The Maturity of France

France is an unusually stable, well-balanced, and mature country. Its stability shows itself in the fact that it has remained unchanged politically since 1500 with the exception of little shifts along the Belgian and Italian boundaries and in the provinces of Alsace-Lorraine. This is partly because it lies for the most part within the natural boundaries of the sea and the Pyrenees, Alps, Jura, Vosges, and Ardennes. The balanced quality of the country, resulting in part at least from favorable conditions of climate, relief, soils, power, and mineral resources, is evident in the fact that among the large European countries France is the one which could best maintain its present economic status if all foreign trade were suddenly abolished. Only in the field of textiles would this cause really serious limitations, for France raises no cotton.

Finally, maturity is evident in the French conception of civilization and in the way in which man has so thoroughly remade the natural landscape. Moreover, like old people in general, France has an especially strong desire for security, and this is the underlying motive of much of its political activity. The early decline of the birthrate, which forces the nation to import foreigners, thus endangering the unity of the nation, also seems to be an evidence of maturity. Another evidence of this is the strong desire of the average Frenchman to stay at home and continue the comfortable round of daily duties which has become habitual. But there are also high qualities of maturity. France much surpasses most countries in love of art and beauty, in clear, logical thinking and writing, and in practical, common-sense reasoning.

Belgium Population

A population of well over 10.5 million on an area of 11,754 square miles gives Belgium almost 700 persons per square mile and makes it one of the most densely populated countries of the world.

In the coal districts the density is even higher than in the intensively cultivated agricultural regions of Flanders and the central upland. The most sparsely settled parts are in the sandy Campine and the Ardennes.

The location of Belgium in the transition zone between the Germanic and Romance cultures gives the country two ethnographic groups, the Flemings in the west and north, and the Walloons in the south and east. Although both are Roman Catholic, they differ in other cultural respects. The earliest cultural development was in the Flemish lowlands, north of the language boundary; but the influence of France was always strong, and in time the less populous Romanized section, with only 40 per cent of the population, achieved cultural and social domination. At a later date it also took economic precedence when the development of mining industries made the French section the center of Belgian industry.

During the nineteenth century Belgium, like so many other countries of Europe, experienced a revival of interest in the national language and customs. The Flemish population, although it considered itself entirely Belgian, wanted the right to use its own language, and in consequence Belgium is at present a bilingual country. A Flemish university at Ghent is another result of this national movement. Although Brussels lies north of the language boundary which is also the ethnographic boundary, a majority of its people speak French, and it forms an enclave of Walloons.

The more Belgium is studied, the clearer becomes its high standing among the countries of Europe A. Its crops provide the world's highest yields per acre, and its high degree of industrialization is a sign of very active modern progress. Nevertheless, Belgium, like Britain and Holland, depends more and more on other countries for its food and raw materials, and hence has greater and greater need of foreign markets for its manufactured products. Not having an agricultural surplus like that of Holland, it bases its welfare too much on manufacturing, and, when this declines, because of foreign competition, the country experiences difficulty.

Belgium The Ardennes

The three regions may be grouped together as the Ardennes and its foreland. This low mountain region, or old plateau, belongs to the ancient Hercynian system. After being eroded to a peneplain in the course of tens of millions of years, it was uplifted during the Alpine period. Its highest elevations, reaching some 2,000 feet, are found in the east, and the plateau slopes down towards the northwest with a somewhat abrupt drop of 300 to 700 feet between the real Ardennes and the Ardennes foreland or Condroz region. The northward continuation of the Ardennes block lies buried under the young deposits and loamy soil of the central Belgian uplands. The rivers generally follow the inclination of the old peneplain, as the Meuse River which has eroded a narrow valley running northward till it reaches the soft coal layers outside the plateau, where it turns toward the east.

The Ardennes presents a strong contrast to the loamy upland in many respects. The Condroz foreland is, indeed, fairly productive, especially where it consists of limestone. There it supports rye, oats, and potatoes as the main crops, as well as considerable livestock, mostly dairy herds. But parts of it are covered with forest, and there the density of population is far less than on the loamy upland. The high part of the Ardennes with their oak forests and moorlands, where sheep-raising was formerly the chief rural industry, is still Belgium's least-developed region. Even here there has been a rapid change. Forests still cover great areas (about a quarter of the region), but the number of sheep has declined and on every hand are meadows and fields of rye, oats, potatoes, and forage crops; cattleraising, too, is gaining in importance.

The climate of the Ardennes, including the part in Luxembourg, shows the influence of high elevation as well as of increased distance from the sea. The higher parts have cold raw winters; the depressions have fairly warm and rather dry summers.

The small southwestern section of Belgium belonging to the limestone region of the Lorraine escarpment is mainly devoted to rye and oats, but does not show the intensive cultivation of the western regions. Luxembourg can be divided into two sections: the northern part, belonging to the Ardennes upland, produces little and is mostly forest land; the southern section, along the Lorraine escarpment, has fertile soils where oats, rye, and potatoes are abundantly grown, and even grapes can ripen.

Belgium The Loamy Upland

This next region occupies the center of Belgium, and extends from the French border to the Meuse River. As in northern France, a widespread and fertile cover of loess makes this the best agricultural region of Belgium. The relief is rolling and in the west there are small hills, relics of former escarpments. Some of these became famous during the World War as strategic points for the defense or capture of which thousands of men were killed, as at Kemmelberg near Ypres. Fields of wheat, barley, oats, and sugar beets as well as orchards and vegetable gardens, surround the many villages. The population is dense, and there are many towns which serve as centers of trade and culture, for example, the university city Leuven (French Louvain). But all roads on this upland lead to Belgium's great capital, Brussels. Because of circumstances that were largely political, this chief city of the Province of Brabant chanced to become the seat of government during a period of foreign domination, and gradually overshadowed the Flemish cities. Having become the capital of Belgium in 1830, it continues to be the most important city, the very heart of Belgium. Essentially French in culture in spite of its location north of the language boundary, it resembles Paris in many respects. Industrial development has followed on political importance, but there is little specialization. The Willebroeck Canal connects Brussels with the Schelde, and small seagoing vessels can reach the city.

In the southern part of the upland along the Sambre-Meuse River, which follows the soft coal layers at the foot of the Ardennes, a great manufacturing development entirely overshadows agriculture, and from the French border up to Liege the landscape is dominated by factories. Coal has been the basic factor in this industrial development. The coal syncline crosses the country from France to Germany, forming the Sambre-Meuse depression. Exploitation is not always easy, for the coal seams are thin, the geological structure is in some places very complicated, and the quality of the coal is not the best. Superior resources are found in the Campine at greater depth, but exploitation is here still in its infancy. For the iron industry foreign coal of suitable quality has to be imported in large quantities, a disadvantage which is partly offset by the export of coal from Belgian mines.

The mining of iron ore, which was once important, is now insignificant in comparison with the large import of that commodity from French Lorraine. The southeastern corner of Belgium has a small share of the great Lorraine iron-ore deposits, but the neighboring mines of Luxembourg are of greater importance. Their value is enhanced by the nearness of the German coalfields which have given rise to a number of smelters. The pig iron here produced is mostly exported. Zinc, also, used to be exploited near the German border, but is now imported as ore from foreign countries.

The Sambre-Meuse industrial zone can be subdivided into three sections. The western section--the Borinage--around Mons is essentially a coalmining region. The next district, that of Charleroi, in connection with its coal output has developed metal works, machine factories, chemical industries, and the manufacture of glass which is a Belgian specialty. In both sections industries are more scattered and are carried on in smaller towns than in England. Even Mons and Charleroi are comparatively small. This industrial development continues along the Meuse River to the third section, with the old town of Namur at the confluence of the Sambre and the Meuse as one of the centers. Only farther north, however, around Liége, does it again take on great significance. During the nineteenth century, the ancient city of Liége became the center of a great industrial region, with the usual iron works and machine factories as well as zinc smelters and glass plants, notably those producing fine crystal.

Belgium Natural Regions, Dunes, Sandy Region

Dunes and Polders

In Belgium, as in Holland, a line of dunes borders the straight coast and is the seat of numerous beach resorts. One of them, Ostende, combines the care of visitors with the work arising from a location facing the English coast at one of the best points for a fast crossing to Great Britain. The polderland behind the dunes forms only a narrow zone, in contrast to a much wider zone in Holland. Being especially good for grass, it is used mainly for dairy purposes, but also for crops and horticulture. The flooding of the southwestern part of the region, which is below the level of high tide, stopped the advance of the German Army toward Calais in the fall of 1914.

The Sandy Region

In Belgium, just as in Holland, the next zone, the sandy region, shows a slightly rolling relief with elevations up to 200 feet. It can be divided into two parts, Flanders in the west and the Campine east of Antwerp. Fertilization, already important during the Middle Ages, has here almost reached perfection, and this region, together with Holland, is probably the best-fertilized part of the world. Wheat, barley, rye, and potatoes, as well as sugar beets, hemp, chickory, and flax are the chief crops, while horticulture, with tree nurseries, orchards, and truck gardens, ranks high. The density of the rural population in the Flanders part of the sandy region is exceptionally high, attaining as high a figure as 800 per square mile. The consequent small size of the land holdings is a handicap, as is the fact that the little fields of any one peasant are often widely scattered and isolated.

In Flanders the old cities of Bruges and Ghent were once harbors on southern distributaries in the Scheldt delta. They owed their development in the later part of the Middle Ages to their marine location and the wool provided by the herds of sheep which wandered over the surrounding sandy plain with its cover of heather. Moreover, flax grows well in this climate, and it helped the Flemish textile industry to attain great fame. The increase of population arising from these conditions called for more intensive land utilization, and in recent centuries crops have supplanted pasturage in extensive areas. Only in the Campine to the cast did sheep retain their economic importance, but even there they have now largely given place to meadows and cropland.

The cities of Flanders have had a checkered history. The silting of their harbors caused Bruges and Ghent to lose their importance during the last part of the Middle Ages, and thus Antwerp on the open stream of the main Schelde became the leader. Foreign rule, however, and the closing of the way to the sea by the Dutch Republic broke the power of Antwerp until the nineteenth century. Freed then from political impediments, it obtained a new lease of life and adjusted itself to modern conditions. It now serves an extensive hinterland and is one of Europe's great harbors, rivaling Rotterdam and Hamburg. A canal through one of the Dutch isles of Zeeland gives it a waterway to the Rhine and provides an inland line of communication so that the Belgian flag is frequently seen on the Rhine boats.

The ancient textile industry also revived during the time of the Industrial Revolution, although most of the raw material has to be imported. Ghent is again a great center of cotton and linen manufactures. Bruges never regained its former greatness and is a quiet but beautiful city, where lacework is carried on as a home industry. Tournai, farther south, forms a kind of stepping-stone to the textile area of northern France. The wool industry, formerly so important, has shifted towards the plateau north of the Ardennes with Verviers in the extreme east as the main center.

Belgium Compared with Holland

Belgium, as a zone of transition between the Romance and Germanic cultures, and as an example of how such a zone, in the face of obvious difficulties, may develop into a national unit, firmly bound by historical and religious as well as by economic ties. From an economic point of view the outstanding characteristic of Belgium is the predominance of mining and manufacturing. Although the greater part of the soil is cultivated and the area of cropland exceeds that of Holland, Belgium lacks the great development of stock-raising and horticulture which has enabled Holland to export farm products. The short, nearly straight Belgian coast has not encouraged trade and shipping, and the growth of the only great harbor, Antwerp, was for centuries checked by the Dutch control of the outlet of the Scheldt River.

In modern times, however, well-situated coal deposits have given Belgium an importance above that of an ordinary small country. Half of the population derives its living from mining and manufacturing, and a far denser population than the soil alone could support now depends almost wholly on the prosperity of industry. Belgium has had no colonial empire like that of Holland and only at a late period did it acquire Congo. Belgium is the leading exporter to the Congo and is also the best customer for Congo products, but the total trade of the two is a small matter compared with that between Holland and the Netherlands East Indies, although it may be more important in the future.

Luxembourg is a small remnant of a former period when central Europe, especially Germany, was cut up into bits. It is united economically with Belgium, although politically separated, and will be treated with Belgium. Geographically, the presence of the Moselle Valley on the east causes it to look more toward the Rhine Valley in Germany and the province of Lorraine in France. Toward Belgium the Ardennes Plateau forms a barrier, but in spite of this, Luxembourg decided after the World War to form an economic union with that country after France had not accepted the results of a vote in her favor.

Holland - utilization of the land and manufacturing

In spite of considerable diversity, Holland as a whole has a somewhat uniform quality. It is a country of 6,100,000 inhabitants, which gives it a density of 600 per square mile and makes it vie with Belgium as the most densely populated country of Europe. In eastern Europe a much lower density leads to overpopulation, but this is by no means true in Holland because of the very intensive use of the land and the well-developed manufacturing and commerce.

The utilization of the land and manufacturing both attain a high level in spite of rather than because of physical conditions aside from climate. Although certain factors such as the central location of the country have influenced this progress, much is due to the energy of the population. This energy is helped by a climate which approaches the human optimum, but it also owes much to the stimulating effect of a constant and successful struggle against nature.

In spite of all this, there are some dangers to be faced in the near future. The excess of imports over exports, to be sure, is made good by invisible income, such as the money earned by shipping and especially the income from foreign investments, particularly those in the Netherlands East Indies. When worldwide unfavorable economic conditions occur, however, they decrease this invisible income. Thus the trade balance becomes more unfavorable, for the country is far from self supporting and must continue to import food and raw materials. Another factor adds to the possible dangers. Holland's exports consist in great part of perishable food sent to surrounding countries. It is for this reason that so much effort is made to utilize the land intensively.

Holland Netherlands The Eastern Upland

Quite different is the picture in the east where sand and high moors replace the lowland peat and clay. The elevation is still low, although above sealevel, but in many places glacial ridges of sand give a rolling aspect to the country, causing it to contrast strongly with the broad river valleys with their flat clays. In some places the picture still includes much wasteland, which is wonderful in summer when the purple color of the heather stands out against the dark green patches of a forest containing stately pines and majestic oaks and beeches. Aside from their timber the present value of this wasteland is mainly that it provides recreation for the surrounding dense population, the great density of which can be appreciated only by careful study and especially of the scale used in shading that map.

A great shift is taking place in the use of the sandy uplands. Once they were the most backward part of Holland, a region of meager fields of rye, buckwheat, and potatoes, and a place for wandering herds of sheep, but the need of arable land and the possibility of raising highly productive crops have entirely changed the aspect of land utilization very much as in the peninsula of Florida. Heavy fertilization is necessary to make the soil productive, but prosperous villages show the result of man's effort to challenge nature.

Wheat, oats, and sugar beets are gaining in importance, and governmental help has caused the acreage of wheat to double in recent years. Nevertheless, the main emphasis is placed on dairying, based on grassland as well as fodder crops. Orchards and vegetable gardens besides field crops, do well on the river clays, and the raising of swine and chickens is a profitable local industry. The increase of population has been very rapid and has been helped by the development of manufacturing.

Aside from the general industrial development two regions have gained prominence: one, in the eastern part of the province of Overyse (Twente) east of the Zuider Zee, specializes in textiles and machinery; another, in North Brabant, which forms the southern part of Holland, makes more diverse goods such as textiles, shoes, tobacco goods, machinery, electrical supplies, etc. No really large cities have grown up in this eastern sandy area, although a number of flourishing cities reflect its increasing importance.

Limburg, Holland's southeastern province, extends far south along the Maas River touching a part of the fertile loess uplands so typical of adjacent Belgium. The landscape is very different from that of the rest of Holland. Here elevations up to 1,000 feet are reached, whereas the glacial ridge of the eastern upland scarcely passes 300 feet; here are real valleys and hilly divides; here are quarries of stone unknown in the rest of Holland except in the form of glacial boulders. The main value of this southern offshoot of Holland is not so much the rich cropland as the coalmines, which are a part of the coalfield extending from northern France toward the Rhine. The production about equals the consumption in Holland as a whole, but its eccentric location makes it profitable to sell the coal to the neighboring manufacturing regions of Belgium and Germany, while the coal for most of Holland is brought from Germany by way of the Rhine.

Cities of Polderland, Amsterdam, Rotterdam

Two cities dominate the polder region-Amsterdam, the capital, and Rotterdam, Holland's greatest seaport. Amsterdam, originally a fishing settlement beside the Y, a gulf of the Zuider Zee at the mouth of the little Amstel River, became one of Europe's principal cities during the seventeenth century. Its colonial connections furnished one reason for its growth, and profits made in colonial trade are still the basis of its prosperity. With the decline of the power of the Dutch Republic, Amsterdam's glory was also for a time eclipsed, and its rise during the nineteenth century was restricted by harbor conditions unsuitable for modern trade. The Zuider Zee was too shallow for big seagoing vessels; a canal extending northward was too long to be successful; and it was not until the straight, short North Sea Canal was built that the problem was solved. At the seaward end of the canal, the great locks at Ymuiden, the largest in the world, have a depth of 40 feet, while the Y, now closed off from the former Zuider Zee, has become an excellent harbor.

The present trade is still typically colonial. Amsterdam imports tobacco, copra, coffee, tea, rubber, quinine, kapok, tin, spices, cocoa, teak, and the like. For some of these, especially tobacco, quinine, kapok, and pepper, it is the chief European market. A very special local industry is that of diamond cutting and polishing. Amsterdam and Antwerp supply the world market in this field. A canal connects Amsterdam with the Rhine and so gives it a share of the Rhine trade, although this is of small importance compared with the similar trade passing through Rotterdam. The Amsterdam stock exchange, the largest in Holland, distinguishes this city as the financial center. With its 800,000 inhabitants, its strong hold on the Dutch colonial trade, and its prestige as the capital, Amsterdam forms a busy center of Dutch economic life. Unlike most cities it is surrounded by a broad expense of grassland, and only beyond this soft, damp area does one find the garden suburbs such as Hilversum on the nearby sandy upland to the east and Haarlem on the dunes to the west. Around Amsterdam, especially along the Y, the North Sea Canal, and the little Zaan Canal important manufacturing has developed under the combined advantages of ocean transportation and the neighborhood of a comparatively large market.

Rotterdam is quite different. Its position at the mouth of the Rhine with its vast economic hinterland has made it an international transit harbor rather than a purely Dutch terminus. The canal known as the New Waterway provides easy access from the sea to the city, and all along both the canal and the Rhine from the Hook of Holland to Rotterdam stretch busy communities which share the city's trade and industries. Grain, ore, timber, oil seeds, cotton, and petroleum are imported and reshipped on long barges which are towed in strings up the Rhine. Upon their return the barges bring coal, iron, steel, and building stone, partly for export. In addition to the transit trade Rotterdam also receives the greater part of the Dutch imports--even more than Amsterdam--although its colonial trade is not so important. Just as around Amsterdam, manufacturing plants of great variety border the New Waterway and the neighboring waterways, making Rotterdam a local, but nevertheless important, industrial center. So many ships frequent this port that it is one of the world's chief harbors. In contrast to Amsterdam, which has regular steamship services to India and South America, the trade of Rotterdam is largely borne in tramp ships, although there are also well-known lines to the Dutch East Indies and to the United States.

Among the other cities are Delft, Leiden, Utrecht, and Groningen. Each is not only an important market town but also has a wellknown university. All four are located near the border of the lowland, Delft and Leiden near the dunes, Utrecht and Groningen near the eastern sandy uplands, and their garden suburbs extend into the drier sandy region.

Holland Netherlands Natural Regions

Except where the sea has broken through them, the dunes form an almost continuous band. Since the sand is usually fixed by vegetation, they are strong enough to break the furor of waves and winds. On their outer side a beach, wide at low tide and protected by many stone piers, invites bathing in summer. Many summer resorts line the coast, the best known being Scheveningen, the beach of The Hague. In addition to the waterways of the Scheldt and Rhine two artificial shipping canals cross the dunes--the New Waterway leading seaward from Rotterdam on one of the Rhine branches, and the North Sea Canal giving an outlet to Amsterdam. The Rhine outlet itself is of minor economic importance, but the Scheldt opens the way first to the Dutch harbor of Flushing (Vlissingen), the continental terminus of one of the main crossings to England on the route between London and Berlin, and then farther inland to Antwerp, the harbor of Belgium.

The straight Dutch coast does not favor seafaring. Nevertheless, fishing is still important. Steam trawlers have replaced the old flatbottomed boats, and the fishing has been concentrated in a few important harbors, notably Ymuiden on the North Sea Canal, where herring are the main catch.

On the inner side of the dunes a zone of sand forms a transition to the polder region. Here the soil is very favorable for the raising of fruit, vegetables, flowers, and nursery stock in the form of young trees and bushes. Near Haarlem are the famous bulb fields, which supply a rather unusual item in Holland's exports. The many hothouses where large grapes and tomatoes are raised for export form a truly unique feature. They illustrate how effectively Dutch energy masters such geographical disadvantages as those of a summer too cool for many of the finest fruits. This transition zone is the site of many flourishing towns and villages. These profit from the firm soil which is more suitable for building than are the polders, and is also good for trees and flowers so that many parks and gardens add to the beauty of the scenery. The Hague, the residence of the queen and parliament, although Amsterdam is the actual capital, is the largest city of the transitional zone. It is comparable to Washington in its dignity, in its large proportion of homes of officials, and also as a center of wealth and a retreat for pensioned colonials.

The Lowland. --The Dutch lowland, or polderland, most of which is below sealevel, represents Holland in its most typical form. Seen from the air or on a large-scale map, it shows an intricate pattern of polders with innumerable ditches separating the fields and providing drainage towards steam pumping stations. These stations ordinarily pump the excess water into the wide drainage canals, but in dry seasons they are used to pump water from the canals back to the land, thus making Holland doubly secure against crop failures. Windmills, which many people think of as the most typical feature of Dutch scenery, have lost a great deal of their importance. Extensive bodies of water represent parts of the former swamps where the underlying soil (peat or sand) was not worth reclaiming, while some of them were actually formed by man who dug out the peat as fuel and did not fill the depressions thus made. Dikes higher, and broader than those of the canals protect the lowland from the waters of the inland marine basin of the Ysel Lake, as the Zuider Zee is now called, and from the two branches of the Rhine River which flow across this polderland. Most interesting is the new polder south of the island of Wieringen. Until recently this dotted area was part of the Zuider Zee, but now it is a perfectly flat, treeless plain on which the shelly soil and the remnants of shipwrecks lying on the meadows among grazing cattle join with the new and gayly colored brick houses to betray the recency with which the polder has been reclaimed.

In the polder region as a whole grass is the dominant vegetation on the peat and on part of the clay. Green meadows studded with large farmsteads are surrounded by borders of trees. Roads, canals, tramways, and railroads provide transportation facilities to bring milk, butter, and cheese from the dairies to the towns.

On the higher clay soils grain does well; it is tile dominant product in Zeeland at the southwest corner of Holland and also in Groningen at the northeast corner. In addition to wheat the major crops are sugar beets, fodder, and seed. The type of garden agriculture prevailing on the inner edge of the dune zone with its sandy soils extends into the polder region where local areas are well known for their vegetables, fruits, and tree nurseries. Moreover, especially between Rotterdam and The Hague, the hothouse type of agriculture has invaded the lowland.

Holland Draining the Land

Coming back to the physical background, how much of Holland is now below sealevel because it consists of the old bottom of the lagoon converted into fertile fields and grasslands. Exceptionally low tides make it possible at fairly frequent intervals to drain much of this low area by means of canals; at high tide closed locks keep the ocean out. The relation between polders, dunes, dikes, rivers, and the sandy eastern region where the low places between dikes, including the one marked "reclaimed lake," are polders. The isles of Zeeland in the southwest were reclaimed by means of dikes in this way, as were the provinces called North and South Holland which lie along the coast from Rotterdam northward. Recently the last and greatest task of reclamation, that of drying up the Zuider Zee, has been attempted with the result that 50,000 acres of good land have already been added to Holland, and a large dike across the northern end of the Zuider Zee will help to reclaim far more by and by.

On the north coast east of the Zuider Zee most of Friesland and the northern part of Groningen belong to the same type of once swampy, half-drained or flooded country. Numerous lakes in this region still remain undrained because their peaty bottoms are not well adapted to agriculture. In summer these Frisian lakes are much used for the sport of sailing. When they freeze during severe winters they are so much used for the national sport of skating that industry is almost crippled for the short time that the ice remains good. Leeuwarden, the capital of Friesland, now located in the center of the province, grew up as a seaport, on the shore of a former inland basin that now no longer exists.

This historical treatment of the physical background is necessary to explain the present geography. Now we are ready to discuss the three natural divisions -- the dunes, the lowland, and the upland.

Holland Historical Development

The dune strip, being dry because relatively high as well as sandy, attracted early settlers. Here the Romans fortified the outlet of the Rhine west of the present Leiden; here the modern residence of the sovereign and the government had its origin as the garden of a count, as the Dutch name, 's Gravenhage, indicates. The swamp itself, with its many lakes and peat areas, was less attractive. In some places small groups of people ventured to leave the uplands and settle in lowlands, building artificial mounds in order to raise their dwellings above high tides and storm waves. Groups of fishermen also settled along the shores of the inland basins and used the protected inland waters as fishing grounds. Such settlements grew in importance; seafaring as well as fishing became an important occupation; and in the Middle Ages many of the towns thus started became members of the Hanseatic League and traded along the coasts of the North Sea and the Baltic. But man cannot live on fish alone, and the problem of where to get the other necessary kinds of food always confronted the fishing settlements. This led to the discovery that the swamps and even the floors of the shallowest parts of the many lakes and of the inland marine basin contained fertile soils, which could be used for grazing and crops if surrounded by dikes and drained. The Dutch lowland still contains an intricate assortment of these reclaimed floors of former bodies of water surrounded by dikes and drainage canals, into which the surplus water is pumped.

The area reclaimed from the water was at one time an insignificant possession of the German Empire and later of Spain. For a long time it was completely eclipsed by the high culture of nearby Flanders on the south, but the same water which had been conquered with so much difficulty could be used to flood the land once more in case of need, and thus to stop invaders. Aided in this way the small group of individualists who had made their own land and fought for its freedom gradually gained power until for a short time they became the dominant nation of Europe. A decline soon followed, however, for Holland was too small to maintain the leadership in world politics. Nevertheless, much of the old spirit is still left and is responsible for Holland's present high cultural standing.

Holland The Physical Background

During the Ice Age the thick northern icesheet covered northern Holland, and extended across the present North Sea, into England. Upon its retreat it left sandy glaciofluvial deposits with many glacial ridges, which now cover eastern Holland north of the Rhine (A332). At the same time the swiftflowing Rhine and Maas (Meuse) laid down the sands which now form the uplands in the provinces of Brabant and Limburg south of the Rhine. These provinces, as is clear in A333, can be called uplands only in contrast to the lower western part of the country. Because of their loose, dry soils, they were the home of the first men who followed the retreat of the ice. Meanwhile in the shallow depression which now forms the North Sea, the rivers at first flowed northward, probably uniting with others from England and southern Scandinavia to form a single great stream.

In time, however, the rise of the ocean because of the melting of the ice and the sinking of the land permitted the sea to encroach more and more. The process of drowning the land culminated only after the sea had broken the land connection between England and France. As a result the sandy uplands became the coastline of the continent. Along the shore, however, from the protruding Nose of Calais (Nez de Calais) northeastward the winds and currents formed a sandy bar, indicated by the heavily dotted strip along the coast, with a broad closed lagoon behind it. This extended as far as the low morainic upland of Denmark. The bar in time became a narrow zone of sand dunes and was broken in many places to give an outlet to the deltaic branches of the Scheldt, Maas, and Rhine rivers.

The next stage was the gradual filling of large portions of the lagoon, partly with clay brought by ocean currents and rivers, and partly by peat, the result of lagoon vegetation. In this way the lagoon was transformed into a swamp, half land, half water, which appears in A333 as the area below sealevel. At later times storms attacked the sandy bar and broke through it at many places, flooding the swamps beyond and forming inland basins of salt water.

The present map of Holland still shows evidence of this process, in the form of the disconnected character of the dune islands of the northern or Frisian coast, as well as in the central basin of the Zuider Zee, and the ragged coastline of Zeeland in the far southwest.

Factors in Holland's Greatness

Holland's well-balanced blending of successful agriculture, industry, and trade gives it a standing far above its relative position in size and population. Even a casual visitor is struck by the country's atmosphere of contentment, prosperity, and culture. Although Holland, like other countries, occasionally faces bad times, it does not seem to suffer much. Aside from the general geographical advantages of western Europe, of which climate is the most important, three factors have had special weight in giving Holland its outstanding position among the smaller nations. The first and foremost is the physical background of Holland, and the consequent battle between man and water. The Dutch, like the Swiss, are products of an originally unproductive environment. This they conquered, and thus, as in Switzerland, not only made a living, but converted themselves into a nation of strong individualists, purified through natural selection. We shall come back later to this physical background and study it in greater detail.

The second factor is the call of the sea. The Dutch, by the very nature of their country, are naturally a seafaring nation. Although their period of world supremacy in maritime affairs is over, their ocean trade is still of the utmost importance. Moreover, seafaring was the basic factor in the establishment of Holland's great colonial empire, which once included sections in all parts of the world. Almost every family in Holland has friends and relatives who spend a great part of their life in "tropical Holland."

The third non-climatic factor in giving Holland its outstanding position is the country's location not only at the outlet of the Rhine, Europe's most important river, but especially in the center of Europe's greatest industrial region. The location on the Rhine has made Rotterdam one of Europe's greatest harbors. The traffic on this river, however, consists mostly of goods in transit between Germany or Switzerland and regions across the water, and hence does not affect Holland very much. The location in respect to the great industrial centers, on the contrary, has been largely responsible for the way in which Holland during the nineteenth century developed into a country of intensive agriculture. For scores of miles the region immediately to the south and southeast of Holland in Belgium and Germany is almost like one huge city where fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, which Holland can raise, are used in vast quantities. In recent years strong nationalistic tendencies have hampered the logical exchange of food for manufactured products, and the Dutch farmers may be forced more and more to rely on crops for the subsistence of Holland alone, and not for sale abroad.

Western tourism, travelers, art of travel

In a convention of Western tourism which has become so taken for granted that it risks passing without remark, it is often said that people travel to "see" the world, and it is assumed that travel knowledge is substantially gained through observation. This longstanding association between travel and vision, tourism and sightseeing, demands closer scrutiny. It has not always existed, it has undergone important modifications even for its duration, and its history offers intriguing glimpses into earlier phases of Western epistemology and subjectivity. The practices of the contemporary sightseer, so often caricatured with his camera in tow, must ultimately be understood in relation to the historical development (and eventual popularization) of post-Baconian and Lockean orientations toward the problem of attaining, and authoritatively representing, knowledge. They must be seen in relation to forms of subjectivity anchored in willfully independent vision and in the cognitive subjugation of a world of "things."

Travel was first widely proclaimed as an art, and openly secular forms of tourism were first systematically practiced by European elites, in the early sixteenth century. One need only turn to the treatises on travel method produced during a period which was preoccupied with the problem of "method" in all branches of learning to find evidence that sightseeing did not always enjoy its later pride of place. The travelers that treatises addressed, scholar-courtiers and young aristocrats preparing for diplomatic and legal careers, went abroad seeking educational experience at universities in Paris, Bologna, or Padua, as well as opportunities to engage the services of Europe's foremost dancing, music, fencing, or riding masters with whom they would be forced to speak in a foreign tongue. Books played a prominent part in the preparation for a journey and their purchase was one of its objects. The aristocratic traveler who was addressed, often by his tutor, in early manuals on advice went abroad for discourse rather than for picturesque views or scenes. The art of travel he was urged to cultivate was in large measure one of discoursing with the living and the dead--learning foreign tongues, obtaining access to foreign courts, conversing gracefully with eminent men, assimilating classical texts appropriate to particular sites, and, not least, speaking eloquently upon his return. At a time when the social role of the nobility was being transformed and burgeoning institutions of diplomacy opened new opportunities in a courtier's career ( Mat tingly 1955:211), European aristocracies sustained an art of travel, explicitly legitimized by service to the state, which sought to develop international contacts, judicious political judgment, adeptness at foreign languages, and skill in oratory deemed desirable in a prince's counselor. The experience of the world at which this was aimed was understood to involve primarily a reflective and disciplined exercise of the ear and the tongue.

Advice to "confer with expert men and with many," to go a hundred miles out of one's way to speak with a wise man, rather than five to see a fair town, and to be neither credulous nor overly eager to contradict when in conference was reiterated in one early travel sermon after another. Many travelers carried with them a book of blank pages, an Album Amicorum, with which they would call on men of reputation, begging them to inscribe some words.

The notion of travel as an exercise in universalizing discourse, particularly fitting to scholastic notions of how knowledge was to be sought, endured for a long time. But it was increasingly overlapped and eventually eclipsed by another tradition, which gave preeminence to the "eye" and to silent "observation." To a modern reader, one of the most anomalous features of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century travel sermons is the consistency with which they digress into human anatomy, rhetorically arguing the superiority of the eye over the ear. With inevitable juridical reference, travel is praised through favorable contrast between "eyewitness" and "hearsay" as legally admissible evidence and ground for valid judgment. Auricular knowledge and discourse identified with traditional authority, Aristotelianism, and the Schoolmen are devalued in favor of an "eye" believed to yield direct, unmediated, and personally verified experience. The shift accompanies a new naturalistic orientation and attains its purest expression in the seventeenth century, when it is nurtured by a fashion in courtly circles for Natural Philosophy and an epistemological individualism which enjoins every man to "see," verify, and, in a sense, create" the world anew for himself.

The San Blas Kuna

The "Kuna" are the "Cuna": both spellings are used but the Kuna themselves are standardizing on the K. A majority of the Kuna indigenous group, numbering about 30,000, live in a semi-autonomous reserve along Panama's Caribbean coast (). This reserve, the Comarca de San Blas or "Kuna Yala," extends about 200 kilometers northeast to the Colombian border, and fifteen kilometers inland to the continental divide. Numerous coral islands provide living sites for the majority of some fifty Kuna communities. Preferred matrilocal residence is cited in the 1945comarca constitution as "the foundation of the communal organization" of Kuna society. Each Kuna village is governed by a congresso comprised of all adult males, with leadership elected by consensus. All village congressos are organized within a pan-comarca government, the Congresso General. Only Kuna may own land in San Blas, and new foreign businesses must have permission from the Congresso General.

Subsistence activities, migrant wage labor, and the commercialization of fishing, coconut trading, and textile production (of molas) provide Kuna sustenance. The local cash economy, including tourism services, continues to develop. The Kuna are "unique among tropical forest dwellers in Central America for their unusually well organized and cohesive society...[which] enables the Kuna to retain their cultural identity while confronting outside influences".

The newspaper headlines cited above create the impression that the Kuna are being invaded by tourists. In 1975 this was a reasonable prediction, if Panamanian government plans for massive tourism development in San Blas had been carried out. By 1987 tourism in San Blas was low-key and, most importantly, controlled by the Kuna themselves. In the intervening often turbulent years, the Kuna have evolved a strategy of tourism development using both "ethnic" and "ecological" emphases. It is "indigenous tourism": tourism based on the group's land and cultural identity and controlled from within by the group. The Kuna have chosen development assistance from the outside which complements local financial, political, and institutional factors and thus promotes the sustainability of new developments.

"Ethnic" tourism, the marketing of tourist attractions based on an indigenous population's way of life, was a very minor part of the Kuna economy by the 1940s and slowly grew in importance. Molas became popular souvenirs from Panama and the Canal Zone in the following decades. Visitors began to fly out to San Blas to experience Kuna life firsthand. Photos of Kuna women and their mola art became a staple in advertisements for PanPan-'s tourist trade. By the 1960s there were four tourist facilities in San Blas, one Kuna-owned, and the mola cooperative was being formed. This type of tourism "is a form of ethnic relations...where the very existence of the ethnic boundary creates the tourist attraction".

MacCannell has suggested that "when an ethnic group begins to sell an ethnic attraction, it ceases to evolve naturally. The group members begin to think of living representatives of an authentic way of life. Suddenly any change in life-style is not a mere question of practical utility but a weighty question which has economic and political implications for the entire group." In Kuna villages, congresso gatherings are held almost every evening. Life-style issues are often discussed in these meetings, but it would be easy "to exaggerate the struggles between the generations and the sexes or take them too seriously".

The nature of the ethnic tourism development, like ecological tourism, is concerned with boundaries. As Gamper has commented on MacCannell's thesis, "While the overt culture traits may indeed become 'museumized' for commercial reasons, the different processes that seem to be involved in generating and maintaining ethnic groups continue to operate." In Kuna tourism these processes have evolved around issues of territory, mola art, and tourist facilities.

The Mamanucas, Fiji, tourism from Australia to Fiji

In the early twentieth century, Fiji was the mid-way disembarkation point for ship-based passengers on the Australian-North America route. Fiji’s first tourist hotel, the Grand Pacific in Suva, was completed in 1914. The Fiji Publicity Board (renamed the Fiji Visitors Bureau in 1953) was established in 1924. By the mid-1930s it was advertising in the Bulletin as well as some New Zealand publications, indicating that the Australian market was considered a potential source of business even at this early date. Scott (1970:5) records that ‘from 1946 to 1961, the Fiji Publicity Board was much occupied with demanding improvements at Nadi Airport and to national infrastructure and hotels’.

The first major report on Fiji’s potential for tourism was the Checci Report (1961), which examined tourism as a means of strengthening the economies of the Pacific and Far East. By 1968, Fiji’s annual visitation reached 66,467, exceeding the Report’s prediction of 45,000.

The golden age of tourism from Australia to Fiji began in 1962 with the exempting of luxury goods such as cameras, telescopes and tape recorders from customs duty. This created the foundations of a ‘duty free’ industry. Hotel construction grew through the 1960s following the passage of the Hotels Aid Ordinance in 1964. Table 3.1 indicates the growth of tourism to Fiji between 1961 and 1993, outlining the relative market share provided by Australia.

Between 1968 and 1992, Australia accounted for one third or more of total visitors (it did drop to a little under 30 per cent in the early 1970s), making it the largest source of business. Australians have the longest average length of stay, enhancing their impact on the accommodation sector. Australia’s share of total visitation in Fiji slipped to its lowest level since 1967 in 1993 (27 per cent in 1967, 27 per cent in 1993). This reduced share is not entirely negative since Fiji is broadening its spread of market sources. The second, third and fourth largest markets, namely Japan, the USA and New Zealand, accounted for 15 per cent, 14 per cent and 14 per cent respectively. This wide range of source markets is welcome because it reduces the susceptibility of the receiving country to changing economic conditions in one particular source country. Of more concern to Fiji is that Australian ‘holiday departures’ to Fiji as a percentage of all Australian overseas ‘holiday departures’ decreased from 10 per cent in 1982 to 6 per cent in 1992. If domestic air-inclusive destinations were taken into account, it is likely that the decline would appear even greater. Fiji’s performance in the Australian market has clearly deteriorated.

Japanese dishes, pink fish, breakfast, luncheon, dinner

Though some Japanese dishes are found palatable by Americans there are many things we miss in the Japanese cuisine. It lacks variety. Breakfast, luncheon, and dinner are composed of about the same dishes. The divers well-cooked vegetables which form such an important part of our diet are entirely absent from theirs, nor do they have stewed fruits, salads, sweets, or the numerous meats to which we are accustomed.

Of their best-known table delicacies it may be said that grilled eels with rice are very good; that the pink fish, the flesh of which is eaten raw, is pleasing to the eye and by no means unpalatable when dipped in the accompanying shoyu, a brown sauce not unlike Worcestershire, made from soy beans; that though they have no cream soups, some of their soups are pleasant to the taste, albeit they have the peculiarity of being either thin and watery on the one hand, or of the consistency of custard on the other; that bamboo shoots are rather tough, lily roots sweet and succulent, and quail eggs delicious. The Japanese, by the way, domesticate the quail for its eggs, regard the cow not as a milch animal but as a beast of burden, and cultivate the cherry tree not for its fruit but for its flower.

The diet of ancient Japan was even less varied than that of to-day, for more than a thousand years ago the Japanese became vegetarians, and for some centuries thereafter adhered scrupulously to the Buddhistic injunction against killing living creatures. For several hundred years they even abjured fish, but by degrees they have fallen away from the strict observance of the vegetarian doctrine, until today a Japanese who is at all sophisticated will thoroughly enjoy a dinner in the European style, beef and all. Indeed many of those who have travelled abroad and acquired a taste for foreign cookery make it a point to have at least one of their daily meals prepared in the foreign fashion.

Government officials or wealthy cosmopolitans who entertain on a large scale usually do so in the European manner. A banquet at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo is much like a banquet in New York, and one at the Bankers' Club is even more so, except that the meal itself is likely to be better than at our banquets. To dine with a large gathering at the Peers' Club is like dining at some great club or official residence in Paris; while as for the cocktail hour at the Tokyo Club I cannot imagine anything in the world more completely and delightfully international.

An important part of the equipment for a meal in the pure Japanese style is a smoker's outfit, consisting of a tray on which stands a small urn of live charcoal, and a bamboo vase with a little water in it--the former for lighting the tobacco, the latter a receptacle for ashes. The native smoke is a tiny pipe, called a two-and-a-half-puff pipe, with a bowl as small as a child's thimble. Finely shredded Japanese tobacco is smoked in this pipe, which is used by men and women alike, and the constant refilling and relighting of it seem to figure as a part of the pleasure of smoking.

Miranda, Spaniard's way of thinking

Peaceful and muddy, the Ebro River winds her way through the lonely, unsmiling plain. Gray clods of soil; trees that have lost their leaves; no bird or gay color. A severe, forbidding landscape. The one aspect of Spain, the unsmiling one. Further down on the sun-washed shores of the Mediterranean, or in the Oriental gardens of Andalusia, we take delight in the other face of Spain, the laughing face.

On the banks of the Ebro, the poor huts of Miranda stand crowded together. Narrow dirty streets; primitive carts carrying dung; men with harsh features; dried-up women. I moved through the narrow lanes, gazing slowly and lingeringly, greeting and bidding farewell to the miserable low huts and dry trees and dusty windows. Suddenly a tiny church to Saint Nicholas made my heart beat faster. Once upon a time it had been an Arab mosque. Surely, here in front, there must have been a courtyard and a little fountain and green trees. There might also have been a jasmine plant and two or three pairs of doves. But the monk had come and chased them away. The cupola, that graceful curve rising from the ground and falling back to the ground, had turned into an ascetic Gothic arch with stone trees, stone flowers and stone doves. The arrow had left the earth, rushed into the sky and no longer wanted to return.

The Spaniard's way of thinking is in harmony with his spirit. The Spaniard reflects on his life, both external and internal, waiting for the Idea to emerge of itself. He has an extraordinarily acute power of perception, but no critical ability. He is able to make a synthesis, and he does so with great joy, as though it alone is worthy of him. But any critical analysis he undertakes with difficulty and distaste. In temperament and spirit the Spaniard is fantastically well qualified. But he lacks method, technique, the patience for meticulous revision. "The Spaniard," says a Castilian proverb, "either gallops like a horse or, like a mule, stands still." He finds it very disagreeable, contrary to his nature, to move ahead at a calm regular pace.

Spain, Don Quixote, bullfights, gaudy festivals

Spain two faces. Its one profile, the elongated fiery visage of the Knight of the Woeful Countenance; and its other, the practical, square head of Sancho.

The'he whole brilliant vision of Spain wells up in my mind: the high plateaus of Castile and Estremadura, empty of water, empty of trees, rocks everywhere. The laughing hot valleys of Andalusia and Valencia, full of orange trees, lemon trees, bananas. The men dry and strong. The women with the tall towering combs in their perfumed hair and their black mantillas floating over them. Noise from the harbors and the bullfights and all the gaudy festivals. Arabic music droning with passion and death, floating up from the shady inner courtyards and the thick lattice windows of Cordova and Seville. Scents of jasmine, dung, rotting fruits. Mosques, cool churches, Moslem palaces. Crucified Christs along the riotous, colorful streets. Black-eyed little tramps of Murillo; dwarfs, bitter and proud, like those of Velázquez; Goyaesque beggars and gypsies; slender, reed-straight bodies of El Greco that flame like torches.

All Spain flooded with light, stirring inside my mind like a male peacock, its wings widespread, slowly strutting between two seas.

Spain is the Don Quixote of nations. She rises up to save the earth, scorning security and well-being, forever hunting some exotic chimaera; never able to attain it. She exhausts herself in this quixotic, hyperrational campaign. Her cities are emptied. Her fields are left untilled. Her canals, built by the Arabs, are blocked and her gardens wither. She is creating her legend. What has she to do with happiness and comfort, with moderation and tranquillity? For many centuries the voice of Spain has been that of the fiery monk of Seville at the debate on what kind of temple to build: a large one or a small one. . . .

Let us build such a temple that
they will take us for madmen!

This has always been the resounding cry of life. Thus plants rose out of the mud, defying the laws of logic and gravity. Thus out of the grass sprang exotic beasts and flying creatures. Thus man too emerged from the beasts, walking upright on his hind legs, with a fiery spark inside his muddy kull. And so this Don Quixote cry against reason (which is, in actuality, the most profound longing for reason) reverberated among reasonable, practical human beings.

Toledo, Arab Piazza, Zocodover Square, El Greco

Toledo lived in my mind just as El Greco had painted it in the storm: towering, ascetic, scourged by sudden flashes of light, with the arrow of her marvellous Gothic Cathedral, like the arrow of the human soul piercing God's thunder-laden clouds. Half her towers, half her ramparts, half her houses lit with the bluish glint of lightning; the other side collapsing into the abyss in utter darkness. Toledo rose in my mind identical with El Greco's spirit: pierced by light on the one side, pitch dark on the other; unapproachable, on the heights of endeavor, where, as the Byzantine mystic said, lies the starting point of divine madness, not apathy.

But when I reached Toledo and began climbing her narrow little streets, it was a peaceful pleasant morning. The womenfolk were coming back from the famous Arab piazza, Zocodover Square, their baskets full of vegetables and red peppers. The heavy bells of the Cathedral were striking with a deep tired voice. The houses were open, streaming with light, and inside the cool inner courtyards, little girls were watering their decorated flowerpots. As is often the case, the terrifying contact did not come in the form of a thunderbolt or a blaze of fire or a great idea. It came like a gentle spring breeze.

What a pity to seek picturesque ruins and romantic retreats in the famous old cities, along with all the other painted stage effects, where our whorish imaginations like to revel and blare. It is very hard to see a place with our own eyes when a great poet has passed through the place before us. Spain is the discovery of a few poets and painters and flamboyant tourists. Ever since, the mantillas and bullfights and castanets and gypsies of Granada and cigarette girls of Seville and gardens of Valencia have been firing our imaginations.

I am struggling to detach myself from this yoke. As the lives of the saints express it, there are two invisible spirits sitting on man's shoulders. On his right shoulder sits the angel and on his left, the devil. That morning I was aware of the two spirits gazing at Toledo and debating.

The devil on my left, with his thin-pressed sarcastic lips, stammered: "So this is the imperial city, the famous Toledo we so longed to see! Is this plump, overstuffed nursemaid the wondrous Cathedral? Is this dust-covered, flea-bitten bridge the vaunted Alcántara? Where are the cities we have seen that made our hearts dance? Remember Jerusalem, Mycenae, and Moscow! Remember Samarkand and Bukhara! Remember Jaroslav and Novgorod and Assisi! And then make sure you are not fooled by romantic swoonings. Such filthy roads, such ugly women, such insufferable flocks of tourists, such humdrum! Let's get out of here!"

But the angel with his calm sweet voice murmured in my right ear: "Let's go see El Greco!"

I was in no hurry. For I knew very well how pleasant it is to stand near the gate of delight and delay stretching out your hand. I passed El Greco's house in Ovriaki. The big gate was open and I stood at the threshold: a peaceful garden, warm, neglected; a pomegranate tree in bloom, flowering like a blaze of fire; two or three thistly fig-trees; an ancient marble statue. The ivy had taken root and was consuming the walls. A wrinkled old woman sitting in the sun, all stooped over, was cleaning mustard plants. She was just like an old Cretan woman. In the back of the garden there was a terrace supported by high columns, and over the terrace, a window with crisscross iron bars--El Greco's house. The old woman raised her head, looked at me indifferently and bent over her mustard plants again. Warm, fragrant serenity, all Crete rose in my mind, and I could no longer restrain myself. I wandered around El Greco's house and the museum and churches, where his works are. His whole life and struggle were alive in my mind. My eyes were dazzled by the sharp fervent mouths and pale hands with long fingers like starfish, and the fiery-fixed eyes. All these delights lay before me, impatient to enter into me and assume expression. I too was impatient, but restrained myself. For I knew that as soon as the instant of perfect contact comes, then desire (I mean, supreme pleasure) dies.

Seville, famous Alcazar, ecstasy and precision

Often when I am wandering alone in foreign cities, I can barely restrain myself from crying out. What is this blessing, this miracle of being alive; of being old; of being thirsty and able to drink water and feeling refreshed through and through; of being hungry and eating a piece of bread and feeling one's bone's crackle with pleasure? And how came it that pleasure is so intertwined, so at home with Necessity?

I was sitting on a rock outside the Arab palace: the famous Alcázar. There was a pleasant sun. Seville was awake now, whirring like a beehive, with her fragrant gardens. It was still early morning, and the palace gates hadn't opened yet. I looked hard at my hands bathed in the early morning sunlight, and they seemed to be holding a golden ball. I touched my head, and it seemed to me like the ark, where all the birds and beasts and gods took refuge to save themselves, sailing over the abyss. That early morning, I blessed and wordlessly sang the praises of my five senses, for now-lo and behold!--the doors of the Arabian fairy tale were about to open, and they would be able to enter.

A noisy white cloud of doves flew up, scattering over my head. And suddenly, by a mysterious process of association, the tender words of the thrice-holy ascetic, Spinoza, sprang into my mind: "No god and no human being, unless he be evil, takes pleasure in hardships and torments. Nor does he consider as virtues tears, sighs, and terror. Quite the contrary: the more we rejoice, the higher we rise toward perfection [viz., the more we participate in the divine nature]. Hear me: It befits the wise man to rejoice and take power from delicious food and drink. It befits him to rejoice in the beauty of the earth, in ornaments that embellish, in music, and games . . . The free man never reflects on death. For him wisdom means to study not death, but life."

A pleasant breeze from Mohammed's paradise that is so like the earth blew over my forehead, and cleared away all laments and dirges. My heart felt liberated from all those gods who groan and frighten and refuse to leave poor man free from fear, to delight a bit in the color, sound, smell, taste of the world during the tiny flash of lightning while he is alive. For a moment, here at the threshold of the Alcázar, I sensed the real wisdom. When I had first read these words of Spinoza in the distant grim city of the North, my heart had not been stirred by them as when I recollected them today. They had seemed to me just black ink on white paper. But today in this hot gypsyish Seville, how suddenly they had come to life, flying off the paper and up over me like doves!

By now, the sun had risen high in the sky. The castle watchman had arrived with his big keys, like a jolly Saint Peter, wearing a broad greenish sombrero and a sprig of jasmine in his ear: "Buenos díasi!"

This is just how I imagine the gatekeeper to the real Paradise: jolly, good-natured, with a sprig of jasmine in his ear. He too would stretch out his hand for you to give him a little tip, before opening the door for you. There would also be days (once or twice a week) when the poor people-the malefactors, the liars, the dishonorable and the miserly --could enter free of charge. "Restitution of all things!" as the tender and merciful (far more merciful than his own God) poet, Gregory of Nazianzus, had once said.

I wandered around the palace on tiptoe, feeling that I was walking on top of thin marble tombstones. And a chill went through me, as though I were expecting at any moment to see the deadmen fly out of the earth, complaining that we tread upon them: "Was not I too once young? Was not I too a brave young lad?"

Slender white columns; finely carved lacy marbles; gilded proverbs from the Koran; marble designs dangling like stalactites; cool fountains . . . One day the Caliph Mu'tamini's love, the Sultana, had felt like imitating the life of the peasant women. For one day, through her gold lattices, she'd seen them down on the road, trampling barefoot in the mud. So the Caliph Mu'tamini ordered his courtyard to be strewn with ground cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, then watered down with orange blossom scent to make mud. And so his love was also able to trample in the mud with her tiny bare feet. . . .

Voices began to lift the tombstone of my memory. But I chased them away so as to be able to rejoice with clear eyes in the living marbles and sage designs surrounding me. I touched them with my hands to see them better, reliving all the mystical Arabian imagination, their patience and their love. I felt the dark-skinned craftsman bent here in ecstasy, all his life long, to decorate this complex limpid dream of his with geometrical precision.

In this place, I sensed with deep joy the fusion of two great qualities: ecstasy and precision. They are so rarely fused, and when they are, they constitute the highest synthesis. A mystical aim, with definite mathematically calculated means. For all this decoration is the dream of a master mathematician. As the line progresses and unwinds, it becomes the abstract expression--the distillation--of all plants, all animals and all thoughts. It becomes the solid geometrical essence of life, emancipated from the ephemeral flesh and its various fluid masks.

Spanish fiestas, fiesta sense of life

There is nothing like a Spanish fiesta. No country in the world celebrates as many so well. I remember seeing masked revelers dancing through the streets of Cádiz in Carnival, giant floats going up in flames during the springtime fallas in Valencia, young girls covered with flowers from head to toe during May festival in Almería, bonfires on the beach in Galicia for St. John's or Midsummer Night, the explosion of San Fermín that rocks Pamplona each year in the second week of July. Speaking of San Fermín, Hemingway said, "There is no other way to describe it."

The philosopher José Ortega y Gasset wrote about the "fiesta sense of life." He believed that it developed from the primitive Dionysian mysteries, combining dance, sacred orgy and feast--that is to say, fiesta. Many Spanish celebrations include bullfights, in Ortega's view the most authentic survival of the ancient rites. These fiestas, like the old mysteries, may also involve sacrifice, blood, wine, dance, revelry and feasting. In them there is a breakdown or reversal of everyday norms and inhibitions, a freeing of the senses, a renewed sense of fellowship and identity with local, regional and national dimensions. After a true fiesta, life is never the same.

In Spain a good time, like a good bar, is always nearby. Foreigners are often surprised by the number of holidays, most of them tied to the old Church calendar. In the seventeenth century more than a third of the year was dedicated to obligatory feasts in certain towns and dioceses. More recently the stretching of the puente or "bridge"--to make long weekends out of fiestas that fall on workdays--sometimes gives the impression that the situation has not changed all that much.

What has changed is the nature of Spanish fiestas. Many church festivals have declined or disappeared. On the other hand some sacred holidays have taken on an almost entirely secular character, like the world-famous San Fermín and other lesser-known patronal feasts. Large segments of the population, especially young people and women, traditionally confined to the house, now revel right along with the adult males who used to dominate public space. Political decentralization and the establishment of the country's seventeen autonomous regions in 1978 have also brought "festive escalation," as these young governing bodies attempt to preserve and revitalize old festivals or invent new ones. Finally, mass tourism has changed some Spanish fiestas, both by the presence of outsiders and the reaction of natives, some of whom have created counterrituals to protect themselves from contamination in a general movement that I would call the return to tradition.

Rome: Via Condotti, Via Frattini, Piazza Navona

When in Rome do as the Romans do...stroll down the streets, take in a few sites and stop for a reviving coffee.

Spring is a magical time to visit this beautiful city - warm, sunny days where you can sit outside and avoid the crowds of the peak summer months.

Rome is all about style and you'll find the locals take this very seriously.

Sit in any piazza and you're in for a treat and an instant fashion show.

Here are some things that you just must not miss:

The Vatican and the Sistine Chapel - get there early (it opens at 8.30am) to avoid queues. Michael-angelo's famous ceiling painting has recently been restored which has revealed its magnificent original colours.

The Spanish Steps - a great meeting place for students and ideally placed for an attack on the classiest shops in town. The house at the bottom of the Steps is where poets Keats and Shelley lived - now a mall museum and worth a visit.

The Colosseum - it's impossible to visit this city without a visit to this Roman monument. Wonderful atmosphere and it's easy to imagine 55,000 spectators watching the gladiators, or lions fighting elephants.

The Forum - the original heart of the city during the height of the Roman Empire.

The shopping - some of the best in Europe with prices to match. There is a mass of small boutiques and one-off shops on Via Condotti and Via Frattini and other streets near the Spanish Steps. Heading down towards the river through Piazza Navona, you'll find jewellery, antique and craft shops. There's a large and colourful flea market on Sunday morning at Porta Portese. Leather is a very good buy in Rome.

There is a vast range of restaurants where you can get good value bowls of pasta and stunning salads for around pounds 7 each.

Local specialities include deep fried artichoke, pasta made with clams, veal with ham and marsala wine and many varieties of salami.

There's a pizza outlet on every corner for quick and delicious snacks.

Cafes in squares are where you can sit and relax for hours with a cappacino, while the functional stand-up bars are where you can get a swift expresso to fortify your stamina for sightseeing.

Italy sights Rome, Florence and Venice

ALL over Italy there are sights for tour eyes...

From the snow-capped Alpine border with France to the tip of the Italian toe, there are 750 miles of mountains, lakes, sun-soaked beaches and scenic splendours.

But some of the most impressive attractions are the man-made wonders in the glorious cities of Rome, Florence and Venice.

They're treasure houses of monuments, museums, palaces, cathedrals and churches.

And there's no place like ROME.

The Eternal City, built on seven hills by the winding banks of the River Tiber, is a "must see" if only for its colossal Colosseum.

It took 12 years to build - but is still dwarfed by the magnificence of the Vatican and the dome of St Peter's.

Some of the world's finest art collections are in the 12 Vatican museums and then there's the Sistine Chapel, home of Michelangelo's breathtaking brilliance.

Smart shops, peaceful parks, squares, statues and the magical Trevi Fountain make Rome an unforgettable city.

And you've got all that amazing food, too! Pastas, ice cream and lashings of good wine make it a gourmet's paradise.

Then, of course, there's FLORENCE.

The elegant Tuscany city on the River Amo is a testament to the talents of the great Italian artists.

With its stunning architecture, it remains a mecca for lovers of the bold and the beautiful.

It reflects an age of refinement and culture that is captured in a host of galleries and museums. And even if you're not an art lover, Florence is a great place to just sit and take in the atmosphere and wonderful views.

But if it's romance you're after then it's got to be VENICE.

After all, it was good enough for Casanova.

Built on more than 100 islets and linked by 400 bridges there are no cars. Just boats - including the famous gondolas that weave through the maze of waterways.

Surprisingly small, most of Venice's delightful sights can be reached on foot. But the relaxing way is to take the water bus that glides along the Grand Canal.

The real beauty is that you can see all these wonderful cities at bargain prices. Coach tour operator Leger Holidays (tel: 01709 839839) feature a two-centre holiday to Rome and Florence, leaving on October 23.

It's pounds 289 per person, based on two sharing, and includes return coach travel from more than 300 places in England and Wales and seven nights B&B, plus excursions.

Leger also offers a seven-day trip to Rome, departing October 24, at pounds 129 per person return, including trips to the centre of Rome.

Canvas Holidays (tel: 01383 644000) has week-long mobile home breaks, arriving October 23, in the heart of Tuscany's Chianti region, 30 minutes from Florence.

Price for a party of six is pounds 278, including crossing.

In Venice, Italian Life (tel: 0113 281 8811) offers an elegant apartment sleeping four close to one of the city's most beautiful areas. A week in late October is pounds 781 per party, including crossing for one car and passengers.

In Rome, a week in late October staying in a cosy apartment sleeping four costs pounds 850 per party. Two nights in Rome between November 1 and 15 is on offer at pounds 251 per person, based on two sharing, with Premier Holidays (tel: 01223516414). They also have short breaks in Florence and Venice from pounds 237.

Eight-day tours to Venice, Florence and Rome with direct-booking Archers (tel: 0870 751 2000) are available next March from pounds 349.

And Cresta Holidays (tel:0161 927 7000) have two-night breaks in Rome at pounds 313, from October 22, and around pounds 360 for similar deals in Florence and Venice.





1. FLORENCE: Bistecca Fiorentina - charcoal-grilled T-bone.

2. ROME: Abbacchio - deliciously tender roast lamb.

3. VENICE: Risie Bisi - rice with tiny, sweet baby peas.


1. THE Colosseum, where Roman gladiators fought to the death.

2. PIAZZA San Marco - the bustling heart of Venice.

3. PONTE Vecchio in Florence, one of the world's most ancient bridges.


1. EXTRA virgin olive oil and tangy Pecorino cheese.

2. DESIGNER label clothes at half the price of London shops.

3. BEAUTIFUL Murano glass vases and ornaments.

The Iznik Tiles

Getting away for a few days isn't just a Western sentiment. There's a need to do this in rapidly developing Turkey as well, especially Istanbul. Great as that city is, it can wear on the senses like any major metropolis.

Istanbul's Asian side used to serve as an escape valve, but unfortunately, it has become a large commuter sprawl. "Keyif," the Turkish term for an aesthetic, almost intoxicating sense of relaxation, becomes more elusive throughout these environs.

The town of Iznik is still "keyifli", both visually and culturally. It's about two hours from Istanbul, the first half by ferry across the Sea of Marmara to its southern side. A hovercraft also makes the journey but operates less frequently. The ferry ride is a comfortable one that lands at Yalova, where inexpensive shuttle buses depart to take the pedestrian traveler to Iznik.

Concrete eyesores have yet to becloud the Yalova-Iznik landscape. The one-hour ride crosses fertile country, where rows of olive and fruit orchards abound. Lake Iznik lies alongside much of the road, interspersed by villages with their minaret-projecting mosques. At Iznik's outskirts, any trace of frenzied Istanbul vanishes.

Iznik's civic roots go back to ancient Greece. One of Alexander the Great's generals founded the town more than 2,300 years ago, naming it Nicaea in honor of his wife. Nicaea became a provincial capital under the Romans, who built baths, theaters and fortifications befitting an administrative center. The town's best legacy from this period is more than 5,000 yards of imposing walls.

Four double-gated entryways intersect the concentric wall system, their Latin inscription and marble friezes still intact. Lefke Kapisi, or the eastern gate, is particularly impressive, with one of its arches revealing that it was built by Proconsul Plancius Varus in 123.

Nicaea took on a greater importance with the rise of Byzantium. It became the historic equivalent of a convention hub and was the site for important meetings regarding early Christianity. The Greek Orthodox Church's rituals and beliefs were codified by these assemblages, and bishops attending Nicaea's eighth ecumenical council formally approved the use of religious imagery in iconic art.

Much of Byzantium's Nicaea was diminished by earthquakes and neglect. The era's finest remnant is a burial chamber, Yeralti Mezar (literally the "hidden tomb"), that was discovered in the late 1960s in a nearby farming community. The tomb's mosaics are so well preserved that they make the visit worthwhile. Unfortunately, grave robbers tried to plunder Yeralti Mezar's interior, so entering the padlocked complex must be arranged with Iznik's archaeological museum.

Byzantium lost Nicaea to a burgeoning Ottoman Empire, which renamed the town Iznik in 1333. Unlike their Roman and Byzantine predecessors, the Ottomans didn't bequeath Iznik with any structures of notable merit. Instead of architecture, a tile known as cini (the Turkish word for "China" and pronounced similarly: CHEE-neh) was handed down.

Despite its curious name, cini didn't come from the Far East. Legend has it that a sultan became so obsessed with the beauty of Chinese porcelain that he set out to create his own version. This person might have been Selim I - Selim the Grim - who invaded Persia in 1514 and deported the region's artists westward.

Iznik became a state-supported artists colony. Nestled away from major Ottoman centers, craftsmen could concentrate without interruption in a quietly pleasant environment. The nearby hills contained an array of clay and mineral deposits readily available for processing. Despite the relative isolation, shipping or communication were not problems. The Sea of Marmara was accessible via Lake Iznik and a man-made waterway, thus boats could reach Istanbul in a day.

What these workshops perfected is stunning. Like a jigsaw puzzle, individual sections of a panel are festooned with leaves, flowers and branches that merge flawlessly when assembled. Nothing is heavily stylized; the tiles appear to float, with varying degrees of expertise. All Ottoman sites of renown - such as the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and its 21,000 pieces of tile - possess cini decor.

The price for maintaining a far-flung empire affected the cini business. Debt-ridden, the Ottoman court withdrew its patronage, forcing workmen to seek markets abroad. This was a severe blow for Iznik, which never recovered from its dependence on the sultanate. According to late-17th-century travel accounts, only nine cini establishments could be found within the town's boundaries from a once robust 300.

Near Lefke Gate stands the archaeological museum, otherwise known as Nilufer Hatun Imareti (Lady Nilufer's Public Building). Sultan Murat I built the structure in 1388 for his mother, originally a Byzantine princess. Theodora (or Nilufer Hatun, as she was more commonly known) turned her son's gift into a soup kitchen that provided food and lodging to itinerants. Still intact after six centuries, the imaret has a cini collection that validates the ancient saying that life is shortest, but art is longest.

These are relics that represent not only creative development, but episodic points in Ottoman history. Dull Byzantine pottery brightened into cobalt blue and white during the Ottoman Empire's formative years (the late 1300s to the early 1400s). A century later, Sultan Selim's aforementioned escapade introduced Persian-derived turquoise.

The red applied to the tiles has always been difficult to master, but it was perfected during Suleiman the Magnificent's mid-16th-century reign, when Iznik artistry apparently peaked. Red is still a particularly difficult color for today's cini revivalists.

Less striking items from the 1700s reflect Ottoman decline, especially when human and animal figures previously forbidden by Islamic law are depicted.

Outside of the imaret's display, there is little trace of this creative past. The recently established Iznik Vakfi (Foundation) wishes to fill this void by reproducing the town's cini legacy. Considering the absence of documentation as to ingredients and manufacture, this is a tall order.

"The craftsmen took their secrets to the grave," says Atil Ersan, the Iznik Foundation's factory director. "Nobody knows where materials originated from."

To remedy this lack of information, the foundation established a Tile Ceramics and Research Center, where cini's various components are studied. The process is costly, especially in creating thousands of experimental plates that are broken and thrown away, but it is necessary if genuine Iznik tile is to be made. "We're essentially working here on a scientific basis vs. being pure artists," Mr. Ersan says.

Today's end product is indistinguishable from 16th-century masterpieces. Resembling semiprecious stones, the turquoise, emerald green and coral red flawlessly intertwine. Floral depictions are never overpowering, due to the tile's opaque glaze, which absorbs light.

This off-white coating reduces eye strain and bears an identical coloration to the retina, an observation that artisans regularly point out.

Besides the tiles' visual comfort, devotees claim that Iznik cini possess a kinetic energy when touched. Certain Ottoman historians believe that the sultans equated cini's tactile value with its aesthetic qualities, considering it a form of relaxation amid governmental tension and intrigue.

Producing Iznik tiles in an era of speed and automation can be an irksome task. Creating 1 square yard of tiles takes about 70 days of labor. Forget about quality control - runny colors or cracking are the final outcome nearly 25 percent of the time. Even the molds use measurements dating back to Ottoman times instead of today's standardized norms.

"We're not a competitive company," Mr. Ersan quips.

Despite these glitches, the foundation is making a profit. Religious-oriented construction is noticeably on the rise throughout Turkey, begetting an evident clientele for Iznik decorations. One order requires that 500 square meters of tile - more than 500 square yards - be installed within a mosque that will seat 35,000 people. Since cini nowadays goes for $2,250 per square meter, this contract easily recovers the foundation's high production costs.

Another endeavor is furnishing tiles for a newly built mosque in Turkmenistan, an energy-rich Central Asian republic.

The foundation's bottom line isn't based solely on its earnings, however. Education plays an equally important role, ensuring that the revival doesn't fade into oblivion. In conjunction with the 700th anniversary of the Ottoman Empire's founding, a foundation-sponsored university will open in 1999 to emphasize Iznik's cultural and artistic legacies. This is an auspicious occasion for Iznik, where the dynasty's first learning institute, Suleiman Pasa Medrese, a religious school, still exists.

Vocational training is a more immediate matter. At foundation-sponsored summer programs, people from Iznik and surrounding vicinities are being taught cini's delicate methodology. The schooling will provide a knowledgeable source of labor that may even change the residents socially and economically.

"The major reason why the tile industry stalled was because people saw more money in cultivating the area's agricultural richness than adapting to different conditions," Mr. Ersan says. "I'd like to change this mentality by making certain that the art goes back to the people of Iznik again."

Change is occurring, but not without resentment. Women make up nearly 80 percent of the Iznik Foundation's work force, yet instead of admiration for their artisan training, many locals fret about having fewer hands for the harvests. To erase this attitude and lower costs, the foundation soon will begin testing a home-based cottage-industry network.

Farmers aren't the only ones with objections. Independent craftsmen - "serving the Turkish culture," according to one cini renovationist - decry the foundation's technique. "They practice serial manufacturing minus the artistic spirit," says Esref Eroglu, who is one of the first practitioners to re-create Iznik tiles.

According to Mr. Eroglu, the proper procedure is a time-consuming one. "It would take me 10 years to correctly furnish a mosque with `kashi' (the original Ottoman term for cini). The foundation's time span discards procedures that would ensure longevity."

He prefers doing customized repairs for broken or damaged tiles. Yet he is not a complete traditionalist, for his daughter will handle marketing matters once she receives her business diploma.

Degrees in hotel management also could help local business. Regarding accommodations, Iznik has always played second fiddle to the nearby city of Bursa's much better selection. If you're looking for peaceful surroundings, however, noisy Bursa isn't the place to stay.

The problem isn't poor quality, but limited choices. Guidebooks list the same three or four hotels with simple, clean amenities, and those places quickly fill up in season. Be sure to make reservations before arrival.

The best of this group is the lake-side Camlik Motel (phone 224/757-1362, fax 224/757-1631). A double goes for $20 a night, and breakfast is included. The Camlik also has a good restaurant.

A lodging that is overlooked by many travel editions is the Hotel Nidal (phone 224/757-5671 or 5672). Similar to the Camlik in price and features, it is near the Istanbul (northern) Gate.

Also worth taking into account is the ovrenight facility at the Iznik Foundation's compound (phone 224/757-6025, fax 224/757-5737). At $45 a night with breakfast ($20 extra for lunch and dinner), it is more of a high-end boarding house than hotel. Usually, its eight rooms are for special guests and clients, but outsiders can stay when there is availability.

Those who are able to enjoy a brief sojourn at the foundation's compound will relish their experience. Amid cini-making, the adjacent lake and weathered Roman walls and the relaxation, the true nature of "keyif" emerges.

Perhaps this is the image Mr. Ersan tries to convey when he says, "Iznik isn't just a summer vacation land, but a year-round cultural center."

Istanbul Bosphorus Grand Bazaar Mosque of Suleyman

There's far more to Turkey's capital, Istanbul, than belly dancers and steam baths.

It's certainly still possible to while away the hours watching the mesmerising twitching of a glamorous maiden, or letting the cares of the world drift into space in a relaxing Turkish bath.

But where else could you view the life and styles of a couple of continents in a few hours?

The Bosphorus marks the dividing line between Europe and Asia.

And a boat trip on the river - all hustle, bustle and stops on the way - is a must during any visit to Istanbul.

For peanuts (a couple of quid, although it seems much more because you get so many Turkish lira to the pound) you can sail away on an enchanting mix of past and present, splendour and simplicity, as you zigzag across the Bosphorus from Asia to Europe.

Our trip had a party atmosphere as groups of schoolgirls practised their disco and Turkish dancing.

The only trouble with the exchange rate is that once you get bargaining in Istanbul's massive Grand Bazaar you forget that tens of thousands of lira can be less than a pound!

The bazaar is a mesmerising maze of tempting treasures in almost 5000 shops.

It's great for exquisite carpets, beautifully carved pipes, luxurious leather goods and the inevitable counterfeit Cartiers.

You can't visit Istanbul without getting your fill of mosques and minarets. There are more than 1,000 domes in the city and the faithful are called to prayer five times a day from the from the pencil-slim minarets. But with new technology, the chanters don't hike it to the top now. They stay on ground level, using microphones and speakers to project their message.

WHEN it comes to checking out Istanbul's mosques you're spoiled for choice, but expect to be given a wrap-around skirt - that goes for the men, too - if you're wearing shorts.

The Mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent - with its 52 metre high dome - is pretty magnificent, standing as it does on one of the seven hills of Istanbul.

Topkapi Palace isn't too bad either. The former great palace of the Ottoman sultans, it overlooks the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn, the inlet that splits the European part of the city in two.

But if you've had your fill of grand buildings, what better way to wind down than sipping a welcoming beer in the Palace grounds restaurant?

For a lively evening, head for the Fruit Market where, under a giant domed ceiling, locals and tourists mix in a non-stop babble of conversation.

Or plan to eat at Kumpali, a former fishing village now full of open- air fish restaurants with strolling musicians.

For a change of mood, head for the sophisticated Tepe Bar on the 20th floor of the Marmara Hotel, which has a panoramic view to take your breath away.

As many tour operators now do twin-centre trips to Turkey, why not mix and match a beach holiday with a visit to Istanbul?

Perhaps Marmaris, with its surrounding shores dotted with isolated coves and hidden beaches.

The town has a cosmopolitan "Riviera" feel to it, and 8 km away is Icmeler with its sand and shingle beach and wide range of watersports.

Istanbul Weekend Guide

Istanbul is a fantastic mix of exotic, spicy aromas, brilliant markets and tourist attractions. It's the only city in the world to link Europe and Asia, with the Bosphorus - a strait of water only 70 metres wide - linking the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara.

WHERE TO STAY: Pera Palace Hotel, where Agatha Christie wrote Murder On The Orient Express. They keep her room just as it was. Luxury hotels are around the Taksim Square area. Most attractive are the ones converted from wooden merchants' houses in Sultanahmet, historic centre of the city.

DON'T MISS: Topkapi Palace, former home of the Sultans with wonderful treasures, including an emerald-encrusted dagger. The Blue Mosque, with its magnificent dome (pictured), is covered in thousands of tiles in 99 shades of blue. The Grand Bazaar, more than 3,000 shops selling jewellery, leather goods, fake designer goods, carpets and brassware. Bargain for everything. The Spice Market near the waterfront and Galata Bridge. Brilliant for spices, Turkish delight, herbs, tea, nuts. Turkish baths. International hotels will have them or tell you where to find one.

EATING OUT: Try fish restaurants near the Bosphorus and opt for a meze - loads of small, delicious dishes. For a special evening Vito, an Italian restaurant in Ortakoy, entirely lit by candlelight, is romantic and delicious.

CURRENCY: The New Turkish Lira. Don't change money before you go as you'll get a better rate in Turkey.

INFORMATION: Visa on entry to Istanbul costs pounds 10. Taxis are a cheap and easy way to get round the city.

Istanbul Food Simit Taksim Square Misir Carsisi Topkapi

The streets of Istanbul are dirty and the traffic is impossible, and Turkish is as baffling as Hungarian, to which it is related-- you'll have more luck with German, however rusty, than English. If you get lost, you're in trouble. I'd go back in a minute. In the course of a ten-day visit I recently made, Istanbul lodged in my soul.

Before I went, I had heard Istanbul described as being like Rome in the late fifties, and when I got there, I saw why. In the chaos of people rushing to the office or the street market or the mosque there is an overarching sense that a city with a glorious past half-buried by grime and neglect is about to emerge as a world capital. The city's population has nearly septupled since the fifties, and now many of the new arrivals are hopeful emigrants from Eastern Europe. Scene-conscious Parisians and, yes, Romans are buying second (or third or fourth) houses in deliciously seedy Edwardian and Art Nouveau neighborhoods. Life is still cheap, the excellent traditional food is mostly untouched by foreign influence, and bars and cafes (although not restaurants) stay open late.

The tension between proud anachronism and make-it-up-as-you-go style hits you as soon as you step out on the street. Everyone seems alive to possibility. In the course of one evening's stroll I saw both traditionally and daringly dressed young people, European tourists in various worldly guises, rough-hewn young men in boisterous conversation at a street market, and a big group of transvestites with strong New York accents raucously piling into a dolmus--one of the fleet of meticulously maintained fat fifties American cars that serve as group taxis--and dishing each other as they predicted who would win the competition they were headed for.

The ideal way to arrive in Istanbul would be to sail in at dusk, when the distractions of the day are blunted and the city wears its storybook face. First you cruise along the Bosporous, the strait that divides Europe and Asia--the city sits on both continents; tourist sights and shops are on the European side, and quieter residential districts are on the Asian, or Anatolian, side. Then you round the Golden Horn and enter the harbor that made the site a natural center of commerce and a natural choice for the eastern capital when the Roman Empire was divided, at the end of the fourth century.

The two buildings most tourists first visit dominate the view of the old city: the Haghia Sophia, the sixth-century basilica whose great dome and vast covered space remained unequaled the world over for a thousand years, and beside it the Blue Mosque, or Sultan Ahmet, the Ottoman response to the architectural challenge that the church--by then converted to a mosque--presented. Up and down the hill are more floodlit gray-white marble mosques, their cascading domes and half domes and sharp minarets so much the stuff of Arabian-nights fantasies that it is startling to realize their form derived from a church and was refined only in the 1500s, just when Renaissance architects, too, were surpassing the feats of the ancients.

I decided during my explorations that a first-time visitor should postpone the greatest-hits lists found in guidebooks and organize his or her discovery of the city by following the work of the architect who defined Istanbul. Mimar Sinan (1489- 1588) was fixated on the Haghia Sophia, and in his lifelong efforts to exceed its achievements he created some of the world's most beautiful buildings. Dwelling for a time in their serene, perfect spaces is the best route to understanding the city. Too, visitors can enter mosques during services--something forbidden in most nonsecular Islamic states (Turkey is secular).

Sinan's masterpiece is Suleymaniye, the mosque named for his chief patron, Suleyman the Magnificent. So mesmerized was I by the interior--there's a kind of secret garden behind, with lovely tomb buildings--that I stayed far longer than I had intended. Across the street from Suleymaniye, half hidden by a stone screen and trees, is the movingly restrained tomb of Sinan himself. In the unrenovated neighborhood down the hill behind the Blue Mosque--one of the few areas of central Istanbul in which wooden houses from the turn of the century remain--is the tiny Sokollu Mehmet Pasa Camii (camii means "mosque"), designed by Sinan and as perfect as Suleymaniye.

Also first-rate but usually given secondary importance in guidebooks is Kariye, built as the Church of St. Saviour in Chora ("the country"), fifteen minutes by taxi from the old city. From 1315 to 1321 Kariye was rebuilt, and mosaics and frescoes of the lives of Christ and the Virgin were installed--among the most spectacular works of Byzantine art extant, recalling Giotto in their depth and expressiveness (they are contemporaneous, if half a continent away). Seen at close range on the walls and fluted domes of the small church, the mosaics and frescoes overpower you.

The sprawling Topkapi Palace deserves its must-see status, but it is best visited in carefully planned forays. The most logical first move after entering is to traverse two of the four sequential courtyards and find the line to pay the separate admission to the harem. The secret, teeming life within the harem (the word means "forbidden" in Arabic) inspired Western artists and writers for hundreds of years, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when the Ottoman Empire was on the wane and palace intrigue grew ever more lurid. The former kitchens, with enchanting rows of onion-dome ceramic chimneys designed by Sinan, house one of the world's great collections of Chinese porcelain, and I returned several times to see it. I quickly walked out of the treasury, however. This is where you find the famous thrones and scimitars and headdresses encrusted with softball-sized gems, all of which look fake, and the emerald dagger from the film Topkapi, which gyrates like a mechanical fortune-teller's head.

The rich beauty produced under the auspices of the sultans is better seen at the Cinili Kosk, a pavilion now devoted to ceramic art which is part of the archaeological museum complex a five- minute walk from Topkapi or at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, across from the Blue Mosque. Also superb are the floral Iznik tiles in the Rustem Pasa mosque, a late work by Sinan right in the center of the old city. These, too, are unjustly accorded secondary status.

Everyone will tell you to visit the Grand, or Covered, Bazaar (Kapali Carsi, the heart of the old city, itself a city: there are said to be more than 4,000 shops in its fifty acres. But few will warn you flat out against buying a rug, for which you'll likely pay more than you would at home. You simply won't win the game of bargaining. The best values are silver and gold, which are sold by weight no matter the age or the amount of ornamentation. If you're serious about antiques or miniatures and willing to pay for good ones, bypass the many shops in the bazaar and go to Sofa, on the elegant nearby shopping street Nuruosmaniye.

The bazaar's maze of streets, interrupted by tea stands and old coffee houses, seems thrillingly confusing, but in fact you're never more than a five-minute walk from a way out. The adjoining Egyptian Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi) drew me not only for its dozens of kinds of olives and other foodstuffs but for the wonderful Kurukahveci coffee shop, with its original 1930s decorations and odors of roasting coffee that reach far beyond the shop's central corner location. My take-home purchases in the bazaar were superior pistachios, dried figs, saffron fanned like a peacock's tail inside round plastic containers like petri dishes, and Iranian caviar sold in tins and vacuum-sealed in plastic for extra-safe storage. I found excellent quality and very good prices at Acar, a shop that takes up two large spaces in the bazaar.

The best place to stay is in the modern part of the city, across the harbor from the Golden Horn, near Taksim Square. Even if this isn't where the sights are, it's where the better restaurants and most of the contemporary city's life are. The Ataturk Cultural Center, where you can find ballets, concerts, and operas, runs along one side of the square. Here the hotels are modern, with the exception of the Pera Palas Hotel, whose Art Nouveau train-station grandeur is probably better viewed at tea in the marvelously restored cafe, or at dinner, than from one of the rooms, which are said to be noisy and unreliably renovated.

I stayed at the Hilton, a handsome 1950s International Style building in its own large private park a five-minute walk from Taksim Square, and I would stay there again for its luxurious calm and central location, even if the service did need sharpening and the big rooms refurbishment (some recently got it). Business travelers not on budgets prefer the modern Swissotel, on the water in a less central part of Taksim; those who really want to splurge stay at the Ciragin Palace Hotel Kempinski, a showily restored Ottoman palace from the past century, which is too opulent for my taste.

Istanbul's food, much of it blessedly based on long-cooked vegetables, is often wonderful and, except at a few pretentious restaurants, is served in simple surroundings that provide few clues to its quality. (Don't drink the water or eat unpeeled fruit: take it from someone who did.) Every restaurant serves a plentiful selection of meze, or antipasti, from which I made up most of my meals. The many cooked salads contain an abundance of vegetables we associate with Italy, along with components more familiar farther east, such as red-pepper paste, walnut sauces, grape leaves, cracked wheat, yogurt and feta cheese, and sweet spices in savory dishes; these refined cuisines, of which Turkish is likely the greatest, are beautifully traced in Paula Wolfert's new The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean. The waterfront restaurants of Karakoy specialize in fresh grilled fish--the dinner most visitors, and residents, prefer. I liked the soups and stews at Haci Abdullah, near Taksim Square, a simple cafeteria-style restaurant where I bought many homemade jams from the shelves that line the entranceway.

My survival food was simit, big dark rings of sesame-covered bread stacked on pushcarts all over the city; vendors carrying wooden trays laden with them, often still warm, are a frequent and welcome sight. A simit is more than a sesame bagel ever dreamed it could be.

The Berlitz guide is concise and helpful, the Rough Guide far more thorough and very well written; unusually, the Cadogan Guide is slapdash. The new Knopf guide, characteristic of the snappily designed French series, has exciting color pictures on every page but is confusingly organized. Istanbul hands swear by Strolling Through Istanbul--a dauntingly complete guide, like Giulio Lorenzetti's to Venice, that is not for the traveler who has very limited time or who expects up-to-date information. But it is invaluable for learning about the small and seemingly undiscovered mosque before you.

When you need a break from walking, spend a day on the ferry that zigzags along the Bosporous (there are two departures a day from a pier in the old city). Even if this is how many Istanbullus get to and from work, everyone seems to be on holiday, gossiping, eating fresh yogurt in glasses and drinking the hot tea that vendors sell, pointing out to each other the palaces and fortresses and mosques and gingerbread houses and estates. The fare is about a dollar. I don't believe I've ever taken a pleasanter cruise.