Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Italy, Part Four -- Assissi

Click on photos to see them full size.

While we had the car, we visited the city of Assissi, which is built on top of what would be called a butte in the U.S.

This city was the home town of St. Francis of Assissi, the patron saint of animals, and we saw pets everywhere. The city is accessible only by a steep climb, and is very small because it can contain only what will fit atop the butte, so we did not see any farm animals. However, we did not see the hungry cats and dogs that wander other Italian cities--obviously here they are all cared for.

Assissi today is primarily a tourist destination. The entire city is a pedestrian area--the only motorized vehicles are for deliveries or maintenance. We stayed here one night, in a beautiful modern B&B built like all of Assissi, straight up and down. We left our car in the huge parking lot at the foot of the hill, and took only our backpacks. That turned out to be a good choice, for the only access to our rooms was a narrow spiral staircase. We might have gotten our wheeled suitcases to the door, but I don't think we could have carried them up those stairs.

Modern Assissi is built on Roman Assissi, and you can visit the ancient streets and forum--which are now under ground.

We enjoyed visiting the underground city, and wandering about the modern city above--much of the modern part is of course Renaissance. When you go to Italy, try to arrange to have a day in this unique city.

Definitive Guidebook to Italy

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Italy, Part Three--The Appian Way

Getting Out in the Countryside

You may have noticed from my photos of Pompeii and Herculaneum that Italy is an exceptionally photogenic country. Wherever you point your camera, you get a beautifully composed picture. One other country I have visited is similarly camera-friendly: Japan. The difference is that in Japan most of that composition is man-made--every patch of greenery in the city becomes a garden, and even in the countryside agriculture is laid out in pleasing patterns.

In Italy, though, Mother Nature is the gardener. Flowers grow wild, sunshine is golden, and the intense blue of the sky is punctuated by strategically placed clouds. Some of the poplars are planted, of course, but most spike skyward in random places, perfect to punctuate a photo--or a painting. Even the chickens are worth chasing down for a portrait, and not even Ireland has more shades of green.

After visiting Naples, Pompeii, and Herculaneum, we rented a car and drove out to see the famous Appian Way, the tomb-lined ancient Roman road. This is the tomb of the great orator Cicero.

We stayed at a farm B&B, where the family cats climbed the roof and came into our rooms to visit, and simply explored the area within convenient driving range. We were well off the regular tourist path here, visiting the small towns and villages dotted here and there.

Hillside villages are old, their narrow streets not designed for modern traffic. At one point we could not get the car we had rented through, and had to back out of a street until we could turn around.

And the past is everywhere. On the edge of one village we found the ruins of a Roman village, just there, not labeled, an archaeological dig left for people to admire ... or ignore.

Learn Digital Photography!

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Italy, Part Two--Pompeii and Herculaneum

Insider Secrets to Cheap Flights

From Naples, it's an easy commuter train ride to either Pompeii or Herculaneum. We spent a day in each ancient city.

The two cities that perished in 79AD sit in one direction in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius. Modern Naples sits in its shadow in another direction. Vesuvius is an active volcano that last erupted in 1944. Eventually, inevitably, there will be another eruption as powerful as the one that buried the two Roman cities in the 1st century.

Pompeii had actually been a thriving city for centuries before it became part of the Roman Empire in the 4th century B.C. However, what both Pompeii and Herculaneum are known for today is the preservation of Roman cities under 60 feet of ash, where they remained until accidentally discovered in the 18th century.

Both cities were resort towns for visitors from Naples and Rome, and homes, shops, and tombs are preserved. The ash burned some bodies of animals and people away, but left perfect molds that in modern times have been filled with plaster to create eerie ghost sculptures.

Preserved streets and buildings show us exactly what the city of Pompeii was like just before its destruction.

Some are so complete that you almost feel you could move in. Murals, courtyards, and fountains show how elegantly and comfortably people lived here.

A lifestyle wiped out two thousand years ago, yet preserved for future generations to discover and appreciate.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Italy, Part One - Naples


A few years ago, Lois and Eric and I went to Italy. We had all been to Rome on previous trips, so we decided to see different parts of Italy on this trip. We had two weeks in early summer, before the worst heat set in. Nonetheless, we knew it would be hot, and that we would have to handle our own luggage. Here you see me with the gear I took: just a backpack and a small roll-on.

For summer travel, thin lightweight clothing allows the small suitcase that will fit in the overhead rack on a plane. You'll notice that I'm wearing a dress in the photo. That's because we planned to get outside the major cities on our trip. Many of the interesting things to see in Italy are inside churches (like the neon Madonna at the top of today's entry), and in some places women cannot enter wearing trousers.

Besides, dresses are cooler than jeans, and shorts are even more inappropriate than trousers in church. So I took a collection of comfortable dresses with light jackets, and was able to go everywhere we wanted to go.

We started our journey by flying into Naples, chosen because we wanted to see Pompeii and Herculaneum. Naples is just a brief commuter train ride from the once-buried cities.

Naples is an industrial city without much in the way of tourist attractions, but you cannot go anywhere in Italy without tripping over history. We stayed in a Pensione in the middle of the city. As is seen so often in European cities, it had once been a luxury apartment. The building was probably a century or two old (new by Italian standards), but the interior had been mostly modernized. However, lie down on the bed, and up above you see amazing plaster ceilings.

That's a great thing about Italy--there is beauty everywhere. But especially when you get outside the more modern cities.

Next week: Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Italy from the Inside

The saga of my journey to India and Nepal begins here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Impressions of Nepal

Once again, let me remind you that what I can give you are only the impressions of a tourist who has made a brief visit to each country. I am not a sociologist or a historian, nor have I lived for any length of time in these countries.

Click on the photos to see them in larger size.

The day we drove from India into Nepal, we saw the roads of India improve steadily as we approached the border. Then darkness fell with a rainy drizzle, so by the time we reached the actual border crossing we couldn't see much of anything. As I reported in an earlier blog post, the entry into Nepal was uneventful, but only because we were late, as the border had been closed for much of the day.

Nepal is a poor country, but unlike in India the people seem determined not to stay that way. It's not nearly as crowded. We saw only a very few beggars, and those only in tourist areas.

The roads, while certainly not up to European or American standards, are far better than those in India. There is less traffic, and the driving is not as reckless. Cities are much cleaner. India is famous for its bright colors, but in that country they are lost under dust and grime. Nepal's homes and businesses are brightly painted, as are their cars and trucks, sporting the psychedelic look that the western world copied in the 1970s. While Nepal doesn't have the air pollution of India, it certainly has the same dry-season dust. In Nepal the dust is swept away daily--we even saw people sweeping dust off dirt floors! Overall, there is a sense of pride and hope that we missed in India.

The odd thing is, life is not particularly good in Nepal, certainly not by western standards. There is a chronic power shortage, and travel and tourism are frequently disrupted by strikes. See my earlier posts about our tour for examples, then imagine what such disruptions do to the work and lives of people not vacationing.

Everybody in Nepal not only seems to have a job, but they are proud of their work and seek to be paid its full value--hence the strikes. The power shortage is a result of global warming, resulting in less snowfall in the Himalayas and therefore less water in the rivers and streams. As their power is hydroelectric, only during monsoon season do they have power 24/7. While we were there, the ration was eight hours per day, split between morning and evening.

Electricity--Make it, Don't Buy It

Obviously the power problem has been going on for a long time, for everyone has alternatives ranging from candles and flashlights to generators. Many of the shops are completely open in front, and operate during daylight hours only. Entrepreneurship is everywhere, from people like the owner of the resort we stayed at in Chitwan to old women selling a few fruits and vegetables from a bright clean blanket spread by the roadside.

Here's an excellent example, a square in Kathmandu. Note the well-paved street, the clean white buildings, the tourist map, the trash bin and the neatly bagged trash waiting to be picked up--and no litter in the street. Note the peddlers with their wares--everybody in Nepal seems to be selling something. Not begging--selling. Tourists stroll through a prime tourist area with no beggars trying to intercept them--an impossibility in India. And note the absence of children in the square at mid-morning. Where are they? In school.

In India we occasionally saw children in school uniforms. In Nepal we saw them every morning and evening in much larger numbers. In India, where English is one of the official languages, tuk-tuk and taxi drivers usually did not speak English. In Nepal, where English is not an official language, everyone interacting with tourists spoke passable English, even rickshaw drivers and mahouts.

Not long before we visited Nepal they voted in a communist government. It didn't stop the strikes, or interfere with capitalism in any way that we observed. Nepal is a very old country, but it feels young, eager, and hopeful. There, too, other countries are helping local people run businesses--but they are businesses like the Chitwan resort, which can grow, employ more people, and bring in more tourist trade. A Dutch company is investing there, and the owner is planning to install solar panels to eliminate the power problems.

The contrast between the two countries, India and Nepal, was completely unexpected. India is supposed to be more advanced, part of the industrial and technological world. Perhaps for some. But Nepal is clearly in the process of advancing, and as far as we could tell, the opportunities there are open to everyone.

Next week we leave India and Nepal for Italy, which may be the most photogenic country in the world.

Geothermal Energy

Thursday, November 26, 2009

India's Poor - Part Three

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Last time I wrote about the overwhelming number of poor and homeless people in India, and the comparatively small numbers of the middle class. The balance appears to be something like Europe circa 1400, just before the arrival of the printing press. In Europe the advent of more and cheaper books, pamphlets, and broadsheets led to far easier dissemination of information, a rise in literacy, innovation, and the rise of the middle class. Within 300 years the middle class was the most populous class, and within 500 years it took over government in all of North America and most of Europe.

But in India not only the introduction of printing, but film, radio, television, and the internet have passed without having such an effect, except for what middle class there is taking over politics. I will leave it to historians, sociologists, and anthropologists to determine why; all I can do is report my observations.

Is anyone trying to help the poor and homeless of India? Yes. Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity are of course the best-known. There are other charities ministering to the poor and sick, or offering education, but they appear to be overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the numbers. For reasons unknown to me, the government does not offer even the most basic free education--imagine the possibilities for all those children who now spend their lives begging if they were taught merely to read and write.

In our travels we saw two projects designed to provide training and work for the poor, one from within that was simple self-interest, and one from without. I wrote earlier about the silk workers in Veranasi. To us, it appears that they are being exploited. Nevertheless, they are better off than most of the poor and all the homeless. They have homes, even if there is no glass in their windows. They get paid for their work.

We were told that the silk industry in Varanasi employs 3000 families. We may deplore the conditions under which they work, but they are nonetheless far better off than the masses who live in the streets.

Nevertheless, their children beg.

The other project is outside Orccha, and is sponsored by Microsoft. It's a paper factory in which women make specialized paper for sale outside India. The day we visited they were filling an order for special watermarked vellum for university diplomas. In the company shop we saw beautiful textured wrapping paper, colorful diaries and notebooks, and paper puzzles and toys.

I certainly have no criticism of teaching a trade to these women workers, providing them with a means of earning a living wage--it's a very good thing that Microsoft is doing.

But is specialty papermaking really a practical trade to teach them? About half a dozen women were working the day we were there. My guess would be that that little factory with its hand-cranked machines cannot employ more than twenty people total. Twenty families are being helped. Wonderful--but that's twenty out of millions. If Microsoft hired members of 3000 families rather than twenty, to make something more utilitarian than specialized paper, would India be better off?

It appears that the papers they produce are for export--but they don't make the kinds of paper you will find at Wal-Mart. The wrapping papers are for high-end boutiques and department stores, and how many assignments can they get to produce diploma paper? Their beautiful gift products are also specialty items. I can't help wondering how sales are going for them now, as the recession among working people drags on, no matter what the stock market does.

I look at the little paper factory and wonder, how can this industry grow? In twenty years will it employ three or four times as many people? I don't think so.

It would be an entirely different situation if a group of Indian women who knew how to make paper applied to Microsoft for a micro-grant--seeking a means of earning a living with skills they already had. But if you are going to teach them marketable skills, why something so limiting? Why old-fashioned hand-cranked presses, and laying the paper out on the grass or hanging it up like laundry to dry? Why only specialized paper with a specialized market instead of office paper that could be sold inside India as well as abroad? Why not notebook paper? Legal pads?

I'd say why not paper towels and toilet paper, except that those are items only for tourists in India. But why paper at all in a world that is trying not to kill trees? Why specific skills that are not applicable to another industry? Why such encapsulated success? Even if the women who now work in the paper factory bring in their daughters and teach them the procedures, the mothers will have to retire to leave room for the daughters--it's small and specialized, and cannot support many more employees.

Now suppose Microsoft wanted to create a business that could first put a number of women to work and then expand, one that could go on to help future generations, one that could adapt to changing times. Why not make that business a school?

Except for a handful of missionary schools, all schools in India charge fees--so once the original students learned to read, write, and cipher, they could be employed as teachers of the next generation. Microsoft could provide scholarships for children of the poor, as the entire purpose would be to make it possible for them to support themselves, and ultimately make Microsoft's participation unnecessary.

A school could expand. As the years passed it could take in more students and add more subjects. In the early years TESOL teachers might have to come from other countries, but within a few years the school would produce its own speakers of English who could teach that language to future generations. I'm not being a language snob--English is supposed to be every Indian citizen's first or second language, the lingua franca of their huge country. It is a language that opens job opportunities within India, and allows people to seek work in other countries as well.

Education in the basics--learning how to learn--would produce graduates capable of training for any available form of employment.

You must understand that I have absolutely no idea what restrictions the Indian government places on organizations coming in to help the Indian people. I don't know what the limitations are on women according to the culture and mores of non-Westernized Indians. That paper factory seems so backward and non-entrepreneurial that I don't understand why Microsoft chose it instead of something capable of future expansion. Perhaps there were governmental or social restrictions they could not overcome.

There is just so much that I don't know. The single thing I do know is that what visible programs there are to employ the poor are so limited as to be statistically insignificant.

Scrapbooking Supplies

Next week: the highly visible working and middle classes in Nepal.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

India's Poor - Part Two

Where is India's middle class?

I'm a TV addict and news junkie. Wherever I go, when I enter my hotel room I immediately turn on the TV and hunt for an English-language station. In Europe I usually find BBC and CNN, which provide very little local flavor.

In India I found a wide range of English-language stations--generally about a third of the channels available, and in most places there were at least fifty channels. Interestingly, the majority of entertainment channels were native-language, I believe primarily Hindi. There were numerous Bollywood-style music channels, and lots of programs that were clearly quiz shows, comedies, and dramas, including a daily continuing drama I found everywhere, about ancient gods and heroes.

The rule seemed to be entertainment in local languages, with local news shows morning and evening, much like American entertainment networks. There were also occasional news channels in local languages. But the English-language channels were all news or education (National Geographic and Discovery-like channels), with very little comedy, drama, or film. Local English-language news was a revelation, often for what it did not show: 90% of the population.

There were numerous stories about India's growing middle class. Yes, they exist, but either not in the numbers the news stories suggest or--more likely--not in the implied percentages. Naturally I could not understand the news stories on the native language news channels, and I have to ask who the audience is for the English-language channels. Tourists? Or the upper and middle classes? I can't answer that.

What I can say is that the picture of typical life in India on television clashed harshly with what we saw. It's entirely possible to avoid the poor by driving a private car everywhere, and we saw gates and fences to keep them out of many places, especially the great monuments where tourists go, although that seemed unnecessary. The doors to the lobbies of our hotels were not locked, but the poor stayed outside--often right outside. In Varanasi, two men huddled around a little fire each night tucked right against the steps into the hotel.

But where are the vaunted middle class citizens of India? First of all, I don't know exactly what they mean by middle class. Is it the old British idea of being able to live on an inheritance or investments without having to work? That definition allowed people to work if they wished, at white-collar jobs, and it also included by courtesy a few people who had to work to survive, such as ministers and teachers of every sort.

In the U.S. the definition of middle class shifts constantly, usually based on income per capita--yet almost every American defines himself or herself as middle class, including both millionaires and people technically below the poverty level. It's all very confusing here, but at the moment the definition appears to be "I've made the money I have myself rather than inheriting it, and I can support my family without resorting to welfare or charity."

In other words, in common parlance Americans tend not to distinguish between middle and working class, because virtually everybody works. It crossed my mind--but I had no one to ask who would understand the question--that possibly middle class in India means something like "We are literate, we earn enough to support our family, our children go to school, and we live in a place with a lock on the door." Possibly the Indian definition includes speaking English. I do not know any of that. It's just that if there are as many middle class people as the news broadcasts claim, some of them must be among the better off of those we First World folk would still classify as poor.

All I can say about the middle class of India is that they apparently aspire to live like the families in Bollywood films. Because we were in India at midwinter, between Christmas and New Year's, we saw far more Indian than foreign tourists at the great monuments...and almost nowhere else.

We saw well-to-do Indians at the airport when we arrived, of course. We glimpsed them in taxis and private cars in Delhi. But we did not see them in large numbers anywhere else we went. Admittedly we were not taken to the new malls and shopping areas that we read about--but neither did we happen to see anything in or on the outskirts of cities that looked like new malls or shopping areas.

According to the guide books, there are malls and expensive shopping areas--but where? In the U.S., Europe, or Japan, any place I've ever been before, you see them all around the outskirts of cities, and also in the middle of town. Where are they hiding the ones in India, that we did not glimpse a single such area on our journeys through cities, or from the trains and buses we took from one city to the next? In Jaipur we did find a shopping mall across the street from the deluxe restaurant where we ate dinner one night. But when we went in we found it shabby and cheap, another example of the way each small enclave of comfort and elegance is surrounded by poverty and dirt.

As I said above, it would be possible to avoid touching the poor, the dirt, the squalor, by being ferried door to door, but I do not know how it could be possible not to see these things.

We visited three expensive shops--the jewelry shop and the rug factory in Jaipur, and the silk factory in Varanasi. None was in an area of luxury shops; each one was isolated in the midst of what Americans would call a slum.

We went to Orchha, a resort. It was a small village and we walked all over it. There, too, we saw middle-class Indian families on vacation to celebrate New Year's. But the hotel didn't have a shop, and in the village there were only open-air trinket/souvenir shops around the temple square.

If there is such a growing middle class in India as the TV news would have us believe, why are there no entrepreneurs in a resort town, set up to sell them quality goods as well as trinkets? What a contrast with the resort of Pokhara in Nepal--a poor country with a communist government, mind you--where the central street was one shop after another selling clothing, jewelry, artwork, crafts, from inexpensive right up through top-dollar goods. Even Chitwan had a main street of shops and restaurants, bike and motorcycle rentals, and resort hotels.

Yes, we saw what we would think of as middle class people in India, but unlike anywhere else I've ever been they were a small minority. I hope the news is correct that the middle class is growing, but you would certainly not know it from what we saw.

Next week: projects to help India's poor.

Learn Speed Reading

Monday, November 9, 2009

India's Poor--Part One

Having spent all of one week in India, I am hardly an expert on that country. I can only tell you what I saw while I was there, and when it comes to the majority of the population, what I saw was disheartening.

In India the poor and homeless are everywhere, and their children are not in school. Most beggars are children, who swarm tourists in the city streets and even moreso at tourist attractions. However, we are warned not to give them anything, for two reasons. First, give to one and you will be swarmed by dozens--every beggar within hearing will surround you in a feeding frenzy, and you may actually be harmed when you run out of money. Second, we are told it is useless to give money to a child, thinking the child can buy food with it. Rather, the child will be forced to give that money either to a parent who will use it to get drunk, or to his handler, who will use it for his own purposes.

By the way, in the northern part of India where we toured, boys outnumbered girls at least ten to one as beggars on the streets. We never found out where the little girls were.

Teenage girls held infants and begged, but the babies may or may not have been theirs. It was not only the tour literature and the tour guide that told us not to give money to beggars. It was also in the newspapers, which at the time were running stories about how the mutilations of children shown in Slum Dog Millionaire were really going on. The truly sad thing is, the papers report what is going on, but they don't report any programs to stop it.

Although English is supposed to be the one language every citizen of India knows, the poor do not know it. They speak only the local language, and a few English words like "Hello," "money," and "give." The girls with babies know "Baby hungry." As there are no free public schools, the children of the poor remain illiterate and speaking a local language that traps them within one geographical area.

If you have seen Slumdog Millionaire, you may remember that the fact that the protagonist is literate and speaks English is carefully accounted for in the early scenes, as part of the special magical destiny of his life. It is not presented as the norm for an orphaned slum child.

I saw that movie after I returned from India, and in it saw something else most people would not: the fact that the protagonist grew up in a slum meant that he had a roof over his head, and walls to protect the few possessions his family had. Until he lost his family, he was better off than the homeless people we saw everywhere. What we saw were not children growing up in slums, but children growing up on the streets. No roofs. No walls. Not even the outhouses that are the site of a cruel joke in the movie. Toilets were streets and sewers and streams.

What most of the people who have seen that Oscar-winning film have no way to recognize is that when the slum was destroyed at the end of the film--something that actually happened in real-life Mumbai--it was not replaced with better housing for the slum dwellers who were displaced. Those people were simply displaced, period.

Everywhere we looked were people with no possessions but the clothes on their backs, and perhaps a filthy rug or blanket to wrap up in at night. People seeking shelter from the cold midwinter nights on railway platforms, in doorways, any place they could escape the frigid air. People building little fires with cow dung or street garbage, in any nook or cranny, and huddling around them to try to warm themselves.

I realize now as I sort through my photos that I didn't photograph the beggars. I'm not a journalist, and at the time was not thinking about a blog entry I might write ten months later. Next trip I will try to remember to photograph everything!

These are not the images the Indian government sends to the rest of the world. They don't even send them to their own people.

(Continued next week. Where is India's middle class?)

Save money on your next vacation!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

York, England

A Guest Blog from Geezer-Chick

My husband and I spent a week in York UK. My husband went as a chemist (not a pharmacist). I spent the days as a tourist with my camera. This report is tempered by my prejudices. I don't like British cooking, so I ate at Indian, Chinese, Asian, Portuguese and Pizza places. I have a preference for older architecture, so most of my photos are of buildings I found fascinating.

Here is York from my American, academic, and somewhat silly point of view.

York is a city of ghosts, chocolate shops, big public clocks and stores with funny names.

There are three ghost tours. And in October they run every night. I tried to take the one described as “Historically funny” but only 4 people showed up for that one, so the guide dropped us off on a much more gruesome tour on which most of the ghosts were children who died by accident, plague, or cruelty. Compared to Philadelphia, where I live, York doesn't seem to have very many ghosts. They just love them more. One of the bakeries even makes chocolate ghosts.

I toured a haunted house which has been inhabited for over 700 years. The tour is like a radio drama in which you walk from room to room as guided by the radio voice, and learn about the ghosts who feel more and more real as you progress and the house, which is dimly lit, feels gloomier and gloomier.

You'd never find the Haunted House, if you didn't know where to look for it.

This is the fireplace in the haunted house.

In addition to haunted places, some shops choose have ghosts on their signs. A dress shop is called Ghost. And another shop has only a picture of ghosts for its business sign.

I don't know what kind of business takes place behind this sign.

No Nonsense Guide to Ghost Hunting

In addition, several buildings have gargoyles. Some old, some modern.

This building also has one of the many huge clocks of York.

York is also famous for its snickelways. That's the name for passageways that are too narrow for vehicles but are often the only way to get from one place to another inside the city. Some are covered and some are open to the air.

Here are pictures of some more big clocks. Many buildings also have coats of arms. And some manage to look silly because their old architecture houses a modern franchise. And, the access holes to underground sewers are square or rectangular. I did find one round one, but it was not a perfect circle – it had petals like a flower.

Here is a Subway Sandwich shop.

Here's a square access hole cover.

And here's the only round one I found in the whole city:

York is a growing city. The inner area is walled, and during business hours, cars are excluded.

Here's a picture of a stairway up to the wall.

And here's part of the wall.

In addition to ghost tours, you can tour the York Minster, which is a cross-shaped church with a circular room off to one side.

While I was there, a local man came up to me and started telling me his life story (his version of it.) He was a plumber. He's writing a book called Humanity, that's going to be a best seller. He's getting divorced, but he doesn't know why. He's never told a lie in his life.

I much preferred the 4 and a half-year-old I met at the Jorvik DIG center. She wanted to know if I'm older than 95. I told her that even my mother isn't 95 yet. But we do expect to get that old. Then we started talking about how she's never met anybody 1000 years old. But some of the things we were looking at were that old and older.

Jorvik (pronounced Yorvik) Center is a recreated Viking village. The Jorvik folks have an archeology site and have also created an archeology center where you can have the experience of digging up treasure from 4 different eras, including Roman and Viking, without getting dirty. This center, called DIG, is in an old church. It is usually full of school children until about 3 PM.

And finally the silly shop names. Slug and Lettuce, Anti-Gravity, Give A Dog a Bone, Zikzak, Next, and hundreds of others. But the best is the completely incomprehensible sign on a wall, that reads Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate. Gate means street. According to Wikipedia this is the name of the shortest street in York (35 meters long) and means Neither One thing Nor The Other.

Chocolate University