Tuesday, April 24, 2012

European Journals

I have traveled for many years, 29 to be exact. All of this involved the U.S., Canada, and just across the border to Mexico. The majority of which included camping in National Parks. For the past 17 or so years I have been planning these trips. Each one getting more detailed, farther away, and in most cases lasting longer and longer.

At this point I had started my career as a teacher and head girls soccer coach. I wasn't making a ton of money, but it was enough to pay the bills and save some money on the side. Since I had summers off and nothing to do, I figured I would continue traveling.

I had already been to most major cities in the U.S., all but a handful of states, and every National Park you can think of, with the exception of a few. Basically I was tired of visiting the same places over and over.

So I devised a plan. My plan was to see what the rest of the world had to offer. I speak German and French pretty well, so I was thinking I would like to go somewhere that I could use those languages. The natural choice was Europe.

I felt Europe was the safest place to go for someone that hadn't been overseas before. It also would give me a chance to use my abilities. But more importantly, since I taught history I felt it would be neat to see all the things I taught about and then would be able to bring back pictures and first hand experience from these cultures.

Most people would choose to go to London, Paris, or Rome. Those places were on my list, but not very high. My initial plan was to backpack across Switzerland, basically walk the alpine trail from one end of the country to the other. I had seen pictures and thought it looked pretty. As I begin to plan more and more though I decided if I'm going to go all that way I might as well see as much as I could.

As I researched more the trip evolved. Hiking was out. It was too cold and the route was covered in snow in June, the time I was planning to go. So I had a month of trip planned, and needed to fill it. Switzerland isn't that big and I could see all the major sites in just a few weeks.

I had about two and a half weeks to fill. I really wanted to go to Italy, mostly Rome and Vatican City. So I added those cities. I then realized that I was so close to Milan, Venice, Pisa, and Pompeii, that it only made sense to add those as well.

As I was planning my Switzerland/Italy route I found out that the train we were going to need to take from Geneva to Rome went very close to France. Again, being so close and wanting to tick another country off my list, I decided we should go into southern France. Luckily Mont Blanc was right there. So Mont Blanc was added. A great choice by the way.

I started thinking about other countries in the area I would possibly want to visit. I heard the Czech Republic, and Prague specifically, was a great travel destination. So I wanted to add it too. One problem, two countries were in the way, Liechtenstein and Austria. So by default I had to add them too. Which was also a great choice.

So after weeks of planning I had my countries picked out. Switzerland, France, Italy, Liechtenstein, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Next step, finding out about transportation and specific activities to do. I had a general idea of cities I wanted to visit, but wasn't sure about what to do, and what less known places were along my route.

My first step was to discover transportation information. I found out that there are great train passes that allow you to hop on and off trains anytime you want in Europe. Some can be for individual countries, or other passes for multiple countries. With a limited number of days of course. Like 10 train rides in 14 days, or something similar.

So I researched train prices and determined that I needed to buy a number of passes to adequately do what I wanted to do. I purchased a train pass for Switzerland, which also included buses and trains in Liechtenstein. It was good for one month. I also bought the Italy pass which was only good for a week. Lastly, I purchased the Austria pass. I could have done this a little differently, but this fit my schedule and itinerary the best. We did have to buy a few individual passes in France, the Czech Republic, and Italy because our passes didn't cover specific trains or routes.

So transportation was completed. Next step, what to do once I got there. These journal entries that follow explain in detail the highlights of my trip in the summer of 2007 across Europe.

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