Subject: First-time Europe?
Hi. I am a US citizen and have been a member for about 3 years. During this time we have been living and working in southern Germany. We have been lucky enough to travel to some wonderful areas of mainland Europe and had a lovely time in Slovenia last summer (this is for the quiet Canadian) and plan a return trip in the winter. We travel on our own, by public transportation (trains) and use buses, trolleys, and subways inside of towns or cities. The landscape and scenery from trains is wonderful.

I realize you have already seen this advice in guidebooks and on the Web, and it is aimed at an American in Europe for the first time, BUT this is what I try and remember when I travel in Europe.

1. Don't try to see everything. Plan to go again. Travel itself takes time and a crowded schedule will give you frustrations, instead of happy memories. 2. Even in large cities, when you enter a small shop, greet the owner or waitperson. Ask or indicate you would like their permission to touch the merchandise. Say thank you and goodbye when you leave. 3. Saying hello and goodbye to strangers at the next table in restaurants or hotel dining rooms and to other people in your train compartment is customary. 4. In small towns and rural areas, most young people (as opposed to older folks) speak English (or some English). 5. Use a country's native language for words like Good day, Thank you, Please, Goodbye, etc. People appreciate it. 5. Don't worry about the season of the year. For example, Amsterdam is fun in winter and you have the art exhibits and museums to yourself (almost). 6. Always ask about special train or ferry fares after you get here. 7. First time in Paris? The Paris subway and buses are wonderful. However, take a cab to your hotel. Unless you are familiar with subways AND are traveling with a small backpack, do not try to learn or negotiate the subway with your baggage. 8. Travel light. Always take less. If you brought too much, ship or mail it home. Get rid of it. Ask at your hotel if you can store the extra stuff for a week or two. 9. Wear dark colors. Leave the shorts at home. 10. Take a pair of comfortable, sturdy walking shoes. If you are not used to stairs or walking distances, start a modest walking regime now. Use your thin-soled flats for your hotel room. 11. Be careful when you are walking on cobblestones. 12. In cafes and restaurants, try the many types of fizzy mineral water. 13. Europeans take dining seriously. You are expected to have a leisurely meal (even if it's just a cup of coffee and slice of pastry) and your table is considered yours for the evening (or for the entire afternoon). Therefore, you will have to ask (more than once or many times) for your bill. 14. In some countries (Germany), you are expected to find your own table. I think the rationale is, The waiter deals with your order and your food. YOU know what location (table) is best for you. 15. Throughout Europe, in a crowded cafe, it is ok to share a table with other patrons. You don't have to share a table if you don't want to, but if you've never done it before. . . 16. Don't eat at McDonalds. For a quick, cheap snack, try a bakery where you can stand at a small table (coffee, juice, cola, salami sandwiches, or cheese pizza). 17. Buying food and drink for a picnic-style meals is easy. To save money and time, many European train travelers bring their own food. Museums and other attractions sometimes provide an area (inside) for picnics. 18. Eating while you walk around town and sightsee is not a European thing and if you do so, you will get some stares! Well, `gotta' go! I'm hungry now and it is past my lunchtime.

Happy travels to all fellow Travelziners! Jane