Friday, September 24, 2010

Vienna's Top 1: Artful Pencil Displays

I've been calling the act of tying a sweater around one's neck, or draping a coat over one's shoulders as 'Vienna style' ever since I spent a few too many days there on a four-day visit 18 years ago.

I had ended up Vienna on a Eurail-free trip across Eastern Europe 18 years ago. I had come in via Bratislava and expected to see Mozart's wig then go onto Budapest, but trains OUT of Western Europe were inordinately more expensive than those going in. So I became a Viennese prisoner to my drained budget. Sticking around the hostel, eating their free meals, throwing fallen fruit around a park with two miserable Polish brothers in the same situation. I could just barely stay, but didn't have the money to leave.

Someone get this to Don Henley for lyric fodder!

I did come away with a couple things: One, Vienna is ridiculously gorgeous. Two, if you're going to spend money on anything, don't pick the Freud museum over the Kunsthistorisches Museum (my mistake for my lone museum splurge).

And three, the Viennese tended to employ a rather curious fashion sense. Many men wore scarves in late summer, this I accepted with relish. But nearly as many wore jackets hanging draped over their shoulders, with each blase arm danging nearly out of view beneath. Stubbornly resistant to the notion of sleeving.

I unexpectedly found myself in Vienna for half a day yesterday. Europe airport strikes led to three missed Sofia-bound air connections and the night off, finally, in Vienna. And it converted me. I'm a fan. I loved my after-dark walk around the gorgeous center, popping into the Fake Art Museum to learn how one forger ended up with his head bashed-in by a shovel (and how one Matisse fake may be real -- a 100 euro investment that could yield one million more), having some ice cream and beer, and stopping at a cafe that didn't have sandwiches but could make me 'bread with cheese, ham and vegetables on top.'

The top real highlight, for me, was peeking into closed shops with artful displays of pencils propped up at geometrically pleasing angles with the tiniest of nails.

But there was another 'take-away,' as they say in conference-table culture. Eighteen years later, I saw it again and again: jackets worn over shoulders, arms dangling out of sight, everlasting 'Vienna style.'

Thank you Vienna. Thank you European airport strikes. Thank you travel!

Friday, September 17, 2010

76-Second Travel Show: 'Are the English the Champs of Travel?'

Episode #042
F E A T U R I N G * 5 0 * B O N U S * S E C O N D S

It has to be said. Stack'm up: Graham Greene, Eric Newby, Jan Morris, Colin Thubron, even Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson in one corner; Mark Twain, Paul Theroux, Bill Bryson, uh John Steinbeck (considering this week marks the 50th anniversary of his 'Travels with Charley' trip), maybe Elizabeth Gilbert in the other? The English, the former group, will win every time -- at travel writing.

What can the Americans do to catch up?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why We Travel (Flashcard Version)

As co-host of the TBEX NYC event tonight, I debuted a theory: all trips can be broken down into one or more of six primary reasons why we travel. Making up, like primary colors, all blends of trips we take. A periodic table of travel elements.

Here they are, in portable flashcard version:

We travel to communicate. Uncle Sedgwick moved to Oregon? Go see him.

Like relaxing with bad TV, we sometimes travel to veg out -- on a beach, in a forest, on a mountain. To forget the muck of ennui our lives have become. Or a job. Or a relationship. Or a college football score.

We travel to 'tick off' a bucket list of dream places, experiences around the world. Like the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal or St Louis' Gateway Arch.

A natural partner in 'ticj-off' travelers is showing off. That comes when we pick up experiences solely for talking points to bore friends and family members when we get back. Eg 'Dessert? Did you just say dessert? Reminds me of the Sahara -- I went on a camel safari there in '98...'

[Note: Andrew Zimmern of the Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods actually stole -- with permission -- this 'Show-Off' flashcard at TBEX.]

The flip-side of showing off is what we personally absorb when traveling -- when we travel to learn. Of different cultures, languages, biting habits of strange gray dogs.

But food is biggest, for many -- and often for me. I sometimes call those monuments, museums, markets and parks we visit on trips as the 'space between meals.' Often, it's the food that anchors the trip. Even when the pizza comes with ketchup applied in fat dollops.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Football is back!

College football is back, baseball and summer are fading -- isn't life great? To celebrate, here's a 2007 video demonstration of America's best sport