The European Union’s 28 member states are governed by a set of fixed laws and regulations but each of the tiny nations has its own unique culture, system of governance, policing, weather and habitats. At one level, many of them look similar but given their volatile histories, they still carry the scars of the wars, the colonisation and now the very noticeable signs of recession. Travelling through some of these beautiful and historic places, a few observations that got registered early into the trip.
Taru works in the development sector on communications and is gradually succumbing to wanderlust as she finds the light-footed traveller in her
- Seamless travel seems to be the buzzword. Many airports do not have check-in staff; you are supposed to just check yourself in. It is all automated. Most hotels too are manned by just 1 or 2 persons who perform multiple functions like receptionist, bell boy, porter, cashier, and room service waiter.
- Smaller hotels can get locked by 11 pm and front office staff is relieved of night duty (cost cutting). You are told to let yourself in with your key.
- Charges on weekends can be double that of week days. So if you book yourself for say Friday and Saturday you could end up paying 150 euro for Friday and upto 350 euro for Saturday
- Water is not served anywhere and you have to buy it as you go along. While restaurants will charge 3-5 euro a bottle, stores like Carrefour will sell it for less than 1 euro
- The plastic generated in Europe makes you wonder if they are indeed eco friendly. While garbage collection is very meticulous with residents in Netherlands being fined upto 120 euro for throwing the wrong thing in the wrong bin (they also have separate bins on the road side for dog poops!), they still use and rely on hundreds of different kinds of plastic bags.
- Low cost airlines like Ryan air offers non refundable tickets which if booked in advance can be bought for as little as 30 euro from say Netherlands to Spain. Seating is free and you are just allowed one bag of 10 kg. For all add ons, there is a hefty charge. Interestingly, in Spain, people clap when the craft touches down safely!
- Snazzily dressed seniors is a common sight. Accessorising their bright coloured jackets, shoes and bags, they are seen having a good time. Being on a wheel chair or using a stick to walk does not deter them and they also are not chaperoned. Independent and alert, they manage just fine.
- People, especially women are not so bothered about getting sun burnt or having great bodies. You will find women of all ages and shapes unselfconscious as they walk around on beaches, greedily lapping up the sunshine, regardless of sunburn, tan, sun spots and freckles.
- Family vacations seem the norm with couples wheeling infants in prams, carrying all the accompanying paraphernalia. Everyone makes right of way for those with babies and seniors.
- No one stares and those who do are mostly Indians! A rare case of a bloke with Google glares which had false lenses and a mini-video camera taking pictures of topless women on a beach in Barcelona was arrested within minutes of his devious act. Unfortunately open staring may be frowned upon but is not a criminal offence, but can be just as disconcerting.