Auf Wiedersehen: Us vs. Them
Well, it's always good to get away. And it's always, always, always good to be going home. (Even though it's 85 degrees in Boston, and our condo will be broiling, and I'll have to start worrying about whether Roger Clemens'$ new turn as a Yankee is going to end with him beating the Red Sox at some crucial point. Or whether he will choke and fail at just the right moment... Yep, I'm almost back already.)
Travel outside the country ALWAYS gets me thinking about what I appreciate most about Boston and The States, and also about the things that "someplace else" may have that's superior. Not surprisingly, this will not be a sophisticated analysis of the merits of different economic or political systems. Just what comes to mind when it comes down to us vs. them.
- Public transportation. Dresden train debacle aside (and, remember, it was a Czech train), the public transport (including taxis that actually know where they're going) is really tremendous, leading to one other place in which Berlin is superior:
- Traffic. This is a Big City. We have not seen anything that even vaguely resembles a traffic jam, and the city is stunningly free of the highways/expressways/whatevers that bisect so many American cities.
- Pedestrian friendliness. Boston is pretty darn pedestrian friendly compared to a lot of places in The States, but the sidewalks here are wide (many wide enough to accommodate the ubiquitous bicycles) and the little men on the walk/don't walk signs (which have become a tourist symbol of the city) are just adorable. And I have the earrings to prove it.
- Clean. Most of the trash we've seen on the streets was blown out of trashbaskets, or lifted out by dumpster-diving birds. The other day, after a light rain storm, there was a street sweeper out swooshing down the bicycle paths. The restrooms we've been in - including in the train stations - have been immaculate. Why, you could eat off the floor....
- Capable of electing a woman to the country's highest office. Angela Merkel's election put Germany up there with Israel, India, Pakistan, The Phillipines, and Great Britain as places that have entrusted their fate to a woman. Maybe someday...
- Diversity. Okay, there are plenty of Turks, and the occasional Asian or African floating around, but there's not all that much variation out and about. Sure, they all look like me, but I could have done with a few hip-hop kids or some little old Italian ladies in black dresses. Just for a little change of pace.
- Jaywalking. I admittedly noted above that Berlin is a more pedestrian friendly city, but I really couldn't live in a place where no one jaywalks. Which may mean that I will remain in Boston the rest of my life. (One time in San Francisco, my husband and I started stepping out into the street against the light but with no traffic whatsoever in sight when a cop hollered to us, "Hey, Boston, get back on the sidewalk.")
- Food. Boston may be no one's idea of a gourmet capital, but at least when I order a club sandwich I don't have to worry about whether it's going to have egg salad smeared all over it. Or be served on cracker-bread. Not to mention a bit too many sightings of pigs knuckles on menus. Food court at the KaDeWe department store (which rivals Harrod's) aside, Boston's got it all over Berlin.
- TV. Yes, most of our television is complete and utter crap. But there's a reason that most countries import our TV shows. BBC aside, it's better. No doubt it would help if I spoke German or Turkish, but when you say "There's nothing on TV" in Berlin, you really and truly mean it. (And, please, nobody tell me what happened on The Sopranos the other night until I have a chance to catch up.)
- Baseball. They absolutely, positively, 100% don't know what they are missing.