, think nothing of hijacking the word republic for something that looks nothing like it.

And hovering up previously self-governing nations, which is where Russia came in and formed the bloated Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic.

Unless I find me a time machine a trip back to those days will inevitably elude me, although that’s where museums and heritage come in.

And you can still immerse yourself into the spirit of those days on any trip out there.

Which is exactly what you get when you visit the old DDR.

Now we all know of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie but more of us should visit the mural to communism which stands as a reminder of Russian misrule and occupation in Dresden.

Irie, Barbados

It’s a republic, now: With Ruby in Barbados

And so good luck to the incumbent President of Barbados. Sandra Mason, incidentally also the last governor-general.

Vive La Republic of Barbados.

I’ll raise a glass of rum punch to you on the official date of handover tomorrow.

Which is a shared holiday, Barbados’s National Day, and Scotland’s too.

In Scotland, Barbados: Honest

And until my own native land becomes a republic (I’m not holding my breath) I’ll. mark yours, and America’s and France’s.

And the whole lot of you, 160 or so, who have taken the revolutionary step of deciding that you wanted to be ruled by someone of the people.

 

 

America, Canada, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Lennon’s revolution… 80 years a working class hero

Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans – John Lennon

We could pick any number to define our times as we mark John Lennon’s 8Oth birthday this week. Suffice to say his was a life lived.., and how.

We’ll never know for sure how he would have spent the last 40 years since his murder outside the Dakota Building in NY.

Blue for you. www.johnlennon.com

But it would be safe to assume he would have been at the forefront of all the great struggles of our day.

The Fall of the Wall, Apartheid, Black Lives Matter, Freedom from Covid.

Lennon bestrode his world, leaving his imprint, and still does.

And as his adopted New York celebrated his legacy by turning the Empire State Building blue, here are four Lennon cities.

Liverpool Lou Lennon

Liverpool 4

Oh Liverpool Lou, lovely Liverpool Lou, why don’t you behave like other girls do?

And we have Yoko Ono to thank for knowing this, that John would sing this song, his Mum’s fave, around the house.

John’s statue stands alongside his pals on the Liverpool waterfront near the Beatles Story museum.

Lennon is everywhere in his home city and the under-threat Cavern Club is a good first stop while let someone else do the work for you on their Magical Mystery tour.

Growing up in Hamburg

I didn’t grow up in Liverpool, I grew up in Hamburg.

Not that John was dissing his home city, it was just that he was giving an honest reply to a reporter.

Lennon and the boys (five of them then, with Stuart Sutcliffe on board and with Pete Best instead of Ringo Starr) lived in Hamburg between 1960-62.

And Stefanie Hempel’s Beatles Tour Das Original will take you all over their favourite haunts.

John was his favourite and she had his poster above her bed.

She will take you to the St Pauli door where he posed for a shot later used for the Rock ‘n’ Roll covers album and much, much more.

John’s New York

If I’d lived in Roman times, I’d have lived in Rome. Where else? Today America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself

While we all know that John died in NY let’s dwell on his life in the Big Apple.

John loved its vibe, its people, its energy and put it down in song on New York City off the album Some Time in New York City.

Dakota Building and the Strawberry Fields memorial where the music never stops are obviously on the itinerary.

For the rest, check out this video.

The Lennon wall in Prague

The Lennon Wall, Prague

What to make of it when you’re told that the Lennon Wall in Prague now has ‘Fuck Trump’ messages on it?

It put off my Czech guide who remembers the wall well from the days when it was an organic centrepoint of protest against the Communist.

‘Appen though John would approve.

And let’s not let Amsterdam and Montreal lie

Of course, this is where John and Yoko had their Bed-ins for Peace.

At the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam and the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.

And I hope that John would approve as I find myself compiling my thoughts here bolt upright in my bed.

While waiting to get back out there travelling again.

Canada, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

Hey Willie, I’m On the Road Again

On the road again, I just can’t wait to get on the road again, the life I love is makin’ music with the my friends, and I can’t get wait to get on the road again.

Willie Nelson

And when I was asked by woman-of-many-trades (she asked me to write this) Aileen Eglington to pick my song for her Destinations Anywhere show on Dublin South FM I plumped for Willie Nelson’s classic to the Open Road.

And so continuing my top roads I’ve been on (or hope to trudge) which included the Appian Way, Rome. Beale Street, Memphis, The King’s Highway in Jordan, the Royal Mile, Edinburgh and Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem On the Road again… I give you five more.

The arc of angels

arche de triumph
There’s a golden sun. Photo by TravelingTart on Pexels.com

Avenue des Champs-Elysees, Paris: And, yes, you are taking your life into your own hands when you cross the road here.

The Arc de Triumph with its record of French victories is, of course, the centrepiece although there hasn’t been an inscription on it for many a year. Either in war or the Tour de France which passes through it. See https://en.parisinfo.com.

Aspiring Dublin

O’Connell Street, Dublin: And if you like your streets lined with historical statues then this is for you.

At one end is the Liberartor Daniel O’Connell, with bullet holes from the Easter Rising, and at the other ‘The King of Ireland’ Charles Stewart Parnell. There’s the modern-day Centennial Spire but my favourite is the statue of workers’ hero Jim Larkin. See http://www.visitdublin.com.

The long, long road

Yonge Street, Toronto: And why let the facts get in the way of a good story. The Guinness Book of Records tagged it as the longest in the world until it became clear that they were conflating the Downtown Street with Ontario Highway 11 to make it 1,896kms.

When it’s actually 56kms long. And this being Toronto it’s cleaner, safer and with a laid-back vibe than New York which it is often unfavourably compared to. See http://www.seetoronto.com and Canadian high.

It’s a Shambles

The Shambles, York, England: The Old York, as it’s never called, has something the New York has.

This has overhanging timber-framed buildings that date from the 14th century. And if you like your trains there’s also the National Railway Museum. See https://www.visityork.org.

A night on Der Town

Beatles history in Hamburg

And if it’s good enough for the Beatles then…

This is where the Beatles grew up and George Harrison got his first taste for mud-wrestling Germans. It’s the Reeperbahn in Hamburg. And let Stefanie Hempell who runs the best music tour you’ll find.

See http://www.hamburg.com http://www.hempels-musictour.de/en/ and Hamburgers and ships and The Beatles in Hamburg – With Stefanie Hempel and Why German trains always run on time.

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The Beatles in Hamburg – With Stefanie Hempel

Next year will mark 60 years since the Beatles did their first gig in Hamburg.

In the Indra Club on the Grosse Freiheit in the Reeperhbahn in St Pauli.

It was the first of 48 nights they played in the German port city.

John Lennon was to say when asked what it was like growing up in Liverpool: ‘I didn’t grow up in Liverpool, I grew up in Hamburg.’

Nobody knows the story of Der Fab Four in Hamburg better than Stefanie Hempel who will take you on a guided music tour around their favourite haunts.

And sing you their songs along the way.

On the ukelele.

Which was George Harrison’s favourite instrument.

Just one of the many things you didn’t know but will after Stefanie has finished with you.

Stefanie’s music tour is without a shadow of a doubt the best music tour I have ever been on.

Just when you think that she has exhausted her backlog of stories she will come up with another.

Stefanie, of course, is a true believer and had a picture of John above her bed as a young girl.

She is also one of the first (and I will promise you, the best) Beatles tour guide in the city.

Stefanie gave us three hours of her time and finished up with a three-song set in the Reeperbahn Museum.

August 17 was the date that The Beatles played their first song at the Indra. I would love to be back listening to Stefanie on that date next year.

And I bet that John will be smiling down on her too when she does belt out In My Life.

For a recap on a couple of wunderbar days in Hamburg then give this an oul’ read https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/hamburgers-and-ships/ and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/why-german-trains-always-run-on-time/.

And visit http://www.hamburg.com. And of course http://www.hempels-musictour.de/en/ .