Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Pleasures of Travel

I have hunted maps of Venice, and I am fairly sure that it was Studium Libreria. The bookstore had suddenly emerged amid a row of shops in the shadow of San Marco. I had not expected a bookstore there, much less a bookstore that carried some titles in English. My only purchase at Studium Libreria, though, ended up a book in French.

It was startling for me, standing in those crowded midday aisles in 1996, to hold in my hands a book about Venice written in a French that I could understand. The author, Michel Mohrt, was a member of the Academie Francaise, and he had written a book about Italy. He was an Italophile. A French Italophile. I had not understood up to that moment that such a category of Venetian visitor could exist.

In the delight that comes from being able to read something that might hitherto have seemed inaccessible, I discovered something new about the pleasures of travel. Beyond memorable meals, beyond museums, beyond tours, each destination initiates you into a community of visitors whose minds and whose words deserve a Baedeker's all their own.

Exploration can take the form of memoir.

Investigation can occur in paragraph after fertile paragraph as well as in dogged footsteps.

I do not recall at what moment it occurred to me to search beyond English titles in my quest for verbal images of the Munich I would shortly find in my travels. A "Munich" search in brought me up against the French translation of a collection of short stories by an Italian author, Giorgio Pressburger.

I read an excerpt from the short story that gives the book its title:

Ne pensez pas à la célèbre horloge de l'hôtel de ville de Munich, ce mécanisme qui, toutes les heures, fait défiler de gracieuses silhouettes, dans un carrousel très fidèle à l'esprit de coquettes villes allemandes du XVIe siècle.

Enjoying what I read, I thought of what I wanted to try. It did not take me long to pull out my credit card and arrange fairly inexpensively for a copy of the Pressburger book to be waiting for me at my hotel when I arrive in Munich next Friday morning.

I get to indulge a new kind of adventure. Like a scene from some old black-and-white movie, a hotel desk clerk will inform me that there is a package waiting for me. I will thank the receptionist, take the package into the hotel bar, and begin to read the French translation of an Italian short story named after the Glockenspiel that I had first seen during a Munich visit in 1974.

Does travel get much more fun than that?

Photo of Michel Mohrt from Revista Literaria Azul Arte

Photo of Giorgio Pressburger by Danilo de Marco


Ur-spo said...

I hadn't thought of travel in that way.

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