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Believe it or not, that 'clickety-clack' noise a train makes is about the most romantic transport-related sound there is. But much like cobblestone and slippers, in America there's a noticeable dearth of passenger trains - at least in the West, where I'm from. Why? The distances are huge, petrol and flying are cheap (during Clinton's last year in office petrol cost around €0.16 per litre, and even now it's only €0.45), and the independence afforded by cars is pretty much a god-given right. Add it all up and passenger trains are more or less just props you see in movies.
OK, so the economy is crap and since everyone goes to university there are way too many qualified people for the jobs available, but for those that manage to find gainful employment the benefits are pretty sweet. Foremost among them is the number of vacation days you get: a legal minimum of 21, which is over twice (yes, twice) the standard amount given in the States. Throw in the (theoretically) infinite number of sick days and excess of public holidays and you have close to two completely work-free months per year. Good times.
Most Americans are fat and/or lazy - it's a fact, look it up. For instance, I haven't ran more than 100 metres or regularly ridden a bike since the mid-1990s. But I still like living in a city full of active people. Every weekend it seems like half the country is out climbing a mountain, cycling through the countryside or rummaging around in the forest for mushrooms. I even like those people on their ridiculous-looking rollerblades. Why? I guess mere proximity to active people makes me feel healthier by some kind of social osmosis, which I suppose is better than nothing.
The Slovene version of this article appears in the 30 November 2009 issue of Ljubljana's City Magazine. You can read Part I here and Part II here.