Big Yellow TakcИ is enlightening and thoroughly entertaining, a travel book that makes you want to follow suit.
Jaded tourists, weary business travelers, and armchair adventurers who think they’ve read it all, rejoice: Michael Loveday’s Big Yellow TakcИ (Taxi) is a spirited, laugh-out-loud take on travel in the age of globalism.
Almost anyone can go almost anywhere now. It has become apparent that, while people may speak different languages, embrace different beliefs, and have battles royal over differing politics, they stand united in their capacity to cling to some rather bizarre customs, and take pride in displaying even the most peculiar points of local interest to any visitor who comes along. Big Yellow TakcИ is a first-person account of twenty-five such adventures, written with wit, generous good humor, and reserves of patience and curiosity that elude most travelers.
The twenty-five trips described here are arranged alphabetically rather than chronologically or geographically. Complete within themselves, they need not be read in any particular order, making it possible for readers to dive in anywhere. Although a few chapters take place on North American turf, most are in less-visited locales like Scandinavia, Poland, and the Balkans.
The book avoids standard tour-book fare. Rather, explorations often begin with taxi drivers who initiate impromptu tours of lesser points of interest, such as a cluster of large, ugly, aboveground bomb shelters built during WWII that are so reinforced, they cannot be destroyed without also destroying the northern German town around them.
What might be dull if experienced in person is made interesting by the writing style, which exemplifies a fine eye for detail and a dry British wit that avoids condescension or harsh sarcasm. There are many outright funny turns of phrase, such as the chapter on Germany subtitled “Don’t Mention the War,” a catchphrase familiar to Fawlty Towers fans. Even ordinary forays, such as a visit to San Diego’s Sea World and a stop at Canada’s rather dull capital, Ottawa, manage to sparkle.
Solid storytelling skills are on display, especially in a scene that shows how staid Swedes hosting a business conference in Gothenburg decided to liven things up by forcing a captive audience of managers, urban engineers, and scientists to pretend to write their names with imaginary pencils clenched between their buttocks.
In the course of its travels, the book paints sharply detailed portraits of individuals who reflect the national character. A Ukrainian woman who inspects visas and sports an official uniform on top is dressed from the waist down in a miniskirt, fishnet stockings, and sequined cowboy boots, showing the lingering influence of the old regime as well as the urge to embrace and flaunt newfound freedoms.
Big Yellow TakcИ is enlightening and thoroughly entertaining, a travel book that makes you want to run out into the street, throw your hand up in the air, and yell, “Cab to the airport, please!”
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