Interesting Stuff

Guardian European Report

Our profound apologies to those who need a GUARDIAN FIX.

We have been in Europe for the past couple of weeks and will share some thoughts and impressions.

–Universal dislike of George Bush and nearly the same universal appreciation of American people. Lots of people are afraid of the Iraq mess harming the Europe Union economically and other ways…they are a lot closer to the Mideast and Africa than we are.

–The EU is becoming more of a “United States of Europe” all the time. It is a cross between the U.N. and the USA in many ways. England and Switzerland still hold onto their currency and it is a pain in the bum to visit–especially Switzerland.

–The German autobahn with its high speed driving is toll free, but to drive on the expressways in Switzerland you have to pony up $30 for a permit–good for a day or a month same price!

–Diesel is about 30 cents cheaper per LITER than gas and the diesel car we drove was a sweet LITTLE Mercedes “A class” with super economy and you could park it most anywhere–for a fee of course.

–Seen from the French perspective, the decision to stay out of Iraq was what the citizens wanted and it made for good domestic politics. They don’t want to fight the “American war.”

–Soccer mania is rampant throughout Germany. The best sign of how silly it has gotten was miniature soccer goals with little red soccer balls suspended in front of the net…placed in the urinals. The GUARDIAN scored several times in one session, but there was no goal tender either.

–Air travel in Europe has gotten efficient and cheap. Security screening is at or near the departure gate in many airports as is luggage claim. No long concourses to walk with bags.
Wine, bare boobs, and church steeples were to be found everywhere.

–In the heart of Zurich is a Ladies Swimming Club on the river where women soak up the rays topless next to outdoor restaurants. It beats a convention center any day.

–GPS is no good when the roads are closed for construction. “Helga” goes ape when you get detoured and demands immediate U-turns.

–Europeans offer up “student discounts” for transport, museums, etc. instead of “senior discounts.” That makes a lot more sense to the GUARDIAN. Age discrimination in the USA is wrong–charging younger people MORE than old duffers who can afford entrance fees.

–USA, with emphasis on Idaho and the West is shameful in the addiction to big cars and pick ups which suck fuel, pollute, and take up space. It will catch up with us soon.
wind gen.jpg

–Wind generators dot the hills throughout Germany, France, Spain, and Holland. Plenty of nuke plants as well.

As we get back on track we will try to offer up some pictures and more comments.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. My family and I just arrived home from a ‘holiday’ in London. We are silly here in America with our big cars, mostly consumer driven demand. I fault our carmakers and oil companies for not building, importing or allowing technology into this country to decrease our fuel consumption as there is demand for a fuel efficient ‘soccor mom’ SUV. The SMART car was very popular as were models from Toyota and Mercedes in that same class. And not enough can be said for diesel cars from Londons Black cabs to the Mercedes people movers (7 pass. van) and many, many others. The fuel consumption on most these vehicles is in the 40 M.P.G. range and enough power for their crazy driving.

    Not enough can be said for the public transportation in London. The “tube”/Underground was an inexpensive and efficient way to get around town. I seemed to have missed the topless beach/parks you found in your travels.

  2. “Air travel in Europe has gotten efficient and cheap. Security screening is at or near the departure gate in many airports as is luggage claim. No long concourses to walk with bags. Wine, bare boobs, and church steeples were to be found everywhere.”

    Oh Guardian, the memories you bring back of my first trip to France when I was a young pup about your age. I went to a topless beach and expected to see Rachel Welsh and all I saw was Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffin show

  3. Re: Student vs. senior discounts. I’m expecting senior discounts to disappear in the USA in the near future, as corporations get even better at pinching pennies for their CEOs at the expense of service.

    Are the “student” discounts really for students, or just young people? Does one have to produce an ID showing enrollment at an educational institution, or one showing age.

    I used “student standby” flights in the olden days, and it was based on age, not enrollment.

    But the way students are being seen more and more as a captive consumer resource, perhaps the “discounts” will come out of their fees. They’ll grumble for a few days, but won’t do anything about it. That’s so sixties.

    EDITOR NOTE–Age appeared to be the factor.

  4. ‘Bout time you came back, Guardian! The community has fallen apart in your absence!

    We’ve got some wack-job from Nampa who carved off his wife’s head and then slammed into a poor innocent family (spilling the bodyless head on Franklin Road).

    We’ve got the BPD upgrading their 2004 Tasers to the 2006 models (with a cute LCD display) at a cost of $94,000 or so.

    We’ve got the Weiser Fiddle Contest going on, and right here in Boise we’ve got “River Festival Lite.” (The balloon hoo-hah.)

    Since you left, they’ve probably started 6 new sprawl-subdivisions and 450 new houses. (In 2 weeks there have been 28 traffic jams on I-84, 14 of ’em eastbound and 14 westbound.)

    The jack-booted ACHD Thugs are dragging people, kicking and screaming, out of their houses on Ustick Road. (Well… not quite, but it looks like it’s comin’!)

    … and you’re off gallivantin’ in Europe?


    AMEN to your comments on our fuel-addicted ways! And switching people over to more efficient SINGLE-OCCUPANT vehicles won’t fix the problem. We need to get used to the notion of mass transit, carpooling, etc. – they won’t EVER be able to slap down pavement fast enough to keep up with demand.

    Welcome back!

  5. Guardian, I had to laugh upon reading “church steeples” following “bare boobs.” Just a happy accident, no doubt?

  6. Jon Q Publique
    Jun 23, 2006, 12:01 am

    Welcome back Guardian!

    So do the Germans still hang 5 cm off your back bumper at 200 kph flashing their headlights and honking their horn trying to get you out of the passing lane because you’re going too slow?


  7. Bikeboy said (among other things), We need to get used to the idea of mas transit …
    Bikeboy, I’d love to get used to that idea? Where is it?

    Not in B-Town or any other cities around here. Yeah, Boise has a few buses that run a few places for a few hours most days … If you wanna go where they’re going at the time they’re going, they’re great, inexpensive, etc. But how you gonna get back?

    Years ago, what we now call “light rail” ran through quite bit of the valley and was heavily used. But the wise leaders of our area tore the rails out so we could all drive cars everywhere we go. Duh!

    Not so many years ago, a bike/pedestrian path ran alongside West State Street, a few yards away from the pavement. I don’t know where the ends were, but I know it went past Collister Drive and quite a way west — perhaps all the way to Eagle (I never rode it quite that far). Then our modern-day wise leaders tore it out.

    Some Boise-area streets do have bike lanes, but they often are so narrow that when you ride a bike in them, your left handlebar is out in the traffic lane, and you are constantly in danger of getting your head taken off by the side-view mirrors of vehicles. Even walking on some of them is very unpleasant, with the rushing vehicles brushing your sleeve and the stench of exhaust making it hard to breathe.

    What are the chances that our leaders will someday soon do their best to restore the interurban rail line, create wide, safe bike lanes along all major roads, come up with a bus system that covers most of the city and links to other towns in the area during enough hours to allow working, shopping, eating and attending a movie and still getting home? Yep, you’re right: about the same as the chances that Iraq, Iran, North Korea, George W. Bush etc. will suddenly become friendly, peace-loving, non-threatening ….
    Well, maybe my great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren will live to see it all happen — if someone doesn’t blow the whole planet to hell before then, or smother it with vehicle and commerce exhaust.

  8. Bill von Tagen
    Jun 26, 2006, 2:58 pm

    In as much as you and I were in Europe at the same time, but in different places, I would like to chime in on some of your observations. I was in Germany, although to the North and much of my time was spent in the former eastern zone. I also had the opportunity to live with and talk with several different families. The exchange of information and views was very valuable.

    This trip was my second to Germany, the first was in 1985. My overall impression from of the changes in 21 years is that the air in Germany is much cleaner, but that the streets are much dirtier. It is also getting harder to determine who is German and who is American just from a casual glance. We dress more alike, although the Germans are generally a little neater about their appearance. This is not universally true, but an overall impression. In many ways, we are becoming more like them, and they like us. Again, we are not the same, and never will be, but we are more similar than 21 years ago.

    Yes, there does seem to be a strong, widespread dislike for President Bush. The dislike does not appear to translate into dislike for Americans. Europeans are also concerned that US policies compromise their personal privacy, but understand our losses from September 11. Even though they understand the reasons, they don’t agree with us on all security steps taken. While Germans and other Europeans may be concerned about the potential effects of a wider mideast war, it is hard to imagine the economy of Germany being much worse. Unemployment seems to be ranging from 14% to 27% depending upon the region.

    The jury is still out on the benefits of the EU and of the Euro. The Germans I talked to have disdain for the EU. Germans like the convenience of one European Currency, but blame the EU and the Euro for increasing prices. In Germany, the word for expensive is “teuer”. More than once I heard the Euro referred to as the “Teuro”. The EU is seen as being long on promises and short on substance. It is seen as doing little or nothing to improve the lives of ordinary citizens. It has made no progress in addressing the things that matter most to the average citizen: unemployment, prices, taxes opportunity, etc.

    I am never sure if my old recollections are 100% accurate, but it seemed as though there were 2 or 3 times as many cars on the road as there were in 1985. Germany has first class, first world roads, first class, first world cars and some third world driving habits. The overall experience was not pleasant. Our host in one city said things are too crowded now and that Germany needs to impose a speedlimit on the Autobahn. He blamed the big auto companies for the failure to set speed limits. At least Germans seemed a little more polite now as I saw very little light flashing or horn honking. Germans drive their cars very hard and the gearing on my rental car showed it running at much higher RPM’s than my ’96 Ford Mustang at comparable speeds. I was unable or perhaps too lazy to check mileage. I guess I’ll have to go back.

    My son and I both thought that there is a much smaller percentage of older cars on German Roads than there are on American Highways. My guess is that the Germans just wore them out.

    I agree. Diesel 1.12, regular 1.32

    The Germans too are happy not to be involved in the Iraq war. But the feelings run deeper than that, the Germans don’t ever again want to be involved in any war, particularly a European War and certainl not one on their soil. Quite simply, they have had enough.

    6. SOCCER
    Soccermania is rampant. It is bigger than the Superbowl, the World Series and Mardis Gras combined! The world cup has brought a resurgence of flag flying and flag waving which most Germans seem to be enjoying. It is not without controversy, however, as some editorials and letters to the editor written by stick in the mud handwringers condemn the blind show of patriotism.

    This was also my impression. I also agree that it seemed more efficient and less of a hassle. The prices posted in travel agency windows seemed unbelievably low. Perhaps the impression was caused by the Euro’s value or something else, but I found myself envying Europeans.

    Security too seems more efficient and more pleasant. The screeners are professional and pleasant. They don’t seem to suffer from the “Barney Fife Syndrome” that has infected more than a few TSA employees. One last note on security, 21 years ago security seemed more present and oppresive at European Airports. I remember getting off the plane in Amsterdam and being shocked to see Police with sub machine guns. Now the situation has somewhat, although not entirely reversed.

    Wine, Beer, Church Steeples are everywhere. I don’t know about the nude beaches as my handler (wife) kept me away from sunbathing areas.

    9. GPS
    We could not afford to rent a diesel automobile, let alone one with a GPS.

    My son has been an exchange student in Germany for the past year. He used his student discount and was generally asked to produce a student ID. At times the savings were substantial.

    We loved our vacation. The Germans are warm and hospitable, but they won’t go out of their way to initiate conversation with a stranger unless they think the stranger is doing something pretty stupid.

    German society is not better, it is simply different. People are people where ever you go. Europe has its own set of problems which are far more challenging than ours. While there problems are different, like ours, they are mostly self inflicted.

    The school system in this country is better funded at all levels. We spend a much higher % of GDP on education than the Germans or the Europeans. And our schools are in most ways better. The future for many German and European children is locked in at the 4th grade. Those who don’t make the cut for college face an uncertain future.

    The EU is good at holding conferences, issuing proclomations and setting protocols, but little else. The EU is complimented in the press for setting limits on green house gasses, its a shame no one ever takes a closer look to see how European Governments cheat on reporting compliance. Perhaps the US could learn from this: Set lofty goals, say the right thing cheat and the world will love you for it.

    I was surprised by what was expensive in Germany and by what was cheap.Trains, public Transportation and recreational facilities (Swimming pools, gyms etc.) all seemed very expensive. On the other hand, dining out , food generally and museums seemed quite cheap. I doubt I would ever again eat at a Mc Donalds if I lived in Germany. The real Resturants are cheaper and better.

    The food was not necessarily healthier, but it certainly tasted much better. Bread, fruit and pork were all much better.

    At the end of the day, the average American is left with more money in his wallet than the average German, even after considering health care and other benefits. Taxes suck a lot from the average citizen, but the average citizen feels that the big corporations don’t pay their fair share. The average German wage earner (not the top rate) pays about 40% of income in income taxes. This year the tax on transactions (goods and services is 16%. Next year it moves to 19%. I love Germany, but I would not trade our package of benefits and problems for theirs.

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