Here's a short list of what I
consider to be the best and worst of Europe that I've seen and experienced so far...
Best City: Rome. My all-around favorite city in Europe.
Other nominations people have emailed me: Paris
Worst City: Koln (Cologne). There's really nothing
wrong with it, I just didn't find a whole lot to see or do there besides the big
Cathedral. Another city that warrants a mention is Bruges, Belgium. It came highly
recommended, but I was thoroughly unimpressed. Other
nominations people have emailed me: Rotterdam, Brussels
Best Country: Italy. The people. The passion. The history. The arts. The food.
The wine. The
coffee. The scenery. The beaches. The mountains. The weather. The traditions. The
language. I could go on and on...Italy truly has it all.
Worst Country: N/A. Haven't found one yet that I don't
Best tourist Attraction: The Vatican Museum. You could
spend all day walking through the hallowed halls on your way to the Sistine Chapel and
still not take it all in. Other nominations
people have emailed me: National Park Walk in Cinque Terra
Worst Tourist Attraction: The gondola rides in Venice. If
you go to Venice, you HAVE to do it, but it's so outrageously overpriced and short-lived
that it's not really worth it. You'll do much better buying a ticket to the vaporetti,
which is kind of like a water subway or taxi. You can ride it around the whole island
(including the Grand Canal) for less than 10 euros - you see alot more.
Best Coffee: Anywhere in Italy.
Any Military base in Europe.
Best Food: Rome. No matter how much or little I spent, the food is fantastic.
No such thing. If you can't like the quality and variety of food in
Europe, then you don't need to be here. Go to McDonalds. Other
nominations people have emailed me: Portugal
The seafood in Italy is so good and plentiful that it's impossible
to pick just one place. But the best seafood is on the left coast.
Best Wine: Recently,
a friend named Will Nason bought me a bottle of recioto, which is a red wine
produced in the valpolicella region near Verona. In fact, here is a brief
description of it, as told by Will: "From
the Italian 'orecchio',
through the Veneto dialect of 'recio' for ear. The grapes generally picked
for making Recioto are sticking out above the top wires in the vineyards and
appear to be ears!". However, a personal favorite of mine,
which is widely recognized as one the best wines in the world is a
Montalcino, from the Toscana (Tuscany) region. But it can be expensive. For
normal consumption, I'm a big cabernet fan. And if you can find the right Chianti, it's Heaven on Earth. However, as one
Italian friend of mine put it, "If it feels good to you when you put it in your mouth,
then it is a good wine...".
Best Castle: Neuschwanstein, Germany. Otherwise known as "The
Sleeping Beauty Castle", it's the one that Walt Disney used as a model for his magical castles.
The inside is just ok, but seen from the outside, it's spectacular. Other
nominations people have emailed me: Burg Eltz (Germany)
Best Bridge: Altmainbrucke, Wurzburg, Germany. There are alot more famous bridges, but
this bridge tops them all. It's lined with statues of old German saints, and as you walk
across, there's a spectacular view of the impressive Marienburg Fortress/Castle looming
large over the city.
Best Airport: Frankfurt. OK, I've only been to
7 or 8 of them, but I always have such an
easy time getting in and out of Frankfurt. It's clean, spacious, and easy to find your way
around. The new remodeled airport in Venice is also pretty nice and easy to negotiate,
although it's nowhere as big or busy as Frankfurt. However, if you're going to have a
layover, the best place might be one of the many London area airports. I've been through 3
of them (Heathrow, Gatwick & Stansted), and had no problem passing the time on the
many pubs contained therein. Other
nominations people have emailed me: Schipol Airport (Amsterdam).
Worst Airport: This is an easy one: Charles De Gaulle in Paris. It's big, confusing, and
they seem to have a knack for losing your luggage. I've always tried to avoid them due to
a conversation I had with a contractor that came down to Italy from Scotland to do some
work for us. He flew Air France, connecting at GDG in Paris, and they lost his luggage.
Not only that, he told me that he's flown through there on at least 3 occasions and they'd
lost his luggage every single time. Unfortunately for him, his company books the
flight and he has no say in the matter. He now puts most of his stuff in his carry-on.
Because of this, I always tried to avoid Paris connections. Last year I had no choice but
to go through Paris or pay twice as much for my ticket. You can guess what happened...
Best Irish Pub: Waxy O'Connor's, London. It has 6 floors, and on New Year's 1999, the
Guinness was flowing like water...Locally, my favorite is the Devil's Forest
Pub in Venice. Other good ones: Fiddler's Elbow (Venice, Florence), The
Shamrock (Salzburg), and the Trinity College Pub (Rome). The two best
English Pubs are the John Bull Pub (Rome) and the Fox and the Hound
Most Overrated City:
Bruges, Belgium. I seem to be the only person who
wasn't blown away by it, but I was thoroughly unimpressed. I've even heard
people say that the canals are more intimate and scenic than Venice, which
makes me laugh uncontrollably. If you liked it, more power to ya, but
personally I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
Most Underrated Cities: Luxembourg City (Luxembourg),
Nurnberg (Germany), Brussels (Belgium). Luxembourg City is a hidden gem as
people who have explored it will attest to. Nurnberg is not though of as a
tourist city, but it's got quite a bit of history, and the Altstadt ( old
town, historic center) is small and easily explored on foot. I enjoyed
Brussels immensely, but have seldom met anyone who agrees with me. The Grand
Place is phenomenal, it just blew me away. And the nightlife is as diverse
as you would expect from the city that serves as the home of the EU.
Most Expensive place:
The French Riviera, by far. Switzerland can hold its own in this
Best Nightlife: Berlin. There are places in Berlin that open on Thursday and don't close
until Monday. Rome has some amazing nightlife as well, but it's a little spread out and
hard to enjoy without having to take a cab everywhere (expensive!). Frankfurt has some
good places, but it's a little trashy and there's too many Americans there. If you don't
mind Americans, then you might enjoy Florence. There are more American foreign exchange
students there than any other city, but that makes for a good "college party"
atmosphere. London is obviously a candidate here as well.
Best Scenic City: Naples, Italy.
This is a tough call - Innsbruck, Austria and Zurich, Switzerland come close, but
the view of the sea and Mt Vesuvius overlooking the city make Naples my favorite.
It's exactly what I pictured Italy to look like in my mind before I ever set
foot here. But be warned! The actual city of Naples is extremely
"Ritziest" City: Monte Carlo, Monaco. You have to see it to believe it. You stand in front
of the Hotel de Paris, look left and see the incredibly ornate Casino with all the Rolls
Royce's and Bentleys. You look right and see the rich and famous people going in and out of
Craziest City: Amsterdam. Is there any doubt? I was there for the
and had a junkie light up his crack pipe under my feet while I was trying to sleep in the
train station. Good times!
Most Unique City: Venice. It truly is a marvel. It's unlike any other city I've seen in
Europe, or even the world. The superlatives heaped on it over the centuries
don't do it
justice, it has to be seen and experienced to be believed. Venice has become so expensive
that sometimes it's hard to enjoy it, but we're fortunate to be so close that we can go
there on daytrips.
Biggest Surprise: The people in Paris were friendly. Much has been made over the
years about how rude the French are, especially in Paris. However, I found the people in
Paris to be extremely friendly and helpful. It was my observation that the only time the
French were rude was when they were reacting to obnoxious tourists.
Best Beer Country: Belgium. Surprised? Germany is the popular choice, but I prefer Belgium
for the variety as well as the taste of the local beers. Germany is still a very close
Best Beer (other than Guinness):
Hoegaarden, Belgium. I'll add a note here; Steve Lentz and I met a
German guy in Luxembourg City who was studying to be a "MeisterBrau" (Master
Brewer) outside of Munich. When we asked him to recommend one of the best German beers, he
recommended a beer called Schneider Weiss, a Bavarian brew. I've not tried it, but can you
argue with a recommendation like that? (To see a picture of us with "the Beer
Man" in Luxembourg, click here, and check out the
4th picture down...). Two other favorites are Allsop's Cream Stout and
Kilkenny Cream Ale, but they're hard to find on the continent. You can get
an Allsop's on tap at the John Bull Pub in Rome, and most of the pubs in
Venice now serve Kilkenny cream ale.
Worst Beer: (Tie) Bitburg, Warsteiner, Beck's (all from Germany). My friend Steve and
I refer to them as "the German Budweisers" - mass-produced swill at it's worst.
Of course, Beck's is very popular in the US, which just goes to show you that all you need
to do is but a German label on it, and Americans will drink it, ha ha...Steve
and I asked the aforementioned "Beer Man" what he thought the
worst German beers were. His reply - you guessed it - Bitburg and Warsteiner.
Worst Country to drive in:
Austria. Speed traps abound. I got caught doing 140K in a 100K zone,
with no autobahn sticker and forgot my license in Italy - the total fine was $500.00.
That's FIVE-HUNDRED dollars. The policeman actually knocked $200 off because it happened
to be my birthday (best birthday present I ever got!). I had to pay it on the spot - they
actually had a credit card machine in the van!!!
I need your help! If you've ever been
to Europe and have any feedback, please - send me some of your picks for any of the above
categories, or to suggest different more categories, please
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