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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From time to time, we share a random video to fuel your travel dreams. In this clip from my TV episode about Edinburgh, meet me at a local pub for a pint of ale — and join me in celebrating literary greats Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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Since 1066, the English Channel has been a very effective moat for Great Britain. But during our generation, Britain has seen a new kind of invasion from the Continent — a peaceful, political one. And with the Brexit vote, the British people have decided to pull up the drawbridge.

I remain a staunch supporter of the European Union. But with the UK’s decision to leave the EU, my idealism has taken a serious blow. I’m flying to Europe this weekend. And from a practical standpoint, for travelers heading to Europe soon, I don’t see much of a difference…other than a cheaper pound sterling, and plenty to talk about with your new European friends. But what about the long-term consequences? Here’s my take.

For years in my lectures, I’ve said this about the European Union:

Imagine Europe amid the ruins of World War II. As people began to dig out, they thought, “Twice in our lifetimes, we’ve gotten into horrific wars. We have to do something drastic, or our children will be digging out again. We need to weave our economies together — especially France and Germany — so that going to war in the future will be inconceivable.” So European citizens got together and created the European Union, a “United States of Europe.” It’s been a stuttering evolution — two steps forward and one step back — for nearly 70 years. Of course, there’s no meaningful union unless you can talk sovereign nations into giving up real sovereignty. That’s a tough sell — especially in Europe. But the EU is here to stay. And even with its cumbersome political correctness and its almost comical excess of regulations, the EU has created a free trade zone big enough to compete with the USA and the emerging economies of China and India. But the real triumph of the EU is that Europe is at peace.

With the Brexit, I realize my statement that “the EU is here to stay” may be wrong after all. Suddenly, the future of the EU is murky. What I do know is that the EU is about to shrink from 28 to 27 member nations and lose 17% of its economic clout. The world’s gateway to the EU is logically London — as English is the language of globalization and London is the world’s financial capital. The EU has lost that. Britain has lost it, too.

I also see the Brexit vote as a symptom of the populism and nativism that is sweeping the Western world. This is a big day for those who believe cooperation is for losers. It’s a good day for Putin, and it’s a good day for Trump. Is it as good day for the white, working-class, less-educated, rural and rust belt voters who cast the deciding ballots? Time will tell. But one thing’s for sure: At home and abroad, those voters feel their voices are not being heard.

The referendum didn’t instantly pull the UK out of the EU. That will require a long negotiation, likely lasting years. So now Britain and Europe have to deal with the reality of an acrimonious divorce. Both parties will try to come out on top, both will be attempting to compromise with an undercurrent of anger, and both will lose the shared efficiencies they’ve enjoyed as a couple. One thing is clear: It will be messy, and there will be no winners.

You can also think of this unlinking biologically: When something has grown together, it’s painful to tear it apart. No matter how slow and careful you are, it’s going to hurt.

Nobody knows exactly what will come of the Brexit. But let’s try looking into our hazy crystal ball:

When the dust settles, will the UK be better off? It depends on your thoughts about free trade and immigration. One way or another, my hunch is that it will become poorer. And I believe British voters will suffer from “exiters’ remorse” when the consequences of their protest vote sink in.

Will Scotland break from the United Kingdom? Hard to say. But I believe that, had they known about the Brexit when they voted to stay in the UK two years ago, the Scots would have voted differently.

Northern Ireland — which voted to stay in the EU — suddenly has more in common with Republic of Ireland. Will this be a nudge toward a (finally) unified Ireland? Or will it destabilize a delicate peace? Stay tuned.

And what about the future of the EU? It’ll always be Europe. But the momentum toward further integration and expansion has hit a wall. Nationalistic, isolationist movements are on the rise across Europe, and the Brexit vote will only embolden them. The potential domino effect — for Europe and beyond — is unknown.

And finally, how will this affect travelers? For now, nothing has changed (except that the pound is on sale). For the time being, travel to the UK and Europe remains as it was. And down the road, I imagine there may be a few more borders to cross and a little less shared affluence. In a few weeks, I’ll be in England, where I’m looking forward to hearing — and sharing — local opinions on the Brexit.

I’m famous for saying “Keep on traveling” during times of upheaval in Europe. And that’s my response now, too. I don’t want to be glib or naive about the challenges that face the UK and the EU in the coming months. It’s going to be a long and difficult process. But as I head for the airport, I’ve chosen to look on the bright side of life: For American travelers, Europe just got even more interesting.

Keep on traveling!

 

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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. Today, we’re sharing clips from Turkey. You can also see bloopers from France and Italy here, and bloopers from the Netherlands, Prague, and Berlin here.

Watching 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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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. Today, we’re sharing clips from the Netherlands, Prague, and Berlin. You can see yesterday’s bloopers from France and Italy here. Stay tuned for more from Turkey.

Watching 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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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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