Monday, April 22, 2013

This is Culture Too............

                        Attacking wolf of Cardiff Castle wall

When most of us travel, we pay attention to the land, its people, buildings, food, museums, and various other aspects of the place. As we do this, we try not to stand out as TOURISTS and blend into the community as best we can. Whether or not we successfully blend in, the people we are visiting know that we're out there somewhere and make different forms of attempts to capture our attention.  While some of those situations may be a bit tacky, the ways that they do so often says something about their culture and also how they perceive the various cultures of those that visit them.   The photos in this post are included with this aspect of culture in mind.

The above photo is a typical example of the way that one group of people perceived what the tourist was looking for. I had spent the morning in the midst of heavy rain exploring the unsheltered remains of a partially restored castle outside Cardiff, Wales.  That was followed by a quick lunch, a short tour of a cathedral, then a walk through football crowds as we made our way towards Cardiff Castle.  As we approached the "restored" castle I looked up and found myself face to face with this attacking wolf.  Yes, this was a sign of things to come in terms of  the authenticity of the castle.  It was, however, amusing.

                   Conch Republic "Embassy" in Key West, Florida

 At one time the citizens of Key West "broke off" from both Florida and the USA to start their own "laid back republic".  The Conch Republic's Embassy still remains as a tourist icon.  I resisted applying for a passport.

             Sign at Dublin restaurant in the land of former famine

My Irish ancestors left their homeland in the 1840's because of the Famine during which the potato crop was devastated by disease.  Given that, I found this Dublin restaurant sign more than a bit incongruous.

                   Casual Victorian gentleman next to Dublin-based Viking

Speaking of incongruity in Ireland, the  well-dressed gentleman calmly sitting next to a Viking holding a severed head was unsettling.  On the other hand, I went upstairs and found a fantastic corned beef sandwich.

                    Florida Gulf Coast "animal crossing"

 Florida does have very legitimate animal crossing signs that are unusual to the non-native visitor. Two that are frequently seen are "alligator crossing" and "panther crossing". There are times when you certainly will run across either and need to drive cautiously. On the other hand, jellyfish are aquatic beasties.....

                     Phoenix Botanical Gardens "Autumn Man"

 I wasn't quite sure why this, along with three other statues, was found in the midst of natural desert plants.  Most of the botanical garden was tastefully done. Phoenix rules, I guess.  Strange.

                               Santa Fe "Silver Rhino"

 The rhino is NOT native to New Mexico. I've lived in Kenya and I know that for certain. On the other hand, Santa Fe is known for its free spirit and quirkiness.

                                   Tarpon Springs "Sponge Moose"

 I was born in the state of Maine and have seen moose in their natural habitat.  Moose do NOT live in Tarpon Springs, nor are they made of sponges that have been harvested from the sea by the descendents of Greek settlers.  The spongemoose did give me a chuckle.

                         Bath's "Winnie the Pooh's Evil Brother"

When I think of Bath, England I usually think of the Roman Baths, the Jane Eyre Museum, and the Victorian houses that housed the wealthy vacationers in the late 1800's.  I did NOT expect to come across an angry Winnie the Pooh-like creature wielding a chain saw. Yes, tourist material for those with a slightly bent sense of humor.

                            Ybor City, Florida "Giant Chicken"

 Two comments related to the Bone Yard.  First of all, bars don't usually go out of their way to call themselves "dives".  A "dive" is considered to be a low-life establishment where food and drink is questionable at best and you need to guard your wallet.  Secondly, I do think that a bit of exaggeration as been applied to the size of the wings.  (BTW-Florida did have its version of cowboys, so that part is not misrepresented.)

I hope that you have enjoyed your visit to the Tavern and will stop by again. In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Arizona: Thoughts on Preserving the Past

I have always be interested in cultures and histories.  The land, cultures, and histories are intertwined and it is sometimes a challenge to sort out the influences they  have upon one another.  This challenge is one of the factors that makes any travel interesting.  One of the universal traits that peoples seem to have is a need to find some outlet to display cultural and historical aspects so that they will not be forgotten by present and future generations. What a  group of people  wants remembered and how it is represented tells the viewer/listener something as well.  Wouldn't it be boring  if it was all done the same?  That would take some of the joy out of travel.

Last month, while in Arizona, a few hours were spent at Phoenix's Heard Museum of American Indian Art and History (  The photos in this post were taken there. To be honest, there were so many exhibits that the few hours were not really enough to do them justice.  Still, I did come away with some strong impressions and a little better understanding of the original peoples of Arizona.

I am a visual learner-statues, weavings, murals, and photographs leave strong impressions. I was struck by intensity of the colors and subjects of some of the murals....tales of the past and interpretations of the present- all in striking hues.  The weavers' room with its scenes of weavers, pow wows, sheep herders, and rodeos all designed through skillful planning were truly amazing.  Carved figures dressed in traditional or ceremonial clothing found in other exhibits gave cultural insights.  The display of the Code Talkers who used their language as a battle code during the World Wars reminded the viewer of the importance of the warrior in American Indian societies. 

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know that museums are not usually on the top of my "list of things to do" when I travel.  As a rule, I feel that I can gain a better understanding of a place by wandering around out of doors, interacting with people, or reading up on a place.  The Heard Museum does something that many others don't necessarily do-it shows the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Yes, it does show beautiful aspects of craftsmanship. It also has murals that depict concerns about American Indians shedding their cultural values to seek the hamburger and the world of mainstream television.  Nor is there avoidance of showing how the original peoples were treated by outsiders with very different cultural values who came and settled on native lands.  There is also a pointed reminder that , in spite of the treatment they received by the American government and many of the European settlers,  American  Indians willingly contributed  to the United States' efforts during the World Wars and placed their lives in danger doing so.  All in all, the visit to the Heard  was a good historical and cultural experience for me.

Thank you for visiting the Tavern.   I hope that you enjoyed your stay and will stop by again.  Until then, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.