Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Whirlwind Trip

Having lived in Germany for 3 years in the 1980’s it was wonderful to be back after all these years.

[Rather than regurgitate available well written articles on various subjects below, please click on the link to read up on them.]

FrankfurtMainz – Oppenheim were all former haunts and it was nice to see old friends and acquaintances.

Mainz Gutenberg's Church

Oppenheim PlatzOppenheim Medieval Gate

Berlin Swastika Door

Berlin Cathedral (1905?)

Something new for me was going to Berlin – it was still East/West Germany in the 1980’s and the Berlin Wall was still dividing the city.

Big difference between the two – lots of construction all over the former eastern Berlin as Germany try to rebuild its infrastructure.

Some observations:
- Lots of scooters and bicycles in the former East Berlin
- Low cost of rents – avgs 250-300 Euros/month
- Average income = 30K Euros/year (not month)
- Narrow cobbled streets – quaint – not as “westernized” as the former West Berlin
- Berlin 63Billion Euros in debt
- Buildings and monuments not as ancient as other European cities – lots of buildings built late 19th and early 20th century but built to look “old”

Having written a doctoral paper on Comparative Government, specifically on the German political structure, it was interesting to see the current Reichstag/Bundestag building in the nation's capital.

The German Reichstag_Bundestag building, the equivalent of the US Capitol

I was last in Italy in 1984 – quite the same (of course) except more crowded – or is this just my impression? It was exhausting; not orderly and clean as Germany.

And yes, Italian men had no qualms about staring, admiring, and letting you know they think you’re “bellisima” – at least German men had the grace to be a bit subtle and look away when you catch them staring.

Rome observations:
- Saw the Pope – he held mass for the religious pilgrims who came from all over the world for the canonizations of 4 Saints
- Mother Marie Eugenie, Foundress of my convent school was canonized as a Saint. She was French – mother house is in France
- Everybody and their cousins were there – so crowded
- Saw all the tourist traps – St Peter’s Basilica, Cupola, St John Lateran Church, Santa Maggiore, Sacre Crux, Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Holy Steps, San Callisto Catacombs, Pantheon, etc…
- Everybody and their cousins were there – so crowded
- Even Philippine President Gloria Macapagal was there – she was a graduate of my convent school in the Philippines
- An American who graduated in the USA branch of the school was Princess Grace of Monaco
- As the hubby said, "I've never seen a roomful of more stuck-up women in my life than these women!"
- What can I say? He looked at me and said "I guess you've mellowed out over the years and more Americanized, thank goodness!"
- But if the alumnae were mostly wives/daughters/sisters of Secretary of this-and-that and whose families owned this-and-that banks - what did you expect?
- Got a “Papal Blessing” certificate – or rather I bought one
- Rome sits on its past laurels – tourism is the life blood of the city
- Everybody and their cousins were there – so crowded – did I say this enough?
- Saving grace: got me some Hermes goodies
- Vendors hawked fake purses in full light of day – I thought this is illegal? Even NYC vendors try to do this discreetly but Italian vendors were blatant

Rome from high atop the Vatican Cupola (a 400+ steps hike)

Naples – Pompei observations:
- Naples is nothing more than a seaport town with ancient buildings
- Historical importance for sea-faring ancient Italians
- Used to be riddled and encumbered by so called Italian mafia – or so I heard
- Naples has been cleaned up as far as graft and corruption – or so I heard
- A number of huge cruise ships were docked in Naples – must be a popular stop for Mediterranean cruises
- Pompei was my favorite
- Town buried in 79 AD after eruption of Mt Vesuvius
- I love history so to actually touch and feel and see where ancient chariots used to traverse was awesome
- Original marble floors, stone “streets” and mosaics intact – how awesome - Pompei had a brothel area
- They used a phallus symbol as a directional arrow to point the location of the brothel :)
- They had mosaics & murals showing various sexual positions – must preceed the kama sutra I would think
- Having lunch and good a bottle of wine with a light breeze and birds chirping was the way to go


For those morbidly curious - a plaster cast of the Mt Vesuvius eruption - actual skeletons inside the plaster cast

Naples ocean view

Florence observations:
- Another tourist trap of a city but not as badly crowded as Rome
- Limit on tourist buses that can go into the city
- Easier to shop for Italian leather
- Yes, the old Firenze (Florence) was interesting and loving history, it was well, interesting
- After all Michaelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci are buried here
- Museum of Academy has great works – caveat: Michaelangelo’s David you see there is not, I repeat not, the original David – this is a copy
- Go to Florence just for bragging rights
- Bought a jar of hot & spicy olive oil and a jar of truffles but were confiscated at the airport! I forgot I can't hand carry liquid over 3ml! (But the truffle jar was not liquid! grrr)
- Tuscany countryside – now that is something different.
- Next time I go to Italy I think I’ll spend a week just chilling out and enjoy the Tuscan countryside – after all it has my favorite architecture – Tuscan farm houses!

Simple house for a simple life - bliss!
Florence skyline

P.S. Layover at Heathrow Int'l Airport was good - Duty Free at Terminal 3 had Hermes, Chanel, Fendi, Burberry, etc... and Mulberry! Got me this goodie from Mulberry... Mulberry is my favorite du jour...