29 June 2008

Europa and The Second Amendment

As you can surmise from the photographs recently posted I was given a week in Germany on a “business trip”. I spent one day at the world’s largest printing trade show, DRUPA, in Dusseldorf, and the rest of the week goofing around and doing what Ugly Americans do best, that is, gawking, murdering the language, and taking lots of snap-shots.

We landed in Frankfurt and made our way up the Rhine valley, visiting Rudesheim, Remagen, Coln, Dusseldorf, Minden, Rothensburg, and Heidelberg before heading back to Frankfurt just in time to catch the plane back to the promised land. One week isn’t enough time to do anything but get a vague sample of what a Country really is like, but first impressions are important and mine were very positive. I found Germany to be absolutely beautiful, clean, well maintained, friendly, and yes, the beer is better. The money is prettier than ours and worth more too. I guess the almighty super-power greenback isn’t what it used to be.

One of the striking differences from the USA that I noticed is the attitude towards energy conservation. Instead of whining about their God given right to be wasteful, Europe has apparently gotten on the Green bandwagon a long time ago and shows a great deal of progress in the effort to reduce the consumption of energy and natural resources.

The photo is one of those high-tech electricity generating windmill which is still somewhat of a rarity in the US. In the highlands of central Germany we passed miles and miles of these windmill farms stretching as far as the eye could see. They produce electricity without creating any pollution by using one of the cheapest and most renewable natural resources I can think of: wind. The downside is the intrusion on agricultural land, the tremendous expense of erecting these monsters, and the constant noise pollution of the gentle whoomp-whoomp-whoomp of the rotating blades. Visual pollution is another issue. Once you get used to seeing these things I would not really say that they harm the visual beauty of the country side. Just different, not ugly. Kinda like some conceptual art installation piece on a very large scale that doesn’t ever go away.

Conservation measures are common-place. Gasoline is very expensive and small efficient automobiles are the norm. There are still lots of big black BMWs and SAABs roaring down the autobahn at 160 Kilometers per hour, but I guess that is for the well heeled elite that can afford to do so. Bicycles abound, and, gee whiz, it looked like people actually walked a lot in the cities! Instead of driving they take advantage of the well developed train system, and the electric trams in the cities and then walk some. Novel idea. Must be why we saw very few pudgy folks out and about. Maybe all the fat ones stay home.

The hotel corridors were usually pitch black when you went up to your room. The lights came on with motion activated switches or you had to turn them on yourself. We found early on that the lights in the rooms would not stay on longer than one minute unless you inserted your electronic door key-card in the main light switch by the door. Without it the lights will not work. Unless your are just plain dullwitted, you won’t walk out and leave the lights on behind you!

Toilets were all water-saver models, much like the water-saver models mandated for all new construction in the US. The only difference is that they seem to work. Most toilets even had a “big flush” button and a “little flush” button. We figured that out real quick. I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday, you know.

Looks like the good old U.S. of A. could take some energy conservation lessons from Europeans. I hope so.

Oh, and about that Second Amendment thing, They aint got one.

Auf Wiedersehen.

15 June 2008