Geez, I bet most every traveler, once home, is asked pretty much the same questions – where did you go? What did you see? What did you like most and what did you like the least? The first two questions have been covered already in various blog posts. Now it’s time to field the next two questions. But I want to add two more sets of answers – where I think California shines and where it doesn’t relative to our experience on this trip.

Of course we had only a five week vacation in the middle of summer to form a few personal impressions of Germany and make some comparisons with the life we know in California, but we’ve had a good bit of practice in the past on visits to Germany so we kinda know the turf. We’re not talking of politics, economy and such here, only giving a tourist’s street view of things that came to mind on this trip in particular.

For starters, we had a splendid time on our vacation with great weather for the most part. The dollar was a bit weak but all the necessities were reasonably priced. Eva could handle any language issues, and Suzi with her amazing smile opened everybody’s heart.

Pros

  • As you can tell from our photos, food and beer were great hits. Restaurant fare was always well prepared and well served by competent staff. In grocery stores we dissected labels like Sherlock Holmes and found few additives, short pull times and ingredients we could understand. Sugar by its many names was rarely added. Chocolates and breads were of the highest quality.
  • Breakfast is almost an art form in Germany, or maybe all the hotels and pensions play one-upmanship games. What a way to start the day with a REAL Continental breakfast – dozens of fresh choices of the very best that a breakfast can offer. And breakfast is almost always included in the room rate. In the evening we so enjoyed dining at sidewalk cafes and restaurants, watching life go by, beer in hand, with no cares in the world. Lingering twilight at these high latitudes was made for this.
  • Listed prices, whether for goods or meals, always included all taxes and tips. We always understood the cost of everything.
  • The very popular plastic beverage bottles can be recycled at most grocery stores and a receipt given on the spot for a refund in cash or goods. As for grocery bags, you bring your own or pay for them.
  • Fast food outlets do not dominate the restaurant scene. They hardly register though there are a fair number, mostly American brands.
  • Road conditions were exemplary. Separation of cars, bikes and pedestrians is taken seriously, as is the frequent use of roundabouts and bypasses to reduce accidents and urban congestion. Despite high population density, highways go through miles of open space as though no one lived there at all, even though villages often are spaced every couple of miles or so apart.
  • Most every town of any size has a pedestrian zone with limited vehicular traffic. Cars are parked on the periphery of town and people have to walk a bit to get places. Imagine that!
  • Outdoor advertising is very limited so the landscape is uncluttered. McDonald’s and Burger King find loopholes to sully the view.
  • Trains and buses run exactly on time so schedules can be counted on. As an example, at 4:34 in the morning of our last day in Berlin, our bus arrived on time to the minute and delivered us to the airport in the scheduled 16 minutes. Within 30 minutes of leaving our hotel we were fully checked in and waiting for our flight to be called. An hour later at 6:00 we landed in Amsterdam.
  • I liked the road rule of not allowing passing on the right. This leads to predictability of traffic behavior.
  • Renewable energy generation using solar panels and wind turbines is widespread, probably the greatest usage of any country, encouraged of course by heavy subsidy.
  • Utility lines are often underground, or run in ways to not clutter the visual environment.
  • Hiking trails are plentiful, well-graded and well-signed.
  • With occasional jarring exception, most modern buildings fit in with their older neighbors. There’s harmony in the cityscape that’s most pleasing and exciting.

Cons

  • Many stretches of the autobahn have no speed limit. That means you always keep in the slow lane until you need to pass the vehicle ahead of you. So you are going 60 miles an hour. No one in sight. You pull out to pass and suddenly a car is on your tail going 120 miles an hour. This happens almost instantly. It’s nerve wracking. Especially when the truck in front is doing 50.
  • It’s time to pee. You are in the train station, on the autobahn, in a department store, in a fancy restaurant. You need money, gal. Sometimes a dollar or more. Get used to it.
  • It’s time to check out of your hotel. The bill is $600. They don’t take credit cards. What! Right. Get used to it. You eat a meal out. Cash again, guy. This country wasn’t built on credit. Make sure you know where the ATM machines are located.

California (US) Shines

  • Ice water. Bring it on. Free. Doesn’t exist in Germany where bottled water can cost more than a beer.
  • Gasoline is only $4.00 a gallon. What a bargain. In Germany you pay $8.00 a gallon. Rent a small car; drive as little as possible.
  • Grocery bags are still free and someone else fills them for you. Don’t expect that over there, and be quick about it, too! Move along, ma’am.
  • Turn right on red. You betcha. At least in California.

California (US) Doesn’t Shine

  • “Continental breakfast”.
  • Billboards and gaudy attention-getting buildings.
  • Rundown, slummy places all over the place. Lack of civic pride.
  • Potholes and other crumbling infrastructure, sign of serious problems ahead.
    • Well, there you have it. We’re almost ready for another vacation. Nothing much better than Germany. Even the beaches have great sand.

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