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2009 European Vacation Wrap-Up

By David Morris

A Reflection of a 24-day European Vacation

It was a whirlwind, especially all the tours we did.  I had much more fun when I was able to relax and take my time to do my photography or just sit around and associated with both friends and others.  Overall, the vacation was a truly wonderful experience that I will treasure always.

Here are quick links to all our stops in case you had trouble finding them on my site:

  1. Grindelwald, Switzerland
  2. Zurich, Switzerland
  3. Paris, France
  4. Hamburg, Germany including the highlights of the international convention
  5. Barcelona, Spain
  6. Monte Carlo, Monaco
  7. Livorno, Italy, the port for Florence & Pisa
  8. Civitavecchic, Italy, the port for Rome
  9. Naples, Italy, the port for Capri, Sorrento, and Pompeii
  10. Mikonos Town, Greece
  11. Istanbul, Turkey
  12. Kusadasi, Turkey, the port for Ephesus
  13. Athens, Greece
  14. Venice, Italy
  15. European Cruise Wrap-up
  16. Mastre, Italy

First of all, preparing for the trip was very beneficial.  We did a lot of research on Rick Steve’s web site.  I also attended a couple of classes offered by a local luggage store called Sharon Luggage on how to pack.  Both resources were invaluable.

My two biggest concerns about the trip were: 1) money, and 2) water.  Turns out the money issue was not as big a deal as I thought.  My visa was accepted almost everywhere and because it was a debit card, I could also use it in ATM machines to get cash if needed.  Turns out Jarrad brought a little extra so I was able to borrow from him.  However, water was a very different issue.  I am a very big water drinker.  I drink about a gallon a day, I would guess.  And I don’t like bottled water, I really like tap water.  I did drink tap water in almost every city I went to with the exception of the cities in Turkey, and I did not have any adverse reactions to it.  Specifically in Switzerland, Germany, and Greece.  Switzerland and Germany in the hotel, and in Athens at a public water fountain at the top of the Acropolis.  I also drank a lot of tap water from the ship.  I would bottle it up the night before and put it in the refrigerator was had in the stateroom.  That mostly kept me going.  Pepsi is almost impossible to find in Europe, Coke has a definite monopoly over there.

Out of all the places we went, where would I go back to?  If I had to choose the ones to return to with extended stays would be Grindelwald, Switzerland so I can do a lot of hiking and take the trains to some other regions within the Alps.  I think also Venice, Italy.  It has the same appeal to me as Time Square in New York City, NY.  I walk around Time Square and I want to go into every door because I know behind each one is a fascinating store or story.  I feel the same way about all those small alleyways in Venice.  Each one has a unique character that I would love to explore.  I also enjoyed the rugged landscape of Turkey and the reasonableness of their cost of living compared to other countries we visited in Europe.  I would not mind spending more time there as well.

About the people you may ask! For the most part, Europeans are very friendly and helpful.  In Venice, I was trying to use a pay phone to reach the hotel we were staying at in Mastre to see if they had a shuttle service from the ship to the hotel.  I could not figure out the public phones so I asked a gentleman that spoke some English. He was nice enough to just let me use his cell phone.  The desk clerk at the hotel spoke no English so the man was also kind enough to translate for me.  With the exception of Paris, when we needed help, it was not difficult to find it.

We did discover that most people that deal in tourism speak English. But people that don’t deal with a lot of tourists, we had a harder time finding ones that spoke English.  For example, most of the taxi drivers we used did not speak English.  So if you do travel to Europe, make sure you know how to give directions in the local language.  When we were in Barcelona, I was trying to tell the driver to go the the port with the big ships.  He kept saying “port” so I figured he got it.  As we were driving down the highway, I was the signs for the port (which was the picture of a ship) and they directed us to exit the highway but the driver kept going.  I figured he knew a different way.  We continued about another 10 minutes and noticed we were approaching the airport.  I asked him if we were going to the airport and he said, “Si”.  I said, “No!” and Jarrad suggested aqua port instead of aero port. And the driver got the point and turned around.  It cost us about an additional 10 euros.  But lesson learned.

However, our last taxi driver that took us from Mastre to the airport in Venice did speak very good English.  When we took the taxi from the ship to Mastre, I noticed we were in the passing lane passing cars like they were sitting still, literally, not an exageration.  We were doing between 135 and 140 kph.  I didn’t know the conversion so I asked the English-speaking driver and he went up to about 145 kph and said that this was approximately 100 mph.  Holy cow!  He said it was funny, in America, the streets are wide and we drive slowly; in Europe, the street are narrow and they drive fast.  I thought that was an interesting observation.

Jarrad was impressed, especially in Germany, about how green it was.  In our section of the US, they are constantly deforesting large acreages to build housing developments so we are losing a lot of the greenery.  In Germany, the communities are all full of large, well established trees and they are beautiful.  It is even very apparent from the sky when we were flying overhead.

Something I noticed was that most of the homes use clay tiles for their rooves, the tera cota colored tiles unlike the U.S. that mostly use the asphault grey tiles.  So when flying overhead and looking down at the homes, the color difference is quite apparent.

Also, the public transportation (abbreviated “PT” , because I do no want to type that anymore) in Europe is wonderful, when you figure out how it works.  Every city we stayed in had PT but there were little anomalies that you had to decipher.  Some had discounted tickets, like 12-hour unlimited use, or volume-use discounts.  Some you could buy on the PT itself, like the bus or the train, others you had to go to either machines or special stores to get tickets.  Once we figured it out, we were good.  But I would recommend doing the research before hand if possible.

Final Thoughs

I am definitely glad I did it.  What would change for next time?  I would not pack as much.  The lady at Sharon Luggage said to lay out everything you want to pack and then take 1/2 of it away.  She was right.  I took quite a few things I never used or needed.  Not insurance stuff, like Neosporin that I never used, but clothes I never wore.

If I go back, I would try to concentrate on specific areas and spend more time there than spending a little time in many areas like this trip.  This one was good for a first time to get a feel about Europe.  Now that I have felt it, I think I would be more at ease by myself than relying on others to tell me where to go and see, specifically, the arranged tours.

Of course, the best part of the whole trip was the time I spent with the friends.  I really was moved by the hospitality they showed to us; the time they spent with us and caring for us.  I can’t even imagine the amount of love Jehovah shows for us when we meditate of the vast amount of love the friends showed us.  Jehovah has definitely built an organization that is like no other in the world, now or even in the past.  Maybe during Solomon’s reign, but I can’t believe that even the Israelites demonstrated the brotherly love that currently exists in Jehovah’s organization.  And I definitely look forward to the time that the entire world, everyone in it, exercises that same love.  So when I go back to Europe, I don’t have to look for people with a District Convention badge to find someone that loves me, but every single person I see.  Oh, how I long for that day.

Thank you Jehovah, may all the praise be yours.

2 Responses to 2009 European Vacation Wrap-Up

  1. maria

    hey, this is maria from mcdonalds. Thanks for enviting me to your website, it has been very enjoyable. Your stories are fun and interesting. Especially the pictures! Trully beautiful.

  2. Samuel @ kids learn Spanish

    Nice info. Hope to go to all those beautiful places one day.

    Nice pictures and stories. Great job!

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