Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Scorecard – Seattle vs. Köln (or more generally America vs. Germany)

This will probably become an on-going list, mostly to tell you about some of the funny (or smart) things they do in Germany and Europe in general. Here is the first installment:

Toilets: Seattle.
Let's get this out of the way as quickly as possible. Germans can actually halt the flush on their toilets, which is an excellent way to save water. But really no other aspect of their standard toilet design fails to baffle. More cannot be said on this matter without potentially spoiling, well, the rest of your life. Suffice it to say that it is a continual annoyance.

Drinking Water: Tie.
Although we're told that some people do – scandalously - drink tap water in Köln, we've been resigned to buy our water in 1.5 liter bottles. It isn't very expensive (about EU 0,19 per bottle), except that there's an additional EU 0,25 bottle deposit. That and the gruntwork of awkwardly walking the plastic-wrapped six-pack home. We've seen no evidence that water delivery (think Sparkletts) is used much here. Entrepreneurial readers take note: that market is wide open. So these don't really sound like good things, I know, so why the tie? Because we can round up our empties and feed them into what amounts to a vending machine in reverse, and usually get back enough scrilla for lunch. Yes, its money we've already paid, but there's something mindlessly empowering about the alchemical feeling of turning garbage into, say, pre-sliced Dutch cheese, or a smoked trout, or several bottles of Franziskaner. Oh yeah, that reminds me, beer bottles work the same way. Some grocery stores don't have the machines, and manually accept them at the checkout counter. Before we realized this, Chris was convinced that the checkers were nursing half-liter bottles of Bitburger while they worked.

Parks: Köln.
I've always thought, and still think, that Seattle is rich with beautiful parks. However, Köln has more parks, bigger parks, and probably more beautiful and impressive parks. They may be taken for granted as lunchbreak tanning fields, but hey, they've got lakes and herons and rabbits and fish and things. Dogs are offleash throughout, but they unexpectedly don't act like drunken escaped convicts. We haven't yet been sniffed or pounced on by overeager pets. The parks are so vast that one can easily get lost, which has already happened to Kelly (thankfully only once), easily doubling the length of her morning run.

Porn: Seattle.
Say what you want about America's uneasy relationship with the printed image. However, on my way to catch a 7am train, did I really need to see lifesize reproductions of Courtney Love's nipples? I didn't.

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