Is This the Border?


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.

Nope.

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?

the border

Somewhere along the border. I can’t tell you exactly how far on either side of the line this was.

Time For Some Sweeping Generalizations


Munchen

Isn’t it funny when your broad generalizations and assumptions are proven to be true?

And isn’t it funny when they aren’t?

Having spent three packed days touring the beautiful city of Munich, I have some broad and sweeping generalizations to share. Feel free to shake your heads or just laugh at me. Feel free to agree!

  1. Germany is just as organized, clean, orderly and proper as I always thought it would be. Of course, we were here a couple of years ago and saw Berlin and part of the North, so we already had an idea, but holy standardization! The gardens are all neat. I am not kidding. Every little Bavarian house has window boxes filled with pink and red geraniums. Every lawn is trimmed.  There wasn’t one fallen tree or broken branch anywhere.  Even the dogs are orderly and polite. People bring them to restaurants and cafes, they go into stores. They walk sedately on leashes and sit down when their owners think the word “sit.”
  2. Schnitzel is as good as it sounds. Really. Seriously. Ever since the “Sound of Music” first came out, I have yearned for “schnitzel with noodles.” It is crisp, crunchy, tender and yummo. Last night we had it at an Austrian gasthouse. The serving we were given will last us for days.
  3. People are people. Some of them are old and some of them aren’t. They come in all colors, sizes and shapes. I have seen the most gorgeously dressed women, with gleaming brown skin and dark, deep eyes, dressed in swathes of pure white gauze, smelling like a garden of jasmine. I have seen tiny white-blond toddlers in pink shorts chattering away as they skipped along beside their mothers. People have exchanged smiles, and people have looked away when I sent them a smile. In general, I find native Germans and Austrians to be helpful, polite, friendly but not intrusive. I like them!
  4. I love German showers. I know, it sounds stupid. But they are so…..clean! We aren’t staying in pricey places, believe me. But the bathrooms are all equipped with these fabulous glass sided showers. No tile anywhere. Some kind of floor that looks like wood or wide slate and the glass sides and door (when there is one) are firmly attached to that floor. A small drain is along one side. The shower heads are big “rain” style things and I now yearn for one in my little home bathroom.
  5. As I feared, people here are in complete horror about the President of the U.S. They understand that he is interested only in the well-being of his own country, and doesn’t give a rat’s ass about what happens to the rest of the world. They’re afraid that his lack of understanding (also referred to as “his stupidness”) will mean that he doesn’t get the fact that we are all interdependent and that if they fall, so will we. They no longer trust the U.S.  To quote one very intelligent and highly informed friend, “But how could so many Americans vote for this terrible person? We hear his words about women, about immigrants. How could even one person vote for this person?” Good question.
  6. Home is where the heart is. I miss my dog. I miss my grandchildren like a lost limb. I miss the smell of my own woods. But the world is a beautiful place, and the people who live here are fascinating creatures. Tomorrow I will be able to move on to all those cliched perceptions of Italians when we take the train to Milan!

Auf Weidersehn!