What do you like to do when you travel? My favorite thing on the planet is to visit open air markets in other countries. Sometimes they are primarily food, while others will incorporate crafts and household goods. Recently I visited both a neighborhood market in Hamburg, Germany, and a huge fish market on their harbor.
Those settings intrigue me because they are typically individuals or families making a living, not the big box experience most common in the USA. They are the norm rather than appearing as a festival or special event as they would in America. The neighborhood market in Hamburg was open three days a week with distinctly different offerings on those days. Saturday you discovered more than twice the vendors present as Tuesday or Thursday, due to the neighborhood shoppers having a a day off. The other days would be the ‘sane and quiet’ days for regular grandmothers and wives (and no, I did not see husbands shopping on these week days) to make a short trip for produce to feed their families. The variety, color and texture makes these settings a visual and sensual treat. You will hear shouting and competition among the vendors as well as see some of the most artfully arranged flowers and produce anywhere. You eat them with your eyes!
In addition, another activity I love is going into the drug stores and grocery stores in other countries. It is fascinating to have this glimpse into the lives of others. The packaging and what is featured, the prices, and the hours such venues are open all teach you about a culture and its people in a way that is completely different from visiting a museum. It feels real.
I like to share information about my travels, but often people’s eyes tend to glaze over when they think you are going to talk about your recent trip, as if you were pulling out your slide projector and preparing to trap them in your metaphorical living room for hours on end and make them view every Eiffel Tower and Mona Lisa you saw.
That is not the case. I think our world and the citizens of this country need to cultivate a deeper understanding of different cultures to increase their ability to be inclusive. I have had the privilege and the luxury of travel, and am happy to talk about the places I have seen, but not in a blow-by-blow fashion. Instead I try to give others a sense of the place, in the hopes of creating the desire in them to find the ways they can best learn how to eat with their eyes!