Our unique approach to European travel is captured in this letter to the editor published in the August/September 2018 issue of German Life Magazine.
We wholeheartedly agree with Bob Bestor (“Traveling With No Itinerary” April/May 2018) that forsaking tours for independent travel creates memories that last a lifetime.
But we must admit that we have the Trip Itinerary Obsessive gene he mentions that causes us to plan our overnight accommodations. Why? Because it is the best way to save and saving means that we can return to Europe more frequently, usually every two to three years. Before we left on our most recent three-week trip to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, we booked 22 nights for an average price of $64/night. And most of these were on farms in one-bedroom apartments with full kitchens and private bathrooms.
We book rooms in home base villages. Have you ever heard of Mutten or Ferden, Switzerland? How about Bramberg or Wenns, Austria? In Germany, Fischen in Allgäu or Oberhamersbach in the Black Forest? By planning, we find small villages on country roads that are not in any American travel guidebooks and stay on farms in order to have direct contact with the people and culture of these countries. We make a list of possible activities and sights that interest us that surround these villages. For example, after we selected Geislingen am Kocher, Germany as a home base village, we developed a list of seven sights including the Medieval town of Schwabisch Hall, the Cistercian monastery at Schöntal, the open-air museum at Wackerhofen, and the walled Medieval hamlets of Waldenburg and Langenburg. Of course, with only two days in the area, we saw only a fraction of those sights.
Our approach to driving Europe’s country roads creates plenty of serendipity. Even though we have developed a list of possible sights and activities surrounding our home base villages, we relax and take each day as it comes. In Mutten, Switzerland, we interrupted our schedule by sharing recess with nine students from the one-room school located above our apartment. While staying on a farm just outside Wenns, Austria, we witnessed a ten-year-old neighbor boy herding the family cows on his bicycle. In Oberhamersbach, Black Forest, we watched our farm host bake 28 loaves of bread in a wood-fired oven.
Our travel goal is to avoid tourist traps by finding accommodations in small villages unknown to Americans where we can meet and get to know the locals and share their daily lives.
Michael and Wendy