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AF-S Zoom Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

Camondo Stairs in Karakoy, Istanbul

Istanbul (Turkey). The Camondo Stairs (in Turkish: Kamondo Merdivenleri) are located in the Galata neighbourhood and are the result of a public service project donated to the city of Istanbul by the wealthy Jewish family Camondo. The stairs climb up from the Bankalar Caddesi (Avenue of the Banks, close to the Galata Docks n Karakoy District) to a school built by the same family. What makes these stairs very special is their hexagonal shape, which – it is said – was arranged so that if a child would slip while climbing down, the other bevel would prevent her or him from falling. In fact, these stairs were built to help Camondo’s children to reach the school and to cut down the family way to the Bankalar Caddesi.

The Camondo family was a prominent European family of Jewish financiers and philanthropists. After the 1497 Spanish decree (that ordered the expulsion of all Jews who refused conversion to Catholicism) the family settled in Venice where some members became famous by their scholarship as well as by the services they rendered to their adopted country. Following the Austrian takeover of Venice in 1798, members of the family moved to Istanbul where, despite the many restrictions imposed on all minorities, flourished as merchants. In 1802 the Camondo family founded the Isaac Camondo & Cie Bank, inherited by Abraham Salomon after his brother Isaac’s death in 1832. Abraham Salomon prospered greatly, became the prime banker to the Ottoman Empire (until the founding of the Imperial Ottoman Bank in 1863) and financially contributed to the liberation of Venice from the Austrian Empire (for this, the King of Italy Victor Emmanuel II conferred upon him the title of count, with the privilege of transmitting it in perpetuity to the eldest son of the family). He died in Paris in 1873 but, in accordance to his wishes, his remains were returned to Constantinople and were buried in the Jewish cemetery at Hasköy, a neighbourhood on the Golden Horn in Istanbul. This family is now extinct; the last descendants, Béatrice de Camondo with her two children (Fanny and Bertrand) and with her husband Léon Reinach were deported and murdered in Auschwitz from 1943 to 1945 during World War II.

The legendary Henri Cartier Bresson chose these stairs for one of his most famous photo during one of his visits to Istanbul.

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Human Stupidity (Mural in the Medina of Marrakesh)

Marrakesh (Morocco).

Human Stupidity Has Limits

This is what this mural says. I found it one day I was walking and photographing around the Medina of Marrakesh, one of the most inspiring places I have ever seen in my life (and I visited it twice – quite unusual for me).

Photographing this nice example of street art, it came to my mind the popular quote commonly attributed to Albert Einstein:

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the universe.

It’s of course very ironic, but sometimes I think it’s not so distant from reality – especially when I watch the world and think about the way things are going on… Sorry for being a bit pessimist, but these are tough days – and I don’t think I need to explain why. However, I will try to use the sentence written on this wall to build a bit of confidence in the future: perhaps, even Albert Einstein had been wrong at least once in his life.

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Opera Station along the Budapest Metro 1 Line

Budapest (Hungary). The Budapest Metro 1 line is one of the things to see in town: this line is known in Budapest simply as “the Underground” and it is the second oldest underground railway in the world (London is the first one, while Istanbul “Galata – Tunel” funicular contends the second place) being in operation since 1896. Several stations along the Budapest Metro 1 line are worth a visit considering their architectures and design; for this reason the UNESCO included the line in the World Heritage Sites List in 2002. The Budapest Metro 1 line runs below Andrassy Avenue and touches many Budapest’s landmarks: it can be the “underground” version of popular hop-on hop-off buses.

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The Former Shanghai Slaughterhouse

Shanghai (China). It’s official name is “1933 Laochangfang”, it was the Shanghai slaughterhouse and it was built – as written in its name – in 1933 during the pre-communist period. The building was expressly designed to manage the complicated logistic typical of a slaughterhouse: series of ramps, bridges, slipways and chutes were facilitating the work of men with their cattle, whereas a central atrium was the market. Visiting the 1933 Laochangfang is very impressive, even though today you can only imagine that in its original destination it was an abbattoir; and instead of cows or other animals, today the Shanghai slaughterhouse is a trendy location for events, with bars, restaurants, ballrooms and exhibitions.

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Filetto in Lunigiana

Filetto (Massa Carrara, Italy). Filetto is a lovely small town in Lunigiana, in the northern part of Tuscany. Filetto is one of the many places with a long history, and today it is also very popular for medieval markets and historical commemorations. The whole Lunigiana is worth a visit, I strongly recommend to base the tour in Pontremoli and to drive around these places.

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