Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Saturday, June 29, 2013
Travel is educational. This summer, my wife and I will have been married 50 years, and, as a gift, our daughter sent us on a riverboat cruise in Europe.
We sailed through parts of The Netherlands, Germany and Austria, where we visited, among other things, cathedrals, castles and toilets.
The cathedrals were magnificent and the castles were OK. More about the toilets later.
At one point we got off our ship and took a bus to the beautiful city of Heidelberg. While there, we saw the University of Heidelberg, and I got an idea of how to improve education in Roanoke.
The university there is ancient, and at some time in the distant past, the city fathers complained that the university students were getting out of hand.
The local authorities were unable to sufficiently rein in their behavior.
The university solved the problem.
It built a prison adjacent to the campus.
When a student was found guilty of an infraction he — all students were male — would be sentenced to a period of time in the prison.
But he still had to attend classes.
The practice has fallen out of favor, but tourists can visit the prison to see the graffiti painted by the students on the walls of their cells.
Here is my idea for improving education in Roanoke.
Adjacent to Patrick Henry and William Fleming high schools, we should build modest-sized prisons.
When Freddy acts up in math class, instead of the teacher telling Freddy to go see the principal, he sentences Freddy to two days in the slammer.
But Freddy still has to attend classes.
The money that the city will save by not giving handsome raises to the council members could be used as a down payment on a prison fund.
In Cologne, Germany, a city with 1 million residents, there is an enormous cathedral — second tallest in Germany — 500 feet. It towers over the city.
Building began on the cathedral in 1248. According to the tour guide, the citizens learned that the architect at the time hoped to make it taller than they thought possible.
They decided that he was guided by the devil and killed him.
The cathedral was completed in 1880. (It survived World War II because Allied pilots used its spires as a marker to guide their bombing runs.)
Our guide from the ship led us to the plaza in front of the cathedral and suggested we tour the building.
By way of information, he pointed out that there was a public restroom just to the right of the cathedral entrance.
My wife and I decided to use the facilities, our first public toilet in Germany. It was below ground, so we walked down the stairs where we came face-to-face, so to speak, with a turnstile.
In order to enter this restroom, you needed to insert a 50-cent coin — half a euro. It so happened that I had a handful of coins that included exactly two of the required denomination.
As we were leaving the facility, there was an Asian family standing helplessly at the turnstile. Clearly they did not have the appropriate coins, and there was no change machine available. They were still there as we ascended the stairs. We felt empathetic but helpless.
At other places in Europe, there would be a stern-looking lady collecting money at the entrance to the toilet. The stern ladies were an improvement over the turnstiles, as they would have change so that exact coins were not required.
Here is an idea from our European toilet experiences. When our governor or legislature again decides that Virginia can no longer afford to finance public rest stops on interstate highways, instead of closing them, they should hire stern-looking ladies to stand at the entrances and collect money.
It works in the Old World, why not in the New?
A word of advice: If you are planning to travel in Europe, take a bucket full of European 50-cent pieces.
Weather JournalStorm track isn't very snowy for us