Putting Politics Aside – We have a Republic to Save


Observations of Europe

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutesWe Americans travel to Europe more than any other place on earth outside the United States. We do it because it is still the closest to us culturally, politically, and militarily. We feel more comfortable jetting off to London or Florence than we do in other parts of the world. The Beautiful Wife and I try to mix it up more than most people we know, and travel to all the continents somewhat “in rotation.” This year it was Europe, but we focused on an area to which many don’t typically travel — the Balkan countries.

We ended up in 12 countries although three of them were just a passing glance. Those being Croatia to exchange cars, Italy for a quick trip to Trieste (BW spent more time in Italy as she stuck around attending a cooking school in Tuscany) and our separate overnight Heathrow stays on our way back to the States. All three countries were previously visited.

One thing that was quite noticeable while walking around the various countries (especially the seven new to us) is everyone kind of looked the same. While walking the streets and attending local restaurants, you really could believe you are in the United States. The people dress and act very similarly. You can just as easily get bumped on the street in Belgrade or Ljubljana by a young woman with her face buried in her phone as you could in Los Angeles or Denver. You know, the one dressed in cool new jeans with the appropriate top and high-fashion casual shoes. The world keeps shrinking.

There are really two main differences. One — America is much more of a multiracial society. That is not the case in most European countries. There are few countries in the world that have the mix of races that we have. While the race-baiters like to sling negative assertions about how open America is, there is basically nowhere on earth where people of diverse backgrounds and races mix as well as America.

The other thing that is so different is it seems that these Europeans never got the memo about smoking being bad for your health. Even in Vienna, one of the most sophisticated cities in the world, we often thought we were walking through a giant ashtray. There are cigarette butts everywhere on the streets and sidewalks. And some people envy the European medical system. They seem to be providing bad (or possibly no) guidance on this issue.

One of the hot issues in California is the humongous increase in the minimum wage for fast food workers for large chains. The idiotic thought that the costs would not trickle down to every restaurant is just silly. I made a special effort to cruise by the restaurant whenever I saw a sign for a McDonald’s or Burger King, which are ubiquitous in these European countries. Every location had orders and payments made from a kiosk. Wait for your number and pick up your order. Why in God’s name did the nincompoops who wanted this passed not realize that was going to happen to each one of these restaurants in California? Poof the jobs for which they got raises disappear. The estimate is 10,000 have been lost already.

Proudly 15 years ago I was proactive to get hotels that do not separately charge for the internet. We would go to a fine hotel in Europe which was charging us a pretty penny for our room, and they wanted an additional fee for the internet. I would tell them to come to America. You could drive across the country and see signs at roadside inns telling of how they provided internet for free. I asked the manager if they were charging us for water in the room. No. Were they charging us for lights in the room? No. Then why were they charging us for internet when everyone who came to the hotel had at least one and maybe two (a blackberry) devices that needed the internet. We won that battle and now the internet is easier to hook up to in hotels than riding a bike. And no charge.

The current battle with these upscale hotels is over their ridiculously complex lighting systems. I was delighted to see an article in the Wall Street Journal recently taking up the battle. Instead of light switches you have a panel an electrical engineer could not decipher. You have switches that shut off the entire room with an either/or situation where you cannot turn on a lamp at a desk.

After working for 15 minutes in our room in Ljubljana, I could not for the life of me figure out how to keep the light on in a seating area for me to read why turning off the lights in the adjoining bedroom for the BW. When I spoke to the manager the next day after telling him of some great aspects of our room, I told him of my struggles. He said they were aware of the problem, and they could not figure out how to fix it. I told him it pretty well defeats the benefit of the seating area.

When we arrived in Belgrade we spoke to the residents. We found out that in Slovenia, Moldova and Romania, learning English is compulsory from grade school on through high school. We also asked how many Americans they had seen as visitors and the numbers were sparse. I believe that is because many people still perceive Serbia from days of war with other parts of the former Yugoslavia. Those days are long gone, and it is time to welcome back Serbia as a place to travel. This is a country that has seen many empires come and go from the days of the Romans. Its capital has significant importance as it is built around the convergence of two major rivers, the Sava and the Danube. It is a very sophisticated capital, Belgrade, with lots of history and a wonderful outdoor dining culture.

Not being part of the EU is a little bit of a challenge. A great part of the EU is the common currency and free transport across borders. We had to wait in a line to go through a check to get into Serbia and then right after that another check to get into the country. A lot different from the current situation in America where you can dance your way across our Southern or Northern border without an ID or questioning. God Bless America.


The article was published by FlashReport and is reproduced with permission from the author.

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