Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

We just returned from a wonderful trip to Europe. We spent two weeks cruising along the Danube, Main, and Rhine rivers, and various canals between them, from Budapest to Amsterdam. We spent an additional four days in Budapest and Amsterdam.

I took more than a thousand pictures, which I am only beginning to sort through.

We enjoyed a multitude of cathedrals, abbeys, castles, palaces, museums, fountains, medieval walls, shops (lots and lots of shops!), boats, streetcars, buses, swans, horses, milk cows, sheep, flowers – you name it, we saw it. And we walked seemingly thousands of miles, up and down, mostly over rough, shoe-eating cobblestones.

It truly was a great trip, and we will invite you over for the slide show when I finally winnow down my pictures – probably a couple of years from now.

But one of the most memorable features of the trip is that it coincided with the triumphal tour of Barak Obama through Europe. We saw it all on our European CNN channel right in our staterooms and hotels. It would have been impossible for us to miss it. It dominated the television news and newspapers throughout his entire trip.

On the whole, the press coverage was highly positive, not the carping, negative stuff you get here. And my distinct impression is that he received such a positive response is that many people in Europe see him as the vanguard of a new generation of voters and officeholders in America who will shake off the deadly policies of the Bush administration. To them, Obama’s “inexperience,” at least in contrast to Bush’s “experience,” is a very hopeful and positive sign.

He looked anything but inexperienced, however. His speeches, particularly the one he gave to more than 200,000 Berliners, were well articulated; his press conferences were well received. He looked and acted like a world leader, and was received as one.

People stopped us on the street and asked if we were Americans. When we acknowledged that we were, they said enthusiastic things about Obama and wanted us to assure them that he would be elected President. We did our best!
Another memorable feature: bicycles in Amsterdam! Amsterdam is a city built for bicycles, and there were hundreds of thousand of them on the road and on the sidewalks anytime of the night and day. Every thoroughfare, even the canals, has a bicycle lane right beside it. Pedestrians take their life into the own hands if they drift in to a bicycle lane.

And, as in America, most of the bicyclists pay little attention to traffic signals. In Amsterdam, though, according to our cab driver, this makes little difference. If a bicyclist is hit, as they often are, those that hit them are automatically at fault, regardless of the traffic signal. We had a few close calls ourselves.

Finally, we came that close to being part of history. As we were touring The Hague, we passed the prison connected with the International Court of Justice. It was crowded with dozens of television trucks and satellite discs. Our guide said they were awaiting the arrival of —– , which they expected any minute. He didn’t get there until early next morning, but when we saw it on CNN, we saw almost the exact spot on which we had been standing only a few hours before.

It was all great fun, and educational, too!

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