“Just follow the river”, said the young Frenchman at the reception.
I was checking into a hotel in La Petite France, a historic quarter of Strasbourg, located at the western end of the Grande Ile, which contains the historical center. And as my motorcycle was cooling down after the fast run from Basel, I went to town for a late lunch. And the food was delicious, grated potatoes with bacon, ham and onions, all baked in a great smelling cheese which I topped up with a glass of local rose wine. By chance I sat on a patio near the famous Haderer House, a beautiful old building, and an army of Chinese tourists were in front of it with their cameras. The “click, click, click” was louder that the music from inside the restaurant. There is always something out of touch in the world.
Earlier that day I stopped for gas at the Autogrill station in the Basel area. That place is big, and its ends connect to either Zurich direction, or the way up north. The problem is that they both identical, down to the Erotic Megastores on both sides. And no, I don’t understand it either.
So, I emerged on the south side, and my bike was nowhere to be seen. I looked for it for some time with a slight panic and decided to call police, take taxi to the station and a train home. The lady at the kiosk had a very calming behavior: “going north or south?” she asked. “North”. “And this is the south side, go across the building and your bike will be there.” It seemed that she went through these types of discussions before.
She was right, and I saw that a bright orange Lamborghini Huracan had parked right next to my motorcycle. It is possible that the driver was looking for his car at the south end with even greater sense of panic.
Strasbourg is, of course, the seat of the European Parliament, located in a sprawling hemicycle where MEPs from all EU countries engage in improving the lives of commons. In 2017 they enacted 2093 legal acts in 25 plenary sessions.
Pumping out legislation with such a vigor is impressive by any standard.
You could argue that this detailed level of a law should be enacted closer to home, where it better reflects specific conditions, but this doesn’t seem to be a concern here. This is, however, one of the reasons why the EU is starting to crumble at the periphery. This is an interesting phenomenon – progress and innovation start at the center and spread out, the closing acts seem to come the other way.
It has already been a battle to save the Euro currency, and the European Central Bank hand-managed the markets for a while now (ECB is headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany, and that’s the real engine behind the experiment). The overriding reason for keeping the Euro alive is the fact that Germany is an exporting economy (47% of GDP was exported in 2017) and can’t afford currency risk in Europe. Also, the US dollar is strengthening and will continue to do so, in my view, so life is good for BMW et al. The problem is that the economy is a zero-sum game, so for any surplus there must be a matching deficit.
For now, any forms of resistance to the status-quo, especially in the South of Europe and labelled “populism”.
OK, enough about the EU, time to ride back.
Between Strasbourg and Basel, the land flattens out, even though you can always see mountains on the horizon. The road remains me of Muskoka, Ontario, just without the signs “slow down for snakes”, or “watch for turtles”. Plus, we don’t have these integration issues in Canada. We experience the opposite - the Donald just broke the NAFTA trade agreement to pieces and is harassing the Chinese with tariffs.
He is clearly going the other way.
It could be that the whole world is a zero-sum game.
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Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler