Steves’ Pet Peeves

Back in the early days of our tour company, a group once made a theme of mimicking me for saying, “This is reeeeely great” (like the chubby nerd in Animal House). Every time I’d park the nine-seat minibus at a new sight, I’d try to pump up the group’s enthusiasm with that declaration. I guess twenty years of trying to make people happy on your tours can turn you into an almost annoyingly positive cheerleader for happy travels.

Young Rick Steves in van

This is reeeely great!

While a key to happy travels certainly is a positive attitude, I do have my pet peeves while traveling in Europe. Just between you and me, here are a few things that I do not find reeeely great:

• Museums that display mostly photocopies of documents and photos — giving you the sensation of reading a book standing up while walking from page to page (as I recently tried to enjoy in a Mozart museum in Salzburg).

• Americans who talk twice as loud as anyone else in a restaurant or public place in Europe, and carry on oblivious to the peace they are destroying.

• “UNESCO sights.” It seems every time a local tries to sell me on a sight I find mediocre, they brag, “It’s on the UNESCO World Heritage list.” While I am a big supporter of the UN, you will not find the UNESCO acronym in any of my 30 guidebooks. I forbid it.

• Concerts that charge $50 for a seat and then $4 for a program so you can know who and what you’re listening to.

• Americans who complain about the heat and lack of air-conditioning. (Europeans believe the typical person from our Southwest consumes more energy to stay cool in the summer than arctic Norwegians do to keep warm in the winter.)

• Museums that post “don’t do this” and “don’t do that” signs in English, but don’t provide English descriptions of their exhibits (even though half their paying public speaks English either as a first or second language and can’t understand the potentially interesting displays).

• Hotels that save a few bucks by serving orange drink rather than orange juice, and skimp on light-bulb wattage.

• Over-earnest British people (especially on British Air) apologizing for something more than once and saying “mind your head” every time you near a low doorway.

• People at security and check-in lines who recognize me from my TV show…and then say, “Can I see your ID?”

• Seeing twice as many (2) as necessary (1) highly-trained TSA professionals guarding exit corridors at US airports.

• People who tell me, “I love your show on the Travel Channel.” (It only runs on public television.)

• Sweating all night in hotels that put rubber mats under the sheets to protect mattresses from “getting stained.”

• The rumble of a herd of rolling suitcases crossing a tranquil cobbled village.

• Getting one meal ahead of my needs when surrounded by a cruel abundance of fine food…and then not sitting down actually hungry to a meal for days.

• Airport and train station kiosk sandwiches that are deceptively packed with lots of good stuff spilling over the bread crusts — with almost nothing actually inside the bread.

• Hotels that put a decorative footboard on their beds, robbing good sleep from guests like me who are over six feet tall.

• Overactive hotel maids. When I follow their “save the world by minimizing washing” request and hang up my bath towel to reuse it, and they change it anyway. And when I try to conserve by reusing the little soap bar, but the hotel maid throws it out, forcing me to open a new one each day.

• European sinks that have separate cold and hot faucets (why on earth?).

• Having to walk back and forth through a long, empty slalom of needless stanchions to get to a security check.

So there…I just had to get that off my chest. What are your pet peeves?