by Max Brantley
Looks like the Arkansas GoodTimers are keeping the state honest. Have spot-checked now and then.
Anyway, we've done Germany (sort of the Hessen Ozarks and the real Alps in southern Germany), Switzerland (more Alps and great scenery, traveled across Austria thru multiple Alpine valleys to Graz, are now in Budapest and head to Vienna tomorrow before going back to our home base in Germany in the Odenwald. Thought I'd pass along some observations for my compadres on the AT Blog:
All T-shirts with writing on them are in English (usually something from America).
Most people walk or ride bicycles or take buses/street cars/subways in towns. It could be why you see so few extremely obese people here. There are spare tires, sure, but not much more.
Beer and bread are the staples of European diet (except in the wine regions).
Soccer fans from England are basically neanderthal pigs who delight in disgusting themselves and those around them. Most of their conversations consist of the f-word in every possible grammatical form and they openly discuss their sexual needs and conquests, no matter who is present.
The flowers seem to have a stronger, brighter color in the Northern climes. I find this true in USA, also. Blues are especially vibrant.
Street musicians are more prevalent and play quite well and with some degree of joie d' vivre (joy for life).
When I went to the clinic for my bloodwork, the receptionist pronounced my name this way: Jair-oh-may Tid-mohr-ay. Guess she thought I wuz Eye-talian. Anneliese and Derek now tease me about it at least once a day.
It still is difficult to have a Hungarian bill in your pocket with 10,000 printed on it and realize it is only worth 40 dollars at best.
Dogs are allowed in nearly every business or place. It's not unusual to see several people with small dogs in their laps or large dogs under the table while they sit in cafes.
Most European school kids are required to take 8 years of English while they attend school.
Most of the music played on the radio is from America, most of the styles and clothes kids like come from America, lots of the slang comes from America, and the lingua franca (common language) for everyone is English. When our German hotel manageress and a East European customer couldn't communicate, both switched to English and got the deal taken care of.
Relics are a big item over here in the churches. Bits of bones from the saints or true sections of the cross or whatever item once was attached to a holy person or event, they are placed in a large metal casket decorated with jewels and precious metals and artistically done (called reliquaries). Today we were in St. Stephan of Hungary's Basilica and there in the ornate box was the dessicated hand that once was attached to the saint himself.
Finally, the honor system is alive and well in many places along our travel route. Public transportation within town is done with tickets rarely being checked. In fact, other than railroad journeys, no one has asked to see our travel tickets for the bus, the streetcar or the subway system. In our hotels, umbrellas are provided for free and you're expected to return them when done. In Graz, the local paper which costs 2 Euros (abour 2 dollars and 50 cents) is in an unlocked rack. You stick the coins in a coin box, but that has nothing to do with getting out a paper. Anyone could just lift the flap and get one if they weren't honest.
Oh yeah....one more thing: beggars. We're used to seeing people begging for money but one is more apt to see disfigured beggars over here, especially survivors of the Balkan wars from about 20 years ago.
While in the Basilica, I lit a candle for all of you and said a prayer of thanks for you.