Over the holidays I was fortunate to find myself in a couple of different European countries. I visited Kinsale, Cork, and Dublin in Ireland. Then onto Berlin, Germany and Prague in the Czech Republic. Now that I’ve returned to
the frozen hell that is Toronto, a more cultured individual, I thought I would share with you some of my findings from my journey.
I love Europe. The architecture and history is incredible and Canada is in most ways, incomparable. That being said, I feel so fortunate being from Canada, visiting countries that were ripped a part in recent history by the Cold War and World War II, it gives you a serious appreciation for being from a peaceful country. Beyond the obvious differences in continents and usual comparisons, there were everyday differences that I noticed and will now share with you. You can let me know who you think does it better.
Glass vs. Plastic
In the cities I visited this time around in Europe, I noticed a trend: less plastic. Especially in Ireland, a large percentage of items are bottled in glass instead of plastic like Coca-Cola and yoghurt. Something about holding a glass bottle feels better than plastic, the taste holds it’s integrity better, and it’s easier to recycle. I realize there are plenty of downsides (broken glass is dangerous, heavier, has to be recycled properly) but it felt nice to leave the world of plastic for a while.
The Top Sheet
While in Europe we stayed in three different hotels and three different Air Bnb’s. All were amazing. The only downside? Not one place had a top sheet. You know the sheet on your bed that goes between you and the duvet? The sheet that is very useful if you’re anything like me and your temperature changes drastically every 15 mins while sleeping. All sheet sets in Canada come with a fitted sheet, a top sheet and two pillow cases. Do they not come that way in Europe? Where does the top sheet go? Is there one guy with thousands of top sheets? I’m so curious.
Drinking in the Street
We know, especially living in Ontario, that our government is a
ridiculously teensy bit strict about alcohol. They are strict about the age limit, where you can buy alcohol and where you can drink it. Well I move to accept a more European take on alcohol. Quebec has a more understanding policy – but in Europe I wasn’t ID’d at all (Am I just getting old?) and drinking is an open, accepted thing. You can buy wine and beer at most corner stores, and in Czech Republic and Germany that included liquor. It was also available for sale after 9pm. In Berlin, you can carry a bevy as you walk through the streets, there were even booths set up serving mulled wine (see below for details) on the street so you could just grab a cup and go as you stroll through the city. So many things are better with a drink: winter, shopping, riding the subway, walking, sightseeing. (Just to name a few)
Drinking on Planes
As a rule, I do enjoy a drink at the bar before getting on a plane, and then potentially on the plane depending on when/where I’m going. I think that’s a fairly common thing to do. Ireland takes this a step further. We left Dublin on a flight that departed at 8am. This meant we were at the airport at around 6am. Before the flight we sat down to grab a bite to eat – you know, a bagel and a glass of OJ, maybe some coffee if we were gonna be really wild – and as we looked around we noticed something peculiar. Everyone was drinking. Not Mimosa’s or Caesar’s either: pints of beer. Not just one pint, but multiple, pounding back pints at 7am. We were astonished. The guy next to us on the plane was so drunk he passed out immediately upon finding his seat; of course we couldn’t be sure that he wasn’t on a bender from the night before or if he had just started at 6am, but I’m not sure that would have mattered. It was nothing short of astonishing. So next time you order a pint before 9am, just tell everyone you’re Irish and catching a flight.
The “I’m Sorry” Complex
Canadians are mocked for being polite. Someone runs into you, you say you’re sorry. I’m terrible for that. I apologize a lot, and probably 1 out of 5 times I actually did something that needed apologizing for. Europeans do not have this complex. They also don’t see anything particularly wrong with knocking into you as you walk. This was especially bad in busy touristy areas or pedestrian heavy parts of the cities. I was so used to being body checked by the end of the trip I finally stopped apologizing to people who ran into me. It was enough to make you sentimental over the Canadian apology.
Mulled Wine VS. Anything Else
I’m not sure why we’ve adopted Irish pubs, Irish Coffee and St. Patrick’s Day but haven’t adopted mulled wine. Mulled wine, is spiced wine (more often Red) that is warmed up. It is spiced with Cloves, Cinnamon and Allspice among other things and often sweetened. It is hot and delicious and a way better holiday drink than Eggnog (sorry to all Eggnog enthusiasts). Mulled Wine was readily available everywhere in Europe along with other creative warm drinks.
One thing we did try in Prague that Canada should never adopt is Mead. We tried it because we recognized the name from any movie ever set in medieval times. We learned very quickly that mead is awful. Super sweet and very strong it feels like someone laid siege to your taste buds. It wasn’t for me.
This applies only to Berlin, Germany. I’ve taken a few European subway systems, and from what I’ve seen, as a broad statement: they are all better than Toronto’s TTC. The U-bahn was the same. The U-bahn and S-bahn go all over Berlin and connect a very large city easily. The trains run often and smoothly – even understanding little to no German it was a pleasure to use in comparison to the TTC. Just saying.