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

Rick Steves Goes to Washington, D.C.

Over the last 15 days, 1,319 of you have responded to my annual Christmas challenge: Help Bread for the World with $100 or more, and I’ll send you a free gift — and I’ll match your donation 2-to-1 (contributing $200 for each $100 given, up to $700K).

Together, we’ve already raised over $177,318 to empower Bread to speak up for hungry people in Congress — and if I can inspire just 1,727 more of you to join in, we’ll hit our million-dollar goal.

There are plenty of great opportunities to be generous and make a difference. This initiative leverages your hard-earned charitable dollar powerfully for these reasons:

  • It’s advocacy. (I love advocacy — as you’ll learn in this little clip I made with Bread a few years ago.) Every dollar given ends up generating $100 in helpful developmental aid and more compassionate trade policies via our government.
  • I’ll match it 2-to-1. It’s very simple: You give $100, and Bread for the World gets $300.
  • I’ll send you a cool thank-you gift, on my dime. Choose either my European Christmas gift pack or my 20-Year Anthology DVD Box Set. (You’ll receive it before Dec. 25.)
  • Together, we’ll give a voice to hungry people in our country and around the world.

We’ve all seen news footage of desperate people at our southern border, and I imagine caring Americans are wondering what they can do to help. Here’s an opportunity that, dollar for dollar, has a huge love-thy-neighbor impact. Learn more at www.ricksteves.com/bread — and please let your loved ones know about this challenge as well. Imagine: As an extended family of caring (and traveling) people, together we can empower Bread for the World’s work with a million dollars.

Acqua Alta: Venice Under Water

Venice has battled rising water levels since the fifth century. But now, the water seems to be winning. The Italian government declared a state of emergency today after Tuesday’s historically high tide — an event that the mayor is calling the “apocalyptic” result of climate change.

I’ve been thinking about a conversation I had a couple of years ago with the Italian archaeologist Dr. Salvatore Settis. We talked about what it’s like to live in Venice, the challenges of rampant tourism, and the efforts to address flooding in this gloriously canaled city. If you missed it the first time around on my radio show and podcast, you can listen to that conversation now right here. Just skip to minute 13:00 for the Venice segment — and then share your thoughts below or on Facebook.

(As a traveler, I see the reality of our changing climate everywhere. And as a business owner who promotes and profits from carbon-emitting travel, I understand that I play a big role in that — which is why my tour company has pledged to donate $1 million a year to nonprofits that fight climate change. This money comes straight out of our profits as a self-imposed carbon tax — and until we have a government that sees the wisdom of fighting climate change, we’ll keep paying it. )

Franco Exhumed from the Valley of the Fallen

Sometimes I love it when an episode of Rick Steves’ Europe goes out of date. And that just happened with my Majesty of Madrid episode. Francisco Franco, the fascist dictator of Spain, was long buried in the vast, underground Valley of the Fallen memorial, along with thousands of his victims. And now, his remains have finally been removed from that site, so sacred to Spaniards.

Federico García Barroso, one of our tour program’s wonderful Spanish guides, sent me this note:

Dear Rick,
November 25th 1975: Generalisimo Franco is buried at the Valley of the Fallen.
October 24th 2019: The dictator is finally expelled out.
People from Madrid, we were the last ones to surrender in the Spanish Civil War. Today, people from Madrid, we are the first ones to tell the world that Spanish democracy is now healthier.
Hugs from Madrid,
Federico.

Below, you can watch the part of my Madrid episode that is, thankfully, now out of date. (This clip is also available in Rick Steves Classroom Europe, my free — and ad-free — searchable database of short video clips about European art, history, and culture.)

Viva España! Viva Freedom! Viva Democracy.

Video: Rick Steves on Israel and Palestine Today

In the last month, I’ve traveled to both Denver and Palo Alto to share my experiences in the Holy Land and help raise money for Bright Stars of Bethlehem, a nonprofit that promotes peace and justice in Palestine through Bethlehem’s Dar al-Kalima University of Arts & Culture. Policymaking in the US and the Middle East has been impulsive and erratic lately, making it more important than ever for American citizens to reach out and gain a little context on the Holy Land — and that was the focus of my talk.

I put this report together after traveling to the Holy Land to produce a public television special, which you can stream online — but I’d say it’s more important to watch this hour-long talk, recorded at Grace Lutheran Church in Palo Alto. While the production is simple, the content is both timely and important.

We don’t need a one-sided narrative about the Holy Land told by someone dug-in on this complicated issue. To understand this situation, we need a “dual-narrative” approach that respects both sides. And that was what I shared in this talk: the lessons I learned by walking with caring people on both sides of the wall that divides this land.

Introducing “Europe’s Top 100 Masterpieces: Art for the Traveler”

I’m really happy today because a tour guiding dream of mine has just come true. My newest book, Europe’s Top 100 Masterpieces: Art for the Traveler, has arrived — and it actually exceeds my very high expectations, taking our travelers on a vivid sweep through European art history.

From Venus to Versailles, Apollo to David, and Mona Lisa to The Kiss — with tight descriptions and big, gorgeous photos — Gene Openshaw and I take you on a chronological tour of Europe’s greatest paintings, sculptures, and historic buildings. Whether you’re traveling to Europe or just dreaming about it, this book—with historical context and details on seeing these masterpieces yourself — will both stoke your wanderlust and kindle a greater appreciation of art.

After this intimate encounter with so much European creative genius, your deepest cultural urges will feel strangely satisfied. It’s available for pre-order now through your favorite bookseller and hits the shelves on November 19.