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dacha Russia Sochi Stalin

Tea with Uncle Joe

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January 3, 2012
Well, not exactly tea with a living Josef Stalin. But close enough for me. 

 

His dacha was not far from Sochi, a city full of new SUVs and hotels but still retaining remnants of the past such as an enormous picture of Lenin done in tile. He was close to the sub-tropical gardens full of strollers. A  nearby MacDonald’s tempted others even though Lenin’s gaze was directing them in the opposite direction. Capitalism was hitting hard with preparations for the forthcoming winter Olympics.
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Clitunno Italy Umbria

The Past Remains

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December 27, 2011
“Cigni, cigni…cigni,  “Swans, swans, swans,” the little boy cried out as he carried his pail holding yesterday’s bread to feed them and their cygnets gliding around the mill pond’s still waters leaving small wakes trailing behind. We were staying at a hotel converted from a 15th century water mill built on a little island and over a small river, the Clitunno.  The hotel was the scene of a wedding reception, with guests dining and dancing in the garden by candlelight until daybreak finally sent them home.
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French Guiana Southern Caribbean Suriname

Southern Caribbean Part III

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December 24, 2011

Suriname was the next stop. The contrast between dismal and pewter-colored Georgetown and bright Paramaribo was surprising. (Maybe it was the sunnier weather.) The city hosts many houses of worship reflecting the varied persuasions of its inhabitants, Amerindians, Indian Indians, Javanese, Africans and Europeans. Mosques, a synagogue, Hindu temples, an enormous Gothic style wooden Catholic church and smaller evangelical churches were scattered about the city center. The synagogue with pillars needing paint and sand on the floor to prevent arson was sad – the congregation dwindling and the gravestones in the yard cracked.… Read more

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Prague Vaclav Havel

After the Wall Fell

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December 19, 2011

I just read that Vaclav Havel died. He was the dissident playwright who became Czechoslovakia’s first president after the collapse of communism in central Europe. The news turned my thoughts back to a trip to the newly-liberated country a year after freedom arrived in the guise of the Velvet Revolution.

We drove up from Rome and turned right at Bayreuth to cross the border into an exceedingly dreary country, one where time seemed to have stopped after World War II.… Read more

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Black Sea Georgia

Georgia on My mind

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December 15, 2011

No, not that one. I’m talking about the one on the Black Sea.

The day was hot, the bus shabby with no air conditioning. The tour company said that they had scrounged the country to find the best. But what would one expect in a poor country trying to dig itself out of communist domination, suffering from separatist attacks and having the misfortune to be the birthplace of Stalin.

A blast of black exhaust punctuated our departure from Batumi as we headed inland for Kutaisi, the former capital and known to the ancient Greeks as home of the Golden Fleece.… Read more

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Rome

A Walk to Taverna Cestia

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December 10, 2011

The most spectacular Roman remains from the Imperial period were in front of my office, but the walk to the trattoria in the opposite direction was an immersion in ever more layers of the complexities comprising Italian history from Rome’s earliest days until the present. On the way I passed a monumental equestrian statue in fascist style dedicated by Mussolini to a semi-legendary Albanian named Scanderbeg who united Albania for a time in a fight against the Turks in the 1400s.

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Italy San Gimignano

Book Review: The Pursuit of Italy

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December 7, 2011

A book recommendation for all Italophiles: The Pursuit of Italy by David Gilmour. The author is a British historian who has a long association with Italy beginning in childhood and continuing to the extent that he resided in all Italy’s 20 regions to research the book: a revisionist look at the history of Italy as a nation.

When I think of Italy I think of a country where the disparities of culture, cuisine, climate, and geography were more apparent than elsewhere in Europe when I lived there and now when I visit.… Read more

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Guyana Travel South America

Grey and Green

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December 4, 2011
SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN PART II

Grey and green became the predominant color as our little ship left sunny Grenada for the north coast of South America. We sailed a short way up the Demerara River bordered by low growing jungle, a few homes on stilts and rusting hulks drawn up on the water’s edge. We docked in Georgetown, Guyana.

The only thing I knew about the country was the horrifying episode where the Reverend Jim Jones passed out poisoned fruit drink to his followers resulting in 918 ghastly deaths.… Read more

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Coins in the Fountain Pope Rome

Visiting the Pope

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December 2, 2011
One Saturday when Glenn and I lived in Rome I happened to notice some simple posters tacked up on nearby telephone poles between ads for “French lessons” and communist rallies. The flyer said that the Bishop of Rome was coming to our small local church the following Sunday. After we realized that this bishop was also the pope we walked a block to the church on the following morning. To our surprise, only about thirty people were waiting, some in matching sweat pants and shirts (a tutto or “all”), instead of a huge crowd dressed in Sunday best.
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Caribbean cruising

Good Food and Wine and a Little Light Exercise

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October 5, 2011

Similar words were written by a 19th Century Italian writer. It’s my motto for travel when one is beyond life’s midpoint. Adventure travel no longer has the appeal it once had – now it’s the prospect of a nice hotel or a comfortable cruise ship that compels me to drag out the suitcases and head off to someplace interesting.

Italy is my (or, I should say, our) usual goal but there are so many places to see my husband and I only get there every other year, not often enough but what can you do when there are still over a hundred countries that haven’t provided us even a glimpse of their history, people and places.… Read more

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Coins in the Fountain
Available on Amazon. Kirkus Reviews says “You don’tneed Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck to enjoy this delightful Roman Holiday…Armchair-travel books are rarely as good as this one”