At the onset, let me begin by saying that Europe is one of our favorite continents to travel to, just like it is for most people in the world. The old world charm, the history, the food and the cities…no other continent can match them.
However, there are three things I don’t like about Europe. Two of them deal with the needs of the bodily functions, the third with a disease.
First one: Why is it expensive to satisfy my body’s need for water?
In our hotel room in Germany, the price for a bottle of water was almost $7! Down the street, we got a bottle of reasonably god wine for about $5. Where in the world is water more expensive than wine? Also, in a restaurant, they would serve tap water very reluctantly, and only after the waiter has made every effort to give you bottled water. The look on his/her face while serving tap water is, “Here we go again, some country bumpkins visiting our precious country.”
Second one: Why is it expensive and difficult to satisfy my body’s need to remove water?
We were at Wensee station in Berlin where we were to meet our German friends. We both were jet lagged and in need to find a bathroom in a short order. The bathrooms in the station were not only difficult to find but locked. Who locks toilets? So, we went outside and asked the person sitting in a store where one could find toilets. He said in firm voice, “No toilets.” I asked again, this time in German, but the same response, but in an angry voice, “NO TOILETS.” Getting a bit angry myself, I asked him if people in his town do it in the open. “NO, TOILETS.” Fortunately, our friends arrived and drove us to a place with open public toilets. However, there we needed to rustle up exact change in order to feed a turnstile to enter the blessed facility. That turned out to be the case everywhere in Europe. Pay per use. No free toilet.
Third one, a European disease: Why do I get attacked by pickpockets?
We have travelled around the world and I have been pickpocketed four times. Once in Guatemala, which is understandable, given the fairly violent nature of that country. However, the other three times have been in Europe, the bastion of Western civilization.
The first time was in Vienna. I stupidly left my camera bag in my train compartment when I went out to get a newspaper. The bag was gone when I returned. The policeman I complained to was totally unhelpful, and a fellow passenger in my compartment pronounced, “It has to be a foreigner. People in Vienna don’t steal.” I lost my camera equipment, and every roll of film I had exposed in my short vacation.
The second time was in Rome, when kids showing me something mobbed me. Before I knew what was going on, they swiped a pouch in my pocket. It contained airline ticket and Amex Traveller’s checks. This was sheer stupidity on my part. However, there was no loss as both of those got replaced in about two hours.
The third time was in Berlin, when kids stood in the entrance of the subway car, not allowing me to get in. Once again, I did not realize what was going on, but when they left the car and ran away, I found that the zipper of my fanny pack was open. They took nothing because the only thing I had in that pack was a telephoto lens…of value to me but not to them. I actually had an iPhone in one pocket and some cash in the other. However, the fanny pack acted as a decoy and saved me. I lost nothing this time.
Why do these things happen only in Europe? I roam around everywhere in US, Central America, South America and Asia, and with the exception of one incidence, no one has pickpocketed me. I don’t worry about my wallet, camera or stuff in a fanny pack while boarding a subway train in NY or roaming the streets. No such luck in Europe.
I am sure there are plenty of things that annoy people when they visit US. No place is perfect. Not even Europe.