What We Loved This Week: Christmas in Germany, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and More
Travel Blog • World Hum • 12.19.08 | 4:33 PM ET
World Hum contributors share a favorite travel-related experience from the past seven days.
German Christmas Markets. I’ve been drinking in the holiday cheer as much as possible since arriving in Hamburg. Tchotckes are everywhere. But the best way to get in the spirit is by hanging in the glühwein huts at the Christmas markets and going stall to stall sampling things like grünkohl (a hot dish made with kale) and lebkuchen (ginger bread).
I finally caught Slumdog Millionaire this week and was swept away by director Danny Boyle’s breathless, vibrant take on life in modern Mumbai. The film’s conclusion, staged in the city’s iconic, Raj-era train station, serves as a hopeful counterpoint to the terrorist siege that occurred there just last month.
“The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz. Dominican history, a vocabulary of nerd culture references and the eternal pursuit of sex ... all in voices so real I expected to see the narrators sitting on my couch surfing our WiFi every time I put the book down.
I love Slate’s five-day Well-Traveled section, in general, and this week’s installment, in particular. Tony Perrottet does historical perverts better than anyone. The Pervert’s Grand Tour is a fun and intriguing read.
Anna Quindlen’s piece in Newsweek, Stuff Is Not Salvation. Like everyone else, I’m wrapping up my holiday shopping, and she provides a great perspective on our consumer culture: “Ask people what they’d grab if their house were on fire. No one ever says it’s the tricked-up microwave they got at Wal-Mart.”
I found an old Italian song by Luccio Battisti. It’s something I got on a mix tape when I was living in Italy. I’m not sure what it sounds like if you don’t understand the words, but if you do it’s one of the most beautiful songs in the world.
Seeing Neil Young play at Philadelphia’s Wachovia Spectrum, part of a series of “farewell” concerts before the city officially knocks the decrepit arena down. Of course, hearing Neil Young play anywhere would be memorable, but saying goodbye to to one of Philly’s oldest and most iconic concert arenas was surprisingly sad. I saw my first concert—The Cure—there in 1988, and spent my final night there wistfully reminiscing with my seat neighbors over decades of concert shenanigans on those sticky, hallowed grounds.
My pal (and World Hum contributor) Tim Patterson just returned from a non-government-sanctioned trip to Myanmar, where he and photographer Ryan Libre were reporting on the Kachin Independence Army’s struggle with the junta. I absolutely loved the harsh isolation of this photo.
Atomic John, the story of a truck driver obsessed with the details of America’s first atomic bombs. New Yorker writer David Samuels reported the piece by hitting the road with John Coster-Mullen, aka Atomic John, and driving through the scattered history of the Manhattan Project, Fat Man and Little Boy.
Whistler-Blackcomb‘s new gondola seems grandiose—longest free span in the world (almost 2 miles); more than 1,400 feet above ground; $52 million price tag. (Last week’s accident was a minor mishap on an older lift; no serious injuries.) And not only is riding the P2P an unparalleled midair experience, its practical value is huge: Now I can get from upper Whistler to upper Blackcomb in 11 minutes, cherry-picking the best skiing on two of the Western Hemisphere’s finest mountains.
I can’t lie. What I really loved was finally getting the latest incarnation of World Hum up and running. It was a long time coming. We’re still working out little kinks here and there. But right now, I’m just jazzed that World Hum 3.0 is live and we can start filling it up with great travel coverage.