European Vacation...

Discussion in 'The Green Room' started by Volpone, Aug 3, 2008.

  1. Volpone

    Volpone Zombie Hunter

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    OK. I understand vacations in America. I get an airplane ticket. Then when I land I find a rental car, maybe drive around town a little bit and find a hotel. I do whatever I came to that town to do and make any side trips I want to make.

    And the times I've been to Asia, the military handled everything. Figured out where I was going to sleep and kept me busy for most of the time. Finding food and lining up transportation for the limited side trips I could manage were pretty straightforward.

    I've never been to Europe though. So when I finish my gig up out here, I was thinking about going. I definitely want to do Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic. And London and Paris would be nice; Barcelona. Hell, Rome. But I don't know anything about how to go about making this happen. Is it realistic to see all that? Do you take a train or rent a car? Or what? Is my US driver's license even valid? How much time would it take? How much money? Any suggestions?

    It seems a bit like travel agents are obsolete, but I wonder if a travel agent might be the way to go for something like this.
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  2. DaleD

    DaleD Gone Dancin'

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    Fly into some Euro city, then travel by Eurotrain, which (in my experience) is far superior to US rail travel, most notably because it has far fewer...undesirables. :bergman:

    Public transit in that crypto-facist superstate is so good, you likely won't need a car, but I say get a Beemer and go for a drive anyway. :bergman:

    I do know that most European women I've met have been horny sluts who loved Americans. Of course, a lot of those encounters occurred before America started bombing everything and everyone, so things might have changed. :bergman:

    In closing, this post has been a mix of hyperbole, inflammatory rhetoric, and potentially helpful hints.

    Have a nice day. :bergman:
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  3. RickDeckard

    RickDeckard Socialist

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    Driving is a no-no in many big cities. I'd stick to the trains.

    I recommend Prague and Madrid.
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  4. Paladin

    Paladin Overjoyed Man of Liberty

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    I don't know how much time you have. My first trip to Europe was 19 days and went something like:

    England/London-Portsmouth-York (5 days)
    Netherlands/Amsterdam (3 days)
    Germany/Frankfurt-Munich (4 days)
    Italy/Rome (4 days)
    France/Paris (3 days)

    ...and it was an absolute whirlwind. Travelled by train between countries, but had rental cars for England, Germany, and Italy. Tried to see everything because I thought that'd be my only chance. I've been back 4 times since. :D

    Some thoughts:

    1. Your U.S. driver's license is valid in Europe and you won't have any trouble renting a car, although you may want to go to AAA and get an international driver's license just to be sure. (It's cheap and there's one small form to fill out--takes a couple of weeks to process.)

    2. Reserve your car FROM the U.S., before you go. It's much less expensive.

    3. Use ATMs to get local currency; they have good exchange rates and they're everywhere.

    4. If you need to contact people back home, get a phone card from any convenience store, tobacco shop, etc.

    5. Driving into Paris is challenging. Driving into Prague is frustrating. Driving into Rome is suicide.

    6. If you come into Europe at Frankfurt (likely, since it's one of the few airports equipped to meet U.S. security requirements for flights bound for the U.S.), lots of great stuff is only a few hours away on the autobahn. You can drive to Prague from Frankfurt in an afternoon (they let you take rental cars into the east, now). You can get to Munich (highly recommended) by autobahn in a couple of hours, or you can spend all day on the Romantischestrasse and visit Rothenberg on the way (also recommended).

    7. Use major cities as your base camp (most of the best sites will be in town) and day trip out to other attractions. Examples: stay in Paris, train to Versailles; stay in Munich, drive out to Neuschwanstein.

    8. Intra-Europe flights can be astonishingly cheap (like, Southwest cheap or better). If you have to travel a long distance between two major European cities, consider flying.

    9. If you don't fly the long distance, try taking an overnight train and getting a couchette (a bunk)...saves hotel expense and you wake up where you're going.

    10. If you want to go on the cheap and stay in safe, clean places with a good local feel, get a Rick Steves guidebook and follow his advise.

    11. How much money? With a railpass and car reservations taken care of (and you can get package deals from Eurrail for this), I'd figure about $100/day. Maybe $50/day more when in London or Paris.

    12. It's hard to get Prague, Rome, and Barcelona all on the same trip unless you either (1) hurry or (2) have plenty of time.

    13. REALLY GOOD ADVICE: don't re-trace your path. Just because you may (for example) fly into Frankfurt, you don't have to fly out of Frankfurt when you return to the U.S. If you want to visit other European capitols, arrange to fly out from the last one you visit (Paris or London are good bets; Rome is a headache).

    14. Germany, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic are easy in one trip (I've done it, and Austria to boot). Germany's a big country, but most of what tourists like is in the south; I'd stick to that unless you've got a big Jonesin' to see Berlin. My nephew and I did this itinerary in 2000:

    (1) Fly into Frankfurt
    (2) Drive to Prague (parked in long-term parking at airport, taxied into town), stayed 3 days
    (3) Drove to Vienna (stayed at Marriott with parking garage), stayed 2 days
    (4) Drove to Salzburg (stayed in castle :diacanu:), stayed 1 night
    (5) Spent one looooong day driving from Salzburg to Interlaken, Switzerland (beautiful alpine scenary the whole way, make sure you're gassed up before darkness falls)
    (6) Stayed 3 days in Interlaken
    (7) Drove to Meersburg, Germany (on Lake Constance), stayed 1 day
    (8) Drove to Munich, turned in rental car, Oktoberfest!!!! stayed 3 days
    (9) Drove to Heidelberg, stayed 1 night, back to Frankfurt for out-going flight the following morning.

    15. Make copies of your passport, carry an extra passport photo, and make sure you have $40 American cash on you. If you lose (or someone steals) your passport, you'll need these things to expedite getting a replacement. This is the voice of experience speaking.

    16. Don't know what your interests are, but, for my money, London and Paris are the best tourist destinations. They each have more interesting and important sites than you could see in a dozen visits. Prague is beautiful, the women are pretty, and the beer is cheap (and good!). Vienna is remote, but you feel more cultured just having visited. Rome's almost as good as London and Paris for siteseeing (and if you like Roman history, it is, naturally, the best), but it's quite a bit further away and any diversion there is going to require considerable travel time unless you fly.

    I would advise any American going to Europe for the first time (especially if they're not sure they'll be back) to not miss London and Paris, and that each is worth at least 3 days to get the full experience.

    17. One way to plan the trip is to draw a calendar of the days you have available, look at a map of Europe, pick start and end points, and see how many destinations you can work in between them. There's a lot of overhead associated with checking in/out of hotels and getting in/out of town, so I suggest minimum stays of 2 nights at every stop.

    When you decide what cities you want to visit, let me know. I can probably suggest some very worthwhile sites to see!
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  5. K.

    K. Sober

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    If you don't mind travelling by train and getting a flight or two, that's certainly preferrable to dragging a car along through various driving styles and through the big cities, as henry said.

    About realistic or doable: You can move through Europe in ten days. That will allow you to see two major landmarks every day, and a good mix of different landmarks throughout Europe. If you want to do that, you'll need good organisation up front, and you might want to seriously consider going through a travel agent after all, or sticking with a piblished itinerary.

    Personally, I hate that way of travelling, but that's just my opinion. If you're like me, you might prefer getting a flight into somewhere in the EU, looking around, and deciding on short notice where to go next. This is mostly very easy, and can be done quite cheap. It will definitely mean you'll miss some, even many of the oft-quoted sights. But it also means you get to follow your fancy, see a lot that the fast travellers never see, and get a feeling for the place. (You also won't return unable to remember if the Siegestor was in Germany or in Italy.)

    And if you happen to end up somewhere around Munich, remember to say hi. :)
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  6. Paladin

    Paladin Overjoyed Man of Liberty

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    Give me 14 days in Europe and I'll spend it thus:

    3 days London
    2 days afield in England (Bath, Portsmouth, Stonehenge)
    2 days Amsterdam
    4 days Germany/Bavaria (Romantischestrasse, Munich, Koenigschloesser, daytrip to Salzburg)
    3 days Paris (daytrip to Versailles and/or World War II Normandy)



    Actually, since I've already been to those places, I'd probably spend it like this:

    2 days Istanbul
    1 day afield in Turkey (Ephesus and/or Troy)
    2 days Athens
    2 days afield in Greece (Meteora, Thermopylae)
    2 days Venice (day trip to Ravenna)
    1 day Florence
    2 days Barcelona
    2 days Madrid

    :diacanu:
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  7. gul

    gul Revolting Beer Drinker Administrator Formerly Important

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    I have to re-emphasize what others have said about the car -- don't get one unless you are specifically planning a rustic countryside type of trip. If your main interest is urban, stick to trains and planes. Great advice above this post, I won't bother to add anything else, but once you have your itnerary figured out, post it -- if I've been there, I'll likely have lots of ideas about how to enjoy your time.

    Places I've been:

    Paris
    Amsterdam
    Belgium
    Frankfurt area
    Munich area
    Salzburg
    Prague
    St. Petersburg
    Moscow
    Stockholm
  8. Elwood

    Elwood I know what I'm about, son.

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    Look kids, Big Ben...

    I got nothin'. :clyde:
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  9. Volpone

    Volpone Zombie Hunter

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    So. A question about European mass transit intracity:

    (actually two): Do I need more than my English? and
    In Seoul, the subway stops were in Han Gul, but they had the English translation under them. So all you needed to do was bring the subway map to the ticket counter (they had a human that sold tickets) and point at where you wanted to go and they told you how much the ticket cost. How do the subways, etc, work in Europe?
  10. K.

    K. Sober

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    You'll find vastly different answers for different European countries, sometimes cities. Of course, it's all either Latin or similar alphabets, so with 2 hours spent over a book on Kyrillics you should be fine recognizing and pronouncing names in a recognizable manner. (Though I guess you could do the same for hangul in two days.)

    For Germany, English will suit you fine, but be prepared that you'll have to ask people at every step: Because so do we when visiting another city. Most metro systems are arcane here and their kabbala can only be interpreted by those with decade-long experience. But you'll get help everywhere.
  11. Paladin

    Paladin Overjoyed Man of Liberty

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    Funny how Russian signs start making sense once you can sound out the Cyrillic alphabet. When I was in Moscow, I saw a building with this sign on it:

    БИСТРО

    and told my nephew it was a restaurant. He asked me how in the hell I got 'restaurant' out of that. I replied that if you use the equivalent English letters it becomes:

    BISTRO

    And, even though my German's not too awful, I never had problems getting by with English in Germany except in one small town (complete with Karl-Marx-Straße) an hour outside Berlin...and that may have been a deliberate choice on the part of the person I was dealing with...
  12. frontline

    frontline Hedonistic Glutton Staff Member Moderator

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    Great info here and I guess you have answered (at least partially) my main question. I can barely speak English, let alone any other language. My wife is fairly good with French. Should we be able to navigate (check into hotels, order food, etc..) through most of non native English speaking Europe with those two languages? Do we just go up to someone and say "Do you speak English / French"?

    Countries Id like to visit: Basically the entire continent with the exception of Spain.
  13. Paladin

    Paladin Overjoyed Man of Liberty

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    Most people in the hospitality and transportation businesses will speak English, at least enough to handle your needs. Language won't be much of a barrier.

    Generally, it is considered polite to ask (preferably in the local language) if another person speaks English before you speak English to them. If you don't know how to ask if they speak English, just say "English?" and they will know what you mean.

    Even if you get into a situation where you can't directly communicate, just do your best with hand gestures, whatever. I had one of the best meals (and dining experiences) of my life in a restaurant off a Paris alley where none of the staff (including the lady running it--the owner, I presume) spoke English at all.

    It's always a little tricky getting reservations on the phone if you and they don't speak a common language. But most places have e-mail now; once you've established your itinerary, you can send enquiries to the places you want to stay.

    I cannot recommend getting a Rick Steves guidebook and following his advise strongly enough.
  14. Ancalagon

    Ancalagon Scalawag Administrator Formerly Important

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    Fuck Spain, but you really should check out the Basque Country. :diablo:
  15. oldfella1962

    oldfella1962 the only real finish line

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    Agree - he's good at telling about places that are interesting, but not neccessarily "touristy" places!
  16. El Chup

    El Chup Fuck Trump Deceased Member Git

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    When in London stop by for a beverage or four.
  17. El Chup

    El Chup Fuck Trump Deceased Member Git

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    Hmmmm.......

    :banana:

    Knew you couldn't resist and would cave sooner or later.......:diacanu:
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  18. Dan Leach

    Dan Leach Climbing Staff Member Moderator

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    Oh shit
    Its like Tasvir reincarnated :dayton: :jayzus:
    Soon it will be all giant fonts and smileys
  19. K.

    K. Sober

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    Will you two please keep that shit in dedicated threads? You can have as many of them as you like as far as I'm concerned, but this really isn't the place.
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  20. Ward

    Ward A Stepford Husband

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    I know it's not quite the right movie but I keep hearing the song "Holiday Road" every time I see this thread.
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  21. Ancalagon

    Ancalagon Scalawag Administrator Formerly Important

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    If you want to be a shit bag you can totally play your Dumb American Card.

    Pick a dirt cheap route taking regional trains that also has an ICE going to the same city. Buy the cheap ass ticket, and when/if the ticket guy comes around 1)pretend to be asleep 2) play dumb and ignorant of the language. Keep pointing at the destination city and saying it over and over again very loud and slow.

    Works like a charm everytime! :techman: Hell Vera was even able to get away with it and she was German! The Krauts really are too polite for their own good these days. :jayzus:
  22. Paladin

    Paladin Overjoyed Man of Liberty

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    You've gotta be careful with that...

    I was travelling on a Eurrail pass in 1999 from Belgium to the Netherlands and I forgot to write in the date on the pass before I boarded the train; I'd been lazy in reading the instructions and just assumed that the conductor would "punch" it and that would be that.

    The conductor--a Belgian--was really kindof a prick about the whole thing. When he pointed my mistake out, I was very apologetic and promised I'd be more careful from then on, but he seemed to want to impress on me that he felt I was being dishonest.

    About 10 minutes later, the Dutch conductor came by and basically said "Don't sweat it. Do you have any questions about your pass that I can answer?"

    That right there is the difference between the Belgians and the Dutch.
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  23. bryce

    bryce Optimism - It's Back!

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    Just remember the following phrase:

    "Why no, we're Canadian."

    Then you should be fine...
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  24. Paladin

    Paladin Overjoyed Man of Liberty

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    When my nephew and I went to Europe in 2001 (our original flight date--which of course we didn't make--was September 14th), I told him if anyone asked just say:

    "We're Canadian, eh?"
  25. oldfella1962

    oldfella1962 the only real finish line

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    Let them know you mean business! Wear a cowboy hat (or even a beer dispensing hat) a dirty Bruce Springsteen T-Shirt, smelly old sneakers and shorts..Magnum P.I. "short" shorts.

    Many places in Europe people don't wear shorts even in the summer.
    Some places you can't tour because of the "no shorts" rule.
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  26. Linda R.

    Linda R. Fresh Meat

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    Might not work on Capri... I saw some real Canadians behave like total arses there, and you could tell it was having an effect on the locals... ;)
  27. Zenow

    Zenow Treehugger

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    Dunno about other countries, but in The Netherlands, remember that a photo-ID does not equal a passport. If you go into a bank to withdraw money - bring your passport. In fact, carrying your passport around all the fucking time is a requirement here, these days. They're not supposed to ask you unless they have valid reasons to, but a valid reason might be being witness to a crime or something like that. You could say no and try to assert your rights, but only do that if you have the time to defend yourself in court.
    As for public transporation like underground, trams, most countries have daycards, they're often cheaper than regular tickets if you spend a day running around a city. If you end up going to Poland, don't speak German, you'll regret it.
  28. Volpone

    Volpone Zombie Hunter

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    I'm a little paranoid about being outside the US. I have my passport on me at all times. And even if you're are law enforcement, there will be the possibility of physical violence if I'm asked to surrender it to someone. :calli:

    Anyways, good advice all. I can't believe how fast time is zipping by. I really gotta start planning for what I'll be doing in December--and working the logistics. I'm either* going to have to throw everything in storage out here and then work the logistics of shipping it to the mainland later or I'm going to have to line up stuff on the mainland and get my shipping resolved before I do anything else.

    *And actually I don't know if I have any say in that, because the military will give me plane tickets to Oregon as soon as this gig wraps up.
  29. oldfella1962

    oldfella1962 the only real finish line

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    Tough to keep your passport on you if they keep it at the hotel!
    Yep, some parts of Italy and Sardinia they kept our passports at the hotel (I'm assuming for collateral).
  30. Ancalagon

    Ancalagon Scalawag Administrator Formerly Important

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    I realize this was meant as a joke.



    But two points:

    1) I've never been shy about my nationality (Southern). Never gotten shit about it. Everyone tells horror stories, but the Euros really don't hate us. Some gubment policy, but not the people. Most really, really like us.

    Or at least do a damn good job of pretending.

    2) As an educated, well spoken American you shouldn't want to hide that fact from the Euros. You'd be surprised how many Euros were amazed that I had such a good grasp of European history and modern politics. You never know, you might be able to make just one person reconsider the American stereotype.
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