Luc Pols in Venice
What can one say about Venetia that hasn’t already been said: water problems, pollution and buildings that are decaying, but definitely one of the marvelous treasures on this earth. This city in Northwest Italy, together with its lagoon, was put on the Unesco World Heritage Site list in 1987. To be here on Fat Tuesday is a dream come true. New Orleans has its famous Mardi Gras and Rio de Janeiro can boast about its raucous celebrations, but there is no classier carnival than the one here in Venice. The costumes, the masks, the atmosphere all exude style. It is just absolutely incredible, a once in a lifetime experience.
After Venice, we tour the wine regions of Venice and Friuli. One of the towns we visit is Spilimbergo (yes, the name is originally Austrian, named after the family which founded the town in the 11th century). There still is the old city wall with a couple of the old gates and gorgeous old buildings with frescoes on the walls. There is the old town square with beautiful old buildings on three sides. The fourth side was unfortunately changed, and a modern building erected. I don’t know why – communists or decay – but it just doesn’t cut it. This town, located on a bluff overlooking the river, is famous for its mosaic school, and you see examples of all through the town. The last town we visit is San Daniele del Friuli, famous for its prosciutto, with about 50 factories producing it. I can tell you that this alone is worth a trip here. There are two famous prosciuttos (hams) in Italy: Parma and San Daniele, the latter being a touch sweeter. I can tell you that what we eat for lunch is mouth watering: a prosciutto ravioli, as well as thinly sliced prosciutto, almost like a carpaccio. If you ever make it out here, put this on your to do list for either lunch or dinner (Trattoria “Al Teatro” was where we had lunch). You will not regret it, I can guarantee it.
Before my comments on the re-entry into the U.S., allow me this. When visiting The Hague, we walked by the American embassy, which is now surrounded by a big ugly wall.When we were in Bratislava, the American embassy is now surrounded by a big ugly wall. The embassy also wanted to put barbed wire on top of this wall, but the mayor vetoed this. It is located on a wide boulevard, between beautiful buildings and it now is an eye sore. In Prague, the American embassy is located such, that a wall is not feasible. So now, all cars that come within 250 feet of the embassy are stopped and checked. Remember the Vopos in East Germany checking cars with those mirrors on a stick? Well, that is what they are doing here. It doesn’t give you the best feeling about being an American. A bit embarrassing, or is it scary? Then when I landed and had to go through customs, they inspected my bag, no problem. The problem arose when the customs agent saw my camera, turned it on and started looking at my photos. When, completely flabbergasted, I asked him what he was doing, his reply was “Sir, we can do whatever we want.” I did not, out of fear of being held up there for the next four hours and getting strip searched, ask him whether he thought this was Russia in the 1960s. It was definitely a very scary experience, even more so, because most people don’t even react and start finding all this normal – all in the name of Homeland Security. Will there come a time that we, as Americans, cannot travel abroad anymore without going through extreme hassles? I certainly don’t hope so.