Sunday morning sunrise
Sunday mornings are my favourite time in a small European country. The streets are deserted, just the soft whispering of the Saturday night litter is breaking the silence. The only people you meet are early runners (like me), dog-walkers and late drunks. I love how the place is stripped of its inhabitants, like in a sci-fi movie. The city is then somehow naked without the usual crowds. The scarcity of people you meet makes you extra attentive to the ones you do see. It is a unique experience in a big city (and even big European cities are empty on a Sunday morning) to actually recognize faces on the street and not just a blur of people. Now that I have an alarm clock that I can’t ignore (she’s almost two now, and VERY lively), I often am up and running as early as 6 in the morning. And I love it – seeing and hearing my city slowly awakening, literally feeling the buzz picking up pace, slowly at first, but then suddenly everything speeds up to an avalanche race. Then the church bells start, and as if by a wave of a magic stick, within half an hour the whole place is up and awake again, the city is alive with its cars, trams, coffee shops (of both kinds), shops are open and the crowds are all out there, again, as if there was no Sunday morning, and the city beats and blows its horns for a whole week, until its briefly entirely mine again, just for a couple blessed hours of a run through the empty streets. Sunday mornings are best.
All good things come to an end though. As of January 1st, stores in the centre of Rotterdam will be allowed to open on Sundays at 8:00 instead of 12:00. Having lived in Germany, where bakeries are open at 7:00 every day, including Sundays, I can appreciate the comfort of getting fresh bread rolls for your Sunday breakfast. But I doubt the new opening hours will get the Dutch to shop on Sunday mornings. And since I really do enjoy these exclusively quiet hours, I am probably going to vote for a Christian fundamentalist party in the next municipal elections. They seem to be the only ones who still support the Sunday’s rest.
The crowds are back – ’till next Sunday morning
I have lived in 5 different European countries and visited dozens of others, so I consider myself a bit of an expert on Europe. And of course on Europe’s problems, a topic which has been dominating headlines for the past few years. I know exactly what is the biggest problem Europe has. It’s not the Euro, not the immigrants, not Islam, not climate change. In North or South, East or West, in poor countries and rich ones, large or small, the single biggest problem Europeans in all countries are facing is one and the same. It’s dog shit. Seriously. On a day-to-day basis, the most concerning problem for the average European is how to avoid stepping into fresh (or not so fresh) piece of dog shit.
The issue of dog shit crosses (sometimes quite literally) all borders in Europe. Throughout the years, I’ve seen Europeans of all social backgrounds, skin colours and religions neglecting to commit the simple act of picking up their dog’s shit, and I’ve seen their European neighbours failing to find an adequate answer to this neglect.
Dog shit is a problem that encompasses most, if not all, aspects of society. It’s about the antisocial dog owner, who fails to assume his/her citizen’s responsibility. It’s about their fellow citizens, who, when confronted with the problem look away and hope someone else will do something about it. It’s about taxes and spending – European municipalities have a habit of charging a “dog tax” and spending it on pretty much anything rather than the intended purpose of dog toilets and poop bag dispensers. It’s about public health and safety – the turds are a source of germs and parasites in the air. It’s also about law enforcements – in Rotterdam, where I live, the fine for not clearing your dog’s shit is 130 Euro, but I have never seen the city wardens actually fine someone (and I’ve seen plenty of dogs taking a dump on the streets).
Basically, what it comes down to is that you need to watch where you’re stepping, can’t lie down on the grass in a park and nobody’s doing anything about it. Except in Switzerland, which sort of proves that the Swiss are not a part of Europe but live on a separate continent. But I’m digressing. What I’m trying to say is that I’ve had it with dog shit. I am taking a stand. In the building across the lawn lives a guy who owns a couple of large dogs. You see where this is going, right? Yes, right on the lawn, even though there’s a dog toilet across the street. I’m going to make myself perfectly clear by putting this baby in front of his balcony:
If this sign is not clear enough I’ll have to buy an air gun