Authors@Google: Rick Steves

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 04.01.2010

>>Hi, everyone, I'm Winnie from the Authors@Google team.
So it's my pleasure to introduce Rick. He is the best-selling author of over 40 travel
books. He's hosted over a hundred shows on public
television and radio. We all love him, and that's why you guys are
all here. So he's going to share with us his tips on
traveling to Europe. How to pack smart, how to avoid scams, eat
well while we're traveling, and all that stuff.
Stretch our dollar, all the things that would be great for us to know
traveling on business or for ourselves. So without further ado, let's welcome Rick
Steves, the advocate of smart and independent travel.
[APPLAUSE] Thank you.
Thank you very much. Thanks a lot.
It's -- it's great to be here. And the challenge for me will be to distill
all of the things I've learned from 30 years of traveling in Europe
into 50 minutes, okay? And have a little time for Q&A.
But thanks for having me here. And let me just quickly, if I can just grab
these four things. I'll give it back, yeah.
Because I understand these were snapped up by the early birds, I guess.
I sent down a bunch of these things and you can get all this stuff on
the Internet. But I like to still have stuff in print.
But what we've got here is, this is a 64-page newsletter which
highlights our favorite destinations. And that's basically our catalog.
I love to give people a map that locates all the hard-to-find places
that don't show up on normal maps. Because that's what my job is to find those
quirky little odd spots. So it's frustrating because you don't see
it on a regular map. You can see it on this map.
Just at lunch we were talking about how we can also see it on Google
Earth in the near future, I suppose. This is just a fun little personalized planning
map. So those of you who got this I hope that's
helpful for you. I also had a great experience of being in
Iran as part of my work as a teacher and a tour guide to bring home a better
understanding of Iran. And that's a different talk than what today's
topic is. But if you are curious about my Iran show
-- have any of you seen my Iran show on PBS?
You can see it on We've got it there any time you like.
And it's just really an eye opener for a lot Americans.
But I wanted to people to have this print version of my blog there.
So if you missed that, obviously you can get it on my website.
But I'm glad that I was able to hand out some of these.
And this bigger brochure explains our tour program.
There's a DVD in here that gives you a rundown on what we do with the
10,000 people we take to Europe every summer on 20 different
itineraries. Okay.
I'm just going to kind of whip through here, and when I think about
this talk it's the same talk I've been giving since I was a college kid
back in the 70s. And it's more fundamental philosophy of travel
than specific, you know, what is this rail pass cost or something like
that. Cause really fundamentally is knowing how
to travel in a way that you have the best experience.
We Americans have the shortest vacations in the rich world, and our
dollar is sort of in the tank. So two important things, time and money, are
very precious. And you've got to use them smartly.
Well, if somebody is saying where is the best deal if Europe?
If I say, well, Portugal is really cheap. And your travel dreams are taking you to Ireland,
the best deal is in Ireland.
Travel smart in Ireland. Don't go where it's cheap.
You want to go to Ireland or wherever. One thing that carbonates your experience
is to meet people. And to travel in a way where you're a part
of the party instead of part of the economy.
All over Europe you got these charming people that just do what they do
with gusto. It's so much fun, isn't it, when you work
with people that really have found their niche.
And when you traveling you connect with people who have found their
niche. You don't need to be rich to enjoy the highlights,
the cultural and artistic and natural wonders of Europe.
That's a beautiful thing. But you've got to be able to get away from
the marketing stuff that brings you and all the other tourists together.
Anybody can enjoy a fine meal in Europe for a remarkably reasonable
price, if they are not attracted to the biggest neon sign that brags,
"We speak English and accept Visa cards." Okay?
You need to go where the locals are going. That's kind of common sense.
What I like to do is find these sort of places. Back doors.
Places that are hard to get to a lot of cases that are not built up for
the tourism. But when you get there, you feel like you've
really arrived. This is a magic moment.
Now this peculiar town, Civeta de bon dur rago, doesn't matter in this
talk cause there's towns like that all over Europe.
The key is for you to find those magical places where when you go up
that donkey path, you find yourself in a different world.
2009, 2010, you can have that experience if you know where to go.
The typical American doesn't know where to go.
I was just in Dubrovnik a couple months ago filming.
I stepped out of the hotel, sunny day. Great.
We're going to get some get some great footage. I look at the main street -- human traffic
jam. Cruise people.
All the cruise people came at the same time. All of these thousands of people inundating
the city. If they're having a good time, it's because
they're clueless. I mean it is just -- that's not Dubrovnik.
They travelled all the way around the world to see it -- you know what
I mean? It's like Disneyland on a busy day.
And I just said put the camera down. We're not going to shoot this stuff.
And then, you know, that afternoon the people went back to their boats,
and Dubrovnik was a joy once again. So we need to travel in a way where we do
the famous things. You know?
I'm not -- of course, you got to checkout the Acropolis.
And I love the windmills and the wooden shoes. But what gives your trip that extra dimension
is to find what I call the back doors.
Right? The back doors.
This is the book that I wrote as a college kid, from just the lecture
of my class I was giving at the University of Washington.
Now it's in its 30th edition. Spend four months a year every year updating
this thing. And the back half of this book are individual
chapters on my 40 favorite discoveries, those back doors.
But you want to see Paris. You want to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa,
and then you want to go two hours away and hang out in Vernazza on the
Cinque Terre. Or you want to go to Salzburg.
Salzburg's great. But don't go to Salzburg and complain about
tourist crowds. It's inundated with tourists.
It's great and it is touristy. Accept that.
Too many people go to Salzburg, complain about the tourist crowds and
the next morning take the Sound of Music bus tour.
You know, I mean that's fun. But that's not -- that's not Austrian.
You're going to be rolling through the foothills of the Alps singing
Doe, a Deer with 40 Japanese tourists, you know, that's fun.
But you don't go to Austria for that, I don't think.
So enjoy Salzburg. Enjoy the Sound of Music tour, enjoy the tourist
crowds. And then don't complain about the crowds,
but go two hours south to Hallstadt.
And then you're communing with nature in a gorgeous little town
surrounded by the Alps. All these little towns I talk about are easy
to fall through the cracks.
Big towns, beautifully preserved, with lots of great art are going to
be touristy. They're going to be, you know, this is a big
industry. It's the number one employer and economy in
most of those countries. We don't veto a place because it's got tourist
crowds. But we think about enjoying it in a way that
minimizes those crowds. As a tour operator, we take all these people
on 20 different itineraries all around Europe.
You got to go to Mont Saint-Michel. You got to go to Rothenburg.
You got to Carcassonne and Stratford. And Brusche and Toledo.
But you don't have to go there when all the tourists are there.
You see? We spend the night.
We arrive at four o'clock just when the tour groups are taking off,
have three hours of sightseeing, a nice dinner, a little romantic time
in the ramparts, a good night's sleep, a few hours of free time in the
morning and then we're out of there before the place becomes a big zoo
again. So, I really like -- this is Toledo here.
It's the historic and spiritual and artistic capital of Spain.
It's an incredible place, mobbed by tourists in the middle of the day
-- all yours after hours. Most of the tour groups are staying one hour
north in the predictable plumbing of the high-rise hotels in the nearby
big city. Tour operators -- you got to know how they
work. And they work to make money.
Their initial cost is a giveaway cost and they make money off you by
selling you optional tours. If they paid too much to sleep right where
the action is, nobody would pay $50 for the optional tour to go there.
They pay less money to stay outside of town, way outside of town in a
hotel that needs to have a price to gather people.
And then there's no way to get here but to take the optional tour.
That's 50 people times $50, that's $2500 of gravy for the tour company.
Do you see what I mean? That's the kind of thinking you've got to
do in order to take a tour and take advantage of it so it doesn't take
advantage of you. If you're going to take a tour rather than
go independently. This is Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
If you've been to Germany, you've probably been to Rothenburg.
It's the greatest little medieval town in Germany.
Again, packed out in the middle of the day, all yours at night.
So I like to spend the night in these towns. Venice, infamous for being crowded.
It's never crowded early or late. It's rush hour.
In the morning, you watch the vaporettos coming in and all the tenders
from the cruise ships. The vaporettos are just packed with boats
coming in in the morning and ones going the other direction are empty.
It's just like rush hour here. At night, those same boats are -- it's a flip-flop
thing. So just be around early or late.
Have a hotel right downtown. Take advantage of those magic hours when you
don't have the crowds, and Venice is all yours.
Now, I think it's really important for us to remember that Europe is
not wearing lederhosen and sitting on a stump and yodeling.
Those days are gone. Europe is a no nonsense, futuristic, lean
and mean business machine, cooking up all sorts of stuff to compete with
us here in the United States.
It's a futuristic place. It's a high-powered, energetic business machine.
Germany is the size of Montana with one-third the population and
one-third the industrial capacity of our entire country.
Now, 20, 30 years ago, this was the Berlin Wall.
Right there. You could get killed for crossing that street.
Today not a hint of the Berlin Wall except for Americans looking for
Checkpoint Charlie. I love Berlin.
But if you go there, you got to remember the Cold War and the Berlin
Wall is kind of old news. We just had the 20th anniversary of it the
other day. Half the people in the streets weren't even
-- don't have any living memory of the Cold War, you see.
That's exciting history. But remember these cities are looking forward
and we owe it to ourselves in our travels to spend a day in
a big city. Just seeing how it's getting stuff together.
Whether it's Berlin, or whether it's Paris, or whether it's London.
You know, when you think Paris you probably don't think of La Défense,
but this is where people work. They don't work in a cute little shop on Rue
Cler. That's a cute place to go.
And I'll hang out in Rue Cler, but I would think it's just in the
interest of honesty, it would be good to spent half a day out here
seeing what's it's like. I mean, the lunch I just had here was more
America, I think, than a lunch I might have had down on the wharf or
something like that. So these are the reality checks we can give
ourselves. Having said that, it then is okay, I think
to get into the cute medieval stuff.
When you're going to spend a lot of time in the cute medieval stuff
know what you're looking at. It just behooves you to study a little bit
ahead of time, you know, and understood what's feudalism.
I mean, this castle was made 700 years ago when there were 300
independent countries in what is today Germany. Each with its own weights and measures, and
crown jewels, and curfew and dialect and walls, you see.
Put in a remote spot for defensive purposes. Now you go to that castle and it actually
makes a little sense. And then you look at this castle, and you
realize this is not feudalism at all.
This is Romanticism. Neuschwanstein was built in the same generation
as the Eiffel Tower, when Germany was uniting.
For five years, I went to this castle and I thought it was medieval.
It's pointy. [LAUGHTER]
Now you guys are all smart enough to have a little better, aggressive
approach to getting prepared for your trip than just going and thinking
pointy things are medieval. The pointiest things are actually faux-medieval,
built in the late 19th Century when they were reassessing it, coming
out the French Revolution.
Everything was so cerebral, they wanted to get emotional again.
And underline their Christian/medieval heritage, you see.
So it's an exciting thing to recognize that this is textbook
Romanticism. And when you understand Romanticism, the "ism"
of the 19th Century, a third of your sightseeing takes on some meaning.
One of my favorite kinds of castle is a ruined castle.
Here with a little imagination, you're under attack a thousand years
ago in Portugal. What a wonderful place for the picnic.
It's hard to find the ruined castles because they're free.
And when something is free nobody promotes it.
Why should they? They're just rotting away unnoticed on hilltops
from Finland to Portugal to Greece.
It behooves you to get a little aggressive in your planning and find
out where some of these places are. I recommend buying the best map you can over
there in your travels and spend half a traffic jam just learning the
key. Know what those little dirt roads are leading
to. There's ruined castles everywhere that completely
get missed by the tourism.
There's a lot of great ancient sites but just because something's B.C.
does not mean it's got to be seen. All right?
There is mediocre B.C. stuff. Be select about your ancient stuff.
And then the stuff you choose to see, see is it with gusto, understand
it. Here we have the most famous aqueduct in all
of Europe, the Pont du Gard in Southern France near Aveyron, you
know. It's not -- it's not a aqueduct.
It's the most scenic bridge of a 30-mile long aqueduct.
Built 2,000 years ago engineered to bring water using gravity, losing
about one inch every hundred yards into the town of Nîmes.
Imagine that. The Romans recognizing it's stupid to carry
water when you can let gravity do it.
Let's design something to dole out that force of gravity more
sparingly. And imagine the jubilation on that day in
Nîmes 2,000 years ago when water tumbled into that great city.
Now with that little -- the human aspect of it, and understand what
that was all about, all of a sudden visiting this bridge of the Pont du
Gard in Southern France, I think it's a little more rewarding.
But not ten percent of the American tourists that go there think about
it enough to really be properly turned on by the site.
I've got lots to get homesick for but it is not an option when I'm in
Europe. I'm spent a quarter -- a third of my adult
life, four months a year in Europe every year for the last 25 years or
so. And when I'm there, I am really there.
Psychologically, you want to be there. It's a trick.
Some of us are really good at not being there. We've got all this technical stuff to keep
us at home if we want to, you know.
But when you're there, be there. For a lot of people going to church is an
important part of their daily, their weekly routine.
Can't go to church in Europe because you're far away from home.
Wrong. You can go to church on Sunday.
You can go to the greatest church in Christendom, St. Peter's, and take
a flash photograph of Michelangelo's Pietà. Or go to Mass right at the that high altar
above the tomb of Saint Peter.
Two different ways to experience that church. You can be in France during harvest time.
And you got these wiry, wonderful photographic grape pickers.
You can get your zoom lens out and photograph them.
Or you can store your camera and get up there and pick grapes with
them. Two different ways, dramatically different
ways, to experience that scene.
Tonight in the little village, grape harvest, wine -- the harvest
festival, there's just grape pickers dancing. And some of them are tourists too.
You can be part of the scene in Europe but you got to make yourself be
part of that scene. You'll be standing in wonderful markets.
You probably have a wonderful farmer's market around here somewhere.
Every town in Europe's got one like that. And as tourists sometimes we feel qawky.
We don't speak the language. We're not good with the metric system.
We don't really know the coins. We just want to buy one apple and one carrot.
There's a long line of intense people behind you that just want to do
some serious business. And you get a sense that this merchant is
not pleased to see you. Hold your ground.
You're not a gawky tourist. You're one in a thousand year long line of
hungry travelers who wants to buy an apple and who doesn't speak the
language , okay ? You're part of the scene.
Give yourself that credit. It makes a huge difference.
Art should be fun. If the art is not fun, you don't know enough
about it. I know that from my own experience.
For years I went to the museums because my mom said it would be a crime
not to. [LAUGHTER]
I was surrounded by other people looking like they were having fun and
I was convinced they were faking it. [LAUGHTER]
Then I took an art history class and those museums are altogether
different experiences. Know the art.
I wrote a book called "Europe 101." And -- which is the story of Europe from the
Pyramids to Picasso. And then a book named "Self-Guided Tours to
All the Museums." And it's so much fun to be a tour guide.
For 25 years I was a tour guide, learning what they need to know and
just as important what they don't need to know.
If I study my passion for teaching over the last 30 years, it's evolved
in an interesting way. Kind of like Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
Starting with the basic stuff and moving into more fulfilling and
creative and so on. And I -- for the first decade, it was Europe
Through the Back Door -- budget tricks, you know.
How do you catch the train? How do you pack light?
How do you stay healthy? Next ten years, in the 90s, I was teaching
art and history and culture appreciation.
That was Europe 101 and that's makes -- you don't go to Europe just to
get a reasonable bed. You go to Europe to enjoy the art and the
culture. And then in the last decade, I find myself
teaching broadening your perspective through travel.
And to me that's the highest sort of thing to come home with a broader
perspective. And just last year I wrote a book called Travel
as a Political Act. Which has been a topic of a lot of talks that
I give around the country and it's online, if you want to find it or
anything. But it's -- you can get little senses of it
in my talk today. But boy, when you travel, it is so exciting
to keep those things in mind more than just how do you get a cheap
hotel and a good meal. But how can you appreciate the art and history
and culture. And how it can broaden your perspective.
When you're enjoying art, remember the most enjoyable art, I think, is
to see it what they call in situ. Not in museum but in situ, where the artist
was paid to make it. In that church or in that palace or on that
square, and understand it in its physical and historic context.
Here we have a piece of art by Fra Angelico, the greatest painter of
the High Middle Ages, who was one of the most spiritual guys you'll
ever encounter in art history. For him, painting was a form of prayer.
They said he couldn't paint a crucifix without weeping.
And when he went, he was working here in the monastery run by
Savonarola. And Savonarola was the ranting, raving austere
monk that turned Florence into a theocracy.
Kind of like a Khomeini, I suppose, of the Renaissance.
And he threw out the Medici, turned the place into a theocracy.
And everybody was burning all their fleshy, decadent, hedonistic stuff.
Even Botticelli was throwing some of his canvasses on those fires as
they made that city a theocracy. And to be in there and to understand, to be
in that monastery and to understand the work of Savonarola and the
work of Fra Angelico. To look at this, you see you're understanding
it in a context. And then I think it becomes more rewarding
and more interesting. All of us have quirky little personal interests,
right? And when you're studying -- everybody's going
to see the Mona Lisa, and the Leaning Tower, and the Beefeaters.
But you really owe it to yourself to know if there is a little museum
that hits your passion in your travels. There are museums for thimbles.
There are museums for tattoos. There's chocolate museums.
There's marijuana museums. There's beetle museums.
There's museums filled with art you done by people who were locked up
because they were criminally insane. There's all sorts of fascinating museums.
And they're really quite good. But you need to take the initiative before
you get there to find out where they are and then plan that into your
trip. Like you're your own tour guide.
You want to see bones in Rome? Many people want to see bones in Rome, and
they go to the catacombs. There's no bones in the catacombs in Rome.
There are bones in the Cappuccin Crypt right downtown, and you'll see
plenty of them there. I've been really into experiences lately.
I think it's really important for Americans to have real, vibrant
experiences. Not just see a bunch of old stuff on walls
and museums and galleries but to go out there in the stadium and party
with the local people and so on.
And when I was in Ireland with my family, we wanted to make sure we had
some of those experiences. And we went to the main stadium to go to a
hurling match. Hurling is sort of the national pastime in
Ireland, kind of like airborne hockey with no injury time-outs.
It is a very fast and rugged game. And we were in the stadium with 50,000 Irish
people. It occurred to me the streets were full of
tourists but there wasn't a single tourist in that stadium.
It was just Irish people. We bought the right colored banners and stuff,
and shawls and we had to remember which team to root for or we'd get
-- or we'd get beat up. Our kids learned a lot of creative ways to
swear, I'll tell you by the end of that game.
And it was a rich experience. And no tourist in town took advantage of it.
I mean, it's a clear example of how if you're a clever tour guide, you
can maximize the experience. I love nature.
You probably do, too. We got great natural wonders around here in
the West Coast. The nice thing about Europe's natural wonders
this they are so accessible.
This woman looks pretty rugged but I'll admit that I'm standing on the
edge of a revolving restaurant to take the photograph.
[LAUGHTER] Filled with women in high-heeled shoes who
rode the lift up for breakfast, okay?
The point is all you need is $15 and a sunny day, and you can get to
the top of those lifts. And the beautiful news is that the traditional
culture survives quite vividly in those high nooks and faraway corners.
And your challenge is to get up there and find it.
Good news is that you can hike or folic all the way across the Alps
from France to Slovenia, never come out of the mountains.
Enjoying trails like this and every night sleep in a hut like this.
For $20 a night. I mean, it's -- the fun irony is sometimes
the better places you get the less expensive they are.
In some many cases, that's the way it is. Here we have a nature freuden hut, a nature
friends hut. And it's just -- I could tell you all sorts
of stories about this place.
But it's just an amazing opportunity if you know how to get off the
beaten path and make your trip, the trip that you really want and
deserve. You need up-to-date information.
If you have an old book on Rome, it will tell you about the Victor
Emmanuel Monument. And everybody agrees it is about the ugliest
building in town, and it just dominates the center.
It's built up there a hundred years ago in order to placate the king.
And a new guide book will tell you can take a elevator up to the top
now. And enjoy the very best view in all of Rome
because you don't have to look at what you're standing on, the Victor
Emmanuel Monument. [LAUGHTER]
It's just a -- it's some of the best $10 you can spend in Italy right
now, is to get a view of Rome without that man -- Victor Emmanuel
Monument by going up to that lift. Also, you need to have up-to-date information
as Europe evolves. Of course, it's an exciting time in Europe
with the unification and the Cold War long gone.
And Eastern Europe kicking into gear and catching up with the West and
so on. You go to Berlin, you find a city that's the
hottest city in Europe. I mean Berlin is really exciting.
This is the new capitol building in Berlin. It was sitting on a bombed-out hulk of the
Reichstag building that was right there in the Berlin Wall for, you know,
all since World War II. And in good European style, they didn't bulldoze
it and build a new building when the government went from Bonn
back to Berlin. They took the historic building, a blackened,
bombed-out hulk, renovated it, incorporated modern architecture
into that, this beautiful, glass dome.
And now you got a powerful bit of architectural symbolism for the
German people with their new government in Berlin.
Glass dome -- open, free, open all the time, free, designed mostly for
Germans. But of course, tourists are more than welcome
to go up that spiral ramp to the very top.
And then you look down literally over the shoulders of your legislator
to see what's going on on their desk. Power comment to those legislators that people
are going to keep on eye on them now, right?
So I was up there on opening week on the very top of this beautiful new
thing, surrounded by teary-eyed Germans. Anytime you're surrounded by teary-eyed Germans,
something exceptional is going on, okay?
And it was clear to me, this is a very emotional, exciting, symbolic
moment. The closing of an ugly chapter in the history
of great nation. No more division.
No more communism. No more fascism.
A new government, a united country, opening a new century with a new
capitol building looking into a promising future.
Wow. What a heady time to be up there.
And I looked around, and I saw most of the tourists who are Americans
didn't have a clue. They were completely disconnected.
And it just saddened me. I thought I don't want to be in a dumbed-down
society. And without drawing too much into this, I
just really feel that there's powerful forces in our society that would
find it convenient if we were all just dumbed down.
Just go shopping and be mindless producer/consumers and so on.
And I just sort of vowed in my own work as a travel writer to expect my
readers and my viewers and my tourists to be engaged and to have an
attention span and to care, and to want the whole story and to come
back from their trip changed. And you can too.
But you've got remember the system is going to try to want to dumb you
down. Fun in the sun, frequent flier miles, duty
free shopping, what's the power of your sunscreen, all that kind of
stuff. There's more important things to travel than
duty free shopping. I think you guys know that.
But for the average American that just goes on vacation it's not really
travel. It's just a break, which is okay but it's
a lost opportunity. As Europe unites, of course, we've got most
of the former Warsaw Pact countries now part of Western -- part of Europe.
And overnight a few years ago, ten nations joined the EU and the
geographical center of Europe shifted from Belgium to about the Czech
Republic. And it's exciting.
It's a heady time in Eastern Europe right now.
I mean, when I first was going to Poland people were taking their
windshield wipers in with them at night. It was such a bleak economy.
This clueless, command economy with no sensitivity to the laws of
supply and demand. Somebody forgot to order windshield wipers.
Thieves got wind of that, steal windshield wipers and sell it for a
fortune on the black market. That's what happens when you don't have the
laws of supply and demand. Of course, now they got the laws of supply
and demand. It's a festival of pent-up entrepreneurial
spirit, and people are leaving their windshield wipers on at night
in Poland. And when you travel around there, it is really
fun. Prague is the gateway to Eastern Europe.
And it's the greatest city. But you've got to do more than that.
Prague is quite touristy now and quite expensive. I love it.
It's the best beer in Europe for $2 a mug. I just did a study on beer quality versus
price, it's perfectly inversely related.
[LAUGHTER] You know, and they had all this horrible time
with communism and their dictators and everything.
And now they've torn down all the statues. And rather than melt them down, they've gathered
them in parks. So you go to these statue parks and you've
got all these social/realistic ranting and raving at each
other instead of the people.
[LAUGHTER] And it's just a fun time to be exploring Eastern
Europe. If you want to spice up your trip, go to Turkey.
I just can't say enough about Turkey. I absolutely love Turkey.
And it's changing really fast. I had a TV show out on Turkey that was about
ten years old. And I watched it a couple of years ago, and
I thought this is just wrong to have this show out.
I need to update it. It's just -- Istanbul is new city.
It's a city of 10 or 15 million people. They're drilling a tunnel now for the train
between Asia and Europe under the Bosporus.
And you walk through the streets of Turkey and you realize --
It's so important for Americans to see a westward-facing, secular
Muslim society. And Turkey is great way to do that.
I think it's been ten years since I flew in and out of the same city.
Think cleverly about flying into one city and out of another city.
Open jaws. It's no financial penalty.
It's half the round-trip fare from here to there, half the round trip
fare from there to there. And then you don't have to return, spend the
time and money to the needless return to your starting point.
And then you're able to organize your trip in cultural -- culture shock
order. Start easy, work hard.
All right? It would make no sense to start in Istanbul
and work your way back to London.
London would be just a horrible anticlimax. You want to start in the mild countries and
mild means England, all right?
[LAUGHTER] I mean, I love England.
If you read my England guide book, you see my enthusiasm for England.
But go there first, when cream teas and roundabouts are exotic.
Then go to France. Then go to Italy, then go to Greece.
And finish off in Turkey. That would make a lot of sense.
And you'd work up into Turkey. Added advantage, it's delaying places best
for shopping till the end of your trip.
I've given up trying to talk people out of shopping in their travels
but try not shopping for 80 percent of your trip.
Finish in the more interesting, cheaper place and buy up everything
there and fly home heavy. Another advantage of structuring your trip
in the interest of minimizing culture shock till the end is it
delays places most hazardous to your health until the end of
your trip. Very clever.
Why get diarrhea early? Okay?
[LAUGHTER] This is a main drag in Istanbul.
And I'll tell you it's, it's this crowded all day long and into the wee
hours. They can't even run the trolley it's got so
many people on it. Just to be in that kind of vibrancy is exciting
for me. I mentioned we have a tour program.
It's the hottest thing in my business right now.
We're working very hard with the 70 or 80 of us up in Seattle at Europe
Through the Back Door. And last year we took I think --
Well, we took 12,000 people last year. This year we're taking 8 or 9,000 people because
of the economy. Everybody's down about that much.
So you know it's okay. I don't think -- when people talk about the
economy, I don't think we should have been as hot as we were.
That was all the result of goosing the economy. You can only goose something so long and pretty
soon it stops responding.
And it stopped responding. So now we're back down to where it should
be. That's my take on it, if we're realistic.
And we're fine with 8- or 9,000 people. I'm just so excited the about job that our
guides are doing. And if you're curious about our tour program,
our tour program is different than most because there's half as
many tourists on the same big bus with a guide who is fully paid up
front, and cannot make another penny off you over the course of your
trip. So there's no tips, no kickbacks on shopping,
no selling you sightseeing.
It's all included and you got a guide who is on your side.
And for some people that's just really appreciated. And that's why well over half of our travelers
are people who have been with us before.
We've got many people who have taken 8 or 10 or 12 of our itineraries.
So if you're curious about that, you can check out our itinerary on our
website or in the brochure I handed out today. The big, normal 50 people on the 50 seat tour
bus is -- I want to talk about a constructively because it can be a
good value because they sell on impossible price.
It can't be that cheap. It's no profit.
They make their money off you once you get over there.
They don't even pay their guide properly. The guide has to make money by keeping you
in the dark and taking you shopping for kickbacks.
Okay? Now they're giving you transportation and
hotels cheaper than you could buy it on your own.
If you want to buy that shell, equip yourself with a guidebook and skip
out of the stuff they want you to do. You could be just freeloading on the tour.
Just having like a bus pass that comes with nice, comfortable,
forgettable hotels filled with Americans you don't want to hang out
with, all right? And I mean, I'm serious.
That could be a very efficient, economic sort of beginning.
Use it as a springboard to have your own adventure. If everybody did that, they'd have to change
their business plan but you can certainly do that.
These are people here that are probably in timeshare condos in Southern
Spain, and they've got one day in their life in Morocco.
Excuse me a second here. They've got one day in their life in Morocco,
and they're spending with it with a bunch of other people from California.
And here they are. They've done their little walk through town,
had all the Kodak moments and they're going to the restaurant in Tangier
where every American tourist goes when they have one day of their
life in Africa, to this little, touristy restaurant.
And there's a charming-looking belly dancer who looks like Boy George.
And I mean think of the conversation going on at this table here.
You know that is to me such a failure for a traveller to put themself
into that kind of -- all I could think was self-imposed hostage crisis,
you know. You can do Tangier on your own, so easy.
But these people don't do it. Because they ask somebody in the industry
is this reasonable for me to do?
And the industry, obviously, is wired to say no.
You're not capable to doing that. Take the tour.
We'll make money off of you. So you're consumers.
You can be more aggressive or less aggressive but the choice is yours.
I spent 25 years as a tour guide, I know what's it's like.
I know that the average tour guide is concerned not about where is the
cute place for a rest stop, but where can I park the big bus?
And can 30 people go to the bathroom at the same time?
You know, this is a great stop for a bus driver but not for somebody
who is interested in that culture. Many people get on these tours and on day
two it occurs to them we could have done this on our own.
But it's too late now. And for a lot of people that go over there
-- and here is the standard experience.
These people are in a cafeteria in Vienna listening to local musicians
play the Strauss waltzes. I mean, it's -- it used to be a palace.
The advertising sounds really good. You know, you go to a palace for lunch and
you hear the local musicians play the Strauss waltzes.
You get there and you realize you're just part of this whole sort of
mechanism for giving people canned culture. And most of these people go home and thought
they had a good time. So who am I to say they didn't?
I just think you can have a much more real experience and not spend any
more money if you choose to. You can be a guest of honor at a Greek wedding
festival if you simply put 30 miles between you and next hotel.
And be in a town with no postcards. You're staying in somebody's home.
Tomatea. Every country's got bed and breakfast for
20 -- for $30 you're staying upstairs above the tavern.
And you learn how to the play backgammon with the locals.
And you're right there the next day -- you're a guest of honor at the
wedding festival. That's real travel and anybody can do it.
So that's what I try to do with our guidebooks is to try to organize
the efficiency of all that information into the book so people can do
their tours without having to wait with 50 other people and have a tour
guide with a conflict of interest. I mentioned Europe Through the Back Door is
the textbook for all of this kind of travel.
I'm just skimming the chapter heads of that book today.
And then we've got 30 different books on all the different parts of
Europe. And each region has it's own sort of flying
wedge of information with DVD's, phrase books, and maps, city guides
and country guides. It's so fun for us to be updating these books.
I think we're the only books out there that physically visit almost
every place in the book every year. And that's just our formula for having a very
good guidebook. And they're very driven by connecting people
with people. I know the people who run the hotels and the
restaurants, and they know us.
And they know that they need to earn the business. Museums can -- museums can ruin a good vacation.
And you need to be sorting through that. We try to do that in our art book.
And one thing I've worked on really hard lately, which I'm just really
excited about is making my audio tours and then offering them for free
on the internet through iTunes. And we've had a couple million people download
our tours. They're the same tours in the book.
But we've designed them so you just have it in your ear and then just
be lost in that site instead of having your eyes buried in a book.
It is so cool for anybody with the MP3 or an iPod to be able to do
that. And I like the idea of just having it free.
And we're doing a lot more of those, so we've got all the essential
sites covered absolutely free. In London, Paris, Venice, Florence, and Rome.
And that's a bigger and bigger part of our program.
Our radio show has been a lot of fun lately. We're in 150 different cities every week for
an hour. And it's also one of the leading podcasts.
It's a 55-minute hourly show. And a lot of it is Europe and a lot of it
is not. So if you're curious about that, we're working
on a thing now where we deconstruct all those shows, and then put
them by topic. So you can just type in "Spain" and then get
a playlist all of the stuff we've ever done relating to Spain.
And you can just travel with that. So when you're sitting on the train coming
into Madrid, you can hear interviews and talk to people and so on.
And with the radio, I get so much fun, interesting people to talk to.
I was just talking to the Princess of Norway. I got to ask her what's it like to be royalty
in the 21st Century? And do you still marry your cousins?
And are you all a little bit deformed? You know, and things that I always wanted
to know and then ask and then design it into a radio show.
So it's all on our website there. The Internet is such a powerful tool for travellers.
I don't -- I don't need to tell you guys that. But it's just so exciting what's going on.
I just tell people I don't care how un-savvy you are with this.
You've got to get with it when it comes to using the cyber cafes or the
you know, the things that let you travel smarter in Europe using the
Internet. Tourist information offices are available
everywhere, and that's because they're a huge part of each economy
is tourism. And they've got all sorts of information to
help you organize your time well.
One of my favorite things to take advance of is local guided walks.
They are usually done by retired school teachers or people that are
just aficionados of their little town. If there's any tourism, if there's any history
there, they'll have a guided walk organized by the tourist office
for the public. The nice thing about that is you pay $15 each
instead of $200 for the guide.
And it's organized by the tourist office. It becomes very affordable and quite a nice
thing to do. So all over Europe, you'll find these guided
walks. I think they're always time and money well-spent.
A new kind of tour is a bike tour. Where you get bikes and a guide, and you cover
more ground get a little exercise and it's a fun memory.
But anywhere you're traveling, if you have a good local guide I think
it's makes a difference. You do not have a burro to carry your gear.
You need to pack light. These people are packing too heavy.
When I go to Europe, I see people like this I wonder, what do you need
to have all these big burdensome bags, you know?
Even young travellers a lot of times have just too much.
Unless you're camping, don't pack like you're camping, okay?
You need to be mobile. These people got it right.
9 by 22 by 14 inches. That's as much as I allow myself on a trip.
I've lived out of carry-on, airplane-sized bag for a third of my adult
life. If I had cherpas, I would set them free.
It's not a hardship to pack light. It's a blessing to pack light.
You just don't need that much stuff. Now, way beyond the scope of today's class
-- but these are very popular kind of bags that double as a rucksack
or a suitcase. A lot of people like wheels the same sort
of thing. It doesn't matter either way.
If you want wheels, use wheels. It just cost you $50 extra, and you've got
a few more pounds of gear. But it's a beautiful thing for a lot of people.
As long as I'm able to carry it on my back, personally, that's what I
will do. This is one of our tours.
And you can see, here's our guide Lisa and she's got her --
Yeah, right. In Luka?
Wow, you know that street? [INAUDIBLE SPEAKER]
That's great. I've never had anybody burst out "Via Falunega"
[LAUGHTER] What is it?
Via Falunega? Well, Lisa here on Via Falunega is traveling
well. She's got her bag and every day she goes to
the bus or the train station as a good traveller like that.
This guy is packing like I would be with a bag on his back.
This is my son. He's strong enough to not even put it on his
back. He just carries it that way.
But these people are mobile. And the reality is they don't show you this
in the tour brochures, but every day or every two days, you got to pack
up and carry it to the bus or carry it to the train.
A lot of walking with your gear. You want to be mobile.
Exactly what you put in there is covered in my Europe Through the Back
Door book. People just want to know exactly.
I feel like kind of -- it doesn't really matter exactly how I pack, but
they insist. So one time I just decided, okay, I'll give
it to them. I spread everything out on the bed on the
hotel. There I was naked with my camera just inventorying
And you know all the little details are covered. The language barrier for a whole generation
have been saying it's not a big deal, and it's certainly not a big deal
now. I always used to say talk to somebody who
is young, they're likely to speak English.
Well, those young people are now in their 50s.
And you know just anybody who's educated in Europe, anybody who's in
the tourist business, anybody who's in any kind of real serious
business seems to speak English as a second language.
We're lucky. We speak the language that works.
If you meet a Greek hiking in the Alps who meets a Norweigian, how do
you think they'll communicate? Broken English.
What Greek speaks Norweigian? Think about it.
It just doesn't happen. You're Norweigian, you want to have a bigger
world than four million people who speak your language, you're going
to learn English. So we're the ones that are the beneficiaries
assuming you're a monoglot.
If you speak another language, that's great. But if you just speak English, don't let that
inhibit where you can travel.
You remember, you got signs that are multilingual and you can make
educated guesses. If you're not feeling well in Denmark and
you see a sign with a Red Cross on it pointing to "central sick house."
[LAUGHTER] Can you read that?
Well, go get fixed up. It's impressive to me how many Americans would
bleed to death in the street corner looking for the word hospital.
I've never looked up any of these words but I make educated guesses.
You got -- it's not answers out of the blue, you know.
It's an easy, educated guess, multiple choice kind of thing.
For instance, you look at this sign and it's -- you don't say what on
earth is that? You say, what could it be?
These are hours so this could only be hours. It could only be open times or closed times,
that's what they're telling you.
So you think about, what would they be advertising? They're advertising open times.
Vom -- from. Vom/from, if it rhymes, go for it.
The Fourth of July. On the left you see six words, most of which
end in "tag," first one? Monday.
Good. "Mittwoch" -- midweek, Wednesday.
"Tag" is like Guten Tag. Soup of the "tag." There's a lot of "tags"
you'll encounter. It's open from 9 to 11 "und" from 4 to 6.
Anything over 12, subtract 12 and add p.m. At the risk of insulting my students, I just
make a real point you know get this 24-hour clock.
There's a lot of people been over there for two weeks, they still go
giddy every time it goes over 12, you know. So 16 minus 12 is 4 p.m.
On Wednesday afternoon, something different happens.
Okay. There's only two possibilities: Open or closed.
Everything else is open. This is different.
With all the confidence in the world you can tell your friends on
Wednesdays, on Mittwoch, after Mittwoch, nachmittag, it's geschlossen.
If there's two thieves in town you're going to meet them.
You know? Because thieves target Americans.
Not because they're mean but because they're smart.
If I was a street thief in Europe, I'd specialize in Americans.
I'd have a little card that says "Yanks Are Us."
We're the people with all the good stuff in our purses and wallets.
So leave your valuables at home or in the hotel room or tie them under
your waist tucked in like a shirttail in a money belt.
Very, very important. It's not dangerous over there.
It's just petty theft. Nobody's getting knifed and mugged, all right?
Beggars are all over the place. And you're going to see them because you're
out in the streets. And they target the tourist attractions and
so on. Beggars are not beggars -- that's their front.
They are pickpockets. When you know that, and if you're wearing
a money belt, it's no big scary deal.
In fact, if you know beggars are actually pickpockets and you're
wearing a money belt, having a gypsy's hand slip slowly into your
pocket is just one more interesting cultural experience.
[LAUGHTER] Every year, several times a stranger's hand
slips slowly into my pocket.
And I just leave them there. They think I'm dead.
[LAUGHTER] Terrorism -- I'll just tell you in a nutshell,
terrorism is overrated. And I think you should tell all your friends
that. And every time Americans freak out because
of something like this to get a grip.
All right? We are 300 million people.
We're four percent of this planet. We spend as much as everybody else put together
on our military, and even Obama cannot get elected without promising
more. We got military bases in 140 countries.
Only the United States of America can declare somebody else's natural
resources on the other side of the planet quote, "vital to our national
security interests." At least those poor people would prefer if
were honest enough to say vital to our accustomed material lifestyle.
Half of the world's trying to live on $2 a day.
That's not a liberal or a conservative thing, that's just a fact.
The average lot in women on this planet is to walk for water every day.
A billion people are trying to live on $1 a day.
When the United Nations get together to try to deal with the problem
that matters to the desperately poor half of humanity, routinely our
country is outvoted 140 to 4. Who stands with us on issues of child labor
laws, water, third world debt relief, land mines and this kind of thing?
Who stands with us? Israel, Marshall Islands and Micronesia.
That's the coalition of the compassionate, caring ones.
Now that's -- doesn't matter what I think. That's what the other 96 percent of humanity
thinks, if they know. If they're at all engaged.
They look at us like an empire because we act like an empire.
We don't like to think of ourselves as an empire.
But, you know, it doesn't really matter. So are there going to be disgruntled people
at the fringes of an empire?
Have there ever been an empire that didn't have disgruntled people at
the fringes? The empire gets to call them whatever they
want. Barbarians, anarchists, terrorists, whatever.
I mean, it's so easy to condemn people if they're terrorists.
Somebody doesn't like our oil plant in Nigeria, they're terrorists if
they disagree with us. They're just terrorists and we'll all go amen,
kill them. So we've got some interesting challenges to
deal with. We're making some progress.
But there's always going to terrorism and there always will be
terrorism and Norway will not be targeted. [LAUGHTER]
Now, tomorrow if an American is beheaded by a Jihadist in Madrid, it
doesn't matter. That's one person.
You know? I mean, 300,000 people -- why, you know the
story. I mean every week a hundred thousand kids
die because nobody's got any money for inoculations.
If you cared about people, there's plenty of things we could do.
So we just got to remember, if you're really hate terrorism, the best
thing we can do is travel, learn about the world, come home and help
our country fit better into this planet. And to realize that the worst thing we can
do if there is a terrorist event is to be terrorized by it.
England as a matter of principle does not let the terrorists terrorize
them. And it's quite effective.
We, as a matter of principle, freak out every time there's a terrorist
event. And that's exactly what terrorists want to
happen. They have send the video clips for our people
to air and we do. And then we all clench our fist and try to
hit them. So it's a real weird thing going on.
And we got to start standing up and getting a grip on this with the
media that can make so much problem this way with a general electorate
here that has a tough time understanding this sort of thing.
Don't let terrorism stop you from traveling. Terrorism is a good reason to travel.
And if you want to be statistical about it, anybody knows you're safer
in Europe than you are here. We lose 15,000 people a year to handguns on
our streets. Europe loses one-eighth of that.
Because they don't have guns like we do. Europeans laugh out loud when they hear that
Americans are staying home for safety reasons.
If you care about your loved ones you will take them to Europe tomorrow
for God sakes. [LAUGHTER]
This is how I sell tours. [LAUGHTER]
The stop U.S.A. stuff, whenever you see that -- and you don't see it
anywhere near as much now as you did a couple years ago --
but it's not anti-you or me. It's anti-American war, anti-American
trade policy, anti-American that kind of stuff. They love the ideals of America, and they
love Americans. And they're thankful for what we've done in
the past. That's good news.
You do not need to wear a Canadian flag. [LAUGHTER]
I just took a thousand people to France and asked each one of them in a
survey how were you treated by the locals. Nobody complained, you know.
It's just exciting to be over there and they're happy we care.
Europe's uniting 300 million people with the one big free trade zone
now. 300 million people with the same coins in
their pockets. The key for changing money, ATM.
I've changed my last traveller's check. That's for sure.
Europe is getting more and more automated. And if you're not comfortable with machines,
you will stand in line and get lousy service and pay a premium for it.
Anybody who has to stand in line to buy something in Europe can do it
but it's the last priority for them. And people get disgruntled about it.
And they're the root of their own problem because they refuse to use
the machines. I'm pretty slow when it comes to using machines.
I'd rather give money to a real person at a window but that's becoming
more and more expensive in Europe. And you just got to get hip with the machines.
Europe is deregulated from a flying point of view.
Nowadays you fly anywhere cheaper than taking the train.
So before you buy a long train ticket or bus ride drop into a travel
agency or go online and figure out what the deal is for the best budget
flight. Europe has an internal Marshall Plan, investing
in their infrastructure like we cannot imagine.
It's a bugaboo for me cause every time I go to update my book, the
driving time is shorter. And I have to rewrite it.
I mean, there's new bridges. There's new tunnels, more important than ever
to realize that if you want to smell the roses, you got to get off
the Autobahn and onto those small roads.
When I really talk about packing light, I'll tell you some people just
don't want to pack light. And then I say, you should rent a car.
You can even rent a trailer. Okay?
But if you're going to be going by train that's where it's really
important to pack light. By car, you can put everything in the trunk
and drive from door to door to where you want to go.
It's quite nice. Europe is small and it's smaller by rail.
And Europe is investing itself now where you got these super bullet
trains all over the place. This is the new grandest, most powerful exciting
train station in Europe in Berlin, the Hauptbahnhof.
Major train lines coming together at different levels at right angles.
And it's just breathtaking to be in Europe these days and see these
bullet trains and to use them. Just recently, I was in Munich at the train
station and I was taking pictures of trains coming into the station.
Specifically, birds little cute little birds squished onto the
windshields of the trains. And my first thought when I saw that little
bird was, you'd wait all your life to see a bird squished to the windshield
of a train where I come from, you know ?
[LAUGHTER] I'm sorry.
I just -- it's not very nice. But if you're -- if you're a slow bird, avoid
those shiny parallel rails on the earth there, you know.
It's just fast on those trains. And things are synchronized.
I mean, if there's two trains a day coming into this little village on
the fjord, they'll be two boats a day leaving. And you'll have just enough time to get a
cup of coffee get on the boat and carry on.
Own over Europe, except in Italy, where the train comes in just in time
to see the boat pulling out. [LAUGHTER]
You can count on that synchronicity, all right? Now, the big question for consumers is if
you're on a budget are you going to go first class or second class?
Second class is four seats across and more crowded.
First class is three seats across less crowded. They cost 50 percent more per kilometer to
go first class instead of second class.
If I want to get something done and if I just to be quiet and luxurious
and I've got some extra money, it's nice to go first class.
But if you're concerned about transportation, nearly every train in
Europe has both first and second class cars on them going precisely the
same speed, all right? So the best deal, I would say, is second class.
Any night you spend on the train you save a whole day on the itinerary
by sitting there up all day, and I love sleeping on the train.
And for $25 or $30 you get a cueshet, a door that locks, and an
attendant that takes care of your passport. And it works really well.
We sell a lot of you're rail passes at Europe Through the Back Door if
you're curious about any of the Eurail stuff, we're happy to help you
out on that. I'm going to go pretty quick here because
I don't even -- I think I'm running out of time.
But, actually let me check. What time is it?
[INAUDIBLE SPEAKER] Is it ten minutes to two?
10 to 2. Okay, so I'm to going.
This is going to be like movies. Use the public transportation.
I just love Europe's public transportation. When it comes to eating, you really -- as
I mentioned earlier, you don't want to be attracted to the biggest
neon signs that brags we speak English and accept Visa cards.
We want somebody who loves their work, who's got a low-rent kind of
place away from the tourist crowds with the small menu in one language
that's handwritten. Small because they're not catering to people
who want a huge choice. Handwritten because it changes every day according
to what's fresh in the market.
And in one language because their passion is for feeding local people
well. They're well-happy to have tourists there.
But when you see that one-language menu, small, changing all the time,
and you take one look and you see a local crowd of happy people, you
know it's a good value. So that would be a good restaurant right here
in downtown Rome. You can go to, you know, self-service cafeterias
in any department store and eat cheap with the locals.
You can go to bus stations and eat bad and cheap with the locals.
There's just plenty of ways you can eat cheap. Europeans are feeling the crunch just like
we are. And you find a lot of Germans sharing that
bratwurst and kraut and a beer, you know.
It's just everybody's on a tight budget, it seems like, and more people
are just ordering water and sharing dessert and so on.
So if your budget requires that, you can do that and people will
understand. Lots of good food for immigrant labor.
All over Europe they've got immigrant labor just like we do in the
United States. And wonderful food for that budget level.
And I'm a big fan of Turkish food when I'm in Germany, for instance.
Every place in Europe has the daily special. The Blue Plate special, the doggen schwet,
the plat du jour, pub grub, the pre-dinner.
The pre-theater dinner and so on, where for $15 you get a good hot,
meal. This is Stockholm downtown, the old part of
town. It's $10 for a lunch with a salad, bread,
and a drink. Stockholm's famously expensive.
$10 for lunch with a drink, that's not too bad, 2009.
And then you save enough money to dine out and spend 50 bucks every 2
or 3 nights, you know. It just depends on your budget.
No matter how tight your budget is you owe it to yourself to get out
there and splurge a few times. Learn how to say, you know, "three spoons,
please." Picnicking is your budget mainstay.
It's hard to spend much money picnicking and I just love the quality of
the food. This would be for more than one person.
But I'm talking -- I'm talking per person cost.
If there's just you, yeah, and your partner, this is a quick dashboard
lunch between castles in Wales. It's hearty.
It's nutritious, it's fast, it's cheap. And you're going to relax and dine that evening.
My son was just in Rome for a semester. And he taught me how cheaply you can live
even in the very expensive city if you're away from the tourists.
You know, that's the big trick. You're going to spend double for your coffee
if you're within any sight of any tourist attraction.
I want to talk just for a second about budget hotels.
And I'm glad I got help with slides here because I lot of people think
I'm talking about this. I'm not talking about this at all.
This is Turkey -- $3 for the double, barely worth it actually.
But there are lousy hotels in Europe. You know, nongovernment-regulated flophouses
where for $25, you get a bed and a kitten tossed in for no extra.
And I'm not talking about these, either. What I'm talking about is an alternative to
this. This is what defeats people.
This is what people are spending $300 or $400 a night on, running out
of money early, flying home shaking their heads, thinking my goodness
how can people afford travel in this crazy day and age.
Well, they're buying into that intercontinental category.
If you want to go local, there are guest houses, there are B&B's, there
are Zimmers, there are all sorts of fun penzionnes where you are, for
$80 or $100, enjoying a great double including breakfast.
You just got to know where to go. I mean Francois here runs a wonderful little
two-star hotel less than $100 next year.
Downtown Paris on a pedestrian-only street, seven blocks from the
Eiffel Tower. A market of -- just a pedestrian market right
in front of her hotel. You step out in the morning, you feel like
you must have been a poodle in your previous life.
I mean, it's just amazing on Rue Cler, if you want to have that.
Smoking is no longer a big deal in Europe because smokers die younger.
It's that simple, there's no more smokers over there.
And they don't let you smoke in the pubs or anything like that.
So a lot of people used to love the pubs but hate the smoke.
Now you can love the pubs and not have smokey clothes when you leave
there. The big deal about having a toilet in your
room is no longer an issue because almost every room in Europe has been
gutted and retrofitted with a little yacht-type heads.
You're going to get a decent toilet and shower in your room.
If you find a room without a toilet and shower, you'll save quite a bit
of money. Most people want to spend 30 bucks extra a
night to have that convenience.
B&B's -- every country's got B&B's, you just got to know where to look.
This woman runs a beautiful place in Florence. I just love to stay with her.
$70 or $80 for a double and Mama Roboti is your host, you know.
This is Kathleen Farrel who runs a little place in the west coast of
Ireland. And she's just so excited that Ricky from
"Seedle" is here. And you know, now, you be back by 8 o'clock
because Denny and his band are playing Irish folk music tonight at the
pub. I mean, she's excited about your visit.
And that's the beautiful thing, that sort of irony of spending less and
getting more, because you're staying in somebody's home who's excited
about your visit. If you traveling with a family, the more people
you pack into the room, the cheaper it gets.
That's kind of common sense. And youth hosteling is open to anybody.
Europe has thousands of youth hostels. There are new institutional high-rise hostels
offering institutional kind of beds like this one in Copenhagen which
is a huge saving compared to hotels.
And again it's open to absolutely anybody. And they're very good sources of information
where you can rent bicycles or team up for this or that, and
cook together in the member's kitchen and so on.
A lot of people think youth hosteling, can I still do that?
Well, these people are youth hostelers. And they took "youth" out of the name of this
system. If you're over 55, you get a discount on the
membership card, okay? So if you're alive, you are young enough to
hostel. There's no age limit for this kind of travel.
You do have to be a good walker. If you're wondering is this a little demanding
for me physically or anything like that -- I would say the most
gruelling thing about European travel is the heat and the crowds
of summer. Do yourself a favor and go on shoulder's time,
you know, April, October, a beautiful time to go. In Europe,
they say there's no bad weather just inappropriate clothing.
So dress for the weather and you should be fine.
It's crowded with people that live there. It's crowded with all of us who hustle in
every year. As far as I'm concerned, there's two IQs of
Europeans travellers -- those who wait in lines and those who don't
wait in lines. If you're waiting in line, you're messing
up. You may be a great computer software designer
but you just are screwing up because you don't know how to get into
the Colosseum without waiting for two hours to get your ticket.
This line is not waiting to get into the Colosseum. It's waiting to buy a ticket to get into the
Colosseum. All over Europe the lines are to get tickets
not to get in. And there's lots of alternative ways to get
tickets. And that's your challenge is to find those
out. The Colosseum ticket also includes the Palatine
Hill. A lot of times a site nobody wants to go to
is paired with the site everybody wants to go to, so they can make
you buy entrance to both of them.
That's a way to raise prices and encourage people to go to the site
nobody wants to see. The good news is you can go to site nobody
wants to see, buy the ticket there, and walk by all these people.
And you'll save an hour of your time in Rome, and not get the sunburn
by standing out in line all day. This is a huge line to get into the Versailles
Palace in Paris. Now if you're -- I mean, so many people it's
Tuesday. All the museums are closed, what should we
do? Let's go to Versailles, it's open.
Not a unique brainstorm. Any guidebook recommends you avoid Versailles
on Tuesday. The average tourist does not get around to
reading their guidebook until they're about right there in the line.
[LAUGHTER] And then they realize, oh, we should have
gone on Monday. If you arrive any day of the week but Tuesday
late in the day, you can be waltzing all alone with your favorite travel
partner in the Hall of Mirrors.
That's good news. And more and more important sites are letting
you make appointments in advance so that you can just walk right up
and go in. That's the beautiful thing about Internet
combining with your travels. Or you have the option of just simply going
where there are no tourists.
I spent four months last year traveling in and probably two months of
the time, there were not a hint of a crowd anywhere and I was having a
great time. Go to an island in Greece you can't even name.
There's always enough commerce there you can play backgammon with this
guy. You've never forget this game and I'm sure
he never has forgot that game either.
All right? You need to be an extrovert.
If you see four cute guys sitting on a bench, ask them to scoot over.
I've been saying this for 25 years and it works great.
Well, we've had a lot of fun making our TV show over the years.
I know it runs here on KTEC, is that the channel? The public television channel?
KTEH, that's right. KTEH and KQED.
And I appreciate you staying tuned to that. We've got a lot of great shows in the works
right now. I'm very excited about what we're able to
do through public television. And my crew just works so hard to put some
good stuff together. It's fun as a tour guide and a TV producer
to be able to pack all that into the DVD's now, where he can have all
of our shows in one quite affordable anthology.
Our tour program is just something we're very proud of.
Beautiful, big comfortable buses, great drivers, and small groups.
Groups that are like-minded. Because of the way we promote our tours, it
makes the kind of people that take our tours actually fun to hang out
with. So if you want the economy and efficiency
of organized travel without the downside of organized travel, look around
and consider our company. And I think you'll find that it is, when all
the dust settles, if your time is worth a lot, it's really -- you're
going to experience probably 30 percent more per day without the downside
of organized travel. When I go on a vacation, I get a deal but
I take my own tours. And it's just a lot of fun.
This is my wife and I on our Greece tour recently. Our guides make the art fun.
And we know local guides that you've seen on our TV shows that really
tell the story in a vivid, intimate kind of way.
This is our first tour that we're doing way back in the 70s, and today
we've got tours all over Europe. So it's really a fun, fun sort of work to
be in and you can learn more about that on our website or in the material
that we passed out. My passion is for people to do it on their
own. Anybody who wants to do it on their own certainly
can. My confidence is based on feedback I get from
people whose grandchildren said you shouldn't be doing
this, over there having the time of their life, coming back with money
in the bank for next summer's trip.
If you want to travel this way, the key is equip yourself with good
information and expect yourself to travel smart and then you can be
your own tour guide. That what we do at Europe Through the Back
Door. This is my gang up in Seattle.
And Europe is better designed than ever. They'll carve your wooden shoes.
You can go to those art museums now with great high-tech sort of
information on the different teaching devices. The traditional culture survives if you know
where to find it. That's the good news even in this modern day
and age. You can be up there and switch on the right
day when the goats are brought through the town.
You can find yourself on those wonderful far corners, and gorgeous back
door sites that make Europe such a magical place to visit.
All right. Thank you have much.
Happy travels. [APPLAUSE]
Thank you. Thank you.
[APPLAUSE] Thanks a lot.
And -- thank you. And I got to say for everybody that enjoys
the work you guys do here it's really a thrill for me just as a consumer
of Google stuff to be able to be here and see what this is and thank
you for that. Do I have time for questions?
Okay. So if, if you got to go, you're going to miss
out on a lot of important information.
Okay. [PAUSE]
>>Okay. So whoever has questions if you guys could comp here to the
mike. [PAUSE]
RICK STEVES: Okay, question? Yeah?
>>I've watched all of your programs. And I always wonder when are you going to
plan to travel to Russia? Saint Petersburg, Golden Gate, Ring around
the Moscow would be fantastic sites for you to explore with the
rest of us?
RICK STEVES: The question is when am I going to go to Russia.
As soon as Russia learns how to welcome tourists with no visa and
better, well-organized, fair system for hotels. I love going to Russia.
It's beautiful to go there. Saint Petersburg is one of my favorite cities,
really. And we take our tours there with Helsinki
and Estonia. But it's -- Russia's going to warm up to that.
And I think it's great for people to go to Russia.
But from a mass tourism point of view, it's still -- I am not convinced
that the infrastructure is there with a -- sort of a price for locals
that's not gouging them. And the visa thing is frustrating to me.
But obviously it's going happen and it's very exciting.
As soon as Russia's opened up to tourism more, I'm going to make a TV
show there for sure. Next?
>>Thanks for coming.
>>You mentioned Europe as a new modern place, and Berlin obviously is
very modern. So I like to see things like architecture
and new cities and things like that so -- are there any highlights that
you would mention?
RICK STEVES: Well, I love skyscrapers and modern cities, like I showed
three slides there. And I've found that in many cities, they protect
the skyline in the downtown core because they don't want modern
architecture obliterating beautiful domes and historic spires.
Outside of that protected area, that's where you get the Manhattan.
And I think it's really important when you're a tourist to find out
where are the people working, where's the real work-a-day life.
And take the commuter train out there and wander through just the
modern skyscraper Manhattan kind of areas. Because there's lot of modern art there, there's
beautiful skyscraper architecture.
And there's a vibrancy you don't feel in the touristic old core.
Yeah. But man, there's great modern architecture
all over Europe these days.
>>Thank you.
>>Hi, thanks for coming. I found lots of really nice places in Europe
and I live in constant terror that you will one day put them in one
of your books, and they'll be ruined for me.
RICK STEVES: If I give you my e-mail address maybe you can send me a
list and I'll -- I promise I won't put them in anything.
>> So, I mean, seriously. You know, I myself worry when I write up a
place on my blog. You know, how do you reconcile, well, you
know, this is a cool place. I'd like to tell people about it but you know
it definitely cannot tolerate 200 visitors a day.
RICK STEVES: Well, that's a very good question and it's an issue that
I do think about. I go back to my favorite places -- I don't
know if you know the Cinque Terre, for instance is a little villages,
five villages in the Italian Rivera.
And every time I go there, I'm a little nervous because it gets more
and more touristy, you know. And all of a sudden, nobody is -- nobody is
picking the grapes anymore. All the grape fields are just going to waste.
And everybody's got their cyber cafes and their laundromats and their
little boutique hotels and so on. And I come into town every year or two and
local people are thrilled to see me because I'm stoking their economy,
the tourists are just having a blast.
And then there's always a few people like you that think I should have
kept it a secret. And I'm not -- my job is not to protect these
places. I'm sort of like the hired hand to find them.
And what I would say, there are places that I find that really could
not handle the crowds. And I would never promote a place that really
didn't welcome the crowds or couldn't handle the crowds.
And what I need to do is to try and find more places so I can spread
the crowds out a little bit. But it's an interesting issue.
And it's a nice problem for a travel writer to have to have that much
of an impact on a place. I wish I could find more Cinque Terres, and
I wish I could find more Gimmelwalds.
There are more Cinque Terres but they're not as accessible as the Cinque Terre that I've
been pushing because it's just two hours away from Florence or the Leaning Tower of Pisa
where everybody goes anyways. If you go down to the Pardi Islands or down
around Sicily, there's a lot of places just about as magical.
But they're different. So I'm just -- yeah, it's just I'm just doing
my best it ruin these places.
>>Last year I was in Switzerland's Chalet Fontana, one of the places
mentioned in the book. It was completely swamped of English speakers.
A couple of months later, I went to the other side of the Ebenese
Overland, everybody was German, everybody --
RICK STEVES: Yeah, yeah. That's for sure. Did you meet Denise there at Chalet Fontana?
>>Yes, I did.
RICK STEVES: Yeah, she's the wonderful lady that runs that.
You know, Americans go to the same places. And the Germans go to the same places.
And people with my book go to the same places. It's just a reality.
And I -- I remind people if you want to not see Americans, you're
holding the wrong book. You know, I'm trying to spread it out.
Now having said that, we've been talking about the marque destinations.
Honestly, I just spent ten days in Basque Country, in Galicia
Northwestern Spain. And I write about it enthusiastically and
in 10 days, I probably saw ten people with my book.
I just spent 20 days across Scandinavia. And in 20 days, maybe a saw a hundred people
with my book. And then I go to Rome and in one day, I see
300 people with my book. So it's really interesting, we all are inclined
to go to the same marque destinations.
But if you want to go to Estonia, you're going to find a back door
wonderland. And you've got all the information -- if you
like my information, you'll have it because I cover it.
But Americans don't go there. If I just wrote books on places that sold
well, I would drop my Scandinavia book and I wouldn't be covering
Galicia. So I have to be realistic.
I'm a business and I'm not going to write a book to Moldavia because it
would be very expensive to do and it would change really fast.
And nobody would -- in relative terms, nobody would go there.
I wrote a book once to the former Soviet Union and it sold in the
hundreds. You know, you've got to be tuned in.
I'd write a book to Paris and it subsidizes all those other books.
So that's just an interesting little business thing I have to consider.
>>With the growing popularity of the automated machines for tickets and
so on -- but a lot of them only take chip and PIN cards.
Is there any movement on being able, for Americans to be able to get
one of those?
RICK STEVES: You know, that's a good issue. And I'm not -- I'm not very -- I don't have
much of an appetite to learn about that.
I've got a graffiti wall on my website. It's our version of -- Lonely Planet has the
Thorn Bush or something like that.
And I -- I ask the perplexing questions like that and I let everybody
who has got experience share their information. If you went to the graffiti
wall, and look in there under technical challenges or credit card
issues or whatever, you'd find a lot of people talking about that.
But that is a frustration for a lot of Americans is that Europeans have
a little chip embedded in their card that makes our card not work.
You can always use our card to get cash. And I almost exclusively get my -- I use my
ATM to get hard cash and I spent hard cash.
I find that's the best deal. But there are -- there is a frustration about
that. And I hope that that gets straightened out.
I'm sure there's people working on that but I don't choose it get into
>>So, I've personally experienced problems with trying to plan with
others in there's a lot of people who either experience a lot of
anxiety about, say, going off the beaten path or not do tour groups or
even doing something like staying at two-star hotel.
They are very much focused on the main touristy areas.
Do you have any suggestions for people who want to travel with others
on convincing the people they want to travel with to sort of take this
more holistic view, and really spend, you know, instead of visiting
four countries in two weeks, spending some time really getting to know
a place.
RICK STEVES: So you've got friends who are front door travellers and
you're a back door traveler?
>>Well they're first-time travellers. They have a lot of anxiety about
being a back door traveller.
RICK STEVES: Anxiety because they're going to be physically roughing
it or because they're going to places that aren't featured in Conde
>>Anxiety because they have no past expectations. For example, they don't realize how easy it
is to find an English speaker in Western Europe.
Or the fact that you can --
RICK STEVES: Well, it sounds like they need to be drugged and dragged
over there and then introduced to it. So that they realize that their fears --
>>Stage one complete, but -- [LAUGHTER]
-- more ideas.
RICK STEVES: Once they did one trip, they'd be fine.
If you went to -- you if -- I don't know. If you go it my website and look at some of
the chatter of people who have travelled there, if you go it my tour
section and see the online scrapbooks that people have made, you can
see how there's real normal travellers that are inclined to take normal
tours that have been -- found their way into this and really have
their apprehensions overcome by their own experience.
But some people you can't force to be back door travellers.
And that's probably good news for the rest of us who are back door
>>Thank you.
RICK STEVES: So don't work too hard on it, please.
>>All right. So I don't actually have a question for you,
Rick. But I just wanted to tell everyone here that
you're going to stick around for a few minutes to do autographs.
So for people who are interested in that, please start lining up at the
front. Oh my God, that's everyone.
RICK STEVES: All right.
>>All right. Thanks.
RICK STEVES: All right, good. thank you very much.
It's fun to be here.
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