What Europeans Get Wrong About Visiting the United States

people-walking-in-a-field

And what we get wrong when visiting them.

Europeans really have no clue how big America is, do they? I’ll give you an example in a moment.

The Cherhill White Horse

The Cherhill White Horse, Chalk Horses of England

We can’t just get in our car, drive for 3 hours and suddenly be immersed in a different country, like someone in Europe can. Well some of us can, like me. It only takes a few minutes and my Nexus card, and I am in Canada. Niagara Falls, Ontario is not much different from here in Niagara Falls, USA – except they drive a bit faster over there.

Stone Ring at Avebury, Wiltshire

Stone Ring at Avebury, Wiltshire

Funny Story About Clueless Europeans

A friend told me about clueless tourists coming across the Canadian/US border. Her husband is a customs officer. Europeans fly into Toronto, drive to Niagara Falls, Ontario, take the Rainbow Bridge or the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge into Niagara Falls, NY. They cross into America, with hand to their head shading the sun’s glare, peering into the distance, ask, “Where is New York City,” as if they can see it off in the distance when they arrive. It is a 7 hour, 408 mile drive from here! That is what I mean about Europeans not realizing that this is such a big country.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

A direct flight from Seattle to London takes what seems an eternity. When was the last time you folks in Europe were in a plane for 10 or more hours to visit another country in Europe? Maybe I am not getting Europe’s size, but I have been in Eastern, Central, Northern, Southern, and Western Europe. Different trips, but it seems pretty easy to get places in a short amount of time.

stonehenge-0

It takes about as long to go to London as it does to Seattle for me.  I took a plane from Buffalo to Hawaii and that was over 10 hours, not counting layovers. We are BIG here!

I do realize that the US can fit inside some other countries and they are much bigger, but European countries are smaller than some of our states.

Europeans also have big, wide-open landscapes like we do here in the Mid-West or bread-basket states. The opening image shows some similarity, but not to the same scale. Drive across our country and some states go on and on – big, desolate, and empty. It is like driving your car feeling as if it is like a boat lost at sea.  You wonder when you will see civilization again.

Stonehenge Bolders

Stonehenge Boulders

Europe is Much Older

One thing people in America don’t really comprehend fully, is how old things are in Europe. They realize places are old, but not always understand how very old they are.

Some would dismiss these boulders as just rocks. I am not sure even British historians/archeologists know the actual reason why these rocks stand, but new discoveries theorize all the monuments have a relationship with each other. They must have had great significance to their creators.

Avebury, Wiltshire

Avebury, Wiltshire

The Henges

This post contains images of Stonehenge and Avebury Henge (Wiltshire). Many would look at these big rocks and not fathom the dates these neoliths were constructed.

Many in our country don’t know there are other henges either, like Durrington Walls, and Woodhenge in Wiltshire, and Arbor Low in Derbyshire. The site at Blink Mead is thought to be at least 9500 years old.

Some are even bigger in area or size, like superhenge under 3 feet of soil at Durrington Walls. It is five times bigger than Stonehenge. I doubt many here in the US know of Avebury either.

avebury-0

The ditch and stone circles of Avebury were constructed between 2600 and 2400 BC on approximately 28 acres, but estimates also think the first people started around 3000 BC.  The estimate on Stonehenge is around 2500 BC, which makes Stonehenge possibly a tad later.

Avebury is the largest, above ground stone circle in Britain, with about 100 original stones. The largest circle encloses two smaller stone circles. These Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial sites were formed as a vast sacred landscape. Avebury Henge is also a World Heritage Site.

I prefer the more atmospheric Avebury, with its peaceful village setting, to the congested tourist site at Stonehenge. Avebury Henge is spaciously spread out around quaint Avebury Village. It also is surrounded by grazing sheep which gives it such a pastoral feel. Avebury has a much different feel to it than hectic Stonehenge, even though Stonehenge is also surrounded by sheep. You can see just how busy Stonehenge is in an image above.

avebury-4

So Americans, what did I tell you that you did not know?

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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53 Responses to What Europeans Get Wrong About Visiting the United States

  1. swo8 says:

    yes we have a lot of territory here in the west.
    Leslie

  2. Donnamae says:

    Did not know there were other henges like Avebury! Interesting post! 😉

  3. KathyG says:

    The classic joke is that Americans think 100 years is a long time, and English (or Europeans) think 100 miles is a long ways

    • That is probably so true. I did not feel the antiquity of Europe untill my first visit to Eastern Europe and all the churches. I have post mentioning literally walking in the footsteps of soldiers and kings. I saw and ran my hand over Roman walls from the time of Christ. It was almost other worldly to me. Cobbles that held eons of history. I took a photo of my feet on those cobbles.

  4. I only knew a little about the henges. Really so fascinating. You are right that Americans don’t always grasp how old Europe is and how much history there is in European countries and across the world. Old for us is 300 years!

    • KathyG says:

      I was amazed, the first time I was in Britain (and bought a book about stone circles) to learn that there are literally hundreds of these stone monuments up and down the British Isles and across the channel in France, and western Europe. We saw one in Spain. Some are small, some are large like Stonehenge or Avebury. It is so strange to be driving along in, say, the Scottish highlands, and spot the remnants of a stone circle out in the middle of a pasture. Untended, unnoticed by the locals. There is a large one just outside Inverness, Clava Cairns, which has a long stone tunnel, marking the winter solstice. Famous one at Newgrange in Ireland. They are literally everywhere.

      • We saw others too on our trip, but being on a bus, I did not photograph them. Like you, I did see unright stones in fields. I thought they probably were traces of past henges – once I learned the U.K. had so many. Thank you for expanding my henge post with the additions of Spain and Ireland. I always like to learn more.

        • Søren says:

          Many of the solitary uprights might have been menhirs in their own right. If you think of a henge as a cathedral, a single menhir would have been more like your village church, I guess.

          Most cultures have had sacred stones, and sometimes even the single stone can be a place of worship.

          • Good point. I thought they may be markers pointing the way to the actual henges.

            • Søren says:

              Here in Denmark, of course, the tradition of the solitary monolith survived into the 10th century in the shape of the rune stones. Sadly, though, for a long time they were considered works of art – hence they were moved to museums, rather than preserved in their original place. The two most famous ones, though, have miraculously remained in situ – though they have how been protected as water and frost poses a very real danger to them.

              • That is interesting. Rune stones seem to give more information about their creation. We have some in this country from the Norsemen. I don’t really know much about them, but the reason for their importance was to prove Columbus was not the first to visit this country. The other observation was that it may have indicated a land connection at the time and sailing would have been a bit easier.

                • Søren says:

                  ᚼᛅᚱᛅᛚᛏᚱ ᛬ ᚴᚢᚾᚢᚴᛦ ᛬ ᛒᛅᚦ ᛬ ᚴᛅᚢᚱᚢᛅ
                  ᚴᚢᛒᛚ ᛬ ᚦᛅᚢᛋᛁ ᛬ ᛅᚠᛏ ᛬ ᚴᚢᚱᛘ ᚠᛅᚦᚢᚱ ᛋᛁᚾ
                  ᛅᚢᚴ ᛅᚠᛏ ᛬ ᚦᚭᚢᚱᚢᛁ ᛬ ᛘᚢᚦᚢᚱ ᛬ ᛋᛁᚾᛅ ᛬ ᛋᛅ
                  ᚼᛅᚱᛅᛚᛏᚱ (᛬) ᛁᛅᛋ ᛬ ᛋᚭᛦ ᛫ ᚢᛅᚾ ᛫ ᛏᛅᚾᛘᛅᚢᚱᚴ

                  ᛅᛚᛅ ᛫ ᛅᚢᚴ ᛫ ᚾᚢᚱᚢᛁᛅᚴ

                  ᛫ ᛅᚢᚴ ᛫ ᛏ(ᛅ)ᚾᛁ (᛫ ᚴᛅᚱᚦᛁ ᛫) ᚴᚱᛁᛋᛏᚾᚭ

                  This is the inscription on the Greater Jelling Stone. I love how it’s possible to type it on a modern laptop! (It says some nonsense about King Harald Bluetooth Christening all the Danes – which is a blatant lie as Christianity arrived well before him and full majority conversion to Christianity was only achieved some 200 years later…

                  Still, the first part of that inscription is in my passport!

      • I did not know that. I’ve never been to Britain – I can see I’m missing something fascinating!

    • Our history is but a blip in the grand scheme. At least it is an important blip. Our forefathers were a great and courageous group of men in their politics to make a nation. What they did to make this a country was an amazing feat. I suppose if one is a Native American, they might have a different perspective though.

      • Søren says:

        Your history – by virtue of where you live and have your roots – go back thousands of years. Native American history IS your history. It’s such a shame that so little has been done to excavate Native American archaeological sites and communicate them to the public. That’s not cultural expropriation, but cultural acknowledgement.

        • I am not sure I agree. Being German myself by my ancestry, I have no association with Native Americans in that regards. I believe it is against the law to disturb any Native burial grounds or anywhere they inhabited. We have mounds here that are protected. I am not sure what they were used for, but know we cannot do harm to them. We also have local tribal land or reservations in this region. Many tribes were warring with Europeans so how can you believe you would share roots with the “enemy”. I mean those Europeans from that time as seeing them as the enemy, not now of course. But, a local tribe did try to invalidate a treaty and claim the islands in the Niagara River not too long ago. Had it not been settled in the residents favor, a lot of expensive real estate would have been under Native control. One island is heavily populated. The other islands they were contesting were right in the middle of Niagara Falls State Park, right at the Falls. I agree we should have cultural acknowledgement and it is evident here as I mentioned having local reservations.

          • Søren says:

            You do have association with Native Americans, though, simply by living where you do. You call it “home”, and that home has a history. It gives you roots – though your roots might be young, they’re in old soil.

            I do agree, though, that the issue of Native Americans in the US is complicated. And quite frankly it’s beyond what I am qualified to discuss. I just don’t know enough about it.

            • I did a post Is Home Where You Were Born?
              It says how I feel about home and showed where I lived when growing up and before moving to NY.

              • I have a slightly weird story about home. I was born in New Jersey, but was moved to Colorado before I was six months old. Lived there til I was 24. Always felt homesick, but since I’d never consciously lived anywhere else, I could not imagine where I was homesick for. Never felt I belonged where I was. Then we moved to Massachusetts. Oh. This is where I’m supposed to be. Felt it right off. I have never once felt homesick since moving here. I had never, ever been here til then, either. Well, I think it’s weird.

  5. Emily Scott says:

    Well, you told me something I didn’t know about my own country. If I had heard of Avebury before it’s slipped my mind. It looks lovely. It is hard to comprehend the size of America. Scotland feels a long way away from London and yet by your standards I know it is not.

    • I am surprised. It must be like here in Niagara Falls. The locals rarely give the falls a glance. I am sure there is plenty I don’t know about the history of this area, but not being from here, I have always been drawn to the falls. I think it is because the city is in such decline, the falls is like a refuge from the blight.

  6. You left out how really big Canada is. Archeologists found the bones of camels on Ellesmere Island.

    • Yes, Canada is huge. Swo8 is from Canada and I made a remark on how I have never been past Ontario. The post came about because of the remark my friend made on people coming from Europe. I just expanded it on how even I did not grasp the age of Europe until I visited and actually felt it first hand to walk those ancient cobbles.

  7. I think you said it quite well. When I visited Europe, I was impressed by how old the buildings were.

    • I was impressed but also astounded. As an architect, I fully can understand the age of buildings, but monuments are often a head scratcher as to how they were built or erected. I guess when there is a will, there is a way.

  8. When I first came to Pennsylvania I tried to impress upon the folks back home how big America is. When I told them Pennsylvania is about the same size as England and is the 18th state in size (32 states being larger) they were amazed. On the other hand, many Americans assumed I came from London — like London and England are synonymous. Incidentally, I remember visiting Stonehenge before the fence was installed. Really got close and personal with those rocks. P. x

    • I talked with a few people that also visited Stonehenge before the barrier was up. They did mention that there is private visitation where people can get close. I assume that is for special groups paying more. Our group was obviously not one. I did enjoy Stonehenge and it was nice they had a transport bus up to the monuments. I would have liked to walk since the area was pretty, but our time was limited. I made my pass around, then headed back to explore the area. The visitor’s center was where a lot of our group went.

  9. Steve says:

    An interesting blog. It prompted me to compare the land areas of America and Europe. Generally it appears that Europe is actually slightly larger than America but it does depend on what you classify as Europe. The reality is that most Europeans have hardly been anywhere in Europe and from my experience most Americans have hardly travelled in America. As a student I hitched hiked across both Europe and America and and find I have seen more of both than most residents. I liked your comments about the age of everything in Europe. I used to work for M&Ms and I remember on a visit to a factory in New Jersey I was taken to see the oldest house in Hacketstown, a little over 100 years. When I mentioned that the house I live in was almost 300 years old there was a general look of disbelief. But actually 300 is not that old by English standards.

  10. Steve says:

    Made me think about the last stone circle I visited. This one is on the Isle of Arran on Machrie Moor, only about 2500BC. https://glebehouse.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/03_05_16_2402.jpg
    But the location makes up for the lack of age!

  11. I spent my first 24 years in Colorado, and I wasn’t even aware there are sand dunes there til I lived in Massachusetts and read about them somewhere. We did most of our ‘away from home’ days in the mountains. Hundreds of day trips to the mountains, which were Right There. I miss that. The smell of the pines, the sound of the wind blowing through them. The rapid-filled creeks and rivers. Yeah, I really miss that. My Uncle’s father was a trapper from Maine, and he had a little log cabin and kept wolves up near Rye, Colorado.

    • I drove through all the states but two (Oregon and Alaska) and spent time skiing in Colorado. It is a beautiful state. I was there in summer too. Love those mountain streams and rivers. I can’t recall sand dunes either. Saw plenty of sand in other states though. I love Maine a lot. Pretty uninhabited but comparison, but that is one thing nice about Maine. I lived in New England for a bit over a year, so I spent time in all the states there. My pet toy poodle was born in Massachusetts. It was my last little dog though. Labrador Retriever, Norwegian Elkhound, Akita and Samoyed followed. The little poodle did not do well in ski country, even though she traveled the country with me. She was in more states than any other dog I owned. She even flew to Utah from Pennsylvania, and New Orleans to Pennsylvania. She was on my road trip across the country too. She lived a long life, but my mom liked her so much I let her have her.

  12. debsgarden says:

    I had never heard of the stone circle at Avebury, though I did know Stonehenge was not the only henge. I love the pastoral setting! I think it is hard even for many Americans to appreciate how large our own country is. Whenever I fly from Alabama to visit my son in Portland, Oregon, I always think of the long months it took my grandfather to travel from his home in Tennessee to Oregon back in the very early twentieth century. He kept a journal, and it is fascinating reading. The airplane has shrunk the world, but we miss so much flying over!

    • I am sure you are right that even people here do not really know this country is as large as it is unless they drive coast to coast. Flying is deceiving in comparison. I did drive to CA from Philadelphia and I can tell you it takes many days. Imagine using a horse and carriage? I would bet your grandfather’s journal would be interesting reading. That would be a long drive in vehicles from the time.

  13. Good points! I think we realized how old things are in Europe before we went there, but it didn’t really hit us until we got there–the incredibly old and stunningly beautiful architecture! The wide open spaces that go on and on here in the U.S. make my heart sing. We drove out to and back from the “Four Corners” area this summer and it felt like such a privilege to be able to explore the wild places. Travel is such a joy, but it’s nice to get back home, too.

    • I loved the architecture but was more intrigued by the old Roman perimeter walls and ancient cobbles. The castles and forts made my mind picture the historical events and frightened people as arrows flew and swords clashed. I invented people from thousands of years ago walking those cobbles pulling carts or carrying baskets of wild fruit and vegetables. I too drove to the four corners many years ago from PA. I would say I was less interested in the grasslands of Kansas and deserts in Nevada on that trip until I saw places in New Mexico and Arizona. The shapes and colors of the landscape made me realize why painters like O’Keeffe went there. I skied in Colorado and Utah for more than a year, while living in Utah. The mountains were my heaven at that time. Yes, you are right, there is no place like home for most.

  14. David says:

    Very interesting post. I think another thing Americans probably don’t understand about Europe is the impact that centuries of war have had on various countries and their people. If the majority of generations in a family has had to survive a war in their country or neighboring country it seems there would have to be some sort of inherited attitude, or feeling, or sense of war imprinted in the family psyche; something that views or reacts to potential or actual war differently than someone in the US. I don’t know what that difference, if any, is it just seems there would be one.

    • I agree David, good point. I have mentioned this subject on a previous post on Eastern Europe when we visited Concentration Camps and saw bombed out remains of buildings. Many buildings still inhabited were riddled with bullet holes too. We also met families that went through wars in their countries like in Hungary, Croatia, Serbia and Romania. In Romania our tour director was fighting in the war in that country against his own government. In Croatia, we visited a family at their home for a lunch and a bit of history. In Serbia, I felt like that country really was worn torn, and a bit scared to walk though the city alone. I was sick and did not go with the group, but did go through their customs to just see the city a bit. I quickly decided to turn back and get on the boat. Customs even scared me. Remember, those countries were under Communist rule a while back, but the culture is still with them and fresh in their memory. The way it is going, some may become part of Russia again, and willingly. Many spoke of unemployment, loss of housing and always knowing there would be food for the family. They liked being Communist.

  15. aussiebirder says:

    Thanks for a very interesting post regarding the stone monuments. I saw the Henge last year, I could see they went to a lot of trouble to construct these places. AS for a sense of perspective, Likewise in Australia people from Europe and Asian countries find the distances between cities quite enormous. I just returned yesterday from a 12 hour day of driving from one state capital to another at 110 km/ hour and they are not that far away in our terms.

    • I can imagine that people visiting your country would be surprised at its size and proximity to other cities. Crossing NY state is an 8 hour drive at the least. I said 7 in the post, but there are longer distances to go than where I mentioned, not to mention traffic. I am less inclined to make that drive, but know people from here that do. I used to drive to NY from PA and don’t remember it being that long a drive, only about 100 miles between Philadelphia and NYC.

      • Oh, driving across NY on I80, is it? Cachunk, cachunk, cachunk. How I hated that. Drove from Mass to Colorado, and then back once, and then across and down to Kentucky and back once. Maybe they’ve paved over the concrete since then. When we first drove here from Colorado, we came up through Connecticut and up the coast. That was even worse, with the toll booths and numerous annoyances. Going across NY State was easier, if crazy-making.

  16. You nailed it and as usual in an entertaining article…the one thing I didn’t know was the plethora of ‘henges’ scattered about…what a mysterious society.

    • I was unaware of so many too Laura. Driving by bus, we passed so many stones upright in farmer’s fields. No doubt they were part of henges throughout the country since new thinking is that all of them are connected in some way. Maybe marker? Maybe a sacred stop? Who knows/

  17. A.M.B. says:

    I’ve been to Wiltshire, but I’ve never visited Avebury. I want to go! I definitely haven’t done as much traveling as I should. We are hoping to take our kids to Canada soon (I can’t believe we haven’t done that yet–I went quite often when I was a kid, but we didn’t need passports back then).

    • Hopefully you get to go to Avebury. It really is a cute town. Where in Canada are you planning to go? I have been to Quebec, Toronto and Montreal for the bigger cities. Also a lot of fine smaller cities in Ontario.

  18. It is sad that the bridge that divides them and us is bigger and longer than it really is…I enjoyed and learned a lot from your post.

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