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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Terrorism hit France again — this time on Bastille Day. That’s the day the French celebrate one of the most consequential events in the history of Western civilization: the French Revolution. In 1789, France was on the front line of bringing our world basic values we often take for granted today: blessings like liberty, equality, tolerance, and pluralism. It paid dearly, and we all benefited. Today, France (still a champion of these Western values) is on the front line of terrorism, and they are, again, paying dearly. Here are a few thoughts I had from a mountaintop in France.

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I just met 26 happy travelers and we’re well into our My Way Alpine Europe Tour. It’s so much fun to be personally leading our tours again. (Over the next 12 days or so, I’ll be reporting on the fun we’re having.) We lead about 900 tours each season. On our tours, we become like a family, and it’s important that we know each other’s names. Early on, we play a memory game to learn everyone’s name. Here, on the lakeside terrace of our Hallstatt hotel, watch as little Allison demonstrates how agile young minds are. You can see what a wonderful variety of people join a Rick Steves tour. That’s one thing I really enjoy about this work.

(My tour assistant, Trish Feaster, filmed this clip. She’s blogging about our tour at her website, The Travelphile.)


This is Day 57 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I lead tours, research my guidebooks, and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Vienna, the Alps, the Low Countries, England, and beyond. Find more right here on my travel blog.

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37-rick-steves-my-way-alpine-europe-tour-group-2016

For 25 years, I personally led lots of Rick Steves Europe Tours. But for the last decade or so, I’ve preferred to just ride along as a tour member instead — enjoying the work of our hardworking and passionate guides. But this year I’ve decided to get back into the tour-guiding saddle and personally lead a couple of tours.

My first tour — a Rick Steves My Way Alpine Europe Tour — just kicked off in Salzburg, where I met my 26 happy co-travelers. (Our My Way tours are “un-guided,” designed to include ample free time. Rather than a tour guide, a My Way tour comes with a tour manager — that’s me — who gets tour members from point to point, orients them to their options, handles logistics, and answers questions.) It’s a joy to be leading our tours again. And over the next 12 days or so, I’ll be reporting on the fun we’re having, right here on my travel blog and on Facebook.

 

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facebook-passport-giveaway

At Rick Steves’ Europe, we believe if more people travel, our world becomes a better and safer place. To help empower Americans who don’t have passports to experience our world, we promised to pay the $135 passport fee for our two favorite “how travel will change my life” entries in my Rick Steves, Pay for My Passport! challenge. Today (on Bastille Day in France), we announce the winners. My staff picked these eight entries. My job was to select the best two. I can’t. So… EVERYBODY GETS A FREE PASSPORT!!! Happy travels and thanks to all eight of you for your bold and determined spirit. I hope your travel dreams come true.

The eight best entries are:

Jennifer Fox: “As a kid who grew up under the poverty line, your TV show provided me a type of escapism and education that my family — no matter how much they wanted to — could not provide. Now I am an educator, serving children from diverse family backgrounds, and I’d love to see not only the wider world they come from, but the one I remember from my childhood from your show.”

Cathie Morgan: “I want to take my daughter to see the world and experience other cultures firsthand. I want her to learn empathy, acceptance, and activism to change the world for the better.”

Deb Franklin: “I have MS and dream of the day that I can travel to Europe, (even though) many obstacles are in the way for me, but sooner or later I hope I will get there. I’m hoping it will be sooner; later would be a difficult challenge. I’m hoping my husband and I can make it while I am still mobile and the EU still exists. My dream is to do a road trip through France and Italy.”

Maegan Gabrielle Holman: “I’m a single mother of two. My dream is to travel around the world with my kids and for us to experience different cultures and traditions. I want us to see all of our beautiful countries around the world. I’ve watched Rick Steves’ Europe on TV for years and I can’t get enough. Unfortunately, since I am a single mother, I don’t have a lot of money to travel. I’ve never been out of the States. I want my children to grow up and say, ‘My mom always took us on the greatest adventures and we saw the most beautiful countries.’ My children deserve the best life and that’s what I’m going to give them. Thank you, Rick!”

JennyWittJenny Witt: “Hi Rick!! I am an avid traveler, but my fiancé… he doesn’t even have a passport! We will be married in December and I would love to give my future husband the irreplaceable gift of international travel!”

Wendy Herbold Back: “In 1989 when I met my husband, we both had a love of Greek mythology and dreamed of visiting Greece someday. We started a meager savings account of $200 to save for our trip. Well, life happened, kids/unemployment/college/and so on, and our Greece account turned into a college fund for our oldest child. Still have that dream of someday visiting Europe and touring the ancient ruins.”

Amy Walters: “For a few years now I’ve been telling my husband that we should get each other passports for our anniversary. Even if we don’t have the money to travel, it would be a smidge closer to achieving the great dream of traveling abroad. Unfortunately, things seem to always come up, as things do in life. It doesn’t stop me from fantasizing, though. I’ll always be that odd kid in her bedroom watching PBS on a little garage-sale TV and dreaming of all the places I’d like to see.”

Tonia Craig: “I grew up in a super-small community of people who are all pretty much the same. I know there’s so much to see and learn about the world and I decided last year that I shouldn’t let being alone hold me back. I have my house up for sale and I hope to be traveling as much as possible before I have grandkids. I want them to look up to me and say they’re proud of all their Gam Gam saw and did one day!!”

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St. Sebastian Cemetery is a quiet oasis in Salzburg. Follow me for a little walk and enjoy a rare opportunity to drill deep into the mausoleum of a prince-bishop. All over Europe I enjoy evocative cemeteries. Do you have a favorite?


This is Day 56 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Vienna, the Alps, the Low Countries, England, and beyond. Find more right here on my travel blog.

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Join me as we drop in on a classic beer garden in Munich — we’re under the chestnut trees as happy locals enjoy a hot evening with cold (and very big) beers. I love Munich’s Viktualienmarkt, a lively world of produce stands and budget eateries. Imagine enjoying a nice German beer here with your favorite travel partner.


This is Day 55 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Vienna, the Alps, the Low Countries, England, and beyond. Find more right here on my travel blog.

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I’m in Vienna — the city of high culture — standing in front of the Opera, where the standard “walk-don’t walk” lights have been replaced by lights showing gay and lesbian couples patiently waiting when red and happily crossing when green. It’s done in a fun-loving way to make it clear that, in this city, people want to be tolerant and celebrate diversity. (As in the USA, in Austria there is a split society making political news — basically city culture vs. country culture.)


This is Day 54 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Vienna, the Alps, the Low Countries, England, and beyond. Find more right here on my travel blog.

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Just off Vienna’s happy-go-lucky Mariahilfer Strasse, I came upon a mighty WWII flak tower built in 1944, which still functions as a shelter for the Austrian government in times of crisis. There are several such WWII towers in Berlin, Hamburg, and Vienna — all built after Hitler realized he might be defending his empire on his own turf.


This is Day 53 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Vienna, the Alps, the Low Countries, England, and beyond. Find more right here on my travel blog.

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This little clip features one of my favorite streets (Mariahilfer Strasse) in one of my favorite cities (Vienna), with one of my favorite guides (Wolfgang Hoefler). In a short chat we learn how the Green Party’s initiative turned a formerly congested street into a peaceful, community-building pedestrian zone. We also get some insight into the dynamics of Austrian politics (where there is also thunder on the right), and even watch members of the no-longer-fearsome Austrian army licking ice cream cones.

While there are more stately and elegant streets in Vienna’s central district, the best opportunity to simply feel the pulse of workaday Viennese life is along Mariahilfer Strasse. (If you visit, an easy plan is to ride the U-3 subway line to the Zieglergasse stop, then stroll and browse your way downhill to the MuseumsQuartier subway station.)


This is Day 52 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Vienna, the Alps, the Low Countries, England, and beyond. Find more right here on my travel blog.

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From time to time, we share a random video to fuel your travel dreams. In this clip from my TV episode about Paris side-trips, my friend and co-author Steve Smith is joining us, as he so often does, just in time for dinner — and we’re eating like kings.

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