How Much Have We Lost?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Nine Days in Bavaria & Austria

The Surovell Family at Neuschwanstein Castle
(aka "Cinderella Castle")
A few days after session ended, I headed off to Germany and Austria with the family to unplug a bit, experience some new countries, and reconnect.

I had not been to Germany since I backpacked it back in 1995 a few years after the wall fell.  Even then, I only spent about twelve hours in Berlin, an evening in Frankfurt, and some time in Strasburg and hiking around the Alps in Innsbruck.  This time, I really got to see things. 

We spent most of our time around Bavaria: two days in Rottenberg, two in Bachrach (Rhine Valley), two days in Reutte, Austria on the border, two days in Salzburg, Austria and the last two days in Munich itself. 

Last night, I asked everyone in the family to tell me what differences they noted between Germany/Austria and Virginia.  Everyone's lists had to be mutually exclusive. My kids' lists are first and mine is last.


Colin (Age 9)
  • Toilets are different
  • They make pizza different and there are more pizza places
  • Sodas taste different (natural sugar?)
  • Grocery stores are different
  • Houses are decorated for Easter differently
  • Churches are bigger
  • Cars have less colors
  • Language
  • Mountains have snow
  • Way more beer
  • More people wear fur coats
  • People's hats are different (some have feathers in them)
  • There is Medieval stuff everywhere
  • They had kings
  • More pizza places
  • Their "Metro" is bigger
  • They have more chocolate stores

Mara (Age 11)
  • Better chocolate
  • Non-German food is better (we had lots of Italian, Indian & Thai once)
  • People are nicer drivers
  • They have more town houses
  • You have to pay for toilets
  • Some bathrooms have purple toilet paper
  • There are lots of tourists from different countries
  • They have electric buses
  • It rains a lot more
  • The water in their streams looks cleaner
  • Their hotels fold their blankets weird
  • Speed limit is 120 (km/hr)
  • There are lots of castles
  • They have a lot more bakeries
  • They have lots more Italian restaurants
  • They don't put balsamic vinegar on their bruschetta
  • Everyone's jackets are dark colors
  • Their peanut butter is less sweet
  • People hang out at their tables after they are done with dinner
  • More people smoke
  • They have lots of gelato
  • They have lots of roads with clothing stores - no malls
Leia (13 years-old)
  • More people dress better
  • Metric system
  • German food has less sugar
  • No one wears Ugs (boots that are popular in FCPS right now)
  • They have more smaller hotels
  • The toilets use less water
  • You have to pay for water at dinner
  • The restaurants don't serve drinks (like soda) with ice
  • Currency is very different
  • They have more towns and the towns are much older
  • People drive faster
  • Cars are smaller
  • They have Teddy bear stores
  • More people ride bikes and use transit 
  • The spoons are bigger
Eva (15 years-old)
  • Mexican food in Germany isn't very good
  • "Everyone else got everything, this is a ridiculous game."
Munich's Train Map
Scott's List (44 years-old)
  • Germans and Austrians on average have a higher awareness, interest and level of concern about foreign policy.
  • Their infrastructure is flawless.  There were no potholes, crumbling/protruded sidewalks, etc.
  • The transit system in Munich was incredible.  They had a subway, mid-distance, and long-distance trains.  All ran on time.   Real time information on train was everywhere.  Transit income was supplemented with advertising and shop rentals - you could buy food and other items in every station.  Stations had bathrooms.  There were no fare gates - everyone was on their honor.  Our tickets were checked once.
  • We drove about 1,500 miles.  I saw easily 1,000 acres of solar farms plus solar on 50% of rural barn rooftops and 50% of commercial roofs that I could see from the highways.
  • We saw at least 500 wind turbines.  My kids were counting and claimed to count over 1,000.  We drove some Autobahn's twice so it is possible they saw some double counting.
  • German's are adamant about highlighting the low points of their history.  The government has preserved concentration camps.  Our guide said students are required to tour them. 
  • The beer in Germany and Austria is not as diverse as American beer, but it is excellent.  It is mostly lagers (pilsners) and hefeweizen.  Their beer halls are communal meeting places.  Many Germans and Austrians, including families, spend time in their beers halls, drink, and hang out.  People also drink beer at all hours of the day.  Biergartens are everywhere. 
  • The wines are very different.  There was no Cabernet, Merlot, and little Pinot Noir.  Italian wines were everywhere - Chianti's, but also lesser know varietals like Montalcino's, Montepulciano's, etc.  We spent two days in the heart of Riesling country and had some excellent cheap Rieslings, but Austria had some interesting regional wines Zweigelt's and Muscateller were really good.  Wine (like beer) is very much a regional thing - even in Germany and Austria.  German red wine is very different - comes in bottles that are wide at the bottom and much sweeter.   
  • College is mostly free. 
  • For thousands of years Bavaria was in constantly conflict.  It was overrun by Roman's, Turks, Catholics, Prussians, Americans, etc.  It seemed like everywhere we went had turned over about twenty times between different kings, countries, etc.
  • In Germany and Austria an old building dates to the 1200's.  A bit different than Virginia.  Plus, I did not quite realize quite how catastrophic the devastation of the Allied bombing raids in World War II had been. 
  • You can get all kinds of stuff at a pharmacy without a prescription that you can't get in the United States, plus it is all cheaper.
 I didn't ask my wife for her list although she gets some credit for some of my ideas. 

Overall, I found the German and Austrian people to be very proud, friendly, and gracious.  Plus, with the Euro a bit depressed, it was not insanely expensive to travel (gas was about $4.63 per gallon).  I'd be happy to go back any time.  There's still a ton of the country I haven't seen.

2 comments:

  1. These is quite an interesting list. Surprisingly, these are not that different than my observation back when I was a student a few decades back, particularly the infrastructure and subway system. How they kept it in great shape that way for so long is something we, in America, need to study. A big different, of course, is the solar and the wind farm. There were none back then in the middle of 1970s and even in the early 1980s when I returned to Europe and stayed in Autria for three months. They were actually in the oil crisis period back then. The honor system of bus and train system is totally amazing. Can we use that in the US?

    ReplyDelete
  2. These is quite an interesting list. Surprisingly, these are not that different than my observation back when I was a student a few decades back, particularly the infrastructure and subway system. How they kept it in great shape that way for so long is something we, in America, need to study. A big different, of course, is the solar and the wind farm. There were none back then in the middle of 1970s and even in the early 1980s when I returned to Europe and stayed in Autria for three months. They were actually in the oil crisis period back then. The honor system of bus and train system is totally amazing. Can we use that in the US?

    ReplyDelete

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