first of all, everybody in the three cities we have seen has one. now every body lives in an apartment (this is how all the europeans get a much smaller carbon footprint rating than the westerners) so most people have medium to small apartment-sized dogs, but you do see great hulking hairy things as well. prague has more of the great hulking hairy things than budapest and vienna did. prague also seems to have had german shepherd pups come into season or something because there is a high percentage of shepherd pups, who are skinny and all legs and ears right now. i guess maybe dogs come in waves, and right now it is shepherd time. it looks like about 14 years ago it was yellow lab time – all the yellow ones are old, grey-faced, lumpy and sweet.
theres lots of mixed breeds and so many of those endearing, wiry-haired salt-and-pepper coloured scroungy mutt things that just say ‘you picked me up from the pound and loved me’ all over them. then theres min-pins and westies and poodlex things, and little fluffy curly white french dogs, and for the giant hairy things theres old english sheepdogs and deerhounds and then the less hairy are the ridgebacks (lots of ridgebacks actually) and pitbull or pitbull crosses and i even saw a pharaoh hound. a really good mix. everybody has a dog. cordelia at first delighted at pointing and squealing, but theres been so many that she has been unable to keep up.
and everybodys dog is well-behaved, calm and friendly. dogs seem to be very much accepted here and its perfectly okay to walk off-leash on the street, trot up to a stranger and say hello. there are very few ‘no dog’ zones. we happened upon a music festival that was going on in the park and as soon as people got to the lawns, they unleashed their dog and let him wander. if he was a big one he cut through the crowd for his owners, a little one maybe had to be scooped up and carried. i watched two women with a dog about the size of a pony at the festival. they were just passing through the park i think, but they let him off and off he went, trotting ahead and along side, going to check out other dogs and some strangers who either welcomed him or completley ignored him, but nobody was alarmed or upset. the women surely didnt know where he was at all times as he must have dissappeared into the crowd a few times and occasionally one would call him and then he’d come back to check in again. he always knew where they were.
toronto is pretty dog-friendly, but these cities in europe seem to be better still. people seem to have a higher tolerance and much more acceptance of a strange dog coming over to stick his nose in your lap for a second. the funny thing? most dogs dont. mostly they keep to themselves and don’t do the ‘nose-in-crotch’ they just wander and look, and if they are invited over by the stranger then they will go say hello. even the puppies walk on a leash beautifully, maintaining that heel-with-lots-of-leash-slack that garnet never ever did. (and from when we met her again, seems like the one thing they didnt quite manage to train out of her). dogs are everywhere.
a couple more things:
– in these cities, gelato is so prevalent that its perfectly acceptable to have a bowl of icecream before noon.
– in vienna at least, they had icecream ‘salons’ – which was the literal translation, but like an icecream bar or restaurant where the menu was icecream. it seems just fine to go there for lunch.
– at night, if you choose to sit outside on the patio, the restaurant provides you with thick blankets. awesome idea.
– they bring bread to your table but its a trick – its not free, if you eat some it appears on your bill. this is really hard to explain to cordelia, so we usually end up paying for a roll or two. not a big deal, but seems strange and somewhat insulting to my toronto-based understanding that bread comes for free
– in prague you pay to use public bathrooms. theres a turnstile that you drop coins into. not every bathroom is like this, but most of them are. this also seems strange to my toronto-based ‘public bathrooms are free’ understanding, but i see how this system works perfectly as well.
– the toilet and the sink and teh shower are not all in the same room. it happens frequently that ‘bathroom’ is two rooms – one for toilet, one for sink. like having one stall in a small bathroom would be like at home. in the restaurant that we were in last night they saved space by making the bathroom like this: one room for sinks with two rooms on either side, each with a toilet. one toilet for men one toilet for women. in vienna, the apartmet/hostel we stayed at had toilet in one room and shower and sink in another, totally seperate room.
– grocery stores sell groceries. they do not sell shampoo, drugs, underwear, baby diapers or toothbrushes. in other words, grocery stores and not pharmacies/department stores or shoppers drug marts all in the same go.
– sidewalks and sidestreets are cobbled. in prague, there has been a lot of effort put in to making the sidewalks beautiful with mosiac patterns of tiny, 3-4 inch squares of stone. sidewalks are not cement and only main roads are asphalt.
– you just cross the road when you feel like it and drivers tolerate you nicely.
– although its all apartments and nobody has lawns, there are lots of big open parks with grass and trees. i woould miss not having a garden though.
– you can walk around with alcohol on the street. the downside is that there are frequently broken bottles around, especially after yesterdays music festival. they seem to be cleaned up pretty quickly though.
– everybody will offer to carry your stoller down the stairs for you. nobody pretends to not see you on the subway, they all jump out of their seats for you.
– the public transit systems here put torontos TTC to shame. they are not perfect, but they cover a much wider expanse of the city. it works on the honour system for the most part – you put some coins in a machine that prints your ticket, then you put your ticket into this other tiny machine that validates it. then you get on the train. there is usually nothing stopping you from skipping this and getting on the train.
– you can also buy certain tickets depending on how far you are traveling, if you are making any changes on the subway lines, or if you intend to get on a bus above ground. the less you travel and the fewer stops you make the less you have to pay for a ticket. neat system.
– however, you better not be in a wheelchair. these are not very wheelchair accessible transport systems or cities. budapest was the worst for this. everything is stairs and narrow sidewalks and steep hills and big curbs and big gaps between subway and platform. vienna was better, but still not great. i guess you just dont use wheelchairs. i have seen one wheelchair but many people on crutches who i assume would have been in a wheelchair if they had been in toronto instead.
– everybody is white. very few people are a visible minority.
– naked breasts are okay. this catches me off-guard when i see someone reading a newspaper that has a topless women photo to go with the article. breastfeeding is not something that you hide under a special apron for, nor are there special nursing rooms or crochety old men to tell you off. women just lift their shirts and latch their babies on. i am not sure if there is more breastfeeding here than at home or if women just feel more accepted and are comfortable with doing it in public. i have breastfed in a shoestore for instance, but many women are uncomfortable and shy and prefer not to be seen. this is not the case here.
– you can tell we are tourists because we dress our kid in a t-shirt where the locals are still dressing their babes in layers and layers. its warm to us, not that warm yet to them.
now about cordelia:
– she seems to be saying ‘up!” when she wants to be picked up. she’ll stretch her arms towards you and demand “ahp! ahp!”
– she knows how to give high-fives. she thinks this is a great game.
– she knows where her head is. we have no idea how she learned this. then we tried other body parts. she also knows where her nose is, and again we dont know how long shes known this one. it took us about trhee seconds to teach her ‘foot’ and ‘ear’. she wont do it all the time since shes not a trick labrador, but if you ask her ‘wheres your ___?’ she may point it out for you. not so sure about ‘wheres my ____?’ and has trouble identifying the same body parts on other people.
– she can walk but she mostly chooses not to. shes still faster and more confident with crawling.
– she knows when shes in a restaurant and immediately sits forward in the stroller and signs that she would like some food.
– she dances. if she hears music, like from the music festival, she bops her head and sways from side to side.