It’s been almost a year since I began this blog, so I’ve decided to repost some of my auld material in honour of my blogiversary. Fun stuff, eh?
So, here was one of the very first blogposts I came up with. The thought of not documenting a trip to the Medici family’s city with a few photos here was unthinkable.
Florence is a truly beautiful city, and I was surprised at what you found once you got away from where the majority of the tourists go. Tea shops and real people and whatnot.
The very thought makes me want to book a flight and spend the weekend there in the very near future. One never knows…
This is something I wrote several years ago, but I thought after the recent trip to Florence, it’d be a nice time to repeat it. You’ll notice that we did return to the beautiful Tuscan city. On Lufthansa I assure you.
Hope you enjoy:
So, I was recently asked why I prefer train travel to taking a plane or driving. Anyone who travels a lot has a few horror stories. And I know statistically flying is incomparably safe. But I still love the train. Relatively regularly a high-speed train in Germany hits a flock of sheep or some poor sap ending it all who couldn’t manage to find a gun. Doesn’t faze me one bit. I’ll keep taking the train regardless.
Here’s my worst flying story. I should say my second worst, but the worst was a result of my stupidity and the one I’m about to tell deals with the ineptitude of an airline. Many people threaten never to fly with an airline again after a bad experience. I’ve done that a few times, and then once more I find the best price with that company and off I am with them in the friendly skies. But this story has to do with the exception.
If Alitalia is still in business, they shouldn’t be. We had enjoyed a beautiful week in Florence. Had a private tour of the Ufizzi, saw the churches that the Medici family built, ate a mountain of fresh delicious Mediterranean grub and were both sad and happy to be going back to the land of good bread and better sausage. Days of walking and an early check-out in the hotel convinced us to go to the aeroport early. We arrived a full to hours before our scheduled flight. How were we to know it wasn’t nearly early enough?
As we waited in line to check in, it became increasingly clear that something wasn’t right. The people ahead of us had become visibly angry and eventually we found out that the flight wasn’t in fact going to take off at all. They cited heavy wind over Milan (our connection). They assured us that if there were a way, they’d clear our flight for take-off.
We went with all of our bags and waited for news. Ours was one of the last flights to leave the little aeroport that day and we had no hotel reservations. They aren’t always easy to come by in this very popular city.
As we waited, the little sign on the monitor informed us that our flight was boarding. We rushed back to the check-in counter and the very polite airline worker assured us that although the flight was boarding, the pilot had limited the passenger count to two hundred.
Our flight hadn’t been cancelled? We’ve merely been bumped? Even though we were two hours early? WHAT???
The others who’d been bumped were furious, but here’s where my journalist wife raised her mane and roared. ‘You will either give us our seats on this airplane, or you will find us another flight immediately!’ They assured us they would do their best. She glared at their seemingly empty sentiments. The Dutch couple behind us tried to pull off the same theatrics, but the nice, overworked airline slave was still too rattled by the wrath of my lioness.
It seemed like an eternity, but they returned with an answer. They had a flight on Lufthansa to Frankfurt and getting from there back to Munich is one of the easiest flights you can get in Europe. I neglected to mention that both the flights from Munich to Milan and then Milan to Florence offered the bumpiest landings I can recall experiencing. I was relieved and even excited that we were flying with the reliable former national airline of Germany.
Wonder if the winds over Milan are always choppy or only when Alitalia has sold too many tickets. I’ll never know. We heard the pilot’s announcements in two languages, neither of which were Italian, as we rose above the Southern Alps. Our flight to Frankfurt was boring. Just the way it should be. We made the connection and were home before you could say “Buena Sera!” If I ever go back to see the city of the Medici, it’ll be on a slow, ancient Italian train.
At least then I have a train workers’ strike to look forward to.
Don’t want to dwell on this, because hypocrisy can be such a tired topic. Nevertheless, it’s a very succinct description of how a letter of exchange wasn’t officially seen as usury. Here, give it a gander:
‘The Church’s ban on usury and the images of usurers burning in hell troubled lenders and borrowers alike. But people needed loans and there was no point in lending without a return. It was important to find a solution that wasn’t just “a way around” the ban, but that really did not seem to be usury at all. The letter of exchange was a “most delicate invention” and “a most subtle activity,” wrote Benedetto Cotrugli in 1458 and what’s more “impossible for a theologian to understand.”
For more than two hundred years, it allowed bankers to make a profit on loans without feeling they were usurers. Foreign currencies weren’t usually held in quantity in any one town, so if someone wanted to change florins into, say, English pounds, the florins were handed over in Florence and the pounds picked up in London. Officially, travel to London took ninety days, so someone kept the florins a while before repaying since the exchange rate was always more favourable for the local currency. In London, a similar exchange deal could be made to turn the pounds back into florins, so that after ninety days in Florence again, there might be a profit of 10 to 20%.’
(source: Money and Beauty exhibit at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence)
Did you catch all of that? Today, most of the non-Muslim world doesn’t give the subject of usury a second thought, but we certainly have plenty more examples of this sort of double standard in our societies.
I doubt I’ve fully explored all the things I thought about during my short stay in Florence. Might write about other things and then come back to Money and Beauty. Who knows where this lahikmajoe blog is going anyway.
‘It is the most feminine of cities. It speaks to you with that same soft low voice which is such an excellent thing in a woman. Other cities beside it are great swearing and shuffling rowdies. Florence has an immortal soul. You look into her grey eyes…so studious, so sensitive, so human.’
He wasn’t always so positive. For example:
‘Today Florence loves herself in dusty boulevards and elegant residential areas. A medieval city, with the effect of some precious page of antique text swallowed up in a marginal commentary that smacks of the style of the newspaper.’
My suspicion is that a few of you are going to find something humourous to say about one or both of those quotes, but I’m going to let my photos of this glorious day in Florence do the talking for me. Here you are:
You people are too hard on bankers. Yes, you people.
I hear you casting your aspersions. Smearing their profession with your horrible inaccuracies. Financial vehicles that even they don’t understand. Don’t you get it? They’re doing things even they don’t understand. That doesn’t merit even the barest of respect and awe from the likes of you?
I’m off to Florence and am going to see an exhibit at the Palazzo Strozzi called Money and Beauty. The history of early banking and its relation to the paintings of the Italian Renaissance.
In no way will it help me better understand modern banking or geopolitical problems. You don’t come here for that anyway.