Seduced by a Cow
Outside of Australia these were my favourite places
NORWAY The Leprosy Museum in Bergen
Ahh, the Leprosy Museum, what a relief that was. Wandering up and down Norway it soon comes to your attention that every girl either looks like Claudia Schiffer or actually is Claudia Schiffer and every guy looks like this only less groomed, less sephardi, and wearing a diamond patterned jumper and with blonder hair and a hoady, hoady nice to see you expression
To fit in with locals I bought this Norwegian jumper and like everyone else in Norway I wore it everywhere. I tried but after a week of endless sweet natured, easy going, good looking Norwegians the leprosy museum is a soothing relief to the 24 hour a day Viking beauty parade.
HOLLAND and a Relationship with Herrings
When you travel on your own you’ve got a patter for getting to know other people. It comes naturally because that form of travel is a roller coaster of new people and it’s the way of joining in. Except in Holland. I’d go up and down the streets feeling at home, with my herring and my pushbike and I’d forget the patter. It’s the closest thing I’ve had to a mystical tourist experience, like coming back to family. I’ve tried to recreate that connected feeling by eating herrings and those Dutch almond cakes. It’s hard work but someone’s got to do it.
I went to a Roddy Doyle play in Dublin and as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations I thought I’d understand it. Not a word. Suspecting that I’d wandered into the medieval Turkish language version of the play I asked a local and that was when I got to experience Irish hospitality. The play was explained to me until I could recite it, as was local cooking, the Dublin shule, the best bookstore, pub and places to go which was how I ended up at Glendaloch. Relentlessly hospitable, interesting and personal, that’s the Irish, the whole lot of them. I love the place.
SWITZERLAND Seduced by a Cow
average Swiss view
What used to get me when I travelled was the instant change in atmosphere and personalities when you cross a border. The grandeur of the French becomes the rollicking enthusiasm of the Italians and one inch over the border into Switzerland Italian mayhem becomes Assaulted by Beauty. You walk down the street in Interlaken going Mein Gott that’s just beautiful. About everything. And a minute later, hah! that was nothing and the next bit of scenery is more beautiful. Everything, the flowers, the mountains, the window boxes, the street signs, and whoa, the chocolate is beautiful. There’s department store sized chocolate shops with a section for say white chocolate the size of a normal shop. I miss it so. Any doubts about the Swiss monopoly on beauty were removed when I glanced over at a local cow. Large but soft and caring eyes that met mine. Beautiful shiny coat. Confident yet inclusive demeanour. And the bell! It was polished art. I think we connected.
Which oh which hits the spot the most when you’re tramping from one end of the Normandy beaches to the other? Hard to say but if you prefer modern history to cathedrals you’re in heaven.
Parco Di Mostri
A 15th century spooky garden full of giant animals, monsters and all sorts of twisted things. For devotees of Bruce Campbell and Evil Dead 3 it’s a cultural paradise. And the food is astonishing as in every village, town, campsite, worker’s hut and cafe in Italy.
DENMARK The Walking Tour of Copenhagen
There’s pretty well nowhere in Europe where you won’t hear about the Jews being thrown off the tower or expelled or burnt or shot and right here, here’s the bullet holes. The antidote is in Copenhagen. Some Danish bureaucrat found out that the Jews were being rounded up by the Gestapo the next day and with no organisation the Danes spontaneously grabbed their Jews off the streets, got them from their homes, shuffled them to the back of the bus when the Germans got on, and then took them to the coast where more Danes, the fishermen took the whole lot over to Sweden and life. Only 4 old Jewish ladies refused to go (yes, I may be related to those 4 old ladies) and ended up in Theresienstadt and the King of Denmark made sure they stayed alive. This story was told on the walking tour of Copenhagen in an offhand, of course we did it, way. I was absolutely floored, rubbing my eyes and thinking buy Danish.
USA Santa Fe
On my way into Santa Fe the woman sitting on the bus next to me turned out to be a Buddhist nun. I thought wow, how interesting, how unusual until I found out that everyone in Santa Fe is a Buddhist nun or has just spent a week in a sweat lodge wrapped in a horse blanket or is an artist working only in celery. Combine all that earnest 70’s hippie stuff with the American enthusiasm for everything and mountains of Mexican cooking and it’s just great.
CANADA Lake Morraine
I bicycled from Banff to Jasper and my tuchas still remembers every inch. Now that may have been it. Getting off that bike, hooting with disbelief that I finally got off the thing, or it could have been passing by the bus tourists who could barely look up let alone get off the bus. Maybe it was some combination but what I remember was dropping that bike, walking with legs that just wouldn’t walk, going around a rock and seeing Lake Moraine and thinking it’s the most breathtaking thing I’ve ever seen, better even than the Swiss cow.
You know when you’re in the country and yay, it’s another pottery gallery, looks good to me, and then you spend 10 minutes stroking your chin with the look of mild awe. Yes? Because there’s nothing in that shop, no vase, no mug, no weet bix bowl that interests you but you don’t want to hurt the feelings of the potter who’s right there behind the counter. Same thing in the jewellery shop, the tie store or the modern art gallery where the artist has his latest piece in egg yolk, beaver fur and live goldfish. Well, try Berlin, especially the every second Sunday market on Unter Den Linden. Ties, there’s brilliant ties, jewellery, art, lectures, street music, exhibitions you name it. The kind of things that would normally put you to sleep are fascinating in Berlin. See, you are an intellectual.
Food, people, life by the bucket load, the taxi driver’s daughter is the Professor of Paediatrics of course, the guy behind the counter explains your whole life in one sentence and you feel completely connected and absolutely foreign at the same time. Being a half breed myself I’d get a glow from thinking about a nice anglo-saxon queue at the RTA but then be on the receiving end of some inclusive, usually very smart, Jewish bravado accompanied by a tasty morsel of course and a history lesson. You could do worse. Tomorrow, the UK, Japan and the Glorious Motherland, Australia,