“The world is a book, and those who don’t travel read only one page.”
I’m not sure who coined these words, but I believe them.
“I don’t know if I can handle this trip alone at my age without my daughter or someone to accompany me.”
These words definitely came from me in the run-up to a recent European adventure.
Last month I started at McGhee-Tyson for a trek that included a few days alone in Switzerland followed by a week-long Rhine cruise to Amsterdam. There I was joined by my daughter Alice, my frequent and incomparable guide.
My mantra: Just get me on the ship and I’ll be fine.
I landed early Wednesday morning in Zurich, Switzerland, braced for testing and confusion. There was neither one nor the other. In 25 minutes I was already on the train to Interlaken. I even had a bag, unlike my trip to Paris in 2019 when my bag was delivered to Jacksonville.
Saturday afternoon I boarded a ship in Basel, Switzerland. One more copy.
We will skip the day route. Let’s just say that in 17 days I read several interesting pages in the book of the world.
This was my fourth trip to Europe, the first on my own. And my first cruise of any kind. Ship? Imagine a floating four-deck line, thin and long, too long to fit in the Neyland stadium.
The capacity was 166 passengers and we only had 60. COVID is still holding back the river cruise industry. However, good for us. It made our trip more comfortable. We were mostly Americans, with a few British and Scottish.
Not everything was floating. I have traveled by plane, train, bike (three countries), car (Uber), one mountainside cable car in Switzerland, and even a cable car gondola in Koblenz, Germany.
I gave up on skydiving, a popular activity in Interlaken.
The food was wonderful, four course dinners on the ship. My daughter booked exceptional places for dinner in Amsterdam. However, the culinary highlight was the simple sausages and cabbage with mustard, a brewery lunch in Germany.
We visited wineries in Germany (good white wines) and France (good white and red wines). The beer was impressive everywhere except for a $14 American pint at O’Hare airport on the way home.
The biggest danger was bicycles in Amsterdam. There are tens of thousands of them. Keep your head on the ball. Biggest surprise: Hooter’s in Interlaken (pop. 5,500).
Travel Tip: A Visa card is suitable for just about everything. But a couple of times I needed change in euros to pay to pee.
This trip was a refreshing reminder that, for better or worse, the American way is not the only one. I wish we had European trains and public transport – and bike lanes. Outdoor cafe options have improved here in the States, but it’s a staple of relaxing life there.
When it comes to relaxation, do as the locals do. Alice and I often chuckled and described situations as “not at all urgent”.
I visited two cities – Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Cologne in Germany – which were destroyed by bombs during World War II. Both…