Travel Lessons and Part 3

First of all, I made mention that I had learned a few things during our trip to Trinidad. And that I wasn't quite sure what those things were, but that they would come to me. Well, some of them have done just that - come to me.

Try to travel to places where you know someone - or, at least, where you have SOME kind of connection to someone who lives there. Hopefully, that person will help you participate in the local culture, as opposed to just being a 'tourist', and skimming the surface. It is much more rewarding to be places where you can be WITH people, as opposed to OBSERVING people from a distance.

Don't travel on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. That's when everyone else travels. Travel on Thursday. Flights are less crowded. It's easier to get through Customs. And it leads to the next lesson -

Be there on the weekend. Don't GET there on the weekend. If you're there for the start of the weekend, it will allow your host/guide/friend the most time to show you their 'place' - where they live - and what's great about it.

One Knight's Story - Continues

In the year 1190, it was dangerous for a lone Knight to travel the roads of the Middle East. Even though the Christian forces had returned in large numbers to face Saladin, to wrest Jerusalem from his grasp, and even though Acre had fallen and was once again under their control, there were still incursions into Christian Territory by small bands of Moslems who would attack lone travelers and kill them, or extort money. In that day and time, kidnapping and extortion were popular means of funding one's lifestyle, and was practiced by almost all men of station, both East AND West.

"Habeeb!! More wine." The Knight and his squire sat at the long, rough table which occupied one half of the room. Habeeb sat on a low stool, next to the hearth in one corner of the room, stirring the stew which simmered in the great pot which hung over the fire.

He rose and filled a serving pot from the large goatskin which hung in a rickety wooden frame, under a round wooden cover, standing next to him. He splashed a little water over the outside of the goatskin.

As he poured wine into the tankards the two men were drinking from, he spoke. "You speak Arabic, Sire. Rare for a man of the West."

"As a young man I lived in Constantinople. My father was a trader in spices and we did much business with the men of Mecca. My father spoke the language of the Mongol and the Turk, I spoke the languages of the Middle East. This knowledge has served me well."

He reached into the small purse at his belt and pulled out a gold coin.

"No, no, Sire. No payment required."

"Thank you, Habeeb. You are most kind and generous. But why?"

"The woman, Sire, she tells me she saw you bury those men who attacked you on the road. The woman says you buried them facing Mecca. It is rare to find such respect for an enemy in a man of the West."

The Knight looked long into the eyes of Habeeb, and Habeeb could see, in those clear blue eyes, that the memory of the day's business was painful.

"In shallah, this fighting will come to an end and we can live in peace. In shallah."

"As you say, Sire. In shallah. God willing."

Habeeb returned the serving pot to the high shelf over the goatskin, and again, splashed a little water over the outside of the skin. He returned to his station, next to the pot simmering over the low fire.

"M'Lord, the only thing I have understood in all that you have said to each other is the last two words that heathen spoke - 'God Willing'. Do you suppose you might limit yourself to the King's English?"

"Good Squire, I would not bandy the word 'heathen' about too freely. Habeeb is as conversant in the King's English, as you call it, as he is in Arabic. He might choose to run you through."

"With what, M'Lord? A wooden serving spoon?"

"There is a scimitar leaning against the wall behind the wineskin. Did you not see it? No, you did not. I can see it in your face. How, in the name of the King, have you managed to live this long?"

The squire ignored the insult.

"M'Lord, why does he splash water on that skin?"

"Taste your wine, Squire and tell me; is it not cool on the tongue?"

The squire raised his tankard and drank nearly half.

"Aye, M'Lord, now that you make mention of it, it IS cool!! But how?"

"I know not the science of it, Squire, but the Arabs have always known that as water dries on the outside of a skin it will cool what is inside. These 'heathens', as you call them, have sciences and arts of which we have no knowledge."

"As may be, M'Lord, but it is a good thing, I think, that they fight no better than they do."

"Oh, they fight well enough, Squire. It's the tactics they used today that defeated them, not their fighting ability. They came at me singly, or in pairs, and they weren't prepared for my second sword, my Falcata. The Roman short sword is excellent for close in work, especially when the enemy works in under my long sword. Two swords are better than one, Squire, and forget you not that admonition. In spite of all of that, good Squire, if they had tried to kill me, really tried, they would have done. But their attack was uncoordinated and they intended a kidnap for ransom, not a murder, and that was their undoing. You, they would have killed, I think, but me, they would have taken for ransom."

"Oh, well then, it's as I said, M'Lord. It's a good thing they fought no better than they did.

For me, anyway."



Suzanne said...

How true. Airfare is cheaper when you fly on Thursday, too.

Jientje said...

Respect for, and knowledge of each others ways and traditions would make the world a better place. That's what shines through in this story for me. It's good to have friends all over the world, from different beliefs, and different cultures. Blogging opens that window on the world, I think.

And I'm with you on your theory about travelling.
To travel places where you know someone shows you the REAL place, and the people show their REAL face to you. You're not just a dumb tourist but you're part of their daily life for a short while.
That's why I refused to use my camera the first years we went to France. ( only by now, the love of photography has taken over, but anyway ...) Instead, I went to the local market carrying a basket for my groceries like everybody else there. I used to love it when they tried to sell us a mattress. That's when I knew we did not look like tourists!

Shadow said...

i see they won, heee heee heeee

Anonymous said...

Your travel tips are right on. We tend to rent a cottage for a week in a new place if we don't know people there. It forces you to live like the locals, shopping in grocery stores, behaving as though you live there rather than just visiting and skimming the surface. Very rewarding.

moneythoughts said...

Nice story, I love history.

Eric S. said...

I like this story for it speaks of what is much needed these days, Respect. Keep writing what these characters tell you Lou, it's of great quality.

Sage Ravenwood said...

I've had friends tell me they had a rewarding experience in other countries, once they left the beaten path. I'm absolutely delighted you chose to continue this story dear friend. I was hoping against the odds you would. (Hugs)Indigo

Anonymous said...

Yep, so true, your travel lessons. Even if I don't actually know somebody where I am going, I try really hard to do some things that are not entirely touristy or that are off the beaten path, sometimes with mixed results. I saw a part of Puerto Vallarta on horseback that many never see, and it was the best part of the trip. I got really lost in Hong Kong and saw some very non-tourist areas that I can't erase from my mind, but it's what I remember most about really being there. In both cases, it wasn't as safe as I try to be now, so it's probably best to do as you say and go where you know someone to show you the inside that way. :)

I'm headed your direction on Thursday, so I'll be in touch! Can't wait to meet you!

Wait. What? said...

Good tips!

Also - are we still on for this weekend? I am - any time really works. I was thinking about a place in Evanston Illinois - its sorta a texas BBQ style place, what do ya think?

Momisodes said...

I couldn't agree more with your travel suggestions. Which brings me back to the blogosphere, were I clearly need t make more friends around the world :)

I enjoyed reading this installment. What I took away from it was similar to Jientje's interpretation. Well done.

witchypoo said...

The only time I go somewhere that I don't know anyone is because of work. Period.

Nan Sheppard said...

BUT... Sometimes it's nice to go where no-one knows you. Here, EVERYONE knows EVERYONE and you can't go anywhere without bumping into 14 people you know.

Patsy said...

Sound advice about travel. I wish we had had a personal guide/friend when we had been in Ireland. I always try to plan it so I can fly on a Tues, Wed, or Thrus. Best fares then like you stated.

The story grows interesting. So they won. That made me smile.

Anonymous said...

This little Arab girl is loving this. I didn't get a chance to ask you how you are so well versed in the Muslim faith. OR to tell you that I grew up with a Great Dane named Habeeb. ;-)

Thanks again for dinner and great conversation.

Holly said...

Good travel tips, Lou! Some of your travel philosophy seems to show up in your story, too. Looking forward to more....

Joyce-Anne said...

Good and useful travel information.

Like Sandy, I agree with Jientje's perspective on the story. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Unknown said...

Suzanne: Yes. Fares are cheaper.

Jientje: Blogging opens many differnet paths for us.

Shadow: Yes - they did. But not tomorrow.

Bama Cheryl: That kind of thing would be very rewarding.

Moneythoughts: Thank you, Fred.

Eric S: And you too, Eric. Thank you.

Indigo: Indigo - I had no choice. And I'm sure they aren't done yet.

Maggie's Mind: And I am just as anxious to meet you, as well.

Cat: Yes - we are on for this weekend.

Momisodes: Thank you, Sandy. You have friends everywhere!!

Witchypoo: Good policy, for sure.

Nan: But if you came here, you would know no one - but me. So I would show you around.

Patsy: Yes. They gave me no choice.

Ree: You, gorgeous one, are most welcome.

HollyATOM: There will be more - Thursday probably.

Joyce-Anne: I am so glad you enjoyed it - there will be more.

Unknown said...

Yes, I echo Ree's question: how are you so well versed in so many things?

Unknown said...

Hyphen Mama: A lifetime of voracious reading and travel.