Photo of the Day (7.07.09)

We get a lot of spam email at Gadling, but the worst perpitrator is this place called Hotel Spirit, a random hotel in Bratislava, Slovakia that wont stop sending us emails every day or two. All of them say the same thing:

Cheap accommodation in attractive avant-garde hotel in Bratislava, Slovakia!

We’ve tried emailling them back, blocking IP addresses and begging for them to stop spamming us, but the emails keep coming. And coming.

Finally, our blogger Jeff White decided to stop by and see what all of the fuss was about. Passing through Eastern Europe on one of his assignments he stopped by the hotel for a look. He recalls the experience in this team email:

I was first told that they had no rooms available. I asked how this was possible in Bratislava on a Sunday in February. It actually turned out that there was only one other person staying at the place, but that the girl at the front desk just hadn’t gotten around to cleaning any of the rooms. Funny, indeed. My physical beauty, such that it is, did not improve from the experience. The black speck in the picture is me.

With Jeff’s passing last week we lost not only a great friend but also a person would who cared dearly about the blog and would chase down leads like this just to give the team a laugh. We’ll miss him dearly.

If Hotel Spirit gets struck with a bolt of lightning in the near future, well, it may not be a coincidence. Safe travels, Jeff White.

Afghanistan, an accordion, ‘Elvis’ and Johnny Cash

Some people travel to shop in different stores, or to eat different food, or to drink different beers. Jeff White traveled to immerse himself in a different culture. He believed so strongly in immersion, in fact, that he moved to Germany to live and work. This post of Jeff’s, republished in his honor, demonstrates Jeff’s interest in immersion and passion for connecting with people while traveling. Thanks, Jeff, for reminding us of the most important reason for travel.

A friend of mine just sent me this video from the start-up Web site GlobalPost, and it’s fantastic.

Gregory Warner, a freelance foreign correspondent living in Afghanistan, is an avid accordion player, and he tries to use the instrument as a means to connect with the people he’s covering.

The way Afghans respond to his accordion music is somewhat unexpected and reveals some truths about the country’s development during the last quarter century.

What does Warner do when asked to perform at a concert and realizing he doesn’t know any tunes by Afghanistan’s own pop icon? Well, Johnny Cash to the rescue. Watch and see what I mean…

(Thanks, Ed)

Amsterdam Hilton Celebrates John and Yoko Ono

A few months ago, a Gadling reader e-mailed a question about what to pack for a move overseas. The reader was flummoxed about what to ship and what not to ship. Jeff White, in a help out a fellow traveler effort, wrote a long response with suggestions based on his own experience as one who has lived overseas himself. I was struck by Jeff’s generosity and thoughtfulness. As Kraig posted, Jeff , one of the most thoughtful among us, shared some of his packing tips with Gadling readers.

Yep, Jeff’s thoughtfulness-and curiosity appeared over and over again in his posts. Working with Jeff these months has tuned me into tidbits I would have missed such as this one on the Amsterdam Hilton’s tribute to John Lennon and Yoko Ono this past March. As part of the song goes (I know that because Jeff tipped us off)

“I said, “We’re only trying to get us some peace”.

Christ you know it ain’t easy…”

Jeff, John Lennon would have been pleased and proud to be remembered by someone like you. As for me, I’ve been in such a funk knowing that you have died. It ain’t easy.

Drove from Paris to the Amsterdam Hilton,
Talking in our beds for a week.

The newspaper said, “Say what you doing in bed?”
I said, “We’re only trying to get us some peace”.

Christ you know it ain’t easy…

– The Beatles, “The Ballad of John and Yoko”

That’s one of my favorite Beatles songs, and both John Lennon and Yoko Ono helped to make the Amsterdam Hilton one of the world’s most famous hotels, if at least for rock ‘n roll fans, when they picked the spot to camp out in bed for seven days during their honeymoon in 1969.

Right now, the hotel is in the middle of a special exhibition celebrating the famous couple and their “Bed-in for Peace,” during which they gave interviews, from bed, to scores of international journalists and furthered the anti-Vietnam movement that was really getting going in ’69.

There are photo exhibits, music and literary events planned through March 29 at the Amsterdam Hilton.

If you’re in town, go check it out.

Travel smart: Ask these questions at your next hotel check-in

I was going to write an article for Gadling Hotel Month (July, which it is) on the first things to do when you get to any hotel. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that what you should do is ask questions. Jeff White wrote this piece back in March of 2008, which highlights three questions travelers don’t think to ask (via Peter Greenberg). You should also check the bathroom to make sure you have all the toiletries and towels you need, and take a look at that “hotel book” (usually on the desk) for the map and to make sure you don’t miss a great amenity.

Jeffrey White was a terrific writer and a great team member. This is just one example of his excellent blogging — taking tips from a news segment we never would have seen and relaying them concisely and and informatively. We send our best wishes to Jeff’s family and friends. He will be missed.

Peter Greenberg, NBC’s travel detective, says there are three questions almost no traveler thinks to ask hotels before checking in.

  1. How close is my room to construction? (Few hotels these days are not undergoing some kind of renovation)
  2. Are there any rooms available below the eighth floor? (Fire departments literally cannot fight fires above that height).
  3. What floors have booster pumps on them? (Those will the be the floors with the best water pressure in showers).

Most consumers never think to ask hotel questions beyond whether their room is smoking or nonsmoking, or whether it has a king- or a queen-size bed. Greenberg argues that getting a little smarter with your room queries will dramatically improve your stay.

Got other good questions to ask hotels? Let us know.

Hitler: Scary wax dummy or radioactive monster?

While this isn’t one of Jeff’s features, only a news piece, it really stuck in my mind. Perhaps it was the surreal nature of the story, or the issues it brings up. How to make a museum about the Third Reich without it becoming a shrine to neo-Nazis? How far should protesters go to make their voices heard? Why didn’t someone rip off the real Hitler’s head?

The trippy photo is cool too, and fits perfectly with the odd subject matter of the story. If you scroll up so that only the top centimeter is showing, it looks like a nuclear explosion. If you scroll down so that only the bottom centimeter is showing, it looks like an infrared image of a naked woman lying on a bed. Or maybe that’s just in my mind. My wife’s out of town, you see, and I’m a bit lonely.

So long, Jeff. We’ll miss your sense of humor and eye for weird detail. You were one of the good ones.

Last year I wrote about the ill-fated Adolf Hitler exhibit at Berlin’s just-opened Madame Tussauds museum.

A man obviously unhappy with the museum’s decision to have a wax likeness of the 20th Century’s most evil leader waited patiently in line on opening day before rushing, tackling the wax Hitler and ripping off its head — all the time shouting, “Never again!” Several security guards were also injured in the fracas.

So, how much will Germany fine you if you decapitate Hitler?

The man known in the local media here only as “Frank L” was in court today, where he was given a suspended sentence and fined 900 euros, or roughly $1,200.

Was he sorry? No. He told the court that he’d do it again.

As for the Hitler statue, it is back at Madame Tussauds, in a more secure location.