Rapid Mediterranean

Sure, visiting Italy, Greece and Turkey over 5 days is not a recipe for immersion. But surprisingly, what it did allow me to do was to make a rapid comparison of three of the world’s prominent ancient civilizations. And here is my 6 line primer on these three great cultures :)

The Roman civilization was obviously a martial empire and the one thing that stood out was its emphasis on physical discipline and organization. The Appian way, the Roman baths and of course the Colosseum speak of a people obsessed to physically building order.

The Greeks on the other hand (incidentally an older civilization from whom he Romans gathered much) were clearly more intellectually inclined. The Greeks, using a new tool called Reason, gave rise to many seminal intellectual developments including such gems as the notion of equality of men and the premise that ideas are more important than physically perceived reality.

What about Turkey? Turkey was the gateway through which more ancient human achievements of the East reached Greece and then over millennia onwards to the wider West. And in this process of creative transmission became one of the great cosmopolitan civilizations ever.

Another travel scam?

HolidayIQ got this email recently…

Hello,

How are you doing! I hope you are fine? I’m sorry i didn’t inform you
about my trip to Scotland for a program, I’m presently in Scotland and
got mugged at a gun point by some armed robbers on my way to the hotel
where my money and other valuable things were kept including my
passport. I would like you to assist me with a loan of 1620Pounds to
sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home.

I have spoken to the embassy here but they are not responding to the
matter effectively,I will appreciate whatever you can afford to assist
me with,I’ll Refund the money back to you as soon as i return, let me
know if you can be of any help. I don’t have a phone where i can be
reached.

Please let me know immediately.
Regards

DR.THAMMAN

Immigration

Immigration officials across the world are all sent to this common, secret school (run, I suspect by particularly virulent commissars of the ex-USSR) where they are taught the essential niceties of their job – a deeply suspicious look & the ability to never ever let the slightest smile (or even a suspicion thereof) escape on to one’s face, being the most important.

Two countries I have visited stand apart in this – Cyprus & Thailand.

The gate-keepers at the Larnaca airport smiled at me (giving me the heebeejeebies, since to the best of my prior knowledge these guys smile only when about to effect a cop) and – I kid you  not – asked about the weather back home.

The guys at Phuket were the best of the lot. Their interaction was as between mature adults. A smile breaking out of a ‘yeah, we know you are here only to have a good time and as soon as your money runs out, you will go away – but we gotta do this…’ look.

I have been to Saudi Arabia too, where I met the guys who took all the prizes at the commissar’s school.

Accessible Travel

I had never really thought of it before; the needs of the disabled when they travel. While traipsing around India in the last 10 days (I did Bangalore to Chennai to Bangalore to Delhi to Chennai to Tanjore to Chennai to Bangalore, which explains my disappearance from this blog for some time), I came across the group that was in India for a series of conferences on Accessible Travel, which is short-hand for ‘doing all of those things that help disabled travellers travel easier’.

Met a couple of interesting people that evening in Delhi – guys who are opening up a world of easier travel for the disabled.

Scott Rains : Scott is the man who put the disabled on the world agenda. He coined practically all the phrases that are today the cornerstones of all discourse on disability, including Universal Design. In fact, almost all US legislation on disability has the Rains imprimatur. Read Scott’s writings at the Rolling Rains report here.

Craig Grimes : Craig was the first person to demonstrate conclusively that the disabled are a definite ‘market’ in world travel. While living in Barcelona, Craig set up AccessibleBarcelona, a tour operator focused on helping the disabled have a good holiday in Barcelona. And made it into a viable and vibrant business. Craig now lives in Nicaragua and is at it again. Check out his latest venture – AccessibleNicaragua.

I also met Jani Nayar of Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality in NY. They are a Non-profit that works to increase awareness of the needs of the disabled for Travel.

A common theme that ran through all of the conversation was the notion that disabled travellers form a large market. And that it is in the interest of the travel trade to focus on this market and make it easier for the disabled to get around.

North Cyprus Tourism Video

Run-of-the-mill tourism marketing video, except for one device. The voice over, which is that of a small kid, chanting la-la-la. If you plan to target the ‘family’ market, this is a pretty cool device to complete the association. Also, the video is a bit speeded up which presumably helps in a ‘gasp-isn’t-it-fun’ kind of way.

Click here for all my posts on Tourism Marketing

Click here for all my posts on Cyprus

Headlines from the Sunday Mail, Cyprus – June 22, 2008

Local media is often an excellent window to a place (ie. the real place, not the artificial world inside a hotel or in tourist traps) and if you have the luxury of travelling to a country that has English media, never miss the chance to riffle through its papers & mags. Here are a few headlines I found in the Sunday paper while in Cyprus.

Deep in Debt to beat the prices – Crisis, what crisis? Cypriots just keep on spending away

A story on how the general gloom in Europe does not seem to be getting to the sunny Cypriots who seem to be merrily borrowing loads of dough to keep at it.

Under the knife : men going the extra mile for their looksFrom nose jobs and hair removal to weight loss procedures, more and more young men are opting for surgery, but beware, it might not be for you…

Dr Andreas Chimonides, the plastic surgeon says ” you would be surprised at just how many men I treat this way”. Girls, Cyprus is hunk-heaven; visit it. Having said that, the girls are’nt too bad either.

Arty Landmark or eyesore: Should Big Mac stay put? - Unwieldy and out of proportion it may be, but the statue of Makarios in Nicosia has become a real tourist attraction.

What with Gandhigiri the rage in our land, this seems to be the season to get all affectionate with the father of the nation, in this case the Reverend Archbishop Makarios. But, is ‘Big Mac’ taking it a bit too far? The story is about mixed views on shifting a very big statue of the big man.

Who really owns your home? - Whether the house you bought is really yours depends on the procedures you followed when you signed the contract with the developer.

Evidently, Real Estate Developers in Cyprus have the same flexibility of character they have in ours.

Shhhh! Quiet copulation key for female chimpsThey cry out during sex to attract nearby males, but keep quiet when other females are around

So, finally the incontrovertible proof is in. We are descended from the apes. And it took the Sunday Mail in Cyprus to let us in on it.

and so it went. A lot of it sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Mediterranean Gardens in Cyprus

(More Cyprus garden photos here)

In the less than the full 4 days that I was in Cyprus, I managed to sneak into a couple of really lovely, serene gardens. Larnaca town is full of these surprising little groves. A really beautiful one was around a local post office. Another gorgeous one was around the local Art college, where I sat with my laptop for an hour on a lazy Sunday morning, writing up my first Cyprus post.

What I found particularly fascinating was the mix of flora one got to see. There were ubiquitous tropical blooms that I am very familiar with from my childhood pottering around my mom’s garden in kerala. Particularly hibiscus, the bright red variety. I do believe they are some of the most beautiful flowers on the planet. And added to such tropical flowers were the trees, shrubs and flowers clearly only found here. It was a fascinating mix.

Date palms, olive, pomegranate and other trees mixed easily with lovely bougainvillea, hibiscus, oleander and a number of other flowers I know by sight and whose names I shall one day learn. What I particularly liked was the effective interplay of sunny spaces and shade – to me one of the critical components of the Art of Gardens.

The sense of sitting inside a grove in the Mediterranean is quite different from that in the tropics. In the tropics, as you sit in the shade of a grove, you feel the perfume of the plants mixed up with the heavy scent of moisture in the soil. It is a heady mix that hits you as one acute sensory overload. In contrast, the dry, thin air of the Mediterranean helps you ‘feel’ the distinct perfume of each type of plant and flower. I almost got the feeling that the difference in sensory perception between the two, was exactly the difference in the sensory perception between having an Indian meal versus a Mediterranean meal. Sorry to jump into this food thing. But, think of the difference. Indian food is, in general, an amalgam of very many scents & tastes all presented in an absolutely overwhelming sensory mix. Contrast this to Mediterranean food, where each individual element stands alone and you can actually taste, feel & smell each part pretty distinctly. I know I have not described it too well, but those of you who have had both might get what I am trying to say.

Maybe I am being fanciful here, but I do find interesting, the possibility that Nature (and therefore Geography, really) has had a big role in evolving the ‘way’ food is consumed in each culture.

Click here for all my Cyprus posts>>