Daniela Wedel is a dynamo who brings her high-energy brand of guiding to Rick Steves' Best of Europe, Venice-Florence-Rome and Germany-Austria-Switzerland tours. Summer travel is especially close to her heart, when warm weather and long evenings make 'outdoor Europe' a big part of every tour experience.
You've guided tours — and resided — all over Europe. Are you ever going to settle down?
I feel very fortunate to be able to travel as part of my work — and also to be free to choose where I would like to put down my suitcase and live 'full time'. I was raised and went to university in Munich where I studied Art History and Ancient History. This allowed me to travel a lot through Germany and Italy. My curiosity and pleasure in traveling became bigger and bigger. After my studies, I lived in France for seven years, split between Normandy and Provence. I've also lived in North Wales, but now I'm happily based in Avignon, France.
We hear that you are pretty athletic. Tell us about that.
I am not sure how athletic I still am, but for about 20 years I played basketball in Germany. In the last 10 years, my knees have persuaded me to get more into biking, and I've had the great pleasure of working on the Tour de France. It was a lifetime experience, seeing Lance Armstrong flying by on the uphill climb over the Alpe d'Huez, followed by the crowd. Whenever I can I take out my road bike and am off! On tour I try to keep in shape with some running, yoga and stretching.
After guiding Rick's Best of Europe tours for many years, you've added the Germany-Austria-Switzerland tour. What is it like coming home?
It's true, it has felt like coming home and I am very happy about that. I have discovered many places anew, and see them with different eyes now — maybe more wide-open, curious eyes. Sometimes we tend to overlook the beauty in our most familiar places. The guiding experience feels more personal and less academic. The challenge is deciding which stories and experiences from my childhood to share with my tour members!
Can you tell us what you like best about leading tours in the summer?
I love summer tours because towns and cities are buzzing with the many festivals and events that are going on. Visiting these as a group or in our free time gives us a chance to meet locals and share in their traditions. I also love the weather. It's perfect for hikes in the Alps, walks in the evening, and even just sitting outside and enjoying where we are. What can be nicer than an early morning walk around an Alpine lake on the way to a castle — which we do on Best of Europe and Germany-Austria-Switzerland tours. I look already forward to it!
What will you do between tours?
You will find me hiking in the Alps, wandering through thick forests, and enjoying a splash at a mountain lake.