This weekend plus two days off from extra hours (who would ever opt for getting them paid out if he can have additional free time for it?!?), was good for a spontaneous four-day trip of the Woodpeckers clan to the Bavarian mountains.
Staying at a nice basic apartment close to lake Schliersee for about 40 EUR per night, we had a fantastic and not too unfrugal time.
Luck was with us, the first snow of the year fell plentiful only one day earlier, it was crisp cold and clear, sun was shining the whole time.
Thus nature abundantly granted us with all its beauty and free wonders. A nights walk through the snow, a hike up to a mountain hut with a 5 km sledge ride back, snow-ball fights, half a day in the local steam bath and all the other stuff you wouldn’t want to miss when being out with your kinds on a winter day.
However, as much as I could talk on and on about the fun and good feelings nature provides to our lives, this is not my topic today.
My topic today is Europe.
Woodpecker is a declared fan of Europe.
That is of Europe as the marvelous continent it is, with it’s fascinating variety of cultures, landscapes and people. Of Europe as a perfect travelling location, so full of history, beautiful places and awesome stimulations to the senses, that it is impossible to see even only 50% of it within one lifetime.
But I am also a fan of the European idea.
Yes, the European idea.
The idea of bringing the people of Europe closer together, to create a common sense of unity and of mutual friendship. To ban war and fight forever from this continent.
Unfortunately, this idea these days is so often reduced to boring economics.
This is a pity, because although economics are not unimportant, money is only one aspect of life, and very far from being the most important one. I’d like to recall that a person that is getting his economics right, but is missing out on other more important aspects of life, will clearly live a failed life in the end, no matter how rich and “successful” he/she gets.
Same holds for a country or a group of countries. A material successful country can still miserably fail in being a good place to live. Subordinate every values a society can have under economics is as sad and boring as subordinate everything you can do and be under your boring consumption.
The same holds for the European idea. It is just so much more than only economics.
The European idea is when my small home city, when I was young, was flooded by French pupil each summer, coming over for an exchange. Us going back in return the year after. Sitting together with our French pears and laughing together about jokes on stupid Nazis that had messed up the continent only 40 years ago. Our hereditary enemy, suddenly our friends!
Having a penpalship with a guy from Finland over some years. Never ever having had to spend a single thought on war with our neighbours – as one of the first generations in history!
Studying in Vienna for half a year within the European Erasmus program. For free! Being treated as any other student there, same rights, same duties. Being cared for by a welcoming local student community. Having a prolonged summer exchange to southern france for learning French. Including a fantastic cultural program that even taught me some Occitan, a strange (but somehow important) local dialect in southern France.
Having our student house full with people from Poland, France, Spain, Sweden, Austria, and all feeling like a big international family.
Surrounding the Baltic Sea a decade ago with Mrs Woodpecker and by car, crossing to Estonia coming from the Russian side after a torture of controls and bullying from Russian border control, being waved through and welcomed by the friendly and smiling Estonian lady guard in perfect English: “Welcome back to Europe! Enjoy your time in Estonia! We are happy to have you visiting us.”
And the European idea is also:
This is what actually struck me when we drove over to the city of Kufstein* the other day from our stay at lake Schliersee.
The border from Germany to Austria today looks like this:
The border simply is not there apart from a tiny sign!
The same holds true for all borders to Italy, to France, to the Netherlands and in fact all other borders within the “Schengen area“.
This might seem normal for us living in Europe today, but it fact, it is not!
It is a f***ing wonder!
These borders were controlled, closed, monitored and very very often fought about throughout history. And in many parts of the world, this is still the case with their borders.
In fact there is probably no other place in the world where you can move so freely between countries as here.
Enjoy it, it is not normal!
That’s why I feel like saying today:
Forget about the boring guys that are not able to lift their spirits away from plain economics and “Oh my god, I might get overreached”-thoughts for even one second, but see the larger picture of Europe:
The peace and the freedom that was created during only two generations.
This is a fantastic and miraculous achievement and it must not be thrown away easily over some of the current economic hazzles. Economic hazzles can and will be overcome, but peace, freedom and friendship on a continent that was permanently at war for centuries is a fantastic treasure to be preserved by all means!
Or to put it with our Vulcanian friends:
May Europe live long and prosper!
*) some background info on Kufstein for the friends of frugal travel:
As it is Woodpeckers habit, we did not do too much reading but just went to Kufstein on surprise. The city itself is not too interesting to be honest, although located in a wonderful setting at the river Inn deep between the Alpin Mountains of Karwendel and Kaiser. However, the castle (picture above) is marvelous and well worth a visit.
Among others it hosts the largest Organ in the world in one of its massive towers, more than 4.800 pipes. It is played every day at noon for free (we stumbled right into it by chance) and you can hear it throughout the entire valley. It reminds of all dead soldiers of WWI and WWII, thus a good fit to this post (German link).
There is also a fantastic steep walk starting right from Kufstein up to a wild high valley in the Kaiser mountains (a valley not connected by road until 3 years ago), that Woodpecker did on another occasion. It struck me one of the most amazing ways I ever left a city.