European Vacation

Buongiorno!  Guten Morgen! 

We just arrived home this week from a wonderful two weeks in Europe.  One week was spent in Italy and the other in Austria.  It was a time when all four of us (my husband and our two sons) had a chance to be together and see places that we have only read about.

As we travelled around I was struck with many thoughts and ideas.  I am sure that my posts in the next couple of weeks will reflect them.  The thing that struck me the most was the civility that was displayed, especially in Vienna where we spent our second week.  It wasn't any surprise that I since discovered that Vienna is considered one of the most livable cities in the world. 

The first thing that I noticed that the city was clean.  In some ways I hate to say that because it sounds superficial. A city being clean is saying that attractive people are nice.  Which we know isn't necessarily true.  Cleanliness doesn't necessarily equate to being good or great.

However, it was so striking that I couldn't miss it. We travelled pretty extensively around the city and its environs and I rarely saw any litter.  The buildings looked so neat and put together.  The Viennese have a certain aesthetic.  When we would pass through the more manufacturing and industrial areas of the city even the lumber or parts were stacked neatly.  The workman fixing the stucco on the apartment building next door to where we were staying had the scaffolding, gear and even construction debris all neatly organized.  It was a beautiful still life of practical objects.

In observing the habitants it occurred to me that this is not a city of neat freaks (although if you lived there and were not one you might feel out of place).  It seemed as if the underlying reason for neatness was that there is a sense of "we are all sharing this space together and so let's make the most of it".  It is a philosophy of consideration.  Leaving the place just like or better than you found it.  The is always an exception that proves the rule. At one of our supper picnics in the local park, there was a family who left some trash on the bench.  But I also saw people picking up dropped paper and blowing debris and putting that detritus in the trash can. 

There seemed to be a respect for others and each one's personal space.  We did not witness any raucous behavior or even extremely loud conversations in public.  People waited patiently in queues to get on and off mass transit.  One is allowed to carry open containers of alcohol.  We saw many people enjoying a bottle of beer or wine during lunch or evening repasts.  I am sure that some of the gatherings can get loud but we never saw anyone out of control with the drinking.  On one of our day trips we met some Canadians. In speaking with them about many issues the husband spoke about Canada and its very strict alcohol laws.  He feels that Canada's confining restrictions causes the public to abuse the drinking unlike the Austrian's more liberal policy where the drinking is just a part of one's day.  Whether it is the moderation principle or that the Austrians are just polite and considerate and wouldn't think of over imbibing as to abuse and ruin their space through drunken disorderly conduct, who knows? 

It just seems as if the neatness and organization stems from a love of aesthetics and keeping things beautiful.  There is a correlation between surrounding oneself with fine art, good music and great ideas that lifts one out of the humdrum of existence. It appears to be a philosophy of enjoying life and letting other's enjoy his/her life too. No wonder there is statue of Goethe in one of the parks. 

What about you?  Have you had the opportunity to get away?  Did you observe behaviors or norms in the place where you went?  What strikes you the most when you travel?  Can that philosophy travel home with you?

After spending some time in Europe, I wish I could transplant some of the ideology here.  Not all of it mind you, but just the best parts from each place. I think I might start with my own home and its aesthetics. Not because I want to be a neat freak but because it is important to drink in with our senses all things that are beautiful.