Hi from Rick: Why Europe's My Beat
Europe's my beat. For four decades now, it's been my second home. Sure, I love the biggies...from the Eiffel Tower to "Mad" King Ludwig's castles to Michelangelo's David. But even more than the must-see sights, I value the experiences that Europe has to offer: meeting pilgrims at Santiago, sampling stinky cheese in a Czech town, pondering an ancient stone circle in Dartmoor, and cheering for a local high-school soccer team in Italy.
On a grander scale, I appreciate the peaceful and prosperous society that Europeans have worked hard to achieve. From the rubble of a bombed out continent in 1945, some European visionaries realized that they had to make sure they wouldn't suffer another cataclysmic war, as seemed to happen every generation or so. They decided to knit their economies together so that Germany and France would never again go to war. Sure, the European Union has its foibles. But its great triumph is that, in creating a giant free-trade zone of nearly 500 million people, the economies of Germany, France, and the other powers are so thoroughly interwoven that another big European war just won't happen. That's a beautiful thing.
At the same time, Europe has made a massive investment in cutting-edge infrastructure projects. Efficient, high-speed rail systems tie the continent together, and super highways and stunning bridges further enhance a continent-wide transportation system.
And the human face of contemporary Europe is more diverse and vibrant than ever. Even as this continent unites, it's finding ways to allow its rich mix of cultures to celebrate their unique identities. From Norway to Greece and from Portugal to Bulgaria, people are proud to preserve their distinct languages, foods and traditions.
All of these things help make European travel easier, more enjoyable, and more eye-opening than ever for Americans today. On October 7th we celebrated together on both sides of the Atlantic as I received the first-ever "Outstanding Friend of Europe" award from the European Union's Ambassador to the United States. It was a wonderful event, the latest in a lucky lifetime of travel thrills.
Keeping with that spirit, this month's Travel News presents you with a few more reasons to plan your next trip to Europe, with articles on off-beat Athens, tips for traveling solo, some of my favorite religious sights in Europe, a readers' discussion on pub protocol, and my video clip on easy ways you can avoid theft while traveling.
I'm truly honored to be a friend of Europe. It's a place of incredible history, inspiring art, amazing accomplishments, and warm, welcoming people. What more could I ask for in a second home?