© Stuart Pearl 2013 - Click on Image to Enlarge for Slideshow
If you've been to Europe or planned to backpack in those countries then you've heard of Rick Steves. His travel segments are regularly broadcast on PBS and available on DVD. For several decades he's written a very successful series of guidebooks under the heading of Europe Through the Back Door.
Flying into Cleveland around 3 PM from Boston, Rick entertained more than 1000 people last Wednesday night at the Ohio Theater. He was in the midst of a tour visiting twelve cities in twelve days.
Speaking for nearly two hours, Rick provided tips on how to see Europe economically, with the least hassle, and in a way to avoid the typical "canned" tours. His suggestions offer a different path with fewer crowds, and a more intimate feel to your trip.
I've watched a number of his taped travel segments on my local PBS Station WVIZ. One difference I noticed about Rick's live performance compared to the produced shows is his warm sense of humor. He blends story telling humor with a high energy delivery that shows his love for the topic.
"All those happy friendly tour guides that seem glad to be with me...I PAY them to be my friends for those shows."
He spends four months out of the year in Europe and is thoroughly comfortable every time he visits. Each taped 30 minute segment we see on PBS or DVD requires six days of filming.
Rick prefers to book one-way flights to his destination cities as opposed to getting round trip tickets. It's much more interesting to take a bus or train to the next city and then fly out from that location.
It's all about travelling light and being unencumbered. Rick's travel bag measures 9" x 22" x 14" which makes it perfect for a carry on, and he limits it to a maximum of 20 pounds. A well made flat money belt is also essential for peace and security. It can be worn under your clothes out of easy reach while you keep just the money you'll need for that day in a pants pocket.
"At least a couple of times a year I'll feel a small hand gently insert itself into one of my pockets. This adds to the uniqueness of the cultural experience for that particular. It's not that pickpockets target Americans. We have all the cool stuff though: money, fancy cameras and watches, expensive phones...and if we look like helpless tourists hampered by heavy luggage, then we are targetted as the next victim."
Rick speaking in the Smith Studio at Ideastream after the show.
In his early years of European travel Rick visited many of the great museums and viewed their masterpieces. He enjoyed it. However it was only after he began taking some art appreciation courses that the great works took on a far greater meaning for him.
"Art is like a time tunnel. It takes you back.....you learn much from it, understand who paid for it, and what their motivation was. It is then that you have a much better understanding of the people of that country and their place in time."