March 10, 2004




Notes from Mollie Cundall       

Excitement and apprehension are two key words when planning and leaving for a European Trip.  Being on foreign soil for seventeen days and not speaking any foreign languages at all is cause for some concern.  It is not as bad as some would think it to be. 

Stepping off the plane in Rome and being able to decipher a few of the signs made it a little easier.  Actually getting some of the currency in your hands also helps.  There are places to “change” money all over Europe.

Finding the “i” (tourist information sign) is of great help in everything that you try to do.  From giving  you directions, finding a hotel for you, providing you with maps of the area and answering just about any question that you have.  And most of the time they speak enough English to get you through the situation.

 Being somewhat flexible in your eating habits is almost a must.  Nothing looks and definitely does not sound like, or taste quite the same as our U.S. food in the smaller towns.

 Be prepared to spend quite a bit of time when ordering a “sit down” meal.  Europeans like to linger over food and drink.  Sitting at the table for hours is quite common.  You have to ask for the check most of the time.

 I  found most the food quite enjoyable.  If you are a very picky eater you can find French fries almost everywhere.

 Be prepared to buy bottled water almost everywhere.  Only once did we have tap water with our meal.  Ice is virtually non existent.  Wine and beer flow like water.  You can readily find cokes, but most of the time they will only be slightly cool.  And you will pay from $1.50 to $5.00 depending on the area.

 When we check into a hotel here in the States we would never ask is there a bathroom in the room.  It is taken for granted here.  You definitely have to ask in Europe.  In many of the hotels or bed and breakfasts, you also pay more for a room with a bathtub as apposed to a shower.  It seems tubs are more of a luxury to them.  Also you will not find many smaller hotels with air conditioners.  You will find this luxury in American hotels such as Holiday Inns. 

 Most of the people try to be as helpful as possible despite the language barrier.  There are a few exceptions just as you would find here at home.  I found it amazing the help you get considering we are in their country at their mercy.  They could very well take the attitude “When in our country, do as we do”.

 Public restrooms are not plentiful.  A lot of Europeans just “go” wherever and think much about it.  Since water is not the commodity for them, that it is for us, this must factor in to fewer toilets.  You learn very quickly to look for the “WC” signs, meaning bathroom.  Some are in good shape, some not.  They do have toilet tissue, certainly not as soft as ours.

 Each place we visited was unique unto itself.  Rome was amazing to me.  It makes you realize just how true the saying “Rome was not built in a day”, really is.  The ruins of the Roman Empire are magnificent,  to think people could  build such structures so many years ago without the tools and equipment that we have today is unbelievable.  And so much is still standing today.  Probably the most memorable architecture of our trip.  You would have to spend much time in Rome to see all there is to see.

 Seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa on postcards does not do it justice.  It is a massive structure that leans so much more than it appears in pictures.  There is nothing else to see in this area but is worth a trip to see.

 The small villages high on the hillside called Cinque Terre, overlooking the crystal blue Mediterranean Sea is a breathtaking sight.  This entire area is beautiful and is like turning back the pages of time.  Not a tourist trap and a must see for any European Trip.

 Venice is a world unto itself again.  To see how a complete city operates on water is quite a learning experience.  Not to mention the beautiful canals as streets and beautiful architecture everywhere.

 I’m glad I got to see Munich, but it is not a small quaint German City.  It is a very large metropolitan city.  “Mike’s Bike Tour” is definitely the way to see the city.  Very enjoyable while getting some exercise.

 We used Europe’s train system and found it to be very easy, reliable and comfortable.  An easy way from city to city and country to country.

 We also rented a car for a different prospective on the trip.  I don’t think it was as easy as the train but we didn’t  have to take our backpack with us all the time.  It could be left in the car as you continued to sight see.

 If high speed is something that you love, then the Autobahn, the European interstate, is for you.  Most of the Autobahn has no speed limit and the drivers do take advantage of this fact.

 We chose to take the Romantic Road through a portion of Germany.  The idea was to take the back roads thru small villages.  Parts of this road did that.  There were also parts that went thru large cities with a lot of traffic.  I’m not sure I would do this again.

 The stop at Neuschuanstein Castle was very beautiful because of its location in gorgeous mountains.  Driving through the Alps in a car was definitely worth seeing in a car instead of a train.  The views are breath taking at times.  Another must see.  The castle ruins was also another nice side trip.  A nice hike to get to the top, magnificent scenery and very peaceful.  Glide planes floating high in the clouds were a beautiful sight.

 The old walled city of Rothenberg Germany is also taking a step back in time.  A few souvenir shops are the only thing that time has changed in this old city.

 The Rhine River area with the grape vines on the hillside is very special to me.  A beautiful are with nice memories.  These small villages and a boat ride on the Rhine River are what I think about when someone says Germany to me.

 Spending time in the Swiss Alps is worth a trip to Europe.  There are no words or pictures that could come close to the magnificent beauty of these mountains.  A tram ride to the top of the Schilthorn gives you a spectacular view of the magnitude and splendor you are in.  A definite must see.

France, the last stop of our trip.  We spent one night in Colmar. A very unique old city.  Enjoyable but not a must see.  An extra day in the Alps if I had it to do all over again.

 On to Paris for our final stay.  The Eiffel Tower, The Arch de Triumph, Notre Dame and Louvre are just a few of the sights awaiting you in this city.  But along with these wonderful must sees, is a very touristy expensive city.  Plan on spending a few more dollars.  Be very selective in choosing a hotel room.  You may be quite surprised when you actually see what you paid for.

 The entire European trip was worth the time and money spent.  Everyone should at least make one trip.

 Traveling in Europe will make you appreciate all of the things we take for granted.  The electricity, food and water that we waste compared to the conservationists they are, is remarkable.  They build things that last for ever and continue to maintain and preserve them.  We continue to tear down and rebuild.

 The term “another world” takes on new meaning as you collect your thoughts.  Take the time and the money to go and enjoy much of our ancestry and history.