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Quick look back before going forward…

As we say time flies when we are having fun. Indeed the 4 month passed quick as a flash. Of course there were days when i was absolutely devastated: Beijing West Railway station or on the other hand when i was feeling awesome: standing on top of the world on Mt. Sairecabur. All these moments offered a large scale of feelings and experiences which helped me to master the next adventures. I enjoyed meeting a lot of interesting fellow travellers who made me feel home and comfortable even in the farthest corners of this planet. Another wonderful fact was that i managed to line up my trip in the right order through the different climate zones and therefore survived 4 months with no more than 10 days of rain! A stunning fact was also that on all the 20 flights or were there more…. my luggage always arrived safely and in time, nothing got lost. I also praise the fact that i didn’t get robbed, nothing got stolen.. of course i tried to be cautious but sometimes one just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time….

However there were the geographic challenges by travelling through different climates and levels of altitude. The highest place i reached (excluding trekkings) was El Alto, Bolivia at 4200m with a population of approx. 1 Mio which is nice to compare with the small village Cabo Polonio, Uruguay situated on sea level counting 95 people as permanent habitants.

Having said that i suppose the most thrilling list would be the UNESCO world heritage sites visited.. but i save you this one as basically almost all the major monuments i saw are listed – so if you want to discover them simply browse through my blog… sorry not tagged.

Rather worth to remember or reflect are the exceptional moments which i would like to classify in categories:

most awkward places or things:

  • cat cafe in tokyo: a cafe where you can drink coffe, eat cakes and cuddle with cats

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  • water boiling machine in japan: nothing in comparison to the kettles we are used to. too many buttons, too many functions and all in Japanese only. keep pressing buttons until it works!

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  • a toilet where the lavatory is integrated in the flushing mechanism

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  • toilet slippers – make sure to change them before leaving – guess which country? Yes Japan !

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interesting foods:

  • green pea ice cream: doesn’t really taste like ice cream like we know it but it is cold and acutally quite nice once you got used to the taste

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  • papas deshydratadas: in Bolivia they dry the potatoes for preservation, prior cooking they are then again put in water to remoisturize
  • stinky tofu: no idea how this is being prepared, as the name says it, it stinks but actually tastes pretty good

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  • bento boxes: the sky is open – it could be anything from a nice sushi assortiment through to weirdest things you could imagine / from edible to absolute no-go

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exciting activities:

  • Going down the zip line in superman-style (in fact less scary than when you do it yourself)
  • Camina de la muerta near La Paz: definitely something for adrenaline junkies as the drop is up to 600m down – luckily you don’t have time to look down as you have to focus on the road while rattling down on your bike

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  • Cycling around Mt Fuji: navigating with a Japanese GPS around Mt. Fuji which was unfortunately in the clouds all the time

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  • Mt. Sairecabur, Atacama desert, Chile: after a jeep ride up to 5500m, hiking the last 500m in 2 breathtaking hours up to the peak

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  • hiking on Volcano on the same day that Mt. Ontake erupted 30km away from us!

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extra ordinary hotels:

  • Palacio de sal, Bolivia: a beautiful hotel situated on the edge of the Salar de Uyuni entirely built from salt.

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  • Mummy shape 1 person tent: tucked in a tiny tiny tent in de middle of the sierras de Rocha
  • Ecolodge Isla del Sol, Bolivia: nested in the upper hills of this little island was this charming Ecohotel offering stunning views over Lago de Titicaca. As there are no water pipes all the water is being carried up the hills by a ‘donkey-fleet’. Due to a power failure we were without electricity on the first night, hence the only light source were candles that turned the place in an even more magical one.

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mode of transport:

  • Shinkansen: the japanese high speed train that is more punctual than SBB
  • Chevy non-spark: actually it didn’t let me down despite my permanent insults
  • Star ferry in Hongkong: probably the coolest ferry in the world!

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  • Beijing sideways: my escapades in the sidecar of an old motorbike through the narrow Hutongs)

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  • Horse: first ever riding experience enjoyed in a 2day trekking through the Uruguayan sierras.

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most spectacular places:

  • vast spaces of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

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  • unique landscapes and animals on Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  • the great wall: 20,000km testimony of china’s ancient civilisation

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  • Naoshima & Teshima, Japan: contemporary art islands

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  • the powerfully splashing waterfalls of Iguazu
  • swimming in Cenotes in Yucatan

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  • Farmer’s marked in Yangshuo, China where you could buy really everything dead or alive

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What did i like best? This is probably the most difficult one to answer but this is surely the question I hear most. Now to answer this one in full, I would have to say: ‘let’s open a good bottle of wine, lean back in the sofa and a few hours later i may have covered the first stories…  However here in uncategorized order as there is no unconditional answer: Japanese breakfast, Salar de Uyuni, Naoshima, Cat Cafe, Great Wall, Sairecabur, Uruguayan Steaks, Argentinian Wine, the colors of the Bolivian altiplano, Sea lions on Galapagos, Kyoto, Teppanyaki, Ice cream in Montevideo, Rösti in Atacama desert, Korean Airlines, Dim Sum, sunset in Colonia del Sacramento, non-sparky…..

hmmmm when will i be going again…. definitly not running out of ideas where i could go next !

Pursue your dreams and always try to touch the sky…

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suebluesky and non-sparky’s adventures in uruguay

As my blog headlines proves, Montevideo is the ending point of my trip. This place had often been on my mind when thinking about where to go – not really knowing why. I suppose half because it is located in Latinamerica and half because it has such a beautiful name. Unfortunately it took quite a while till I finally managed to get there as it is not exactly located close to my door step. Looking a bit closer to the former Switzerland of Southamerica I was surprise by the fact that the population of entire Uruguay is only 3.3 Mio of which about 1.8 Mio live in Montevideo. With its surface of approx 176,000 km2 it is the second smallest country of Southamerica after Suriname but still 4.2 x bigger than Switzerland!

The start was not ‘TAMbien’ as my flight got changed last minute to route via Sao Paulo instead of Rio de Janeiro which didn’t really matter as net the time was the same. Upon arrival it obviously turned out that my low-budget rental car agency had no counter at the airport. Nevertheless after calling them, they quickly picked me up and introduced me to Sparky and off we went.

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Driving into Montevideo turned out to be easy and the city presented itself in beautiful light as the sun was just about to set over the Rio de la Plata. I felt happy crusing along the Ramblas into downtown pleased to have finally made it to this place and the fact that I travelled without incidents for more than 3 months. With my GPS app i found the hotel with ease – parking the car with the elevator in the garage i found a bit more of a struggle – luckily Sparky-mate is a rather small car!

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Next day as already again departure time… heading to Sierras de Rocha. I was very excited about this as it will be my first horse experience ever! The drive was smooth though at a modest speed of max 100km/h as there was not much more sparkling to earn beyond that. Following the description of the people i passed bridges, passed the local police station, then 3rd turn left, pass 2 gates without names, then this, then that until Sparky and I came to the right gate:

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Once arrived / i was installed, it was time for my first riding lesson in the coral. I have to say i was highly surprised how patient yet energetic my teacher the beautiful Criollo horse Titi was. Due to her i gained quickly more confidence and it was not as terrible as i feared it might be. After enjoying  the dinner on the terrace of the house in the sunset it was time to rest and mentally prepare for more horse riding. The following day it was repetition and also time to try out trotting. Puh that was shaking me through quite a bit as i didn’t really had any technique yet. Nevertheless Anais my other teacher besides Titi decided we go for a ride through the community which involved crossing a river. Imagine this in Switzerland: leaving the riding center on your 2nd lesson and cross a river (in fact crossing it twice!). Well it all was fine and i was really happy and feeling ready for the 2 day horse trek for the following days.

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Once the horses were packed we left with 4 horses and 1 dog, riding through green fields, passing Eukalyptus tree forests with its distinguised scent, along meadows with cattle and climbing small hills where we could enjoy the view over the Sierras. After 4 hours riding we arrived at the place of destination and took the luggage and saddles off the horses and brought them to the river. Afterwards we started to set up a fire place, put up the tents and then it was time to have some maté.

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A wonderful co-incidence was that it was full moon that night so right after finishing dinner, we could observe the white ball rise up to the sky.

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Following day packing up all the stuff – go and find the horses on the big field (there were fences…) and another 4h riding back home through more cattle fields, passing horses… it was a wonderful and peaceful trek as i could hardly imagine. The following day which was my last day at Caballos de Luz was another 3 h riding to visit the other horses of Lucie & Santiago which involved once more some river crossing. But no worries, Titi would not let me down 🙂

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Next destination in Uruguay was Punta del Diablo, a godforsaken place in the very eastern corner of the country. Driving some 190km Sparky and I arrived this very laid back place, where streets were not paved and mainly nameless. Still amazed that my GPS guided me to the hostel at first attempt as it didn’t make any sense to me. The hostel El Indio was a cool relaxed place overlooking the beaches of Punta del Diablo featuring an amazing terrace, with comfy chairs and hammocks. Todo tranquilito – fancy a spliff? Unfortunately i was there only for 1 night. Thus went for a stroll on the beach in the afternoon right after arriving as that would be the only time i have to explore.

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Then it was time to through the bags back into Sparky’s boot and head back west to Cabo Polonio. Besides the tiny villages I visited in Bolivia possible the smallest one counting only 95 permanent residents. To reach this place situated on the ocean front you have to leave your car at the entrance of the park and hop on a truck that drove us through approx 9km of dunes where admission is not granted to public cars.

Cabo Polonio presented itself on that day in a rainy grey. The village is a like somebody dropped a few colorful wodden houses without any planning onto the dunes. Any shape, any colour, any style just as you like it is fine. My hotel was directly on the ocean front so that i could watch the waves from my bed. As there is not much electricity in this place – most of the day you have no power / no light – though wifi ha ha. Clearly visible what is important in nowadays travellers lives. Though it was raining a lot on the day of arrival, we got blessed with a double rainbow in the evening and a lot of sun the following day. It was so beautiful i could have easily stayed for a few days in this place.

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Clearly this was quite a chance after i emerged from the sleeply surfer spot to bustling Punta del Este within about 2 h. PdE is called the cote d’azur of Uruguay, the city where rich Argentinians & Brazilians own mansions facing the sea. The place where you can have dinner at same prices like in Zürich. Only difference is that the lomo is double the size than in Zürich !! So not really same prices 🙂 And of course dulce de leche till you die… mmmmmmh delicious!!

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In Punta i treated myself with a hotel with a pool to enjoy the place in adequate style. I moved around the city mainly by bike, to see la mano, shop till i dropped in La Martina. A slightly longer bikeride (only 15k) along the oceanfront lead me to Casapueblos on Punta Ballena. This hotel and museum had been built by Carlos Paez Vilaro. Besides the hotel and the paintings and pottery that was exhibited already the bikeride offered a beautiful view of Punta del Este. Very nice side trip from the flashy city. Luckily many of the people don’t have such an upmarked way to dress so that i managed to keep up with my globetrotter glam. Next day i spent mainly on the pool and only interrupted it in order to go for a pedicure and manicure. Was an interesting place mainly because they had the floor re-done while remaining open – watch the picture carefully. Then it was time to go to la Huella situated on the beach side of Jose Ignacio which seems to be one of THE places around PdE. Hotel prices per night go sky high and it was really not an option to stay there for sueblue and sparky. Nevertheless I enjoyed a fabulous lunch in La Huella which on could compare with Chez Vrony in Zermatt not only by its style but also the fact that one should book a table 2 weeks in advance ha ha! However similar to Zermatt it is worth the effort to either reserve in advance or be brave and try your luck in this beautiful laid back shabby chic beach restaurant with melt in your mouth food – unfortunately couldn’t enjoy too much wine as i still had to drive. Well driving was not really an option anymore after I left La Huella as Sparky’s battery was empty because sueblue missed to switch off the lights – though Sparky could have beeped, really! Luckily the old man who was assisting the people with parking their cars promised me quick help for 50 Uruguayos, they always try their luck and well within less than 5 minutes his friend turned up and bridged Sparky back to life! And i drove off with destination Montevideo. Bye bye Jose Ignacio, bye bye Punta del Este – i really enjoyed it.

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Arriving in Montevideo for the 2nd time it lost a bit of its glamour – the water was this time brown and the GPS lead me in to town by a different less stunning route. However still arrived in the right place after only one small detour. I was very excited about Montevideo as i decided not to stay in a hotel but in an airbnb – no not entire apartment but a room. Situated in the Barrio Sur which is a residential area of working class people this area was very different to Punta Carretas where i stayed on my first night. Small tiendas, people greeting each other in the street, small restaurants where people still know you versus fancy cafes, shopping malls, exclusive shops. However as a foreigner life generally is easier in the upscale areas. Upon arrival at ‘my home’ i was welcomed by my host and got a nice introduction into MTV, their house, went together for a walk with the dogs and had a couple of beers. airbnb turned out to be a very successful form of accommodation. In order to see more of MTV again i rented a bike and cycled down all the Ramblas passing numerous beaches until i reached the suburbs. Though due to the fact that the water was actually the Rio de Plata i would have never got tempted to go for a swim – the water just didn’t seem to be on the clean side.

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As 4 days seemed a bit long for MTV i decided to drive another 200km up to Colonia del Sacramento. A picturesque colonial style town situated exactly opposite Buenos Aires which can be reached from there by ferry. Hence lots of Argentinians in town.After strolling through town, climbing the lighthouse it was again pool time – the last one before heading back home. For dinner i picked a nice little bistro with a bar facing the waterline. After the well timed meal i had just enough time to run to the best view point in order to watch the sunset for which Colonia is famous.

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ah yes and when driving from MTV to Colonia you pass Nueva Helvetica.. where people apparently still speak Swiss German. I drove passed it but didn’t challenge their language skills.

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Next day back to Montevideo for the last bits of shopping, dulce de leche, chimichurri, handicraft souvenirs and with help of Santiago i shopped a fantastic leather jacket. For dinner i was buying – of course – a steak in order to celebrate the amazing time i had in Uruguay. Definitely a destination to come back to enjoy again the untouched wild nature, the amazing food (sorry meat lovers only) and the Uruguayan hospitality!

music of my trip…

here a few songs that followed me while travelling! not that i particularly liked all of them too much but let’s say they were either played constantly wherever i was or i had a great ‘singing time’ in the car along with them. unfortunately, when in china i had no clue about shazam, so this only starts in japan. actually i have here a song which i added in china but it is not chinese…but i somehow really like it:

 

 

 

 

 

 

my energy song to get up in the morning

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i would call this the Japanese Eros Ramazotti 🙂

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this one hit me hard after landing in LatinAmerica – think it’s the song of the year, thus no way to leave this one out. and actually i start to like it more and more… really hated it in the beginning. somehow the way he sings reminds me of the songs of his father which my mum used to listen to in the old days.

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this funky tango sound i heard first time in Iguazu.. absolutely love it.

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this one is from Salta… probably one of the best things i found in this city 😉

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this one heard on the radio while escaping from Salta to Cafayate. Feeling free in the car – i sang along it sooooo loud! Not that it is a really good song but somehow like it!

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and here the uruguay collection… seems they only play love songs on the radio… or chat at length about pollo as asado, pollo con arroz, other commercials… hate it. thus here the ones that are NOT too bad 🙂

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plus a few all time travelling favourites – a list that begins nowhere and doesn’t end anywhere:

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camino de la muerte – WMDR  (the world’s most dangerous road) – 3000m downhill biking

I heard about it last year when travelling through Peru and i was thinking never over my dead body would i do this. On top the guys were wearing these impressive T-Shirts confirming they had done the death road. After speaking with my hiking guide from earlier in Bolivia who himself was a guide for the death road i got more comfortable and decided to book it.

After having breakfast in a pub at 06:30h in the morning, they took us with a bus up to La Cumbre at 4700m. There we were handed out the jackets, pants, helmets (they even helped us to mount our gopros), gloves, face masks and then the bikes. The bikes were in perfect condition with hydraulic breaks each individually fitted as you like rear left or right as you wished.

Before going down we made a little Pachamama ceremony by pooring a bit of alcohol on the road, on the tire and obviously taking a sip ourselves. He explained us where to ride: on the left side = the side next to the edge and not to the mountain. This comes from the time when this road was indeed the most dangerous road in the world due to its narrowness (at times just approx 3m). This doesn’t seem to bad at first sight but bearing in mind that big trucks were crossing it was! So by driving down on the left, the driver could always watch if the wheel is still on the road and not yet over the cliff. Needless to say that many accidents occured at the time. However since 2007 the new road is in place and now the road is almost only used by bikers, hence a lot less dangerous. So one of the most dangerous subjects is your camera… and other bikers and our guide told us to simply forget even the thought about fiddling around with the camera/phone while biking. Because the road is narrow, you drive on the ‘wrong side’ and it is not plastered but dirt/gravel with some quite big rocks now and then – aye aye we stayed focused.

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So as we set off i was pretty nervous and my stomach was not fine (though this could have been from all the Lama meet and potatoes and Coca Quina from the days before) but after the first few km i gradually gained confidence and moved ahead in the group. After a few stops i was heading to the front group as the rest was just really too slow – so it was me and the boys rattling down behind our guide.

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Luckily while biking you actually don’t realise how deep the drops are (up to 600m) – i only realised when looking at the videos!  There were some tricky curves and narrow sections but the guide always explained section by section so if you didn’t overestimate your speed it was kind of fine. Except when you got out of the ideal lane and ended in loose gravel and forgot that one shouldn’t break. I know the biking experts have a laugh now – but i normally don’t bike……  so a couple of sweaty moments but that was it.

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In fact one girl did fall and her bike went over the cliff – but the guide tied a rope to our bus and lowered himself down to the bike (assume it was not too deep, because our guide said he has only 100m rope with him. Because if one would fall deeper there is no more rush to recover him).

Ah yes after the 3000m downhill biking we also couldn’t resist to go on the zip line ‘the flying fox’ and this time i did it superman style…  flying through the valley at a speed or 90 km/h was an amazing feeling!

it was a great day and i am now also proudly wearing my ‘i biked the death road’ T-shirt! Normal Lama – Crazy Lama – Call me Lama – Super Lama!!!  Can only reccomend this to anybody who happens to be in La Paz 🙂

Bonbon el perro… or simply perros Andinos

I fell absolutely i love with all these lovely dogs across Southamerica……..

 

 

 

 

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altiplano Bolivia

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Punta del diablo

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Salta

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Sierra de Rocha

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Barra da Lagoa

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altiplano Bolivia

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….ne me recuerdo..

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Punta del diablo

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San Pedro de Atacama

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Salar de Uyuni








Vierblättrige Kleeblätter gibt es überall…..

IMG_5536in Rocha Uruguay

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a must have T-Shirt

 

yes the pic is not really a piece of art.. but selfies remain a difficult task and sometimes they just don’t want to turn out well. Anyway think the t-shirt is absolutely fashionABLE (gäll Karen)!

Bife de lomo Uruguayo (pronounce ‘uruguascho’

Last night i had a fantastic steak in Punta del Este. It was really a feast, a nice bife de lomo (saignant). Even more due to the fact that i was having a veggie period on the estancia in the Sierras de Rocha 🙂

The Knot from Mark Watson

Nearly forgot about that book – was the first one i read. An absolut light reading book, nothing spectacular but simply the story about the life of a wedding photographer. I only bought this because i read before a book of this guy – was kind of disappointed but to unwind my mind after just leaving home for my big trip this was quite perfect.

Der Distelfink von Donna Tartt

Dieses riesige Buch zu killen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Goldfinch_(novel) braucht biss. Zudem ist der Kindle ziemlich gemein und zeigt gnadenlos an wie langsam man vorwärts kommt. Tsssss Seiten über Seiten habe ich gelesen und die Prozentanzeige machte keinen Wank (bin jetzt aber trotzdem schon bei 87%). Keine Ahnung wieviel Seiten die Papierversion hat! Donna Tartt hat für diesen Roman den Pulitzer-Preis Belletristik 2014 gewonnen… obwohl angekündigt für 2008 ist er erst im 2013 erschienen, sollte das nicht einen Abzug geben. Hmm ich weiss jetzt nicht wirklich ob ich dies mein bestes Buch fand aber ja definitiv ein gutes Buch, braucht einfach etwas Biss wegen des Seitenumfangs.

Zur Geschichte: Theo Decker ist dreizehn Jahre alt, als seine Mutter während eines Besuchs in einem New Yorker Museum bei einem Attentat ums Leben kommt. Wie in Trance steckt er als Andenken ihr liebstes Gemälde ein und verlässt unbemerkt das Gebäude, verstrickt sich in Drogengeschichten…

 

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