We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Wednesday, August 25. 2010
Instead, some more thoughts collected from our trip. A Part 2 of my Guten Morgen post.
- Next time I travel with a group of family or friends, I will bring my 5-mile walkie-talkies that I use for hunting trips. A great way to call in and say "Want to meet for lunch?', since each subgroup seems to go off in their own direction.
- I forgot to mention how immaculate the bathrooms are. And, unlike NYC, you can just walk into any cafe and use theirs. They don't mind.
- I was amazed by how many people are crippled, hobbling around on crutches or in wheelchairs. Young and old. It made it clear to me how socialized medicine saves money on orthopedic procedures. In Regensburg I saw a pregnant young lady with, I think, moderate scoliosis, wobbling around town on two crutches, carrying a bag of groceries. That would never happen in America, even if poor. HSS would fix her up overnight - and thank her for the privilege.
- The vast majority of Austrians, and Bavarians too, are Roman Catholic. They go to church. Some Lutherans in Bavaria, and some Evangelical Lutherans too. Their old churches are still alive - not museums.
- If Freud had not been a Jew, he would never have come up with Psychoanalytic theory. Despite being a prominent young Neurologist and researcher/scholar, a Jew could not be appointed Professor in Vienna. The Gentile docs just referred him the wacky patients they did not want to bother with, so he decided to try to listen to them and to try to make sense of what ailed them. Had he not been a Jew, he would have been a wealthy Herr Professor of Neurology. Necessity is the mother of invention.
- Riverboat cruising has become a big deal over the past ten years. It's really a new form of vacation travel. I like it. I love ships and boats in general. No moving from hotel to train to hotel to car, and you always have guides right there when you want them. Our boat cruised back and forth between Budapest and Amsterdam, but most people just did legs of the trip (as we did). The boat had plenty of bikes to use, too. Just sign up for them.
- Wiener Schnitzel: I still don't get what is supposed to be so good about this cardboard-like food. Why do people eat it?
- Kesler reminded me of a thought I had had, regarding our deep Germanic cultural roots. (By "our" I mean especially Brit, Swiss, American, Aussie, Canadian, Dutch, etc.) Even our language is Germanic, not to mention our meat-and-potato diet. German is the easiest language for English-speakers to learn, and these folks live, act, and work like Americans. Quite a cultural contrast with Italians, French, and Spanish.
- One of the things that makes German and Austrian beers so good, over there in the biergartens, is that they are fresh, usually unpasteurized, and often unfiltered. Makes a big difference. Our big brand American beers really are not very tasty - but you knew that. Is Coors Lite or Bud Lite the best-selling "beer" in the US?
- Did we shop and buy stuff? Darn little. Mrs. BD bought a bracelet in Regensburg for 14 Euros. My daughter bought a cheese serving plate. I bought two sets of beer glasses from pubs, and a couple of beer mugs from a biergarten, all for 2-3 Euros each. Oh, also bought an umbrella at Schonbrunn when it started raining, but we left it behind somewhere after two days. Photos and experiences are what I like to bring home.
- Random factoid: The remarkable Marcus Aurelius died in Vindobona (now Wien - Vienna) while touring the edges of the empire. He was always at war with the Germans, but Roman civilization never extended much north of the barrier of the Danube.
Photo: Passau again, from the Oberhaus. I especially enjoyed Passau and Regensburg. Note the rotting mess of a 1960s-era, now-abandoned cafe up there on the left, while the c. 900 castle and fortifications stand strong and proud. Note also, from a high vantage point, how clear the demarcation is between town and country. No sprawl. That's their land use laws at work.
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That was an interesting comment about seeing more crippled people in Germany and Austria than in the US. While our medical care is more expensive, to a degree at least we are getting more for what we pay for, as shown by greater innovation in the US in pharmaceuticals, medical instruments, and orthopedic devices- and more funding for use of them. At one time, a reply to your observation might have been that it was a reflection of the greater damage from WW2 in Germany and Austria compared to the US, but most of that generation is in the grave by now.
Re German roots: a German accent in English doesn’t grate on my ears the way a Spanish accent in English does. As I have heard a lot more of a Spanish accent in English, I should be more accustomed to it by now.
Midwestern comfort food and by extension much of American comfort food – meat, potatoes, coleslaw et al – is basically German food. Not to mention hot dogs and mustard. Re sausages: the best locally made sausage from my childhood was not German, but Polish : Kielbasa. Which reflected the ethnic makeup of the area.
Your comment about German beer reminded me of Shiner Bock, a tasty dark beer that has been brewed in TX since 1913. The Wiki article said that Shiner Bock was originally only a Lent beer, which parallels your descriptions of the temporal quality of much German beer.
Very much enjoying your travel comments and photos, BD. Had to laugh at your comment about weiner schnitzel. Spent 2.5 years over in Germany and have been back a couple times. Each time I've tried weiner schnitzel I've told myself I won't do that again, it's downright unpalatable. But some time would go by and I'd think, well, must have just gotten it at the wrong place and I'd try again. Last time someone told me that the place we were going had excellent weiner schnitzel so I tried it. Never again. Downright unpalatable.
BD--glad to have you back home. You pretty much covered a trail my family took during our last "family expedition". We got a little more off the trail up there around Passau. Came into Salzberg on a very narrow (single car driveway size) road. I love Austria! Re: Weiner Schnitzel: I think the reason people love it is that if done correctly it is a lovely coming together of fried and lemon, plus it should be very tender.
Well, as far as the weiner schnitzel goes, can't say I ever found that lovely tender coming together thing.
"Is Coors Lite or Bud Lite the best-selling "beer" in the US?"
From some web site:
"Many people still think that America’s best selling beer is Budweiser, and many also think this is a national disgrace, but it actually gets worse. Since 2001 the best selling beer in the USA has been Bud Light, pushing its fat brother down to number two on the list. With an almost 16% share of the total market, Bud Light is also the world’s best selling beer, even though it’s only sold internationally in Canada, Ireland, Mexico, Colombia and Sweden. Budweiser itself is still a clear second place in the United States (as well as the world), with Miller Lite, Coors Lite, and Corona Extra not far behind in the USA."
Thanks for the post, BD, very interesting.
Re using 5 mile FRS/GMRS: Better check laws in those foreign countries. I seem to recall some restrictions in Deutschland when we were there. Great pictures. Makes me keenly aware of missing the great times on the big rivers of Europe.
Was about to say the same. Most European countries demand a radio operator license (and you won't get that without special training and a government approved exam) in order to use a transmitter with enough power to work over ranges of more than a few hundred meters (exact numbers differ between countries, but you'd need a new license for every country anyway, though some do recognise more strict licenses from other countries).
" It made it clear to me how socialized medicine saves money on orthopedic procedures"
Not necessarilly. It makes it clear how trying to save money on healthcare leads to crippling problems in patients who have to deal with medical failures or refusal to have less serious conditions dealt with the treatment of which was deemed too expensive by government regulators.
My mother is in a wheelchair now, missing a leg, because of a combination of such things. What was supposed to be a minor surgery (with a 2 week stay in hospital to recover only because of her diabetes, otherwise it would have been a 3 day stay and come back in 2 weeks to have the operation wound cleaned) turned into a 5 year ordeal that left her in hospital for (combined time) over 2 years and less one leg, all because the OR crew decided to use a cheap but less safe anesthetic on her that would (had things worked out) saved a few hours in a post-op ICU bed (and thus been cheaper).
In their defense, the negative reaction my mother experienced to the drug was largely unknown and not listed as a known side effect in the product documentation. What was known was that the means of application puts patients at risk because of a high chance of errors (which were indeed made).
" Wiener Schnitzel: I still don't get what is supposed to be so good about this cardboard-like food. Why do people eat it?"
If well prepared (which is rare in a Dutch run kitchen, or most kitchens in Vienna), Wiener Schitzel is some of the most succulent pork you've ever tasted, and lightly spiced.
"The vast majority of Austrians, and Bavarians too, are Roman Catholic. They go to church."
There's a roughly north-south divide running through Europe from Rotterdam to the Black Sea. North of it you'll find mostly protestants of every description, south of it Catholics and (in the east) Orthodox Christians.
It's been there for centuries.
I have never seen anyone with an (unrepaired) cleft palate or club foot in the US. I have, however, seen children and adults with these conditions in other countries. I can't remember if I've seen any in Europe, but definitely in Turkey and in South America. We are so mean in this country - correcting congenital deformities even when the parents have no health insurance.
I did a wee bit of traveling in Europe during my post graduate years. I found that when I visited Germany and Austria, it felt almost like home. Things just "made sense" to me in these countries from food to architecture. Call it a cultural identification if you will.
Full disclosure I come from a strong German heritage going back to the 1630s through the 1850s here in America and I learned German in high school and college. So at least attempting to speak the language had something to do with the sense of familiarity.
On the flip side the non-Germanic speaking countries were exciting but chaotic and "alien".
As to the German bier, each town and village seemed to have it's own brewery and instead of the milkman the bier man dropped off a carton on your door step.
not just seemed, many German villages and towns had (and many still have) their breweries and sausage makers, each with their unique recipes.
And with the German Reinheitsgebot, there are strict laws about what's allowed to go in.