Monthly Archives: August 2011

STREETLIFE

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Street life once again, traveling by bike and taxi through the capital, capturing the spirit of the city. Modernity meets tradition. For the last couple of days we have been living in an increasingly smoggy environment. Its density is unbearable.  Our view on Beijing has been troubled by thick layers of grays.

It has been said that it is going to rain on thursday at 7 PM. For the time being we take another tour, crossing the streets, looking left, right and beyond. Hyper architecture and low key living. And yes, three minutes after seven hour clock the day after the first drops fall in Beijing. This city is crazy. A place where a master plan meets spontaneous moments. 

-Matt.

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CURIOCITY

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Possibilities, personal touch and speed. Within two days you are dressed up with a hand made, customized suit. Choose a textile and color and you are ready to go. The same procedure applies to many things , if not all. "What about new glasses?" I am told I just have to take the tube to Optical City, a district full of opticians. We end up in "Garden City" to buy some plants. Bonsai, bamboo, you name it and we deliver when and wherever you want.

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A couple of hours left before the new green arrives. We decide to hop over to the next district. Curio-city. I like that name. The biggest antique and curiosity market in the region. Another proof of the "think big, act personal" hypothesis. Many suppliers packed together on a big compound. An inspiring splash of colors and materials. It's afternoon and many goods are carefully repacked into cardboard boxes. We enjoy the scenery and the market's hectic vibe.

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Curiosity killed the cat. Is this the best spot to buy that traditional piece of ceramic or should I wait for the next opportunity? I keep wondering if the chinese have a word for original and copy. It might be the same symbol. One thing is for sure, everything you see is being made…..here.

-Matt.

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AMERANG AUTOMOBIL MUSEUM

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With a group of colleagues and a bunch of cars we are on our way to Salzburg. Traveling the b roads of Bavaria, swapping cars every half an hour. Know your product.

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Lunchtime in Amerang, a green and sleepy village east of Munich, close to Chiemsee. After a good meal we take a dive into history at the local car museum. The collection is bigger than I thought. Some lost tourists and a group of designers. The museum is under reconstruction. Cars are being moved across the different halls. A good chance to get up close with some classics.

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A big section is reserved for long forgotten brands of the early years. Normally not my favorite material, but I have to admit the simplicity and innovative construction methods are fascinating. Interior essentials, minimalist luxury.

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Micro cars and sport coupes in bright colors or shades of white. Beautiful steering rims. Everything on display is pre airbag and in immaculate condition. Worth a visit if you are on your way into the Alps.

-Matt.

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CAR CULTURE CHINA

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Car culture as a way of self expression. Carfreax California was an easy one. At the West Coast it is written with a capital C. The American way of life as a rigid reference produces many side effects, reflected in many forms of metal, be it rat rods, finned Cadillacs or lead sleds. Car culture boiled down to a formula could be the following. "Show me what  you drive and I will tell you who your are, or better, what you aspire".

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What about China? I have two weeks to try to figure it out, taking pictures at every occasion. Quickly I notice my point of reference has shifted as I move along the streets. Still this is more an overview rather than a final conclusion.

Intermezzo. During a work shop among colleagues we are asked to nail down a top three list of our all time favorite cars. Our chinese team member instantly says without hesitation: VW Passat B5 . No Alfa Bertone Junior on his list. 

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STREETLIFE

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On the streets of Beijing keep your eyes open and your camera within reach. An array of subtle colors and ceremonies slides by. On every corner a new perspective unfolds. Aim, focus, click. 

Okay, after a couple of days one is no longer surprised by yet another rusty ricksha or an authentic broom, but they come in different flavors and contexts.

-Matt.

TAXI!

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"Nihao! Need a ride on my ricksha, cheapy cheapy!" So far we preferred taxis to move around the city. It is always a surprise when you step inside. White cotton wool covers on the seats, sometimes grass floor mats and most of the time you can guess the favorite meal of the driver. A spicy experience with a touch of garlic.

When it comes down to driving style you can be served with the head banging ultra low revving shaky gear shift experience, topped of by a symphony of honky horns. There is always an exception to the rule and so we have been gliding through dense city traffic in an effortless flow, thanks to a fore seeing driver.

How to communicate with your host as an outsider is another adventure. Beijing cabbies have their personal Tom Tom inside their head. They tend to move along the grid by a rather visual method. A print out address or a pointing finger on a tourist map is not always a key to success. "No, no, sorry, I can't take you there". It happened a couple of times. I still did not figure out if it had anything to do with the color of the taxi or something else. 

Taxis are easy to spot with their ochre graphics, probably a reminiscence of ancient temples. To actually get one can be a bit of a battle. Do you queue up or grab one at the corner? During heavy rain or rush hour we have been struggling, and decided…..to walk.

-Matt.

GOING GREEN

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The power of green vehicles continues. The Trike wins the price for its strikingly stylish design. Just look at the fat wheels in the back and compare it to the classic Piaggio Ape. The other pictures show the enjoyable mixture of different things to find on the street: cool art, cool matt colored cars, not so cool painted lights and the unusual eye of the 4th generation Golf.

- Fab.

BEIJING BLUES

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Beijing Blues? Color wise indeed, but the sound of the city is quiet the contrary. A photo shoot over here, heavy construction work over there. Nihao, how are you doing, sorry I am on my way, be it on a tricycle or in a roaring Maserati. The sign of China seems like a bodybuilder, flexing its muscles. A country on the move, full of contrasts.

-Matt.

PAINT IT BLUE

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In many ways the religion seems to be consume for many people in China today. So the biggest and over the top thing on four wheels you can buy for money is this two tons of metal machine. How does it feel driving this toy around in a city where many people live without running water and no own bathroom or toilet? On the other hand it is a dream come true to reality and dreams are good. This blue painted art piece is full of beautiful details and the shape is still a sensation. It has maybe one mistake- it doesn't look fast, does it? Will it be the last fastest supercar ever made? When does the electric driven future enter the stage? It feels the time has come.

- Fab.