Sunday, September 21, 2014

How To Get Kicked Out of the Vatican!

This post is dedicated to all the unbelievably oblivious tourists attempting to visit the Vatican when we were there in July.  May your ignorance, rudeness, and obtuseness know no end, amen.*

How To Get Kicked Out or Denied Entry to the Vatican
In Three Simple Steps!

1.  Bring your multi-tool, kitchen scissors, pepper spray, or your spray paint!  I know you think it'd be funny to show off your Swiss Army knife to the Swiss guards, but I'm sure that joke has lost its touch on them by now.  Attempting to bring a weapon of any type into the Vatican is strictly prohibited and doing so could win you a free trip to the Vatican jail.  Now that would be an interesting stamp in your passport!  But if you forgot to pack the machete in your luggage, proceed to step two.
2.  Wear your best street-walking outfit.  That's right, ladies; if you got it, flaunt it.  Work what your Maker gave you!  Bare those shoulders and show off those upper thighs.  You might get a few glances before you're given directions to the red-light district.  And don't think you're off the hook, gentlemen.  Wearing a t-shirt with "F--- You" written on it might give you street cred, but it's not going to fly when it comes to the Vatican.  The Swiss Guards will be eager to give you a finger of their own... as they point the way to the door.  Oh, and they don't perform their wardrobe checks until after you've stood in line for security, so the last laugh is theirs, bro!  But if you're fresh out of inappropriate or profane clothing, never fear - there's still one more way you could get yourself kicked out.  Proceed to step three.

Yep. That'll do it.
3.  Break out into a raucous rendition of "Wrecking Ball" accompanied by your best imitation of the music video.  Preferably stage yourself right in front of the high altar for full blasphemous effect.  Or if you're not into Miley, I'm sure Beyonce, Katy Perry, and Eminem would be equally inappropriate as disruptions are sure to give you a fast-track ticket for eviction.  I'm sure they wouldn't frown upon a good Gregorian chant or a recitation of the Lord's Prayer, but if you can't remember any of the Latin you learned in middle school, just start humming sanctimoniously.

Bonus Tip:  How to Anger Your Fellow Tourists!
Cut in line!  Yes, that's right - if you're looking to anger, infuriate, aggravate, provoke and enrage your otherwise civilized fellow tourist, just stand to the inside of the line waiting to get into the Basilica as you pose for a photo with St Peter's behind you.  Then just keep inching towards the line and act as if you'd been there the whole time.  Line cutting is the perfect behavior for visiting the capitol of the largest Christian organization in the world!  Oh, and to absolve yourself from any misplaced guilt you may have about not waiting your turn at the back of the line, pretend you don't understand any of the muttered complaints uttered in every language known to man by the people you just gypped.  Just act like you only understand Klingon, smile banally, and go on with your line-cutting ways.

Have you ever witnessed inappropriate behavior like this?

*In case you aren't familiar with my humor (you should see what I wrote about Italy's Public Transportation System!), this is a very tongue-in-cheek approach to describe our visit to the Vatican.  These things did and do happen to varying degrees.  However, we had an absolute blast at the Vatican, and a more upbeat and "serious" post about our visit will hit the blogosphere in the future!

Linking up with Chasing the Donkey for #SundayTraveler!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Lake Victoria, Uganda (2007)

This photo (which unfortunately is rather grainy as I lost all originals when my college laptop died) is a view of Lake Victoria in Uganda.

For better pictures of Uganda, you could check out Crane Media's Facebook page, particularly this photo.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Why Travel Boycotts Are NOT Unethical

Recently I came across a travel blog post which made the argument that it is unethical to boycott travel to a country.  For any reason.  Here is the progression of the author's argument:

1.  Travel boycotts hurt the locals more than the government you're boycotting.
2.  The tourism industry is unlikely to wield enough power to incite change in their government.
3.  So therefore, when you travel to a country with which you may have ideological disparities or which you can't condone at all, consider the fact that your travel monies are supporting the "innocent people" of the country who would otherwise be unemployed without your tourism.*


At first, I could see the author's point.  Well, sort of.  Calls for boycotting certain companies over social issues is not uncommon here in the United States, but are they really effective?  Against large corporations, probably not, unless you're able to engage in an intense public relations attack simultaneously.  Against a smaller, local business (or in comparison, a smaller country) a boycott or the mere threat of one could potentially be more damaging and result in changes made in regards to the issue you're challenging.

But whether boycotts are successful or not is irrelevant.  The article wasn't about effectiveness, but about ethics.  The author charged that "it is unethical to participate in a travel boycott. Plain and simple."

It takes a certain level of naivete or arrogance to claim that all travel boycotts are unethical.  Here's why I think the author's position is wrong:

1.  Personal Safety
As an American Christian woman, there are just certain places, or entire countries for that matter, which would be dangerous for me to visit.  Some are more dangerous than others, of course, and even in the most civilized of countries you can become a victim.  However, I can understand and support those who choose to boycott entire localities or countries.  Why would a Christian want to vacation in a country where they imprison, torture and kill Christians?  Are you going to call a gay man "unethical" because he boycotts traveling to a country where they beat and behead homosexuals?  Why would a woman want to be a tourist in a country that charges rape victims with illegal sex, a crime that carries jail time, or a country where crimes against women, whether citizens or visitors, is a regular occurrence?  Even if I personally don't have a boycott against a country, it would be unconscionable of me to accuse those who do of being "unethical."

2.  Moral Hypocrisy
Duplicity has become very prevalent in our culture, but I believe that hypocrisy is unethical.  If you believe that crimes against gays are wrong, why would you want to spend your money in a country that's openly and exultantly killing them?  "Put your money where your mouth is," as they say.  I wouldn't want a single red cent to go towards a country that currently sentences entire families to hard labor merely for opposing their government, or hacks people to death with machetes for belonging to the "wrong" religion, or beheads infants in the name of their god!  There is true evil in this world, and while I am not naive enough to think that withholding my paltry travel funds will topple regimes or change the world, I certainly will not endorse such behavior by visiting those places.

3.  The Slippery Slope of the "It Does More Harm than Good" Argument
Essentially, his article could be summed up with the "it does more harm [to boycott] than good" argument.  However, this is a very slippery slope.  Should I justify all my travel actions and purchases by this standard?  "Yes, I will buy this item from a supplier that I know uses slave labor because at least some of my money will go towards supporting those people."  "Yes, I will visit a country that degrades and kills its own people because at least a few farthings might help the poor blokes at the bottom of the food chain there."  This is a weak argument for weak ethics.

This is not the first time that I have encountered an article, travel-related or not, with which I cannot agree, nor will it be the last.  However, this is the first one which compelled me to form my own argument, and I feel very strongly that the author made a grave mistake in insulting current and potential followers who have very valid reasons to avoid certain countries.  It's neither just nor prudent to label someone "unethical" simply because you don't agree with their reasons to boycott a location or country.

What do you think?  Should people who boycott countries be called "unethical?"

*I chose not to link to the author at this time.  If you wish to read his article, you can find it by searching for "Travel Boycotts and Why They're Unethical."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Roman Forum & Palatine Hill

What is there to say about the once-beating heart of the Roman empire that hasn't already been said?

As I surveyed the wrecked and ruined remains of marble and stone scattered haphazardly where the Palatine and Capitoline hills meet at the Roman Forum, I couldn't help but recall the words from Shelley's Ozymandias sonnet:  "Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"  What once stood proudly, embossed with gold and bright paints, now lies broken.  All the power and authority which once ruled the entire civilized world is divided or dissipated - just a few broken pillars mark where the Roman Forum once stood.  And yet the legacy of Rome continues to fascinate centuries later, and arguably, all roads still lead to Rome.

Looking up at the Palatine Hill
I did find it difficult to picture what the Roman Forum would have looked like.  Unlike the Colosseum, which only needs a little bit of imagination to fill in a few missing seats, pillars or arena floor, the Roman Forum requires a stronger imagination as not much remains unbroken.

Nevertheless we spent four or five hours wandering the valley between the Palatine and Capitoline hills where one of the greatest civilizations this world has known came into existence.  Thanks to the detailed podcasts by Rick Steves (available for free download on iPhones and Android devices), we were able to refresh our knowledge about what once existed here.  Having an audio guide or book is necessary to interpret the rubble as there is limited signage.

Temple of Romulus (left) and Temple of Antonius and Faustino (right)

In the remains of the House of the Vestal Virgins

Where Julius Caesar's body was cremated

Temple of Saturn

View of the Circus Maximus from the emperor's palaces

View across the valley between Palatine and Capitoline hills

Have you visited the Roman Forum?

Linking up with Bonnie Rose and other travel bloggers for #TravelTuesday!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Weltmeister: Celebrating Germany's World Cup Win!

When we booked our tickets last winter for a summer visit to Europe, we knew we'd be in Germany for the final matches of the World Cup.  Danny spent his childhood summers watching fuβball in Germany, cheering on FC Bayern-München and the national team, and we were hoping to recreate some of those memories with our visit this year.  But although we hoped, we never really thought we'd be so lucky as to be in Germany when they won the World Cup for the first time in 24 years!

After a day spent touring Strasbourg, France, and driving through the Black Forest, we made it back to Stuttgart in time to change and then do a little pre-gaming on the S-Bahn (I don't exactly look my best when mid-sentence in a buzzed state!...

We watched the game in the "fellowship hall" of a church. I can't think of many places in the U.S. that would condone any drinking where a church regularly meets -- and a Protestant one at that! This is one liberal aspect of Europe that I can fully embrace!

We had a few nail-biting moments... but ultimately exploded in celebration!  As did German fans across the globe!

Götze dank!

Full of elation (and beer!), we made our way out into the streets and towards the Königstraβe, the pedestrian-only center of the city.  Apparently, so did everyone else in Stuttgart!

There were ten times as many people out celebrating compared to the German third place finish when we were visiting in 2010!  Here we were four years ago...

...And here we are in 2014!  Same pose, same group of friends, same love for Deutschland!

A HUGE thank you to our Stuttgarter friends, D. and E. for being such wonderful hosts, and for making all the arrangements to meet up with D.F., A.W., and J.B. to continue our World Cup viewing tradition!  We can't wait to do it again in 2018!


Have you experienced a World Cup celebration like this?

Linking up with Chasing the Donkey for #SundayTraveler!