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Friday, November 14, 2008

Americans in Europe

Since Ray's latest trip to Paris seemed such a parody of an American tourist, I can't resist to rub some salt into the wound.
Maybe this was Ray's only chance to get to Paris and if I was in his shoes I'd probably want to see all the things that are famous there, but this just doesn't make sense. Louvre, Eiffel tower, Notre Dame and only some hours in the Museum of Natural History... That's only a really small part of Paris and since he didn't even spend time there (Hey, both Notre Dame and the Louvre are worth at least a full day) it was mainly "Look, I've been to Paris" (Hey Ray, there are such tools as photoshop, if you want a picture of yourself in front of the Eiffel tower you don't have to travel to France)

Especially, I hate those Europe round trips (Cover all of Europe in less than ten days, or how do they advertise for them?) Japanese people usually make it in less than a week, but that's another story.
London, Paris, Rome, Heidelberg, Madrid, and enough time for shopping? Or, with a focus on Germany: Berlin, Heidelberg (what else?), Rothenburg op der Tauber, N├╝rnberg, Neuschwanstein, Munich? And then those open minded tourists come home and claim they have seen Europe or Germany? Believe me, there is more in Germany than mountains, beer and Disneyland castles.

Is that how Americans see Europe? Lovely little villages, marvelous old buildings, amazing castles,...
Don't misunderstand me. I like sightseeing, but it takes time. It takes time to see the small things that can tell you something about the town or the country. Notre Dame is wonderful but I like the view from the toiletts of the "Samaritaine", the Louvre is magnificent but I somehow prefer the "Musee d'Orsay", I have my personal picture of Paris. It's not perfect and objective but at least I learned some things about Paris that I can't see in documentaries. I don't think it makes sense to go to exact the same spot where every tourist in Paris takes pictures of the Eiffel tower.

I've seen a lot in Europe, even the popular sights, but I really prefer the small castles in France, the unknown ruins somewhere in Germany, the 'not easy to reach' waterfalls in Norway, the unknown churches in Rome and all those small towns all over Europe where you're usually the only foreign tourist. Even if they don't speak English there...
So, please, if you want to see all amazing buildings in Europe, watch a documentary. Spend time at one place when you're on a sightseeing tour. Find your own treasures. And don't go to the Louvre just to see the 'Mona Lisa'.

Don't behave like Ray.

And next time I see pink haired old ladies blocking the bikeway and shouting "lovely" or "marvelous" at some buildings that have been there for several hundred years and won't vanish if they take the time to look for the sidewalk, I simply don't stop...


  1. Couldn't agree more.

    So many Americans seem to have the impression that Britain is made up of London and 'the bit outside London' it really pisses me off.

  2. When my family traveled, we always had one of those thick guide books for the region. These books contain every single ruin, castle, church and village, with the history and maps of the buildings. Of course we visited the big sites, but we took time to go to the mountain villages and the outskirts too.
    This is one of the greatest things my parents have given me for my road of life.
    We learned the local languages as best as we could, talked to the locals, ate where they eat instead of the crowded tourist traps, learned the local cooking styles and the best places to buy fresh food.
    To really get an insight on culture and history, you need to spend at least three to four weeks in an area.
    But an understanding of this life as the first and only one we get helps to really appreciate it.
    I get the impression that for a fundy of any faith, life maps out more like ensoulment-birth-scripture, prayer, ministry, worship, submission, vale of tears, look at the dumb humanists-death-afterlife for ever and ever and ever BINGO!
    It's so sad and wasteful.

  3. expatmatt,
    so far, I've only been to Britain a single time and I was too young to speak English but we spent only two days in London and visited the 'other bit' for the rest of three weeks. And my father was still angry that he couldn't cover more, because of his lazy children that wanted to spend at least some time at a beach.

    my parents are similiar, but unfortunately not all German tourists are like that...

  4. I just went to England in February. I spent a weekend in London but that is not why I was going. I spent a week at a friends place in Gloucestershire. I spent a day at the Cathedral there, that was beautiful. I also spent a day at Tintern Abbey and at Chepstow Castle. I will find the link to my pictures here later. I couldn't imagine glossing over all that area in such a short time.

    Plus how can you say you went England without going out on one of the commons. I was told when it wasn't as foggy you could see Wales from the tops of commons in their town.

    I plan to go back but next time I will spend more time in London itself. Probably the whole week there. I did love how nigh impossible it is to get lost in London because of the tube stations on every corner. I did wander around Soho and they had the decorations up for Chinese New Year in Chinatown, but I could easily spend the entire week just walking around London.

  5. http://beamstalk.fotopic.net/

    Yes I am the giant American in the Toronto jersey int he Febmeet pictures

  6. beamstalk,
    you're tall. Kinda like a beamstalk, if you think about it.

  7. And where exactly is this quaint little "Europe" place that you refer to, Tilia?
    ****says the Frog in his most arrogant and condescending American tone****

  8. froggie,
    at the Russian-British border?

  9. nickname from college felix, stalk is of course from beanstalk but I used to drink a lot of Jim Beam in college too. You can laugh no worries, I have much better taste in alcohol now.

  10. Ray went to spread the Gospel (the true Gospel) and save souls. That's way more important than all that cultural, humanistic, artsy stuff. We're Americans, after all. Art is American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, cool stuff like that. Richard Gunther and Chuck tracts, the Left Behind book, Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. Why travel, unless it's to save heathens?

  11. Tillia,

    Never heard of it. :>

    Seiously, I have oly taveled within the united states and Canada and there is still more I'd like to see but I'm not driven to travel as some are.
    Raising five kids, etc pretty much limited the funds we had to travel on. But I do envy the vast amount of historical and cultural centers over there.
    Of course, here a building that is over 200 years old is ancient indeed and most rare, while you guys have buidings over 800 years old!

    I'll have to be content with looking at pictures and studying the history.

    I might be wierd, but one of my favorite historical characters is Peter the Great and if I could be teleported to any city on that continent for just one day, it would be St Petersburg.

    When they started building that city they basically worked the first year with not much more than their bare hands.


    By the way, My family came here from Germany in the late 1800s.

    Two boys, Simon and James.

    They were draft dodgers. Roman Catholics escaping conscription under Kaiser Whilhelm.

    The irony is that my Grandfather fought againt his cousins in alcase Lorraine as a calvary soldier in WWI- Yup, he was drafted.

    It's a good story.

    I have a very German name that starts with Sch and ends in der.

    There is an A in the middle that had an omlout over it and an extra er on the end that my Grandfather dropped.

    I thought Felix might find that interesting too.

  12. Froggie, I ate at a chip shop in Gloucester that is older than the United States. :)

    I had to duck to walk through the doors. I am 6'6" though or about 2 metres tall.

  13. Thanks froggie for the story, that's very interesting. Given the history of US immigration, it's not surprising that it seems like every 2nd person I meet online has German roots.
    I don't know what my family did in WWI (probably shooting at your grandfather ;) ). I own two large illustrated volumes printed in between the wars about WWI, inherited from my grandparents. It's from a patriotic German perspective, so there's a lot about smashing enemy cavalry charges to bits and huzzahing over their trenches.
    I also own a facsimile printed journal from the Franco-German war of 1871. My ancestor who wrote it had it printed as a series in a newspaper back then, and later they collected all the entries and made the book. There's a picture of him on the front - and I'm glad I didn't get that beak of a nose, which is prevalent in my mother's side of the family. Of course, the war against France had even more huzzaing and less getting holes for us. My father's side of the family is descended from French Huguenots who fled from persecution in the 16th century. See Bartholomew's Night for that gruesome bit of history, or watch the film. The film is historically quite accurate and has some incredible actors, but its very long and has some boring sequences.

  14. I've only been outside of the US once. It was a week long trip with me and 4 pals to go visit our good friend going to the London College of Art (iirc).

    I swear, I spent almost $700 on beer during that week. We went all over the place, but we tried very hard to avoid the stereotypical tourist spots. We stuck mostly to small pubs, a very cool dive bar in Broccoli, some museums (the Tate, every day), and did our best to catch as much live music as possible.

    We tried to get lost at least once a day, as well. It forced you to stop and look at the buildings around you, to read the plaques and understand the history behind the statues.

    If there was one thing we really really really wanted to do, it was to go into the countryside. This was happening dead smack in the middle of the mad cow scare; nightly news had pictures of huge burning of animals. We wanted to see it for ourselves (not to mention just checking out the less publicized aspects of the UK). TBH, it was weird seeing those pictures while chowing down on burgers and chips.

    Anyhoo, I think we were conciously aware of the fact that we were Americans. We tried to do our best to learn substantively in spite of this.

    I hope to do more travelling some day soon. I might be headed to Berlin early 2009...

  15. Felix,
    "I own two large illustrated volumes printed in between the wars about WWI, inherited from my grandparents."

    I would love to see those.
    You can't know how much.

    I know, we don't have anything ancient over here, except the paleo American natives. There are some sites in my area where when they plow the fields we still find paleo points and other artifacts including flint knives, etc that are abut 15,000 years old.

    We have some rock shelters too, some with glyphs.

  16. froggie,
    I've never been outside Europe. I just don't like long flights and there is still so much to discover in the neighborhood. I think it's much more important to see thing than to see everything...

  17. Ray isn't an American.

    Now that that's said ...
    I've never been to Europe. However, If I ever go, I'll keep your suggestions in mind, Tilia.

  18. Tillia,
    I definitely agree with you.

    When I do travel, I like to spend time in an area to see what it has to offer rather than just drive by to be able to say I saw it.

    You guys have the edge though with your train systems and the fact that europe is fairly compact. Germany is about the size of the Pennsylvania, where I live, ut the vast expanses over here require a lot of driving- more driving that sightseeing in some cases, which sucks!

  19. froggie,
    actually, Germany is almost the size of Montana. But you're correct, the distances between places of interest are much shorter, even though transportation is generally more expensive here.
    In the US, I found the wide-open landscapes amazing. We just don't get those views anymore, there's almost always some village in the picture.


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