Finally! I'm going to Europe!

I’ve been trying to get over there for what seems like forever…but something always came up to get in the way. Money wasn’t there. Job wouldn’t allow me to leave. Travel companion backs out at the last minute, etc.

But now…it’s actually going to happen. My husband and I just recently got married, and we owe ourselves a honeymoon, and with our combined incomes we can afford it. So here we go!

This is where you guys come in. I need advice on what to do once we get there. Of course, I already know the touristy stuff that we’re going to do. But I’d also like some tips what we can do to get a feel of what it’s like to actually live in those places. Things that aren’t going to be overrun with tourists, etc…just mostly natives. Any good restaurants? (Any particular type of food we should try?) Museums? Shows? Unique/quaint hotels? I’m a big history buff, too. We’re up for any suggestions. We both really want to widen our horizons as much as possible in the short time we have available.

Of course, any tips on how not to be an “ugly American” are more than welcome, too.

We’re thinking about two weeks (in September, to avoid the worst of the tourist season) is about as much as we can afford, thanks much to the fact that for part of the time we’ll be staying with friends/family. Here’s the general plan so far:

  1. Fly into London. Here we will definitely see: Westminster, Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, possibly the Wax Museum.

  2. To Zurich. I have absolutely no idea what to do here, but we’re going through there to his family which lives just over the border of Germany, and we’ll hopefully take at least a day to look around.

  3. From Southern Germany to Amsterdam. Here we will definitely see: The Anne Frank House, the Ten Boom House, the Red Light District.

Any advice y’all can give a couple of ignorant Okies would be much appreciated. I’m soooo excited!!

I’m very excited for you because I love Europe! You should look at the site. Also, Fodor’s and Frommer’s have boards worth checking out for the areas you will visit. Bon voyage! :cool:

This is easy: don’t worry about it. The classis “just be yourself” advice given to anyone who transferred to a new high school…


A couple of the warmest, kindest people I met on my travels were Okies. They shared their lunch with me when I didn’t have any, and they gave me a huge load of the biggest and most delicious home-grown tomatoes I’ve ever tasted to take away with me. I hope you receive as good a welcome in Europe as I received from them.

If, as your user name suggests, you like Oreos, bring a supply of them with you, as they’re difficult to get this side of the pond.

The Wax Museum’s not great in my opinion. If you have a strong stomach, the London Dungeon is more entertaining (like a waxwork museum, but it’s history with all the blood and guts left in).

Here’s a thread about stereotypical American tourists if you’re concerned not to be one (it gets a bit nasty later on, but there’s some general info there).

oooh…perfect. Right up my husband’s alley. (Okay, okay…mine too.)

Keep 'em coming!

P.S. (Am I supposed to bring the Oreos so I won’t be deprived, or to hand out to deprived Europeans? ;))

I’ve lived and travelled in Europe for a few years now, so I’ve got tons of tips on this.
[li]Don’t wear fanny packs, sneakers, or baseball caps if you don’t want to instantly identify yourselves as American[/li][li]Try to learn basic words and phrases for the countries you’re going to visit; it goes a long way to showing you’re not an ugly American assuming everyone speaks American English[/li][li]Go ahead an email me if you want more tips on this[/li][/ul]

Are you interested at all in museums? If so, don’t miss the British Museum, Tate Modern, the National Gallery, or the Victoria & Albert (in that order). Stroll through Picadilly and SoHo (the latter so you have something to compare Amsterdam’s Red Light District to), linger over pub lunches, climb to the top of St. Paul’s, chase pigeons in Trafalgar Square. Skip the Wax Museum.

Just wander the north side of town mostly. Check out some beautiful stained glass by Chagall in the cathedral (I’m pretty sure it’s in the cathedral). But most importantly: there is (or at least two years ago there was) a big department store in the city that rents bicycles for free for the day. You just leave them your passport. Take these bikes and ride along the southern end of Lake Zurich until you start to smell the chocolate. That’s right, the Lindt und Sprungli chocolate factory is there, about a 20 minute ride out of town. The tour’s free (alas, no Oompah Loompahs!), and they even give you a free sample box of their amazing chocolate. Zurich is a really expensive town, so the less time there the better.

Do you plan on seeing anything in the south of Germany? If you’re heading straight to Amsterdam, linger in Domm Square (but avert your eyes from the disastrously ugly monument there). Eat lots of fries, with mayonnaise or curry on them. Get thee to the Van Gogh or Rijksmuseum. Slip out of town to check out some windmills. Get a load of laughs by visiting one of the two (!) Sex Museums in town. Drink lots of really good beer; this means, no Heineken!

You don’t really give much of an idea what you’re looking for. Museums, churches, restaurants, sporting events, parks, architecture, nightlife, etc, etc??? Help us help you.

Ooh, fun stuff. If it weren’t your honeymoon, I’d be asking to stow away in your luggage. As it is, I’ll content myself with listing a few high points.

London – Tons of great museums, many of them free. The Victoria and Albert is particularly trippy when you’re jetlagged. Standing room at Shakespeare’s Globe is one of the world’s best theater bargains; even if you don’t have time to see a performance, it’s worth taking a tour of the building. Excellent Indian food. Pretty much any kind of beer you’ve never heard of is likely to be good.

Amsterdam – Stunningly beautiful city, especially early in the morning when there’s no one around, so try to drag yourself out at an ungodly hour at least once. (Stunningly beautiful men, too … sigh … but I guess you won’t be thinking about that if you’re on your honeymoon.) The canal-boat tours are a good way to get oriented. The Dutch Resistance Museum is outstanding; I’d suggest going there before you go to the Anne Frank house, as it’s a good way to get a sense of the bigger historical context. Eel sandwiches go for about three euros at street stands (why can’t we have interesting fast food in America?)

No clue about Zurich, I’m afraid.

Oh, and when in Amsterdam: even though I poo-poo’d Heineken (it’s good, just not as good as other beers you’ll find there) check out the Heineken factory tour. I hear they’ve changed it in the past couple years (?), limiting how much beer you get to drink. But when I took it 3 years back, the tour was cheesily entertaining, and at the end you’re in a bar where they let you drink as much Heineken as you want for 45 minutes. Entry was 2 dollar. Try to be at the front of the line in the morning, and you’ll be bumping into stuff in the Rijksmuseum all afternoon long.

Sorry about that…I was afraid my OP was too long already!

Really, I’m looking for everyday life in Europe stuff. It’s easy to research museums, etc., through books & the internet, and I’m sure we’ll do tons of that sort of thing. But I also want to get a glimpse of the European version of, oh, say…Wal-Mart. Where do Europeans buy their groceries? Go to the movies? Go to eat on a Friday night?

I know that stuff isn’t very exciting, but I’d love it if I could get a taste of the Eurpoean mundane. That’s why I’m excited about staying with his family in Germany. We’ll be living in an average family’s house, etc., seeing a little bit of what their lives are like.

(Although I still welcome advice on the touristy stuff, too. For instance, it looks like I’ll be crossing the wax museum off my list.)

Also…my husband can’t mix alcohol with his meds, and I don’t really care for beer, anyway, so we can eliminate that sort of thing off the list of possibilities. (In other words, no places that are only fun if you drink…)

But bring on the chocolate factory!! :smiley:

**You might find some of this difficult to do in major cities, since for example in London most people will just shop at supermarkets. But in London check out Fortnum & Mason, which is the “royal grocer” (i.e., the one an only grocer of the Queen). And I’d highly recommend taking in a sporting event while in London, since you get an interesting insights into a culture from how they embrace their sports (for instance, a tailgate at OK Memorial Stadium!). I recommend a soccer (ahem, “football” they call it here) or rugby match. In London the theater is immensely more popular than the cinema; in Paris it’s the opposite. So I recommend taking in a show. Don’t worry, there are tons of choices so you won’t be stuck at a musical or Shakespeare if that’s not your thing. You can get discount tickets from a number of places in Leicester Square.

Didn’t care for London myself but I liked Amsterdam.

In Amsterdam stay out side the main canal circles. Wish I could remember the name of the hotel, I think it was on the #5 tram line past the Rijksmuseum. It was in a residential area. We stopped in a bar/cafe for lunch and they didn’t have an english translated menu.
For the palate - crepes, coffee with cream and sugar, Oranjeboom (beer, it was very good), jinniver (a version of gin, nasty, but it’s a local liquor and you can say you tried it).
Walk everywhere the citycenter is so small it doesn’t take very long.
Figure out the difference between a bar and a coffee bar.
Visit a few sex shops.
The Red-light district is harder to find than you’d think.
Surprisingly (and wonderfully so), most everyone we met spoke English.
Don’t mention that german and Dutch sound exactly alike, the Dutch don’t like that.
See if by some stroke of luck someone you meet has tickets to an Ajax game and will take you.

Our fun food game was to try a Chinese restaurant and/or a steak house in every city we went to. Skip this, the chinese was good but not as good as London, the Argentine Steak House was good but not as good as a place we tripped over in Madrid.

Have fun and plan for Prague next time. Or Naples or Rome.

Ooooh, good times.

If you’re into WWII history, I can recommend the Cabinet War Rooms in London. In a nutshell, it’s the bunkers from where Churchill’s War Cabinet directed the war, and it’s absolutely authentic: Those are the rooms where the great man slept and worked, that map on the wall with the pinpricks is the one where he watched the convoys get lost to U-boats, the notices on the wall with the siren codes for “German paratroopers in the streets” are the ones printed and posted in 1940. And it wasn’t overrun when I was there. Still, I realize it’s a bit of nerd thing.

The Indian cuisine in London is as good as it gets outside India.

And when you visit Tower of London, be sure to notice how Henry VIII’s suits of armour used more and more steel around the royal waistline.

Well, it’s only my opinion. Dozens of people might be along soon to defend it… Though I don’t think so.

Well, if it’s Wal-Mart you’re interested in, we have one right here in Munich :smiley:

If you’re coming at the end of September you might want to take a stroll over the Oktoberfest (I know, it’s paradox but most of it takes place in September). It’s interesting to watch even if you’re not interested in drinking beer, just come in the afternoon and have coffee or glazed almonds or one of those giant pretzels…

Munich’s a very nice city, too, in general. There’s castles (Nymphenburg castle, for example) and museums (The “Deutsches Museum” offers exhibitions on almost everything. For art I’d visit the Pinakothek). But for one day only that’s probably too much. In that case I’d just wander through the city, down the pedestrian zone, maybe over the Viktualienmarkt (it’s a large outdoor food market kind of thing) and treat yourself to some yummy eats.

Just stay clear of the “famous castles” in the south of Germany. (Especially Neuschwanstein, which is the model for all the Disney cinderella castles) They are really overrun with tourists and you’ll spend your day waiting in line with a bunch of Japanese people for a rather unspectacular five-minute tour.

Well, since you’re going to be in Southern Germany, just across the border from Zuerich, you should definitely visit the city of Freiburg and if you have more time, just hike or bike around the southern Schwarzwald. Maybe you can even get your picture taken at the sign marking the city limits of Sexau. :smiley:

Since you’re going to be there in September, consider going to the Cannstatter Wasen in Stuttgart. It’s not much smaller than the Oktoberfest in Muenchen, it’s a lot closer to where you’re staying, and it has a lot less drunk English and Americans. Plus, the drinks and food are cheaper.

Also very nice (and not full of foreign tourists, but mostly German tourists) is the Insel Mainau and the whole Bodensee region.

But if you really want to experience living as the locals do, you should try so-called Ferien auf dem Bauernhof, where you actually stay at a working farm, and sometimes even help out doing the day-to-day farm work.

For most shopping needs Germans go to their local Aldi even though most will tell you they wouldn’t be caught dead in one. For going to the movies, more and more of these huge mutliplexes have opened up. The most widespread is Cinemaxx. For going out on Friday nights, most Germans just go out to their local pub or “Kneipe” as it’s called in German. The younger generation will go out to disco’s which are usually full of “beautiful people” under the age of 25, who spend a huge cover charge just to get in, and then pay 15 Euro’s a drink to listen to Techno beats until the sun comes up. As you can see, I’m not a huge fan, plus I’m too old to get into most places.

Anyway, the most important thing is to just relax and enjoy yourself. And from my experience, most Germans are still very open and friendly towards Americans, even with their opposition to the war in Iraq.

I hate to be the one to put a downer on things, but take care of yourself and your possessions. People tend to drop their guards when sightseeing, making them easy targets for pickpockets and their mates. This problem is rife all round Europe, although violent crime is less of a problem. As long as you pay attention to people around you, and keep money and cards in inaccesible places, you’ll have a great time!

If you’re heading over towards Amsterdam, stop off for a day or so in Antwerp. It’s a beautiful and historic city, loads of great restaurants and cafés - fantastic Irish bars (the Dubliner and the Irish Times are by far the best), museums (the Reubens House, the Vleishuis, Torture Museum and if it’s still open, the Plantin print museum). The tram system makes it easy to get around so if the weather’s less than perfect, you can go sightseeing on the tram!

I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum in London… my faves by far.
When are you coming over?


Originally posted by Oreo
But I also want to get a glimpse of the European version of, oh, say…Wal-Mart. Where do Europeans buy their groceries? Go to the movies? Go to eat on a Friday night?

This is very stupid, but it’s what I do. Look at real estate ads for homes that seem to be similar to yours. Identify a neighborhood that seems to be like yours. Go there, wander around and go into shops and eavesdrop (or people watch if there’s a language issue). Okay, probably no one but me would find this interesting.

The mall culture is creeping up in Europe, but you can still find the “quaint” stuff.

Since Coldfire hasn’t replied yet, I’ll try to add to what other people already said about Amsterdam, this time from an inhabitant’s perspective.

Actually I have no idea what you mean by the Ten Boom House. But by all means go see it if you must. :slight_smile:

If you want to find the Red Light District and still want to seem cool, don’t ask for it in that manner (every other tourists asks for it) but try to ask for the location of the ‘Oude Kerk’ (old church), which is located slap-dash in the middle of it (or rather the district took root around it). While you’re there you might visit the church anyway.

If you want to experience the city like we do, you can

  • shop at the Albert Hein (the most common relatively up-scale supermarket for groceries, just ask anyone for the one closest by),
  • spend an afternoon in the Vondelpark (roughly comparable in function to Central Park in New York). There is the marvelous Filmmuseum, which is housed in a 19th century building with a great terrace on which you can have a drink and watch the people walking by, (and you can also see classic movies there)
  • avoid the Leidseplein and Rembrandtsplein like the plague. These are far too touristy.
  • in the evening have a drink in a ‘café’. In the inner city I’d recommend De Pieper, Pels, Van Puffelen, De Engelbewaarder. These are the places the locals themselves go to (at least I do). I really like De Pieper (but please don’t recommend this to anyone else or it will get much to crowded!)

If you want to go for the local experience you could walk around for an hour or so in the Jordaan. This used to be a lower-class area that has become yuppified (I’m afraid my moving there as only contributed to that), but is still charming, with lots of little shops and houses. It may be a bit like Notting Hill in London if the movie is to be believed. Most tourists don’t get in this area.

You can also try De Pijp, which is however still a but run-down but is getting better. It is more ethnically diverse, you have lots of great little tiny ‘ethnic’ restaurants, and also several nice bars.

For restaurants, it depends mainly on what you want to eat. For Chinese food go to the Zeedijk (near Central Station and the Red Light District), those are authentic places (Nam Kee, Kam Kee, and various others). Dutch people usually go to an ‘eetcafé’ (eating bar) where you get a meat-fries-salad meal for approx. 10 Euro. For more up-scale food the restaurants serve french-style cuisine.

Dutch cuisine is not really noteworthy, I’m afraid. Though you must try a herring. (I think that was what Fretful Porpentine meant with ‘eel sandwhich’). If you really want to have the Dutch culinary experience, head for the nearest Febo and pull a ‘kroket’ of ‘frikandel’ out of the wall. It’s pre-deep fried and left in a machine for the hungry Dutch-man or -woman to take and consume. You’ll earn the respect of every Dutch person if you actually do this without being drunk. Kroket is filled with a kind of ‘stew’, frikandel is low-quality minced meat. If I get more specific about the contents I’ll spoil your appetite. You can also try to order ‘Bitterballen’ (bitter balls) in any café, which essentially is ‘Kroket’ in ball shape.

For hotels I have no tips ready. I don’t know the hotel catnoe mentioned, it sounds like it may be in the Beethovenstraat or the Van Baerlestraat. The former is in a residential area.