My wife and I had never been to Europe before. Happily, we can no longer say that. We most certainly want to return to spend more time in places where we only touched the surface.
Given the state of the world, however, we are not sure when that will be. We do realize that time is running out. That’s my first reflection on our trip.
- We should have gone 20 years ago when we were younger, more agile, and had much more energy. But hindsight is so much easier than foresight. I will spend my days thankful for this trip, even if it is the only one we ever make to Europe. I pray that it won’t be.
- Europe is far ahead of the U.S. in being “green.” I mean green in every sense of the word. The wide use of solar and wind energy was apparent in cities and countrysides alike. In addition, the importance of preserving farmlands and forests truly impressed me. Cities, towns, and rural villages all seemed well-planned, allowing fertile soils to be used for crops. The farms we saw were pristine. Another green aspect was the extensive use of public transit, especially trains and hiking and biking paths that stretched far into the countryside and mountains. We found flower and vegetable gardens everywhere we went.
- We were impressed how clean everything was. Litter was almost non-existent, except for cigarette butts.
- We were rather surprised how casual Austria, Germany, and Switzerland were about Covid-19. Before we left, we had been advised that Europe was very strict and that we would need to show our Covid-19 vaccination cards to enter public places with large gatherings. That never happened. Most servers in restaurants didn’t wear masks. We all tested negative before boarding our return flight. However, 10 of our group of 39 tested positive for Covid-19 soon after arriving back in the states. Several took days to finally test negative. Consequently, my wife and I will likely not travel abroad until Covid-19 dies down further.
- I was greatly impressed with the infrastructure in Europe. The highways were smooth, well-maintained, well-marked, and easy to navigate. The number of tunnels also caught my attention. They, too, were well-kept and free of fumes. I suspected that tunnels also kept the integrity of the scenic landscape, instead of cutting huge gouges in hillsides and mountainsides, like is too often done in the U.S.
- We were surprised to see so little snow on the Alps. We were there in the middle of May. In checking with locals, I understood that snowfall was well below normal last winter.
- As humbling and haunting as it was, we were glad for the opportunity to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp. To say that time was a black mark on the human race is an understatement. We hope and pray it never happens again.
- People were friendly and patient with us everywhere we went, not counting the Frankfurt Airport. I have always liked visiting new places, and meeting new friends. It was especially nice for a follower of this blog and her husband to graciously show us around the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mathildenhohe in Darmstadt, Germany. It was a great way to finish up our whirlwind trip.
- Speaking of people, the 39 members of our tour group came from eight different states and one Canadian province. It’s fair to say that most didn’t know one another very well or at all before the trip. But the camaraderie and cooperation were exceptional throughout the trip, especially for the size of the group.
- Our bus driver Ivo, and our on-bus guide Sandra were excellent. The group applauded several times when Ivo made it around some very tight corners. Sandra was most helpful in making sure our mostly senior groups had the necessary rest stops. She was 78 herself. Lastly, our tour organizer Ed kept his calm even in the most chaotic situations. His faithful leadership was most appreciated.
My wife and I loved our first taste of Europe. We are also glad to be home safe and sound. I’ll fill you in on future blog posts about what we have been doing post-trip.
Thanks for reading and following along on our European Adventure.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2022