MIDWAY : Traveller’s tales

As you have finally made up your mind to travel, you scroll through the pages of Google Earth in an attempt to get a preliminary idea of different destinations. You take the enormous amount of information there as your navigational aid, convinced that your problem in sensing directions has come to an end with the dot com era. If you happen to possess, in addition, the state-of-the-art wristwatch, equipped with a GPS receiver, you might be thinking you have now got a total travel solution. But you are wrong!

A hundred of times, during your travel, when you get lost, you realise that these gadgets are of little help and the best thing you can do is to take the help of the locals in getting to your destination. Your troubles start right there. The ineptitude of the locals at giving directions or the traveller’s failure to extract the right information seems to be the common problem. While in London, despite the usual hustle and bustle, you might find an occasional gentleman who will go out of his way to help you with your directions. But that might not necessarily be the case in Paris. To your inquiry in plain English, ne pas savoir l’anglais, monsier (I don’t know English, sir) is the most you can expect to get from a native.

A young visitor in Amsterdam is guided through the red light district and the coffee shops even before he makes clear where he wants to go. For a Dutchman, the red light areas and coffee houses selling marijuana are the ‘must-see’ places for all visitors — an account of a free and tolerant Dutch society.

Perhaps the worst person anywhere to ask for directions is an engineer. For every route that he describes to his engineering precision, you may get completely lost in the technical details. And it’s equally safe not to ask a critic the way to the theatre. “It’s a lousy one this week — better wait silently until next change, when they screen Chupke Chupke!” He might respond, leaving you thoroughly confused about your intentions.

By the way, do you know why more men are misled than women? Well, men take masculine pride in their ability to chart out their course. But why blame them? God almighty did not bless him with portable compasses, after all.