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Rick Steves' 
Postcards from Europe

Rick Steves' Postcards from Europe

On budget accommodations in Switzerland:

The sign at the barn is trilingual: "Schlaf im Stroh, Aventure sur la Paille, Sleep in Straw." A clever solution to the need for budget lodgings, this barn, one of 200 such barns in Switzerland, artfully shuffles cows and people. In summer cows go to the high Alps, leaving the barn empty as tourists stampede into town looking for cheap beds. The place is hosed down, the straw is changed, and the barn is opened to humans. Tourists lay their rucksacks on the feeding troughs and bed down in cow stalls filled with fresh, sweet-smelling straw.

On mass-market escorted tours:

I learned about expensive sightseeing "options" on those Cosmos tours. My [personal] mission as a group escort was to spare my group the extra expense but not the experience. After reviewing with my group which sightseeing options were worth taking, Monica's sales pitch went over like a bathless double.

As I left the hotel with my hearty splinter group, Monica said, "Really, you will see nothing in town without taking my 'Munich by Night' option."

With a battle cry of "Double the oompah for half the deutsche marks!" I led my group of renegades into the tram and on to the beerhall.

Mathauser's wasn't overrun with tour groups back then. With a little organizing of chairs we went sat directly under the band--three tables closer than where I sit now.

To meet the neighbors, we'd fly a coaster like a Frisbee into a happy gang at the next table. With glasses raised in our direction, they'd roar a lusty welcome. The happy sound of my tourists clicking mugs with new German friends fired my determination to save tourists from the greedy grip of European guides.

Web links:

Interview: Rick Steves on Guided Tours
Rick Steves talks about group travel, guide kickbacks, and the philosophy behind his tour business. Postcards from Europe
You can order Postcards from Europe from Rick Steves's Web site if it isn't available at your local bookseller.

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In this review:
Introduction Excerpts More excerpts, Web links