The Swiss Sound of Music

Matthias Ammann puts his hands into his pockets, smiles at us, and yodels effortlessly. Of course he would. He has been yodeling since the age other children learn to gurgle and crawl. He then looks at our stricken faces and sings one note at a time, making us repeat it. It is all very pleasant,…

Bohemian Rhapsody

As we walk through the small Bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov in search of the Laibon, my husband and I discover the Two Marys (U Dwau Maryi) right next to it. Like many restaurants in the west, the menu is posted outside. A quick glance and we decide to go in for the vegetarian special…

It’s tulips time in Amsterdam

In writing about Amsterdam as one of the top 10 cities for 2013, Lonely Planet says “Golden Age charmer prepares to party.” There are anniversaries and more anniversaries this year, including 400 years of the canal ring that marks Amsterdam out as one of the prettiest cities in the world and 40 years of the…

The two faces of Tokyo

On the quiet streets of Tokyo one morning, I see a parade of penguins with a quick and purposeful gait. I am to see the penguins in other places at other times of the day too — at supermarkets at lunchtime buying boxes of sushi, at Pachinko gaming parlours late afternoon and in the evening…

Angel in disguise

Shakespeare and Company is a bookstore in Paris where one feels like being in one’s own apartment, just exactly how founder George Whitman wanted it to be, says Charukesi Ramadurai George Whitman liked to call himself the Don Quixote of the Latin Quarter. His windmills were the faceless bookstore chains and one-size-fits-all websites that threatened…

See Naples and sigh

You know what they used to say in the early 19th century — “See Naples and die.” They meant, of course, that nothing on earth could match the beauty and grandeur of the city. Today, when I hear stories of Naples from friends in Rome, I wonder if that could be literally true. Along with…