Friday, 16 August 2013

Questions, Questions, Questions...

Travel Questions! 
(source -

As I have mentioned previously on this mighty fine blog, travel provides you with a great number of learning experiences.  But, as I have journeyed around I find that travel presents me with a whole host of questions that remain unanswered.  So, below are a series of questions* I need your help with answering.  Please feel free to help me out in answering these tricky questions with the associated question number in the comment box below.

(* - Some more serious than others, but all asked with a fair bit of tongue in cheek)

1. Why do I see so many old women with carrier bags full of plastic bottles?

Fill me with plastic bottles!

(source -

On recent trips to Continental Europe, I have been baffled by the sheer number of (usually) elderly women, clutching a battered old Lidl carrier bag, steadily filling it with plastic drinks bottles, often from rubbish bins, peoples' hands and skips.  A friend of mine (who lives in an Eastern European country) once told me of his work colleague returning from a trip to Northern Europe proclaiming with delight that, "it's so nice to visit somewhere where people put rubbish in the bin and leave it there!"  Now, I know the comment neglects to consider issues of homelessness for example, but the point remains...what are these women doing rifling through bins for old Coke and Sprite bottles?!  Perhaps these women are an army of recycling fiends - receiving cash incentives, I assume, for their troubles?!  I would love to know!  Answers in the comment box below, please!

2. Do people on the continent of Europe just smoke and drink coffee all day?

Croatian Coffee! (source - author)

On a recent visit to Croatia, my friend and I were stunned to see not only a high proportion of smokers; coming from the UK and the Netherlands where the amount of people that smoke is relatively low, but also a thriving coffee culture where much of the activity is focused on lazy days in the shade lounging with friends (cigarette in hand), putting the world to rights.  The British cafe experience is somewhat coffee, sit down, clear table of the previous customer's detritus, have a heart attack when you realise what you have just paid for a coffee, have a quick chat with your friend and then leave.  I know unemployment rates are, unfortunately, high in Croatia, but this kind of leisurely activity is not confined to just one country.  It seems a very European thing to do and is something I have witnessed in several countries across the Continent.  Is this because the pace of life is slower, more laid back?  Does the manana attitude dominate?  Your thoughts below, please.

3. Do Italian women ever say to the men in their lives, "darling, aren't you a little old for Speedos?"

Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli rocks his Speedos!
(source -

Travel brings with it some real cultural shockers.  And as shockers go some of the most horrific  sights are those paraded on the beaches frequented by our European cousins, the Italians.  I am not even going to touch upon the issue of sun protection amongst the Italian travelling community; having gasped open mouthed at a group of Italianos lather themselves in baby oil as their sole deterrent from the scorching Croatian sun and UV rays!  No...this question relates to the fashion choices made by Italian men.  These are usually men of a certain age, who seem to think they can carry off a tight trunk when current trends...wait, trends ad infinitum, suggest otherwise.  But, I'm confused.  Italy and Italians are famed for being supremely fashion conscious.  The country is home to many globally successful famous designer brands and the country has the most stylish looking police force in the World!

Lookin' Fly!
(source -

I think we must lay blame not with the men.  When guys get to a certain age, they think they are capable of anything.  This leads to the mid-life crisis purchase of a motorcycle or a convertible sports car.  These men are not capable of reason!  I think we need to turn our attention towards the wives and girlfriends of these men.  They are the ones who can offer sartorial support and fashion guidance, steering them towards the correct kind of beach attire or swim short.  So, what do you think - is it 'i ragazzi o le ragazze'?  Are you an Italian wife who is finding hard to tear those Speedos from your husband (Oo-er!)?!  Please comment in the box below!  You can view this as therapy, if you wish!

4. Why, when I travel, does my diet consist mostly of bread, cheese and ham?

Mmm!  Guess what these are filled with!
(source - author)

Being a budget traveller, I try to keep costs low, particularly when I'm eating my three square meals each day.  To save those cents or Euros, I find myself inadvertently eating copious amounts of bread, cheese and ham.  For example, one of the best value meals a traveller can concoct is the supermarket/market lunch.  This involves buying a loaf of bread, cheese (I prefer brie) and some sliced ham.  This is then all put together to form a beautiful ham and cheese sandwich that will see you through til your late 'Continental Europe' style late evening meal.  Now, they say variety is the spice of life.  Well, why the hell do I always end up ordering a pizza or pasta dish that are filled with...yup, you guessed it...cheese and ham?!  Last week in France, I even saw crisps that were cheese and ham flavoured!  Comments, thoughts and assistance below!

That will do for now!  I look forward to reading your responses!  I am sure that future travel will only yield further questions.  Also, if you have any questions that we need to put out here, please feel free to leave them below.


  1. Answer to Q1! Generally there is a pfand (german word) for these bottles, pretty much a deposit for plastic and alloy cans, it's usually 25c. So instead of going back each time they use up a bottle, they collect them and do it in one go. I saw heaps of homeless people going through the trash through europe looking for these bottles for people who don't bother with collecting it :)

  2. Hey, I've been lurking here for a little while and thought it's about time I say "hello", so hello!

    Q1, called "pant" in Swedish as well - when you buy a bottle/can of beer/soda you pay between 5 and 40p extra (so when it says "10kr + pant" that means you'll probably have to pay 12kr at the checkout) and don't get the money back until you bring the bottle back to the bottle bank in the supermarket. Collecting and cashing in the bottles a family consumes each month is a common way for kids to earn a bit of pocket money.

    Q2 I don't know what it's like in the rest of Europe, but in Sweden we have a "fika" and café culture; you meet friends for an afternoon cup of coffee an chat for an hour or two instead of going to the pub.

    Q3 Eh, I think you might be missing out! Based on my own bikini bottom swimming experiences I'd bet that tight trunks are way more comfortable than long shorts when you're splashing about in the water! Perhaps the European men just don't care about fashion in this instance? Ooooor perhaps the ladies in question rather like seeing guys in less clothes?

    Having lived in the UK for almost five years, I've got a question for you, though. What's with everyone calling you "love", "duck", "darling" etc?? On a good day it just makes me cringe a little, on a bad it feels downright patronising!


  3. Thank you for your responses, so far, people! I think we've nailed the puzzle of question 1!

    Siri...yes! I was in Stockholm in April and the tradition for fika is really well established. I really enjoyed the coffee and cake we found at Cafe Saturnus and Cafe Gildas Rum. But, in terms of the time taken to enjoy the drink and food, most of the Swedes were done and dusted relatively quickly compared to their Southern European cousins.

    Ha Ha! I love your response, Siri, regarding Q3! I never considered how keen these Italian women might be to see more of their man than the rest of us. I note that Roberto's been at it again!

    It's funny you should mention the 'love' thing! I adore it. I lived in the south of the UK for a while and really missed this. For me, it is an affectionate term of endearment. In my 'Holland is Lekker' post ( my Dutch friend met with great confusion when he was referred to as 'love' in everyday situations such as buying a drink in a shop or being greeted by (usually) an older woman. As for 'duck' (a Nottinghmashire term), I'm not a big fan, but never feel patronised. Having lived without people saying these words, you certainly miss them when they're gone!

    Keep 'em coming!