Victory lap (Saturday, 2012 August 18)

August 19, 2012

I’m writing this from a plane again, a flight from Venice to New York marking the last leg of my trip back home, a 12-day romp that has seen me in Prague, Geneva (hi Jenny Wang!), Interlaken, Venice, and even a day trip to Florence. It has been a lot of fun, a first-world travel experience with all that goes along with it. It ends unambiguously now on this Delta flight to JFK, where the summer heat and delicate language negotiations have been replaced with clear and unapologetic American English and the corresponding American-intensity air conditioning (none of this European pussy-footing around). Certain challenges are over, or at least in remission, but new ones, like the fact that I’m shivering and can’t seem to stop talking in Volunteer Camfranglais, are just beginning.

I can’t seem to shake the feeling that my experiences and my hard-earned wisdom are worth something, so here are some highlights from my trip.

  • Prague was a lot of fun, not least due to the amazing efforts of Use It, which is apparently a bunch of groups in a bunch of European cities that publish free "travel advice for young travelers". They created a great map/highlights reel that became the tour guide. I feel like I saw all the most fun things in Prague after four days, but there’s still a ton of stuff more in that map that would probably keep me entertained for even longer if I wanted. I don’t know if you’re reading this, but you guys rock. (Anyone want to help me do one for New York?)
  • Czech is hard! But the people in Prague were super sweet.
  • I brought a lot of cash. Based on certain back-of-the-envelope calculations trying to accommodate for prices of meals and museums and so forth, I brought roughly $500 USD turned into CZK, CHF, and EUR, for three-and-a-half or four days in each country. I worried that this wouldn’t be enough for Switzerland or Italy, but in the end I had way more currency than I needed in the Czech Republic (used the rest to pay for my hotel room). Even in the other two countries it turned out I had more money than I needed; I’m such a cheapskate that when I see ordinary, "budget" restaurants that seem unfairly expensive, I just go to supermarkets to eat cheaper. Not to say I was thrifty — train tickets in Switzerland and Italy are expensive, but at least you can buy them with a credit card.
  • The Swiss railway (SBB/CFF/FFS) has a weird pricing scheme where all the prices they quote on their site are for holders of a "half-fare" card, which you can buy (as of this writing) at 110 CHF. You have to do a certain amount of rail travel (i.e. 220 CHF) for this to make sense financially. So you’ll be paying twice all the prices on their site. Thanks guys..
  • Interlaken is very, very beautiful, and their local beer, Rugenbrau, is unbelievable. The Holter Kunn (spelling?) funicular is great and they have an "after work" special — at 4:55, you pay a 15 CHF round trip, with a drink at the top.
  • Geneva is expensive and lame and is apparently unworthy of a Use It. Skip!
  • Venice is kind of like a weird theme park and it’s hard to believe that real people actually live there. Florence has a "garden" but it’s up a really, really steep hill. If you take first class on TrenItalia they will even give you a glass of wine!

A couple of people have mentioned that thank God, they can finally stop following this blog. I wouldn’t be so sure; I still have a few things left to post, not least of which is the final chapters of the fiction.

One Response to “Victory lap (Saturday, 2012 August 18)”

  1. […] it to you straight. Lots of Volunteers use this to travel around a bit before coming home — I went to Europe, and I happen to know Peter, Allison, and I think Jenny Wang went to see the Middle East, and it […]