The Travel Episodes

Through Time and Space with Johannes Klaus

Under the Dome

My child­hood dream came true.
We’re travel­ling to the South Paci­fic.

We’re nearly at the South Paci­fic!‘

Exci­ted, Janet points towards the small patch of high ground. I gaze around me in amaze­ment. To our right is a peacock. He’s not fanning out his tail, not looking at us, not making a sound. To the left a woman is lying on a plastic sun loun­ger. She’s very broad, with a colour­ful tattoo on her shoul­der. A boy is sitting next to her almost lifeless-looking body, staring at us with empty eyes. He must be her kid, I think – the resem­blance is uncanny.

We climb a few steps up the slope and walk past the lagoon glit­te­ring in the sunlight. Bene­ath a water­fall people are spla­shing around. They’re not naked, although I’m firmly of the opinion that you need to be sans clothes in order to lounge about under a water­fall. At the same instant I discard the thought; no, it wouldn’t be a good idea. Nobody wants to see that lot strip off. In other cultures people swim fully clothed, and that might be better than these tiny swim­suits. A clear point in favour of Hindu-ising the West.

Above the water­fall are three cabins. ‚Those are Junior Suits on the edge of the rain­fo­rest, with a view over the lagoon!‘ explains the woman guiding us, enthu­si­asti­cally.

Spen­ding the night here is a real adven­ture!‘


Nearly at the South Paci­fic? Bit of an exag­ge­ra­tion, lady, I think. That’s just the rain­fo­rest! But the woman knows what she’s doing. There’s a tunnel, a hidden path: a short­cut directly to the South Paci­fic.
I let the words dissolve over and over on my tongue:

South Paci­fic

I’ve drea­med about it for years, ever since I read a grip­ping adven­ture story in a comic book as a boy … 
… on a boat trip in the South Paci­fic, Micky and Goofy drop anchor in a lagoon on a small island, where they disco­ver the remains of an extinct culture. Among the ruins they find an enor­mous ruby. At that moment, Peg-Leg Pete appears on his sailboat, having brought useless bric-a-brac to sell to the sailors and islan­ders. Pete imme­dia­tely senses that Micky and Goofy have made a valu­able disco­very, and spies on them with a bug. Wanting to steal the ruby from Goofy, Pete exploits his weak­ness for mermaids by dres­sing up as Mermaid Clarissa, who tries to charm Goofy into surren­de­ring the precious stone.‘
Just as the ruse is about to work, an approa­ching hurri­cane reaches the three of them, whir­ling them away along with all sorts of flot­sam and jetsam. A peli­can is drawn into the hunt for the ruby, rescuing Micky and Goofy from the storm. The ruby, howe­ver, falls deep down to the ocean floor …‘
Even today, my hair stands on end (in exci­te­ment) when I remem­ber the pictures of palm trees and mermaids. Real ones, of course – not Pete as Clarissa. I would never have fallen for that one.

At the South Pacific

The South Paci­fic is a bitter disap­point­ment.

What a terri­ble disap­point­ment, child­ren.

We’re stan­ding in front of the South Paci­fic and there’s a hole in the sky. 

Trap sprung! You fell for it, didn’t you? South Paci­fic – ha!

Ok, all jokes aside.

It’s time for the truth.


* * *

A New World on Mars

Do You Remember the Day We Left Earth?

Back to square one. Forget the South Paci­fic.
We’re going to Mars.

No, you can’t even get from Mars back to Earth! It’s too expen­sive, people. But actually I’m kind of liking it here. The sett­lers have done a great job!

As we enter the module, the first thing we’re given is a kind of watch. That’s pretty retro, I know, but it’s got no display. It’s actually just a chip: my key, my wallet, my iden­tity, which ever­yone has had since the mid twenty-first century. Not subcu­ta­neously, mind you, but in a skin-friendly version you wear on your wrist.

It was a fabu­lous idea to build such an enor­mous recrea­tion module in the colony on Mars.


While I settle into my room (we’re stay­ing in the ‚coas­tal town‘) and change into my swim­ming trunks, I say to Mari­anna: ‚I think it’s even better than those origi­nal tropi­cal rain­fo­rest things on Earth.‘
It’s true: the atmo­s­phere in here is very plea­sant. It’s an even twenty-six degrees Celsius, the air is good, the noise level is perfectly beara­ble. From the window I look out towards recep­tion; there are loads of Mars colo­nists just star­ting out. They seem cheer­ful. Many of them are rather busty, even the boys. 

That must be life in space, I think. It makes you unusually well-rounded.

The hangar is enor­mous. The biggest on Mars. Even on Earth there are only three ones that are larger! The so-called dome on the ‚Tropi­cal Islands‘ where we’re curr­ently stay­ing is 360 metres long, 210 metres wide and 107 metres high, I read in the infor­ma­tion broschure.

The indi­rect lighting system works with the UV-permeable membrane on the south side to ensure that the dome remains bright throug­hout the day, even in winter. The light and warmth help the plants to grow and allow visi­tors to tan natu­rally.‘

I turn anot­her page. ‚The 7,000 cubic metres of water in the South Paci­fic (28°C) and the lagoon (32°C) are clea­ned with the latest ozone puri­fi­ca­tion tech­no­logy. The water is of drin­king quality. The two swim­ming pools made of high-grade steel guaran­tee the very best stan­dards of hygiene. The water depth is nowhere more than 1.35 metres.‘

Great, I think, and start to feel a bit exci­ted.

Mari­anna!‘ I say, ‚listen to this! The biggest indoor rain­fo­rest in the galaxy! Let’s take a quick look around then head down to the South Paci­fic.‘

Flamin­gos are stan­ding around a small table. They don’t fly away. ‚Not enough space to get going,‘ explains the bota­nist enthu­si­asti­cally. ‚But they have a great time here!’ So do the turt­les. They’re helping them­sel­ves to the flamin­gos’ food.

The South Paci­fic is a dream. A strip of blue sky has even been hung from the dome, with a small tear in it. It reminds me of a quota­tion, an Afri­can proverb, that I saw recently on Face­book (it was writ­ten on a picture of a sunset):

‘Drea­ming means looking through the hori­zon.’

You couldn’t find a better trans­la­tion of that senti­ment into reality, I think, feeling grate­ful.
Then we’re allo­wed to fly. A man pulls us through the air with a rope. Well, not us, exactly – we’re sitting in a hot air balloon (using helium instead of hot air). Is there anything you can’t do here? Thousands of people are having the time of their life right now. 

‘Over there is Angkor Wat!’ shouts Mari­anna. She’s right. You can get a massage there, I read. I probably will. ‘Yeah, great,’ I reply, adding reflec­tively, ‘So if the one on Earth falls apart we’ve got a back-up copy.’

But then some­thing else dawns on me. The other people here: they’re not like me.


* * *

The Art of the Body


I feel like I don’t quite belong. How can I inte­grate better?

Did you notice the little boy in that film? The really little one? As awkward as he looks trying to dance Zumba – that’s how awkward I feel here. 

As we saun­ter past the shops, I remark in a half-whisper: ‘Mari­anna, ever­y­body here has these tattoos. If I had one too …’ I can’t finish the sentence, because we’re brought to an abrupt halt by an orderly line of people queuing. Is it here, then?

There are some boards around with pictures on them, surroun­ded by indecisive-looking visi­tors like prayer wheels in a Buddhist monastery.

‘So it’s here …’ I repeat under my breath.
Deci­sion made.

This is where I’m going to get my badge, my sign – my attempt to become part of this commu­nity, to be drawn into it, perhaps, like a Borg into the collec­tive conscious­ness in Star Trek. I hope that doesn’t sound despe­rate. Is my self-esteem being nega­tively affec­ted by the atmo­s­phere on this planet? Who knows.

After circling the boards just four times I know exactly which design I want. I join the end of the queue and wait for my moment.

With a stun­ning brown tattoo expertly placed on my shoul­der blade, I hold my chip up to a reader and pay. Eight euros. That’s really pretty good!

We walk proudly onwards.
‘That was easy!’ I say.

I observe the other people here, and get the feeling that they’re nodding at me knowin­gly whene­ver our eyes meet. 

I’ve arri­ved.



The theatre is only a few steps from the balloon station. We stop, confi­dently flashing our chips at the doors. They open. There are a few scat­te­red round tables; it’s not full, but it doesn’t spoil the atmo­s­phere. Acro­bats and tightrope-walkers are perfor­ming their routi­nes, while mini­mally clothed, extre­mely good-looking dancers gyrate to exotic music. Fab! We clap like crazy.
Evening arri­ves, but that’s no reason to throw on extra layers: it’s still a solid twenty-six degrees. Here there are people spla­shing around 24/7. Nobody has to leave if they don’t want to. A few people are making them­sel­ves comfor­ta­ble on the deck­chairs, ending the day as they spent it.

Many others, inclu­ding oursel­ves, return to their rooms at some point: to the lagoon, to the coas­tal town, to the tepee villa­ges or the luxury suites on the edge of the action.

Night falls over the dome, and I doze off into the wild world of dreams.

Bathed in sweat, I’m start­led awake. It’s not the tempe­ra­ture that’s to blame – the air condi­tio­n­ing is working perfectly. No. In my dream I came to an unex­pec­ted reali­sa­tion: I did it.

I’m a tourist among tourists! Here, in this folk­lo­ris­tic world of make-believe I can’t raise myself above the herds of my apathetic compa­tri­ots. ‘But I’m a travel­ler! A travel­ler!’ I mumble, shocked.

A tourist.

I don’t belong here!

My self-image is under threat. I’ve got to leave the plebeian masses behind me. My attempt at assi­mi­la­tion was just theatre.

I’ve got to get out of here.

* * *

Recommendation & Info

Tropi­cal Islands

In a Land of Great Ideas

I bid this bizarre place a hasty good­bye. The sliding doors open, and I’m no longer stan­ding on Mars or the South Paci­fic but at a bus stop, beyond which is a huge carpark filled with cars. 

This place has been here for years, about fifty kilo­metres south of Berlin, a world of big dreams: once it was a Soviet air base; after the fall of the GDR they were going to build gigan­tic Cargo­Lif­ter airships here. I still remem­ber reading about it. It was an impres­sive plan, but sadly they couldn’t raise the money. Only the hangar was comple­ted.

Then came perhaps the grea­test dream of all.

A real tropi­cal land­s­cape, the biggest of its kind. Summer and winter, day and night, this was going to be the place where people could take short holi­days. A place of super­la­ti­ves.

It has remai­ned a dream. This is a strange kind of water­park, pain­sta­kin­gly and in places success­fully deco­ra­ted. A place worth a visit, if you bring money and imagi­na­tion, and leave your intel­lec­tual side at home.

Only a few people will come here in the belief that they’re saving them­sel­ves a trip to an exotic coun­try in the sunny southern hemi­s­phere. If they do they’ll be disap­poin­ted. And anybody who does come away thin­king that this is an adequate substi­tute for the real rain­fo­rest is working with a deci­dedly below-average under­stan­ding of the world. This is no visit to the tropics. 

It’s a visit to Mars. And that’s pretty damn awesome.

More about Tropi­cal Islands

Read more

Lost in Vietnam


Lost in Vietnam

It’s diffi­cult for back­pa­ckers to escape the package-deal tourism indus­try. Phil­ipp Laage takes a trip to Viet­nam – and comes face to face with his own short­co­m­ings.

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Hitchhiking Through Pakistan

From Iran Through Pakistan to India

Hitchhiking Through Pakistan

Flying carpets on wheels. A tête-à-tête with dons. Despair and elation. Morten Hübbe and Rochssare Neromand-Soma on their hitch­hi­king adven­ture through Paki­stan.

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An Episode by

The Travel Episodes

Johannes Klaus

Blog­ger, Graphic Desi­gner, Trave­ler. In 2011, his blog Reise­de­pe­sche won the Grimme Online Award. Since 2013, Johan­nes Klaus has been the editor of Reise­de­pe­schen, a leading portal for travel stories. The Travel Episo­des is his new baby. He likes German Apple Sprit­zer (apple juice with spar­k­ling water) in 0.5 l bott­les and lives in Berlin.

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  • Marco on 20. März 2016

    Haha­hah, das Tattoo! Ich will auch eins!
    Chapeau davor, dass Du nach dem Besuch wuss­test, was man über das Tropi­cal Islands schrei­ben soll! Mir fehl­ten die Worte…

  • Egbert on 20. März 2016

    Was für ein unsäg­li­cher Beitrag! Lesen wir demnächst von Exkur­sio­nen ins Phan­ta­sia­land oder Lego­land? Ätzend!

    • Johannes Klaus on 28. März 2016

      Wir werden deine Themen­vor­schläge gerne disku­tie­ren! Lego­land klingt gut!

  • kate on 20. März 2016

    hi johan­nes,
    schön, dass du dich selbst nicht so ernst nimmst.
    ich hab’s gerne gele­sen.

  • Stefan on 20. März 2016

    Viel­leicht ist die Frage, was sich hinter diesem Loch im Himmel verbirgt eine der letz­ten Myste­rien der Mensch­heit. Wir stehen ganz kurz vor bahn­bre­chen­den Erkennt­nis­sen.
    Sie, lieber Autor, haben die Courage bewie­sen diesen wilden, ursprüng­li­chen Ort zu erfor­schen.

    Mit kolo­nia­len Grüßen!

    • Johannes Klaus on 28. März 2016

      Ein klei­ner Schritt für mich, aber…

  • Renartis on 20. März 2016

    Es erin­nert an Die Truman Show!

  • Jenny on 21. März 2016

    Ich verneige mich vor dir, Johan­nes. Das ist Reise­jour­na­lis­mus!


    PS: Dein Erleb­nis hast du in wesent­li­chen Teilen mir zu verdan­ken. Ohne meine Cargolifter-Aktien… schnüf.

    • Johannes Klaus on 28. März 2016

      Vielen Dank, Jenny! Auch für deinen groß­zü­gi­gen Beitrag zur Finan­zie­rung!

  • Ariane on 21. März 2016

    Das ist schon echt ziem­lich arger Größen­wahn… Ich muss ja ehrlich sagen, ich war nie dort, hab mich aber im Geogra­phie­stu­dium ein biss­chen mit dem Tropi­cal Island beschäf­tigt. Inter­es­sant sind dabei die Benen­nun­gen von zB. Restau­rants und die ganze Gestal­tung an sich — man versucht nicht, eine reale Gegend auf der Welt oder eine bestimmte Kultur abzu­bil­den, sondern zieht einfach alles, was irgend­wie „tropisch“ und nach Urlaub klingt (egal, ob afri­ka­nisch, asia­tisch oder kari­bisch) zusam­men und wirft es in einen Topf. Deshalb fand ich deine Asso­zia­tion mit Mars passend, ohne das Ganze je selbst erlebt zu haben: Man ist einfach völlig außer­halb jeder räum­li­chen Fest­le­gung.

    So, und jetzt, was ich eigent­lich sagen wollte: Toller Beitrag! Ich finds faszi­nie­rend, wie du es schaffst, aus so einem Kurz­ur­laub so eine Geschichte zu spin­nen :) Hab ich sehr gern gele­sen.

    • Johannes Klaus on 28. März 2016

      Danke, Ariane! Mir hat’s auch Spaß gemacht!

  • Philipp on 22. März 2016

    Sehr geil – sehr gelacht!

  • Chris on 27. März 2016

    Respekt, dahin habe ich mich wahr­lich noch nicht getraut! Wart ihr am selben Tag dort wie Olli Schulz? Jeden­falls witzi­ger Beitrag, mal was ande­res!

    • Johannes Klaus on 28. März 2016

      Nein, aber Olli Schulz hat das Inter­net defi­ni­tiv mehr bewegt :)

  • Norah on 27. März 2016

    Da fahr ich dann doch lieber mit Micky und Goofy in die echte Südsee.
    Obwohl.… so eine Ballon­fahrt wär schon ganz geil. Und ein sexy Tattoo wollt ich auch schon immer mal haben. Und die vielen schö­nen Menschen dort. Auf geht’s zur tropi­schen Insel!

    In weni­gen Minu­ten hast du mich von einer Reisen­den zur Touris­tin gemacht. Herz­li­chen Dank auch.