Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Patriots and Politics

License plates in European Union countries are a far cry from those in the USA.  You won't come across 37 distinct personalized plates per country promoting such interests as college alumnis, professional sports teams, state mottos, tourist landmarks, anything and everything.  EU plates have a circle of stars and a letter code of the country beneath it: F (France), GB (Great Britain), PL (Poland), E (Espagne), IRL (Ireland), TR (Turkey), CH (Switzerland), etc.  Some are more obvious than others.  I recently came across the above plate in Ax-les-Termes:  OC for Occitania.  Oc is a linguistic region rather than a distinct country defined by political borders.  But it is very political in this region, and you will see numerous stickers on vehicles displaying Oc patriotism.  Since OC is not an actual country, someone has altered this license plate.

Another highly charged political issue in the Midi-Pyrenees is the re-introduction of bears and wolves. For pretty much the same reasons that grizzlies and wolves find themselves in the hot seat around Yellowstone National Park, Pyreneean sheep ranchers contend that bears and wolves threaten their livelihood.  "Neither bears nor wolves" is frequently painted on the roads, this one headed up the Plateau de Beille.

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