Kittie Howard

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Italy Charms

Italy charms.  Slowly.  Like a flower whose scent drifts, pulling you into an orbit of beauty, where bad happens in another place, another time, like yesterday's newspaper, left on a terrace table, the English gaining my attention, the headlines so dramatic, so far away I recoil from what threatens and walk away, preferring the scented beauty, the Italy that charms, the Italian language that seduces, like a lullaby, into feeling safe and secure.

After four lovely days in Munich (which I'll blog about after returning to the States, for something interesting happened which I'd like to share, hear your input), we're into our routine at Jesolo Beach, an hour's ferry ride across the bay from Venice, Italy.  It's a tourist area that shuts down in winter, reverting to the gray emptiness expected from a narrow peninsula victimized by seasonal winds and heavy rains.

In the meantime, tho, the sun shines in a cloudless blue sky, tourists wander the town's shaded streets, beach devotees have claimed lounges or locals go about morning errands.  The atmosphere is peaceful, very relaxing.  Dick's out by the pool, content reading a Daniel Silva novel, half-shaded under his umbrella.

I don't like sitting in the sun, umbrella or not, even with sunscreen, a hat, and so on.  I enjoy exploring side streets, taking photos, and walking and not really thinking, just absorbing.  Around noon, Dick and I meet at a   beach hangout popular with Italians (for most of the tourists here are Italian).  He usually orders a beer and a panini.  I don't order anything.  There aren't any calories in what I pinch from his plate!!  That sip of beer, too!

What I've noticed most about the area, is how generational the lifestyle is.  Sons work with fathers in the small shops.  Grandmothers push strollers (prams).  Long-time friends gather in the piazza and talk and laugh.  Small kids know to endure the pinch on the cheeks, the kisses, the exclamations about how beautiful they are.  Dogs know to flatten down, to wait until they can return to being dogs, tails up, paws moving, styling and profiling.  It's Italy.  Everybody and everything looks good.  Not a speck of dust on constantly washed cars.  Store windows sparkle.

Our hotel serves dinner at 7:30.  It's the only hotel in the area to include breakfast and dinner in the daily price.  Dinner includes a long salad bar, a soup and pasta bar, and a buffet of fresh vegetables and grilled (while you wait) meats and fish.  Dessert consists of a table filled with mouth-watering tortes, with a parallel fruit table, the cherries, strawberries, and melons that are in season.  One can top off the fruit with gelato.

And, so, for a week we enjoyed a leisurely paced routine.  Until a large group of Russians checked in.  Now, no one knows what to think.  Not just us, the lone tourists from the United States.  But the numerous Brits and Germans and Austrians.  We've begun to gather and compare notes.  Decide what to do.  When there's only one thing to do:  Come to breakfast and dinner earlier, change our leisurely routine.

If not, there's little food, with the hotel staff scrambling to find fillers.

It's beyond comprehension that a group of people can put so much food on plates (for each balances more than one filled plate), move as a group, not following the course order, piling on the really good stuff (for a menu is posted daily).  And they eat it all, every crumb, scraping plates clean, as if an eating marathon exists.  Then, they leave.  With the rest of us sitting there, wondering, what the hell was that all about?

There's a bit of sympathy, that that many people are that hungry.  But sympathy only goes so far.

For those of you new to my blog, my hub and I lived in Macedonia for two years.  I learned to speak Macedonian fairly well.  Some Macedonian laces Russian (or vice versa).  So, I understand a bit of these Russian conversations.  In short, they don't like us, look down upon us, enjoy talking about us.  By 'us' I mean those of us from the West, be it Austria or Germany or England or the United States or wherever.  I wish I could list exceptions and say this couple or that person was very nice.  I can't.  They move as a group with a group mentality.  Nothing individual here.  Not even a response to routine greetings in their language.

I wish I could say that this is the experience from one tour group.  Not so.  Out desk clerks say it's the same with Russian tour groups everywhere here.

And the Russians shop en masse, flush with euros (oil money), buying high-end designer items with the same abandon with which they fill dinner plates.

So, where am I going with all this?  Nowhere, really.  Except to say that I, like other hotel guests from England, Austria, and Germany, am a product of the Cold War.  We're a bit taken aback by this East-West divide we're experiencing.  For there are guests here from European countries who speak Russian.  I'm told overheard conversations get harsher when one understands Russian fluently.

One can't buy Paradise.  Reality always slips in.

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