Hi from Rick: A Young German's Travel Dreams
In some ways, Europeans and Americans are like cousins — united by history and values, but growing up in very different neighborhoods. Remember how, as a kid, you envied your out-of-town cousins' "exotic" lives? And how odd little differences made their grass seem greener (or at least more interesting)?
|Little car...little taxes.|
I was recently in Munich, standing in line to buy a ticket at the train station. The young man in front of me (wearing a black cap that reads, "no logo") assures me I'm in the correct line, so we pass the time chatting. I'm heading for the romance of Venice. He's catching a train to Frankfurt for a flight to...the USA. It's a 19-year-old German's dream come true: Florian is flying to California for snowboarding, rollerblading, mountain biking...and cars.
"We go to the United States for action and for nature," Florian says. "I love your cars. In America, you have V-8 engines. For us, the V-8 sound makes you a very cool person. With a V-8 you are not driving-you are cruising."
With visions of Porsches and BMWs dancing in my head, I counter, "But I thought Germans had it good behind the wheel."
"Yeah, I drive a BMW. But it is like a computer. No soul. My friend in Munich just bought a Chevy Caprice Classic with a big 5.6-liter V-8. He will pay very bad taxes for such an engine, and even more because it pollutes so much. But it is worth it."
You can learn something about a country by how it taxes its cars. The practical Dutch are taxed by the weight of their cars. Money-minded Americans are taxed according to what their cars cost. The German government goes right for the thrill-seeking jugular vein, carefully calibrating vehicle taxes by horsepower.
Which way is best? Who cares? Discovering a culture's unexpected everyday differences — and temporarily diving (or driving) into that world — is one of travel's great attractions.
Tickets and reservations in hand, Florian and I go off to pursue our separate travel dreams...each of us feeling a little better connected to our world, and thrilled to be on the move.
If you, too, are ready to get moving, this month's Travel News will shift you into high gear with an April Fool's peek at some of Europe's delightful deceptions, a profile of an Irish-American icon, a preview of Easter in Rome, and lots of news for those traveling to Europe in 2005.
Thanks for traveling with us!