Wednesday, July 6, 2011

the Baltic

Friend of tin box and pithy blogger Ricardo Padron asks, why the Baltic?

We spent ten days on a cruise thanks to the generosity of the FIU Alumni Association, who invited me along as an "enrichment lecturer" to give a series of talks on the urbanism and architecture of some of the ports of call we'd visit. It was a great opportunity to think in greater depth about a lot of the things that fascinate us - design, cultural exchange, trade, travel - and to explore places we only knew through books and Wikipedia.

The fascinating thing about cruises is the way they bring into sharp relief the importance of maritime commerce and transportation before the invention of the railroad.
Places like the Baltic and Mediterranean (where we traveled on an alumni cruise two years ago) make more sense as geographical entities than countries and continents do, in many cases. For example, the cultures of the Mediterranean coast in North Africa and southern Europe have much more in common with each other than with other cultures on their continents. Similarly, the old Hanseatic League cities of the Baltic have a lot in common with their partner cities in the Low Countries, and this trip demonstrated how strong an influence Amsterdam exerted as a model of urban planning and infrastructural organization on St. Petersburg and Copenhagen.

So yes, as a day job, this isn't a bad way to spend a couple of weeks.

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