Jan 062008


Venice is a beautiful town. We took the train in and then the vaporetto around to the Piazza San Marco spent about 8 hours there, walking and talking and exploring. It’s an odd place. Beautiful. Part of the beauty is in the decrepitness, and perhaps in the fact that it’s dying, sinking into the sea after bad economic policies and nature has taken its toll.

Walking into the main square (Piazzas San Marco) is pretty incredible. You have the Ducal palace on one side (political power), the church on another side (religious power), one of the main libraries in the world (analagous to the Vatican or Bodleian library, it’s a deposit library and has thousands of original ancient manuscripts) on another side (scholarly power) and the market in the square– the people.

Venice was one of the world’s first modern republics, set up as an independent city-state of the Byzantine empire (though they split off when they didn’t want to fight Constantinople’s wars) with an apparently horrendously complicated voting system in which it was, typically, rich white males doing the voting. They had loads of money from controlling trade, specifically the salt trade, all around the Aegean and the Mediterranean.

And they made lots and lots of cool art. So much in fact that after about three hours you’re sick to death of excellently executed masterpieces by great masters. They’re choking on renaissance art. Still, absolutely worth a visit. italia-xmas07 031.jpg

Obligatory canal/gondola shot

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Obligatory shot of the Cathedral in the Piazza San Marco

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Nice canal walks. Still obligatory.

Really loved the Guggenheim, however. Peggy Guggenheim had a house in Venice (in fact, she and her 27 dogs are buried in the yard) right on the Grand Canal. The really cool thing about it is that it’s small and you see a lot of her stuff in its original setting, along with photos of Peggy in her space surrounded by the really cool Modern/Contemporary/abstract art that’s on the walls. And you can sit on her designer couches and all.

It’s even more fascinating in the city of Venice, where you’re surrounded by Renaissance works to have a space dedicated to modern works. She’s got Pollocks from before and after his discovery of splashworking, a really unusual Rothko and god knows what all, much of which was from early days of the artists– to see this collection makes me think, again, how ahead of her time and recognising of genius she was.


Me and Emilio outside of the Guggenheim, a very worthy experience in Venice.


I have to say I was, overall, disppointed in Milan. I was only there for half a day between trains, but the fabled shopping/design city was filled with staid, same-old design.

The Ferrovie del Stato Stazione (train station) is amazing. Enormous. I think it may be the biggest station I’ve been in and when you’re walking up the main road towards it it just keeps getting bigger– and no closer. The main Cathedral is also gorgeous, particularly as you’re passing your third Hugo Boss store and loads of shoppers and it just pops out at you, but the clothes and stuff was generally pretty boring. Unfortunate.


I ran off at the end to find my friend Julia in the south of Germany. It was extraordinarily cold, especially when I arrived at 0430 and had to wait 2 1/2 hours for my (20m) connecting train. It was -6 degrees C (about 20 degrees farenheit) and windy and wet and cold. Cold. I sat in MacDonald’s for 2 hours, sipping an insipid coffee (which they claim is “gourmet” and their “starbuck’s killer”. I don’t know about people who like Starbuck’s coffee (I’m not a big fan, though I think they’re over-demonized by people I know. They’re good to their employees, shareholders, and, generally, to their suppliers, though I just prefer other coffee to theirs). In any case, if this coffee is the “big threat” to starbuck’s, I’d short McDonald’s and go long on Starbuck’s.

A couple of days in Pforzheim, Germany, then we went to Köln for the New Year, where they have massive fireworks displays. It’s not that the city puts on a great show, it’s that every single person does. Germans, as far as I can tell, like to blow stuff up. A lot. There was a light haze at 1145 which, by 1210, you couldn’t see more than about 100m through.

One German watches idly while two Americans marvel at the size of the fireworks… More size than bang, though.

On the way to Köln, Julia and I stopped in Heidelberg, which was nice, if perhaps a little twee. In a nice way, though.


Me and Julia in Heidelberg.

Back to Oxford after that. After I get a bit more time I’m going to write up some of my candid thougths on the first term at Oxford, my progress, etc. For those of you who might be interested in this as an MBA blog and not just my incoherent ramblings and self-indulgent photos of myself and my friends.

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