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Vicky Cristina BarcelonaTuesday is discount day at one of the largest English-language (i.e. not dubbed) cinemas in Berlin.  On tap this week was Woody Allen’s newest, Vicky Cristina Barcelona.  Though a sadder movie than I expected, what disappointed me most was the portrayal of one of those three title characters — can you guess which one?

The film is set in — surprise! — Barcelona, and while every review you’ll read will extol the gorgeous sweeping views of the enchanting city, it felt more like they spent a few days shooting at spots around town before retreating to other locations.  Would that Spain had been more influential in the plot.  As written, the film and its romantic intrigues could have easily been set in any other number of romantic, European, Mediterranean locales. 

La Sagrada Familia ceiling

One of the first things Vicky and Cristina do upon arriving in town is a pilgrimage to La Sagrada Familia, the masterwork-in-progress of architect Antoni Gaudi.  Vicky is pursuing a master’s in Catalan culture (without, I might add, much ability to speak Spanish), inspired by the works of Gaudi and the dulcet strains of the Spanish guitar.  If you’re not familiar with his work, Gaudi’s style was influenced by art nouveau and his whimsical architecture, like La Sagrada Familia, detail on door (Pontius Pilate)that of Hundertwasser, is usually fiercely loved or hated.  For lovers, it is easy to take in a great variety of his works in just a short visit to the city.

Making La Sagrada Familia unique is that it remains under construction, over 12 decades since breaking ground and eight decades after Gaudi’s accidental death; work continues despite setbacks from a civil war, two world wars, and the near-complete destruction of Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia, sculptural detailmodels and plans.  Workers hope to finish by 2026, the centennial of Gaudi’s passing, though with any construction project of this magnitude, it is unclear whether or not they will achieve this goal.  If you could ignore the modern equipment, it would be like stepping back a thousand years, when many cathedrals across Europe were built, each taking hundreds of years to complete.

The church, open at 9 a.m. daily, is located near the subway station bearing its name.  Admission fee:  10 euros adults, 8 euros students.  Included in the admission price is entrance to the church and two on-site museums.  The site has two excellent gift shops with a variety of reasonably-priced Gaudi gear and a wide selection of postcards.

La Sagrada Familia stained glass

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This Just In published an interesting interview with Alex Boylan, star of the upcoming show Around the World for Free.  Boylan earned his fame and travel cred as the winner of the U.S. reality television show The Amazing Race 2.  Please go read the interview, (watch this clip, if you choose,) then come back and join in the following discussion.

In principle, I agree with much of Boylan’s hard-earned advice and offer in many ways a less extreme version of the same ethos here on this blog.

At the same time, this project (and other travel experiences/blogs like it) lead me to reflect on how gendered travel can be.  How many of these places and experiences were open to them simply because they were two young men rather than two young women undertaking this journey?

This is not to imply that women *couldn’t* do this trip or that women *shouldn’t* travel anywhere these men did, or that we are somehow inherently more fragile or weak than male travelers.  But at the same time, women do consider the risks of rides or offers of accommodation from strange men, traveling in areas of unrest and even being out after dark differently from their male counterparts.  Further, female travelers are harrassed and targeted in ways that men on the road are not.  I’m sure it’s not possible to quantify the difference that this confidence and access makes, but I believe more effort should be made to note it.

I don’t pretend to represent all female travelers and would love to open a discussion on this subject.  While I hope you will take my lead and leave your thoughtful comments primarily on this topic below, there are two more points I think are worth making. 

As an anthropologist, I wonder to what degree the camera influenced their interactions with their subjects.  Boylan touches on this only slightly in this excerpt and doesn’t reflect on how the camera affected his own behavior either.

Relatedly, does travel lose some of its transformative power when your home audience is so immediate?  My college Russian professor thought we were spoiled because we had the internet while studying abroad; when he studied behind the Iron Curtain, the only contact with home came during 3-minute phone calls placed from the central telephone office.  Now students can (and do) twitter and vlogcast their experiences just like Boylan did.  But do we  — in broadening the horizons of our friends, family and interested audiences “traveling along” with us — sacrifice our own deeper understanding, preventing full immersion by surrounding ourselves in a protective bubble of interaction with the familiar?  Is there not something meaningful in unfettered escape from home?

Thanks in advance for your comments.

Related post:  Traveling (Solo) Safely

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Carnegie Hall offers a variety of free concerts as part of their Neighborhood Concert series, playing throughout the year at locations around New York City.

Ben Allison & Man Size Safe

Tonight at 8 p.m. you can enjoy Ben Allison & Man Size Safe at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center.  (Listen to clips of the group at benallison.com > videos/photos.)

Other concerts this month include:

Falu (listen)
Sunday, December 7 at 2 p.m.
Flushing Town Hall

Alexander Fiterstein & Friends: The Zimro Project (hear Fiterstein here)
Sunday, December 14 at 4 p.m.
Brooklyn Central Library

Check out the interactive map or see the program by borough (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island).

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Greetings fellow travelers and welcome to this week’s Carnival of Cities. I’m happy to be your host as we jet around the world following tales of tapioca, tumbling and taxidermy. Intrigued? Read on . . .

New York City, NY, USA: Sascha Zuger from Travel Savvy Mom scoops a great hotel package, describes her run-in with Sesame Street’s Gordon and highlights the Kids’ Night on Broadway offer in her post Broadway, Baby!

Rome, Italy: speaking of perfect hotels, Mara at Mother of All Trips has identified a real winner for young families near the Coliseum in her post Mondays Are for Dreaming: Hotel Lancelot.

Naples, Italy: Karen Landes is blogging at WhyGo Italy on the shades of life on display when slicing Naples in two in the post Spaccanapoli: Naples’ Historic Main Street.

Washington, DC, USA: Jon at The DC Traveler gives us a peek at the folks folding themselves in half and risking their lives nightly for our enjoyment when he goes Backstage at Cirque du Soleil KOOZA.

San Francisco, CA, USA: DFernandez takes us along on a twisty insider tour of his favorite tourist spots in The (Crooked) Road Not Taken at You’re So City.

London, UK: Caitlin at Roaming Tales is serving up top tips for London’s East End — not the least of which is where you may spot folk-dancing squirrels selling high-end clothes . . . Check out her post A Stroll through London’s Quirky East End for directions, or simply let your badger on a leash lead the way!

Prescott, AZ, USA: Granny J takes in an impressive number of public scupltures in Prescott’s Heroic Bronzes at Walking Prescott.

Dublin, Ireland: A detail on the airport wall caught the eye of Fin Keegan in the post Bitter in the End.

Dresden, Germany: You’d have to be blind to miss the detail on the tiled wall called the Procession of Princes in my post Saturday Photo Friday #4 here at Less Than a Shoestring.

Bangkok, Thailand: The news about hundreds of air passengers stranded as rebels seize the airport putting your Thai travel plans on hold? Conan Stevens serves up a perspective on the impact of the foreign spender in Is Thailand Safe to Travel in Now?

Shanghai, China: Our benevolent leader Sheila Scarborough gives us the scoop on a bubble tea chain discovered in China which has a branch in — no joke — Albuquerque in the post Stop into China’s rbt for Tea and Juice Drinks at the Family Travellogue.

Mexico City, Mexico: Gilocafe has a video to share from their visit to Teotihuacan Pyramids: Mexico City, Mexico.

Kanyakumari, India: Maneesh of Admirable India shares his photos from two museum visits in the post Trip to Kanyakumari: Chapter 2: Wandering Monk Exhibition, Kanyakumari and Government Museum, Kanyakumari: Part 1.

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: Jason Sarracini of Trip Quips gives a quick resort tip for a stay on the island.

That concludes this week’s Carnival — the next Carnival of Cities will be hosted by the friendly folks at UpTake. Submit your (one, non-spammy) blog post about any aspect of ONE city to the next edition before next Tuesday using the carnival submission form. If you like these posts, try browsing the extensive Carnival of Cities archives.

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Traveling in Europe for nearly a decade, I’ve reached a saturation point with churches. Some study-abroad students come down with an unshakable case of ABC Syndrome (short for “Another Boring Church”) in just 10 weeks! Don’t get me wrong: I studied church art intensively and am still moved by the beauty and majesty of many religious temples — but these days it takes a soaring recommendation from the guidebook to get me in the door, which happens only once or maybe twice per trip.

Sometimes I am surprised, however, by a jewel of a church that I just have to recommend. The Pisa Cathedral (Italy) is one I’ve already mentioned; the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig (Germany) is another.

St. Nicholas Church, Leipzig

The pastel color scheme and the natural light give the church a truly uplifting feel while the unique palm-frond column tops reminded me of the tree-like columns designed by Gaudi in Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia. Your eyes are naturally drawn heavenward by the architecture.

I wanted to visit the Nikolaikirche because of the significant role it played in the peace movement leading to the end of the German Democratic Republic in 1989. I was not prepared for it to be so beautiful!

Johann Sebastian Bach was the choirmaster and organist here for over a quarter-century. Regular concerts of Bach’s compositions are held at the church; tickets are 10-15 euros and can be ordered online.

Open daily for visitors (even during weddings and services, it is possible to enter the rear for viewing and gift-shop purchases), even cheapskates can appreciate as admission is free.

Photo Friday aficionados — follow my fellows forthwith!

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Just because I live overseas doesn’t mean the world is at my fingertips.  While you’re sitting in your office living vicariously through my adventures, fantasizing about that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Paris, to Istanbul, to Kenya or to Sydney, I too have my own list of “if only I had the money” destinations.  For me, most of these lie on/in the Pacific — and near the top is Indonesia.

Fourth-largest country in the world, largest Muslim country in the world, childhood home to one Barack Obama — nevertheless a place most of us know so little about that we would have difficulty placing it on the map.

I don’t claim to be a whole lot more knowledgable about the country than that, as my experience has come secondhand, through the rhythms of Java and, more recently, Bali.

Slentem

One of the benefits of a liberal arts education is the opportunity to try on a number of hats and see if they fit — to dabble in painting, in religious studies, in economics or biology — before deciding on any particular fashion statement for life.  And though you may leave this or that behind (and you will most likely drop the hat you selected at some point), you wear that which you’ve chosen better for modeling all the others.

bonang kenong saronIt may be surprising that I picked up Javanese music (Gamelan) while studying in the middle of Iowa.  To me, it’s more surprising that I am still playing in a Gamelan, now in Berlin, Germany.  Music transcends.  Even specialized knowledge is sometimes rewarded.

Here I have the opportunity to play with both foreigners and natives and to play both Balinese and Javanese instruments (and lovely sets they are too!).  The Embassy offers free Bahasa Indonesia courses.  Every time we practice, someone makes a delicious native dish.  Over time, I learn more about the people and the culture of a country I can only imagine in the vaguest of terms.  If their scholarship program were more generous (I know 1,000,000 rupiah sounds like a lot, but it is the equivalent of $90), I would gladly take Indonesia up on the offer . . .  In the meanwhile, I will continue fantasizing about my future Gamelan set — you know, the one I’m having made when I actually make it to Java someday (I know a couple readers/former ensemble members hear me on this)!

If there is a lesson to be taken from this, it is that an Embassy can be a wealth of resources and opportunities to learn about people and places you’re interested in, giving you numerous opportunities to develop a deeper relationship with a country before or after your visit.  If you live in a world city which is home to a variety of Embassies, it pays to get on their mailing lists to find out what is being offered.  Many of these opportunities will be colorful, family-oriented and free.

For those of you who have no idea what a Gamelan even sounds like, I am so happy to have found two clips of performances I was in online, for your listening pleasure — I’m sure if you listen closely you can pick me out. 🙂

Follow others on the Photo Friday trail, starting here.

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I’m a big fan of installations — high-concept, usually temporary, art displays — the appreciation of which increases the more of yourself you give over to experiencing the piece.

Though I’ve never (gasp!) really been to New York and I can’t imagine myself living in the city, I do have an appreciation for the way art installations are often integrated into public space there. So it should be no surprise that I was disappointed to have missed “The Gates” by Christo, nor that I am now encouraging anyone who has the chance to visit “Pulse Park” by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, residing till November 17 in Madison Square Park.

I mean, when else will you have the chance for your heartbeat to dance across prime real estate in 200 theatrical spotlights? Seriously cool!

So to my New Yorker friends and readers: get thee down to the Flatiron District after dusk and light up the night — I want to see your pictures and live vicariously through you and your cardiac rhythms!

Thanks to This Just In for the tip.

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