Friday, March 14, 2008

travel update from Como Italy


My guess is that it’s more interesting when I upload pictures. That the first reaction to a long block of text is ‘...scroll...scroll...scroll...no pictures?’

My apologies then.

But I am not in a part of the world that believes in bandwidth. In fact in Como I walked 3 miles to find an internet access pt. (AND I had my laptop open for blocks at a clip trying to steal someone's wireless -- nada)

This blog has been long overdue a travelogue. Here she is:

I left Poland for Istanbul a week ago perhaps. At the airport I was picked up and we began immediately on a lightening tour of the major sites of the city. And it is a city which in large part feels like a chapter from my 6th grade social studies book. Everywhere I looked something recognizable. Between this and egypt combined with the frenetic pace of the tour (i’m here for business...not vacation) I try not to exaggerate when i say my head hurts.

It’s almost comic. How can you rush through the Hagia Sophia like your walking through your house after a maid has come to make sure it’s clean. Room A, check. Room B, check. Room C, hmm not quite sure, spend an extra ten seconds inspecting, ok check.....

I visited the santa sophia, the blue mosque, the byzantine cistern, the sultans palace, gallata tower, the old city, the fort (i forget embarrassingly what it was called), the hippodrome, roman aquaduct, various relics, and seveal more mosques. I inspected the ancient jewels and armour and cooking pots from the sultans. Their clothing is odd, the necks are maybe a size 13 (tiny) and the arms are two times the length of a persons (they looked just like they would have clothed john cleese in the monti python sketch when he has really long arms....)

What did I think of Istanbul? It’s western, modern. I enjoyed great restaurants and time on the bosporus by boat. Anyone comfortable in the west would be fine in Istanbul, it’s easy and safe.

I was disappointed. Like spicy food one of the things I enjoy about travel is the challenge. From the eyes of a tourist istanbul melts like warm butter. In part this was because of my host, in part it’s because Istanbul wants to be like Paris or London or San Francisco, and it’s well on its way.

I am writing from Como Italy. How exotic. This is one of the most beautiful places on earth. And it has been perhaps the most troubling part of this trip. The adventure here was amusing-- but the stay here has been exasperating.

I need internet access and electricity. Without this I am hamstrung. Italy is a lot of things but it ain’t a technology town. Unfortunately I had to stay at a charming hotel in the city, replete with all of the modern advances from 1960. If I didn’t have so much to do, the remote control with a chord attaching it to the TV would have had me in stitches. Without outlets even charging my computer was frustrating.... and as I mentioned no internet.

Today I have no obligations in the morning -- and by all rights I should be outside at least seeing this city --it’s 21c degrees and dazzling with snow capped mountains a great lake picture-book blue skies and substantial Roman walls and ruins. But after a late dinner last night and no access to power in the room overnight to charge the 30lb of electronics I travel with, It is necessary to sit where I am now jammed in a corner hoarding an outlet I’ve found at another hotel lobby in town. Anyone so much as walks to close to this outlet is in for it....

Between hunting for electricity and lightening tours of matchless historic sights, i’ve been eating.

Compared to Asia the food is, well, maybe not as interesting to write about. In Turkey I had some fish of the most extraordinary quality in places that were fit for a king. In fact at one restaurant I went to the mens room and ran into secret service standing uncomfortably close to the facilities with little white earbuds dangling from the left ear conspicuously down back of their necks. Two of them. In a very small bathroom. Standing too close. I’ve never liked the idea of secret service and their prying eyes but this was ridiculous.

Apparently the Romanian President was dignifying the commode with his royal bottom. Perhaps if important enough you should feel comfortable with two gorillas standing quietly in the bathroom waiting for you. Personally I felt bad for the guy.

The food was consistently delicate and sort of boring.

The most interesting was pink flat fish about the size of a trash-can lid covered in pimples looking like it had suffered a devastating case of small pox.

And then I got to Italy. Wine is sublime, prosciutto comes in 8 different varieties and you can actually get a digestif. Why Americans insist that brandy or sambuca is a digestif is beyond me. The place is gorgeous. The people are gorgeous. This is a magnificent country.

They eat better, dress better and swear better in Italy. What can I say.

So back to my outlet and quest for internet access. My precious little outlet that the italians have forsaken for food, clothing and colorful language.
charlie merrow Merrow

Merrow has manufactured sewing machines since 1838 and remains one of the most interesting companies in the textile space

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