Back in our planning stages, I loved reading travel blogs to day dream, but the practical side of me was always wondering: how much did it cost? Here’s a brief breakdown of our average daily cost to travel through Europe. This figure does not include supplies or gear; costs at home; misc. fees like ATM fees; or most significantly, major transport (which we define as anything that takes us from one overnight destination to another, whether it be plane, train, bus or rental car). Basically, the average daily cost includes things like accommodation, meals, snacks, alcohol, activities, and minor transport like subways. Any oddities are noted below.
There are a lot of factors that affect costs, and I plan to write in the future about some of them, including tips we’ve learned for saving money. To give you a sense of our travel style, we are not eating ramen noodles and staying in hostel dorms, but we watch our spending. Where you stay has the biggest effect on the budget. In general, when it comes to accommodations, we always have a private double; we try to avoid shared bathrooms, but will share if we’re feeling cheap; we try to find clean, simple budget accommodation, which means a variety of hostels, pensions, apartments, guesthouses, and B&Bs; and we will sometimes spend $10 or $20 more to get a private bathroom, free wifi, better location, or overall nicer place. When it comes to eating, we always eat 3 meals a day and usually dessert or snacks; we usually order a drink or two with dinner, and occasionally have a few drinks at other times; we stay at places with free breakfasts if it makes sense, but tend to self-cater breakfast otherwise; we tend to eat out almost every day for lunch and dinner, but sometimes self-cater if we have a kitchen; we usually spend our most money at dinner, as it is typically our nightly entertainment; and overall, we tend to eat what we want and not skimp on food.
Hope that helps to put the European portion of our trip in context. Europe is definitely not as cheap as developing countries, but as you can see, it does not need to be outrageous. If you have any questions about our European costs, leave a comment or send me an email.
When we were in Munich visiting Abbie, we visited Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial, which was the site of the first concentration camp in Germany.
We also went to Auschwitz while we were in Krakow. Auschwitz was designated by the Nazis as the place where the “final solution of the Jewish question in Europe” would take place. As if there were any questions to answer other than how people could act so cruel, depraved, and sadistic towards their fellow human beings.
I don’t have much to say about our experiences at Dachau and Auschwitz, other than I think it is important for everyone to visit a Holocaust memorial somewhere at some point in their life. To pay respect to those who suffered and died. To learn more, to ensure that history never repeats itself in this way. The experience at the memorials is sobering. Particularly at Auschwitz, where each pair of shoes, laying in piles and piles, in all shapes and sizes – including children’s shoes – really makes it hit home, the shear enormity of the number of individuals who died there at the hands of others.
We also visited the recently opened Schindler Museum at the site of Oskar Schindler’s former factory in the Podgroze neighborhood of Krakow. It is designed to demonstrate what life was like for Poles and Jews during the time of Nazi occupation of Krakow. Having visited Auschwitz the day before, the musuem’s exhibits were all the more poignant.
Hall of Choices, showing people’s ethical dilemmas:
Quote about the lives Oskar Schindler saved:
Even though I had only seen her once since we graduated from college, my friend Abbie generously hosted us at her apartment for a weekend in Munich. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I knew that Abbie moved to Munich a year ago to work as a scientist. (Isn’t it fun to say that someone is a scientist? And she really is). I thought it would be fun to see her and to take a little foray into Germany en route from the Czech Republic to Slovenia. The whole weekend was a whirlwind, starting with us blowing into Munich Friday afternoon and ending with us blowing out of Munich Monday morning, complete with a mad dash to jump on the train only seconds before it started moving.
In between those times, we had a lot of fun hanging out with Abbie and hearing about her new German lifestyle. She passed on some of the insights about Germany that can only be gained from living there instead of just passing through. It was nice to have our own personal tour guide. She made sure that we got a proper tour of Munich, which included visiting a beer garden, walking through Englischer Gardens, seeing Munich’s may pole (a giant pole neighboring towns used to steal from each other), and rubbing the well worn noses of three lions outside a palace for good luck. On Saturday, we hit the autobahn in Abbie’s car to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site (more on that later) and a monastery with tasty beers brewed by monks. (We learned, by the way, that there is no such thing as The Autobahn, just many autobahns).
As we walked around Friday evening, it seemed the whole city was abuzz. The late day sun was still shining, and apparently it had been the first really nice day in ages.
Hailing from Pittsburgh, of course I love rivers. One of my favorite things about Munich was the river was so accessible to everyone. It ran right through Englishcher Gardens (what we would call a park) and was almost like a big stream. Although Germans apparently have a lot of rules, we learned that they don’t always follow them, as demonstrated by the groups of teenagers frolicking in the water close to a sign forbidding swimming in the river. (Including one group of three boys signing Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver, despite being a long, long way from West Virginia).
In the grassy areas next to the river banks, kids were taking advantage of Germany’s lax alcohol laws to throw a riverside party.
Further on down the river, we watched the river surfers navigate the rushing waters on their surfboards.
Bikes are prevalent everywhere in Europe, but it seemed everyone had a bike in Munich. People sailed past us on their bicycles, dinging their bells so we would get out of their way. No matter how many times I accidentally walk in the bike path, much to the chagrin of bikers worldwide, I always have a delayed reaction to the dinging bells.
We had visited a beer garden in Prague, but it felt more like we were crashing someone’s backyard cookout than a public gathering place. Munich’s beer gardens are notorious places, always situated under big chestnut trees, with big crowds drinking giant 1 liter beers. We ate pretzels, currywurst, and a cheese dip at what Abbie said was a proper beer garden: one with long benches and shared tables, covered with chestnut trees, where you could bring your own food if you choose to do so.
And of course we drank giant beers (we are both German, after all), and learned the proper way to cheers someone.
Besides the good weather, we suspected that everyone’s good moods had something to do with it being the opening weekend of the World Cup. The soccer fever was everywhere.
Most of the cars and houses proudly displayed German flags. We watched the United States tie England at a cookout at Abbie’s apartment with her group of friends, a fun crowd hailing everywhere from Germany to Portugal to New Zealand. Their excitement over the World Cup was contagious. There was a mixed group in terms of who was rooting for and against the United States, mostly due to whether a US win would benefit their fantasy soccer teams or not.
Being avid American football fans, it wasn’t hard for us to get into the World Cup, so we tried to learn as much as we could from Abbie and her friends to prepare us for the next month. Like most Americans, we know very little about professional soccer. I think Abbie’s friend Katrin is right: without commercial breaks, soccer will never make it big in the United States. I will say, although the commercial breaks during football games at home border on the absurd at times, it is nice to have one now and again for a bathroom break, particularly when drinking giant beers. (Seriously, it is easy to get quite tipsy when you are drinking beers by the half liter, as many of the German beers come. I find it amusing that when Germans feel they have had too much to drink, they don’t stop drinking or start drinking less. Instead, they just water down their beers with lemonade – a tasty drink known as a Radler). The next night, we watched Germany beat Australia 4-0. Even to our novice eyes, we could tell that the German players had much fancier footwork than the American players.
And of course I would be remiss to mention three other favorite aspects of the weekend: Abbie’s homemade chocolate chip cookies, Floyd, and Mr. Monk.
Thanks, Abbie, for giving us a window into life in Munich and for sharing your stash of imported chocolate chips and your kitties.