Student Travel in Europe

Whether you are in high school or finding your independence in college, nothing changes your outlook on life or helps you find your identity more than traveling. When you are young the world awaits you. It will take you outside your comfort zone and transform who will become. Those that have traveled the world or even lived outside their own country and experience a different language and culture often never regret one minute of it. You will spend the majority of your adult life working or taking care of your family so there is no better time to explore the world than when you are young. Few places are as easy to travel around for a student as Europe. Rich cultures filled with history are short distances from each other and mass transportation between countries has never been easier.

In most cases you can travel from one country to the next, crossing borders and hardly noticing it until you get off the train and find suddenly things look just a little different. In the not so distance past a traveler of Europe would have been required to obtain several different visas pertaining to each country they planned to visit, not to mention having to change currency every time you crossed a border as well. However, with the nearly universal currency throughout Europe now being the Euro and most nations within the E.U. now allowing unrestricted travel across borders, traveling all over Europe is a cinch. As one looks back on one’s life, unrealized dreams are at the top of people’s regrets, so if you dream of backpacking across Europe, there is no better time than now. Here are some tips as well as the ultimate places to explore while you backpack across Europe.

What to bring:

People often refer to “backpacking” as a means of traveling around an area but what does that mean, after all most people have wheeled suitcases right? If you are planning on exploring more than once city, which lets face it, if you are exploring Europe you’re going to want to see more than once city, wheeling a suitcase could prove to be a mistake. Europe’s oldest cities are truly ancient and they are really the best cities to explore anyway, and they were not built for cars and buses but for pedestrians. There are stone stairs, narrow streets and crowded public transportation. Lugging a wheeled suitcase up the Spanish Steps in Rome will be more than a backache. Good backpacks designed for hiking should fit comfortably and allow for much more freedom of movement. You can easily hop on and off a crowded metro or bus at rush hour, traverse any kind of terrain your feet can journey across, and skip the crowds trying to shove their luggage on trains. Even a driver is much more likely to give you a lift if you just have a simple backpack with you.

Now packing for a long trek could prove to be a head scratcher. You’ll want to pack light enough that you aren’t weighed down but loads of clothes but also have enough to last you. If you do plan on being there for longer than a week, seriously recommended, consider finding laundry facilities whenever you stop. Many hostels offer laundry, though you may have to pay a small fee but it would be worth every penny. If your accommodations don’t have a laundry room, consider switching to one that does or ask the clerks where you can find a Laundromat. This will keep your bag light and your smell a little friendlier.

Other items to bring are comfortable shoes for hiking around and maybe one extra if you plan on enjoying some restaurants or nightlife. Bring travel size toiletries for places that don’t provide any and keep in mind that Europe does have drug stores similar to the U.S where you can find most items you may need. Band-Aids are essential as walking might create blisters, Swiss army knife, q-tips, calling cards, numbers to U.S Embassies in the cities you plan on visiting, sunscreen, chap stick, medicines, phone chargers are also a must. Don’t bother with travel guides, most hostels will provide them for you and they just take up space. Leave room for souvenirs you might pick up along the way as well. Wait until you arrive in Europe to buy a converter for your phone charger or things like hair dryers since most of the ones you’ll buy in the U.S don’t typically work in Europe anyway.

Where to Go:

It all depends on how long you plan on traveling. If you are limited to a week to 10 days, you’ll want to hit the high notes. Dublin or Edinburgh, London, and Rome, and/or Paris will be about all you can squeeze in and they are really the best ones to see in a short amount of time. In these major cities you can find a wealth of nice, clean hostels that cater to youths and students. The staff is typically younger as well so they can suggest the best night life clubs and bars to enjoy as well.

If you have more time, perhaps two weeks to a month, you have much more time to enjoy and explore. No matter how long you intend to stay, travel by train to the major cities but with more time, you can make more stops in between. Try adding Amsterdam, Brussels, Madrid, Berlin, Barcelona or Prague to your list. With more time, perhaps a few months, you can stop at ancient medieval villages, take time to relax on warm beaches or include some outdoor adventure. Talk to locals even if you don’t speak the language. The smaller the village the less likely they are to speak English but the friendly they will most likely be.

Experience the Flavours of Europe on Train Holidays

In Europe, train holidays are back in fashion – in fact they may never have gone out of fashion. But don’t imagine you will be chugging around the countryside in a rickety old train, rubbing shoulders with backpackers and commuters. Today in Europe, train holidays mean travelling in style, relaxing in luxury accommodations as you explore East and Central Europe. Apart from the experience of the mode of transport itself, one of the most surprising and enjoyable things about this kind of upmarket train travel is the cuisine – both on board and in cities you will visit. And as you journey through Europe, train holidays will reflect the heritage and culture of each fascinating destination in the cuisine.

Unique flavours to savour

Eastern Europe features a unique flavour profile that encompasses both Hungarian and Romanian cuisine – this smorgasbord focuses on delicious smoked meat and sausage, flavourful vegetables, seasonal fruits that vary greatly during the year, and a vast array of cheeses. Keep an eye out for palacsinta, a thin stuffed pancake that can be savoury, hot or sweet, depending on the region you find yourself in. Hungarian cuisine is also famous for its piping hot stews and soups, perfect for the climate.

Regional delicacies

Naturally, the food will vary depending on the region. In Europe, train holidays can take you through three or four countries in a single journey so are perfect for exploring the flavour profile of each. The traditional food is often still prepared and served in the same way as it has been for hundreds of years.

Cheese and meat, for example, have remained unchanged over several centuries: heavily spiced and mixed into everything from stews to soups. Expect a heavy hand with paprika, cloves and other Middle Eastern, specifically Turkish, spices. A strong trade route between the empires has made its mark on Eastern European cuisine, so you are in for a true flavour adventure. Keep an open mind and taste everything!

While the cuisine is heavily meat based, vegetarians need not fear as there is plenty to enjoy – stuffed vegetables [do check the filling], rich vegetable stews, soups, and myriad versions of the humble mushroom are plentiful. Be sure to try sarmale, traditional cabbage rolls made with grape leaves. The local tips is that they are even better the next day, served cold for breakfast.

Local wines and something for the sweet tooth

The eastern and central areas of Europe have a rich wine tradition that can be traced back to ancient times. Romania, in particular, has a surprisingly diverse array of good wines well worth sampling.

To cap off your meal, the cuisine of Eastern Europe caters to the sweet tooth in abundance. Traditional Romanian or Hungarian desserts are a feast for the taste buds, although on the heavy side – try the chocolate bread pudding or the Romanian version of baklava.

In Europe, train holidays will whisk you through spellbinding countryside, take you to historic cites with masterpieces of architecture that will take your breath away, and introduce you to a cuisine so eclectic and exotic it will remain in your memory for many years to come. Enjoy!

Tourism in Western Europe: A Collection of Case Histories

Richard Voase provides an interesting collection of case studies regarding Western European tourism development. The case studies are well organized in three thematic areas based on political, economic and socio-cultural contexts. The collection of stories communicates changes in tourism development and practices and reflects how tourism development seeks for new ways of tourism thinking. Voase concludes that tourism experiences, on the part of travelers, show signs of active decision making with passive consumption. This point prompts the reader to think that tourists choose “canned” experiences that are creatively constructed, however accessed through extensive information search and decision-making.

The case studies are authored by a variety of authors with strong local ties to the place they write about which enables extraordinary insight into issues the tourism industry faces in Europe and North America (although North America is not the focus of this book). This book can be used in a tourism development course to help students identify current issues in tourism (e.g., environmental challenges, sustainability, conservation approaches) and build upon definitions and theoretical models in tourism.

In his introduction, Voase conveys that the analysis or interpretation of the cases is based on political, economic, socio-cultural and technological environments. The analysis captures the multidimensionality of the tourism product and the cultural and social factors that relate to current ideologies, which affect how tourism evolves. Such ideologies are relating to prevalent postmodernism approaches that seem to affect those consumer behaviors, which capture experiential consumption rather than production processes of products or services.

The book consists of eleven chapters. The first four chapters are approached under the lenses of a political context analysis. The first chapter, by Meethan, presents the role of tourism marketing and public policy in the counties of Devon and Cornwall, England. Meethan concludes that for these two counties “marketing was one aspect of a wider integrated policy which aims to incorporate tourism more fully into the regional economy” and these programs would not have been possible without the funding from the European Union (EU). “The cases of Devon and Cornwall also demonstrate how new organizational forms emerge as a response to wider structural changes”.

Chapter 2, by Morpeth, focuses on the role of leisure and tourism as political instruments in Britain during the 1980s. Central and local governments used leisure and recreation policies as an extension of urban policy to balance the negative effects of unemployment and structural problems evident in England in the 1980s. Morpeth discusses the case of the city of Middlesbrough and the role of Thatcherism policies on the city, which focused on the generation of inner cities and the use of tourism as a tool for regeneration.

Chapter 3, by Voase, discusses the influence of political, economic and social change in a mature tourist destination; the Isle of Thanet in southeast England. Voase concludes that the process of policy, planning and development of tourism in a mature destination is not always straightforward. The antagonistic politics among the stakeholders involved in tourism development led to inconsistencies regarding the development of the destination. Chapter 4, by Robledo and Batle, focuses on Mallorca as a case study for replanting tourism development for a mature destination using Butler’s (1980) product life cycle concept. As a mature destination, Mallorca needs a sustainable development strategy to survive in the future. This acknowledgement led the Tourism Ministry of the Balearics Island Government to establish a tourism supply-side regulation to protect the environment. This plan however, as Robledo and Bade identified, is an interesting case of struggle between different groups (i.e., government, ecological groups, councils, hoteliers, construction industry) defending their interests in tourism development. Voase identifies these first four chapters having three common factors: the role and interplay of local tiers of government in the formulation and implementation of policy, the role of politics as a vehicle for the promotion and management of economic interests, and the powerful influence of socio-cultural factors. While these common factors are not directly evident in the presented case studies, Voase fills that gap with his writings. These common factors can stimulate further discussion as to what is the role of politics in tourism and how policy can affect researchers and practitioners in the field.

The second part of the book focuses on the economic context of tourism and its use as a regeneration and wealth creation tool. Chapter 5, by Lewis, focuses on two agri-environmental schemes, Tir Cymen and Tir Gofal, and how they affected recreational access in rural Wales. This chapter presents how these schemes caused many changes in the agricultural practices in Wales. These changes positively effected recreation opportunities in Wale’s agricultural landscape and changed relationships between “rural and urban and new demands for rural access, all of which now reflect the interdependence of environmental health, local social and economic needs, and access to land for recreation”.

Chapter 6, by Lindroth and Soisalon-Soinimen, discusses how a historic tourist product was developed in Loviisa, Finland. The goal of the tourism development was to create an image of Loviisa as a historic tourist destination and to create new products in alignment with the historic theme. Lindroth and Soisalon-Soinimen identified that without the support of the tourist office, as well as the National Board of Antiquities, development would not have progressed significantly. Also, the European Union funding helped with training and expert help. The professionals and project leaders involved in the process shaped the project through their enthusiastic actions described in detail in the case study.

Chapter 7, by Bohn and Elbe, describes the story of one man and how his vision for the municipality of Alvdalen, Sweden transformed the town into tourist destination. The most important element in this story is that this man created a destination without being an expert in the field of tourism development. He used the current notion of relationship marketing to achieve successful development without knowing its full value as a marketing tool. This chapter underlines also the importance of cooperation among stakeholders involved in tourism. Voase identifies factors that these three cases share: the role of the individual entrepreneur in developing the product, the consumption of natural resources, and tourism focusing on past heritage.

The third part of the book focuses on the socio-cultural context of tourism in four case studies. Chapter 8, by Finn, discusses the change of European football from being a fan’s sport to being a spectator’s sport. Finn identifies current sport marketing approaches, which construct a product, or experience where fans’ identity doesn’t fit with current “civilized” consumption processes, and instead, spectators’ identity fits with those images and procedures promoted by sport marketers inside and outside football stadiums.

Chapter 9, by Baron-Yelles, focuses on tourism and the politics of nature-based tourism and how the ‘Grand Site National at La Point du Raz” underwent changes in tourism provision services and infrastructure to accommodate tourists’ demands. In this chapter, the reader can observe trade offs between natural resources and the provision of tourism experiences. This case study also shows how a destination responded to stakeholders’ opinions about coastal conservation, public access and allowable visitation levels.

Chapter 10, by Lohmann and Mundt, focuses on maturing markets for cultural tourism in Germany. The chapter discusses how tourism shapes culture through the exchange of experiences between travelers and residents in a destination. Travel and tourism are discussed as constituents of culture. Lohmann and Mundt conclude travel has become an important part of people’s lives and in turn are exposed to other cultures, which can affect their own.

Chapter 11, by East and Luger, focuses on youth culture and tourism development in the Austrian mountains. East and Luger share interesting insights on youths’ reactions and behavioral adjustments toward tourists. They report that youth who are involved in tourism through family businesses tend to be more respectful of tourists. Youth in rural mountain areas were found to be interested in urban experiences.

Voase concludes these four final cases have three underlying themes. The first theme is that the consumption experience is staged or produced. This theme brings to mind MacCannell’s (1976) notion of front and back stage realities. Front stage is the presentation of a destination to visitors, whereas back stage is the real or truer nature of a destination. The second theme is that commercialization and commodification are not synonymous terms. The third theme is environments are often manipulated to influence people. Voase explains how sport environments have changed and caused spectators to also change.

Overall, this book is useful to practitioners and academics because it provides case studies offered by people with close connections to the tourism industry, thus providing an insider’s viewpoint. Voase, as both a practitioner in resort tourism marketing and an academic, effectively brings together case studies which focus on Western European tourism and communicates concepts which shift ‘old’ tourism principles to ‘new’. His introductions of each collection of cases (i.e., economic, political and socio-cultural) are insightful. Voase, however, does not discuss the introduction of Euro currency in January 2002. This is an important change to the economic structure of all countries-members of the EU and their socio-cultural development. The interconnection of the EU countries through the common currency might create a feeling of a larger community, which potentially affects tourism through cultural, social, political and economic of EU member-countries.

Finally, Voase’s concluding piece is insightful. His conclusions identify demographic, environmental and consumer trends that will influence tourism in Western Europe during the 21st century. He concludes an aging population, global warming, and active and passive consumer segments are elements of a ‘new’ tourism. All three trends will potentially affect future research in the field of tourism development and marketing. Both academics and practitioners should be aware of these trends. Voase as a practitioner and academic makes a meaningful contribution through these themed case studies and the identification of major themes and trends of tourism in Western Europe.

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