Okay this is about driving and I’ve always paid head to it. I have family like friends that live in Germany and on my first trip I didn’t get the international driver’s license. When I told them I didn’t get it they told me that if I used their car and was in a wreck without the international driver’s license their insurance wouldn’t pay. So ever since I’ve gotten one from AAA. Fill out a form, bring a pass port photo and pay a small fee. I figure it is money well spent just in case. It usually doesn’t take much time to get it.
I like driving on the Autobahn don’t get me wrong it is just that I knew I would be spending a lot of time in München and seriously you really don’t want to drive in the old part of town if you don’t have too. Parking is hard to find, it is expensive to park and if you really don’t know where you are going it is safer to walk. The train will get you close enough to almost any important tourist venue in Europe.
I did take day bus tours to different cities to visit Christmas Markets. The bus company sent a small van to pick us up and deliver us to the tour bus. In the evening the tour bus driver took us back to within a block of our hotel. You can see quite a bit while on one of these trips and you can learn a lot about the route you are on except you’ll just be able to see it out of the window of the bus. It is exciting and scary sometimes to be in a new place. I sometimes worried about being able to find again the bus. My Bushnell Backtracker took that issue away. I’d mark the location of the bus before venturing off to visit the Christmas Market. These tours will be pretty hectic and crowded especially at Christmas. The tour bus I was on took us to the venue and we were on our own once we arrived and then we had to make our way back to the bus at an appointed time.
As I mentioned earlier I did the un-American thing I walked. I didn’t ride on the bus or tram. It was an economic choice for me. You have to pay to rent the car and like most hotels or rental places you pay extra to park. Not only that but we were there in one of the worst winters in decades so there was sometimes six to eight inches of new snow overnight. Even if there hadn’t been snow paying the additional € 10 per day can get expensive.
I tend to plan my trips a long time in advance. I studied European Diplomatic History in University so I tend to seek out places that have some significance to my studies. So using Map 24 I check out the towns that I’m thinking of visiting. Usually you’ll find a tourist office with all the contact info you need. I use email to request info about the town. Sometimes I get a small map in the info packet. I make sure that I take this map with me when I travel. In Rothenburg we were given local maps of the town after we bought some souvenirs. Also our land lord had local maps in our room both in Rothenburg and Bacharach. Then again both of these towns were so small that it was possible to walk across them in ten or fifteen minutes. So it was possible to explore the entire town is several hours. Walking through the town again took us to other little places to visit and shops to explore. I mean we spent weeks in both places so we became very familiar with both places. Our land lords were also helpful enough to pick us up from the train station and take us to our rooms.
If the place I needed to go to was only about a ten or twenty or so minutes walk away then a nice walk took me to parts of town I wouldn’t normally have seen. In some cases it took me past stores that reminded me that I had to get something so I was able to also shop. Also when I walked I sometimes found some very interesting shops or sights along the way and was pleased to have had the opportunity to visit and make some good memories by taking photographs.
Walking also meant that even though the weather was not so good we didn’t have to worry about getting around as we were walking and the snow wasn’t that much of a hindrance. In the older parts of town the narrow streets and the town gates prove to be more of an adventure when you meet cars driving through.
Walking provided a slower pace. This meant that I was able to sometimes notice things that I normally wouldn’t have. It was sort of like I wonder where that alley goes and walk down there to find out. Going to the local market was fun because after a couple of visits the proprietor started talking a bit more. By observing where the locals ate lunch we were able to find some nice meals to eat at a reasonable price and with the added benefit of tasting the local flavor.
It is a slower pace and I found it to my liking. Yes there were a couple of snow storms I got caught in that made us look like walking snowmen but looking back it is more of a funny story than a bad time. We also had the choice of going outside if we wanted to or not. There was that one -17 C day that we decided we’d catch up on post cards and email.
You should try walking next time you go take a vacation. It is a good thing to stroll down a street and commune with the people that are with you along the streets. You’ll be surprised who you meet.