Comparison Test: Western Europe

Germany

Must visit:
Munich camping shops (if you like that sort of thing)
Nuremburg (if you study history)
Weimar (if you like Bauhaus)
Potsdam (allow 2 days)
DDR Museum
Deutsches Historiches Museum

Transport:
Very easy to go by train.  You can buy tickets to any destination from any DB ticket machine.  Buy them 3 days ahead for saver fares – up to 70% off.
There are no inter-city buses.

English spoken:
99%

Did anyone try to pick my pocket?
No

Can I drink the water?
Yes!

Touts/scams/annoyances:
The whole country shuts on Sunday, and most of it closes on Saturday

Pro:
Cheaper than Italy
Amazing baking
People are nice

Con:
Still quite expensive, especially in the west
Too much to see!

Driving:
Ride a bicycle!  Everyone does and most footpaths have cycleways on them

Fitness:
Everyone runs or rides a bike.  I didn’t see any fitness trails

Costs:
Sandwiches €2-3
Meal at a cafe €6+
Hostel €10-20
Campsite €7-13
Laundry €3.50 for a self-service wash

Comment:
They have the best range of flavoured milk in the world, and it’s cheap
Check before you go to Munich that it isn’t Oktoberfest – contrary to the name it’s actually at the end of September

Rating: 500/10

Belgium

Must visit:
Brussels city centre
WW1 battle sites

Transport:
The train is expensive and the ticket machines only take Belgian rail cards or Proton.  The ticket booths always have queues

English spoken:
75%

Did anyone try to pick my pocket?
No

Can I drink the water?
Yes

Touts/scams/annoyances:
Everything closes on Sunday

Pro:
Chocolate everywhere!

Con:
Expensive to get around

Driving:
Rent a car

Fitness:
Easy – lots of parks and running trails

Costs:
Sandwiches €3
Meal at a cafe €7+
Hostel €16-20
Laundry €3.50

Comment:
Learn French.  Even in the Dutch parts it will help you.  Although Brussels is supposed to be bilingual everyone speaks French, and doesn’t like speaking English.

Rating: The land of chocolate and harrowing wartime memories/10

France

Must visit:
Normandy
Caen Memorial Museum
Arras tunnels (for NZers)

Transport:
The trains are always on strike and are expensive.  The machines are only in French.

English spoken:
75% (grudgingly)

Did anyone try to pick my pocket?
No

Can I drink the water?
Yes

Touts/scams/annoyances:
Middle Eastern immigrants outside the museums in paris trying to sell plastic crap.  Why, when I go to the Louvre, would I want a gel tomato?

Pro:
Normandy is beautiful.
Food is good, if you want to pay

Con:
Expensive!!

Driving:
Toot the horn

Fitness:
Everyone runs.  There are a lot of nice trails, even in Paris

Costs:
Sandwiches €3
Bistro meal €7+
Hostel €25
Laundry €3.50

Comment:
They really do like you to speak French

Rating: Go to the countryside/10

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