It’s nearly impossible not to enjoy a jaunt through Europe these days; however, some of the magical luster of crossing borders has been tarnished of late. In particular, we’re talking about the demise of the age-old “travel badge of honor” — the passport stamp. Since the advent of the European Union, the continent has done away with the passport stamp when you cross from one country to the next (they’re one big happy union!). What was once a sense of pride and globetrotting accomplishment – look at this Italian ingress stamp! – is now reduced to posting pictures onto Facebook trying to convince people that you didn’t Photoshop yourself into that gorgeous Adriatic landscape. A passport stamp was the definitive mark of “been there, done that”… yet now, an era has ended. Flying from Rome to Barcelona, as we often do to gaze at and taste our Layer Cake Primitivo and Garnacha grapes, is now as glamorous as flying from Cleveland to Milwaukee. There’s no more tingling anticipation as the bespectacled, uniformed officer of the state flips the pages of your passport looking for an opening to muscle in yet another uniquely dated oval or square or triangle of ink. Only the long walk up the jetway and those silly stomach-churning glances to make sure you haven’t arrived in Bilbao (Spain) instead of Bari (Italy).
Nitpickym, we know. But it’s the little things in life that often make us smile or take note. Like the subtle threads of flavor in a wine. Here’s to the fact that the European people are still as lovely and welcoming as always and that we can be content to have absorbed all their distinct flavors by the time we leave, even if our passports have not absorbed their various inks.