Antigen's European Vacation (next week!)

Well, the plans are set and I’m heading off for a crazy European tour next week.

My itinerary: London - Amsterdam - Prague - Berlin - Munich - Salzburg - Florence - Rome - Bern - Marseille - Paris. I’ve only got three weeks to do it all in, which is crazy, but it will be exhilarating.

We’ll be backpacking, taking the train everywhere (we have an unlimited 20-day pass), staying in youth hostels (or sleeping in trains), and mostly living as cheaply as possible. We want to absorb each city, but not necessarily through all of the typical tourist stuff. We want to enjoy local foods, visit as much as possible on foot, and take lots of notes and pictures.

I’m going to have fancy tea in London, see the Pope in Rome, enjoy sunrise in the Alps, and throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain. I never thought I’d get an opportunity to see so much!

And the best part of all? The wonderful man I met recently, and who I’m completely crazy about, is coming along. When he told me he’d miss me while I was away, since I’d be out of contact without internet access, I joked that he should come along. I almost fell off my chair when he said he’d love to! He’s even taking the bus 500 miles so he can leave from Montreal with me, on my flight. :slight_smile: We won’t really have any alone time, since we’ll be with my friends and staying in hostel bunk beds, but it doesn’t matter. At least I’ll find out if he can put up with me when I’m whining about how much my feet hurt!

Last minute advice? Warnings? Well-wishes?

I’m giddy! I’m nervous! I have to pack!

Have fun, take it easy, and look around a lot. Take photographs. :slight_smile:

The train ride up the river valley from Prague to Berlin is absolutely beautiful; I did it at sunset, which just made everything stand out that much better. Berlin has the finest döner kebap I’ve had (it’s roasted shaved meat in a flatbread with sauce). I can’t decide whether the Tiergarten park in Berlin or the Englisher Garten in Munich is nicer, but either is good for a peaceful stroll. Still in Berlin, the view from the dome atop the parliament (in the famous Reichstag building) is very nice.

In Munich, I enjoyed the open-air markets, and especially the very comprehensive museum of technology. Do try the food in one of the little bars in Prague – a good, wholesome, scrumptious meal is surprisingly affordable. It’s almost as tasty as the city is beautiful. In Amsterdam, I was impressed by the works in the Rijksmuseum… but I was only in that city briefly, so there’s probably a lot I missed. In Paris, I was very impressed by the metro system; Berlin’s was the only one I thought comparable. The Louvre is popular, but it’s huge, and it could easily take several days to actually peruse the whole collection. Maybe weeks. Pick a few sections you find interesting, and concentrate on those.

If your train London-Amdsterdam or Amsterdam-Prague has you transferring in Belgium, I highly recommend getting out of the train station in between and trying the [del]french[/del] fries (fritten) or at least staying in the station and trying the sugar-waffles. :slight_smile:

Look out the window a lot, and don’t be afraid to talk to interesting people on the train. In Benelux and northern Germany in particular, you’ll have no trouble with English. You might do well to avoid French in northern Belgium, except Brussels – it’s okay there.

Keep your passport safe, and be prepared to change currencies in non-eurozone countries Britain, Czech Republic, and Switzerland.

But most of all, have a good time and don’t over-exert yourself trying to do everything. Those are huge cities you’re visiting.

a european blitz!!! yikes, I would definitely not try to visit all of those places, and still expect to appreciate the history/culture/beauty satisfactorilly… Im sure though, when you’ve returned to the states, whatever you were able to squeeze into your itinerary will be memorable.

Personally, I’d limit to Paris, Swiss/Italian alps, Rome, Venice, Florence… reminder about Italy, everything shuts down between 1:30 to approx 4:30 or 5:30 p.m… with exception for some pizzerias and bars (coffee houses)… unless you’re in the very trendy touristy areas (u mentioned u’d like to visit small towns), you’d better pack extra panini for your backpacks :slight_smile: … Restaurants in small towns don’t open for bus until 7:30 p.m.

be sure to make photo copies of all your docs… will you have travelers health insurance? Purchase an int’l phone card B4 you leave the states, they’re cheaper here… and hope you’ll be taking a tri-band cell phone, as in europe they use a dif bandwidth. oh! don’t forget the Maalox, Tylenol, and Benadryl (trust me, given all the places you’re planning to visit, you’ll most likely need one of the three, so take them all).

ciao ciao!!!

Florence is one place to go a-wandering…too many people stick to the (small) main tourist area, and complain that it’s too touristy. But certainly climb the duomo - tiring in the heat, but worth it for the view.

Have fun!

Hello-

Drop me an email when in Prague and we can meet for a beer.

www.inyourpocket.com has great mini-guides for Germany and Czech Republic.

Don’t bring cash to exchange money. Bring your ATM card and use it. Better rates and not as many fines- some of those exchange booths will rip you off bad.

Train food can be expensive and not great (e.g. $3 for a packet of instant soup). Get into the Euro-thang of good bread with sliced meats and cheeses washed down with a good bottle of wine or a few beers. There is almost always a deli/bakery between any hostel and the train station, just ask the hostel folk.

Utilize the security boxes at the hostels and the luggage holding at the train stations. I know folk who have come back to the hostel drunk and had their camera stolen because they were passed out. A simple thing to keep your bag safe when out is to buy a locking carabiner (used in rock climbing, around $7), clip your daypack or ??? to the table or chair you are sitting at (or other bags even) - it keeps it from sprouting legs and walking away when your attention is distracted.

Make copies of your documents and keep them seperate from your originals. I’d go modern too - make pdf scans and carry them on a flash-drive on your key-chain.

Some internet cafe’s will offer digital pic burning on CD’s. Burn two, mail one home.

Universities are not in session now, try finding the ones that rent their dormitories out during the summer like hostels- just as cheap but you’ll actually get a private room and even a kitchen to use. Some have blocks of rooms - 4 rooms with 2 WC’s and a kitchen, so your whole group can be together but have privacy.

Do you have an ISIC card? Great discounts everywhere you go. For students AND non-students now.

This is a group thing…beware of being crowded. Some people get-off on the “We gotta do EVERYTHING together cuz we’re one big happy touring family!” Shoot them. Don’t be afraid to do what you want and meet up later - including away from your new guy. 20 days in cramped quarters with a bunch of people can cause temporary insanity.

Flip-flops for the showers - plantar warts suck.

Some hostels don’t have sheets and require them. An easy sheet thing to carry is buy a double flat sheet, fold in half length-wise and sew up the bottom and side. It makes an easy to carry sheet-bag for your sleeping bag. Some sporting and luggage stores sell these pre-made.

Don’t risk not paying for public transport - you look like a tourist and will get caught. 1 fine will be more than all of your tram tickets combined.

Ask locals which cab company to use. Here it is AAA taxi - dial 233 113 311. If you dance until 3 a.m. public transport becomes difficult, and lots of cabbies are hoping to find drunk tourists. Ask at the bar or ??? but don’t ever just flag one down.

Anything else you want to know about, just email me.

Have fun!

-Tcat

Make reservations for Italian trains, esp overnight ones. They’re crowded and often lack a first class so your fancy over-26 Eurail pass don’t mean a thing and things can get unpleasant. Also reserve on the high speed ones through Germany and in commuter corridors, if it’s anything like morning or evening. If you plan to get sleeper coaches, make sure to make the reservation on time and such or life will be bad on crowded trains.
As soon as you get to London or Amsterdam or wherever the outlets standardize, go to the supermarket and buy a mosquito-death-deviceTM. In Dutch it will called an “anti-mug/ muggen apparat” or something. This plugs in and emits a small amount of nerve toxin that will keep your room happily bug-free, which is nice since whoever cleans your room will for some reason open all the windows and there are no screens. Mosquitos are bad this time of year.
Yeah, just speak English in Belgium to avoid regional weirdness.
Don’t bother with cash or especially traveler’s checks-- use an ATM.
In Paris there’s a special museum pass thing you can get at the subway stations, I think, that lets you skip the long lines via an alternate entrance often.

The less stuff you bring, the happier you will be. Lay out the minimum of things you think you will need, then pack half of that.

DO bring a long skirt and comfortable long-sleeve shirt for church-visiting.