Traveling Europe? Check out what Rick says …
Five years ago, just before my first-ever trip to Europe, I went to the Pitkin County Library and happened upon “Europe Through the Back Door,” a general travel book on how to plan and efficiently travel through Europe. This book had it all – how to pack lightly, how to mingle with the locals and soak up the culture while not wasting time and euros on so-so landmarks. I mentioned the author – some guy named Rick Steves – while talking to my parents.
“The guy who has that show on PBS? The kind of dorky guy?” my mom asked.Uh-oh. It’s bad if my mom refers to someone as dorky.Little did I know I’d sing Rick’s praises during and after every trip to Europe I’d take over the next years. That’s right – I’m on a first-name basis with Rick, who doesn’t even know who I am. My husband, Mike, refers to Rick as my boyfriend when we’re traveling, due to my frequent speeches that start with “Rick says …” whenever we’re looking for a place to eat, sleep or tour for a couple of hours.Rick Steves has been spending four months per year in Europe and writing guidebooks for the past 30 years, and (as my mom mentioned) hosts “Rick Steves’ Europe” on public television, covering many of his favorite hot spots. Yes, he’s a little dorky with his constant day-pack-schlepping, ever-present khakis and sensible shoes, but his writing is pithy and surprisingly funny. No one but Rick will tell me during a walking tour of Vienna that a nude statue’s left breast points toward my next destination.
I’m always happy to pick up a current copy of a Lonely Planet guidebook for any trip I take, but what sets Rick Steves apart is that he’s ruthlessly selective about what appears in his books. His philosophy of travel also gels with mine – the more money you spend on fancy hotels and expensive tours, the farther away you’ll get from finding the true culture (or any locals) where you travel. Any suggestions he gives are tried-and-true, and rarely does he leads me in the wrong direction.Thanks to Rick Steves, I’ve rambled through Venice on a pub-crawl dinner of toothpick munchies called “cicchetti” and glasses of wine; snagged fantastic standing-room-only tickets to the Vienna Opera; discovered what I think is the best “weissbier” in Munich (Schneider Weiss), nibbled heavenly “ricciarelli” (almond cookies) in Siena, Italy; gawked at Gaudi’s wildest architecture in Barcelona, and hiked in the woods above Salzburg’s old town.Mike and I met a couple from Sydney, Australia, during our most recent travels in Europe, who were in their sixth month of a yealong trip through Europe. As we were looking for a place to eat dinner all together in a small town in the Czech Republic, I pulled out my Rick Steves’ book to find an address. “Let’s see what Rick says,” I said.
“Who is this Rick Steves guy?” the Australians asked, having seen other Americans toting around his books.”Oh!” I said, my eyes lighting up as I handed over the book. “Let me introduce you!”Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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