Thursday, August 3, 2017

Memorial To Past Events

Look closely 
Out with the old doesn’t quite work sometimes.  As in Olympics, for instance.  The citizens pay for great stadiums, dormitories, and all the structures that it takes to present the olympics.  Lately is has been found that the events did not make enough income to pay for building them.  When the olympics finish,  the area is deserted.  
You probably were not born yet, so you have to rely on an old person like me to tell you the story.  Italy hosted the Winter Olympics back in 1956 in Cortina.

Participating were Thirty-two nations which competed in the four sports and twenty-four events.   The Soviet Union made its first appearance in the Winter Olympics and  won more medals than any nation.  Since television in places like Germany and Scandinavia did not have the technology to show the events live, people there had to rely on Communist television sources, a big plus for the Soviets.

I was a kid then and had no clue of this.  Pretty much all I remember is the big ski jump and watching those men slooshing down and jumping off that structure.  I could not imagine how any person could have the courage to do that.   One mistake and you are toast!  

We were driving past Cortina a few years ago and suddenly I saw that ski jump on the right side of the road, sitting peacefully in a meadow like setting.  I looked harder and could see that parts were missing,  No one was going to be using that for practice.  It just sits there as a reminder of the past.  Knowing Italy as I do now, how they recycle things, I wondered why they haven’t torn it down and used the lumber.  
I have read where this Olympics was paid for mostly by private means, not by the citizens who paid only for refurbishing the structures.  I am not sure this is how it is done today.  It should be.  

Coming up, Kradow, Budapest and Turkey.


Monday, July 17, 2017

12,000 steps around the city of Venice

The first time I saw Venice I arrived by canal and I could not believe all those people  walking back and forth, up and down the bridges along the waterfront   The appearance was of an ant colony.  I had never thought to see Disneyland size crowds, a silly naive idea of what I expected.   When the cruise boats unload, it is greatly overwhelming.   (In fact, the townspeople of Venice have protested against the cruise boats, even going to the lengths of swimming and boating in their path to stop them in protest.)  

St. Mark's 
From the boat dock you walk  towards St. Mark’s Square bulging with  lines of people waiting to get into the many famous structures.   You will see people who have brought bread and seeds to feed the pigeons.  The result of this is that those flocks of pigeons get excited and in retaliation show their respect by relieving their little digestive systems on tourists as they fly over.   (Beware!)

You stop and  just gaze at the beauty of the front of St. Mark’s Church.  It’s covered in paintings of gold.  Next to the church is the famous tower, Campanile di San Marco,  which has been copied so many times all over northern Italy.  You can also find it out of Italy, for instance,  the city of Denver has a smaller one, which used to be the tallest building back when I was a kid.   Called the  Daniel and Fisher tower, it opened in 1910, is now towered over by tall buildings of Denver.  The original, in Venice, was  rebuilt after the collapse in 1912.   No one was actually hurt in the collapse as it was early in the morning.  You can safely go to the top of the new one  for an exceptional view.   

Campanile di San Marco in Back
When in the piazza I especially like to look up at the rooftop on the building on the left side of St. Marks.  There are two actual sized men of bronze called "Mori"  who use hammers to strike the bells for time.  There are plenty more things to see here and you want to take your time and have a camera.  Come back when it is dark for more great photos. 

I recommend not sitting at one of the St. Mark's piazza side restaurants or bars as they are quite expensive.   If you feel real snooty you can visit the  famous Harry’s Bar,  which is nearby on the waterfront.  They have a dress code making sure no low life types get in.  I didn’t make the cut as I had on some nice bermuda shorts.   I am the first to admit I am a low life.  The place was empty, maybe for the same reason, or maybe because of the high prices you pay to have the experience of embibing where Hemingway hung out.  

One thing I might mention.  If you visit the museum called the Accademia you will see some paintings that were made after St. Mark’s body was brought to Venice.  A close look at the procession and the many people who were there and were placed in the painting, you will see that there were NO pigeons. My belief is that they were on the dining table.    Venetians did not eat a lot of steak, then and even now.
In my local supermarket I can find quail, rabbit, donkey and horse meat which might be strange to a tourist, especially one from the US.  

A famous view used by many
artists who painted in
You do know the story of bringing St. Mark’s body to Venice, don’t you?  The Venetian rulers saw that other cities were getting the tourist trade with all the people making a pilgrimage to see famous relics, such as a piece of the cross of Jesus, or the tooth of a saint, or hair of the Mother of Mary.   There were so many pilgrims wandering all over Europe to see these relics, thus to  relieve their sins.   The Venetian rulers put their heads together and conjured up the big idea of sailing down to Egypt and kidnapping the body of St. Mark during the night.  They had the boats and the navy and they controlled the seas so, no problem.  A sneaky plan had them arriving during the night by boat and  grab the disciple’s body, and carry it their flotilla.   (This should be made into a movie, if it already has not.)   A faster boat was sent ahead to announce the big hornswoggle (a word you don’t see much anymore).   You can imagine the big hoohaw this stirred up and the sizeable plans made for the arrival of the big catch.  Everyone was dreaming to line their pockets with tourist cash.  Plans were made for a big procession with all the flourish, costumes, music and the important people of the time.   Nothing was left out.  The bigger, the better, what a great advertisement this would make for them.   Pilgrims and  tourists!  You can see this in the paintings in the Academia.  This is where the pigeons come in or don’t come in.  Look!...   No pigeons…Dinner Table.         My personal opinion is that the tourists became the pigeons, but that is another story.

The white is mozarella, with artichokes,
spicy meat and mushrooms
I want to mention pizza.  I know that you are probably used to a pile of stuff on top, a thick crust, and plenty  of cheese.  What you need to know is that Italian pizza is a very thin crust, and a lot fewer additions.   No pineapple, sorry for you weird folks who go for that.  You also won’t be able to eat much of it by hand as it will be floppy and make a mess.  We use forks and knives here.  It won’t be covered with mushrooms, the crust is visible through the sauce.  There is no such thing like a Chicago deep dish pizza.  Italians prefer to taste each ingredient one at a time.   Some of my friends here don’t like mixing things, this means one or at the most two items on top.  My jazz piano playing pal likes to just put  only sliced zucchini on top, or have a basic margarita pizza.   He gets a lot of razzing from me on this.   I miss my old ways sometimes.

Pizzas are called names that all Italians know.  The menus will have them listed by these, but  will list  what will be put on them.  Forget about ordering “pepperoni and mushroom”.  You will have to find the name of one that has that on the menu.   (Pepperoni is not a meat here, it is a bell pepper)
Mozzarella is a luscious white soft cheese, placed on the pizza near the end of its cooking.  Mozzarella cheese in Italy  is not the hard, stretchable kind, a cheese that you could bounce off the floor.  And real mozzarella, called bufala, oh, how amazing, how soft, and creamy.  No teeth needed, just taste buds.  You will never look the same at hard mozzarella again.  Pizzas come with a bit of a blackened burn on the rim.   Don’t think they forgot your pizza and served it to you anyway because you are gullible tourist.  That wood fired oven is plenty hot, no one complains of a little black scorch mark.  

Here is a handy breakdown of some of the items so you can make a good choice.  
funghi…. mushrooms, pomodorro…..sliced tomato, pancetta…..bacon, salamino piccante… meat, salsiccia….sausage, gamberetti…small shrimp, prisciutto crudo…..sliced cured pork, melanzane….eggplant, pattatine fritte….french fries, porcini…a kind of mushroom, pepperoni….sliced red bellpepper, cipolla…. onion,  acciughe….anchovies, capperi….capers, radicchio….purple cabbage, carciofi….artichoke pieces, cavallo…horse meat, speck… smoked priusciutto, tonno…. tuna, wurstel… hot dog, fagioli….beans, sorpressa…salami, chiodini…. small and slimy mushrooms, salami piccante… spicy meat, salmone…salmon, stracchino… a better than Philadelphia cheese,  Scamorza… smoked cheese from Sicily, acciughe… anchovies, zucca….zuchinni.

Everybody gets their own because pizzas are one person sized.  Almost always, there is no small, medium, large or huge sizes.  One size fits all.  Expect to pay in Venice about 8 to 9 euros each.  It is one of the cheaper foods to buy.  

I hope you noticed that pepperoni is not a meat in Italy, and that Italians have a choice of beans, hot dog, french fries, horse meat, and slimy mushrooms (order funghi freschi to get fresh ones)  Look around and see what they are eating, always interesting.   You will see people eating fries on a pizza, seriously!

Italians are firm on believing that the way grandma does it, is how it should be done, no tweaking of the recipe allowed.  Spaghetti has little sauce, it is all about the pasta for them.   Sauce will not be spicy in the north of Italy.   There are white sauces, developed here in the north because they had fewer tomatoes available than people in the south. 

Menus will probably feature some English.  Most waiters have gone to school to learn their trade and the course work include  foreign languages.  This will help you and remember no tipping here.  They are paid a living wage, have health care, and a retirement through their job, unlike the U.S.  

Don't Miss The Bridge of Sighs
The last view for condemned prisoners
through those windows above
The further from St. Mark’s you get the better the prices.  Never sit down to eat your  breakfast roll and coffee in a bar.  They charge you to sit.  Stand up at the bar like an Italian. Be Italian.  You will feel crowded, this is the custom, the way of life.   We sat down once as we were very tired, two cappuccinos and two rolls, 10 euros!  In comparison, in my village I pay 1 euro for a coffee americano.  Venice is expensive.  Stand up!  

Try to relax and realize that the high prices keep the city afloat, they have trash, sewer, electricity, police (in boats) fire (in boats) and all the administration of a regular city but on water.  You are in a living and breathing Disneyland.  A million visitors leave a lot of trash, it isn’t cleaned up for free.   Also, the winter is not a good tourist season, so to make it through the year their prices are high like all resort areas over the world.    It is worth it because your visit to Venice is like walking and boating through a living museum.  Yes, walking, as there are lots of walk ways between the canals, and bridges to go up and over.  We usually walk at least 12,000 steps easy, even with a boat ride back to the train station.  You need good shoes, leave the sandals and the thongs in the suitcase!

Some other honorable mentions, a church in Venice that has the tomb of Gabrielli, a famous composer known to all music majors and especially brass players.
You can even walk on top of the old guy.  I love playing his music, it is always so energetic, happy and logical.  His brother was also in Venice, but is not buried in the city.  Igor Stravinsky is buried here on another island.  His burial site is quite understated in comparison to his gift to music, sad to say.  

The pavement in the St. George church across the canal from Venice is interesting in that it is an optical illusion.  The Venetian Hotel in Vegas copied this pattern.  Try to visit this church and take the elevator ride to the top of the steeple for a great view.

It is a totally flat floor

Lastly, try to visit the market in the early morning.  It will be closed in the afternoon.  The vendors do not mind  too much being photographed, and the sea gulls put on a show in the fish market.  You are going to see items there that you have never seen before, so don’t miss it.  


Thursday, July 6, 2017

What is on the plate in Venice?

 Liver and  onions!  My mother made this dish at least once a month, always remarking that it is “good” for us.  Basically I rated it  as bad as eating dog food, so I buried it in a pile of ketchup.  Things change, my taste for food changed and I was challenged  to see liver and onions on menus in Venice.  Not like mom’s!  I had to find out more, and discovered that this is a dish featured in Venice, a favorite among Venetians.  It is now frequently what I order when we do a day visit to Venice.  You should give it a try.

Bigoli is a larger type of spaghetti, usually home made by restaurants in the Veneto.  You can find it in Venice, usually with wild boar (chingiale), or in the hills south of Venice with donkey (Musso) .  If you order biggoli, expect it to be filling.  You may not need a second course.  Give a hard look in the markets and you might find bigoli to take home as a souvenir.  Our guests always get a package of this from us.  Nothing like taking the taste of Venice home with you.

Pasta with Sepia Black
Teeth black after
Spaghetti and onions….There is a quaint restaurant we visit in Venice, called Il Millione.  They make lots of different kinds of pasta dishes, but the one we go back for is bigoli with onions, spaghetti alla cipolla.  When I first saw it on the menu, I skipped over to the next item, but then my wife told me that this is a specialty, so I tried it.   The smoothness of the sauce and the flavor can’t be  beat.   They make their own pasta which makes it especially smooth.  BTW never expect spaghetti and meatballs in the Veneto.  This is an American tweaked dish.  If you see this on the menu, sneak out  and find another restaurant.

Take Home Tourist Pasta
Sarde in Saor is basically small fried sardines marinated in a vinegar with onions.  You will  find this and other types of small fish in Venetian restaurants.  The one we sometimes visit is called  Trattoria alla Rivetta.

A Type of Clam, Quite Good
But It Looks Like Worms
We found Rivetta by watching where the gondoliers go for pranzo (lunch).  Figuring that if they go there, they must know something we should check out.   (Like finding good pie would be where the truckers stop.)  Seating is tight, and usually when you wait for a table you can look into a countertop display of appetizers.  Venetians frequently just order from this display and not from the menu.  You will see why when you check out the shelves of items that Venetians love.   Beware of the prices of these appetizers, once we sat near a table of 4 people  and they were more than adequate eaters, their bill was 252 euros!  I think they tried every  single thing available, with 3 bottles of vino.  Kaching!!!

Not My Favorite
Breads of the Veneto.  Don’t expect much.  The majority of bread  brought to the table is unlike Tuscan bread, the type found in good Italian restaurants in the  states.  The bread here, if you break it open is almost powdery and loaded with air.  Your table will be covered with crumbs, and  when you taste it, there is hardly any taste.  It is okay manners to place your broken bread on the  table cloth.  Also, those of you who are used to the waiter providing a plate of oil, flavored with something like chili sauce, vinegar, truffle, or….Don’t expect this in Italy.  It’s strictly an American thing, this sopping of bread, in flavored oil.

People in northern Italy seem to like their grilled meat over cooked a bit.   Many of my Italian friends are happy to see  pieces of meat charred.  Most places grill meat until it is fairly dry.  Making beef a choice, you must tell the waiter you want it al sangue (rare).  A good waiter spotting you as a foreigner will probably ask you how you want your meat cooked.   Remember they are paid a living wage and are not dependant on tips, most of them have been trained in school to do their job.  You should not have to ask them if they are expert on wine, for instance.  You should not have to tell them to bring the food out slowly and not rush things.  If you have read my previous blogs you know that Italians can sit for 2 1/2 during a meal.  They even get up and walk around to stretch before returning to the table.  

A good steak, is called fiorentina, after the famous Tuscan white cows.  This cut will be sold in a restaurant by the weight.  Those white  cows, are eye candy now, if you see them at all when you drive through the Tuscan hills.  Those so called fiorentina cuts are mostly brought to Italy from Spain.  They won’t tell you this in the restaurant, why mess up a legend.  Restaurants in the Veneto will sometimes feature Argentinian or Irish beef.  My butcher sometimes has beef from Nebraska, and once had buffalo from the U.S.  All at a surprisingly low price!  

Please, Let Me Find More Of This!
Wine.  This was a complete surprise for me, moving from the states.  In the past I looked for wine from Montalcino, or any area in Tuscany.  I hardly ever saw  wine from the Veneto, and when I did, mostly pinot griggio or soave, I found it to be not very good.  The reason, I believe, is that they send wine out of country that is not the best.  When we go back to the U.S. we see a lot of Italian wine in restaurants that are found on the 3 euro shelf at our market.  Now that I have lived in the Veneto for almost 9 years I have tasted many great wines.  The hills south of Padova (Euganea) are volcanic, and they have some great wines.  A second  area is the area near Verona called Soave.  In fact, the best wine we ever had was from this area.  Some British friends were with us, when we took a chance and ordered it.  It turned out to be  huge!    Completely discovered by accident in a small restaurant high on a hill.   The Brits think I am a wine expert now.  NOT!  Actually, I hope that the wines of the Veneto remain undiscovered by the vast majority of wine lovers out of country.  You can figure out the reason for this.  

A shopping tip:  If you want to take wine home as a souvenir in your checked bag, visit a super market where you will find good  wine at a lower  price than a wine seller.  
One of the most famous canals has a webcam complete with sound.   View this webcam at:

Weather:  It will continue to be hot with increasing temperatures through August.  Today it was 89 and in the next few days will approach 99.  This is why Italians take a beach vacation in August.  Until next time…


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

July 4

It is more difficult to celebrate July 4 here in Italy.  We still make an attempt by having American food, this year is burger night.  I am thinking of making a cake from my mother's old American cookbook.  However, there will be no picnic with a blanket on the grass, games, lots of chat and fireworks at the end.  That is missed!

The town of Moraga puts on a big fireworks display, fireworks purchased through donations by the town's people.  The town of Fountain Valley had a nice shoot out one year, and the biggest one I have witnessed in person was at Vancouver, Oregon in 1976.   It took them a whole day to set up.  In 2000 we watched on television each region's biggest, Boston with its orchestra, Chicago, Denver and then San Francisco.  We could catch one of those this year, but it would be something like 4:00 am here (the next day).

America is struggling to find progress, to find a new way.  I have faith that people will speak up and make a difference.  If you are not American, don't give up on us.
I wish you all a happy day.
My state's flag, Colorado


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Hot Summer Review

Hot and Muggy, that is what we are experiencing right now here outside of Venice.  Venice, with all that water will be worse.  What I need right now is a nice cold frappe’, and a nice rain shower after.

Monselice Castle
Here’s a shot of our American cowboy burger restaurant, if you look behind it, you will see a castle on top of the hill above Monselice, a small town south of Padova.  You can see the grass is brown from lack of water.  Another lack of, is the ketchup we asked for.  
Cheap Burger Joint!
We both had fries and they brought us three packs of ketchup.  This was after I asked for molto ketchup…..a lot.  Served for a laugh from us.  They charge for each package, learning from McDonalds on this.

Open on Weekends
Another castle near Monselice and viewable from our home is this one.  Built much later by a man who was famous as a soldier for hire.  Behind this castle is the ruined building where they stored tobacco from their farm and made cigars, etc.  This is a paintable castle as it is in pretty good shape and set near a canal with a bridge.

There is another smaller castle west of our home which is famous for its land being an airport for planes in WWI and WWII.  There is a museum in side and a fancy restaurant with high prices.  We have never eaten there, so I cannot testify to the food.  I notice that they host a lot of wedding dinners, etc.  Sounds like we are surrounded by castles, which is kind of true.  We also have a famous house in the hills where the famous poet Petrarch lived.  I like going up there because of the super enoteca featuring some awesome wines grown from the volcanic soil of the  hills.  They have a terrace overlooking the valley below and Padova beyond, and we can sit and have an appetizer of local salami, cheeses and bread with our vino.

Soon we will drive to Austria for a few days and the temperature will drop from near 100 to mid 60’s.  That will be so nice.  Plus we are going to a beer hotel where they make many types of beer.  Austria is so different from Italy, it feels like a theme park to me, so clean and kept perfect.  

Add caption
For my web cam friends, this is one that features the view across the big canal towards the church where you can go up in the elevator for a terrific view of all the islands of Venice.  Today the color of the sky is a yellow green from the humidity, I hope the rain will clear it later.  Go view:


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Bird's Eye View Of Venice

Several people have asked me questions about visiting Venice, Rome and parts of Italy.  I am always glad to help them my bird’s eye view of Venice with advice on what to see, and what not to see.  Most folks have a limited stay, so that is important.  

Just this week, a dear cousin has asked me to help her friend at work who has planned a trip to Venice and Rome.  These will be the first webcams to get her feet on the ground.  There are many webcams which give people a good idea of what they will experience.  My plan is to start of with these with a small explanation.  Bookmark them and view them daily.

What I have found is that many people have no clue about the islands of Venice with the big canals and the many small ones.  They think it is one big gondola ride in  a small canal, but there is a lot more.  Take a look at the big canal just off St. Mark’s Square.  BTW, if you are making a trip here, it is fun to bookmark these and watch while you have breakfast.   Viewing this from the states, your breakfast will be mid afternoon for Venetians.  

That  big canal has several views, here is from another direction.
from other direction

Just across St. Mark’s is San Giorgio, which has a tall steeple which has an elevator to the top, with a great view of all the islands of Venice.  You see the island here.

Riding a gondola is not cheap, I recommend  sharing the ride  with others in order to cut down the cost.  80 Euros for one half hour is one big splurge for me.  However, when the gondolier takes you into a hidden tiny canal, you will experience a feeling of unexpected peace.  This webcam even has audio!

Men in Black

.   If you are lucky you will come upon a celebration by a club, a festival, or a type of garage sales (no garages in Venice, but they have neighborhood sales).  I stumbled onto this group of men, dressed in black, singing  their club's song to a piazza filled with onlookers.  This shot became a study for a painting recently completed.

Sturdy Shoes Needed, NOT THONGS

You will do plenty of walking in Venice.  It is not just waterways, but you will find sidewalks, and bridges.   You will have sore feet at the end of the day.  Kind of spooky at night, but safe.

Trash Boats Near The Big Market
Venice has the spirit of an artist, and even their trash boats are painted a pleasing green.  Hauling trash, providing fire protection service, police service and delivering goods are all things they do well to keep citizens happy.

Here is something I would skip, especially since I have been spoiled to go to a beach, plant my own umbrella, set up my cooler and pay no fee.  In Italy there are few places to do that, instead you rent a chair, and have drinks brought to your umbrella stand for a fee.  This webcam  is from Jesolo, a beach where people of the Veneto go to get cool from the heat of summer.  The Veneto is a province in which Venice lies.

Worth a Visit
I want to mention on island of Venice, called Burano.  Famous for the pastel painted houses, it is historically a fishermen island.  If you have time you don't  want to miss this beautiful place.   To get there you must take a boat and you might want to choose a restaurant here for lunch.  This excursion takes several hours, so plan accordingly.

Breakfast with a webcam is something I enjoy and I hope it gives you a better appreciation of Venice.  My next blog will feature foods of Venice. (Not spaghetti and meatballs!)



Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Damn Jam At The Border

Rovinj, Croatia
This past weekend we took a pleasurable diversion on the coast of Croatia.   We have found a favorite place in the town of Rovinj, which sets peacefully on a spit of land protruding into the Adriatic Sea.  We have stayed in other towns along the coast but the view and the dining choices have won us over.

Many places have a pig roasting on a spit, sometimes two, and you can smell it from several hundred meters away.  Many of the restaurants feature truffle based cooking as this is a truffle area extraordinaire.  We have found some creative chefs who offer items such as smoked sea bass mousse, fried octopus, marinated fish salad and octopus salads.  Prices have risen this year but are still under what we would find in Italy.  It makes the three hour trip from our home  more worthwhile when you know what you will experience at the end of the road.

turn down the sound and watch the short video

However, this weekend, a weekend celebrated in America, Memorial Day Weekend, I, an unsuspecting American,  blundered into an exasperating bit of Europeacana—my words.  Without realising that Austrians have a four day weekend, due to some  holiday of theirs that the Italians do not have, I ventured forth into a catastrophe.  No problem getting into Croatia, the border guards were all smiles, quickly waving cars through without spending much time looking at passports.  But on the way back—Oh my, what a mess!

Back Up All The Way 
Part of the problem is due to the fact that Slovenia, which one must drive through to reach Italy, has been diligently checking passports and watching for people trying to sneak into their country.  Coupled with the four day holiday it made for a cast of characters, trapped in their tiny Euro cars, all feeling hopelessness over the tremendous traffic jam.

We were stuck in the lines for over three hours.  Much of the time we were not moving at all, and just when you turned your car off, you would have to start up and move ahead one car length.  A big part of the problem stemmed from the side roads that were also feeding into the main highway, and they were pushing back the tide of traffic.  We sat for two hours, studying roadkill, waiting, and angrily watching devious drivers ruthlessly passing  the  parked three lanes by  driving on the emergency lane to get ahead.  People with cars pulling trailers, camping vans, convertibles, and vehicles full of 20 years olds with loud music heartlessly drove past us.  Some people think they deserve to push their way past!  After you watch this for several hours, you begin to realise that these cheaters, who refused to wait like the rest of us, were causing the line to be stagnant and unmoving.   The reason being that somewhere up ahead the emergency lane was nonexistent and they had to move back into the normal 3 lanes.

The stagnant situation became so bad that people had to leave their cars and venture off into the forest in order to relieve themselves.  When there was no forest, we saw large towels being held by others as a fence for bathroom problems along the road.  This became a serious problem for some.  The only thing good about this was that is was not very hot, which would have made it unbearable and probably more hot tempers.  People here do not have pistols under the seat, thank goodness.

This is where I personally come in to the story.  Before I say anything I want you to know that I usually try my best NOT to be an ugly American.  I make an effort to be polite, not very noisy, and blend in with the locals.  I have been around American groups in Europe, and I know how people here regard their bad manners, stupid comments, and loud rude behavior.  I am not one of those.   I am horrified by the action of Trump shoving the Montenegro President aside and then standing and posing as if he was so special.  I try not to offend people.  However, this weekend, I stepped up to the plate in the name of all those people waiting in that traffic line, and not using that emergency lane to beat the system.

A large Austrian SUV pulls up along our car in the emergency lane.  Up ahead the emergency lane had jammed where it funnels into the 3 lanes of highway.  The driver’s window lowers, and a bleach blond, sunburned, face with hanging jowels leans out.  He points to the funnel and begins to tell us his sorrowful story of how they have travelled for two hours and need to take cuts in the line, asking us to let him in.  This guy had gumption!  He had already snuck by 1 1/2 hours of traffic jam by using the emergency lane.  What I said to him was not the color of love.  With the rash decision of a teenager I began to give him my thoughts.  “Who do you think you are?  Are you better than the rest of us, taking cuts, cheating your way to the front of this mess?  We have all sat here for over two hours, and you just think that you can push your way to the front, where ever that is? “

I didn’t know if he knew English well enough to understand me, but I had taken a “shot” and said what  needed to be said to all the cheaters sneaking by.  This man, an Austrian was a bit taken back that someone would actually speak up to his entitled behavior.  His face changed as he realised that he had met an ugly American who at an old age stands up for justice and against  people who think they are privileged.   BTW the police had an emergency and had much difficulty clearing the emergency lane, which couldn’t move.  A medical emergency of some type, they slowly sirened their way through the mess of parked cars.   Person like this Austrian could cause someone to die if they needed to reach a hospital quickly.

After another hour we crawled along and eventually saw the border at the bottom of the hill.  We finally escaped from the traffic after the border.  The Croatian border guards check your passports, and then at another stop the Slovenian guards do the same, running passports through an electronic device to catch those sneaky border jumpers.   I wonder the expense of fuel for those thousand cars waiting to leave Croatia?  

Palmanova To Udine

Later on the autostrada when people driving from Italy towards Austria, meet  people driving from Slovenia towards Austria we saw another HUGE jam up of cars. Miles and miles cars were stopped, and appeared to be not moving at all.  We were glad to be going to the south in the opposite direction and not back into that  holiday mess.  Next year I will be looking more closely to possible long Austrian weekend holidays in order to stay clear of 3 hour parking lots.

Here are some photos of the dishes mentioned above.   Keep in mind that I, being a person raised in New Mexico, had never seen this type of food when growing up.  Having a chance to try these dishes makes up for not being able to find good enchiladas, tacos and tamales in Italy  :-)  
To Die For Smoked Bass Mousse

I never thought that anyone would attempt to fry octopus.

Fried Octopus
My Favorite Main Course
marinated fish on left, octopus salad on right


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Trading Pasta For A Tasty Burger

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I confess that I missed the invasion.  Many years have passed since I first noticed America has once again forced itself into the neighborhood.  People here get a chance to remember the past inside a large movie theatre just outside Padova, and  customers are forced to enter through the theatre before entering American Graffiti Restaurant and the  past glory of the 50’s.   I was not disappointed, which is unusual as I find attempts by Italians to make food of other countries many times miss the target.  Chinese food lacts the spicy/hot,   sushi is made by assembly line and without care, and Mexican food has terrible corn tortillas and badly made guacamole for example.  However, in this franchised burger joint, most of what I saw and tasted was above my expectations.

Customers are greeted with black and white checkered floors, and chrome chairs decked with plastic red covers.  Everything on the walls resemble items of the American past.  I lived in the 50’s but don’t remember anything quite like what I saw, it was more like a Hollywood creation, which is okay by me.

The menu is huge, brunch items, pulled pork, hot dogs, one whole page of beer choices,  I was confronted by making a choice of three different sizes of each type of burger, with a price comparable with Old Wild West, another competitor in a village nearby.  (Previously reviewed in the blog)  Since I was the driver, I chose a soft drink which was delivered Italian style with no ice.  Yes, Italians do not get ice in their soft drinks, you have to ask for it.   I ordered a burger with fries and we shared an appetiser made with jalapeño and cheese.

A happy addition to the table was two different bottles of Heinz hot sauce.  There was one of jalapeño and one from habanero.  I was surprised to see that the bottles were 3/4 empty as Italians are not champions of heat.  I looked at the other nearby tables and found that their bottles were also about the same fullness.  What country is this?

As you can see my burger looks genuinely American.  It was nice that the bun held up and didn’t fall apart like Italian burger buns usually do.  They had not applied an over generous application of mayo, and I instead used a bottle of Heinz barbecue sauce on the burger.  The only other difference I could find between this burger and Old West, is that I am not sure this meat patty was wholly beef.  Maybe this is why Old West makes a big point of claiming an all beef patty, made from beef of Ireland or Argentina.  

The bar even has Dr. Pepper!

I have googled American Graffiti and found that there are multiple restaurants all over Italy.  People needing a burger fix will not be disappointed.  Now if they can just open for breakfast.  Something like a Denny’s would be appreciated, that pile of eggs, bacon and hash browns……Italians do not know the taste of a Sunday breakfast!  


Monday, May 15, 2017

The Death of Allergy Season in Northern Italy

Pollen Makers of Rovinj, Croatia
It’s almost over!  Sufferers are rejoicing, and I am one of them.  Allergy Season is a real killer for me, and I am so glad to be able to breathe again like normal.  I only have a slight irritation in my eyes, something I can live with in comparison to the one week where I was coughing, wheezing, and unable to sleep well.  In the city of Padova there are quite a few cotton wood trees still dumping their cotton, but in my village there are only a few.  The mayor elected to cut most of them two years ago, and he was planning to replant with something else less harmful to allergies.  However, he lost the election and the new mayor (Sindico) has decided to keep costs down and not replant trees.  

This past weekend we spent a 3 day weekend in Croatia on the coast.  Their were some yellow flowers that were a small problem, and, of course, the pollen from the evergreen trees.  A big help was the thunderstorm that blew through the first night cleaning the air, making it crisp and clear.   There is nothing like listening to thunder in the night and knowing that the air will be clean in the morning.

Rovinj is a town not to be missed if you are ever on the Italian side of Croatia.  You can walk through the town and discover the shops, the small walkways and the big church on the top of the hill.  Almost completely  circled by the sea, it feels as if Rovinj is on an island.  It makes it a special place to visit.

 One of the benefits of living near Venice is that you can reach by car Croatia, Slovenia and Austria in a few hours.   Croatia gives us a nice change of cuisine from Italian.  Along the road, with the windows down, you will smell the big barbeques of the restaurants that are roasting whole pigs outdoors, as if to advertise their establishment.  But there is more!  This is truffle heaven.  You will encounter some great sauces with truffels, and some great pastas, too.  They make the most out of this being a zone for truffles.

Smoked Bass Mousse.................Tuna Tartar 
We made a great discovery reading  from TripAdvisor, finding a special restaurant with the name of  Barba Danilo, in a campground at the edge of Rovinj.  I did not believe that an eatery existed in a campground, but they made a believer out of me.   I took a chance on a mousse created with smoked bass.  Looking at it, it looks like a big tube of white cheese. This became my number one item of the weekend.  There were other specialties, so many that you have to make a second visit, which we will do in a few weeks. 
(Translation of Barba Danilo is beard of Danilo.  I am not sure that is what the owner intended, but maybe he has a sense of humor?) 

May can be a great month to visit Italy.  Here, the weather is changing to the good after only one week of rain and cloudy skies.  The lizards are back out in the sun after sleeping all of last week.  It will be 78 degrees most of this week.    The grapes are looking real healthy with lots of leaves, and northern Italy is covered with many shades of green with the trees and the farmer’s plantings.  We will have some thunder storms in the late evenings, but nothing major as we stride into summer.

A Sketch on an Abandoned Home Outside of
Chania, 11 X 15 Inches
This will be used for a half sheet painting later
I am not writing the blog as often as I did in the winter because I am spending time painting watercolors.  After a full week in Chania, Crete painting watercolors, I am now motivated to devoting more time painting.  I am thinking of having an exhibit in the September or October.  Finding a good place for an exhibit will be difficult.  Like anyone, I need to set a goal and keep at it.    It has been too long since the last exhibition.  

Ciao, Dave