I’m in the middle of a two-week sojourn in Europe; arguably my favorite place to travel. There’s a lot I love, truly love about Europe but there are also a few peculiarities that as an American can drive me crazy, but in a weirdly good way. Here are a few quirks and features that I love/hate.
Too much of it
Looking at a map, Europe appears sizable but not unapproachable. It doesn’t sound inconceivable that you could see a lot of it in a relatively short period of time (like a life span) until you get there. What I sometimes forget from my American point of view is just how long people have called this beautiful continent home.
I like to consider myself a learned person, especially when it comes to Europe and yet every time I visit I’m always surprised to learn of new places that had somehow escaped my attention for the last 38 years. On a recent train ride through Italy I saw dozens of towns completely unknown to me and they looked pleasant. They looked like places where you could spend a day exploring. And that’s the problem with traveling in Europe.
Sure, you have the major cities everyone knows but I honestly believe decades, a lifetime could be spent wondering around countries like France or Italy and you wouldn’t get bored once. Western civilization stretches back a long time and it’s all packed into this compact continent. That makes the concept of truly seeing Europe a daunting if not entirely impossible travel conundrum.
Europeans are lucky and they don’t even know it. All throughout their cities and towns they have what is probably the best transportation system in the world. You can get almost anywhere by planes, trains, buses and trams; even the smallest hamlet. It can be complicated though, at least from an American perspective,
Sure, we have all of those things but most of us rarely use them, unless we live in large cities. Frequent train use is predominantly an East Coast phenomenon and even then we would have to redefine the word “frequently.” Most of us drive to the places we have to go so when we first enter that large train station, swarming with people and information boards everywhere – it’s confusing at best.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the ease with which I can navigate around Europe, but it can be intimidating, especially the first time. So please have patience with us Europeans when after giving us directions involving metros and buses that you get blank stares in return.
Pay toilets everywhere
People have to use the bathroom, it’s just a fact of life. Charging me a dollar to do that is just obnoxious and I refuse to pay. Mostly. Say what you will about the US but almost all public bathrooms are just that, public – no fee required. Let’s go ahead and make that change please Europe.
Food is too good
I’ve devoted entire posts to this, but the overall quality found in Europe tends to be better than in the US. I’m not necessarily talking about those amazing dinners in Italy; although those are nice too. No, I’m talking about the predominant use of fresh ingredients instead of ones that are created in a laboratory somewhere in New Jersey. Heck, the sandwich I just bought at the supermarket next to the freaking train station is better than anything comparable at home,
Why does that bother me? I’m jealous, no doubt about it, I wish that we could compare when it comes to doing what is healthy instead of what is not, but alas we fail miserably. In our defense, I do think that the trend towards fresh and local foods will eventually win out at home.
So those are just a few thoughts as I sit in the train station waiting for my ride. What quirky things about Europe have you found?