Thursday, August 11, 2005

Europe 2005 - More traveling

Graffiti- it is really depressing to see it on almost all the really important sights and churches. Why people felt the need write or to carve their name in seems beyond disrespectful. Most of the larger cities had graffiti painted on the walls and subways. Supposedly at sites like Pompeii they learned about the locals from the graffiti and I just wonder what they will learn from all we have seen.

Environment-It is plain to see that there is more effort going into protecting the environment in Europe. In France, Germany, and a few other places I saw they had overpasses that were for migrating animals. I had heard about a study of this helping in the USA but they talked about it as if it was science fiction. Recycling is very high here. Most stores charge a recycling fee for each bag which got annoying since we couldn't seem to remember to get in the habit of bringing them with us. In all the cities there separate dumpsters for cardboard, glass, and plastic. I tried but could not keep the colors straight since they were different in each country and I’m sure we ticked off a few people with how many water bottles we went through. I guess it is because there is so little nature left. I don’t know how many time we were driving that we thought we were in the wilderness until we crested a hill and saw it was only a thin line of trees between us and the city.

Annoyances: (I've got to blow off steam somewhere, even if I knew most of these coming in.)
Smoking- in southern and eastern Europe the cigarette smoke was even more acrid then US cigarette smoke.
Low ceilings-being 6'5'' (2 meters) I think I've lost a few brain cells even with the constant vigilance.
Diesel engines- I know they are supposed to be better for the environment but there were just to many tunnels we went through with our car roof down following a new car that was choking us.
Restaurants charging for bottled water in re-used bottles-This happened even in the least touristy places where it was all locals eating.

Being a gracious tourist- talk at a quieter level then the locals. Dress like you did not come to mow the lawn. Show respect in places of worship. Do not use the sentence "well in my country...". try to learn the basic interaction words (yes, no, do you speak English,...). Flash pictures will fade museum relics and if they say no photography to buy the postcards. We tried to follow these rules as much as possible and be the good tourists and when you are quiet you notice how many loud obnoxious tourists there are. Just imagine a large tourist group with a loud tour guide coming into your church. There is no surprise that so many of the locals do not want to deal tourists with how many tourists seemed to think the locals were just part of the scenery. However we did not meet any rude locals. Even in Paris that is notorious for being rude so I can only guess its because we were on our best behavior. So for us, being polite paid off.

Charging electronics-with our choice to stay in hostels and camp I went with the choice of using a power inverter in the car so electronics would not have be left out of my view to recharge. The GPS, and phone charged by 12 volt adapters and I had a 3 way splitter for that. The rest got 110 volts from the the inverter to charge the camera batteries, my shaver, and video camera.

Stress-We found there was 3 important things that cause stress when driving into a city where we would inevitably get lost: Food, toilet, and being lost. As long as we took care of the first 2 before getting to that last 30 miles into town (where the rest stops disappear) then the getting lost becomes more exploring. Otherwise the stress builds up and everyone starts saying what the other person should have seen and done since it seems to take an average of 1-2 hours to find where you booked to stay or find somewhere to stay close to what you want.

Burnout- Some time around Berlin it seems like we hit a wall. Starting out in London we were sight-seeing around 10 hours a day. Now we just didn’t feel like walking around any more after 6 hours. I think we got our second wind when we hit Paris but I know that I took a lot less pictures for the cities in between. I think it helped to take it slow in Paris.

Weather- I can’t believe we only had 1 beach day. We got rained out of having any more for 7 other tries. It also rained half the days we camped. When we talked to the locals all over Europe they said that this much rain at this time of year was really strange. It did a great job of keeping the part of the trip through Southern Europe cool. I’m just glad we had the jackets since of course we packed for much warmer summer weather being from California.

Church bells- I've never lived near a church with a bell tower so I don't know if this is the case but there was no rhyme or reason to when the bells would ring. In most cities at some point between 6 and 8 the bells would just start ringing, stop, then 5 minutes later ring again straight for another 3 minutes. I guess the moral is to not set your watch by the bells.

Switching to metric- both of us switched over to metric pretty quick since we were so immersed in it. I found it easier to switch the GPS to kilometers to match the size, 40 degrees is very hot, fruit and vegetables by the kilogram seem expensive until you weigh items, and we soon got used to buying milk by the liter.

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