The German Fairy Tale Road, or Deutsche Märchenstrasse, is full of tiny villages all boasting some claim to the tales of the Brothers Grimm. But the brothers also stopped at larger towns to gather their stories – bustling cities established long before fairy tales made them infamous. Bremen and Hamelin are two such places that exceed the tourist enthusiasm for folklore. Certainly they have a claim to the Grimm fame, but they also have a culture all their own. For travelers, this can be a welcome change – at least in the way of food, shopping, and a little artistic immersion.
There is no other place quite like Europe to get an American fantasizing about travel. Our dreams will always be painted with the rolling hills of Ireland, the colorful Tulips of the Dutch, and the Provencal lavender of France. Why is it that no matter where else one might stray for a vacation, the allure of Europe will never cease to tantalize?
Afterall, you hear talk of the rudeness of the French, questionable European sanitation, poor dental hygiene, manual transmission of their vehicles, tiny (albeit delicious) portions of food…not to mention the language barrier. All that talk, and yet we still long to take a seven-country all-inclusive tour.
Can it perhaps be that its the land of our ancestors? That we feel we’ve “come home” once we step on European soil? That theory could be squashed quickly once you reach the promised land and find that its like Superman returning to Krypton. Our grasp of the only language we know soon fails us. Credit cards, hair dryers and cell phones refuse to cooperate, and our superior American attitude is left dodging the crowds, muttering what we hope is their version of “excuse me.”
Maybe it’s more likely that we are the adoring younger child hoping to spend a little quality time with our too-cool-for-school older sister. You know, the one who smokes like a freight-train, flaunts around in clothes you would never have the nerve to wear, and has a laissez faire attitude about virtually every aspect of life.
Of course, there are other theories to explain our obsession with jumping the pond for “holiday.”
Everything is tiny and adorable, making us want to collect each little image as we snap away with the large cameras strapped around our necks. “Look at the Smart Car!” Snap. “Check out this Hobbit bed!” Snap. “Watch out for the door frame! Why do the Cokes come in such small bottles? Are they going to offer me more ketchup?” Snap. Snap. Snap.
And let’s not forget that Europe is a surprisingly cost-effective destination. Yes, our dollar is weak against the Euro and the Pound, but once over there, getting from Dublin to Rome is almost pocket change. And speaking of pocket change, that’s all you will pay for an enormous, freshly baked baguette. Wine is cheaper than water in most cases, and you’ll pay almost as much for a hamburger as you do Foie Gras.
Above all else, Europe truly is a fantastic way to not only see some amazing landscapes, it’s also one of the most educational trips you can take. For children to be able to travel overseas and experience what they’ve only read about in the pages of their history books is something not be be passed up if the wallet will allow. It opens eyes to other cultures as well, allowing us the chance to look outside of our tiny peep hole of a worldview.
The key is to wrap our heads around another way of life – another outlook apart from our own – and embrace travel to a land that knows all about taking it easy. You will not be able to sit on a sidewalk cafe anywhere else and experience the day-to-day culture as you can in Europe. Because while we Americans slave away throughout the year in order to take a vacation, they will always be sitting on that sidewalk, sipping on their espressos and catching up on the daily news/gossip. And without slaving away behind a computer their entire lives, they manage to retain that joie de vivre that may be the most alluring part of travel to any European destination.