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A first-time visit to Europe, and how to do it right
Greetings from Montreal! My fiancée and I are enjoying a pleasant long weekend here, but we're pretty much in agreement that the next lengthy travel adventure we'll take will be to Europe. This will be my first time overseas in any capacity, and - although in graduate school she spent some time in Kamchatka on an archaeological expedition as well as in Finland as a teaching assistant for university students in the archaeology program - this will, effectively, also be my fiancée's first time overseas as a tourist. I'm envisioning a timeframe of roughly two weeks; maybe a bit more, but three weeks is probably the hard upper limit.
Hobbitschuster likes to warn people against "doing Europe" - i.e., trying to see too much of Europe in too little a time, and forgetting how densely packed with worthwhile sights and cultural attractions the continent is, with the result that the visitor gets a superficial experience where a few of the most obvious or clichéd places are covered but a lot of the depth and nuance is lost. We are inclined to strongly agree with him on that point. So my question is this: what are some individual countries or regions that are best for first-time visitors to Europe?
My main concerns are the following: First, I speak English natively, French and Spanish very well, and at this point in my studies of German I could probably get by in that language on a basic level without much of a problem. However, I would like for my first visit to be somewhere where, in a pinch, it wouldn't be too hard to find someone who speaks English. (My fiancée does not speak any language other than English.) Second, I'm not averse to a certain degree of fighting my way through throngs of tourists at the most famous sights, but I do want to make sure we spend a good portion of our trip getting off the beaten path and getting to know some semblance of the true local culture. A mix of urban and rural milieux would be ideal.
My fiancée thinks Scandinavia (or some portion thereof) would be a good candidate. I'm open to that idea but would like to hear some others.
- Andre, what you are interested to see/find in Europe: architecture, history, nature, food, nightlife? Don't answer "Everything", because it is all there, no matter where you go, but different countries are famous for different things. And season is also important. I assume you won't travel to Scandinavia in winter, unless you absolutely need to see Aurora Borealis. Do you plan on renting a car or will you stick to public transportation? --Alexander (talk) 13:58, 2 September 2016 (UTC)
- Difficult one, depending on your interests. If could only pick one place for someone never been to Europe I would consider northern Italy, Lake Como gives you lakes, mountains and real Italian food, although English not so widely used; then go down to Milan. Germany I would do Middle Rhine Valley for the castles, a little touristy but a small hike will get you great views with few people, then go to Munich for the beer gardens; English is fine in both places. Although full of tourist crowds Prague has many historic sites. And consider Amsterdam for unique architecture, alternative social scene as well as art galleries. For a more relax trip with beautiful scenery, many interesting locations in the West Country to get an impression of real England (not London). --Traveler100 (talk) 15:38, 2 September 2016 (UTC)
- Assuming bias, because I've been there in May and really loved, but it's very hard for a Brazilian history buff not to: Lisbon, Cascais and Sintra. Sea, river, mountains, castles, a Roman wall, excellent See/Do/Eat/Drink options. Portugal and England have been friends and allies for a very long time and nearly everybody seems to speak some English (but I stuck to Portuguese the whole time, unsurprisingly). These are my two cents on this discussion. And thanks for the hard work here in WV, Andre, it's much appreciated. Ibaman (talk) 16:10, 2 September 2016 (UTC)
- You certainly have many choices & lots of them would be good, though I agree with the Hobbit that trying to do too many is a really bad idea. Among the things to consider:
- Southern Europe is generally cheaper than the North, and better if you want sun & beaches. My favorite destination there is the Greek Islands. Places like Troy, Athens and Rome would likely fascinate your archaeological fiancee.
- The UK & Ireland may be easiest for English speakers. I really like London & Bath, and a friend who has been a tour guide for Chinese groups in at least a half dozen European countries rates Dublin as the most interesting destination she has been to.
- Countries with languages closely related to English — Scandinavia & the Netherlands — are also relatively easy for English speakers since many locals speak it well. Amsterdam is a wonderful place to visit.
- Good luck & enjoy the trip, wherever you end up going. Pashley (talk) 16:47, 2 September 2016 (UTC)
- There surely is a ton to see and do in Europe and while you cannot see everything, I would still recommend visiting several parts of Europe that are (to some extent) different from each other, for instance some place in Scandinavia and another in Central and/or Mediterranean Europe.
- A popular itinerary for (over)"doing Europe" if you decide to do it anyway is, I believe London-Paris-Rome overland (by train). That's a way to see some of the very most famous attractions plus the landscapes in-between. Another would be heading east to Munich and then to either Prague, Vienna or Venice.
- On the British Isles, in the Benelux countries, Scandinavia, most of Central Europe, plus "touristy" places in the Mediterranean countries, you won't have problems getting by in English, but elsewhere you can't count on that. ϒpsilon (talk) 18:16, 2 September 2016 (UTC)
- Thank you everyone for a pleasantly surprising wealth of feedback. A few points of clarification:
- First for Alexander's questions: while all of the categories you mentioned are good, I'd say definitely the most important of them would be architecture and history. Food is also important but somewhat less so (or rather, it's very important to us to sample the local cuisine to the exception of anything we can easily find back home, but we'd be equally and perhaps even more interested in visiting a place with an "off the beaten path" cuisine rather than countries like France or Italy that are renowned for their gastronomy); nature is also moderately important; nightlife not at all important. I envision travelling in the Northern Hemisphere summer, but would be open to "warm but not quite summer" months like May and September provided the vast majority of tourist attractions, etc. remain open regular hours. Regarding getting around, having a car at our disposal while travelling between cities would be a good thing, but I understand the European approach to car culture is quite a bit different than the North American one, so I'm prepared to be flexible about that. While within cities, I imagine walking or using public transportation pretty much exclusively.
- Also, a general note regarding language: what I'm looking for is not necessarily a place where everyone can speak English, but I do want to avoid scenarios where I find myself in an unusual or emergency situation with an essential need to communicate accurately but there's absolutely no one around who speaks English. If I end up visiting a place where French or Spanish is spoken, I envision taking the opportunity to brush up on my skills and using the local language pretty much exclusively; if the local language is German, I may be less able to do that but English will remain the last resort. As well, here in Montreal I'm also having no problem serving as a translator for my fiancée where necessary (though sadly usage of the English language seems far more pervasive than last time I was here, in 2012).
- I know your command of French is quite good, but since you want a place where even in the countryside, in an emergency, someone is likely to speak English, I think you should go to the Netherlands. The architecture and art there is splendid, and there is a lot of natural beauty, too. I made an effort to speak German while in Germany, but in any case, my impression is that English is spoken more widely (though not quite universally) in the Netherlands than in Germany, though English is widely spoken there, too. I haven't traveled that widely in either country yet, but Amsterdam was the most beautiful city of over 1 million that I've ever seen, and I'd highly recommend a visit to Munich, which is chock-full of great churches like an Italian city. If you go there, you will also be close to the German Alps, Austria, and several other German cities you may find worth visiting, such as Nuremburg, Würzburg and Stuttgart. I have yet to visit Belgium, but you could easily include visits to cities there in your trip, along with a trip to Strasbourg and other places in Alsace if you like. Ikan Kekek (talk) 20:09, 2 September 2016 (UTC)
- Andre, concerning the food: I am not entirely sure, but I think that what you find in France and Italy is going to be different (and probably more pleasant) than what you normally get as French and Italian cuisine in the US. Don't disregard these options based on the food argument=)
- Concerning the car, it largely depends on the country. Traveling in Scandinavia without the car can be a waste of time. Traveling without a car in Germany or Netherlands should be OK in general.
- Concerning the language, your language skills will definitely cover all Western Europe except for Italy, but Italy should be fine too. All my French- and Spanish-speaking friends survived there quite easily, because Italian language is somewhere in between French and Spanish. Unless you plan to cover Slavic (Eastern Europe) countries, I would not worry about the language at all.
- Netherlands hosts some interesting architecture, but I find this country (as well as Belgium) rather dull because it is all the same everywhere, and their everyday food is horrible (restaurants have some nice and expensive stuff, though). If your budget allows this, you can spend 2-3 days in Amsterdam and some nearby place (I personally liked Delft more than any other Dutch city) and then move elsewhere. For classical architecture, I pretty much second Ikan's advice about Munich and Southern Germany with a further move toward Salzburg and Vienna (there are lots of beautiful mountains in between). It may also be interesting to continue south toward Ljubljana that has a very distinct architecture and enjoys beautiful location amid the mountains. If time permits, you can continue toward Trieste (nice location on the sea and, again, a fine mix of Italian and Austrian architecture) and, finally, Milan with as much Northern Italy as you want in between.
- If I were to do such a trip, I would actually skip Netherlands (sorry, but Amsterdam is more about smoking weed, even if it has some nice architecture), start from Munich and finish the trip in Milan.
- And if we are talking about Scandinavia, I think that it is mostly about natural landmarks overwhelm everything else. There are several places of architectural and historical importance, but not as many as in Central Europe. And it is not about classical architecture like baroque or classicism, but rather about pretty wooden stuff or fancy 20th-century buildings. --Alexander (talk) 20:45, 2 September 2016 (UTC)
- Getting around by car isn't that much of a problem, to get OtBP you often need one. It also enables you to stay at (often more affordable) hotels in the suburbs and taking bus, train or subway into downtown. I assume you probably won't stay in just one country, so check beforehand with the rental company what their policy is for driving across borders (between EU countries it's probably OK), also, you will probably need to drop off the car if not in the same city, at least in the same country you rented it from. Moreover, it's possible that an International Drivers Licence is required and remember that unlike North America, most cars have a manual gearbox. ϒpsilon (talk) 20:41, 2 September 2016 (UTC)
- So I will take a stab at it as well. Speaking from personal experience, Eastern Germany (including the big cities, but not Berlin) has notably lower English proficiency than the West and even in big cities like Dresden (which has a remarkable old town best enjoyed viewed at night from one of the bridges crossing the Elbe) you will hear and audible accent in the German. I have heard a lot of good things about Slovenia, including their language skills but have yet to go there. Prague is a fabulous city and if you are in Dresden or Nuremberg already it is really not that hard to do a little side trip. If you like half timbered houses (i.e. houses with a wooden "skeleton" filled with adobe and other materials in between) there are many places to get them, including the Franconian countryside (where you'll need a car). Lübeck is a nice city as well (check out the Hanse Museum if you are at all interested in history) which could be combined with a trip to Scandinavia as it has good ferry connections. If you are in the area anyway, Hamburg is also nice for its cosmopolitan feel and if you are interested in the harbor, you should certainly book a tour (while a bit expensive, the small Barkassen can enter the Speicherstadt which consists of historic warehouses directly adjacent to the water now repurposed for many other things - this part of the tour can be as interesting if not more so than the tour of the modern harbor with its container giants). I quite liked Slovakia and its capital Bratislava is such a short hop from Vienna that you could feasibly bike it in one day. Back when I went there it was surprisingly affordable, but that was in 2009 or 2010. If hiking or climbing are at all your thing, Franconian Switzerland (a sadly underdeveloped article) offers a lot as does Saxon Switzerland. While the former is not easily accessible by public transit, the latter is just one picturesque S-Bahn ride along the Elbe out of Dresden. You don't appear to be interested in a beach vacation, otherwise I'd suggest the general area of Venice in Italy (very popular with Germans) or the East Frisian islands (ditto, but for different reasons). I have been to the general area of Füssen and in Munich (really the only thing I ever go to Munich for is the Deutsches Museum, which is certainly worth a visit, especially if you are interested in technology), but I personally don't like the cliched Bavaria that is found there. It really is almost as kitschy and "romantic" as the cliche picture postcard. And Neuschwanstein really does look like a Disney castle (not coincidentally, by the way, Disney got their inspiration from there). Another hidden gem if you are in Eastern Germany is Görlitz that survived the war very close to intact and has been used to stand in for several cities that didn't in period movies. I am not much of an architecture buff myself, but apparently Görlitz has houses built to almost every style that was prevalent in the last couple of centuries. In general, English proficiency in Europe skews urban and has a west and north trend. So urban dwellers in Scandinavia are the most likely to speak English while rural people from Eastern Europe or the Balkans will likely not have a firm grasp of it. But young people always tend to speak better English than the elderly. At any rate, I hope this was useful, unfortunately there are many places around Europe which I have yet to visit myself. Hobbitschuster (talk) 21:24, 2 September 2016 (UTC)
- Assuming no budget constraints and going gung-ho: consider flying to Lyon and renting a small motor-home, select nice spots along Provence and Catalonia (I've seen beautiful trailer parking spots at Pont Du Gard and Tarragona and highly recommend) all the way to Barcelona with its archaeolovely Barri Gòtic and all its Gaudí wonders. I know it's an extreme proposition, but should be mentioned. Ibaman (talk) 22:30, 2 September 2016 (UTC)
- For the record, during a long weekend (Thurs-Mon) in Amsterdam, we smoked no weed and ate wonderfully. They have great Indonesian food there, but we also went to an upscale "New Dutch" restaurant recommended by a foodie friend, had great old Gouda sandwiches, and even the local sjoarma (I think that was the Dutch spelling) place we went to just because it was open late was quite good. I can't speak for any other part of the Netherlands, though.
- But the main point is really that there are so many choices you can make. My first trip to Europe by myself was to Italy. It was a different kind of trip than you're doing because I was truly traveling alone, but as a graduate student who took a flute master class in a little walled hill village in Lazio called Sermoneta and then was enrolled at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, but I also visited a bunch of places in Tuscany, spent a weekend with friends in Umbria near Gubbio and visited Rome and Naples. I hadn't studied Italian formally but had 3.5 years of French and 1 year of Latin under my belt, and between the "Teach Yourself Italian" media I had and just talking to people, I developed a very good conversational knowledge of Italian in the 10.5 weeks I spent there that summer.
- I love Italy and France and later took trips there with my brother and parents that involved renting a car and driving between towns. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend that kind of trip, except that English isn't spoken so much in those countries and I'm also not as sure how I feel about France anymore, but anyway... :-) Ikan Kekek (talk) 00:00, 3 September 2016 (UTC)
What highway is in this video?
Can someone explain to me what is the name of this highway in this video (). Yeah the dude is ranting about semis but can someone tell me the name of road he is driving on. Thanks! --220.127.116.11 16:01, 14 September 2016 (UTC)
- This is the Hohokam Expressway, aka Arizona State Route 143. The driver is heading northbound toward Sky Harbor Airport, directly on the border between Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona. -- AndreCarrotflower (talk) 19:02, 14 September 2016 (UTC)
- Thank you! Is there any YouTube video of exits Interstate 10 to Arizona State Route 143 that are kinda similar to that guy's semi rant? Like any video? Do semis use AZ State Route 143? --18.104.22.168 20:34, 14 September 2016 (UTC)
- I assume semis are authorized to use AZ 143 because, at 1:18 in the video, in the window to the right of the narrator's head you can see one very briefly passing by as he drives down that highway. As for videos of the interchange, you'd have to search for them on YouTube. -- AndreCarrotflower (talk) 21:39, 14 September 2016 (UTC)
- @AndreCarrotflower: Do you know the name of the interchange? So I can look it up. --22.214.171.124 22:35, 14 September 2016 (UTC)
- Thank you! Is there any YouTube video of exits Interstate 10 to Arizona State Route 143 that are kinda similar to that guy's semi rant? Like any video? Do semis use AZ State Route 143? --126.96.36.199 20:34, 14 September 2016 (UTC)
A bus between Sofia and Tirana and backwards
Is there a bus between Sofia, Bulgaria and Tirana, Albania? I've been noticing that arriving to Albania in bus is much cheaper than in airplane, if there's a bus that drive such a long distance. 188.8.131.52 11:52, 19 September 2016 (UTC)
- The Balkanviator website returns no results for direct Sofia–Tirana buses. You can transfer in Skopje, though, which seems to be connected to both the Bulgarian and Albanian capitals by buses. Skopje's bus station is reasonably close (about 20 min on foot) to the Vardar Bridge and the old town on the far side of the bridge, so there is plenty to see instead of waiting out for the next leg of your journey. Note that an end-to-end ride, excluding the layover in Skopje, is more than 13 hours, which is pretty long and tiresome considering the general condition of the roads and buses in the Balkans. Vidimian (talk) 20:16, 19 September 2016 (UTC)
- Vidimian is right, the walk is short enough from the bus station to Centar and the old town so there is plenty to see regardless of the length of your layover. There's also a local city bus station there. I've only taken a bus to Tirana from Ohrid before. It cost 30 euros and was actually more of a large van. It was clean and the ride through the mountainous countryside was really nice. I can only assume Skopje would have more frequent and larger buses to Tirana, though it may cost a bit more since it's a farther. Local hero (talk) 13:55, 20 September 2016 (UTC)
Munich on the last weekend of May 2017
I'm planning on visiting BoundCon in Munich again in 2017, on the last weekend of May. So far I'm only considering going to Munich myself, but lately my girlfriend also expressed interest, although she's not actually into bondage as much as I am. The only problem is, pretty much all hotel rooms in Munich seem to already have been booked for the dates (25 to 28 May 2017). I was barely able to find a single room for myself, let alone for the both of us, and even that was at the north of the city, not at the centre. Well, BoundCon is located nearby, but we would also like to visit the city itself, which would be more easily accessible from the centre.
What has made Munich so fully booked eight months in advance? I very much doubt it's BoundCon. Is there some sort of more important event happening there at the date? Asked by: JIP (talk) 20:58, 19 September 2016 (UTC)
- You might want to try searching again, maybe using a different booking site. A quick look (on booking site blocked by spam filter) showed rooms in 80% of the hotels for those dates, and twin rooms in this youth hostel for € 85,67. It may be that you are looking too far ahead for some hotel or sites. AlasdairW (talk) 22:41, 19 September 2016 (UTC)
- Good question, because Munich certainly has a lot of hotels. Perhaps some trade fair or sports event. In addition to the comment above, have a look at the Sleep section in the article(s) of those district(s) where you'd prefer to find a hotel, and click through the websites of individual hotels there, very probably you'll find something. Or then, they haven't "opened" the May dates for booking yet.ϒpsilon (talk) 04:53, 20 September 2016 (UTC)
- I´ve checked the dates. May 25-28, 2017 is one of the few dates when no major fair is in Munich. So, what AlasdairW said is probably correct. Macgyverjoel 17:532 September 21, 2016
What is the name of this Houston Interchange
- Can someone explain to me what is the name of this interchange in this video ()? Can someone tell me a good video of it? Thanks! --184.108.40.206 14:20, 19 September 2016 (UTC)
Where can I exchange my Indian Rupees to US dollars? (posted by 220.127.116.11)
- It would help if you said where in the world you are, and approximately how much you are looking to exchange. Have you tried local currency exchange offices and banks? AlasdairW (talk) 18:42, 28 September 2016 (UTC)
- You generally get a better exchange rate in the country you are requiring the currency to be changed into not your home country. Also if you have a bank card that will work abroad, simply using a machine in the wall can often be better exchange rate than a tourist buro but check the fees first. For larger sums of money there are some professional money transfer companies on the web which is generally the best method if you have bank accounts in both currencies, some will also mail cash to you home address. --Traveler100 (talk) 06:49, 29 September 2016 (UTC)