Category Archives: Perspectives

History, belief systems and more

Observations while traveling in Europe

Observations while traveling in Europe

Traveling can be a beneficial learning experience. Not all countries provide services or solve problems using the same methods. Following are some observations:

In all of the cities and towns that we visited there was a substantial use of bicycles for common transportation. Also, the prevalence of electric power assisted bikes is increasing.

In the downtown sector of one town the public transport was with Electric buses.

Historic downtowns remain busy & vital with retail businesses on the ground floor and accommodation on the levels above. In some cases, restaurants are located in what used to the back yards between buildings with access via alley ways.

There is extensive use of round-abouts and traffic circles rather than stop signs and traffic signals.

Petrol & Propane gas hybrid cars and trucks are a popular cost containment option. Gas is very expensive usually costing double the cost in the US.

In one hotel’s bathroom the bathroom door served double duty. It could be used for bathroom access as well as to close off the area occupied by the commode!

One hotel had a self-service kiosk for guest check in & key room key issuing.

Trains coverage is extensive. They are reliable, fast, inexpensive and comfortable. The one we rode on was electric powered.

Rest areas were no more than 10 miles apart on the motorways.

When there was a traffic slow down or backup on the motorway the cars in the right-hand lane would move onto the shoulder, but keep moving slowly. The cars in the left-hand lane would all move to the extreme left side of that lane. This a allowed a center access lane for police & emergency vehicles if needed.

Not all of the EU countries have been granted the right to adopt the EU currency. There are economic conditions that must be met. In these countries the EU is still accepted by most shops but the US$ is not.

Taxes are always including in the selling price (not added on) and tipping is either included in the price or optional.

Two Americans in Europe

Two Americans in Europe

At the time of composing this Jeanette & I are on a river cruise on the Danube. So far, we have visited Budapest, Bratislava & Vienna (Wien), all capitals of their respective countries. Broadening education is always a bi-product of travel. All of the countries we have visited are members of the EU. All three are quite small, both in area and population.

Hungary has about 8 million folks with just under 2 million residing in Budapest. Slovakia has about 5.5 million with about ½ million in Bratislava & Austria has about 8 ½ million with just under 2 million in Wein.

Hungary is about the size of Indiana, Slovakia is about the size of Mississippi & Austria is about the size of Maine.

Not all members of the EU are using the Euro. One prior member (the UK) chose to retain their currency, while others were not authorized to use the Euro because their economies were considered too weak.  Hungary still uses the Florent, but almost all retailers accept the Euro. The official currency of both Slovakia & Austria is the Euro.

On a recent trip to Iceland our auto rental agent shared her view of US citizens. It was not that of the “ugly, loud American”, but that of naiveite. The more I travel the more that comment rings true.

America emerged from WW II as a superpower primarily because of a vibrant and growing economy. We were envied and admired by the rest of the world. We were considered to be number one in production (& productivity), technology, individual freedoms & standard of living. Many of us still believe that is true, but that is only a “belief” and not in touch with the facts. Unfortunately, we have been in a status decline for the past several decades. Our slide resembles the slide experienced by the UK that started over a 100 years ago. The UK was “the” superpower for several hundred years expanding their influence into America, Africa, India & Australasia (among others). Like many dominant countries & city states before them they eventually maxed out their influence and the decline commenced.

The US is still in the early stages of declining influence. The dollar, once the fall back currency for the entire world, is no longer accepted in most of Europe. If a country does not officially use the Euro, they always accept it as medium of exchange. While English is still the official 2nd language in most of Europe it is sobering to remember that is not ours and has its roots in the Germanic languages.

We have found most people here to be friendly and respectful, but not that interested in or concerned about goings on in the US. We do not seem to be the focus of their attention. The histories of these countries go back thousands of years. Borders have changed numerous times and all of have experienced numerous political systems.

stay tuned for more on this

Searching for balance

Searching for balance

After every election there is always a plea for unity after all the ugliness of the campaign. However, one wonders about the sincerity of this admonition.

Having been around for almost three generations of Presidential administrations my view is that the losing party almost immediately encourages their constituents to start bashing the leader of the winner’s. While this seems to have been the case ever since I was old enough to pay attention, my experience is that it has escalated with almost every election. Republicans delighted in bashing Clinton, Democrats had their way with Bush, Republicans did their best to crucify Obama and the bloodletting is already starting with Trump.

I do wonder how this process relates to true patriotism. How does it serve our country? After any election (except in a true landslide) there will be a very large minority (45 – 50 %) that are disappointed. Does it serve the country to not accept the outcome? Are we better served by working with the winner with the objective of reaching compromises? One wonders why Republicans tend to view Democrats as less than intelligent and Democrats the reverse.

Personally I agree with George Washington regarding his view that the two party system will not (and does not) facilitate the best qualities in our country. Regardless, I see evidence in both parties where there is room for agreement and compromise, especially when it comes to some of the major issues. The issues I refer to were not addressed during the recent campaign.

Our biggest issue should be the budget and the related items of the national debt and the enormous level of unfunded liabilities. We have intentionally mortgaged the future to the detriment of our grandchildren and their prodigy. We reside in a false economy. Despite efforts to maintain unrealistically low interest rates the economy stagnates. One wonders what the impact of rising rates will have on our future.

Two significant items that relate to the budget imbalance are the out of control costs relative to healthcare and advanced education. I think that electorate of both parties could agree that these areas are worth working together for solutions. Why should costs in these areas be rapidly inflating while the remainder of the economy is stagnant or deflating? There actually are solutions to these important issues, but we will only find them by “finding balance” through mutual respect for differing views. Let’s strive to become true patriots.