Tag Archives: Eurotrip

The 7 things I now understand a little bit better about Americans (in Europe)

My post titled “7 things I don’t understand about Americans in Europe” keeps drawing new comments, and not all of them are friendly. But I welcome them all, since the goal of the post was, in fact, to learn more about Americans in Europe and why they behave the way they do. Thanks to all those people (mostly Americans) who took the trouble to comment, I have indeed learned a few new things.

  1. Why don’t they drink tap water?
    Still unexplained. Possible answers were “Maybe it’s because we’re next to Mexico”, blaming low quality of tap water in some parts of Europe (and extrapolation to other parts), and more generalizing “American paranoia” (the last one is from an American, I merely quote here).
  2. Why do they think Europe has a “low season”?
    I was duly pointed to the fact that “Certain parts of Europe do in fact have low seasons, they just tend to be tourist magnets.” So yes, some sea-side resorts have low seasons, but the weather then is rather bad, and most businesses are closed, so in fact, they have no season at all then. If you’re going to Ibiza or Dubrovnik in the “low season” be prepared to visit a ghost town.
  3. Why do they use money belts? and
  4. Why don’t they use ATM’s?
    Commentators combined answers to these two questions, so I guess they are related.  I can live with the explanation that (some) Americans are not used to the crowds – “In America, we usually drive in cars and don’t walk much or use public transport.” Another commenter says that “pickpocketing certainly exists across the globe but is pronounced in Europe due to social problems.” I tend to disagree with this broad statement – social problems anywhere in Europe are nothing compared to India or Latin America. Perhaps, indeed, as another commenter suggests, “Money belts are a combination of paranoia and ignorance.”
    As far as ATM’s are concerned, apparently, “For Americans, ATMs often have very high fees for foreign transactions.” On the other hand, it does not apply for all Americans, as these comments clearly show: “Money belts are stupid. My wife and I use ATMs.” “I have never owned a money belt! They’re totally useless. I find that you’re better off with a little bit of street smarts and an ATM card with no international fees.”
  5. Why are they in such a rush?
    The most common explanation is the one I originally came up with myself – limited vacation days. But, as I’ve written in another post, the shocking truth is that Americans don’t even use the little leave they have! Why they insist on choosing quantity instead of quality? One commenter explains it as follows: “I could sit around in cafés or parks lounging and relaxing but how is that any better than moving at a fast pace to see as many sights and museums as possible?” Personally, I think a good vacation is exactly the opposite of “moving at a fast pace”, and is actually intended for relaxing. But has made a career out of writing about it, so I’ll refer all further questions to him.
  6. Why don’t they have a clue?
    Still a bit vague here, even though my question seems justified. Apparently, “most Americans think of Europe as Disneyland”. This is perhaps explained by “They don’t have a clue because they are never taught to be curious about what the rest of the world is like”, although it seems a broad generalization. But, as one commenter rightfully pointed out, “99% of them won’t even come over to Europe for not having enough time so, support the ones that do!” I couldn’t agree more.
  7. What’s up with Paris?
    As one commenter puts it, “there’s an unhealthy obsession in American culture with Paris as the capital of romance and beauty. Personally, I think it is neither.” On the other hand, another commenter says “I don’t know if I can explain Paris if you haven’t been there. I don’t think I would want to live in Paris, but as a tourist, I love Paris. ” According to others, “Paris is dirty, overhyped, and overrun with tourists”, “Paris is incredible but it’s also a dirty, angry city with tons of social problems.” So there’s definitely something about Paris, I just didn’t have the chance to check it out for myself yet.

It does appear that my post has hit a nerve, even though for some it was the wrong nerve – if you want to know more, check out the comments of the original post here. I still don’t understand (some) Americans, but thanks to the feedback, I understand them a little bit better. More comments are warmly welcomed!

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If I did it – how would I plan my Eurotrip

Europe is a tough continent to travel. Especially visitors from overseas are often surprised and sometimes overwhelmed by Europe’s diversity in cultures and climates and the distances in Europe are only relatively small. Expecting a compact, more or less uniform continent, they find themselves stressed on time and confused by the little differences that can make life on the road difficult when hopping across borders. Europe can be tough on budgets, too, but I already devoted a few posts to this topic – see here.

So what makes Europe such an attractive continent to travel in? First of all, of course, the history and culture. Europe’s museums, galleries and historical cities are like nothing else in the world. It is also a relatively easy and safe place to travel, with police in almost all countries being a reliable, friendly force and excellent public transport throughout most of the continent. Also, the geographic location of Europe and the quality of indoor attractions make Europe attractive in every season.

My Eurotrip is taking me over 10 years already. After I moved to Europe, I’ve travelled quite extensively around Europe. Not that I need to leave the Netherlands for great travelling, as these pictures clearly show:

My most recent travel - Het Loo Palace in Apeldoorn, residence of the Dutch Royals for 3 centuries.

My most recent travel – Het Loo Palace in Apeldoorn, residence of the Dutch Royals for 3 centuries.

Autumn in Europe has its charm for sure - this is the Bergse Bos, near Rotterdam.

Autumn in Europe has its charm for sure – this is the Bergse Bos, near Rotterdam.

Castle? No, a student dorm in Delft.

Castle? No, a student dorm in Delft.

This is why I'd go to Europe in May

This is why I’d go to Europe in May.

Ever heard of Zutphen? Neither did I.

Ever heard of Zutphen? Neither have I, until recently.

Basilica of Our Lady, Maastricht - a magnificent Romanesque church.

Basilica of Our Lady, Maastricht – a magnificent Romanesque church.

Het Vrijthof - another great site in Maastricht ;-)

Het Vrijthof – another magnificent site in Maastricht 😉

Of course, living in the Netherlands, with excellent connections to pretty much everywhere, makes it quite easy to travel. But I still haven’t visited even half of Europe’s countries! Not that it is my goal, but I still was surprised when I did the counting. Nevertheless, I consider myself quite a seasoned traveller. Having written about splitting Europe into bite-sized travel regions, I found myself thinking – how would I plan my Eurotrip if I went now, with all the knowledge I gained over the years?

Based on years of experience, I would firstly say that while Europe has a lot to offer in the winter, I’d definitely go in the summer, as May to September have the best weather and travel is just so much more fun when the sun is out. Personally, I’d go in May and June – July and August are rather sweaty and many places can and will get crowded. The water in the seas and lakes is much warmer later in the summer, so if you’re a swimming fan, take it into consideration. September may easily be the best month to travel in Europe, but autumn might take an early turn to the worse – the odds are just so much better in May-June. Also, for a full Eurotrip I’d take at least two full months to explore Europe’s best. To me it makes no sense going all the way from Asia or America for just two or three weeks of quick, unsatisfying dashes across borders and between cities.

So where would I go? If I would be coming from North America, I would surely make a stopover in Iceland first – or, if I plan to be leaving Europe to North America after my Eurotrip, I’d reserve a few days for this beautiful island at the end. Then I’d go to London. The British Empire where the sun never used to set is long gone but its spirit is alive and well in the greatest Imperial Capital in the world. From London its a smooth ride on the Eurostar train to the continent, where I’d take the connecting train from Brussels to Maastricht, to spend some time in the rolling hills of Limburg. If I had the time and money for an extra week, I’d spend it all in Amsterdam (yes, a whole week and its not too long by any standard). Within 2 hours ride from Maastricht are about a dozen airports – one of them will surely have a cheap flight to Barcelona, for a week of R&R in the sun (probably much needed after 3 weeks in North-Western Europe in May). From here, I’d fly out to Switzerland (or, if budget is limited, to Italy or Austria), spend a week in the mountain valley of my choice, and take a train across the Alps to Vienna, from where I’d wind down the Donau, city-hopping the Central European capitals sitting on this great river. I’d end up in Belgrade, and take the spectacular train ride to the coast of Montenegro, to celebrate the summer with the crowds. If I could find a good connection, I would fly out to Georgia and eat my way through the Caucasus, or go back to Belgrade and take the long train journey to Kiev. Of course, if I’d be in Georgia, I’d take the opportunity to board the ferry to Odessa (its only 60 hours). Yes, Ukraine is in an unrest, but hell – this is where European history is being made as you sit on your behind reading this! Finally, tired as I would be from all this travelling, I’d settle in a small Baltic country for a week, allow myself to catch some breath and sort out the amazing pictures I would surely have gathered in these weeks.

The best part is – I have already done most of these things. And so can you. Perhaps not in one summer, but then again why rush? I feel very privileged to have been able to travel that much, and have absolutely no intention to stop. Hope my suggestions can inspire you as well.

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Filed under Europe, Europe by region, Tips and tricks, Travel

7 things I don’t understand about Americans in Europe

Perhaps its because I haven’t been to the USA. Or its just me and it seems perfectly logical to everyone else. But there are quite a few things about Americans in Europe that I just don’t get. These 7 are the ones that puzzle me the most.

  1. Why don’t they drink tap water?
    I agree, tap water is not the same everywhere. Even in some European countries (like Ukraine) tap water is not safe to drink. But Americans buy bottled water even in the Netherlands, where tap water is the purest, safest, tastiest in the world. Somehow, they seem to think its “not done” to order tap water in a European restaurant, and some of them are fixed on the idea Europeans don’t drink tap water.
  2. Why do they think Europe has a “low season”?
    Having climbed to the top of Mount Pilatus above Luzern in April, I was shocked to meet dozens of Russians, the women plowing the 2 meter deep snow on high heels. The cable car was already running. What low season?

    Having climbed to the top of Mount Pilatus above Luzern in April, I was shocked to meet dozens of Russians, the women plowing the 2 meter deep snow on high heels. The cable car was already running. What low season?

    Americans see Europe as some Caribbean resort, that only opens when tourists are there. Therefore, half of them avoids Europe outside that imaginary “low season” because they think Europe is “closed”, and the other half only goes in the so-called “low season” because Europe is supposedly “packed” in the high season. Europe is full of Europeans, and they keep Europe busy even when the Americans are not around. November to March is “low season”? Don’t forget the Christmas and Spring vacations and the skiing resorts are filled to the rim.

  3. Why do they use money belts?
    To the average American, Europe is a thief’s paradise. Scared of pickpockets, Americans in Europe resort to using those silly money belts. As a result, every time an American has to pay, every pickpocket knows exactly where the said American stores all his money. If they’d just use ATM’s, they wouldn’t have to carry all their money around and be such a tempting target, but…
  4. Why don’t they use ATM’s?
    Why are Americans changing money? Don’t they have ATM’s in America? Why would anyone want to carry a stack of $$ all the way to Europe instead of just using a plastic card to draw money out of any ATM machine? They must think they’re going to Somalia or something. Some Americans are actually using traveller’s cheques. You gotta be kidding me! That’s, like, so 19th century!
  5. Why are they in such a rush?
    The average American in Europe, whether on an organized tour that promises a European “experience” or travelling independently, is in a horrible rush. Their schedule includes on average 3-4 hours a day on a bus or train, not including boarding and disembarking. Add to that an hour for checking in and out of the hotel every day (since they’re in a new town every evening) and there is very little time left for “experiencing” anything but lack of time. I know Americans have limited leave days, but why not use your vacation as it is intended – for relaxing?
  6. Why don’t they have a clue?
    No, I don’t expect them to know everything about their destinations. But you’d think a minimal level of knowledge is not too much? At least try to browse through a couple of Wikitravel pages before going somewhere, why don’t you? Nowhere is this lack of clue more severely shown than in Amsterdam. I understand and know from personal experience that reading about the Red Light District and the coffee shops is one thing, and seeing them “live” is another.  But being surprised they even exist? That’s just too weird.
  7. What’s up with Paris?
    I admit, I haven’t been there myself, so it might be I am wrong. I’ll do my best to check it out ASAP. But I honestly can’t imagine what can be so damn wonderful about Paris that every American dreams of going there and once they’ve been there, goes on and on about how great it is. Do they have a “Paris admiration class” in high school or something?

Of course, the above does not apply to Americans only. A lot of Australians in Europe have the same issues. More seriously – of course, I know it does not apply to all Americans. But many Americans visiting Europe travel like they’re trying to relive the Eurotrip movie or at least as if the said movie is their only source of information about this diverse continent. And that is what I understand least of all.

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Filed under Europe, Travel