Let’s talk about world history for this week’s article. Recently, I arrived back with a number of other Palmyra and Macedon residents from a river cruise on the Danube River. We visited Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Austria. We saw the Alps, featured in “The Sound of Music” and “Heidi,” both wonderful movies.
Never did I think a trip like this was possible, but it was and what an education. As we walked down the stone streets looking up at the row houses with red tile roofs, we were reminded of the age of these countries and their buildings spanning from 800 A.D. to 1500 A.D. The churches, government buildings and tenant houses are all stone, with many covered in a stucco like material. The colors range from yellow, pink, red and tan to more basic natural white stone on the churches, government buildings and palaces.
How does this relate to our U.S. and Palmyra history? It does because we are called the new world, built from people who left these countries for whatever reason and thought a new way was a better way. It began with religious oppression, kings and queens and religious leaders from local bishops to the pope. The government was run by these people having the most incredibly decorated churches and palaces I have ever seen. These countries were depressed, scarred by war and certainly not free under the rule of kings, queens, bishop, popes, the Nazis and Russians.
The statues stand high above the streets or the communities and cities as reminders of a history shrouded in tyranny, royal family power, rulers and war, lots of war. Whether the history is disturbing or oppressive, the reminders of this remain as an example of the turmoil that plagued these countries. Hungary was one of the best examples of this — from rulers to Nazi invasion and Russian communism as late as 1989, finally getting freedom and becoming a republic. The people of these countries are proud of their countries and their history, proud of the jobs they do and few items said made in China. They noted made in Hungary or Czech Republic. They were proud of being part of the European Union, and preferred the Euros to even their own money. They like the USA and, although they don’t know much about it, they respect our country and our people. There is pride in their communities, and it shows. Bridges had to be rebuilt, along with a number of buildings blown up in World War I and World War II.
It was a great feeling to know how much they love their countries, and I could definitely relate with how much we love our America and our Palmyra. Tourism is the main business; however, they still have a number of manufacturing and technical companies. Banking is big, and ATMs are on every corner and in each building. Most took credit cards, which are automatically adjusted to the exchange rate, but some did not.
It is my opinion, although these countries are so much older than our USA, they spent centuries finding what was the right government and getting rid of the governing families. For us in Palmyra and for our founding pioneers, the War for Independence came after about 130 years and freedom came, government was formed and we knew this was a great place. Again in 1812 we fought for our freedom, and each time our country was stronger. We finally fought within our own country to keep our country together and keep our ideal of all created equal.
We saw where Martin Luther came from and why he left. We found some countries have to pay a 42-45 percent tax rate with an additional 8 percent on their taxes for their churches, primarily the Catholic Church, which is the main religion. Budapest is actually two cities: Buda and Pest joined by a number of bridges. We learned that Vienna, Austria, was home to artists of all types. To keep our ideals is not easy at any time, and that freedom is never free.