Rick Steves' Travel Blog

I'm sharing my travel experiences, candid opinions and what's on my mind. If you think it's inappropriate for a travel writer to stir up discussion on his blog with political observations and insights gained from traveling abroad, you may not want to read any further. — Rick

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We did it! We reached our goal of $500,000 to fight hunger. Congratulations and thanks!

Our goal was for 2,500 of our travelers to donate $100 each to Bread for the World, enabling it to more effectively speak up for hungry people in Washington DC. That would raise $250,000, which I would then match to make it a total of half a million dollars. This pays for advocacy: employing policy analysts and hunger experts to help our congresspeople and senators better understand the impact of their laws on struggling people. (Considering the importance of government policy on hungry people, each dollar invested in such advocacy has about a hundred times the impact on hunger as direct charity does.)

With the values and passions of our new president-elect — and issues like minimum wage, affordable housing, nutrition, food stamps, education, and health care for our poor all on the table — the work of our friends at Bread for the World has never been more important.

The President of Bread for the World, David Beckmann, just called me to express his thanks for our support. A couple of nights ago, he gave an address to a gathering of policymakers and concerned citizens in New York City about the mission of Bread and its recent accomplishments. Reading the transcript of David’s talk will help those of you who donated better understand how you’ve empowered an important and effective mission.

There’s still plenty of time for you to learn about our exciting Christmas fundraiser and help advance Bread’s work. Just go to ricksteves.com/bread to learn more.

Most important, I wanted to thank the 2,500-plus travelers who joined me in this important initiative. In a political season when many wonder how they can make a difference for struggling people in our world (both at home and abroad), together we have made a real difference. We have shared the love in a powerful way this holiday season.

Thanks again, and Merry Christmas!

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Man-licking in the High Alps is very accessible and appropriate for all ages.

We have a vast selection of travel talks posted on YouTube and in the Travel Talks section of my website. YouTube likes everything to be captioned, so they use voice-recognition software to automate the laborious transcription process. While quite amazing, the automation is not always perfect. In fact, if we didn’t proofread our robotic transcriber, some embarrassing mistakes would slip through. Here are a few my assistant, Skyla Sorensen, caught:

-In Italy lies my favorite chunk of the Riviera, “Chicken Patty”… (Cinque Terre)

-For an unforgettable taste treat on the coast of Portugal, eat “burning coals.” (barnacles)

-Imagine: Michelangelo sculpted this exquisite pietà in his “girly” 20s. (early 20s)

-Don’t miss the historic capital of Poland, “crack house.” (Kraków)

– While Warsaw is Poland’s capital, “butt-crack houses” the university. (but Kraków has)

-If you don’t know what to order in Provence, just “do your best.” (get bouillabaisse)

-Spend half a day exploring beautiful “Chiquita banana Rachel.” (Civita di Bagnoreggio)

-The armory, where Venetians could crank out a warship a day, is where they’d take potential enemies to say, “Don’t mess with Dennis.” (don’t mess with Venice)

-A highlight at the Uffizi is “peanut butter and jelly.” (Venus by Botticelli)

-Visit the cultural melting pot of “ass ten ball.” (Istanbul)

-The most interesting coastal towns are those with an “antibiotic” heritage (Hanseatic)

-“Man-licking” in the High Alps is very accessible and appropriate for all ages (Mannlichen)

-High in the Swiss Alps is one of my favorite memories, “Claim this sideache.” (Kleine Scheidegg)

-Don’t miss the exciting city of “Blah.” (Bloise)

-Get “beat stupid” in Eastern Europe. It’s a local favorite. (beet stew)

-In Iran, one religious saying you’ll hear everywhere you go is “enchilada.” (Inch’Allah)

-The president of Iran, “I’m at dinner, Gene.” (Ahmadinejad)

-If you want to make a difference without leaving your house, donate to my favorite charity, “Bred for the Road.” (Bread for the World)

-For more information on my travel philosophy, check out my talk, “Travel as a Blood Clot.” (Travel as a Political Act)

-You’ll enjoy a friendlier welcome when you try out the local language. When you meet a German, say “Good dog.” (Guten Tag)

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fidel-castro-dead

Sit back, grab a mojito, and experience the resilient joy and spirit of the Cuban people. KCTS 9’s TV special about my trip to Cuba earlier this year is now available to watch online.

Venturing to Cuba offers a chance to befriend a poor and struggling island society that is, in its own way, an inspiration. It’s a one-of-a-kind time warp, free of the strip-mall banality of our rich world. But with Castro gone, pent up change is likely to sweep Cuba. And that includes a tsunami of American tourists.

Did you visit Fidel’s Cuba? I would love to hear about your travels.

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Servers with Turkey

Photo: Cameron Hewitt

As we anticipate the arrival of Thanksgiving, my fellow guidebook writer Cameron Hewitt shares a beautiful travelers’ holiday message on his blog. Cameron challenges those of us who value travel, diversity, and cultural bridges to splice that worldview into our holiday planning.  After all, what’s more fundamental: the turkey, the trick-or-treating, and the caroling…or the coming together of loved ones?

Cameron’s family Thanksgiving report comes from Tuscany. With the help of our favorite agriturismo host, Isabella, he gets us up close and steamy with a delicious mashup of American and Tuscan cuisine. (Isabella actually imported cranberries — which are unknown in Italy — just for the party.)

As the holidays approach this year, travelers should know that good-hearted Americans are enthusiastically welcome at joyful family feasts all around the world.  

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To add meaning to the holiday season, every Christmas our traveling community works together to help hungry people around the world.

Here’s how it works: You make a $100 gift to Bread for the World. I will match your donation – and send you my Christmas DVD, coffee-table book, and CD as a thank you. This year, my personal goal is to match all gifts up to $250,000.

I see Bread for the World not as a charity, but as a service. With our help, they are able to go into the halls of our government and speak up (or “lobby”) for hungry people in our country and around the world. This year, the need is particularly great. Europe is in the midst of the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Parts of Africa are suffering from a horrible drought. And one in five U.S. children still lives in a family that struggles to get enough to eat.

Go to ricksteves.com/bread to get on board — and please share this challenge with your loved ones. Imagine, as an extended family of caring (and traveling) people, together we can empower Bread for the World’s work with $500,000.

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results-and-hope-2

OK, the forces of Trump have taken the White House. For people who love our world and celebrate diversity, it’s a setback…a big setback. We internationalists, progressives, and people who want to build bridges rather than walls lost. But by our nature, we don’t scream “rigged system”…we’ll be thankful we have a peaceful transition in our country, and we will soldier on. As for our mission of keeping America traveling and engaged in our world: It is stronger than ever. We will keep on travelin’ — and hope our country will, too.

While our Rick Steves’ Europe management team was out on our annual retreat, my staff put on their “Keep on Travelin’” T-shirts and surprised me with these photos. Thanks to my wonderful staff for affirming our more-important-than-ever mission.

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Michelangelo David

The consequences of this election are undeniably huge. Those of us who see our world as a family and our environment as a trust, and who believe that the measure of a society is how it cares for those in need, can be sad in this defeat. But the voters have spoken. I hope we all do our best to accept President Trump, pick up the pieces, and carry on. This morning—mindful of our mission to help America “keep on traveling”—I reassured our staff that, as things become darker, our light becomes brighter. Together, we will shine our light with more energy than ever.

To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., the moral arc of our world is long but it bends toward justice. As travelers engaged with our world in all of its diversity, we contribute to that arc. It’s a long haul, but I have confidence that that arc will bend in a way that is ultimately right.

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When I share political observations learned from talking with people in foreign countries, some people say, “Rick, stick to travel.” But these ideas are the very essence of travel. My mission is to help make travel a broadening and educational experience. That’s why I’ve written a book called Travel as a Political Act.

This clip shares a few thoughts that hit me several years ago, as I stood among Germans at the top of their glassy, then-new Reichstag dome in Berlin — thoughts on the dangers of a dumbed-down society. It’s just one minute, excerpted from my 80-minute “Travel as a Political Act” talk. Warning: If you think I should “stick to travel,” watching that talk could make you really angry.

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OK, I know you’re scared of Trump…or mad at Hillary. But — as Bill Clinton used to say about the economy — IT’S THE ISSUES, STUPID! The media would rather talk about sex and bluster — it’s good for ratings. (Politicians have learned that talking about the issues with actual details only causes problems.) But this election will have real consequences, and how we vote — Democrat or Republican — will shape our society. It’s much more than the president. It’s the Senate and the House of Representatives. There’s no right or wrong, other than understanding how each party stands on the issues that you care about and voting accordingly.

Here’s my challenge: Ignore the personality stuff and the silliness on the news. Compare each party’s stances on the issues to your beliefs. (It’s fair to say that candidates embrace their respective party platforms, and generally vote in lock step with these.) Take this issues “blind taste test,” make your choice — Democrat or Republican — and then vote.

 

25 Issues Party #1 Party #2
Climate change a hoax really important
National healthcare no (privatize it) yes (build on it)
Abortion pro-life pro-choice
Social Security more privatized status quo, public
Education privatize support public
Environment fewer safeguards more safeguards
Energy friendlier to oil friendlier to renewables
Foreign relations build walls build bridges
Immigration harder softer
United Nations bad good
Israel BFF with privileges friend with limits
Iran nuke deal no yes
Corporations fewer restrictions more restrictions
Banks fewer restrictions more restrictions
Taxing the wealthy less more
Taxing corporations less more
Inheritance tax end it keep it
Labor unions should be weaker should be stronger
Minimum wage no raise raise it
Marijuana status quo reclassify, liberalize
Supreme Court picks conservative liberal
Citizens United for against
Voter rights don’t expand expand
For-profit prisons allow end
Presidential candidate Trump Clinton

 

If you think this issues-based comparison might be helpful to others, please share it. Thanks, vote thoughtfully, and GHA (God help America).

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Here’s a short clip (with a daring little pun buried inside) from one of the new episodes of my TV show, airing now across the country on public television and online in the Watch the TV Show section of my website.

We had a fascinating time filming the Nazi Documentation Center in Hitler’s favorite city, Nürnberg. It’s fascinating (and, hopefully, instructive) to think of the tenor of those turbulent times in Germany and how Hitler came to power. His specialty: huge rallies, stoking the fears of angry masses (especially fears of minorities), and a dumbed-down message that repeated lies and insults until his followers started shouting them back. He had a passion for constructing buildings as bombastic as his speeches.

To this day, Germans ask: How could this have happened? Hitler was a master of media and the mass hypnosis of the German nation. His populist promises (coming on the heels of tough economic times) led to catastrophe. One positive that came from this: to this day, Germany works to make its electorate not dumbed-down, but smarter. Perhaps another positive: that we might take the lessons history wants to teach us a little more seriously.

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