Travel Tip: Getting to Rome

The train ride from Roma Fuimincino Airport has been bad for decades, but it's gotten worse recently, and now ranks among the worst things to be experienced by the sensual animal. Everything grates: it's filthy as a port-a-john, there's plastic everywhere and graffiti on that; all alert systems are red since it feels both crowded and dangerous. What's more, the A/C is broken, and has been on all five of my trips to Rome, and, somehow, psychotically, they've bolted all the windows shut. The temperature inside hovers around 100 and one thinks she can imagine the smell, but is still surprised experiencing it. And it's slow. And takes you through the worst part of town. And it's expensive: between 8 and 25 euro depending on which line you get in and whether the man working the desk thinks you look like prey. And th ensigns directing you to the "station" are held up with tape. You get the idea. Half of the visitors' Roman dreams are dashed in sweaty Satanic reality before one even crosses the Flaminian gate.

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Upon Arrival

After being squeezed from the great sausage-casing in the sky that is modern air transport, what one notices upon landing is the first thing one sees, that is, what he can't help but notice: the airport. Our wildest movies about future utopias don't equal the present good sense and design featured even in 2nd-rate cities like Stuttgart. Immediately, everything is calm and beautiful. The passport control officer is kind and gentle, without the trace of sarcasm and suspicion and boredom that mark his American counterpart. Read More

City Library


On Friday, Amber and I went into Stuttgart to see the Opera, about which more later, and made a detour en route to visit the newly remodeled Stuttgart City Library.  I knew, depute the lack of directional specificity on the part of Broom-Helga the Wicked, our typically-Swabian helper at the tourist office, that we had the right building because I'd seen the drawings from The Coolist, but we approached the glowing stack of blue cubes with some hesitation, not only because it looked so little like a library, and not only because it was raining and we didn't want to wander too far into what looked like a construction zone cum office park, but because the only markings on the building's exterior were some three characters in Arabic, carved into the white stone.  If I've seen a less-reassuring approach, I'm sure I couldn't name it.  
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What it's Like Living in a 500-year-old Building

When my wife and I first moved to Germany, we thought we might live in Stuttgart, the main metropolis in Baden-Wurttemberg, and that I would commute to Tuebingen to teach classes.  Once we saw the sleepy, lovely, medieval college-town of Tuebingen though, we knew immediately that it would make a better home base.  Unfortunately, everyone else seems to have had the same idea and so the small town was experiencing an unprecedented housing shortage.  Students literally dropped out of the University because they couldn't find a place to live.
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