Posts Tagged With: tourism

AIMLESS WALK LEADS TO ENLIGHTENMENT

lamp7

Walked aimlessly for hours around Poland’s largest city – Warsaw snapping pictures of non-touristic things 

 

in touristic areas

and near tourist attractions, just because that’s the goofball mood I was inlamp10

lamp3

 

 

 

 

 

Strange cracks in the sidewalk. Weird angles. Weird kindred spirits. Whatever grabbed my attention.

At sunset, it was a neat row of lampposts.

The lampposts lined a side street that led to Saski Garden.

The sky behind the lampposts was a golden yellow and deep orange. I noticed as the sun set, the lights seem to glow. From the distance I was unable to tell if it was a strange effect of the dimming sunlight or the lamps were beginning to come alive as darkness beckoned. It was a curiously interesting tradeoff: natural light was making way for artificial light. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful dance, aglow with vivid shades of yellow, orange and amber. I aimed my camera at the tall lampposts and continued to shoot photographs as the sun began what seemed like an eternal descent. Camera-toting tourists around me paused and wondered what I found so interesting in the sky, especially given the abundance of amazing historic monuments and buildings and sculptures within the lushly green city park, including the remains of Saxon Palace, converted into the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and guarded at all times by two stone-faced sentinels. Funny how you can quickly draw a curious crowd when you aim your camera in unexpected directions.

Sometime after 1815, Saski Garden, a one-time royal garden that surrounded Saxon Palace, became a municipal park. lamp10Saxon Palace was destroyed during World War II and all that remains is the archway today known as the mausoleum, where an eternal flame burns an the two Polish soldiers stand watch. Periodically, and for brief moments, the two soldiers march around the monument, perhaps to break up the torture of having to stand still for such a long time. I caught one of the soldiers perhaps fighting back a sneeze, wiggling his nose – or was he just trying to fend off a pesky fly away from his face without actually swatting at the irritant?lamp3

 For many years, only appropriately dressed strollers were allowed to enter Saski Garden. Today, there’s no official dress code. In the warmth of summer, men and women wear very little. Nobody cares. The grounds are well-groomed, serene, and still have that regal air, with its stone sculptures positioned throughout the grounds.  There is a duck pond with weeping willows and a bronze fountain that spits water. Needless to say, the park draws its share of amorous couples. Sitting on the grass is not allowed, so don’t even think about it, lest you face a sentinel’s bayonet. But none of it held my attention like the setting sun and the lamps. Together they were a spectacular medley, worth the long, aimless walk.

lamp1

Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, Poland

Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, Poland

lamp6

Categories: posts | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TRAVELER

Traveler

“The difference between a tourist and a traveler is that a tourist seeks only comfort while a traveler seeks discovery.”

A few days ago I saw the above quote on the profile of a fellow Miami couch surfer – unattributed – but I immediately recognized it as the words of writer and solo traveler Lea Lane.

I am no travel snob. I respect anyone who travels, be it seeking out creature comforts or roughing it. But by Lane’s definition, I aim to be a traveler, to discover, to connect with people.

Since I returned to Miami, I have been discovering new things about a city that I called home for at least a decade. I’ve been traveling, meeting new people, discovering things about Miami and about me. Proof you don’t have to travel far to find your soul. Lots of time to think, lots of time to discover, even in urbane Miami. Go out and discover.

Categories: asides, posts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Risky Colombia

It’s a brilliant public relations campaign and marketing strategy, and every time I see the spots on television and ads in newspapers and magazines, I must admit I get chills as the memories rush through my head like the roiling waters of the Magdalena River.

Over the past two months, I’ve experienced many of the places seen in those ads, and as my time in Colombia comes to an end, I’m feeling a bit sad.

Early readers of this blog may recall my post from January 30 titled STERN WARNINGS. In that post I wrote the following:

“…as I prepare to leave for Colombia in about two weeks, I’m not sure which Colombia I will find: one still engulfed in a raging war or one where you can travel by road and feel safe. The State Department tells Americans to avoid traveling between cities and rural areas by road and instead take commercial flights.”

Well, I ignored my government and traveled every stitch of Colombia by road, as I had planned. And with one exception, the roads were perfectly safe. The exception was somewhat of an anomaly.

It was the last day of carnival in Barranquilla and I decided to forgo the last day’s festivities by getting an earlier start to Santa Marta. I took what is known as a “puerta puerta” – a van that picks up passengers at their home or hotel and delivers them right to the door of their next destination.

In Cali, my last major city stop in Colombia, with my couchsurfing host Elena, right, and her student Sofia, whom I helped with an English project.

Because roads many roads were still blocked by carnival parade, floats and other related events, the van was forced to find an alternate route out of town. We found ourselves in a very bad neighborhood, about 15 passengers, including a woman with a newborn baby. As the driver tried to make his way out he encountered streets blocked by neighborhood youths who demanded a “toll” to allow passage. The youths blocked the road with tires, rocks, and held chains and ropes across the roadway, demanding cash. They were armed with sticks and rocks and surrounded the vehicle. The driver lowered the window ever so slightly, just enough to hand the youths the pesos – what to me looked like at least 2,000 pesos – approximately $2.  The youths dropped the chains and removed the tires and allowed passage.

The Unicentro shopping mall in Cali is not only for shopping, it's where people come to sit by the fountain and chill or have a nice time just wandering

Just a half block up the street, another roadblock. The driver again paid the cash. We drove less than a block and yet another blockade. This time the driver decided he wasn’t going to pay this bunch of thugs. He drove up slowly to the youths and when he saw an opening, he stepped on the gas and sped through. But the angry youths peppered the vehicle with rocks and gave chase, striking the vehicle with sticks, bear fists and whatever else they held in their hands. The passengers – the newborn was now stirred awake and crying – were clearly shaken and afraid. The driver, however, managed to pull away with minor damage – a dent here and there – to the vehicle. To put everyone at ease, the driver joked that it would have been worst driving through here at night. It was the only time in my two months in Colombia that I really feared for my safety. But before you, reader, go painting all of Colombia as a dangerous place, know that we had landed in a bad neighborhood because of circumstances beyond our control. Normally, none of us in that van would have been there to begin with. With some minor nonsense here and there that is to be expected, the rest of the trip in Colombia has been absolutely fantastic.

Peeking through the plants - this area is apparently lover's lane - some of you need to get a room! 🙂

Recall again, early readers:), that I wondered in STERN WARNINGS which Colombia would show up on this trip: the one painted as a very dangerous place or the friendly, beautiful and incredibly amazing one, I say now without hesitation it was the latter. So many people, so many places, so much joy and laughter.

So I say the campaign to sell Colombia to the rest of the world is indeed brilliant: face the fact that people across the world believe yours is a dangerous country and come up with a tourism campaign slogan that tackles straight on that perception. The slogan?: COLOMBIA: THE ONLY RISK IS WANTING TO STAY. Like so many, I faced that risk. Click here for more on that campaign.

So now I move on and forward. Next stop, Ecuador. Hey Ecuador, I’m won’t ask that you top your neighbor Colombia. But can you at least match?

 

 

 

 

[shameless 🙂 promised 🙂 secret 🙂 message 🙂 para Ana 🙂 en Envigado: agua CALIente…  aaahhh… 🙂 que rico. 🙂 Pero los mosquitos pican mucho y ya siento la malaria 🙂 ]

Categories: posts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: