Saturday, August 3, 2013
some final thoughts
I'll finish here with some thoughts and observations on some of the things we encountered. I doubt there is much insight in any of these, but Keri and I thought it important to share nonetheless.
Air conditioning. We had problems with the air conditioning units in every single hotel/flat that had one. This cannot be mere coincidence. Rather, I am certain it reflects the total lack of regard most Europeans have for artificially cooled air. I don't care what they say. When it comes down to it, most Europeans don't believe in air conditioning. I heard from one person that her German co-workers think it causes illness/injury (actual example: "I have a stiff neck because I used the air conditioning unit in my car yesterday"). As a result, many office buildings and other semi-public spaces have no air conditioning, even though those the cities where they are built can go weeks on end with temperatures approaching 90. Europe has many fine qualities, but it can get hot in the summer, and if you plan to vacation there between June and September, prepare to sweat.
Laundry Services. Because of our laundry issues, we ended up sampling bulk clothes washing services in London, Edinburgh, Rome and Pontresina. They ranged in price and quality. Bottom line is you get what you pay for. London was among the cheaper services, but I had a shirt ruined and we did get our laundry back fresh out of the dryer -- as in, someone literally dumped the clothes into a bag right from the dryer and handed back to us our bag filled with clean, wrinkled clothes. Pontresina had, far and away, the best quality, but we had to spend a portion of the kids' college fund to use it. I'm sure they'll understand when we explain it to them years down the road.
Showers. This is one area where I am glad to report substantial progress on the part of our European allies. Years ago, one actually had to bathe -- literally -- to get clean in the Old World. Stewing in your own filth, as I like to call it. Every place we stayed had a shower, and not just the kind of afterthought, I'll attach a hand-held shower head to this tub faucet and let you try to use it without the benefit of any kind of shower curtain situation, as many of you have probably experienced in the past. With the air conditioning and laundry issues, it was really, really important the the Europeans at least employ an effective self-cleaning system, which they now have. Kudos.
Hamburgers. Scratch that. The Europeans still have not a clue what a hamburger is supposed to taste like. In the early 90's Whit Stillman film, Barcelona, the local Spaniards think Americans are idiots, in part, because our national love affair with the hamburger. The only hamburgers the Barcelonans have tasted are, of course, total dreck; ergo, Americans cannot be trusted. At the end of the film, three of the Spanish women are introduced, lakeside in Wisconsin, to real American hamburgers, which tastes nothing like they have eaten before. Maybe these Americans aren't so stupid, after all. Sadly, this situation has seen little improvement. I have no idea why some enterprising American restauranteur has not opened up a serious burger joint in Europe, as it would change everything, raising the bar for all hamburgers across the continent -- and improving American foreign relations. A win-win. Maybe on my next sabbatical.
Exercise. Europeans exercise differently. There are some gyms, but nothing on the order of what we have here. (Nor did I see a single Lulu Lemon. I have no idea how these people call themselves civilized.) We saw some people running in London, but not really anywhere else. We saw lots of cyclists in rural Italy and, of course, lots of cyclists and hikers and mountaineers in Switzerland. Despite the apparent absence of daily, systematic exercise factories, Europeans appear to be in pretty good shape -- at least better than we Americans. I think most of this can be attributed to the benefits of having to walk everywhere. The food may have something to do with it, too. Really, I don't know, but there is something to be said for the European lifestyle.
Beds. I wrote about this a little before. European beds are about 4000% harder than their American counterparts. At just about every place we stayed, Keri had to place blankets/comforters under her side of the bed. I have no idea why there would be this different approach to bed firmness. Perhaps, the Europeans think softer mattresses are akin to air conditioning. More likely they simply don't know beds come in firmness levels other than Fred & Wilma Flintstone.
Bra fitting. [This is Keri's contribution.] What do Italian women have against under-wire bras? Everywhere we went in Italy, we were confronted by Italian boobies. And, not perky, young boobies. More like the old woman from Something About Mary with a thin, see-through tee shirt added to the image. Similar to Tim's nascent hamburger business idea, all we need here is one enterprising American brassiere mogul, a measuring tape, and some time. This will work. And the women of Europe -- and their breasts -- will thank me.
In Switzerland, I watched the opening credits to a German language medical drama. No fewer than forty people were featured -- name and picture -- in those credits. Curiosity compelled me to watch the first five minutes. I speak not more than a few words of German, but I can sure as hell recognize abysmal acting in any language, and I saw an epic amount it in the first two scenes. And, yes, the Europeans do borrow some American programming, which they dub into their local language. Although this would seem to offer some potential for importing quality American programming, the results are opposite, as most of the shows are bad shows from the 80's and 90's. I think this may be part of a broader conspiracy -- along with the hamburger -- to make the people think that Americans are total dullards. There is no other explanation.
And with that, I bid you all adieu. Thanks so much for reading, and stay tuned, as you never know when vacation and inspiration will conspire to force me back to my blogging ways.