Monday, April 21, 2014

Theme: Travel

  • Back when Roger Miller was King of the Road, in the 1960s, he sang of rooms to let ("no phone, no pool, no pets") for four bits, or fifty cents. I can't beat that price, but I did once in those days come across a cabin that went for three dollars. It was in the long, slender highway town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.Read more
  • Living in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in northern Colombia, the Kogi believe that the cosmos is shaped like an egg, and they build temples that replicate this egg-shaped multi-leveled cosmos. Kogi temples are circular buildings with walls of upright posts and capped by a thatched conical roof. Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff wrote “The first temple was created in the depths of the primeval sea, and was a model of the cosmos…and it is believed that downward and upward a sequence of invisible, inverted and upright temples” and each Kogi temple is an axis mundi.Read more
  • When I rode my mule along a knife-edge ridge in Colombia, I felt self-conscious — as if I had inadvertently wandered into a movie by Werner Herzog. The sun baked green slopes of coffee, cacao and pasturage slipped northwards towards the Caribbean. By two o’clock in the afternoon, sweat-drenched clothes shrink-wrapped my body. I sunk into the dull stupidity of dehydration. My guide swatted the mule’s shanks with a switch, shouting, “Mula! Mula! Mula!” to keep the beast climbing up the deep ruts of the slick grey trail. I held the pommel with both hands as the mule lurched.Read more
  • Who me, listen to audio books? That was my attitude until recently, a prejudice of my profession that literature is better read than heard. But on a solo road trip this summer I took along the ten-disk set of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for the ride.Read more
  • The road was two-laned, the landscape dour, as gray as the skies. Belgrade was sophisticated, dense with promenaders, and large enough to confuse a driver. We had no idea where we were, and it was difficult to ask directions because of our defective Serbo-Croatian. (A second language in Yugoslavia was German, in which we were equally helpless.) Desperate, I parked the Morris and spoke English words and French at random among the walkers.Read more
  • Jacinta lives with her husband and six children in San Juan, a tiny and remote hamlet in the mountains of northern Argentina. My sons, Adrian, and Alexander, our guide, Facundo, and I had just arrived, after a long day of hiking. Because San Juan is off the grid, Facundo had no way of informing the family of our arrival. He had established contact with them two years earlier but had had no communication with them since then.Read more
  • There is a trite and obvious thing to say about Iceland, and that is that it looks like the moon. Descending into the Keflavik lava fields the other day, on an Icelandair flight from Paris, I was permitted to feel annoyed and a bit superior when I overheard the virgin French tourists behind me exclaiming as they gawked at the land below: Mais il n'y a rien là! By 'nothing' I thought perhaps they had meant 'no Michelin stars', but then one of them added, as if on cue: C'est comme la lune!Read more
  • I went to Albania to try and get back with an ex-girlfriend, though that is only half the story. The trip had been planned in advance; Anna, a Swedish girl I had been seeing for about eighteen months, gave me as a birthday present a plane ticket to Tirana to accompany her on a visit to her parents — her father was then working there for the EU. That was six weeks before we were due to go but the day after the birthday the relationship came to what seemed to me to be an abrupt end.Read more
  • What was more dazzling, my view of the Bosphorus with the Aghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque or the conversation? In Istanbul last month I rediscovered what I treasure whenever I go abroad: the well-roundedness and cosmopolitanism of intellectuals in comparison with whom we here appear narrow and specialized. Read more
  • "A book like mine, which outs the Germans as anti-Semites," Tenenbom said with an indulgent smile, as he took a drag from his cigarette, "this sort of a book, as several people I know have assured me, should never have been published in Germany."Read more
  • An academic career has a peculiar arc to it. When one is young, and first begins travelling around to various cities for conferences, it is as if one is Axl Rose or something, on tour, in hotels, where ordinary morality does not apply. One feels larger than life, and worthy of a biography or two.Read more
  • Many travelers still seek solitude among the tourists, the luxury to communicate personally with the ruins. They long to leave their minds on idle, while they enter the vista before them, undisturbed by the other souls striving for the same illusion. I often feel this contradiction of being alone with others when I travel.Read more
  • At the end of the meal, I’d given the waiter CUC $80 and received CUC $10 in change, and as I stood there with the ten-peso note in my hand Antonio grabbed and pocketed it. I shot him a confused look, and he responded with a half shrug that seemed calibrated somewhere between What’s it matter? and You know the score. Read more
  • There are two plaques at the entrance to the Machu Picchu sanctuary. The first reads, in part, Hiram Bingham, scientific discoverer of Machu Picchu in 1911. The association of the word ‘discoverer’ with Bingham is stretching it. This is undoubtedly why the author of the plaque thought to tone it down with the adjective ‘scientific.’Read more
  • Near Land’s End in Cornwall, the westernmost point of the island of Great Britain, where the rocks and cliffs of terra firma put up a heroic resistance to the incessant waves of the Atlantic, the landscape ends with some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet.Read more
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