Thursday, February 3, 2011

Going back to Europe?

A typical street in a medieval city of Ystad in southernmost Sweden (photo by Magnus)

I think this might be the year to go back home, to Europe - for good.

To Sweden, Poland and Spain.

Why? One of the reasons would be nostalgia: I am a citizen of Sweden, I was born and raised in Poland. So if I have - again - taken a residence in the southernmost province of Sweden, Scania (Skane), I could enjoy it's picturesque charms,

its well preserved medieval towns, like Ystad or Simrishamn (photo above)
cheerfully coexisting with avant garde modern architecture, like this "Turning Torso" building in Malmo,

its quaint villages and bucolic landscapes,
its soft, sandy beaches with colorful beach huts, its proximity to "wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen"
Oresund bridge connecting Sweden with Denmark

(about one hour by car or train) , while being only 7 hours away (by ferry) from my first home country - Poland.

Old town square in my hometown of Poznan, Poland. This picture could have been taken from the windows of my old office in the research institute, Institute of Western Affairs, where I once worked.

And why Spain? Well, both Sweden and Poland are in the northern part of Europe and "suffer" long, cold winters, so in winter, i would do, what many retired Scandinavians do: move to southern Spain for a few months.

No, not to Costa del Sol, which is now overrun with - mostly - Brits, but to a more than 2000 years old pueblo blanco (white village) on the Granada's coast: Almunecar, or to neighboring Nerja or Salobrena.

A view of Almunecar

Those Spanish small towns and villages are winter havens for northern Europeans, who already constitute about 25% of their permanent population, while many more northern Europeans spend winters there renting flats or townhouses overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Another reason, this one negative, is that I have grown disenchanted with America, which - especially tea party and republican America - seems to be now going full throttle into a wrong direction: toward more inequality, more uncaring about its citizens, who are allowed to be pawns of greedy insurance companies, "big pharma" etc. etc.

Tea partiers and republicans seam so eager to dismantle even the very, very modest (in comparison to Europe) social safety networks... that it makes me want to puke - and not stay in this country any longer.

Yes, I shall miss certain comforts of America, and - most of all - I shall miss a proximity to my daughter, who lives and works here. It won't be easy for me with advancing age to board a plane to USA to visit her, and it won't be easy for her to have to board a plane to visit me, as vacations in America are also far shorter than they are in Europe, but I hope that, perhaps, we could meet during her business trips to Europe, or... she, too, shall grow disenchanted with America and decide to go home to Europe.


Anonymous said...

I like the pictures but I don't see any trash or stray animals in them. LOL

We are not Republicans but we are not socialists either. In PR there are a lot of reasons for people not to work. I see all the social programs here just promoting a welfare reliant society. I like libertarian ideas. You have a better perspective and have lived in a lot more places then I have. What is a good system? How do we keep a good system from turning bad?
Good luck with your decision.


Minerva said...

I believe getting a good system and keeping it from turning bad requires educated, engaged population and a set of laws that would not allow powerful special interests to dominate the debate and manipulate voters. It also requires far less greed and far more public service spirit among elected officials, in short - they should not sit in anybody's pocket.

I do not see myself as a socialist by European definition of the word - I consider myself liberal - also in European sense: someone in the center of European political spectrum. For example I do not believe that the state must own industries or services, but I believe that it is the duty of government to protect ALL its citizens from being exploited by powerful interests.

Take health care: in many European countries, like in Sweden, helth care is socialized (the state owns hospitals etc.), while in others it is not - like in Switzerland and Germany, where ownership of health institutions is private, BUT in ALL European countries health care is REGULATED by government, so that it is accessible to all, on a basically equal basis, at basically the same TRULY affordable cost: for example in Sweden there are no premiums for health insurance: everybody - even residents, not only citizens - is covered. A doctor's visit costs uniformly across the country between $15 and $45 (specialist)and should you need prescription drugs, your cost of them (no matter how many you use) is mimited to less than $300 a YEAR (not a month!) with government picking up the tab for any excess ... but government also limits the right of pharmaceutical companies to charge whatever they wish - like they can in the USA - and practically only in the USA, since US government, under the disguise of "pure market" let's its health care industry to basically rob its citizens. And that's appaling.

Minerva said...

Forgot trash and stray animals: Swedes are clean and well disciplined, so there is no trash on the streets of Swedish towns, even in turist areas, like Scania, as all trash is picked up quickly, and all public places kept meticulously. I do not remember any stray animals in Sweden, either, but how this is accomplished, I honestly do not know. I have seen some stray cats in Poland (do not remember seeing any stray dogs)and PLENTY of them in southern Spain, where communities spay/neuter them (in Nerja for example stray cats, which have been neutered are marked with a tiny triangle in their ears, so that inhabitants could report seeing any not yet neutered animal) and released.
There is one public park in Almunecar famous for its spectacular views of the city - it is a mountain - and as a place where stray cats congregate. Yes, the park occasionally reeks of cat urine, if city employees do not manage to clean it frequently enough, but the cats are considered useful as they keep vermin at bay and people - both locals and turists - love to feed them.

katrina kruse said...

Where is the least pleasant place you have lived? in your travels if you daughter weren't in Atlanta and you could live anywhere other than Europe where would that be? Also, what happens to the cats if you go to Europe?

Minerva said...

I guess the least pleasant place I worked in was Ukraine - Tschernobyl - for obvious reasons (radiation contamination). It was in the early nineties, still dangerous, still largely communist, I hated seeing people signing up to work at the reactor for $80 a month (while the average salary elsewhere was $15 a month - and no, it is NOT a typo!), knowing full well that average life expectancy for those who worked these jobs were 3 months (again, not a typo)... but the families would get posthumous support for two years...
As a woman I don't enjoy living in Muslim countries, either, because of their attitudes and laws suppressing women's rights. Obviously in those countries I never tried to "go native" hiding in luxury hotels for foreigners and behind the dark windows of a chauffer driven limo, as in some of these countries women are not allowed to drive, nor be outside the house without male escort... so in comparison the Bible Belt in the USA is very progressive, lol.

Minerva said...

Oh, of course I take cats with me. It will cost a fortune and some paperwork (cats need their individual biometric passports to travel to and within Europe), but I am their guardian = they own me.

pixie_dust said...

Minerva, I'm going to share this blog entry with my children in hopes of convincing them that moving to Europe is actually a great idea. I think I have 2 out of 3 convinced that living in a country which promotes greed as a superior quality is not a good idea. It took one trip to Europe to convince them that life in the US is not as 'free' as they were thought in school.

Anthony said...

I've never been to Sweden, but it's always sounded wonderful and very appealing to me. I've been to Norway, and I'm told that the temprament of the people is fairly similar across Scandinavia, so I'm sure that I would find the Swedish people as utterly lovely and charming as I did the Norwegians :)

As for Spain - even being British, I think it's best to avoid the Costa del Sol! ;) Seriously, though... being in my twenties, I still like a lot of the cities. I fell in love with Barcelona and consider it as one of my favourite cities in the World. I likewise found Madrid a wonderful place to visit.

I've never been to Poland, but I've heard a LOT of good things about it in recent years. I hope that once I get my green card and also have the time to do some traveling again (the two will, alas, probably not co-incide in any shape, way or form), that I will be able to go to Poland.