I still can’t believe that I’m officially back from Europe, and I’m still trying to get all of my thoughts and feelings about the trip in order so I can start blogging about it. I promise that I won’t just forget about it like I forgot about our trip to Hawaii last year… Oops! Before I jump right into posts I thought that I’d talk all about the things that I learned while on this trip because believe me it was a lot!
- Venice doesn’t smell- Our friends live about an hour outside of Venice, so one of the big stops on our trip was Venice, obviously. I was looking forward to visiting Venice because it’s a modern engineering marvel and because of St. Mark’s Square and Basilica, but to be perfectly honest I wasn’t really looking forward to it because I’d always heard that Venice stank. As soon as we stepped off the train and I saw the beauty of Venice, I was completely blown away, and not from the smell! In fact, through all of our walks around the city, Venice didn’t smell at all! I really fell in love with Venice and I’m already wandering when I can go back and visit some of the islands around Venice.
- Italians take their coffee very seriously- Our friends Stacy and Ben had already warned us about the Italians and how much they take their coffee seriously, but there’s definitely something different about experiencing it in person. We got breakfast one morning and our cappuccino was served in real china that we were expected to drink at the actual restaurant. There was no to go cup! You were expected to enjoy your coffee right then and there and not rush it. Another way that you can tell that Italians take their coffee seriously is by the fact that they don’t allow Starbucks in the country. I love my PSL as much as the next basic girl, but let’s be honest it’s expensive for what it is and not the best quality. The Italians recognize that and won’t allow them to build stores in the country, which alas, means that I didn’t get a Starbucks mug from Italy. Although they’re currently working on building a Starbucks in Milan, so maybe I’ll have to head back once it opens!
- Italian wine is strongly regulated by the government- One of the first things that we did when we arrived in Italy was wine tasting at some of our friends’ favorite wine places. While we were wine tasting we not only learned about the wine, but a little bit about the wine making process as well. In America, wine is obviously regulated, but not to the extent that Italian wine is regulated. In order to get certain wine ratings you have to grow your grapes in a certain area and meet all sorts of other regulations. There’s a reason why Italian wine is so good!
- Wine is cheaper than water in Italy- When I think about a good bottle of wine in America, most of the time I think about a $15-$20 bottle of wine. Yes there are those $8-$10 bottle of wine that are good, but that doesn’t happen to often. You can imagine our surprise when we were wine tasting and we realized that these delicious bottles of wine that we were trying were only 8 Euro! You’d better believe that we stocked up!
- Italians don’t believe in stoplights- While we were driving around Italy with our friends, one of the things that I really noticed was the fact that there really weren’t any stoplights. To help with the flow of traffic, the Italians use traffic circles instead. I think that I’d like to see what a traffic jam looks like in Italy with all of those traffic circles!
- Breakfast is my favorite meal in Europe- I’ll be the first to admit that I’m weird here in the States. I would much rather eat lunch food for breakfast rather than breakfast food, while most people would rather have breakfast for dinner. If we go out to brunch, you’d better believe that I’m ordering lunch and not breakfast. Well you can imagine my pure excitement when I realized that in some of the countries that we visited (Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany), we were served cold cuts, some sort of bread, and a few other lunch-y type of foods for breakfast! What made it even better was that there was sparkling wine at breakfast too so you could have a mimosa every morning if you wanted!
- You really don’t find that many chips for sale with sandwiches- Since we’re on a food kick over here, I don’t think that it’s any surprise to us Americans that portions here in the States are a lot bigger than in other places around the world. So besides the portions being a lot smaller in Europe and a lot more fitting for how much I had wanted to eat, it surprised me a little that there wasn’t a side of chips with all the sandwiches that we were eating. It was almost like it wasn’t even an option with your meal because the sandwich was big enough. Maybe if I cut out chips again, I’d lose some more weight!
- Goulash might be my new favorite meal- When I say it’s my new favorite meal it’s because at practically every restaurant we went to in Prague, Austria, and Germany I got goulash! I had never had European goulash before, and after I tried some of the goulash that our friends ordered during our first day in Prague, I was immediately hooked! It’s just beef stew, but I loved trying all of the different varieties and seeing how they differed from country to country and even from restaurant to restaurant.
- Pretzels will be put on your table in Germany, but they aren’t free- One of the things that I was most excited about in Germany was the fact that we were going to eat the most massive sized soft pretzels at Oktoberfest with our huge beers and we were going to feel so totally German! Well you can imagine how excited I was when pretzels were served at practically every single restaurant that we visited in Germany after we had placed our order. Thinking it was kind of like chips and salsa at Mexican food restaurants, we dug in at those restaurants, until we found out that they charge you, by the pretzel! So just make sure you ask if the pretzels are free before you dig in, but the pretzels are that amazing that you’ll want to try them all!
- Ask for tap water instead of paying for water- Since we’re talking about things that cost money, let’s talk about something that doesn’t cost money in some countries, tap water! We started off in Italy where they really don’t serve tap water, you have to get bottled. As soon as we started moving farther north into The Czech Republic and Germany and Austria we started to notice that we could get tap water and it didn’t cost the 2 or 3 Euro that bottled water cost! It was the greatest! So my words of wisdom would be to just ask for tap, the worst thing they can say is no!
- You can really get anywhere in Europe, whether it’s by planes, trains, or automobiles, and you can get there quickly- If you’re planning on traveling in the US, chances are your only reasonable options are to drive or fly, and sometimes the prices really aren’t that great. The train public transportation system really isn’t there. In Europe though, there are multiple ways to get between countries and cities, and most of them are reasonably priced too! While we were there we flew twice, took two trains, and drove through Italy. It was awesome!
- The public transportation systems are fantastic- Living in the South everything is so incredibly spread out. I need a car to get any and everywhere. Even if I lived downtown I would still need a car in order to get to the grocery store unless I ordered in all the time. Because of that I really appreciate any city that has a great public transportation system, and every single city and country that we visited in Europe had just that! In our hotel in Munich we didn’t even step outside the building the whole time we were there because the metro stop we needed was literally right below our hotel! I hope that Houston gets something like that soon!
- Countries in Europe are relatively young- The United States is known for being a relatively young country compared to the rest of the world. We’ve only been a country for 240 years, and even though that seems like a very short amount of time relative to countries like England and France that have been around for double that amount of time, I was surprised by how many young countries there are in Europe. Take The Czech Republic, for example. The Czech Republic has only been a country since 1993, and before that it was Czechoslovakia. So even though the buildings in a lot of countries have been around for hundreds of years, the countries have only been around for 30 or 40 years! Which leads me to the next thing that I learned…
- History is around every corner in Europe- This was the thing that blew me away the most while we were in Europe, just the amount of history that is literally everywhere! It seemed that there was an old church or building or statue of somebody important around every corner or on every street that we walked down, and I loved every single minute of it!
- People in Salzburg don’t really know or care about The Sound of Music– When we started planning our trip to Europe the main reason that I threw Salzburg into the mix was because I love the movie The Sound of Music! Julie Andrews is just pure perfection, and I loved all of the beautiful and amazing views throughout the whole movie. Well you can imagine my surprise when we walked through Salzburg and we saw very few references to The Sound of Music or to the Von Trapps at all, even though our friends who had been there before warned us that we wouldn’t see much. Our tour guide even mentioned the fact that his Austrian wife had never seen the movie until after they got married and he suggested they watch it. So if you’re looking for a ton of Maria paraphernalia during your trip to Salzburg you’ve come to the wrong place.
- A lot of the places that you see in the movie The Sound of Music are a lot farther apart than they appear in the movie- During our last day in Salzburg we did The Sound of Music bike tour that took us to a lot of the main sites for the movie. I don’t think that any of us expect to be biking to all of these amazing sites from the movie that were literally all over the city! It just goes to show that there’s definitely a lot of movie magic happening in The Sound of Music!
- Mozart is a big deal in Salzburg- For all of your classical music buffs or band nerds (like everybody else that I was on the trip with but me), you probably already know that Salzburg is the birthplace of Mozart. So while you’re hard pressed to find anything related to The Sound of Music in Salzburg, you will definitely find anything and everything Mozart related all over town! I think that my favorite thing that we saw was some Mozart rubber duckies!
- Dirndls and lederhosen are worn by people in Austria and Germany on a daily basis- The only thing that I knew about dirndls and lederhosen before our trip to Germany was that it was a requirement for Oktoberfest, so you can imagine my surprise when we saw people walking around in that getup on a daily basis in both Austria and Germany! In fact, there were whole shops dedicated to the traditional German outfits. My friend Stacy put it perfectly that it’s probably a lot like cowboy boots, some people wear them daily and others don’t, it’s just a personal preference.
- A liter of beer is a huge- The only size of beer that they serve Oktoberfest is a liter, so of course, that’s what everybody drinks. What people don’t realize is how heavy that liter of beer is in those glass mugs, but also how much alcohol a liter actually is! Apparently the glass mug weighs 1kg by itself! I tried to lift up three that were only partially filled, and I could barely do it! Also a liter is a lot to drink! We did a quick calculation and Chris drank 4 liters of beer at Oktoberfest over 12 hours, which is 1 gallon! Let me just repeat that, Chris consumed 1 GALLON of BEER! I’m surprised that he didn’t have a hangover the next day!
- If you don’t dress up for Oktoberfest you look out of place- Oktoberfest is the largest beer festival in the world, so chances are your top priority is drinking some of those huge liters of beer and having a good time with thousands of your closest friends. But Oktoberfest is also a great way to celebrate German heritage and tradition, which is why everybody dresses up in the traditional dirndls and lederhosen when they head to Oktoberfest. The day we went to Oktoberfest, everybody knew that’s exactly where we were headed because we were dressed up, and I really feel like it added to our whole experience.
Whew that was a lot! If you’re still with me, thanks for reading! As you can tell, I really fell in love with Europe while I was over and got bitten by the bug and can’t wait to start planning my next trip over there! But before then, I hope to share all the details about our trip and hopefully I’ll give y’all some pointers for your next trip!
I’m linking up this post with these wanderful women for Wanderful Wednesday: Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World!