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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This week, we’re giving you a peek into some of the fun we had filming Season 8 of Rick Steves’ Europe. Hopefully watching all of my on-camera screw-ups will brighten your day just a little bit.

We’re starting off today with a series of clips from France and Italy. You’ll see how much fun it is to travel with Steve Smith, how we sometimes have to beat up our sidekicks a bit to get just the right soundbite (“in the Cinque Terre, when you know the weather…you don’t need no weatherman”), and how the enthusiasm can bubble over into giggles. You’ll see how — when there are too many gawkers (as in the shot from Versailles) — we sometimes just invite everyone in to help out on camera. And you’ll see how, when a drunk wants to sing as you’re trying to explain grappa, sometimes you just have to play along. By the way, I posted a photo of the crazy student searching for an American girlfriend here on my Facebook page…and it actually worked.

Watching all of these, I can’t help but smile. I’m so thankful for how Simon Griffith (our producer/director) and Karel Bauer and Peter Rummel (our cameramen) make it both gratifying and enjoyable to bring home the wonders of Europe. I can’t wait to join them again later this month to continue filming Season 9. Thank you for traveling — and laughing — along with us.

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Cameron Hewitt (my wonderful co-author and fellow guidebook researcher) continues his insightful blog series. Researching our Austria guidebook, he visits the classic “Back Door” alpine town of Hallstatt. Nostalgic for his first visit there in 1999, Cameron still finds plenty of beauty and tradition in a village that, in his words, is slowly transforming into “a tourism machine with a veneer of quaint.” Here’s Cameron’s fascinating report.


Cameron is reporting on his summer European travels on his blog. If you enjoy Cameron’s take on Europe, be sure to also “like” his Facebook page — he’s just wrapping up Austria, and will be reporting soon from Budapest, Bulgaria, and Romania. Don’t miss out on Cameron’s keen insights.

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Books can have a huge impact on our outlook. I wish I were more well-read. But I’ve enjoyed some powerfully influential reading since I “finished school,” and I’ve collected what I think are the most important books in my life below. I’m not saying these were enjoyable reads — these are the books that most shaped my thinking, prepping me to get the most out of my travels. If you’ve enjoyed (or been perturbed by) this blog in the past, you can thank (or blame) these authors.

When I visit someone’s home, I feel I can learn lots about them by seeing what books fill their shelves. For your interest, here are my top ten MVBs (listed in chronological order):

Bread for the World (Arthur Simon)
Food First (Frances Moore Lappe)
The Origins of Totalitarianism (Hannah Arendt)
Future in our Hands (Erik Dammann)
Manufacturing Consent (Noam Chomsky)
War Against the Poor: Low-Intensity Conflict and Christian Faith (Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer)
Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes (Robert McAfee Brown)
The United States of Europe (T.R. Reid)
The European Dream (Jeremy Rifkin)
The End of Poverty (Jeffrey Sachs)

While many of these were best consumed ages ago, they still have their place and most of the authors have gone on to do great things. You can Google any of these and see what I mean.

For travelers, I believe it’s important to read books that explain the economic and political basis of issues you stumble onto in your travels. A basic understanding of the economics of poverty, the politics of empire, and the power of corporations are life skills that give you a foundation to better understand what you experience in your travels. Information that mainstream media considers “subversive” won’t come to you. You need to reach out for it.

What are your most influential books…and why?

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Cameron Hewitt (my wonderful co-author and fellow guidebook researcher) is at it again. He’s giving a sacred tourism cow a hard, non-dewy-eyed look: this time, it’s the Sound of Music tours. On assignment to update the Salzburg chapter of our Vienna guidebook, he was confronted with a classic guidebook researcher challenge: Two companies offer the same tour. Which is the better value for our traveling readers?

To find out, Cameron spent two half-days on buses surrounded by S.O.M. aficionados singing “Doe, a Deer.” In this take — or is it a “takedown”? — Cameron freely admits he’s not a fan of the movie…and it shows. S.O.M. fans, click through only if you have a sense of humor.  Here’s the full report. (Full disclosure: The Sound of Music was so big in my family that my father actually named his piano business “Steves’ Sound of Music.”)


Cameron is reporting on his summer European travels on his blog. If you enjoy Cameron’s take on Europe, be sure to also “like” his Facebook page — he’s just wrapping up Austria, and will be reporting soon from Budapest, Bulgaria, and Romania. Don’t miss out on Cameron’s keen insights.

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AndysRicksEurope

I am so proud of my son, Andy. He has written his first guidebook, sharing a decade of practical experience for Millennials traveling on a shoestring budget. The book, “City Hopping on a Budget,” just hit the shelves. You can find it at ricksteves.com/cityhopping — and be sure to also check out his travel tips on his blog.

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From time to time, we share a random video to fuel your travel dreams. Take a short break today and enjoy some Vivaldi with me in this clip from my TV episode about Prague.

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This little clip tells the saga of a day in Rome a few years ago that I’ll never forget.

An evil man pretending to be me did all sorts of wicked things, including putting Parmesan cheese on spaghetti with clams. But thankfully, three young and courageous girls — forces for cuisine justice — saved the day.

Watch more of The Food Police’s adventures at foodpolice.it. Learn more about the producers at cross-pollinate.com and orvietoorbust.com.

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Since I’ve been filming new TV shows in Bulgaria and Romania, people have been asking if I plan to start running tours or writing guidebooks to this underappreciated corner of Europe. We do have a Bulgaria tour, but currently, we don’t have plans to produce more on these two countries.

However, during our filming, we enjoyed the support of several wonderful guides I’d heartily recommend. Guiding in these countries is inexpensive and — particularly since most travelers are steep on the learning curve here — particularly helpful. Hiring these guides is an exceptional value that adds understanding and enjoyment to any trip.

Throughout Bulgaria, our guide and on-screen sidekick was Stefan Bozadzhiev of Lyuba Tours. Exceptionally knowledgeable, well-connected, and simply fun to travel with, Stefan manages and guides our Rick Steves Best of Bulgaria in 12 Days Tour. This may be the most underrated of our 40-plus tour itineraries — and if you have a couple of weeks to spend in Bulgaria, this tour is definitely your best bet. But for a shorter or independent visit, see if Stefan or one of his colleagues is available to guide you: lyubatours.com, lyuba.tours@gmail.com.

In Romania, we worked with different guides in each part of the country. I’d recommend each one for their area of specialty, but most of them also cover the rest of Romania as well.

In Bucharest, two equally great guides are Dan Nica (tourguidesromania.com, dsnica@gmail.com) and Ana Adamoae (guidedtoursbucharest.wordpress.com, aadamoae@gmail.com). Both offer insightful tours that make it easier to appreciate Romania’s bustling and intimidating capital.

Dan Nica

Dan Nica

Ana Adamoae

Ana Adamoae

For Transylvania, we worked with Daniel Gheorghiţă, who runs Covinnus Travel (covinnus.com, office@covinnus.com). Daniel was knowledgeable, with a sharp sense of humor and a knack for understanding — and putting us in touch with — exactly the experiences we were seeking.

Daniel Gheorghiţă

In Maramureș, at the rustic and remote fringe of Romania, a guide is particularly helpful for navigating the extremely traditional culture — which comes with a big language barrier and plenty of cultural treasures that demand insightful explanation. Teo Ivanciuc was our man in Maramureș (www.maramurestour.comteofilivanciuc@yahoo.com). Teo was supremely knowledgeable, tireless in helping us sniff out meaningful experiences, and a passionate ambassador for his home region.

Teo Ivancuic

Teo Ivanciuc

Unfortunately, we did not have time to include the famous painted monasteries in Bucovina in our new show. However, through our scouting we met Ciprian Slemco, who runs Hello Bucovina (hellobucovina.com, contact@hellobucovina.com). If you’re headed to Bucovina, Ciprian (“Chip” for short) helps bring the precious folk art to life.

Ciprian "Chip" Slemco

Ciprian “Chip” Slemco

A heartfelt thanks to Stefan, Dan, Ana, Daniel, Teo, and Chip for all of their help as we’ve worked hard to introduce their countries to American audiences. Our crew loved filming in these places, and our hunch is that the new shows (premiering this fall on public television) will spark some serious interest in Bulgaria and Romania. I have a feeling these guides will be plenty busy…

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I’m back home for a couple weeks’ break from Europe. Here’s a look at the reality of packing light (with a quick review of exactly what I lived on for two months in Europe) — and the reality of buying something you’d never wear back home.

Thanks for traveling with me for the first half of my “100 days in Europe” blog series. In the last two months, we’ve careened together from Lisbon, Madrid, and Barcelona to Italy, Normandy and Paris to Bulgaria and Romania. Coming up soon are 50 more days in Europe: Austria, our My Way® Alpine Europe in 12 Days Tour (through the mountains from Salzburg to Chamonix — which I’ll be leading), the Netherlands, filming three TV shows in southern England, and filming the Palio in Siena. Hold on to your castanets (or whatever you shake in these lands)…it promises to be a fun ride.

 

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Cesare, the Montepulciano coppersmith, didn’t make the cut.

It is with great sadness that I announce that this amazing little clip of a wonderful artisan – and a charming man – won’t be in our upcoming show on Tuscany. One of the great challenges for me is to review a too long rough cut of one of our TV episodes, and then cut it to size. We routinely end up with shows 90 seconds or two minutes longer than our 30 minutes. The shows are already tight – with nothing really obvious to cut. My choice: to clip bits out of several artfully edited modules or to excise an entire bit in order to let the surviving sequences be seen in their full and proper glory. Painful as that is, I generally prefer the latter tactic. Here is a 70-second sequence showing off the wonderful coppersmith of Montepulciano – which won’t be part of our new series this fall. (I’m sure we’ll find a use for it somewhere, though!). Enjoy.

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