The official video of our wedding. Il video ufficiale del nostro matrimonio

This is the official video of our marriage, Viviana & Giulio, held in Valsolda, Italy (nearby Lago di Como) on April the 11th. Do you remember my Lars von Trier’s fears declared few days before the date? Well, this is what really happened…

Or click Wedding of Viviana & Giulio

Lakes you may see are Ceresio (Easter Italian part) Lake and Lago di Piano (a much smaller), both close to Lago di Como.

The Portuguese Francesinha pavilion I had set up for the #Expo2015 in Milan

The expo, or universal exhibition, is one of those events where flags are let waved. I cannot avoid to be fascinated. The idea of supremacy of technology and the competition among the nations (previously colonial powers) for the most cutting edge technology and innovation stand with affectation under the idea of setting up unusual stands.

I remember the sadness of the 2008 Zaragoza Expo and the still now decent urban architecture of the Lisbon’s one. In China, Shanghai, I was not in the Expo area, but basically all nations went there. This time, in my country, Milan, so many as 40 are missing. Global crisis? Less attracting venue? Can’t say.

By subtraction, this is the list of invited and not coming countries:

Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bhutan, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, Cipro, North Korea, Costa Rica, Denmark, Fiji, Philippines, Finland, Jamaica, Djibouti, Guyana, Iceland, Marshall Islands, Salomon Islands, Kiribati, Lesotho, Latvia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nauru, Nicaragua, Norway, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Rep. of Congo, Macedonia, Saint Kitts e Nevis, Samoa, Singapore, Somalia, Micronesia, South Africa, South Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Swaziland, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu.

Among the others, I would like to talk a little about the country where I currently live: Portugal. Portugal was an Empire, the most underestimated in history, probably, for the contribution of nowadays world. It fell as the Portuguese fascism did not realize that colonialism was over after WWII. This mistake paved the way to the fall of Portuguese fascism in 1974.

Now, as a matter of curious nemesis, all previous countries of its empire (called more politically correctly Lusophon countries, countries talking Portuguese) are at the Expo: Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cabo Verde, São Tomé e Príncipe and Timor Leste (about the latter I hope I’ll have time to spend a post about later on).

Portugal is not coming to Expo to save some million euro of public budget. They are responsible, and I may appreciate that. However, they are missing a strong opportunity: to let the world know the almost totally unknown Portuguese food (usually, only patisserie from Lisbon is famous). Have you ever seen a Portuguese restaurant? Me not. Considering the forthcoming TTIP among European Union and the US, and the taste of American for tasty and not-exactly-healthy food, a particular course could be a big success: the francesinha. Despite the name that refers to France and its supposed grandeur, it is a very typical course of the north of Portugal.

Its description: imagine the most flamboyant of the double cheese-burger. Well, double it! It appear to you as a cube of melted cheese in a pond of strange orange sauce where potatoes might float or be served apart. The surprise of cutting a section of it makes you realize the intrinsic perfection of the concept: layers of bread embody the function to sustain the filling meat like the mortar of floors in a building: German sausages, real sousages, ham, bacon and entire real pork chops. Juicy isn’t it? Well, the special version may add even an egg, in case the eater would require some more proteins and cholesterols (“Feeding the planet”…). Concept goes beyond, because as you start struggling against it, bread starts to sop up with the sauce. Is this enough? No. A good waiter around here will assist you offering (for free, of course) some extra sauce to don’t live you the shame to eat any single dry crumb of bread. There is even a super special version of it called francesinha de massa folhada. [Spanish people don’t laugh! It’s not that!] It means that bread is made of puff dough. When you look at it and you don’t know what they are serving to you, you might believe you have been lucky because you got the light, thinner version. Reality shows up soon to be pretty different. Under this circumstance, the closest allays of yours remain the fried potatoes, that you may look at as the equivalent of some unseasoned healthy vegetable. The consequence is more likely that you will have nightmares (if you are 0k) or a heart attack (if you already were not so 0k). I am not able to scribble so much, but Fellini or Sergio Leone would have been capable to direct a scene of a triumph like that. I look forward for Sorrentino talking about this.

What is more, a francesinha can be, accordingly to its appearance when it is served, a perfect idea to arrange those pavilions that can be seen in these occasions. To enter a francesinha-pavillon would be an experience none who like to eat strong stuff could forget. Remember the Woody Allen’s spermatozoa entering the dark place they were trained for? A less hard-core Freudian reference can be Nanni Moretti’s Nutella. A mixture of anxiety, sense of liberation, fear for the unknown, the thrilling sensation to go to die for one’s destiny and for the glory of the future. Coping with a Francesinha is all about that.

Probably the vegans would recognize all that as blasphemy like the Catholic priest saboteur did in that movie, but for them the wonderfully fried potatoes with molho (the special sauce I was talking about made with beer too, only around Porto you can buy it in ready to use bottles) ought to keep them quiet and busy to eat an exquisite and simple course. Mind that fried potatoes are not French fries! The only French thing here is the name. They are real thick chunks of potatoes fried only in the surface and perfectly fluffy inside. Potatoes like only a grandma can cook.

Francesinha is like the juicy and delicious steak eaten by the betrayer in Matrix who wants to live in peace and not to live in agony as a rebel. The difference is that a francesinha is real, does not require ignorance, and is even very cheap indeed.

_francesinha

There is peace and harmony for everybody, in ordering a Francesinha.

Our professional tourist guide at #Cairo, part 2.

Cairo means the victory. I can’t remember exactly the event of victory after all the staff we were listening from Ahmed. Probably Cairo comes from Mohamed Ali, an Albanian sent from Constantinople regime to Egypt to rule Egyptians. What I see, and Ahmed admits to be a pity, is an infinite series of unfinished apartments that looked bombed. We asked if they got shot or what, but accordingly to locals, people tried to build anything (usually 3-6 layers flats) during the anarchy of revolution. Everybody wants to have a flat in Cairo. Cairo is Egypt, and as a result rich people are moving in other new areas with western comforts, such as Ikea and Carrefour shopping malls. They must be lucky people, Ahmed maintains.

What I remember well about victories is that Egypt never qualify to the football world cup. We have a tremendous unlucky traditions, Ahmed maintains. We dominate the African Champions League, but when we get the national team, we are just unlucky, he maintains. I list some other national teams, such as Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal… They are all plunges on his pride, as he believes Egypt is stronger, though evidence tells the contrary. We cut the number of foreigners in football teams because many Africans use our league to make an experience and later on go in Europe, so we lost by time the opportunity to let grow Egyptian players, he maintains.

Chatting and blablabla, almost by him, brings to talk about food. With all respects, Ahmed maintains (he seldom use this expression to introduce a point at his favor), pizza was not invented by Italians. We had our version. Ok, without mozzarella cheese because we don’t have cows, he admits. Considering that they don’t use so much olive oil and never I saw tomato sauce (and they can’t claim to have had it before 1492 Christian Era…) I’d like to know what kind of pizza is that. Ok, Egyptian bread and legumes’ creams are delicious, really. Egyptian people in Italy can cook original pizzas very well, but that is not pizza, is a different course. But perhaps we didn’t have their version of pizza.

But I left the reader to the dromedaries and pyramids and Giza, the westerns part of Cairo region, the twin metropolis. The funny episode here is that my wife wanted to ride one of these stinky animals; I already had enough after few seconds of bidding prizes with local people (Bedouins or so) and we agree only she would have done that experience. Ahmed was very worried and disappointed. He tried to persuade me to join her and that the experience was great. “You have such an unbelievable pure luck!” He maintains. The typical view of the three most famous pyramids has, as a background, the fog and smog of the typical third world city, with -typically- tons of tourists accomplishing their rituals of taking pictures, and a flock of local ready like mosquitos to get their part. Today, there are few tourists and selling people in order to have their little part must be more aggressive than usual. My wife report he wanted to stay with her (rigorously silent with her) because I could have been jealous to leave her alone. I more likely believe that I can’t be jealous as long as she stays alone, while I may become as she is in a male fellowship. But this would be what I maintain and this post is not about what I think.

The way we were pushed to tip was mild but compelling.

Being our Cairo trip almost spoiled, we eventually were accompanied to several shops. All shop were not Arab market full of Chinese poor staff, they are all of good staff, Ahmed maintains. All these shops were sadly a tribute to Milan Kundera’s theory of kitsch. In all places we have been treated as chickens to be fleeced. We even claimed to be brought to the hotel, the second day, but the car parked in front of a self-styled “Papyrus Institute” where goods had a range from 20€ up to almost 1000€! What an unforgettable souvenir! Notwithstanding our purposes, we were forced to be western iconoclastic tourists. Kitsch must appear to Ahmed the proper punishment for Christian rake iconoclastic tourists. Punishment is robbing easy money from them. In this Muslim version of Dante’s circle, few people talk neo-Latin, as the few tourists seem Russian.

Ahmed has a plentiful of positive adjectives for Italian people. He knows this is a working gateway to have fatter tips. Italians are more humane than Germans, he maintains. For instance Italians are more likely to change 10€ in coins in banknotes in order to help small local shoppers. Germans would look at them in a misguided way, he maintains. He is feeling by now tips of any kind and amount are at risk: he is right, we are not going to fall in any Naples’ trick to pay for nothingness or kitsch objects.

Finally he gets the paternalistic voice to spell my name as he already bought some CD-ROM for us. We will be able to watch even only a part of the four hours video, if we want. To select a chapter is easy and will make our cruise more prepared. Cabin will have the devices to watch them (false… But how should I watch that stuff if my wife claims other entertainment?) One that has only pics (!) is even updated. We ought to listen to him and his suggestions, Ahmed maintains. Materials are of 90s up to 2004; 140′ long in total.

The second time I leave the digital materials in a table showing intentionally no interest he says he had to buy them. He made arrive the person and paid 15€ in Egyptian Liras. He even reproaches me he already anticipated for me 15€ of tips for the driver the day before, even though we made the favor of stopping in local touristic shops in order to let him earn a little more. No matter the PPP of 15€ in Cairo (40-50£ in London area…), no matter all trips were already paid by us and tips are not compulsory. As I asked how much a tip for one day was after he said tips were expected, I should have paid what he maintained was worthy, he maintains.

What more upset him is our desire to stay few minutes alone in the hall of the hotel. Probably to have meals with us was not enough for him, we made lose him precious time to maintaining something and to plot his tips.

Finally I have a small word after 48h or so (until that time I had the opportunity to fill his speeches with some brief questions, the most appreciated of whom was about the claimed borders with Sudan, few Italian people know this issue, he maintains. I know this bracket is too long, but try to read and spell it in a unique breath, that was the total time I had in 48 hours to make an articulated sentence), saying 15€ is not a tip in Italy, is fooling people.

This time Ahmed says that he agrees, instead of maintaining something.

anubis-black-mini-YT-5393

Anubis, the Jackal-God often misunderstood with the palindrome Dog-God, may protect us (this topic about tips will be faced further, I’m sorry).