Hi from Rick: Purging the Old Clichés
|Viking ships: still relevant. Kon-Tiki: so yesterday.|
Europe is moving beyond its old-time clichés, and I'm weaning myself from these too. In fact, my theme this year, in both TV production and guidebook writing, has been to purge things that are recommended just because they've always been there. Sometimes it's difficult, after decades of singing a cultural tune, to realize the melody has changed. This year I find myself thinking, "That was big in the 1980s, but..." as I work to keep my take on Europe fresh. Here are a few things that struck me while I was in Scandinavia this past summer:
Trolls may still peek out from shop windows in Norway, but they have no business in a guidebook or TV show. Goofy legends about modern-age buildings having roofs inspired by upturned Viking ships are out. Sweden used to be a porn capital — but so much modern-day freedom in that regard seems to have made that industry passé. I've always listed Oslo's Kon-Tiki Museum as a must-see. It truly was one after the little ship's voyage captured the imagination of would-be sea adventurers a generation ago. Today, as Thor Heyerdahl goes the way of Captain Kangaroo, the museum feels adrift.
I have also realized that I need to be careful not to romanticize societies that are both good-looking and seem to have it all figured out. You could travel through a place like Norway and assume everyone was brilliant and beautiful. But seeing racks of National Enquirer-type tabloids in Bergen —all as idiotic as ours and England's — reminds me that no society is immune from low-brow culture; there's a huge market for that everywhere.
And here at Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door we're culling out both clichés and low brow banality (with some juvenile humor excepted). The 70 of us are committed to giving you the up-to-date information and skills you need to have a smooth, affordable, perspective-broadening trip. I hope you'll find that's true in this month's Travel News, which features articles on the charm of small-town markets in Provence, the stress of driving in Britain and Ireland, the sleaze of fees for credit card users, and a new carry-on bag that's just as comfortable on your back as it is on wheels. This month's Travel Tale is a confessional about packing heavy (from someone who should have known better), and our video of the month gives you a behind-the-scenes peek into the making of our TV series.