Hot Oregon Summer – Berlin Next

Gendarmenmarkt Berlin –

Gardening and Wildfires

It’s been a restful, contemplative summer in Oregon working in my garden with deer, wild turkeys, annoying yellow jackets, and a stray Gothic-looking black cat. Sadly, dry and windy conditions combined with record-breaking heat resulted in raging wildfires all around us.

Garden Visitor

Cute Stray Cat

The massive Carr Fire near the California / Oregon border created terrifying “fire tornadoes“. They occur when a fire acquires “vertical vorticity and forms a whirl”. Fire tornadoes can “grow to gargantuan size with winds of over 90 mph”.

Fire Tornado –

Carr Fire Chopper – The Mercury News Bay Area

The Carr Fire ignited in late July. A month later, after “torching more than 200,000 acres,” it’s about 90 percent contained!  Smoke from fires in Oregon, California, Washington, and nearby Colorado and Canada creates a surreal aura, bringing an eerie atmospheric haze, poor air quality, and vivid sunrises and sunsets.

Wildfire Sunset San Francisco Bay –

Wildfire Smoke at Sunrise – Jonathan Hayward Canadian Press

Brave Wildfire Fighter – Charlie Nash Photography

Next Long Trip

I’ve started getting into the specifics of my next travel adventure. No matter what, this time I’m traveling with one piece of luggage!

Berlin Boroughs and Districts

Like in 2017, I’ll begin in Europe and eventually make my way back to South Africa. I decided to start in Berlin – a new city for me. I’ve studied Berlin’s East and West boroughs and have a few leads for rental apartments in well-located areas near attractions and transportation – Mitte, Charlottenburg-WilmersdorfFriedrichshain-Kreuzberg, and Neukölln. Rents are reasonable, and the apartments look comfortable.

Museum Island River Spree – Stock Photo

Return to South Africa

I’m apprehensive about violence in many parts of Africa – Congo, Mali, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, et al. Although I’ve never experienced violence during my travels in Africa, but six cities in South Africa – Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Pietermaritzburg, Rustenburg, and Johannesburg – made the top ten list of the most dangerous cities on the African continent. Xenophobic related violence in South Africa is disturbing. Here in the US, we clearly have our own problems and brand of political tension, civil unrest, violence, and a vast chasm between “left versus right” ideologies…

Berlin Cathedral – 

Thankfully Day Zero in Cape Town’s drought is now pushed out beyond 2019, but the government’s move toward land expropriation without compensation is a concern. More than two decades after the end of apartheid, land ownership remains a “highly emotive” subject for South Africans – that may be an understatement. According to the ruling ANC government, white people own 72 percent of private land, black people 4 percent, and other ethnic groups 24 percent.

Berlin Cathedral at Museum Island –

Land expropriation is said to be “the most pressing social issue in the country”. However, some think high crime, corruption, and the “triple-time-bomb of poverty, unemployment, and inequality” are the real issues keeping South Africans awake at night.

Kayelitsha Township Outside Cape Town – Dan Kitwood Getty Images

Julius Malema Leader Economic Freedem Fighters (EFF) -blouinnews

Julius Sello Malema Leader Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) –

The ANC-led government and members of the militant, aggressive Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party differ in their approach to land expropriation.


South Africa’s EFF – founded in 2013 and led by outspoken Julius Sello Malema – is a self-proclaimed “radical leftist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist movement that draws inspiration from the broad Marxist-Leninist tradition”.


Mmusi Maimane – Leader Democratic Alliance

The Democratic Alliance (DA) – the ANC’s official opposition and second largest political party – accuses both the ANC and EFF of “misleading the public on land expropriation”. They claim to have the best land-reform plan. DA leader Mmusi Maimane says, “there can be no new dawn for South Africa until the ANC is out of power“.

My extended South African visa expires in 2020 – a regular entry (tourist) visa issued at the airport is good for 90 days. I haven’t decided whether to pursue the rigorous renewal process. The “retirement visa” has allowed me to make long trips (up to five years) to explore and better understand South Africa. I especially enjoy the Western Cape, hiking Table Mountain, volunteer work with young children, and vibrant Cape Town – a special and dear place to me. South Africa is a strikingly beautiful but complex and sometimes difficult country that can’t possibly be understood without spending extended time there.

Unter den Linden by Night –

During this period of rapid change, the National Development Plan (NDP) is the country’s detailed proposal addressing key issues for uniting South Africans.The lofty NDP goals to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality are to be implemented by 2030. What little I know of the NDP, it seems overwhelming, but I’m digressing – back to Berlin

Clouds Over Table Mountain from Signal Hill Cape Town – Erik Pronske Getty Images


The NDP’s goal is to “unite South Africans, unleash the energies of its citizens, grow an inclusive economy, build capabilities, and enable the state and leaders to work together to solve complex problems”…


Staatsoper Unter den Linden

Berlin State Opera Staatsoper Unter den Linden – Wikipedia

Berlin This Fall

I plan to arrive in Berlin in September. Their fall weather is much like Oregon’s with cool but mild temperatures. When winter comes and it starts getting really cold, I’ll move south – not sure where yet. I’m considering exploring new places versus returning to more familiar areas. New countries of interest include Romania and Albania, but Italy and Spain also have moderate winter climates.

Berlin Brandenburg Gate at Dusk –

I’m looking for a three-month rental apartment in the Berlin-Mitte borough, the central section of former East Berlin. “Before the war and division of the city, Mitte was the center of Berlin. It’s regained its former pre-eminence to such an extent that many visitors never see the western side of the city.”

Bode Museum Mitte –


Mitte is the oldest and most historic part of Berlin with many cultural attractions and “ever-expanding restaurant, club, and arts scenes”.


Strandbar at Bode Museum Mitte

Mitte begins at Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate on the east side of Tiergarten Park. The grand boulevard, Unter den Linden, is lined with 18th- and 19th-century palaces and monuments.

Mitte – VanDam StreetSmart Maps

Tiergarten Park –

Komische Opera House Berlin –

I’m excited to attend theater performances and the Berlin opera! Berlin is teeming with performing arts theaters, cabarets, and clubs. The Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin’s main opera house, and the Komische Oper, the third largest, are both in Mitte. Berlin’s Philharmonic Season begins in late September. Other major attractions in the area include Gendarmenmarkt, a neoclassical square, Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral), and Museumsinsel (Museum Island) with five major museums. Frivolous activities that top my list are – mingling with locals, hanging out in cafés, overnight side trips, and exploring less-traveled backstreets.

Christmas Berlin – 

Germany’s festive Christmas Markets are legendary. These are the top five:

  1. Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt
  2. Berliner Weihnachtszeit at Roten Rathaus
  3. Wintertraum am Alexa
  4. Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz
  5. Weihnachtsmarkt am Gedächtniskirche

Christmas Markets Berlin –

I don’t speak German but am learning key phrases and pronunciation rules hoping I don’t butcher the language too much. During past travels in Germany, English was spoken everywhere. Mehr später…

Monbijou Park Embankment River Spree

KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic at Durban City Hall

Durban City Hall

Last night I attended a KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Philharmonic performance conducted by Daniel Boico. The venue was historic Durban City Hall, and it was an exciting evening of beautiful music and singing!

KZN Philharmonic and Clermont Community Choir

People warn that it’s not safe in central Durban at night, but the area had security and was well lighted. The historic old buildings looked beautiful. Before and after the philharmonic performance, Zulu and belly dancers performed in the upper and lower mezzanine.

Daniel Boico Conductor KZN Philharmonic

KwaZulu Natal (KZN) Philharmonic Orchestra

The orchestra beautifully performed three compositions:

The Clermont Community Choir and soloists enhanced the performance:

Durban City Hall at Night

The performers all have impressive histories. The Clermont Community Choir, managed by Wiseman Mkhize, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The 85-member Choir is the “undefeated champion at the famous prestigious Old Mutual National Choir Festival.” The Choir specializes in “different music genres with a special focus on choral, opera, classical, and African Indigenous music”. Members vary from scholars, students, and workers to employment-seekers.


Durban recently became the first city in South Africa and on the African continent to become a UNESCO World City of Literature in 2018.


Old Durban Railway Station

Mayor, Zandile Gumede, spoke and congratulated the choir not only for their 25 years of music but also for being Durban ambassadors. During Nelson Mandela International Day in 2013, the choir represented South Africa on a tour with the KZN Philharmonic in France.  Mandela loved the choir. They helped soothe grieving South Africans by singing at his funeral.

Zulu Dancers

Belly Dancer

Talented cellist Atistide du Plessis has won many prizes and performed in Zürich, Vienna, Munich, and Berlin. Du Plessis is co-principal cellist with the Philharmonic.

Zandile Gumede, Mayor of eThekwini Municipality

Associate guest conductor Daniel Boico has produced performances all over the world, including the US, Europe, Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. He was Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic 2009-2011 and apprentice conductor to former Chicago Symphony Music Director Daniel Barenboim.

Aristide du Plessis Cellist

Durban City Hall

City Hall is one of the most beautiful buildings in Durban. Built in 1910 and designed by architect Stanley Hudson, it “boasts a distinctly dramatic Neo-Baroque style”. The building is described as an “exaggerated structure that oozes grandeur and elegance”. It’s stunning, especially at night.

KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic


City Hall is “bedecked with sculptures that represent different facets of modern South Africa”.


Siphokazi Maphumulo Mezzo-Soprano

Like Cape Town, Durban’s City Hall houses many cultural venues:

Sbongile Mtambo Soprano

City Hall is “more than a remnant of the architecture of old. It provides modern residents and international visitors with practical resources and a fascinating context”.

Mthunzi Nokubeka Bass

Thando Mjandana Tenor

City Hall sculptures represent the Arts, Music, Literature, Commerce, and Industry. The building is in central Durban near the Royal HotelDurban Playhouse, and other key attractions:

Medwood Gardens

Cape Town – MOCAA and Magic Club

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa MOCAA

I drove from Hermanus to Cape Town Monday to run errands before exploring the Garden Route later this month. The scenery along the way is wonderful, but driving over Sir Lowry’s Pass isn’t my favorite. Drivers are erratic and aggressive, and most of the N2 is not divided, so there’s no median strip to separate opposing lanes. It gets to me every time, especially when it’s windy.

Zeitz Interior

Zeitz Hotel

Zeitz Interior

Zeitz Exterior

Zeitz Exterior

Cape Town is one of my favorite places (no surprise to anyone), not only because of its exceptional beauty, but also its special charm, energy, and the friendly vibe of the people. It was nice to see Table Mountain, visit friends I haven’t seen for a while, and eat at favorite restaurants. The two days were fun but hectic. I stayed overnight at a B&B in Sea Point.

Garden at Sea Point B&B

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa

The only disappointment was not being able to visit the new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) which opened September 22. The museum is closed on Tuesday and free to the public on Wednesday. I peered through the windows, walked around the exterior, took a few photos, and hope to visit the MOCAA soon!

Cape Town Waterfront Silo District

The unique museum has a five-star hotel and features African artists like Nandipha Mntambo and Nicholas Hlobo. The Silo District is Cape Town’s newest art, culture, and design area. It sounds like the opening event was quite a soirée!

“The Zeitz-Mocaa building is in a converted grain silo overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. The area was regenerated 30 years ago for retail, real estate, and tourism. Development was on the remnants of two dilapidated 19th-century harbour basins (Victoria and Alfred). The silos were built over coal sheds that once supplied steamships. They were part-funded by capital from slave compensation received after slavery abolition in Cape Colony.”



Elgin Cafe

Elgin Landscape

Cape Town Magic Club

Since I was in town Monday night, when many performing arts venues are closed, I decided to attend a Cape Town Magic Club performance. The show is in the “original basement bank vault of the 5-star luxury Taj Cape Town”. The small creative theater has a back entrance and is especially set up for each magic performance. The venue allows the audience to sit close to the magicians and interact with them.

Three magicians performed, and it was clear that they loved what they were doing and put their heart and soul into it. The show included two young, talented magicians:

The third seasoned magician / mentalist was impressive Larry Soffer. His magic and synergy with randomly selected members of the audience was mind-boggling!

Zeitz Exhibit

Zeitz Exhibit

Zeitz Exhibit

“Larry Soffer is one of the most influential names in magic across South Africa. As his brand grows, he’s fast earning an exceptional name abroad. Larry has performed for royalty, celebrities, politicians, and sports stars. His popular live show and corporate event performances inspire his audiences to ‘Believe to See’ instead of ‘Seeing to Believe.’ In so doing, he truly opens their minds to new possibilities by believing in the impossible and thereby creating their own dreams.”

Magic Show Crowd

Magic Show Crowd

Taj Cape Town

Back Entrance Taj Cape Townb

Back Entrance Taj Cape Town

Taj Back Entrance to Magic Show

I sat next to a fun woman – Portia – and her husband. It was their first time at the Magic Show. Portia’s husband interacted on stage with magician Josue Musenge. The exceptional magic delighted the audience and blew us all away!

Nandipha Mntambo Artist


“The Zeitz-Mocaa is in a converted grain silo overlooking the Atlantic on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront……”


Table Mountain Backdrop to Silo District

Victoria and Alfred Waterfront Boats Silo District

Garden Route and Durban

On the way back to Hermanus I took a break in the lush Elgin Valley. Found out about a four-day slackpacking trip along Green Mountain Trail in the Kogelberg Biosphere.

Nicholas Hlobo Artist


Larry Soffer inspires his audiences to ‘Believe to See’ instead of ‘Seeing to Believe’.


I’m anticipating a slackpacking adventure somewhere along the Garden Route, if I can find an affordable one. Slackpacking is “enjoying the benefits of a multi-day hike, beautiful scenery, and fresh air – without carrying a heavy backpack”.  Sounds great – but some of the trips are pricey.

Back in Hermanus, I’m concentrating on planning the solo Garden Route drive beginning October 25th. Decided to take the N2 coastal route with a few inland side trips. I’m booked to arrive in Durban November 1, leaving 7 days to explore!

Lindiwe Mazibuko

Lindiwe Masibuko MP

Lindiwe Mazibuko MP

Lindiwe Mazibuko is a South African politician and Member of Parliament (MP). She is the National Spokesperson for the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Shadow Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform (see May 18th blog on SA political parties). The DA is South Africa’s only major opposition party to the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

Born April 9, 1980 Lindiwe Mazibuko is South Africa’s fourth youngest parliamentarian, a “rising star in Parliament”, and a possible future DA leader. On September 27th Lindiwe Mazibuko announced her candidacy for the highly regarded DA post of Parliamentary Leader. Athol Trollip (fluent in Xhosa) now holds that post which is considered “a springboard to leadership of the DA”.

Lindiwe Mazibuko

Lindiwe Mazibuko

Today, by publicly endorsing Athol Trollip for Parliamentary Leader, Dene Smuts (Senior DA Member of Parliament) dealt Mazibuko her first major blow since she announced her candidacy for the coveted position.

A 2007 graduate of the University of Cape Town, Mazibuko wrote her honors dissertation thesis on the Democratic Alliance. To complete her dissertation, she spent time researching Helen Zille and her tenure as DA Leader and Mayor of Cape Town. Currently Zille is the Premier of the Western Cape, a member of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, leader of South Africa’s opposition DA political party, former Mayor of Cape Town, and a former journalist and anti-apartheid activist.

As Mazibuko studied the DA party’s policies and programs of action she discovered they were in sync with her own ideologies and political vision for South Africa.

Lindiwe Masibuko MP

Lindiwe Mazibuko MP

After graduation she became the DA party’s Media Liaison Officer in Parliament. Labelled a “star performer” by Helen Zille, Mazibuko became a parliamentary candidate in the 2009 general elections, was appointed Shadow Deputy Minister of Communications, and became the DA Party Spokesperson.

Born in Swaziland and raised in Durban, Lindiwe attended the University of KwaZulu-Natal and obtained a BA (French, Classics, Media, and Writing) in 2006 and a BA Honours (Political Communication) degree in 2007 from the University of Cape Town.

Lindiwe Mazibuko

Lindiwe Mazibuko with Helen Zille

She views her position in the DA as an opportunity to put her words and thoughts into action by “rolling up my sleeves” as she puts it. Appointed the DA party’s national media officer after only a year as a researcher she said her involvement in the political process is exhilarating.

In 2008 Lindiwe decided to run for public office. In 2009 she was elected to Parliament. Her constituency is North Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, and she says she is “utterly committed to politics and grateful for the privilege of being able to live her passion”.

Helen Zille and Lindiwe Mazibuko

Helen Zille and Lindiwe Mazibuko

“Lindiwe Mazibuko: Change you can believe in, with an accent you can understand. Thus ran a satirical tweet from the parody @aDAvoter Twitter account after the opposition party’s 31-year-old poster girl announced her candidacy for arguably the second most powerful position in the party — leader of the opposition in Parliament, after just two and a half years in the legislature as a Democratic Alliance backbencher and one of the party’s youngest MPs.”

Criticized for her youth and inexperience “she repeatedly refrains from rising to the bait. It would have been easy for her to point out that she can speak isiZulu and Seswati along with her crisp model-C school English. Or to bring up how her parents, a nurse and a banker, sneaked her into a Jewish school to get her a decent education, and how they hid her under a blanket to escape the violence endemic in townships in the eighties. But she chooses not to, and only a Google search reveals those details”.


Watty Watson Caucus Chairman

wilmot james

Wilmot James Chief Whip


Ian Ollis MP

Athol Trollip

Athol Trollip DA Parliamentary Leader

“Seated confidently between seasoned party leaders Wilmot James (Chief Whip) and Watty Watson (Caucus Chairman), her running mates, Mazibuko cut a striking figure when she announced her candidacy for Parliamentary Leader. Her moment arrived: gone were the loose tendrils of hair and the blue DA T-shirt. She was smart in a fitted black jacket with her hair elegantly pulled back and, the older men flanking her complemented her youthful vigor and famed eloquence.“

“I believe my age is an asset to this party’s leadership,” she told reporters in Cape Town. “The DA needs to capture young voters. In 2014, there’s a whole new crop of so-called born frees (people born after the birth of South African democracy in 1994). The party needs to keep the momentum of a progressive, forward-moving, modern political party going.”

Helen Zille Premier of the Western Cape

Helen Zille

Analysts laud Mazibuko’s nomination, calling it the “battle for the soul of the DA party”.

“She seems positioned to win, but the vote will no doubt be close. To combat her “perceived weakness” (as one MP put it) of inexperience, she’s pulled the clever trick of surrounding herself with veterans.”

Lindiwe Mazibuko

DA MP Ian Ollis, Shadow Minister of Labor and himself a relative newcomer, recently noted: “We all start somewhere, without experience.” The DA party is ripe for a black leader. Whether Mazibuko is ready for such “dizzying heights of leadership at such a young age is the question that may well decide the future of the party”.

The election takes place on October 27th, 2011.