Europe

20 Things I Learned While Visiting Europe

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!

20_things_i_learned_while_visiting_europe

  1. 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.
    The Wandering Weekenders- 20 Things I Learned While Visiting Europe
  2. 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!
  3. 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!
    The Wandering Weekenders- 20 Things I Learned While Visiting Europe
  4. 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!
    The Wandering Weekenders- 20 Things I Learned While Visiting Europe
  5. 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!
  6. 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!
  7. 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!
  8. 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.
    The Wandering Weekenders- 20 Things I Learned While Visiting Europe
  9. 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!
    The Wandering Weekenders- 20 Things I Learned While Visiting Europe
  10. 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!
  11. 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!
  12. 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!
  13. 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…
    The Wandering Weekenders- 20 Things I Learned While Visiting Europe
  14. 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!
    The Wandering Weekenders- 20 Things I Learned While Visiting Europe
  15. 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.
    The Wandering Weekenders- 20 Things I Learned While Visiting Europe
  16. 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!
    The Wandering Weekenders- 20 Things I Learned While Visiting Europe
  17. 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!
    The Wandering Weekenders- 20 Things I Learned While Visiting Europe
  18. 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.
    The Wandering Weekenders- 20 Things I Learned While Visiting Europe
  19. 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!
    The Wandering Weekenders- 20 Things I Learned While Visiting Europe
  20. 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.
    The Wandering Weekenders- 20 Things I Learned While Visiting Europe

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!

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The Wandering Weekenders- Did you know that most people in Salzburg have never seen The Sound of Music? This and 19 other things I learned during our trip to Europe!

5 First-Time Traveler Tips For Europe

One of the things that I’ve loved the most about blogging is getting to know so many wonderful women, but what’s even better than that is getting to meet some of them in person! Earlier this year, I got to meet a fellow blogger in Houston after finding her blog while she was planning and going on a fabulous trip to Europe last summer. Kathleen from Places I Will Go has become a real life friend, and I’m so excited to have her guest post today with some of her tips for first time travelers to Europe!


Hello Wandering Weekender readers!  Oh my gosh I am so excited to be guest posting for Ashley while she and her hubby are gallivanting through Europe!  I went on my own European vacation two summers ago and had a blast, as I’m sure are Ashley and Chris. So when Ashley asked me to guest post for her I immediately said yes!

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been two summers since I went on my trip.  My best friend and I decided we wanted to take a trip to Europe in September of 2014.  And it took us about a month to finally settle on destinations.  Yep, you read that right, destinations, as in plural.  We figured that if we were going to head across the pond for the first time we wanted to see as much as we could.  And so the planning began.  I had a great time planning our trip.  I put a ton of time and energy into the planning because I wanted to make sure we had the best time ever!

So in honor of my own trip to Europe and of the trip Ashley is currently on, I’m going to share 5 Euro-trip planning tips for the first time traveler!

1.  Do your research.  I feel like this is probably the most important part of the planning process.  You have to know exactly where you want to go and what you want to do.  It is super easy to country hop in Europe.  And when we first started discussing going there, we decided that if we were going to go we weren’t just going to see one or two places.  We wanted to see as many as we could, within the budget we had agreed on.  So we narrowed it down to 4 different countries: England, France, Germany and Italy.  And then we figured out which cities in those countries we most wanted to visit.  I used Pinterest for a lot of my planning, as well as travel blogs!

The Wandering Weekenders- A guest post from Kathleen Norris from Places I WIll Go about 5 tips for first time travelers to Europe. Great trips for your first trip across the pond!
Tower Bridge, London, England
 
The Wandering Weekenders- A guest post from Kathleen Norris from Places I WIll Go about 5 tips for first time travelers to Europe. Great trips for your first trip across the pond!
Platform 9 3/4, King’s Cross Station, London
 
The Wandering Weekenders- A guest post from Kathleen Norris from Places I WIll Go about 5 tips for first time travelers to Europe. Great trips for your first trip across the pond!
Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

  
2.  If planning overwhelms you, it’s ok to look into tour packages.  When I first started planning our trip, I very quickly became overwhelmed with the planning.  I had started researching flight prices, hotel prices, train prices, attraction prices…..the whole shebang.  It was just so much!  And was looking to be a super expensive trip.  So then Jenny suggested using a travel company.  Oh my gosh y’all, it was the best decision ever.  Especially since it was the first time either of us would be traveling abroad.  Now I would be 100% comfortable booking everything myself.  But since it was our first time going to Europe, it was really nice to have them take care of the flights, the hotels, the transportation, and some of the attractions.  We research a ton of different tour companies and ultimately decided that Go Ahead Tours was the perfect match.

Our top 4 countries were hit and we got the added bonus of visiting Switzerland and The Netherlands too.  We agreed that the price for the tour was doable for us.  One of the best parts about Go Ahead is that they allow you to pay for your trip in payments.  And as long as you have the trip paid by the date they provide you’re good to go! You can read all about my thoughts on Go Head specifically here!

The Wandering Weekenders- A guest post from Kathleen Norris from Places I WIll Go about 5 tips for first time travelers to Europe. Great trips for your first trip across the pond!

Royal Palace Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
(I was jumping and this random guy wanted to jump too.)
The Wandering Weekenders- A guest post from Kathleen Norris from Places I WIll Go about 5 tips for first time travelers to Europe. Great trips for your first trip across the pond!

Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

3. Book what you can in advance.  Once you’ve figured out where your going and when, I highly recommend booking any attractions you can in advance.  This worked in our favor in London and Amsterdam.  I bought our tickets for the London Eye in advance and we didn’t have to wait in line and I also bought our tickets for the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam in advance and we literally walked right in.  The wait for the Anne Frank House can be as long as 5 hours!  If you travel with a tour company they will most likely have a few of the major attractions booked with private tours attached and you can even add on excursions to certain places in each country.  But there will also be days or half days you have one your own.  And booking the attractions that are on your list in advance will really help with time!

Now you do need to be mindful that if you’re traveling with a tour company travel times might be longer then you expect. This happened to us in Paris.  I had purchased tickets in advance for the Louvre and sadly by the time we had arrived at our hotel and set out to pick up our tickets, we were told that the Louvre was closed.  I had a small mental breakdown about it but once I cried it out I was fine.

The Wandering Weekenders- A guest post from Kathleen Norris from Places I WIll Go about 5 tips for first time travelers to Europe. Great trips for your first trip across the pond!
The Crying Lion (Monument honoring the Swiss Guards), Lucerne, Switzerland
The Wandering Weekenders- A guest post from Kathleen Norris from Places I WIll Go about 5 tips for first time travelers to Europe. Great trips for your first trip across the pond!

Lake Como, Italy

4. Go Big or Go Home.  Here’s the thing.  It’s your first time in Europe, go big or go home y’all.  You don’t want to get over there and have to miss out on something because your on a super tight budget.  At least that’s not what we wanted to do.  So I basically lived on ramen noodles and beans from about October to May because I wanted to save as much money as possible for my trip.  I had designated months where I wasn’t allowed to spend any extra money at all, save for the things I needed to, you know, live.  I named them “No-tober, “No-uary”, and “No-pril.”  It really paid off for me because I didn’t have to worry at all about how much I was spending and could just enjoy myself.

The Wandering Weekenders- A guest post from Kathleen Norris from Places I WIll Go about 5 tips for first time travelers to Europe. Great trips for your first trip across the pond!

St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy

5. Enjoy every single moment.  After all your hard work in planning and saving, savor every single moment you’re there, because it will be over before you know it.  We were in Europe for two whole weeks and when it was time to come home I was not at all ready too.  I honestly could have gone on for another week if I could have.  I still love going through all my photos because they bring back such amazing memories from our trip.  So savor it!

The Wandering Weekenders- A guest post from Kathleen Norris from Places I WIll Go about 5 tips for first time travelers to Europe. Great trips for your first trip across the pond!
The Colosseum, Rome, Italy
The Wandering Weekenders- A guest post from Kathleen Norris from Places I WIll Go about 5 tips for first time travelers to Europe. Great trips for your first trip across the pond!
St. Peter’s Square, The Vatican, Italy

Well there ya have it.  Hopefully those tips are helpful.  I highly highly recommend using a travel company for your first trip across the pond.  It really does relieve so much of the planning stress.  Some companies are pricier than others, so you just need to find one that works best for you.

Thank you so much Ashley for allowing me to take over your little space of the inter webs! Hope you’re having so much fun in Europe! Can’t wait to follow all your snaps! 🙂

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The Wandering Weekenders- A guest post from Kathleen Norris from Places I WIll Go about 5 tips for first time travelers to Europe. Great trips for your first trip across the pond!

5 Things You Must Do In Prague

One of the first blogs that I found when I first started blogging was Olya’s blog: The Siberian American. I loved getting to know her and learning all about her Russian heritage and traditions, but what I loved even more than that was the fact that we were both Texans and that we were both avid travelers. Olya has been all over the world, and I always love getting to see beautiful parts of the world from her eyes, so I was so excited that she agreed to write a post about one of the places that we were visiting on our European adventure. So here’s Olya talk about 5 things that you must do in Prague!


Hi, The Wandering Weekenders readers! My name is Olya, and I blog about travel and life in Texas at The Siberian American. I was so excited when Ashley asked me to post about Prague today because it’s one of my favorite cities in Europe, and I can’t wait for her to explore it! Plus, the timing is crazy because my little brother just told me he is studying abroad in Prague in February!

It’s impossible to pick a favorite city in Europe, but if I had to, Prague would be one of the cities on the top of my list. I am a huge fan of architecture, and the blend of old architecture with the new in Prague is truly breathtaking. I loved so much about the city, so today I thought it would be fun to share five things you must do in Prague!

The Wandering Weekenders- Ever wanted to visit Prague? This guest post from Olya at The Siberian American tells you about 5 things you must do when in Prague!

Sandeman’s New Europe Tour

I highly recommend doing a Sandeman’s New Europe tour in every city they’re offered. The tours are such a great way to get an overview of the city and learn about its history, especially if you are on a time crunch. It’s a “free” tour in that you pay what you think it was worth at the end. We have done five of these tours all around Europe, and they never disappoint. The tour in Prague was one of my favorites.

The Wandering Weekenders- Ever wanted to visit Prague? This guest post from Olya at The Siberian American tells you about 5 things you must do when in Prague!

A Cruise on the Vltava River

If you know me, you know I love any excuse to get on the water. In our year living in Chicago, we did six boat cruises. Of course, I also had to do a cruise on the Vltava River! I absolutely loved seeing the Charles Bridge and Prague’s gorgeous architecture from the water. Even if you’re not a water lover like me, the views are worth it.

The Wandering Weekenders- Ever wanted to visit Prague? This guest post from Olya at The Siberian American tells you about 5 things you must do when in Prague!
The Wandering Weekenders- Ever wanted to visit Prague? This guest post from Olya at The Siberian American tells you about 5 things you must do when in Prague!

Astronomical Clock

Yes, it’s touristy, but you have to go see the oldest operating astronomical clock in the world. It was first installed in 1410 and still announces every hour with a procession of the Apostles. There is always a crowd, so get there as early in the morning as you can!

The Wandering Weekenders- Ever wanted to visit Prague? This guest post from Olya at The Siberian American tells you about 5 things you must do when in Prague!

Old Town Square

The Astronomical Clock is located in Old Town Square, but the square is also a great example of Prague’s unique architecture. I love both the Tyn Church and St. Nicholas Church. Their style is so different, but everything somehow looks so cohesive.

The Wandering Weekenders- Ever wanted to visit Prague? This guest post from Olya at The Siberian American tells you about 5 things you must do when in Prague!

Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral

If you want to see practically every architectural style from the last thousand years, visit the Prague Castle complex. My favorite was the St. Vitus Cathedral for its stunning gothic architecture. Plus, the whole complex is on a hill, so you are treated to beautiful views of the city!

The Wandering Weekenders- Ever wanted to visit Prague? This guest post from Olya at The Siberian American tells you about 5 things you must do when in Prague!

Writing this post has made me miss Prague so much! Hope you are having the best time, Ashley!

The Wandering Weekenders- Ever wanted to visit Prague? This guest post from Olya at The Siberian American tells you about 5 things you must do when in Prague!

Have you been to Prague? What was your favorite thing to do?


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