56 things i learned while traveling in europe
by anna piller

better late than never, here is a long-overdue list of things i learned traveling in eastern and western europe 4 years ago. enjoy.

1) never travel with people of the female influence who travel with high heels, hair dryers, or fondue kits.

2) custom officials will always think your vitamins and birth control are narcotics.

3) private youth hostels are invariably superior to HI hostels.

4) the price of a big mac combo is a country's best economic indicator.

5) it really is called a royale with cheese.

6) there is no such thing as a reservation in italy.

7) there is no such thing as reserve in italy.

8) forget what you learned in preschool; DO talk to strangers.

9) upon arriving in a country, find out how to say "excuse me", "thank you", and "i'm sorry" in the local tongue. write them on your hand, and use them profusely.

10) always ask if someone speaks english; never assume.

11) harvard students can't write travel books. let's go manuals should be burned immediately upon arriving home.

12) lonely planet is the unparalleled, omnipotent guru of travel.

13) any guy who uses "picasso's guide to europe" knows the way to my heart.

14) every hour is happy hour in munich.

15) italian soldiers should be caged; do not engage in communication with them under any circumstances, even if they offer you free porn.

16) it's against the law to kick a pigeon in italy. kicking people is okay.

17) traffic lights in naples are decorative.

18) it's easier to fall in love than to find your way in venice.

19) certain masks are better left on.

20) it's easier to outrun a nudist if you don't look back.

21) you've never been truly confused until two latvian strangers have a fistfight about you on a moving bus, and one of them is the driver.

22) never flush a train toilet at a station.

23) a ship in a harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are built for.

24) it may take four trips to budapest to find what you're really looking for.

25) you can't have your mouth and your ears open at the same time.

26) if a gypsy throws a baby at you... don't catch it!

27) you can only ride public transit free for so long.

28) it is against the law to sit in the grass in a french park. why?... because that would ruin the grass and then nobody would be able to sit in it!

29) when you start to feel jaded, japanese tourists are always a reliable source of amusement.

30) never confuse a kiwi with being an aussie, a canadian with being an american, or an italian man with being the head of his household.

31) be on your best behavior in someone else's country. this applies particularly to obnoxious packs of americans who insist on ruining things for the rest of us.

32) humility and subtlety are next to godliness.

33) taking pictures makes you see everything in a funny little box. plus it ruins the moment and clouds the memory, so do it sparingly. if there's a postcard of it down the street, don't take a picture.

34) after 4 days in your backpack, dirty clothing cleans itself.

35) one pair of pants can go a long way. if they can't stand up on their own, they're clean enough to wear.

36) personal hygiene is overrated; eventually you WILL get used to your own smell.

37) you're not safe in london without a fat wallet, crutches, and a gas mask.

38) buses should be either smoking or nonsmoking. half and half doesn't work at all.

39) i don't care what the maps say; italy is still 3 distinct countries.

40) the mafia is the only consistently helpful institution in italy.

41) when receiving a massage naked from a large hungarian babushka, heavy armor would NOT be overly cautious.

42) in the average turkish bath, there are more floating chess boards than swimsuits.

43) it is never sunny in auschwitz.

44) if you're on a bus at 3 a.m. in lithuania and the polish nun next to you starts going into seizures... DON'T FREAK OUT!

45) communication can be a lot clearer without words getting in the way.

46) ladies, be wary of canadian musicians.

47) aussie's are slowly but surely taking over europe through youth hostels.

48) if you go to other people's countries to gawk at them, don't be upset if they gawk at you.

49) remember that home is rarely the way you remember it.

50) traveling should be a series of two-sided exchanges; locals can learn as much from you as you can from them.

51) if by 'blondes' you mean scandinavians, then yes, they do have more fun.

52) it's never too cold for ice cream or skinny-dipping in copenhagen.

53) the swedes have surpassed us in everything except arrogance.

54) nationalism is a dangerous and unbecoming trend. that goes for americans, the french, and flag-flaunting canadians.

55) never travel with packs of american girls who whine, sleep too much, miss their boyfriends, and have their heads jammed directly up their asses.

56) chess is the only universal language; be fluent.

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