suspect you and your clients spend
considerable travel and reminiscence time describing sites or
experiences in terms of how they compare or contrast with earlier
I do, too.
For example, when I was in Romania a couple of years ago, I
couldn't help being struck by how much the central squares in the
Old Towns resembled those I had seen two years earlier in the Czech
Republic. The squares are typically wide open, even sprawling,
surrounded by late-medieval merchants' houses.
I think, in particular, of the Czech Republic's Ceske
Budejovice, Telc and Trebon and Romania's Brasov, Sibiu and, to a
lesser extent, Cluj.
Happily, they are not cookie-cutter copies of one another, but I
judged them as a group, deeming Telc the best little castle town,
but my favorite square is in the heart of Brasov -- seen after
driving through some of the ugliest remnants of socialist
architecture I have ever seen. Nice irony, right?
And what about those wonderful painted monastery churches? In
Romania and Bulgaria, the Eastern Orthodox Church's emphasis on the
icon spilled over into some of the world's most beautiful religious
I considered the "painted churches" of Bucovina in northeastern
Romania in relation to Bulgaria's monasteries, Rila in particular,
because so many of their frescoes are on the outsides of the
But these sites do not look alike, either. From Romania, I
remember huge and very detailed painted scenes and lots of deep
blues; even with its outdoor frescoes, Rila's best point is a
drop-dead gorgeous mountain setting.
Venice probably is a reference point for more destinations than
any other site because so many places want us to know they are like
the Italian canal city. Venice, Calif., simply adopted the
And did you know about Mopti, the "Venice of Mali"?
I've seen the more accessible Amsterdam, "Venice of the North";
Colmar's "Petite Venice," and London's "Little Venice."
They all have nicely done-up canals filled with water and lined
with pretty buildings. The boats are usually nice, too.
Using canals as a yardstick, nothing matches Venice. Just look
at a map to see the extent of the canals. Virtually all public
transport is by boat, besides.
But we don't want more than one real Venice. Otherwise, why take
more than one trip?
On the other hand, if someone refers to the "Venice of
someplace" or says a collection of frescoes resembles those in
Bucovina, we get a point of comparison.
Making these connections helps us make sense of our world; it
makes travel a little more fun, too.