Rick Steves' Europe
This article appears in our Print Edition, December 2021 -- Page 25
To explore both the country and the barn, think of the cheese course as a tour of France. Photo by Rick Steves

Because I come from a backpacker travel heritage, where a good picnic is the answer to a prayer, it’s taken me decades to recognize the value of a fine meal. Now I can enthusiastically embrace a long, drawn-out dinner splurge as a wonderful investment of both time and money. Nowhere is this truer than in France.

My friend and coauthor Steve Smith and I head to a fine restaurant in Amboise, in the midst of France’s château-rich Loire...

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Rick Steves' Europe Supplemental
This article appears in our Online Edition, November 2021
Market Square in Haarlem. Photo by Rick Steves.

I’m hanging out in the living room of my B&B in the Amsterdam suburb of Haarlem with my hosts Hans and Marjet.

Staying in a B&B saves money. As a bonus, I find that B&B hosts are often great students of intercultural human nature and love to share their findings. They give me an intimate glimpse of a culture I couldn’t get from the front desk of a hotel.

This is certainly true of Hans and Marjet, who encourage guests to make themselves thoroughly at home...

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Rick Steves' Europe Supplemental
This article appears in our Online Edition, November 2021
As a boy (right), I met an eyewitness (left) to the start of World War I. Photo by Rick Steves.

Here are some thoughts about how and why one of the most rewarding aspects of my travels is connecting with people — old friends and guides who actually lived through the local history and make it real for me.

On one of my earliest trips to Europe when I was just 14 years old, a family friend in a dusty village on the border of Austria and Hungary introduced me to a sage old man. I remember thinking he was a caricature of a classic old Austrian, with a handlebar moustache, a...

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Rick Steves' Europe Supplemental
This article appears in our Online Edition, November 2021
Romantic lakeside dining in Varenna. Photo by Cameron Hewitt.

Stretched over two chairs atop the skinny passenger deck of a 10-car ferry as it shuttles across Lago di Como, I look south into the haze of Italy. I’m savoring the best of my favorite country with none of the chaos and intensity that are generally part of the Italian experience. Looking north, into a crisp alpine breeze, I see snowcapped Alps.

I’m just minutes from Switzerland ... but it’s clear I’m in Italy. The ferry workers are Italian, with that annoying...

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Rick Steves' Europe Supplemental
This article appears in our Online Edition, November 2021
“Forgive, but never forget.” Photo by Rick Steves.

En route to Dachau’s infamous concentration camp, I sit next to an old German woman on the city bus. I smile at her weakly as if to say, “I don’t hold your people’s genocidal atrocities against you.”

She glances at me and sneers down at my camera. Suddenly, surprising me with her crusty but fluent English, she rips into me. “You tourists come here not to learn but to hate,” she seethes.

Pulling the loose skin down from a long-ago strong...

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Rick Steves' Europe
This article appears in our Print Edition, November 2021 -- Page 26
A rustic sauna in a workaday Helsinki neighbor- hood. Photo by Rick Steves

As we’ve had to postpone our travels because of the pandemic, I believe an occasional dose of travel dreaming can be good medicine. Here’s one of my favorite European memories from Finland — a reminder of the fun that awaits us at the other end of this crisis.

I’m in Helsinki, surveying the city from its fanciest rooftop restaurant. The setting sun glints off the cruise ships in the harbor as fish merchants take down...

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Rick Steves' Europe Supplemental
This article appears in our Online Edition, October 2021
Christiania, an experiment in alternative living. Photo by Cameron Hewitt

Strolling through Copenhagen, I come upon a parade: ragtag soldiers-against-conformity dressed in black making their way through the bustling, modern downtown. They walk solemnly behind a WWII vintage truck blasting Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in The Wall.” I’ve never really listened to the words until now.

These “soldiers” are fighting a rising tide of conformity. They want to raise their children to be free spirits, not cogs. Painted onto their...

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Rick Steves' Europe Supplemental
This article appears in our Online Edition, October 2021
St. Sulpice’s organ, powering worship with music. Photo by Rick Steves

On Sunday mornings in Paris, I enjoy Mass in St. Sulpice, a church with perhaps Europe’s finest pipe organ. While I’m surrounded by towering vaults, statues of saints, and centuries of tradition, it’s the music that sends me. The spiritual sails of St. Sulpice have been filled for two centuries by its 6,600-pipe organ. Organists from around the world come to Paris just to hear this organ.

As the first Mass of the morning finishes, half the crowd remains seated as the...

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