Friday, December 5, 2014

Postcards from Europe by Rick Steves

This doesn't happen often...a trifecta of non fiction, with no SF or Fantasy read and reviewed in the meantime. Maybe next week I'll go all fiction, ok?

I've been a big fan of Rick Steves' travel shows for a long time, and at least one of his guides was extremely useful when we traveled to Portugal a few years ago. This book has been out for about fifteen years, and contains some of his reminiscences and insights on European travel. I've obviously watched too many of his shows, because when I was reading this I could hear him narrating it, in his own inimitable style the entire time.

Steves begins in Holland, and works his way south through Europe to Germany and on to Italy and France, then Switzerland in this tale.

An interesting quote about business in Germany follows.

"Looking exhausted and burnt out, he (hotel owner Kurt) says, 'It's the new cook. He's always sick. A cook costs me four thousand deutsch marks [$2500] a month. He gets one month paid vacation and up to six weeks paid sick time. Doctors say the best way for a German employee to stop being sick is to start his own business.'"

and a new German proverb for you,

"German men say a man without a belly isn't a man. A German saying is, 'Better to have a big belly from drinking than a broken back from working.'"

Venice is definitely one of Steve's favorite places to visit, closely followed by Florence.

On comparative gastronomy:

"Ilaria says, 'For me the French cheese is the Italian cheese with mold. If we have cheese that nobody buys, it gets moldy. After some days, it becomes the perfect French cheese.'
Raising my glass of wine I offer a toast to Italian food. 'To la cucina Italiana.'
Manfredo follows that, saying magnanimously, 'To bacon and eggs.' We all agree that American breakfasts are unbeatable.
'Omelets, hashbrowns,' Roberto reminisces. 'On my last visit to New York, I gain four kilos in three weeks.'
Raising our glasses, we make another toast. 'To American breakfasts.'"

This is not a travel guide, but more of a series of vignettes which tells us a great deal about Rick Steves and his attitudes about travel.

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