CHARLOTTE, NC, January 28, 2017 – It is a well-documented adage that if you travel long enough and far enough you will ultimately encounter life-altering experiences. I have been fortunate many times over in that regard, and with that thought in mind, I wish to share some of my personal adventures in the hope of creating a bit of wanderlust for you.
Like many Americans, when I began traveling I was addicted to the automobile. No matter where I went, the thought of not having wheels to get me around was foreign to me, until I discovered trains. Wonderful, delicious trains. Panoramic trains. High-speed trains. Luxury trains. Overnight trains. Narrow gauge trains. Funiculars. Cogwheels. Rack railroads.
On a train, I can read, or sleep, or walk to the bistro car for something to eat. I have restrooms and a place to wash my hands and face. I don’t have to read a map or understand road signs. If I miss a train, another will come along in an hour or so.
At a railway station, I can find food, exchange money, get directions, book hotel reservations, get a newspaper, ask for information and even replenish items such as toothpaste or shaving cream and the like.
Trains usually connect city-center with city-center, so your are literally in the heart of a destination when your arrive.
All you need to do is “train” yourself.
I have personally experienced the rush of being in the engineer’s cab of a French TGV traveling at 186 mph while passing another TGV from the opposite direction.
In the air, I flew on one of the famed Concordes before the fleet was grounded by a horrible accident and SSTs disappeared from the lexicon of aviation forever.
I even rode in the cockpit for an hour just before the pilots landed at Kennedy Airport in New York.
I viewed the Sistine Chapel ceiling before, during and on the first day of its completed restoration.
I felt the oppression of Russia and Romania under their Communist regimes and visited the former Yugoslavia before it was ravaged by war.
I toured the new Globe Theater in London while it was still under construction.
I was lucky enough to be in Stockholm one winter for the presentation of the Nobel Prizes.
There was a dugout canoe trip on the Orinoco River in Venezuela searching for fresh water dolphins while fishermen stood on the shore catching piranhas in their nets.
I rode a camel in Lawrence of Arabia’s desert, and on another occasion, toured Petra on horseback.
Travel has broadened my knowledge of art. I have learned something of music and visited the apartment where Mozart once lived in Vienna, which surprisingly functions today much as it did centuries ago.
There was a visit to the exquisite Abby Library in St. Gallen, Switzerland and whitewater rafting above the Arctic Circle in Sweden.
Travel has provided me with a personal list of “favorite things.” I developed a fondness for Sherlock Holmes after watching Jeremy Brett bring Conan Doyle’s character to life on the stage in London.
So intrigued did I become that I even went to Meiringen, Switzerland to climb to the crest of Reichenbach Falls where Holmes and his arch-enemy, Moriarity, fought to the death in The Final Problem.
In Italian Days, Barbara Grizzuti Harrison taught me about the seductiveness of balconies, especially those that are hidden so as to allow the anonymous, voyeuristic pleasure of watching the world down below.
Sidewalk cafes have much the same appeal, only from street level where I can still be anonymous, yet become an active participant in the eternal, yet ever-changing pageant of life.
Another aspect of my evolution is walking. I have come to realize that setting out by foot toward a new destination can lead to all sorts of interesting treasures. The serendipitous elation of finding something new when it is least expected produces an optimism within me that I cannot describe.
And then there are colors. Little did I realize that color can be so markedly different from one place to the next. Scandinavian colors are nothing like those of Italy or Normandy. The Impressionists figured it out. Monet and his cohorts painted the same scenes over and over again because the dappled light of northwestern France changes so rapidly.
Landscapes come alive in varying shades and textures that burst into a kaleidoscope of hues. Pastels turn to vivid brilliance and in seconds become muted earth tones or silhouettes, altered by the eternal movement of the sun amidst ever-changing clouds.
Florence, Italy, on the other hand, is a city of earth tones and mist; umber buildings, caramel facades, toasted hills, amber bridges and eggshell sculptures. It has a gentle light. There is a subtle softness that adds character to its ancient monuments and vintage architecture. It isn’t the same texture as the colors of Venice, Rome or Amalfi.
In Scandinavia the light is intense. Everything is chiseled and bold. It’s as though life is viewed in High Definition. Everything is magnified; lustrous; vibrant. Colors are deep and primary.
The sun isn’t soft in Scandinavia. It doesn’t play hide and seek with the atmosphere as it does in Normandy. Nor is it subdued like Florence. In Scandinavia, light is flamboyant. There is no such thing as mellow light. It is electric.
Travel in its own unique way presents new worlds beyond the old. Search and discover with an open mind and you will never be disappointed.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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