I recently completed a 4.5-week trip around Europe. Visited 8 countries, 1 island, 9 major cities and 7 towns.
The observations below only cover my experience in the following countries: Germany, Netherlands, Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Austria, Denmark.
The intercity train in the Netherlands empties out the toilet waste on the tracks.
It might be hard to see, but can you see the rail track below? I could not believe that!!! If you know why, please let me know.
It can be such a PAIN to find a free toilet.
Toilets can cost €0.50 ($0.54) to €1 ($1.07). On a bus ride from Vienna to Frankfurt, the bus stopped for 30 minutes and I spent 20 minutes looking for a free toilet because I did not want to use the toilet on the bus. Guess where I found one? Not at the mall or a drugstore, but at a hotel. Even portable toilets charge a fee!
At Tilla Durieux Park in Berlin, Germany
Toilets are labeled as “WC.” It stands for water closet.
In major cities, you will find many locals that speak English fluently or just a little.
Initially I was afraid that I will be required to speak the native language wherever I went.
Some restaurants offer an English menu and some do not.
I found Croatians to be the most friendly, followed by the Dutch.
In general, most people were pleasant and respectful towards me.
Germans were the least friendly.
But I did meet a number of kind Germans.
It is very easy to get around from any major city to another by bus or train.
E.g. Ljubljana to Vienna.
Some countries seem to not require a passport check.
For instance, entering Germany from any European country required no passport check by bus, train or plane. I flew into Berlin from Copenhagen, no check. I took a bus from Vienna to Frankfurt, no check at the border. When I took a train from Amsterdam to Berlin, there was no check at the last station (Rheine) in the Netherlands before entering Germany.
Not all countries in the EU use the Euro currency. Denmark, Hungary and Croatia use their own currency.
Below is the Danish Kroner, Hungarian Forint and Croatian Kuna respectively.
Photo Credit: Onlineforex.netPhoto Credit: Budapest by Locals
There are too many Euro coins!
Imagine carrying 8 different coin denominations and you are in the check-out line trying to buy groceries. Um, yea. The US has 6 coins but 4 are widely used in all states.
Photo Credit: Alpventures
99% of my expenses in the Netherlands was paid in cash because they do not accept foreign debit or credit cards.
Only Maestro or a Netherlands-based credit card is accepted. In all other countries, I was able to use my credit card 90% of the time.
The traditional dishes of Austria, Slovenia and Slovakia are very similar.
Berlin, Vienna and Amsterdam were the most racially diverse cities.
I don’t think I looked like a tourist in most places.
I say that because whenever I was not the first one to speak up (e.g. buying groceries at the check-out line), I was spoken to in the local language almost every time.
There are a lot of discounts for students.
Discounts for museums, attractions, train travel, etc.
It is VERY easy to get on the train or tram without any checks in all these countries.
But be warned, you will be fined if caught without a ticket.
If you ask for water at any restaurant or cafe, you will be asked “sparkling or still?”
If you want free water, you need to request for tap water otherwise you might get “still” water, which is bottled water. For the life of me, I just don’t understand why sparkling water is very common.
Photo Credit: Classic Mineral Water Company
Being that I am Black and black hair is unique, I got a lot of stares everywhere I went.
(If you’re not black, you might not fully understand.) In cities and small towns with little to no diversity, like Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary, stares came from all ages. Both male and female. I had a few staring contests, particularly with kids. Caught a young girl on a bus filming me on her phone while I was waiting to cross a four-way intersection. I and two other Black ladies were called “chocolat” by a Hungarian male while quietly walking down a street in Budapest.
On top of the tower in Zadar, Croatia
Using a laundry dryer to dry your fabrics is not common.
Europeans use a washer and air dry their clothes.
I found Amsterdam to be different compared to other cities for a couple reasons. One is how in the world do pedestrians, bicyclists, mopedists, tram drivers and car drivers all share the road and stay safe???
I have never seen a city like that. Maybe it’s just me, but it looks chaotic! I’ll tell you this, you will NOT see me driving around there.
The intersection of Damrak & Prins Hendrikkade near Amsterdam Centraal Station
Visited the Parliament in Den Haag (The Netherlands) for a debate and discovered they have 17 political parties.
Their type of government is a parliamentary democracy. Although America’s government system is very different, I like that the Dutch have much more parties to represent a variety of people and issues.
Photo Credit: Pensioen Pro
Grocery stores charge you for plastic bags.
Europe does not have an obesity epidemic compared to the States.
I barely saw an obese individual. There is more physical activity (you can survive without a car) and better quality food in Europe. At the same time, I saw the same amount of processed, fast food available everywhere.
People love to bring their dogs on the trams and metro trains.
Either the wines in the US are terrible or I have been to all the wrong places.
I kid you not. Europe made me a lover of alcohol. Lol!! The white wine I drank in Hungary and Germany was phenomenal! The peach brandy, Eiswine and chocolate brandy samples I had at Sankt Goar (St. Goar) were fantastic! It was SO good that if I had space on my carry-on backpack, I would have EASILY packed 3 to 5 bottles with me!
Disclaimer: I have never enjoyed alcoholic beverages unless it’s sweet. Because of this, I don’t really care for alcohol and rarely drink.
I still have more to share about Europe, so stay tuned!
Have you been to any of the listed countries in Europe?
I would love to hear what you found interesting. Comment below!