Photo of the Day – Barcelona jamon

photo of the day
The humble ham and cheese sandwich is a basic staple of the travel diet. In nearly every country I’ve traveled to, I can count on finding a cheap and tasty toasted ham and cheese at a snack bar or cafe while exploring a new city. With a nice glass of local wine or a cold beer, this simple sandwich can be sublime. The Spanish, however, have made ham an art form, noted by this display in Barcelona taken by Flickr user BaboMike. From the relatively cheap Pernil Bodega to the pricey (but worth it) Pernil Iberic de Gla, any of these would make a divine snack or a meal. Since I live in a Muslim country where pork is hard to find and expensive, I remember eyeing ham like this in Barcelona like a wolf in an old cartoon and contemplated bringing one home to be the envy of all my fellow expats in Istanbul.

Do you agree with the photographer that the Spanish out-do the Italians in the ham department? Where have you had the best ham? Upload your tastiest shots to the Gadling Flickr pool and we might salivate over them for a future Photo of the Day.

Italian art in London

Italian art, futurism
One of the best collections of Italian art in the world can be found in an unlikely place: a quiet street in the London borough of Islington.

The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art is housed in an elegant Georgian mansion and boasts a comprehensive collection of Italian Futurist paintings. Futurism was a style born out of the havoc of industrialization and the carnage of World War One. It emphasized the speed and technological advance of modern society.

Typical of this style is Umberto Boccio’s The City Rises, shown here courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. This totally blew me away when I saw it at a special Futurist exhibition at the Estorick a few years ago. The people and buildings seem to be swept along by a windstorm of colored motion. It’s currently at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Other paintings show Futurism’s trading ideas with Cubism, like Gino Severini’s Portrait of Eric Estorick, the museum’s founder. It’s more a study of angles and shading than an actual image of a man.

It’s not all Futurism here and the current exhibition, United Artists of Italy, is a collection of photographs of leading Italian artists. You can also get a taste of Italy at the cafe, where they serve up excellent cappuccinos (hard to find in London) and snacks.

Useful foreign phrases, Part 2: how to say, “Can you write this down for me?” in 10 languages

useful foreign phrasesA post written by Chris on Tuesday reminded me of this little language series I started in March. In “Ten things Ugly Americans need to know before visiting a foreign land,” Chris recommended brushing up on the local language. He joked about dashing around Venice clutching his concierge’s handwritten note, “Do you have 220/110 plug converters for this stupid American who left his at home?”

Thanks, Chris, because I’ve had this post sitting in my queue for awhile, as I debated whether or not my phrase of choice would appear useful to readers. It’s saved my butt many a time, when a generous concierge or empathetic English-speaker would jot down crucial directions to provide to a cab driver. It’s also helped me out when I’ve embarked on long-distance journeys that require me to get off at an unscheduled stop.

I have a recurring nightmare in which I board the wrong bus or train in a developing nation, and end up in some godforsaken, f—ed up place in the wee hours. Actually, that’s happened to me more than once, except I was actually in my intended destination. So the other piece of advice I’d like to impart is: do some research ahead of time on accommodations and how to reach them as safely as possible if you’re arriving anywhere in the wee hours–especially if you’re alone, regardless of your gender.

I digress. Before your next trip to a foreign land, take the time to scribble the words, “Can you (please) write this down for me?” in your guidebook or dog-ear it in your phrasebook (you’re bringing one, right? Right?). It will serve you well, I promise you. Below, how to make this useful request in ten languages.

P.S. It bears repeating that I’m far from a polylinguist; I’m relying on phrases based on past experience or research. If I inadvertently offend anyone’s native tongue, please provide a correction in the “Comments” section.

1. Spanish (Catalan): ?Puedes escribirlo, por favor?

2. Italian: Può ripeterlo, per favore?

useful foreign phrases3. French: Pourriez-vous, l’écrire, s’il vous plait?

4. German: Könnten Sie das bitte aufschreiben?

5. Czech: Můžete prosím napsat to pro mě?

6. Portuguese: Escreva, se faz favor.

As I noted in my Part 1, many languages, including those spoken throughout Asia and the Middle East, use written characters. For that reason, transliteration will vary, which is why the spelling or phonetics may differ. These languages are also tonal in nature, which makes them notoriously intimidating to Westerner travelers. Just smile, do your best, and have your pen and paper handy.

7. Chinese (Cantonese): Ng goi nei bong ngo se dai.

8. Japanese: Anata ga shite kudasai watashi no tame ni sore o kakikomu koto ga dekimasu ka?

9. Vietnamese: Có thể bạn hãy viết ra cho tôi?

10. Moroccan Arabic: Ktebha līya.

What useful phrases have helped you on your travels? Please tell us!

[Photo credits: pencil, Flickr user Pink Sherbet Photography; tourist, Flickr user Esteban Manchado]

Italy’s South Tyrol: Language disputes

italy south tyrol languageIn the Italian region of South Tyrol a language dispute has emerged over the exclusive use of German on mountain trail signs. In the Telegraph, Nick Squires provides an overview of what he terms a “language war.”

South Tyrol’s German-language Alpenverein is responsible for replacing all trail signage. Squires claims that around 1500 of these hiking path signs are written exclusively in German.

At stake is the maintenance of a difficult linguistic balance in the region, though mountain rescue workers also point to the issue of safety for hiking Italian speakers unable to understand the German-language signage. Squires notes that anonymous Italian-speaking hikers have taken matters into their own hands by scrawling Italian place names on signs.

In 2001, almost 70 percent of the region’s residents spoke German. Italian speakers are concentrated in Bolzano (Bozen in German), the capital of the region.

Language disputes aside, South Tyrol is an exciting place to hike and a great culinary tourism destination, with strong agricultural and wine production and an impressive tally of Michelin starred restaurants. It’s also ridiculously beautiful. See the above image, taken from the town of Sexten, for inspiration.

The kicker is that it is also surprisingly affordable. Check out our inclusion of the region among a recent list of budget-friendly destinations across Europe.

[Image: Flikr | lorenz347]

Useful foreign phrases, Part 1: how to say, “I’m just looking” in 10 languages

useful foreign phrasesI’ve frequently pimped Lonely Planet’s Phrasebooks on this site, but I swear I don’t get kickbacks from the company. It’s just that I’m a big believer in not being a). A Tourist (although, let’s face it, if I’m not at home, I am indeed A Tourist) and b). helpless.

Even if you’re the biggest xenophobe on earth–which would make foreign travel a really weird and pointless pastime you might want to reconsider– it’s hard to dispute the importance of knowing how ask “Where’s the bathroom?” in certain urgent circumstances.

It’s with such experiences in mind that I came up with this fun little series. There are a handful of phrases I’ve cultivated in various languages that have served me well, in situations both good and bad. Not only are they inscribed on the dog-eared inner covers of my trusty Phrasebooks; they’re etched into my mind, so I can summon them at will. Whether you need to ward off annoying vendors, personal humiliation, potential suitors, or would-be attackers, it pays to be prepared and know what to say, when. Since things like “Yes, No, Thank you, Please, Hello,” etc. are generally not too challenging, for the purposes of this series, I’ll leave them out. That doesn’t mean they’re not very important to learn, however.

This week’s lesson: “I’m just looking.” Invaluable for politely but firmly stating your desire to see with your eyes, not your wallet. It may not stop persistent hawkers from trying to close a deal, but at least you’re showing respect by speaking in their native tongue (or an approximation thereof). And who knows? If you change your mind, that alone may help you score a better bargain.

P.S. I don’t claim to be polylingual: I’m compiling phrases based on past experience or research. If I offend anyone’s native tongue, please provide a correction in the “Comments” section. Be nice!

1. Spanish: Solo estoy mirando.

2. Italian: Sto solo guardando.

3. French: Je regarde.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Gerry Balding]useful foreign phrases4. German: Nur schauen.

5. Czech: Jen se dívám.

6. Portuguese: Estou só a olhar.

Many languages, especially those spoken in Asia and the Middle East, use written characters. Transliteration will vary, depending upon the guidebook/translator, which is why the spelling or phonetics below may be different from other sources. Since these languages are largely tonal (and may require accents or characters not available on a Western computer), look at this way: odds are you’re going to mangle the pronunciation anyway, so just do your best! It’s the thought that counts.

7. Chinese (Cantonese): Tái haa.

8. Japanese: Watashi ga mite iru dakedesu (here’s to Japan getting back on its feet and attracting travelers soon!) To make a Red Cross donation, click here.

9. Vietnamese: Tôi chỉ xem thôi.

14. Moroccan Arabic: Ghir kanshuf.

What’s the most useful phrase you’ve ever learned in a foreign language? How has it helped your travels? We want to hear from you!

[Photo credit: Flickr user wanderer_by_trade]