Let Me Entertain You, Kind Of

Ok, by now most of us who travel to popular destinations have come to expect and enjoy street entertainers. Their talents put a smile on our face, give us a reason to pause and provide a chance to take a fun selfie. Here are my highlights from this summer.

If you love street entertainers, then go to Avignon, France in July. During the Festival d’Avignon the city becomes a hotspot for performers. I’ll be honest, some are fantastic and some needed a little more preparation, but it is still great fun. Starting around noon the walled city looks like a giant costume party. The likes of Snow White and SpongeBob mingle among the tourists while dancers and musician groove to the music. Many are their to promote their local plays or movies, while others are entertainers passing the hat. Its a wonderful way to enjoy an ancient city. My Video: Avignon Street Entertainers

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In Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina the talent was more physical than creative. Every summer day starting around 10 in the morning until sunset, you will find young men in their swimming trunks around the Stari Most bridge asking for money. Once they feel they have collected enough money, one of them will jump from the 25 meter (82ft.) bridge. (Keep in mind the Olympic high dive platform is only 10 meters high.) This beautiful old bridge was completed in 1566 during the Ottoman Empire. It was destroyed during the Bosnian War in 1993, but thankfully rebuilt with the original stones and finished in 2004. Young men have been jumping from this bridge for centuries and taking part in an annual competition at the end of July. My Video: Mostar Bridge Jumpers

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My #1 favorite street performer from this summer had no real talent other than just being itself. Along the waterfront in Thessaloniki, Greece I happened upon the a lone elephant. It stood quiet still not saying a word next to a small cardboard box. I looked around to find its owner, but to no avail. Not even a simple sign giving us a name. The elephant came dressed as though it was ready for a parade, but none was scheduled for the day. But it had the best talent of all, it caused me to stop and wonder.

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The next evening as the sun was setting I walked again next to the waterfront wondering if I would once again see the lone elephant. Just as I thought it was a one night occurrence, there was the elephant again. It had found a new spot closer to the statue of Alexander the Great. I must not have been the only person who thought this little elephant was very talented because its box was full of coins!

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Can’t Agree More

In the last week I have read two articles in the New York Times that caught my attention. The first was called, “Traveling Without Seeing.” This article talks about the attachment we have for the electronic devices we bring along on our travels. The author, Frank Bruni, spoke about our need to download movies, games and music in preparation for a trip. Then once we are safely tucked away in our hotel room we choose to cocoon ourselves in our room instead of adventuring out into the unknown.  When we do this, we miss opportunities to interact with others and learn about the world.

I often travel alone, and believe me, it is tempting to stay in the hotel, but then I say to myself, “What am I missing out there?” So I close my laptop or iPad, grab my camera and take off to see the sights.

This attitude has provided me with a wealth of rewarding experiences. Even eating alone in a small foreign restaurant can be adventurous.   I use to think  that eating alone would be lonely, but you wouldn’t believe how many people will start a conversation with someone who is by themself. On one occasion in Greece the waiter came over to practice his English. I learned he was from Syria and had been working in Greece for more than a year. I told him I had plans to go to Syria in the near future. He then offered tips on places I should not miss. An hour later a plate of watermelon and a small glass of ouzo came to my table free of charge. How’s that for having a friendly conversation with a stranger.  On a recent trip to  New Delhi I found myself alone in my hotel room on my last day in India. My bags were packed, I had snack food to eat, and enough entertainment options on my iPad to last for a few hours, but I didn’t come to India to stare at a small screen. Instead I spent a few hours strolling the streets taking pictures along the way. The sights I saw on the street were much better than any movie I had downloaded on my iPad.

I recommend reading Frank Bruni’s article for more insight into this topic: New York Times, Traveling without Seeing

The streets of India outside my hotel room. 

The second article called, “Tour Iran? Operators Hope So,”  spoke about traveling to Iran. Only a few weeks after the contested election in 2009, I traveled to Iran with my husband. Even though most of the protests had stopped once we arrived, a few were still continuing in Tehran.  I was fearful of how we would be treated at this turbulent time, but it turned out to be one of our most memorable vacations.  While there my husband and I toured Shiraz, Yazd, Esfahan, and the ancient site of  Persepolis. Everywhere we went, we were treated like treasured guests.  I can’t begin to guess how many times my husband was asked to pose for a picture. I made friendships that I still have today. For this reason, I highly recommend reading the New York Times article about traveling to Iran. Even though the US State Dept. still doesn’t recommend traveling to Iran, I must kindly disagree.

Take the time to read this short article about traveling to Iran: New York Times, Tour Iran? Operators Hope So

Here are 2 links to my images from Iran: http://ginalrodgers.com/images/iran/index.html  and http://ginalrodgers.com/images/persiandesigns/index.html

Just a few of the wonderful  and gracious Persians we met in Iran. 

Enjoying watermelon with our woman guide and tour operator.

Enjoying watermelon with our woman guide and tour operator Cyrus Etemadi.

Our very knowledgeable    guide for most of the trip.

Our very knowledgeable guide for most of the trip.

One of the families we met and stayed in their home. When you said "cheese" for a picture they giggled and giggled.

One of the families we met and stayed in their home. When you said “cheese” for a picture they giggled and giggled.

Another family I met near Abyaneh. The women were dressed in native dress for a family celebration.

Another family I met near Abyaneh. The women were dressed in native dress for a family celebration.

I was able to spend 3 days with this family who lived in the Zagros Mountains. One day the sisters dressed me in their traditional clothes.

I was able to spend 3 days with this family who lived in the Zagros Mountains. One day the sisters dressed me in their traditional clothes.

One of the many pictures my husband was asked to pose for.

One of the many pictures my husband was asked to pose for.

For more information about Iran contact Cyrus Etemadi. He operates the tour company used by Asian Pacific Adventures.