Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What, No Wi-Fi?

As a lover of technology, though far from an expert at it, I delight in the various modern marvels at our disposal. On my latest travels, to Croatia and Venice, I was equipped with two mobile phones—one for the U.S. and one for almost everywhere else—my iPod Touch equipped with Wi-Fi, my digital camera, and—reverting to a practically ancient standby—my beloved little Grundig AM-FM-short-wave radio. I have to give a shout for the quality of Grundig products, since I had spilled water on the last-named item, rendering it mute before departure, and was frantically searching the Radio Shack website for a replacement. However, the Grundig dried itself out overnight and resumed its excellent reception before I could buy another. Even if you don't always know the language, listening to the radio in other countries is a great travel enhancement that I find superior to hotel-room TV with the inevitable, repetitious CNN or BBC international channels. By the way, short-wave still exists in the Internet age. I picked up Radio Moscow's English-language hour, where they promised that we were going to hear "some interesting programs."

I found Croatia Radio 3 after a journey around the dial and was delighted to be able to make out, if barely, the announcements of classical selections and their interpreters. I surmised that the language, like Latin and Russian, e.g., has noun declensions, as composers all seemed to have an additional u or other vowel at the ends of their names. This was confirmed by our multilingual, delightful Slovenian guide, Maja. And on RAI, the Italian radio, I was pleased to learn that nerd has now been added to the Italian language. The Italians were also paying tribute to, of all writers, the late Jack Kerouac on the 40th anniversary of his death, and reading excerpts from Sulla Strada (On the Road).

The availability of Wi-Fi is inconsistent. One of the lesser hotels had free reception and a strong signal, while another quite luxurious establishment—O.K., the Hilton in Dubrovnik—made you pay for it. And fuhgeddabout Venice. Even at the overpriced, if historic, Caffè Florian you have to pay. Although in the overall cost of foreign travel, these charges are not significant, I didn't pay and only used the e-mail on the iPod Touch where I had free reception. My inner cheapskate surfaces in these situations, although if it had been truly necessary I would have paid. Back in Dubrovnik, though there wasn't free Wi-Fi at the Hilton, there was in the center of town, where you could have a bite at an outdoor cafe and log on free to Dubrovnik central. Very hospitable town.

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