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Letters of the Week

We don't know about you, but travel always makes us want to write long juicy letters to everyone we know. Maybe it's bragging rights, maybe it's a burst of poetic inspiration from seeing the Taj Mahal, but one way or another, suitcases and sunsets in strange places turn us into letter-writing fools. So, if it turns out you're the same way....be sure to include us in your list of people you just have to drop a line to. Don't worry, you will make us jealous...but hopefully we'll also be inspired by your adventures.

Want to see what other Savvy visitors have to say? Read our letters of the week, and be sure to tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you!

June 29, 2001

Best Exhibit at the Pergamon Museum: The Kindness of Strangers

Hi Savvy Traveler,

A while back, you aired stories about the kindness of strangers. Although that show has come and gone, I figured it's always a good thing to hear stories about kindness. Here's mine.

I was on my first international business trip and was predictably unprepared. The trip was to Berlin, and I knew not a single word of German -- nor did I have a translation dictionary. (You can see where this tale is heading.) Monday, the first day I was there, was a national holiday, and I expected everything to be closed. However, the following day I wasn't needed in the office, so I grabbed a tourist map from the hotel front desk and headed out.

I managed to negotiate the public transportation system with some difficulty and arrived at the Pergamon Museum only to find it closed. (Most museums are closed on Mondays. However, because the holiday was on Monday, the musuem was closed the following day as well.) My sense of achievement for actually finding the museum quickly turned to dismay as I stood outside the locked front doors. Combined with my jet lag and the frustration over my inability to communicate, I almost cried. Then I saw a family looking at a map.

The family immediately sized my up as an American by my clothing and came over to talk with me. Between the parents and teenage children, they spoke enough English to communicate that they were from Frankfurt, and this was their first trip to Berlin. They were going to see other sites in the city and invited me to accompany them. We spent the entire day together, and they truly took care of me, including buying me lunch and taking me back to my hotel at the end of the day.

I eventually moved to Stuttgart for a year and experienced many other such acts of kindness from German citizens -- ranging from simple help with transportation to invitations to peoples' homes.



Bad Eyes and Air Travel: A Farsighted Tip

Dear Savvy Traveler

West Coast flights are so crowded lately that I've long since given up on getting any work done on my laptop. So now I read -- and hence, my problem and solution for others 40-plus. My eyes have gotten to that certain age when far-sightedness sets in -- the point at which you need to extend your arm to read a paperback. Unfortunately, the front-to-back seating is so tight on most airlines that I can no longer comfortably read a book when the person ahead of me reclines. I would have to raise my book high in the air above that person's head!

My tip for others like me is this: Invest in a $10 pair of magnifying glasses and keep them in your travel briefcase. They may look stupid, but the time will fly by. And if you forget them on the plane, they're easy to replace.

Woodinville, WA


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