Lake Como is becoming more famous for George Clooney than for its other attributes. I only saw it in passing on my way to catch another train. And then, in Tirano, we found an even better dish!
The little town of Tirano is a pitstop on the way to catch the Bernina Express, but maybe one should stay a while. We did not. We had an hour. We needed lunch. The tiny square near the train station had two eateries so we went to the nearest one. Little did we expect the food to be good.
The house specialty was homemade buckwheat noodles with cabbage, potato, and butter. It turned out to be the best dish of the whole trip.
As the restaurant is used to catering to tourists, I managed to get pineapple and ham added to my American pepperoni pizza. This would never happen in Rome! But, here in Tirano, we were two kilometers from Switzerland so the rules against pineapple on pizza don’t apply here.
The balsamic glazed steak was also something of a surprise. While we were still in Italy, we did feel some of the Teutonic sternness in our waitress. Maybe we are just oversensitive?
If you want to see some spectacular vistas, glaciers, and cute alpine towns, try taking the Bernina Express. We went first class. We had table service and large picture windows that curved up the roof of the train carriage.
Taking this train in the spring allowed us to see both green valleys and snow capped mountains.
The best part was driving through a snow flurry which created an ethereal magical world of dancing flakes and frozen waterfalls.
The staff encouraged us to use the open windows at the end of the carriage to stick our heads out and enjoy the wind. It was refreshing, making returning to the warm carriage even cozier.
The Bernina Express is 110 years old and historic for many reasons. One can learn all about it by using the WIFI audio guide. Or you can just stare out at the passing scenery and imagine the lives lived there, far from the megatropolis of Rome. We dreamed of staying at one of those remote cottages for a few weeks…
The difficult part is that one must have both a reservation and a ticket. Make sure to screen shot those as the phone service may not be so strong up in the alps.
We took the train from Tirano to Chur. The journey was four hours long. They have various tours so one could do this more than once.
For those who visited or lived in DC back in the day, they will recall going down to Maine Avenue fish market to buy shrimp and seafood from the red roofed open air buildings sitting low down by the water. You could even get them pre-steamed with Old Bay Seasoning and ready to eat. The area was a bit run down and sketchy at night. It was a strange location in DC. But one went there for the shrimp. Or if you were eating at Philips.
Times have changed but the seafood stalls are still there. Other than that, it’s a complete make over. Now The Wharf is an entire outdoor boardwalk built for pleasure by the water. It is a new destination location in DC. If you come to DC, I recommend trying it out.
Go for the seafood, Gordon Ramsey’s sticky toffee pudding, and towers of seafood. If you are not into seafood, there are other options. Even the Irish pub is good!
Washington, DC, is the capital of the US but also home to almost three quarters of a million people. The architecture is varied and increasingly high rise. Driving around DC, I realize how much I do not know about the architecture or history of DC. For a guide to the basic styles of homes in DC, check out this link.
Every country takes the food of their immigrants and makes it their own. In Italy, it’s “Italianized” and mild. In America, it is supersized. But, as the US is a country of many immigrants, the food melds and blends seamlessly across menus.
Case in point, I recently went to Pho-Cue in Atlanta, Georgia. It is a hipster vibe-y place that could easily be in Oakland, California, or London, England. The staff have tattoos and shaved manbuns. The food is a mix of Vietnamese food, pan-Asian food, and American barbecue.
The barbecue was too strong for the pho soup but I like that they tried. The banh mi sandwiches were gigonormous.
The best thing were the pork belly “chips” — because why not take a fatty pork belly and deep fry it? It’s almost the American way.
After living in Rome, it was nice to get both pho and barbecue of high caliber.
I went to Egypt to see the treasured outpost of the Roman Empire. But, I also went because I wanted to see the traffic. Is that weird? Yes, and thank you. I had heard people say that the traffic in Cairo is the worst in the world. I have been in LA, Dhaka, Lima, Bogota, New Delhi, and NY traffic. Of all those places, I still vote that Dhaka has the worst traffic. Could Cairo take the crown?
Yes, it can. The reason is that the traffic in Cairo is lethal. Cairo is much bigger than Dhaka and there are many roads where one can gain a great amount of speed, thus making traffic accidents more likely to be lethal.
So, I would have to agree that Cairo has the worst traffic, but Dhaka has possibly the most interesting? In Dhaka one saw all kinds of things in traffic, from half a million rickshaws to elephants.
Almost any tourist destination has them. People who have holiday romances. In some places, they even make a sort of “living” off of the tourists. Those are Romeos. I’m also not sure that Italy has so many Romeos who live off of the tourists as there are so many other ways to make a living off of the tourists.
In Italy, a “lady’s man” is called a Casanova (Casanova was so much more than just a lover of women. He was passionate about food as well and had started writing a dictionary of cheeses.)
A Rodriguez is a different thing. In Spain, in the summer, the wives and families go off to the beach houses. The married men are back in Madrid as geographic bachelors… these men are are Rodriquezzes (not sure what the plural is). Also not sure if this goes on in Italy and if there is a name for them…
In Latin America and Spain, it is quite normal for a man to have two families, one with a woman he is married to and another with his mistress. Or if he is homosexual, a wife and a love.
I once asked an Italian about this. He said that it was too expensive to have two families. But, in Italy, I actually met quite a few Italian men who are faithful to their moms and their girlfriends.
Italy has a dropping birth rate and currently there are fewer Italians than tourists who visit each year (59 million versus 60 million, or so). This is not related to the romancing going on in Italy. It has to do with economics. Thirty percent of women lose their jobs after maternity leave. Most jobs are contracts only so people can’t afford to own their own apartment until they have a “permanent” job and then, often, the parents help with purchasing a place. Apparently, Italians do not want to have a child until they have a permanent job. Not a surprise.
One thing I will say about Italians is that they are great flirts as in they are charming and talkative. They call you “bella” or “bello” and it is nice to be called beautiful.
I will not be retiring to my palace in Split like Diocletian. But, I will be leaving Rome. I will be moving from the eternal city on seven hills to a newer Rome in America. Washington, DC, is sometimes called the “new Rome” and in some ways it is. There are lots of monuments and white marble buildings. It is a capital, and some would say that it was influential the way that Rome once was. It gets unbearably hot in the summer. Like Rome, it is a touristy town. Like Rome, DC also suffers from not being quite as fashionable as its northernly neighbor (for DC, it’s New York, and for Rome, Milan).
But, for me, it will be my next home. Arrivederci, Roma!
Arrivederci translates to, “Goodbye until we meet again.”
Diocletian was an emperor who managed to retire near his hometown, in modern day Croatia, and build a huge palace. He managed to abdicate. I am sort of fascinated by this. His palace is the old town of Split.
Now, Split is very famous because of Game of Thrones. I was not there for GOT so I enjoyed the Roman ruins without searching for dragons.
Apparently during peak season, the rows of tourists go in a conga line down the narrow streets, one row going in one direction, the other going in the opposite direction.
Perhaps ruined by tourism. But if you visit during off season and go in early in the morning, you will get the sites a bit more to yourself. Even the vomitorium. I went in search of it, but it was just a ruin.
Split reminds me of towns with marble lined streets in places like Apulia in southern Italy. I have a weakness for these white marble streets. I guess it makes it look clean. I did not see any trash but I also didn’t see any trash cans. But, I did see garbage collectors so I guess they do a continuous cleaning service? It should be noted that it poured and flooded while I was there adding a nice freshly washed look to the town.
The old town of Split is quite small so you can see most of it in a day or so. But, that allows you time to settle in a cute cafe (maybe in a ridiculously photogenic courtyard) and enjoy some gourmet coffee. I was pleased to see that most restaurants stayed open all day from breakfast through to midnight.
Tourism makes up 18 percent of Croatia’s GDP. I can see why. Split is a lovely town, even with 75 percent tourists. There are other things to see and many experiences that are made special by the tourist machine. I was in the oculus when a choral group began to sing. Magical. When I told the receptionist at my hotel about this, she said that even though she lived in Split, she had never had that experience. Probably because she was working.
Again, to see the locals and how they live, get up early. Visit the market even though it is touristy. Maybe even visit the supermarket out in the edge of town. You might find some locals there. Or look in the fish market. I am fairly sure that no tourists go in there.
Having now seen Diocletian’s retirement home in person, I am even more impressed by his choice.