The cradle of Western civilization is an amazingly diverse conglomeration of unique identities, attitudes and agendas. The countries within Europe’s borders each offer a different experience, and it can take a lifetime to fully appreciate them all.
The most daunting challenge facing travelers to Europe is choosing the first destination. Don’t make the mistake of doing a whirlwind two-week tour of 10 countries. You won’t see a thing. Consider your interests, the season and your budget and focus on one particular region.
The blond hair and blue eyes of chilly Scandinavia provide the Nordic flavor of Europe. Cities like Oslo, Norway and Copenhagen, Denmark are among the most progressive - and most expensive - on earth. At the southern fringes of Europe lie the swarthy Mediterranean countries of Spain, Portugal, Italy, Turkey and Greece, whose islands are legendary for their myths and ancient heritage.
For a touch of the exotic, dive into the bazaars and mosques of Istanbul. Eastern Europe is still rough around the edges, but classic cities like Budapest and Prague are real charmers at a fraction of the cost of Western Europe. If it’s attitude you want, try your charms on the French. Paris is always worth a look, and the wine country is as romantic as you’d imagine.
Italy is overrun by self-declared suave men who know you want them, so ladies beware. But it’s also home to ancient Rome, the watery magic of Venice and the fashion chic of Milan. In between all these nations lie the Alps. The skiing and hiking in Switzerland and Austria is world-famous, but you’ll pay dearly.
Germany has plenty of highlights as well. Fairytale castles at Heidelberg, the Rhine River Valley, Black Forest and beer-guzzling city of Munich are all southern attractions. Berlin is considered the hottest party spot in the world right now, proving that Germans are loosening up. Perhaps the open policies of Amsterdam are starting to have an influence.
Traveling between countries is easy thanks to convenient visa rules and excellent transport. Europe offers a full plate, so take your time and pick away at it slice by slice.