21 June 2009

A couple of observations in Amsterdam

Touring the Anne Frank house on Saturday. A sign posted outside welcomes visitors and explains the hours, admission price, and rules of entry. It is in French, Dutch, English, Spanish, but not in German.

Walking back from the Anne Frank house to Central Station I cross Dam Square around 10am. A trumpeter is playing a decent rendition of the theme from "The Godfather".

More thoughts on Greece

Athens is about the past, our past, all of us. Were it not for the antiquities there would be little reason for anyone to go there, unless for a business deal or something government related. Along with Mexico City, it's one of the ugliest places I have been. Graffitti is everywhere. Not surprising in a big city, but there's no sign that any effort has been made to hide it, no paintovers, etc. It's as though the city ran out of paper and pens and communicates with spraypaint. No evidence the city cares or is even aware. What an eyesore.

So, the city thrives on the packaging and marketing of the past. A lot could be written about how the constructors of the Parthenon were creating a structure that would feed and employ Greeks for centuries, from the tourguides to the little shops that sell Parthenon kitchen magnets. If a city today wants to thrive in the future all it has to do is hire great architects, stay intact for a thousand years, and the tourists of the future will keep your distant offspring employed for the following thousand.
The antiquities are everywhere. So many that I saw a junkpile behind a museum with random rubble, ancient pedestals, arms, legs, with no place to go. The refuse of ancient Greece has yet to be cleaned up.
Athens does give one a different view of time. In my country any building older than 200 years is deserving of museum status. But, it's not really old, just older than most of the other stuff around us. We have no buildings that predate the printing press, gunpowder, eyeglasses, or even the microscope.

Athens reminded me that despite all our claims of progress, we are still the same as this ancient folk in many ways. We trade with other peoples. We marry. We pass on what we've learned to our children. We try and leave marks in the world that people will remember us by. We worship many gods, all false, save one. We build large buildings as monuments to our society. We like to think that we'll be remembered here, but eventually all of us are forgotten. What matters is not if we are known in this world, but whether we are known in the next, and by the architect of both.

19 June 2009

Cruise the Greek Isles

Where do I start? On the one hand I should not complain one bit since I am in Greece with my wife of 30 years, its a very special trip for us and I am lucky she's stuck with me all this time.

On the other hand, if you ever get the idea that €98 for a day trip to 3 islands is a great deal, here are some questions to ask. If the tour company is ChatTours, the answer to each will be yes.

1. Do you make each announcement in at least six languages?
2. Do you play the soundtrack from "saturday night fever" and tony bennett tunes to make the americans feel at home?
3. Is the bottled water served at room temp?
4. Is there a "no wake" rule in the middle of the sea that forces you to go especially slow?
5. Do members of your crew dress like a rastafarian and chase passengers with a water gun?
6. Do you close the tour with a live saxophone seranade of "Auld Lang Syne"?
These weird things and more happened on our "three island" cruise, with at time seemed like we were stuck in an episode of the twilight zone. Best part of the trip was our stay at the island of Hydra, a truly beautiful spot with waters unbelievably clear.This would be a wonderful place to spend a summer or two, or even a life.

Packing my bags, another half day here then heading home. Much to write about this trip but limits to what I can type out on a blackberry.

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05 June 2009

Leaving Mumbai

A world emerging. Hard not to be optimistic about the human condition when you walk the streets of this city. It is full of misery and full of determination and willing itself out of the mud and out of the mire. Even the servants, who seemed to always surround me, had this look in their eye. "The tables are turning my friend", they seemed to say.

01 June 2009

Add this to the list of things I never expected to see....

Teenager - Hong Kong airport - t shirt with the slogan, " A watched pot never boils"
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Hong Kong 11pm

Good flight, hit tokyo just right for a 90 min layover. Slept too much though, will be up all night. Service at the Mandarin Oriental is amazing, as though they've been waiting all day for my arrival.