I'm taking my midlife crisis on a tour of Europe

Unless I plan to pop my clogs at sixty it’s not really a midlife crisis, but it sure feels like one. In short, I’m in a rut. I’m single and various things point to that not changing soon. I have an admittedly good job but it leads nowhere and it’s not what I want to do with my life. It’s been years since I did something to surprise myself or anyone else. So I decided to do just that.

I’m equipped with an Interrail pass and an almost complete lack of planning. I’m taking the train to Berlin Wednesday night. Once there, I guess I’ll try to rustle up some place to sleep and then spend a day or two checking out the city. Then I’ll pop on down to the train station and see if there are any cool cities I can ride to. I’ll keep doing this until I a) run out of vacation time, b) run out of money, c) get bored, or d) something unexpected (and hopefully really cool) happens. Either b or c are most likely, but you never know.

Why, then, am I involving you innocent Dopers in this, you ask? Well, partly because it seems that whenever something happens to me, or I have an emotion of some sort, or the sun rises in the East, I start an MPSIMS thread, but also because you’re a big combined collection of knowledge and experience. I’ll post here where I’m going, you will tell me what I shouldn’t miss while there, and together we’re an unstoppable team.

So: what shouldn’t I miss in Berlin? Wellwishings and similar are obviously also welcome.

Hmmm, Berlin. Long time since I was in Berlin. Definitely go for a wander down the Ku’Damm (main shopping strip) and also go see the Brandenburg Gate. If I recall correctly, the Berlin Zoo is also pretty good (if you like that kind of thing).

Another place you should try and visit is Prague - really interesting old city! Otherwise, if you want to see more of Germany, head down to Munich and drink sh*tloads of beer. Heidelberg is a beautiful old university town on the Rhine which is also worth the sightseeing.

Prage, Sofia, Budapest, they’re all great places to go and have a nose around with lots of things to see and do. Also, if you’re coming in the opposite direction, give Antwerp a try - it’s a lovely city and there’s also plenty of touristy stuff to keep you occupied. Antwerp has a fab zoo as well, in fact I think I’ll be there in the middle of August!

I actually visited the Antwerp Zoo in 2002, but you reminded me of something I meant to include: if any Dopers happen to be where I’m going to be and feel like showing me around and/or sharing whatever passes for food and drink around there or anything else, really, let me know.

I agree with Prague. It’s one of the most stunning cities on the planet. The train ride there from Berlin is fantastic and I believe it passes through Dresden, which is supposedly quite beautiful although completely rebuilt after the firebombings of WWII. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to stop in Dresden, but after reading Slaughterhouse 5, I always wanted to go there.

I imagine East Berlin is all gentrified and yuppified now. But when I was there, it was distinctly different and it really fascinating to hang out there, especially when juxtaposed with ultra modern West Berlin. It was a lot cheaper to stay in a hostel there, also.

I think a must see item is the Pergamon Museum. It houses original-sized, reconstructed monumental buildings such as the Pergamon Altar, the Market Gate of Miletus, and the Ishtar Gate. The Ishtar Gate was the eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon. It was constructed in about 575 BC by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II. It blew my mind.

I arrived in Berlin yesterday morning, spent half the day at the Pergamon Museum (it was indeed mindblowing), the other half wandering through Grosser Tiergarten and ending up at the Gedächtniskirche, and the evening walking to Checkpoint Charlie. All really cool. I have a cot reserved at the night train to Paris tonight, and before that I’m planning to see the Zoo and Aquarium.

So, next stop Paris. I was there last year though and the girl I was hoping to see while there is in fact in Poland, so I’ll probably just touch ground there and then continue to Spain. I’d like to see Gibraltar and a friend said Barcelona was a city I shouldn’t miss, so I guess those two are fixtures on my itinerary.

What else should I see? Any suggestions for Barcelona?

If you feel like heading eastwards, drop me a line. Besides the beautiful cities of Plovdiv and Veliko Turnavo here in the BG (Sofia kinda…sucks), I’m planning to head up to Bucharest at some point this month, although I don’t know when, exactly.

A trip from (Say) Bonn through Switzerland is worth it just to see the Alps.

I’ve been thinking about taking the ferry from Barcelona to Italy, travel around Italy a bit, take the ferry to Greece and then go back by way of Eastern Europe. I’ve never been around that area. Will let you know if I end up there.

Yeah, I want to do that too. The Interrail Traveller’s Guide has a list of scenic railways and the ones through the Alps sound fantastic. I’m not sure how I’m going to find time for everything though…

Don’t take the ferries! They’ll waste your time in Europe and they’ll be terribly crowded at this time of the summer.

I took the ferry from Greece to Venice in April, it was dreadful. Long, expensive, and tediously boring. You can probably find comparitively priced airfare (at least from Venice to Greece).

In Barcelona, check out anything designed by Gaudi, especially the Sagrada Familia, the Casa Milà and the Park Güell. Hang out on Las Ramblas, a world class girl watching spot. Pull out the all the stops and try hitting on some pretty señorita. Find a dive bar and drink some absinthe.

That bad, huh? The Barcelona-Civitavecchia trip just seems so goddamn nice. I’ll see. Venice to Greece isn’t in the plans, though.

Right now I’m in a tiny hot internet café in the Basque city of Irun, where stranded backpackers waiting for their next train is apparently the main local commodity. The train to Madrid leaves tonight, and once there I’m going to find myself a hostel, regroup and come up with a new plan. After three consecutive nights on trains an actual bed should be quite pleasant.

In Madrid, I know I want to see the Paseo del Prado and the Reina Sofia. Any other suggestions?

You’re obviously a seasoned traveler, and my opinions are woefully out of date since my only journey through Europe was in 1985, so I’ll just wish you a wonderful trip. :slight_smile:

Just across the road from the Prado is the Thyssen Bornemisza Gallery. Much more compact then the Prado with art ranging from the 14th to the 20th century. Other places worth a look are the Royal Palace and the adjacent cathedral.

Well, those were an incredibly cultural couple of days. I did all the three museums and they were all amazing. I wasn’t too fond of one of the permanent exhibits at the Reina Sofia - too much “black line across white canvas” and “completely blue painting” for me - but all in all days very well spent. Those Spanish artists do love their guitars and birds, don’t they? Seeing The Garden of Earthly Delights was a surprise; I didn’t know it was there. The detail on that sucker is otherworldly, but unfortunately it’s perpetually crowded. I’d like to take it home and spend a few days poring over it, but those museum guys are real hardasses when it comes to haggling. Guernica was an eye-opener too - I had no idea it was that fucking huge!

Waiting for the train to Barcelona now. Haven’t decided yet what I’ll do then; either the ferry to Italy or the train into France. We’ll see.

Thanks for all the help so far. Keep it coming.

I just checked out the prices. Fuck the ferries. Pity, but there you go. Which means my destination after Barcelona is somewhere along the south coast of France, or in northern Italy, or perhaps in Switzerland. Any suggestions?

I didn’t start all those attempts at Dope-fests in my hometown Maastricht, Netherlands, because I hate showing people around, you know. :slight_smile: E-mail’s in my profile.

I’d go with Nimes. Its a small town with a Roman Arena/Coliseum in excellent repair (still used as a sports stadium, in fact) and other interesting Roman ruins. It’s also the original home of denim (“De nimes”) and there is a small but pleasant textile museum. They have a passcard thing were you pay a flat rate for entrance to 10 or so city museums/sights. It also has a nice old town for wandering in… very French.

There’s also Arles, which is famous for Van Gogh living there, and has similar Roman ruins as Nimes. I didn’t like the town as much as Nimes, but if you have a great interest in Van Gogh, you might check it out.

I have heard that Carcassonne is worth a look. In fact it’s a World Heritage site. We are planning to visit there in the near future.

I’m just popping in to say that I’m positively green with envy. :stuck_out_tongue: see?

Thanks for checking in and updating us. Those of us who’ve never been to europe are hanging on every word.

Have fun!