Nifty European Ideas

Among the many wonders I’ve seen in my travels – volcanoes, palaces, waterfalls and what have you – I must include the giant trash suckers of Seville.

We spotted these vacuum trash trucks roving around the old part of town, the Barrio Santa Cruz, sucking garbage out of strange fixtures. Turns out, the trucks hose up garbage from special stand pipes that come out of an underground garbage collection system.

This is a very old neighborhood, where the streets are too narrow for garbage trucks. So people drop their garbage bags into pneumatic tubes and – whoosh – just like at the bank drive-through. Only with garbage instead of money.


This is one of the best parts of traveling, getting to see other ways of doing ordinary things. It makes me realize that there are other ways to do these things, not just the way I’ve always seen it done. (The volcanoes and palaces are also nice, of course.)

Oh, and it’s not just the trash suckers. I found some other things in Europe that I thought were pretty nifty:

  • Euro coins. Let’s face it, the paper dollar will never die until we simply replace it with a dollar coin. And while we’re at it, let’s have a two-dollar coin, too. The Canadians have them. Why can’t we?
  • Speed-sensitive traffic lights. What a devilish innovation. You’re tooling along a nice empty stretch of road when you  approach a town with a lower speed limit. If you don’t slow down enough, the light up ahead goes red and you have to stop. After a while, you learn to slow down so that you don’t have to stop. 
  • Speaking of motion detectors, the escalators in the Helsinki metro have them. So if there’s nobody around, the escalator stops. If someone approaches, it turns back on.
  • Oh, and I really want a Zumex. It’s a big machine that you throw whole oranges into and it spits out fresh orange juice.  I enjoyed watching the waitresses in a diner toss the oranges way over their heads into the machine. (They could take up basketball.)
  • At Schiphol airport in Amsterdam they have little carts that travelers can use – for free – to transport luggage. If you have to leave one at the bottom of an escalator or one side of a security checkpoint, there are more on the other side. I love that.

And then there were the high-speed trains, the water-jet street cleaners and the windmills. I liked those, too.


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