As we journey through Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and ASustria, here are some of the things we've noticed:
- Children here appear to be exceptionally well--behaved. We seen children with families and many children on school field trips (common during this time of year) and they are for the most part relatively quiet, orderly and well-mannered. This applies both to children as small as toddlers right on through pre-teens and teenagers. We don't see children demanding no things, throwing tantrums, teasing or irritating one another or sassing their parents. These things do not seem to happen here with the frequency they day in the US.
- For the most part, teenagers are not tattooed and/or pierced to the extent they are in the states. It seems much more rare here.
- Young people here love wearing jeans and t-shirts with with American slogans and logos on them and these items are popular in stores. New York remains a particular source of interest and it's not uncommon to see young people (and even adults) with t-shirts touting NYC, Brooklyn or the Yankees or other New York team logos. Some of the t-shirts even contain popular American slogans and lingo.
- In Poland, the old ways of the Catholic Church still prevail. Consequently, you will see nuns and priests dressed in full garb in public. They do not wear street clothes as has become ( some would say, sadly) all-too-common in the states. So nuns are in full habit and priests of some orders can even be seen in cossacks. By their appearance in this manner, they are fully and completely professing their faith and announcing their presence.
- More so in Austria and far less so in Poland, Churches in these overwhelmingly Catholic countries have largely become museums. Many large and significant churches even charge admission during non-mass hours to help raise funds for upkeep, etc. It's sad to see this happen but at least people are visiting the churches and that always gives hope that some may be inspired.
- Just as Austrians love their rich pastries, people in Poland love ice cream. Ice cream stands are everywhere and what we call "soft serve" in America is actually a rich, creamy swirl in Poland -- a lot tastier and a lot less air-fulled. It's quite a treat.
- For centuries Hungarians have long failed to win a war and Hungary has largely resolved itself to the acceptance of its current predicament. Hungarians seem to want to be just left alone. Both Poland and Hungary appear to enjoy the economic assistance of the European Union but are not fond of the EU's authority.
- Streets are clean and life appears to be quite orderly throughout this area. Poland is by far the cleanest country we've seen so far. Poles take great pride in their tidiness. You don't see as much as a small scrap of paper on the streets in Warsaw or Krakow. Throughout the area (less so in Hungary and more so in Austria) rules are welcomed and attentively followed, especially at traffic lights and other public places.
- Krakow and Warsaw are quiet cities with numerous parks and areas for passive enjoyment. In Budapest, people are more demonstrative and the city is louder. Vienna takes on extra decibels as it is a city of music, large plazas and broad promenades. Krakow is intimate and cozy while Vienna is grand and often opulent. Budapest combines elements of both and Warsaw combines elements of both without showiness.