I was thinking about some recent posts regarding Rome day trips and it occurred to me how different our reactions can be to places, which often make no sense. I have been to most places in Italy except the mountains and north of Venice about 10 or more times. Yet how is it that I don't ever care if I go to Florence again (despite initial awe since it was so different from everything in France that I was used to) yet would love to go back to Siena, only a short distance away?
What makes a place special to us? What turns us off? Oddly, after my first three times in Florence, it suddenly felt like a 'dark place' to me. I didn't like Pisa or Pistoia much either, so I might have a slight distaste for Tuscany other than the hilltop towns and Siena and San Gimignano. Maybe too much teaching and reading of Dante. The top photo and second row left are Florence from Piazza Michelangelo across the Arno; the other three are in order Siena, the streets leading up to the church of San Domenico and the city; the Palazzo Pubblico and piazza where the palio is run every summer; and one of the photos from the Piccolomini library inside Siena's magnificent cathedral. (I think I answered my question at least for these two cities: Florence is Renaissance and Siena is medieval.d
Siena, a much more truly medieval and smaller city (that may be key), by contrast continues to attract me and I would always welcome the chance to go back. I could multiply these examples across Europe, but am curious what others think? I truly can't explain it since the things I love -- history, art, gastronomy, wine -- are at least as present in Florence as Siena. My pictures will probably make you want to go there. Odd.
Wonderful photo's and stimulating question!
It seems the "Common denominator" in travel in what people like is "Comfort"!
Now that presents a huge variation when some like "Mardi Gras" and some like the serenity of a beach or mountain. However, one can be "Comfortable" in all environments, if that is what they like. Yes, expectations and fulfillment of such, make for a special travel experience.
For example, one can really enjoy "New Years Eve" at Times Square and the next day have just as good of a time visiting Bar Harbor the next day. It's all in what you are "Comfortable" doing. That is what makes travel so interesting and fun. When you can do it "Your way", it's so very special.
This week I read a story about an airline flight from Asia to the US that was diverted, and had to land in Alaska for awhile. The reason that the story was unique is that the many passenger's really enjoyed the "Layover"!
Just a thought!
You are so right professor. I do want to go there by the gorgeous photos. I particularly like the one of the street leading up to the church of San Domenico...great perspective.
I love to see how many different perspectives can come from seeing the same images or scenery or art. So many views can come each person looking at the same thing. Like jerrycoin said so eloquently, that's what makes the world go around. That's why I love this site. Everyone contributes to a plethora of information about each subject. ..and of course the pictures are one of the best parts of that imo. Tbanks for the pics and the interesting post
Dear Professor and others,
I couldn't do the question justice, yet penned some thoughts, if you can bring yourself to plod through it's length. Being somewhat interminable, I decided to post it in my blog instead of here, not wanting to put a kill switch (of longsuffering) to the Professor's excellent and provocative question. If you somehow find yourself terribly bored (though with the list of all of the great travel books that GemPrincess has previously and so kindly compiled I don’t see how that can be possible, nonetheless), you can have a look. Here’s the link.
Yes, Pluto is so correct! A most provocative question!
One other aspect of an answer is "Timing"! Think back when you were living in Paris, especially early on, and how exciting you must have thought the city was. Now, you don't feel the same way. This is so "Typical" for most of us!
"Things change" and our tastes change as well! For example, I used to think NYC was "Nirvana", now I find it a "Nervous Breakdown"!
So bottom line, "Our travel tastes change"!
Hi Pluto and Jerry,
The funny thing is with Paris that I only appreciated it after I lived there for my first two years (1985-87). It was a different time then, no one spoke English, and my French was based on reading knowledge of famines, scarcities and plagues, which don't tend to endear you to people. The French bureaucracy in libraries like the Bibliothèque and Archives Nationales were much worse than today. But since my ex had already been everywhere in Europe and this was my first time anywhere abroad but Canada, I decided after two weeks of frustration to go to Switzerland and Germany (he didn't want to). I had had 4 years of A+ German in high school though I couldn't then and can't now speak it well despite my Swiss-German background. But people there acted like they understood me, so I went back to Paris with an attitude. And Parisians respect attitude. Some of you have heard this before but I spoke everything in the present tense till I got more comfortable (and ended up living with a French family who knew no English). Then I got to like Paris a lot more in the 90s, but always loved other parts of France (especially Burgundy, Provence and the SW) better and still do. My first ventures elsewhere, even in the 80s, were day trips to Brussels and Amsterdam (I'm not fond of the latter).
I spent substantial time in Germany and Switzerland, but go figure with my background, I never felt at home. But while my first trips to Rome and Venice in the 90s were not exactly glorious or happy, I persevered, and Italy as you all know has become one of my favorite places.
One of the most important things to remember about the countries in Europe and elsewhere is that the different parts of them are as different as, say, New England and the Deep South or the Pacific Northwest and Kansas. There is no one culture, and that's most true in Italy and Germany, which only became countries in the 19th C. But even for France, from one region to another, you'll find different linguistics, food, wine, culture, and attitudes.
One thing has seemed a given to me in Europe: the North of most countries tends to be conservative and strict in their behavior while the South is more loose and open. Certainly that applies to France, Germany and Italy.
I agree about NYC, Jerry, except I find it a whole lot better than it was when I first went there before I graduated high school in 1970.
But yes, indeed the travel tastes change! Had I not decided to revisit Rome and Venice I never would have ended there more than 10 times each since -- both of which have become my favorite big cities.
Florence is an enigma to me. I definitely liked it the first few times, and it has EVERYTHING to offer. But I don't ever want to go there again (yet nothing bad ever happened to me). Likewise but in a different way Pisa -- you can see everything worth seeing in a morning. But Umbria and the Tuscan hillside villages are amazing.
So while I don't care if I'm ever in Paris or Florence again, I do appreciate both -- just not enough to want to go back.
I actually (while pausing the Patriots' game against the Steelers) was thinking more about my lack of feeling for Switzerland and Germany. I actually lived in Wolfenbüttel, Germany for 3 months, and had numerous trips through West and then former East Germany as well as Switzerland. My family tried to get me to look up ancestors in Berne till I pointed out my maiden name in Switzerland was like Smith or Jones in the US.
But while I found most places in Switzerland and Germany physically beautiful (the same for Austria, especially Salzburg and Innsbruck), I just felt no connection with any of those places. They were, for me, places to take photos.
By contrast, despite the initial reception in France, it became my second home. Nowadays when I go back, especially after learning Italian, French is really easy for me and I'm often treated like a Frenchwoman. I do still want to re-visit parts of France, especially Burgundy, more of Brittany, and maybe back to La Rochelle. I'll try to dig up some of my old Seattle Photoworks non-digital CD pics of some of my favorite places in France.
But for the near future, I expect most of my travels will take me to Italy and Greece, and I hope back to Egypt someday. All of those trips have changed both my teaching and research.
Maybe Turkey too, though the carpet salesmen wearied me both times.
Please share your own wows and non-wows, especially the ones that don't make sense (like me and Florence).
jerrycoin is on the right track as far as I am concerned, for me it's context. I met the girl of my dreams (woman now, we were kids) at the Marriott HQ health club, no Marriott property could/can top that as my favorite Marriott locale (hey, somebody copy this and send it to my wife, it could lead to a terrific dinner! ).
Dear Prof and friends,
Many thanks for all the pics, questions and reflections,
Coincidentally, a friend asked me the other day during a golf round "Why do you keep going back to Berlin and Munich: surely you can't find anything new to see or do?"
As you have suggested, the phrasing of the question gives a clear insight into my friend's understanding and expectations of travel. It is linked to the satisfaction of a preconceived list of aims, goals - call them what you will. Once done, there is little new or different to experience and therefore, so the argument runs, off to the next location and set of experiences.
I totally agree with Jerry and Erc that "comfort" and "context" - however understood - are key ingredients of enjoyable travel. But I believe that, beyond these, the lure of travel lies in the curiosity and questioning it triggers - about the process through which places and people came to be what and how they are; how they understand and react to the challenges of the future. Answers to these questions are usually elusive - which for me, in answer to the Prof's question, is why return visits can be so stimulating and rewarding: they help both to frame questions and to seek answers. And, as part and parcel of this process, comes a sense of self-discovery. As Tennyson wrote once, "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
While in a sense France has become old for me (since I've lived there for years at a time as well as shorter trips), 10 or more trips each to Rome and especially Venice have not even come close to making them old for me. Greece feels the same. I think part is the experiencing new things (another reason I desperately want to go back to Egypt) and part is whether or not a culture fits your personality type. While I may be a hermit at home I like the joie de vivre or gioia da vivere of the Mediterranean countries.
Off to London for a conference tomorrow (Jack the Ripper, no less, sponsored by the Whitechapel 1888 Society). Jam packed. I arrive Friday morning, it starts at noon and I return Monday morning.
Have a splendid and safe journey. Your posts continue to amaze and open my eyes of things to ponder and discover.
The day my eyes stop popping with travel will either be the day of my death or the total and utter deterioration of all my joints. In the case of the latter, they're not doing well, so I'm going to do as much as I can in the next couple of years. I have 1/2M unused Delta miles, so doing it in Business will be easier. But London is a hop, skip and jump from the Northeast so I paid.
I wish everyone could get to see the places so many of us have. It changes everything.
Thanks, all! I feel very lucky to participate in this 125th anniversary conference both because of my course on History of Fear and the book I hope to write as probably my end-of-career book (it will take years to complete since it starts in antiquity). I've been to all the places in the East End before on my own and with tours, but to be with specialists and scholars should be really cool. I think I mentioned this in a post a while ago when I'd done a Jack the Ripper tour and got to know some of the best guides -- they all said that women made up the vast majority of tour participants . Go figure.
Assuming all goes well this weekend and starting December 6 I will be going from Jack the Ripper's London to St. Francis' Assisi when classes are over. Now that's bizarre.
I am a late arrival to this post (as I don't frequent the site like I used to) but this is a truly great question.
I find that what 'wows me or doesn't' depends on what I take from the experience lived while there. Let me explain a little.....whenever I travel I maintain an open mind about what might be there. I like to go 'into the weeds' searching out the 'local' hangouts and experiences that locals live because they are most likely the best sources of 'tips and insider info' about what to do while there (wherever I may be). When those folks are willing to engage (and I find they usually are) the info they can provide is invaluable to getting the most out of the visit. I think the wow factor becomes good or bad based on the enjoyment (or aggravation) of my stay as created from this info. I have rarely been disappointed in the information I have been given. I also find it can be a lot of fun engaging the locals in their environment (as opposed to in the touristy locales).
My 'wow' locations have been, when speaking of European locales, have been most everywhere with the exception of Munich, Germany...and that was lousy. Rude and condescending people. I think they still thought they won the war.
My wife was just talking about going to Florence as we are taking a September trip next year to Italy and Greece. Funny how this post is so timely.......