I journal daily (sometimes almost hourly) when I travel abroad.
And reviewing my travel journals is a delightful way to recall experiences, feelings, observations from my travels over the last 24+ years to four different continents.
This excursion has brought me some new observations, so reminders, and some stories. I’ve shared a couple of the latter already. (And also.)
Here are some observations . . . .
My flat in Vienna has no garbage disposal. I’m having to recall what to do with dinner dandruff!
A very kind Swedish kid was watching videos all the way from Newark to Stockholm. He draped his hoodie across the side of his seat to that his video screen would not interfere with my fitful attempts at sleep.
How easily people switch between languages in Europe! So many people are multi-lingual!
In Stockholm, whilst watching FIFA World Cup soccer in the executive lounge at the Hilton: the lounge attendant keeps walking into the room, watching a minute of the game, throwing up his hands in disgust at failed goal approaches, and walking out with a sigh.
My schoolboy German is coming along, and apparently people think I’m local at times, so successful is the accent. But I’m finding English to be more prevalent than I remember from ten years ago.
The EU is fraying. Voices of illiberalism are gaining strength. Flames of fear are being fanned by right-wing demagogues who then propose they are the solution to the problem they maintain is present, even though emperical evidence does not support their claims. Even the young Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, is calling for hardening of the open borders that have been a key element of the European experiment.
Policies of mistrust — panic, even — are replacing what has always been a rational, consensus-driven, lead-from-the-middle governing philosophy.
Angela Merkel almost lost her government this month. The Italians can’t pull anything together. Hungary is under the thumb of a right-wing heavy. Poland is verging on civil war. And America? My god . . . .
Cold cucumber soup is a delight!
Americans can be real shits when traveling abroad. (I suppose people from other countries can be as well.) Witness, in Florence last weekend:
“Is there a ladies nearby.” New Jersey accent. Repeated three times, at louder decibels. Met with a blank look from the Italian. Finally, “Oh god, I just need a toilet.” And there was the word that made sense.
Why don’t people learn to try different words? When I talk to people for whom English is not the first language, and I get a blank look, I always try to find another way of expressing the idea. This seems so basic!
And American and Japanese teenagers and college students: stop tapping on your damn smartphones, and start looking up while you walk! By the way, children, I learned years ago to look up above street level. In many cities, some of the greatest glories abound on the façades of the buildings!
My impression is that Italians are not as considerate as their northern neighbors. Not once did I see anyone at all –and certainly not the oblivious youngsters — give up a seat for a person with a cane, or an older person. Even tram seats marked as for the elderly or handicapped were taken instead by able-bodied folks, usually youngsters. In Vienna, half the tram jumps up to offer their seat. Even in NYC! But not in Italy, or at least not in Florence.
School email never ends.
I guess I just don’t get conceptual art. The Klimt Beethovenfries was glorious, but the current contemporary installation was lost on me as I visited the Secession on Saturday.