Thoughts on Europe

Well I’m back from vacation. I went through Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Sweden.

First off, the baltics are completely safe. Despite rigorous scientific testing I found no incidents of myself being mugged while staggering drunkenly through the streets at 3 in the morning. I got lots of warnings from many people about crime before I left but they seem to have been unfounded.

There is a lot of poverty. I got hotel room for about $6 a night in Riga. I think the New Zealander that described it as “grim” was right on. I had some difficulty sleeping because Riga is pretty far north and when I arrived there at 2:30 in the morning it was already light outside. The fact the room had no curtains didn’t help. (Another interesting fact was that turning the one knob by the faucet caused cold water to flow while turning the other caused the faucet to shake. Reminds me of the Frank Zappa album where the knobs are labeled “Hot” and “Rats”.)

Sweden was very cold and rainy. It was 10 degrees Celsius in the middle of June! You know there’s something wrong when Canadians complain about the cold. The Wasa museum was good though.

I’ve completely changed my opinion on Warsaw. Just 3 years ago it was like something out of the movie Brazil. Now the old cars & russian trucks have dissapeared so the city doesn’t constantly smell like fumes. Everything’s being renovated and city is almost… pleasant. To anyone that’s ever seen what Warsaw looked like before that’s almost impossible to believe.

Questions? Comments? Nigerian weasel fur?

Nice to see you again Konrad.

Welcome back!

Welcome Back!

I just got back from Europe a few weeks ago, visited Germany, Italy, Austria, and the Czech Republic.

About the former communist countries, I don’t think the Czech Republic is doing too well economically since it became free. I drove through parts that looked kind of run down. Prague, however (which was the only place I spent any time in Czech anyway), was doing great since it gets a hell of a lot of tourism, that was probably my favorite city of the ones I visited. I, too, had been warned about the crime there–not really violent crime, just pickpockets and that sort of thing. Didn’t have any problems.

Dresden is undergoing a big reconstruction now. It never really was rebuilt after the War (not as it should have been, anyway), so a lot of the old buildings are now finally being rebuilt from the original stones. The Frauenkirche is under scaffolding, as are (and have been over the past 10 years) a lot of other buildings. That was my first visit, so I have nothing to compare it to, but my friend, who’s been in Dresden for the past two years, said it’s amazing how much reconstruction has taken place since he’s been there. Learned a lot about the bombing (about two or three times a year they have to evacuate part of the city becaue they still find live bombs). I talked a lot with his girlfriend who grew up in Dresden, and learned quite a bit from her about what it’s like living under communism. It gave me a real good feeling to see it all being rebuilt; their goal is to have it done by 2006, which is the 800th anniversary of the city.

The Czech republic is doing very well actually. It looks run down but you should’ve seen what it used to look like. There is a lot of unemployment but I think that’s a transitional problem.

I’ve noticed that big cities do tend to look better than the countryside. I guess this is just a natural effect of a changing economy. Farming is no longer profitable and people are moving into the cities to find work. Same thing is happening in Poland. In the last few years land values have gone up 4 or 5 fold in some cities.

One portion of Nigerian Weasel fur, please.

You seem as pleasantly surprised with Warsaw as I was with my recent visit to Croatia. They were a very warm and caring people who welcomed us with open arms.

I didn’t have to dodge a single sniper.

Romania? I spent 3 weeks there back in 72, beautiful (if oppressed) country/city. when the eathquake hit their capitol, I cried when I saw the pictures of the devestation. any more recent reports?

Chief sez:

I was surprised because I was there 3 years ago and I really didn’t like it. It was a fine example of Stalinist architecture.

Of course, you know that there was no war in Croatia. It is on my list of places to visit… Kinda like Greece but with less tourists.

Hej Konrad!
We do usually have it hot here in Sweden in the summer,
about 25-35 degres.
But this summer is awfull,
it’s raning and raining.
I’m sorry you didn’t have more luck with the weather here.

:: Shudder! ::

Hey, welcome back Konrad, thanks for the postcard!