Europe… According to the British

Britain and Europe.

You thought that they were linked? Clearly the Brits disagree…

It’s all very mixed up.

The UK (or is it Great Britain? Or Scotland? Or Wales?…. England even?)…. They don’t really feel like Europe. Quite often you hear the UK media refer to ‘over in Europe’ as though the UK itself is not part of it.

Well it makes sense. We (Brits) are ever so glad to have the ‘English’ Channel to keep us and them far enough apart.

Here’s what the Brits really think of the rest of Europe.

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Will Scotland leave the UK?

Tensions between Scotland and London have been hotting up over recent months. The question about whether Scotland should split from the rest of the United Kingdom is not a new one. It’s also not a question which can go unanswered for much longer.

Personally, I think it’s a good thing that the question of independence be put to the people who will be affected. I would however prefer for Scotland to remain as part of the UK. I don’t see many benefits for an independent Scotland or a smaller UK within Europe with the current economic troubles.

I saw this referendum voting slip. Of course, it’s just for fun, but I do like it.

On a serious note, there have been strong debates over what the question will be. Will it be a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to independence or will there be a compromise; a semi-independence. I hope not. I think it should be ‘in’ or ‘out’. Too much hangs on it.

What will happen to the rest of the United Kingdom without Scotland? Will it still be called the UK? Some say yes, some say it cannot. What will happen to the Union Flag? The blue (from the St Andrew’s flag) will disappear…

Will Scotland enter the Euro? Will Wales and Northern Ireland also seek independence?

Countries dividing is nothing new in Europe. It wasn’t that long since Yugoslavia split into other countries (Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, etc) and that Czechoslovakia split into Czech Republic and Slovakia. It just feels weird that this time it could be my own country, the UK, splitting up.

The future of the UK looks set to be interesting over the next couple of years.

What do you think should and could happen?

Europe’s Problems: The Simple Explanation

It’s all gone wrong in Europe! Bail out – bail out.

Sometimes living in Europe can feel a little ‘titanic-ish’. Yup – this place hit an iceberg – and that iceberg is called Greece!

Greece is dragging us all down.

Latest news – a bailout of about 1 TRILLION! Hmmmm, nice one. That’s me on bread and water for the next hundred years!

The prime ministers, chancellors etc etc are all throwing their toys out of their prams too. The international meetings must be fascinating for those proverbial ‘flies-on-the-walls’. Cameron and Sarkozy have been arguing about who should be in the meeting…. Oh, the old battle between France and the United Kingdom.

It’s all old as time.

Don't you wag that French finger at my Prime Minister... Not that Cameron seems to care.

If you’re interested in a more ‘high-brow’ view on the latest economy news from Europe, but still something easy-to-understand then I’d recommend reading this Q&A site.

But, the best thing that I’ve seen – and it really sums up the state of Europe right now – is this.

Merkel has to look after Sarkozy - again!

A mountain for Holland?

When people think of Holland (or The Netherlands, to use the correct name) they think of tulips, bicycles, clogs and a very flat country. It’s true – The Netherlands is very flat, and mostly below sea-level. But, that might all be about change…

Plans have been made to create a mountain in the country. The man-made mountain is planned to be an amazing 7,000ft (2134m) in height – that’s twice the height of Snowdon, in Wales, and far bigger than 4,409ft (1344m) Scotland’s Ben Nevis.

A mountain for The Netherlands?

The idea came from a Dutch sports journalist called Thijs Zonneveld, who suggested in a tongue-in-cheek article that a man-made mountain should be built to help overcome the lack of decent hills in his homeland.

Surprisingly, the plans which were not entirely serious have been taken seriously by some of the Dutch. The Dutch Ski Association, Dutch Climbing and Mountaineering Association and Royal Dutch Cycling Union have been particularly interested in such a project. They hope that the creation would turn the famously flat country into a winter sport superpower in Europe.

The project would cost billions. Make that approximately 300 billions euros. A cost which would probably increase over time. It could take more than 30 years to complete. However, once complete it could become a city in itself, with houses, shops, arenas and even roads and railways within. 

What do you think? I have no idea where they’d plan on building the thing.

“Take your shoes off when you we go to bed”…..said the waitress.

That’s what the nice waitress from the Czech Republic said to me. I was expecting a drink – not an invitation to bed.

“If you could just take of your shoes when we go to bed…” I had to do the double-take…. The ‘sorry-did-I-hear-that-right’ look… I was stunned and then I realised that it was ‘all part of the experience’.

I feel I should explain – I was with friends. Yes, I was taking 5 friends to bed with me too! BED is a great cocktail bar in Prague. It was discovered quite by accident after a long day of walking and city exploration. Tucked away on the quieter corner of Prague’s main square the bright white and pink sign stood out and we were instantly attracted (like flies to the light). Inside everything looked hip and trendy. There was a very cosmopolitan feel to the bar. We were keen to enjoy a couple of cocktails before moving on to another bar. That was the plan – but when do those plans ever work out?

Here we are - just ordered our cocktails.

There were no chairs and tables in BED. Everywhere you looked were huge lounger-beds with people laid flat-out or snuggled together (shoes off) and enjoying their drinks. We were escorted led down a spiral staircase to the brightly lit basement. (This all sounds so much worse than it was. It was not a dodgy bar. It was very nice and bright). That’s when our waitress told us about ‘going to bed’. We slipped our shoes off, giggled a bit – It all felt a bit strange (it doesn’t happen in most place of course) and then we hopped on to the huge mattresses. The walls, floor, beds, sheets, tables were all white. The lighting was blue and it gave the place a surprisingly warm feel. The music was great. Chill-out lounge – we loved you!

The chill out beds - just before people arrived.

 

Easier to climb down that up, after a few cocktails.

I can see why the place is so popular. Why don’t more bars do this? It was so comfortable. We lay back and stretched out. Our bed could have easily accommodated about 8 people (or more). We looked at the cocktail menu and ordered. This was the life! Pure relaxation.

About 3 hours later – all plans of ever moving on to another bar had gone ‘out of the window’. We were staying here. It was too good a place to leave. We had watched other groups and couples arrive and give the same puzzled looks as they de-shoed and hopped onto a bed.

Loving my mojito!

I love to go out and enjoy an evening with friends. This bar will stay in my memory for its individuality. If you’re ever in Prague you must take a look.

BED in Prague. A must see!

You might also enjoy reading:

Bring Me Back to Bed (look, someone else has been and loved it too).

Prague: Czech it out.

Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic is a stunner! A weekend trip there just is not enough. (My visit was #2 on my list of things for 2011). I checked my camera today and saw that I had taken 194 photographs in two days! I really couldn’t capture it enough. My camera is attached to my hand at all times.

Here is a snap-shot of picturesque Prague.

(Click on the picture to enlarge).

I stayed very close to the centre. Literally 5 minutes from our apartment and we were at the central Old Town Square. Prague is conveniently close to the airport. The transfer taxis are great value! It was also quite strange visiting a European country without the Euro (and that’s coming from a Brit).

I loved the Charles Bridge (in one of the photos). I came home and wanted to do a little research as to why people were touching the plaques. I found out that:

One statue receives a great deal of attention from both Czechs and foreigners; this is the statue of Jan Nepomucky (John of Nepomuk), who was thrown from the bridge in chains. The base of this statue has two bronze plaques, each well-polished by thousands of hands touching it. The belief is that touching the plaque portraying the martyrdom of John of Nepomuk is lucky, and that the person touching it will return to Prague. Many people make wishes when they touch the plaque. (Thanks to BlogKingWencelas for the info).

Now I wish that I’d touched it too – instead of taking so many pictures. Hey ho – who needs luck?

More to come about Prague. I had many more discoveries in that great city! I think I may need to revisit this summer.

How can I only have seen 11% of the world?

I have always thought of myself as a reasonably experienced traveller. Admittedly though at 31, I have not been to many of the of the world’s continents. Living in Western Europe I know that I am ideally placed to see a larger percentage of the world than if I was living in Australia for example. One of the great benefits is that there are so many countries, amazing cities and fantastic capitals within a short flight away. In just a few short hours from Schiphol, Amsterdam’s airport, I can be in London, Paris, Brussels or Luxembourg (and they are just the capital cities).

It is often said that European’s take it for granted that there are so many countries to visit in such a compact area of the world. These places are all on our doorstep, yet we Europeans venture to warmer or more distant countries for our holidays and forget to explore what is right under our noses. I cannot imagine what it would be like living in Australia, Canada, and USA or in the middle of Russia where it would take hours before you even reached the border to another country. I suppose that distance is relative, depending on where you live in the world, and to people living in those countries 6 hours on a flight might seem like a short trip away. Here in The Netherlands you would find it a challenge to travel more than 2 hours and remain in the country. This country is tiny!

I completed my Travel Map from travBuddy.com and was genuinely shocked at how little of the world I have seen in three decades (I expected a percentage closer to 20%). But I see from the results (11%) that I have a busy time ahead of me. One consolation is that friends on Facebook have completed the same map and ended up with similar results to myself.

In 1999, I travelled to the eastern part of USA and worked as on a summer camp (part of the Camp America scheme). After weeks on camp I travelled to the east coast of Canada. It was the furthest I had ever been from home and I loved the experience. I also did quite a bit of travelling during my University years including my exploration of the Scandinavian and Nordic countries*. People in Europe rave about the undeniable beauty and charisma of France, Italy and Spain, but for me Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland win hands-down every time. Stunning landscapes, friendly people & attractive people (and I mean very attractive…Denmark especially!)

This summer I set off with my partner to ‘do Europe’. We planned to travel for just under four weeks to journey through eight countries**. The tent was packed, the sleeping bags were at the ready and all the supplies for weeks of back-to-basic- living were gathered. Travelling by car through Europe proved to be a great way of exploring each country. We stopped off whenever we wanted to, took the routes that weren’t always the quickest and made the most of unexpected ‘spur of the moment’ visits to towns and villages that we had never heard of.

But if I’ve travelled to so many places already how can it be that it only adds up to 11% of the world? Europe is the most compact continent when it comes to the number of countries by area and there was me thinking that the world was small. Where to head to next? I think my New Year’s Resolution will have to be…. Visit more countries.

*Although in the rest of the world the words “Scandinavian” and “Nordic” are happily used in similar manner and are interchangeable, in northern Europe they are not. Europeans love to magnify even the smallest difference between neighbouring countries and you will probably be corrected if you don’t use the words in their appropriate context. The problem comes when even Europeans themselves can’t agree on the meaning of “Scandinavian” and “Nordic”…

** The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, France, United Kingdom, Belgium.