In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Art of the state: fascist Italy’s paintings go on show
An exhibition in Florence strives to present 1930s Italy as a cauldron of experimentation. Instead, it’s a bleak journey into the aesthetic lifelessness of a totalitarian society.
In 1938 Adolf Hitler arrived at Santa Maria Novella railway station inFlorence to be greeted by red, white and black swastika banners, Italian fascist symbols, fake statues and choreographed crowds. He was taken by Benito Mussolini through this beautiful city of the Italian Renaissance to admire its masterpieces. Hitler saw himself as an artist. He had been to art school. Now he communed with Michelangelo while the masses cheered his every step.
Six years later, in 1944, German troops retreating through Florence blew up all of its historic bridges except the fabled Ponte Vecchio and mined the medieval centre. Hitler’s embrace was deadly.
It is deadly still. Susan Sontag once published an essay calledFascinating Fascism. I don’t know about fascination, but the death-force of fascism, its murder of the human heart, grips a major exhibition in Florence that sets out to reveal the richness of the arts in 1930s Italy. This show slides inexorably into the poisonous cesspit of Europe’s history.
Anni Trenta (“the 30s”) at the Palazzo Strozzi explores the culture of Italy under the rule of Mussolini when he and Hitler seemed to many observers around the world to be the coming men of a new Europe. Democracy was discredited. The Depression seemed to have revealed basic flaws in free markets and elected governments, as the historian Mark Mazower shows in his profound book Dark Continent. It was the corporate states of fascism with their massive public projects that appeared to offer a way forward – unless you were on the left and looked to Stalin’s Russia.
Mexican ad agency prepares End of the World Survival Kit: just in case
According to the Mayan calendar, the world will end on December 21, 2012. With tongue firmly in cheek, a Mexican advertising agency has prepared a survival kit.
According to the 5125 year long Mesoamerican Long Count calendar a cataclysmic even will occur on December 21 this year. Depending on who you believe the event may or may not mark the end of the world.
Hedging their bets, Monterrey-based advertising company have created a End-of-the-World Survival Kit to ensure they are ready if necessary for a post-apocalyptic party.
Branded the Just In Case kit, the box includes matches to start a fire, a knife for hunting and enough water to survive ten days.
To take the edge off the inevitable pain of surviving the end of the world, the kit also includes a bottle of Mayan liquor and traditional Mexican cinnamon-laced chocolate.
Bumping into stars makes fliers’ trips unforgettable
Road Warrior Richard Laermer says his attempts at small talk didn’t go far with singer Neil Diamond when they sat next to one another on a red-eye flight from New York to Los Angeles two years ago.
Laermer, the creator of a new social-media website, ThankBank.net, says Diamond wasn’t friendly and may not have wanted to be interrupted as he attempted to write song lyrics on a legal pad in the first-class cabin of the United Airlines flight.
“All he did until bedtime was write lyrics and rip them up,” says Laermer of Ridgefield, Conn. “It was one of those periods where you realize how hard it is to get anything done to your satisfaction.”
Laermer is one of many USA TODAY Road Warriors – some of the world’s most frequent fliers who voluntarily provide travel information – who have encountered celebrities during business trips.
For many of them, their brush with the famous was unexpected and brief, and later became fodder for cocktail conversation. But some Road Warriors say their interactions pro-foundly affected their lives.
After watching Diamond attempt to write lyrics, Laermer says he had a few sleepless nights.
“I always thought of him as a troubadour, and it turns out he is a worker bee,” Laermer says of Diamond. “It made me think a great deal about the creative process.”
Birmingham to Kashmir by bus
Plans have been announced to launch a bus service between Birmingham and Mirpur in Pakistan, known as “Little Birmingham”.
It promises to be Britain’s longest bus route – all the way from Birmingham to Kashmir almost 4,000 miles away.
Plans have been drawn up for a bus service between the West Midlands and Mirpur, nicknamed “Little Birmingham” because of close historical and family ties between the two cities.
The Mirpur region’s transport chief Tahir Khokher says the route will span seven countries including Iran and Pakistan – and include stopovers in Quetta, near the Afghan border, and the Iranian capital Tehran.
Tickets for the 12-day trip are expected to cost £130, a saving of around £450 on the average air fare.
Birmingham is home to the world’s largest population of Kashmiri expatriates, many having emigrated from Mirpur in the 1960s after being displaced by the building of a dam.