On our way back to the room, Benjamin noted that he is not always proud of the United States. So, in his honor, we have worked up a list of reasons we are glad we live in the United States, from the perspective of a family who has spent a month (!) traveling throughout Europe.
- PUBLIC WATER FOUNTAINS - Everywhere we have been, we have had to buy water, at a very steep price, and often we can only find water with "bubbles." At our hotel in Billund, the restaurant charged us 50 DKK (12 $) for TAP WATER at dinner. We are saving our water bottles and refilling like crazy.
- FREE BATHROOMS - There is nothing like paying for a toilet, only to find it as disgusting as a porta potty, smelly and gross. The bathroom we paid for in Vejle this morning was lit with only ultraviolet lights. And we paid 50 cents to use it!!!
- RELIGION - Although America's religious right is scary, America is a much more religious country than any we have visited so far, at least as measured in paricipation in organized religion. Our churches play an important social/charity role in our country. Many European churches are state-sponsored, and come with the pitfalls associated with government.
- LOW TAXES - I know those who have not travelled abroad would disagree, but the US has very low taxes. I hesitate to put this on a list of positives, because our low taxes = low public services. But for those who hate taxes, the United States is the place to be.
- FREEDOM - This is Benjamin's contribution, and he says that in the United States we are free to do what we want.
- CAR RENTALS - We attempted to rent a car today to get us to the farm that we ultimately couldn't reach, but were unable to becasue they were extremely expensive, and the rental places were closed, which leads us to...
- SUNDAYS - In the United States, most everything is open at least for a bit on Sundays. Not true here. Almost all the shops in Odense (where we are now) are closed today, as are most of the restaurants, car rentals, buses, etc. Funny, this seems opposite of #3, but we Americans tend to be hypocritical, don't we?
- MELTING POT - Looking around Legoland, 95% of the people had blond hair. Not much diversity, to say the least. With the exception of the big cities, we have seen very little diversity here. Even with our racial problems, we're proud that America has so many different cultures.
- SMOKING LAWS - Although smoking has dimished since our last European trip (in 1998), it is still prevalent. People smoke just about everywhere. I see parents practically blowing smoke in their children's faces. The restaurants prohibit smoking inside, but on the outside terraces, you're likely to be seated close to a smoker. Yuck.
- EXTRA CHARGES - Everything costs extra here. Today we went by a grocery store that charges for shopping carts. You also have to pay if you want shopping bags at some places. At this hotel, coffee and tea cost extra. Yesterday we would have had to pay to use the swimming pool. And with the value of the dollar, it makes it even worse.
That's all we have for now. We are working on a list of what the US can learn from Europe. Stay tuned!!!