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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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in Vienna — the city of high culture — standing in front of the Opera, where the standard “walk-don’t walk” lights have been replaced by lights showing gay and lesbian couples patiently waiting when red and happily crossing when green.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.
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.
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.
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.
Just finishing up my first day of research in Vienna, kicking off my eight-week summer trip, I was struck by how you can read history into the cityscape of Vienna on nearly every corner. A good example is this old-fashioned showdown between the Old Regime concept of divine monarchy and the utilitarian view of the modern world — as seen in two diametrically opposed buildings (the Habsburg emperor’s palace and a building, now a bank, by the very-modern-in-his-day architect Adolf Loos). They were both built in the same generation around 1900. And by 1918 — the Old Regime was dead.
This is Day 51 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.
Stepping out of my hotel in Vienna on my first hour in Europe (clearly still a bit bleary with jet lag), I’m confronted by free culture on the street for the average Joe — it’s Puccini, a live videocast just outside where it’s being performed at the Vienna State Opera house. This is one of many ways Vienna brings culture to its people…and one of many ways this city inspires me.
By the way, with this post I kick off Part Two of my 100 posts in 100 days coverage of my travel season. For July and August I’ll be posting daily from Vienna and Munich, from our My Way Alpine Europe tour (Salzburg to Chamonix), from England (as we shoot three new TV shows) and — for a wild finale — from the Palio, Siena’s famous horse race. You and your traveling friends are welcome to stow away with me, right here on my travel blog, on what promises to be a great trip.
“Rick Steves’ Guide to Cuba,” a KCTS TV special based on a talk I recently gave on my Cuba adventure (from last January), is now yours to watch any time. (It is part of our extensive and growing Travel Talks library.) While it’s a simple production of my lecture, Seattle’s KCTS did a fine job, and I don’t think there’s a faster moving, more up-to-date, or more informative video out on Cuba. Play the video and join my family and me on a 40-minute trip across the island. (If you’ve traveled to Cuba, I’d love to read your thoughts on my thoughts — so many people are dreaming of taking a trip there.)
I’ve just landed in Vienna. And, like my T-shirt says, I’m going to “Keep on Travelin.’” We’re kicking off part two of my “100 days in Europe” series. Up next: 50 posts in a row from Europe, right here on my travel blog. I’m starting off with some guidebook work in Vienna, Munich, and Salzburg. Then, join me as I lead one of our My Way Alpine Europe tours from Salzburg across the Alps to Chamonix; have fun researching guidebooks in the Netherlands; and film some TV — a Highlands Games in Scotland, three TV episodes across western and southern England, and finally the crazy Palio horse race in Siena.
All along the way, I’ll be wearing our “Keep on Travelin’” T-shirt. I love this shirt because it’s a bold statement that the world is our playground. While it’s a deal at $20, I’d like my travelin’ friends to have one for just $5 plus shipping (until 5 pm PT, July 7, limit of five shirts per person). We’re losing money on this — but it’s a small price to pay to be able to identify my friends on the road. Get your shirt now at ricksteves.com/tshirt-sale.
And, please, share the fun with your travelling friends. We have a lot of travel coming up in the next couple of months.
Spud Hilton, the travel editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, asked me, “With so many people complaining about airport security lately, what would you suggest to make it better?” Here’s what I told him:
1. If my toothpaste is over 3 ounces, let me squirt it down to the maximum allowable “liquid” amount and carry it on rather than making me toss the entire tube. (I asked and was told it’s not allowed.)
2. When there’s a lull in the crowds, and with what seems like “thousands standing around” (TSA), one of those agents should be able to open a break in the stanchion maze so we don’t need to feel like silly mice needlessly zigging and zagging for five or six rows in order to meet a security agent. (I asked and was told it’s not allowed.)
3. When being patted down I always stick out my wings and tell them, “Nothing hurts, you can touch me anywhere, front or back of your hands…I don’t care.” Then they ask me, “Does anything hurt?” and say, “I’m going to touch your buttocks with the back of my hands.” (I leave them a few coins in the tray.)
4. If I’m talkative, they always ask me if I’d like a “private screening.” While it sounds nice, I’ve never taken them up on the offer. (But I leave even a few more coins in the tray.)
5. Actually, rather than complain, I think it’s most constructive to use the waiting time at airport security to meditate on the reasons we have so many enemies, and what we might do so that fewer people from far away become really angry at us.
Do you have any other suggestions of our TSA that I might relay to Spud?
Sometimes, it’s not the big sights but little, foolish things that remind me of the great joy of traveling through Europe. Here are nine of my favorite little moments in Europe this year (click on each photo to learn more). I’d love to read about some of the little things that make your trip happier.
Sneaking into the Buzludzha Monument — an abandoned, communist-era memorial capping a Bulgarian mountain — through a hole just big enough for me to squeeze through…and surviving the experience with minimal inhaling of old Commie asbestos.
Finding a nice young couple honeymooning in Venice, who let me get into their conversation via my Europe audio tours.
Enjoying a dozen escargots — all for myself — for the first time in my life as a selfish treat. I enjoyed these for my last dinner in France before flying to Bulgaria (where my expectations for cuisine were lower than in France).
A cheap and simple local equivalent of burger and fries in Normandy — with great frites, plenty of ketchup, and a cold drink to enjoy while watching the local student crowd have fun.
Being so happy in a restaurant that I break off the stem of my wine glass.
Being served a finely decorated radish without ordering it.
Spending down time during a flight hatching a map while considering all the great fun we’ve already had making TV episodes…and where we might film next.
Standing on Omaha Beach with a guide who uses a ski pole to sketch out the thrilling play-by-play of that momentous day in a way that makes me honor and respect the courageous soldiers who established an Allied foothold in Nazi Europe.
Seeing an old painting that helps me visualize something that’s never been quite clear in my mind (like how centuries ago, pilgrims trekked to Mont St. Michel).