Traveling in Europe

I have visited Europe many times, but spent five months travelling by bicycle this summer through England, Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Monaco, Italy, Vatican City, Austria, and the Czech Republic.

Travel tips: Eurobus is popular, BUT is known for being very untimely in Great Britain. On the continent, it runs close to on schedule, but has very limited stops. There is much you'll miss, but it's good if you're on a very tight schedule. The train system offers much more flexibility, but is much more costly. Renting a car is very American and a great way to spend a lot of money and miss seeing a lot of things because you'll never encounter other travellers, who can offer advice. If you have the time, cycling is a great way to travel, but don't overestimate your ability . . . it's difficult to carry 40 pounds of gear on a 25-pound bike. If you decide to do it, do yourself a favor and DON'T ride a mountain bike. Mountain bikes are intended for dirt tracks, not paved roads . . . Europe has great roads, so try a touring bike.

Things to see:

Scotland -- Great Glen, Inner and Outer Hebrides, the Black Isle (near Inverness).

Norway -- Oslo has great boat museums and the Munch Museum is worthwhile. Spend at least two days and buy a sightseeing pass at a visitor center.

Sweden -- the Vasa Museum in Stockholm is a highlight. But for Pete's sake get out of Stockholm and see the country. The area around Sankt Anna (on the coast south of Stockholm) is spectacular. Use side roads. Also see Kalmar.

Denmark -- Copenhagen is where the friendliest people in urban Scandinavia live. Nyhaven is a nice hangout area and the Danish Resistance Museum offers the Danish perspective on World War II. Ribe, on the west coast of Jutland, is a beautiful historic town.

The Netherlands -- Get out of Amsterdam. Try Delft, Den Haag, Scheveningen, Workum, Leeuwarden, and the islands along the north coast.

Italy -- It's hard to miss here, but definitely visit Siena during the Palio, which is held on three days in July and August. Venice is worth a week. You should definitely visit Murano (Venice) for its glass. The prices there are much better than in Venice proper. Burano (Venice) is known for its lace, but is also a very beautiful town. Every house is painted a different, bright color.

WARNING: GUARNIERI VETRERIA is a large glass manufacturer on Murano (Venice). I was there in August and made a $400 purchase. Because I had purchased too much to carry, I accepted their offer to mail it all home. I have called Italy five times and been told that it was mailed on 25 August, 21 October, and 25 November. My package has not yet arrived and the Italian Consulate confirms that theft often occurs this way. This is the only problem with theft I have ever had in Europe, except for the Italian Post stealing from a package I sent from Florence.

Austria -- Salzburg and Vienna are worth visiting, but also try Heiligenblut, Zell am See, and other small towns in the mountains. The valleys are spectacular, small green gems set among towering mountains and glaciers.

Bradford C. Riendeau

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