Happy Birthday ETBD! Celebrating 30 Years of Travel, Teaching and Europe
|I still measure every trip against my 1973 "best ever" adventure.
See the timeline!
Today, Italy is no longer Europe's basket case. As the country has surpassed Sweden in per capita income, the days of getting candy in place of small change, local banks minting their own 100 lire bills, and 17 holidays in the month of May are long gone.
Formerly grand boulevards from Paris' Champs-Elysées to Berlin's Ku'damm have been "hamburgerized." Modern-day peasants take flight on discount airlines and zip around on bullet trains. The venerable Turkish minibus (named dolmus, which means "stuffed") no longer lives down to its name. The angry old Nazis who never accepted defeat no longer litter Bavarian beer halls, and the one-legged reminders of world wars have faded away.
Slovenia, Hungary and the Czech Republic are now seamlessly part of the west. The tragedy of Yugoslavia is healing as mass graves and "martyr towns" fade from the news, replaced by the latest deals in trade and travel.
Thankfully, through wars, the unification, economic boom times, and the current financial ills, the seductive essence of Europe survives. As a travel writer it's powerfully reassuring to find that experiences penned into my journal thirty years ago still work for the new kids on the European block. Last summer I met a college kid and his girlfriend using my book, enjoying a $50 a day summer break on the Algarve. Old but vivid experiences that widened my eyes in '80 are still part of Portugal's magic a generation later.
And of course, sophomoric fathers and their sons still collect German "fahrts" (journeys): Einfahrt, Zoofahrt, Rundfahrt, Rückfahrt, Himmelfahrt, Panoramafahrt, Zugfahrt, and that wondrous village to which all roads lead — Ausfahrt. Sons are now fathers, but when sister looks at them disgustedly, they still smile and say "Have a Gute Fahrt!"
Okay, I've grown up (although not as thoroughly as some hoped). But I still measure every trip against my 1973 "best ever" adventure, when Gene Openshaw and I spent $111 each for food over 70 days. We cheated by sneaking Tang in a double Ziploc and peanut butter in a squeeze tube from home. We each spent 84 cents a night for beds, $243 for our plane ticket and $150 for 2 months of Eurail travel. That left us $100 for sightseeing and shopping. In 70 nights we spent $114 for accommodations — one night's lodging in 2010. We flew home with about $3 between us.
I remember the first time I saw a guidebook of mine in Europe. It was atop the Schilthorn in Switzerland, and I hardly needed a hang glider. Now my readers are acing me out of my favorite hotels. Recently, in a fit of Siena joy, I predicted I could flip open my hotel room shutters and see a glorious Tuscany view with a couple wandering the cobbled streets, my Italy guidebook in hand. I did...and there they were.