One of the nicest things about exploring far-away places is coming back home to Maine. A week and a half is about my limit for traveling. After ten days comes a point of diminishing returns after which the excitement of seeing new places is eclipsed by the desire for home and familiar routines. Perhaps if I were younger I would enjoy it longer but, like many, I couldn’t afford to travel then and was way too busy with work and family to get away.
This was my fourth trip to the Mediterranean and I can see why western civilization originated there. Compared to northern Europe where my barbarian ancestors came from, the living is relatively easy. It seldom snows except in the high mountains. In late April there was still snow in the Pyrenees and in the Alps, but it very seldom snows at sea level where we spent most of our time.
The markets were full of fruits, vegetables, fish, and meat. They grow year-round in most areas, unlike here in northern New England where farmers must rush to plant, tend, and harvest as much as they can between frosts, and where too much rain, too little rain, a late frost, or an early frost can wipe out everything. Then farmers have to wait a whole year before gambling on it all again. In the old days of subsistence farms, that could mean the difference between eating or starving.
My small town of Lovell has barely over a thousand people, but there were four thousand passengers on our enormous cruise ship, not to mention fourteen hundred crew. It was a floating city with several restaurants, theaters, bars, a casino, and I don’t know how many staterooms. It pulled into bigger cities each night where it tied up near other huge, floating city-ships. Local guides waited next to tour busses each morning to show us all around their native habitat as we walked down the ramps.
Clearly those guides loved their homelands as much as I love Maine and their pride was evident as we followed them around and they explained what we were seeing. One theme every guide mentioned was the need for security. Over there, they measure history by millennia whereas the history of North America is measured in centuries. Every place on earth is equally old, of course, but if history is defined as the written record of events, the record of the Mediterranean Basin goes back far longer. And, as Karl Marx observed: war is the locomotive of history. There’s been plenty of that throughout the region.
The rest is here.