A vacation to make one appreciate our freedom

It was the last hurrah before the start of the football season.

My wife Robin and I headed to Europe, a sojourn we had planned for a few years.

Rob likes to cruise, meet new friends, check out some history, and she says she even likes spending time with me. Go figure.

Me? I love history and love meeting people around the world. We talk about their country and ours, and when we talk about New Orleans, their eyes light up.

If you don’t think we live in a place that is unique, their reaction speaks volumes.

I have learned that maybe we don’t appreciate our home and our country as much as we should. After talking to people from around the world, I realize their perception of America seems to be a lot different than our own.

In Finland, an incredibly beautiful nation, our group was on a bus that left Helsinki for a beautiful little town called Porvoo.

Porvoo is about 100 miles from the Russian border. I listened intently as our guide told us of his fear, not of the Russian people but of their military one day crossing their border. For him, and I guess thousands of other Finns, there is an appreciation of America as a defender of freedom.

In Tallinn, Estonia, we toured the beautiful Old Town.

Estonia, a nation of 1 million, gained independence in 1991 when the old Soviet Union dissolved. The city of Tallinn is one of the tech hubs of Europe.

My favorite stop was the Tallinn Song Festival grounds. It was here in 1988, as many as 300,000 people – almost a third of the country’s population – gathered to demand independence. If you ever want to know how important freedom is, stand there on a hill and look at this magnificent venue.

In Berlin, since the Wall came down in 1989, the eastern part of the city is booming. If there still were not parts of a wall between East and West, you would, at times, have trouble distinguishing between these two parts of Berlin.

An area, Potsdamer Platz, that was part of the Wall, has construction everywhere. East Berlin is now seen as the coolest part of town to live. West Berlin, said our guide, “is old money.”

I had to chuckle. Once again, freedom spoke in a city that was ground zero of the Cold War.

Germany, as a nation, remembers the tragedy of World War II as something that should never be repeated. In the area that houses all the government buildings, our bus slowed to look at one of them. Our guide showed us the bullet holes still left unrepaired in the columns of the buildings. For Germans, it is a stark reminder.

On the Unter den Linden, a short distance from Brandenburg Gate, stands Humboldt University. Across the street, in a huge square, a massive book burning was staged by the Nazis in 1933. Centuries of history in literature were lost.

To remember that disastrous time, a glass square is cut out of the concrete. When you look down, you see empty bookshelves.

Again, a reminder for the Germans, of what was lost.

As we walked to majestic Brandenburg, I looked over to my left, I saw this most beautiful flag flying atop the United States Embassy.

And, I wondered: Why do others appreciate America more than we do?

Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarionherald.org.

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