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Where Your Humble Author Travels Europe February 7, 2012

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture, Uncategorized.
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I’ve been incredibly fortunate over the last year or so to make multiple business trips to Europe.  A significant part of what I do these days involves speaking at software conferences, and I’ve fooled enough people over the last year to manage trips to Zurich (twice, soon to be three times), Germany, and Austria (London is a definite later in the spring, and others are on the horizon).  In the past, I’ve also been to Ireland, the UK, Amsterdam, and Prague.

There are a lot of things I like about Europe.  I regrettably don’t speak any foreign languages beyond a smattering of old high school Spanish, but it turns out that most of Europe speaks at least some English.  I’m especially impressed with Zurich, where most people will address you in German, but switch to excellent English in the middle of a sentence without missing a beat once they see your confused look.

The European cities I’ve seen are wonderful.  My favorite is Zurich, with Vienna in second place.  Potsdam has incredible history and beautiful architecture.

I’ve universally been treated well by everyone I’ve come in contact with.  I’ve heard tales of boorish behavior, but have neither given nor received such responses.

I’ve seen a lot of airports.  Despite ongoing criticism of old and obsolete airports in the US, the ones in Europe are really not noticeably better.  Rhein Main is old, Schiphol is crowded (and security at the US departure gates is slow), and Schwechat is dreary.  Tegel is about to close, and for good reason.  My last flight from Tegel was cancelled, leaving me in the dark as to how to even begin getting home (I did, and I was even early).

The streets in most cities are mazes (though you can say the same thing about Boston), but the public transportation is largely better, more useful, and better utilized.

My world smartphone does well there, with its GSM SIM providing a quality of service that makes it seem like science fiction.  I am old enough to remember that you knew when you were having a transatlantic phone call.  Not anymore; the US is right next door.  Itinerant Internet access costs more, and seems to be even more unreliable than in any random city in the States.  I’m told that Europe doesn’t have Netflix streaming or video by mail, so you have to buy many of the movies you want to view at home.

The food in Germany is a bit heavy for my taste; while similar in Austria, it is somewhat lighter and more enjoyable.  As long as it is cooked, I’ll pretty much try anything once, an amazing reversal for someone who was once the ultimate picky eater.  If that’s not your speed, American comfort food is readily available, and pizza and US fast food are regrettably ubiquitous.

The world is largely a good place; go visit it.

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