Random Thoughts…..

Posted from Siena,Italy

Well the trek continues as we eventually are wending our way home. Last seen in Amsterdam the dynamic duo were amazed by the confluence of history and modernity. That city was so full of life and verve. There are some 300,000 bikes for a city of 500,000. They ride them everywhere and in ways they are more dangerous to a pedestrian than cars or busses.

It was not unusual to see a mum or dad riding two or three kids on the velocipede. All without helmets which seem to be for wusses only.They have contrived a wooden bucket of sorts on the front of the bike and of course have seats to the rear. We saw one chap riding four in the front and two in the back. All smiling and somewhat oblivious to danger which is as it should be.

All the while these Dutch have practiced the fine art of engineering and hydrology to a whole new level of expertise. The city was built on concentric circles that have grown throughout the centuries. Starting as a moat at one time they have grown into a fascinating system of canals that tie the city together with serendipity as well as functionality. Yet all the time you get the sense that these are with it people who have fashioned a liberal lifestyle not from hedonism but because they have accepted so many oppressed and battered souls throughout history. Truly one of our favorites.

The trip from Holland to Italy took us through several time warps known as Munich and Genoa. The German hub like its sister, Frankfurt takes air travel and transfer through its paces with ease. There are Lufthansa planes as far as the eye can see. They use remote landing sites and a fleet of busses to speed people on their way. Don’t be late or you don’t get on. The concourses are wide and modern with the blinds and lighting systems geared to synchronize with departure. A short while before the boarding process the fluorescents pop on and the rising curtain of a colorful transparency of imprint of a golf fairway or the like reveal your aircraft on the tarmac. Quite a demonstration of German ingenuity.

Fast forward to Genoa and Chistoforo’s birthplace and behold a step back in time in more ways than one. You immediately understand why the citizens state with a shrug of the shoulders,”That’s Italy.” As we disembarked it was a short walk to the terminal and you climbed stairs to a drab array of carousels. There was only one plane but a lot of capacity. The cart machine was inoperable and you got the feeling they had to wake up the boys to get the luggage off the plane. Customs was not even a cursory look at our passports but a wave through that was equal parts disinterest and disdain.

As I noted last week the Baltics seem to want to work hard to live. The Italianos seem to want to live because there is nothing better to do. They are a charming people and you get a little emotive trying to give your best Bonjourno or Ciao. It’s just fun. The beaches are littered with sunbathers. Speedos and bikinis abound but that’s a problem. Overweight is in season in many parts.…literally Topless is not all it is cracked up to be but hey, who’s looking?

A ride on the Italian Railway System is a study in opposites. You must always change trains and you go from a sleek bullet to an ancient carriage in just a matter of miles. From shiny steel to a graffiti wielder’s canvas. What track is the train coming in on? You get another shrug. It’s whacky but a ton of myrth and merriment.

We are now in Florence. It is probably the most manageable city you can conjure up with pedestrian walks everywhere. It was the birthplace of the Renaissance and the plazas and Duomos reek of antiquity in a wonderful way.Yesterday afternoon we met David face to face and he was beyond incredible. He stands about 17’ tall and weighs 5-6 tons for you who are not in the cognoscenti. The feat of Michelangelo grows in renown when you find out he did the sculpture with no models and no helpers.

He fashioned the masterpiece in a covered courtyard over a two year period. When he revealed it to the Medicis they undertook a journey that was both dramatic and comical if you ever have watched Italians in action. They had to get this behemoth some 5-6 blocks to the town hall. Now just picture the pedestal mounted on a cart of sorts and supported by wooden wheels. They moved it inches at a time and took several weeks. Michaeli stayed with it the whole way sleeping right beside it every night. Everyone brought food and drink….and of course provided plenty of advice on how to do it. Can you just see them talking rapidly and gesticulating every which way for several weeks? Fantastico!
Well I have to go for now. Church bells are ringing out the call to afternoon vino and we are getting ready for dinner. For that we have to cross the Ponte Vecchio. No easy feat for we have to wend our way along a couple of via whatevers. Instead of bikes these people take to motorcycles and scooters of every sort. We figure it is some sort of arcade game where they try to mow down as many pedestrians as possible. The assassins are not just the suave senors but the cutest little seniorae fatales who have murder not lust in their hearts. And they would just as soon cut yours out. Mama mia!

Ciao bela and multa bene.

As always
Ted the Great

Factoids:
We attended Mass in the Duomo today because mea culpa we have been MIA in the church department. The priest, Francis Fox was from Morris Plains NJ right next door to Morristown where Kathy grew up. He knew our good friends and Reverends Paddy O’Donovan and Jack Carroll very well.

The Medicis ruled Florence for over three hundred years from the mid 1400’s to the mid 1700’s. A combination of totalitarian but benevolent rule.They finally went down in flames due to the harshness of Cosmo Medici. So much for term limits.

There are 3000 house boats of every description on the canals of Amsterdam. They cost a fortune even if in disrepair because they have not issued any new slip permits for years. The Dutch were always good traders.

The Dutch play a big part in the history of our part of the world. Think of the Dutch West Indies Company. Peter Minuit bought the Isle of Manhattan for about $29 worth of trinkets and beads. He then sold it all to Donald Trump for billions after promising hair spray for life.

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