Last year, when my mom came to visit me, we took a train to Bonn for a day trip. I just love how Germans take trains everywhere! Although we didn’t know much about the city or what to expect, deep down we were just wishing we could experience all the beauty of the incredible cherry blossom avenue. But that was merely wishful thinking since they’re only around for a couple of weeks in April, therefore that was not going to happen. Maybe I’ll get to see them this year?
So we went for the next best thing, which happened to be the Beethoven House. Beethoven’s charming birthplace is a now a museum and a place where music lovers from all over the world come together to share ideas. Such a lovely concept!
Whenever I read a Bill Bryson book I feel like I’m in great company. He travels the globe and doesn’t take himself too seriously, so his writings about his adventures are always funny, sarcastic and a delight to read.
In Neither here nor there he tells us about his travels around Europe while also reminiscing about his first time in the continent years before, and how things have changed or how they’ve stayed the same. He makes observations about everything and so many parts of the books are hilarious and lighthearted. I could relate so much whenever he talked about the amazing feeling of arriving in a new city everyday, taking long train rides, sitting at a cafe on a Tuesday afternoon and watch people go about their lives, while you’re absorbing it all in a wonderful state of pure bliss. Traveling to a different country requires us to be aware of little daily rituals we don’t even pay attention to anymore. It’s like learning how to live all over again. How do people cross the street? Am I smiling to much? How do I say thank you? And these little struggles are all too exciting to ever become a real concern.
But apart from that, Bryson also does a lot of whining and complaining throughout the book, specially coming from an experienced traveler like himself. Anyone who’s traveled around a bit knows that it’s not always easy. You have to be patient and adaptable. You have to be open and wiling to compromise on a few things. Sometimes the weather is gonna be awful, the hotel won’t be cozy, the trains might be late, it can be hard to find a place to exchange money, but it’s all part of the experience and you just have to embrace it. And then there’s the people, and the cultural differences. I know he’s just being funny, but sometimes he just falls into stereotypes and spends a lot of time going on and on about train connections and hotel bookings. The book is from 1991 and it’s crazy to think how much the technicalities of traveling have changed. He spends half the time standing in line at tourist information offices waiting for an assistant to book hotels for him. That’s insane! And the poor guy was hungry half the time because he could never find a place to eat.
Anyway, the book is funny so if you want an easy, entertaining take on Europe you’ll enjoy it. Now, if you want to actually learn about the history and culture of those countries you’re better off picking another book. And if you want to read a real funny Bryson book, go for I’m a stranger here myself. That one is hilarious.
One of my goals for the year is to read more books. I’ve always been an avid reader, but my progress has slowly decreased over the years. I had an ever growing pile of books in my bedroom that I could never keep up with, until I moved to Germany and decided to sell most of it – a dumb decision I still don’t understand, I mean I miss those books! The good thing is I still have a lot left and I persist on buying new ones, even if it means they’ll just sit on a shelf for months until I decide I’m ready to read them. It’s funny but I go through phases: sometimes I devour books, sometimes I can’t seem to get past the first page.
Last month I read On Writing, by Stephen King, a book I’d been wanting to read for years. Read More
Mindy and I are super best friends now; it’s more of a one-sided relationship, I mean, she does most of the talking while I basically just listen and laugh for the most part. Although I do talk back sometimes, but then she never listens. You know actors, they make everything about themselves.
Ha! As silly as that sounds, sometimes I feel that way because after listening to both her audiobooks, narrated by her, I found Mindy Kaling so relatable! Her books are mainly stories about herself growing up, then becoming a successful writer and also a little glimpse into her mind and thoughts. And it’s funny when you meet someone who can waste hours having wildly unimportant imaginary conversations in their head, feel insecure and embarrass themselves the same way you think you do. Sometimes it really seems like she gets carried away by this whole romantic comedy scenarios in life, as if she’s living in a Nora Ephron world, which I found hilarious and sweet. I think that’s why her imagination and creativity are such powerful features of her personality. She’s also smart, cheeky and funny.
By the way, back in 2011 she wrote this piece about the different women we see in movies for the New Yorker and it’s so on point! A great, great funny read, yet again.
I was spending a lot of time at the library back in Massachusetts and there were days when I got around to reading entire books in one sitting. They all happened to be Nora Ephron books for some reason – probably due to the fact that they are relatively short and an easy read. Ephron is lighthearted, self deprecating and insightful. I enjoyed her real and yet funny personal analyses on life, womanhood and growing old in an ever changing world. I hope I can go trough life wide eyed and self aware the way she lived hers.
And I also came across this quote from her:
At the risk of sounding like a true nerd, I’ll admit it – I enjoy spending afternoons at the library! Being surrounded by the scent of old books feels like fresh air to me and I can be surprisingly productive about my reading habit.
Yesterday I scored a copy of The Help for $0.50 that’s still in great shape and I walked away quite pleased with my purchase. Tonight I might be leaving with Where the heart is in my bag. I’ve seen both movies and the books sound incredibly promising.
Another thing about my local library: I see small kids running around everywhere and elderly citizens reading quietly at every corner – a real, lovely community. Crisp fall afternoons that feel rather cozy.