Daniela Wedel is a dynamo who brings her high-energy brand of guiding to Rick Steves' Best of Europe, France, Italy, 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 photography. This allowed me to travel a lot through Germany and Italy and other destinations. My curiosity and pleasure in traveling became bigger and bigger. For the last 15 years, I've lived in France, where I am happily based in Provence, where I also have my photography gallery.
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.
Besides guiding Rick's Best of Europe tours for many years, you guide regional tours in many different countries. What is it like?
It's true, I guide tours for Rick in many different countries and I am very happy about that. The Germany-Austria-Switzerland tour allows me to go back to Germany and spend lots of time in the mountains. I can also share memories and knowledge from my youth with my tour members. When I'm working in Italy, I am very excited to show people the art that I studied in Florence. Traveling in France, which is my chosen home, is absolutely exciting and I am very happy to share the French flavors 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, canoeing in France, walks in the evening, and even just sitting outside and enjoying where we are. Nothing is nicer than spending an early morning along the canals in Colmar, "Little Venice" au Alsace, or going for a swim at sunset in the Italian Riviera, or visiting with the locals on a mild summer night in a beer garden in Bavaria.
What will you do between tours?
You will find me probably traveling in Morocco or other destinations looking for the perfect shot for my photos, which I display in my gallery in Avignon.