Traveling to Europe a few weeks ago was an amazing and eye opening experience. I learned so much.
And I have so many questions!
For example, when we took the train from Innsbruck to Milan, we had to cross the border between Austria and Italy. Austria is a financially stable and thriving country, while Italy continues to struggle with a weak economy, an unstable government, and an influx of immigrants that it can neither house nor feed.
You’d expect the border between the two countries to be pretty secure, wouldn’t you?
You know what?
It’s completely invisible.
We boarded our international train in Austria and got off in Italy. The only way that we knew we’d changed countries was that the signs at the first station were in German and then Italian, and at the last they were in Italian and then German.
There were plenty of business people and other types of workers on our train. They were speaking German as they entered Italy to work for the day.
In the station we saw people with briefcases or work uniforms waiting to go from Italy into Austria to work for the day.
I was astounded.
Where were the armed guards? The passport and visa checkers? Where were the fences and gates and drug sniffing dogs?
Wouldn’t Italians be trying to get into Austria to have a better life, given the differences in the two economies?
When I asked about this, people were baffled.
“Well, we are Italians and we live in Italy, but we go to work in Austria. Then we come home at the end of the day.” The explanations were given with just the slightest hint of “what the hell don’t you understand about this?”
What a concept.
An open border. And it doesn’t mean that millions of poor, struggling Italians are infesting Austria to rape and pillage.
It means that people on both sides can work where there are jobs. Presumably, both economies benefit from the connection between workers and work.
At night, everyone gets back on the train, or the bus, or into their cars, and they drive across the invisible borders to go back to their families, their towns, their languages and their respective soccer teams.
Wonder what my country could learn from this situation?