So today is a bit of a milestone in our trip. We have done almost four months on the road – a third of or way through the year. Largely speaking, our trip is divided into three parts also. Part one – the Southern Europe, Mediterranean and Adriatic, part two – Iceland and Scandinavia, and part three Eastern Europe and maybe some other places we want to visit on the way home (aka still to be decided!). Today, we left Prague, and are doing one of our longest drives to date – up to Neumunster in Northern Germany, in preparation for our entry in Denmark.
Rather aptly, we have lost the sunshine today – it is cloudy and much cooler. I suspect I will be changing out of my shorts at the next stop! So far on this journey around Europe, we have seen the most stunning mountains and coasts, but today, we are very much in the heart of Europe, and the landscape is decidedly flat and monotonous.
We have been struck on our trip at the number of EU flags we have seen flying, from Spain, Portugal and Italy, huge numbers in Croatia and Slovenia, and more in Austria and Germany. In the Czech Republic, in contrast, we only saw one. Apparently the Czech’s share the UK’s scepticism of the EU, with only 54% of the population supporting it. Like the UK, the young are generally very pro-Europe, but in variance to the UK, so are the old, who still have vivid memories of what World War II did for them. It is the middle aged tax payers who resent their contribution to this huge bureaucratic organisation, probably not dissimilar to the UK. It was striking how proud the newly joined nations such as Croatia and Slovenia are of their membership – seeing it as a very positive move towards European peace and unity. Before this trip, I must admit to being fairly neutral on the subject, although I did vote to ‘remain’. Howard, on the other hand, has always strongly felt that the benefits of being within this diverse group of nations outweighs the drawbacks. I am now increasingly of the opinion that the UK’s decision to ‘leave’ was utterly wrong. The British nation was so misled by the politicians, with all their scare tactics of uncontrolled immigration, and of huge benefits to the NHS if we left. In reality, of course, this is proving to be complete tosh. The UK needs a healthy immigrant workforce to do many of the jobs that our young university graduate population wouldn’t conceive of doing – from farm labourers to hospitality workers. The biggest example of the folly that we have made is in the NHS, where the workforce is comprised of 12.5% of foreign workers, 5.6% coming from the EU. The percentage of NHS doctors from the EU in currently 10%, and nurses approaching 5%. Unlike the common perception that these people are ‘taking our jobs’, they are not. They are merely filling vacancies that we have failed to fill, due to short-sighted failure to train sufficient numbers of British graduates, only now, very belatedly, being addressed.
See what happens when I am left to type away on long tedious car journeys! Save to say, so far, I have really embraced the differences between the European nations that we have encountered on our travels, and will be very sad to say that I am no longer part of this culturally diverse group of people.
Travel-wise, we have just driven through Dresden, which was, of course, completely destroyed in the Second World War from the allied bombing, and had to be completely re-built subsequently. How apt, therefore, that I was having a rant on the benefits of unity at the time!
I’ll be less serious tomorrow – promise!