Thinking about a visit to Europe - seeking opinions
Replies: 9 - Last Post: Oct 23, 2012 8:05 AM Last Post By: anillos_de_satu...
Oct 22, 2012 9:51 PM
Thinking about a visit to Europe - seeking opinionsI really would like to visit Germany, but, I do not speak german, and I am too old to learn. I do speak border spanish, so I was thinking I might be able to fake it by going to Spain instead. Of course, there is a big difference between spanish spoken in Spain and what I learned along the mexican border, but, at least I might have a head start on being able to communicate - and with a good dictionary I just might get used to it enough to get by. I don't want to be an ugly american that refuses to learn the native language. If I spoke any german, I would go there for sure.
I don't want to go to England because others who have gone there leave me thinking it would not be worth the trouble.
I would hope to find a small place with a kitchenette (refrigerator and kitchen), but, I wonder if they have that in Spain. I was thinking of staying in Barcelona, or some smaller city further north. Also, can one go to a grocery store and find good fresh produce and other groceries, like we have walmart here in the states? It isn't that I refuse to eat at restaurants, but, I just don't like to - I prefer to fix my own meals.
I have no idea how much money to set aside for this adventure - the air fare alone will probably be outrageous, but, this late in life, I am more willing to swallow the expense since I may get too old to travel as the years go by. If anyone has a good estimate of what a 2 week trip from Texas to northern Spain might run, in total, please advise. Also, if my idea of the language consideration is not realistic, please advise.
Oct 22, 2012 10:48 PM
1It's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks, honest. See http://www.dw.de/learn-german/german-courses/s-2547 for free online courses. :-)
That aside, I would argue that your idea of the language consideration is indeed not realistic. I'll qualify that by stating I'm a Brit who's lived in Germany for 20 months now and I haven't got much further than asking where cans of tomatoes are in supermarkets, or what time it is. Several of my colleagues have lived here even longer and literally cannot communicate in German beyond asking for 2 beers please. In touristic areas you'll find it easy to get by in English. Germans speak good English in this areas, often embarrassingly so. The same applies across Western Europe. Even the French in their major tourist areas are good at it, although often grudgingly so.
So far, the only problems I've had language barrier wise is when I went to the local town hall to ask to pick up my recently delivered German driving licence (my UK one had expired and I needed to swap). Their English wasn't so hot, but we still figured it out. This isn't a scenario you're going to find yourself in. :-)
Anyway, England, Spain and Germany are all rather different in terms of climate, culture, arts and points of interest. It's clear you're pondering visiting somewhere in Europe, but let's help you narrow that down to possibles. England could still be a logical option; I'm interested what other people have said that suggests to you that it's a bad idea.
All European countries have supermarkets along the lines of Walmart, although the brand names of the supermarket chains varies by country - we can help you identify which supermarket in which country later on once you've decided on where you want to visit. Most of the people on this board tend to self cater, so you're in good company.
As for how much a a 2 week from Texas to N Spain would cost - ignoring the air fare (hit the US branch to ask for specialist providers to give you a good deal on the flight, because the US websites aren't the same as the European ones, apart from possibly Expedia) - if you aim for 80-100 Euros per day after flights (assuming you're travelling on your own), that would be enough for a private single room in a hostel, possibly even ensuite in some cases. All of them have kitchen facilities to one degree or another, and you'd likely not be the only 60 something. For your own apartment, you'd have to probably add another 100-300 Euros a night.
The oldest guy I met in a hostel - in Australia - was 84 and still living the dream despite his wife having died 24 years before. He'd never been more than 30 miles from home before he retired at 60 (hard to imagine in this day and age) when his wife suddenly died literally a week into retirement. After a few weeks of grief, he decided to go see the world (kids were grown up, he had no dog etc). He got a bus from Bristol to Heathrow (already the furthest he'd been), walked up to the British Airways counter and asked where he could go. After containing her bafflement, the BA girl sold him a ticket to LA and he toured N America for 18 months in an open top '64 cadillac. 20 years later he was up to 94 countries when he met me.
Oct 23, 2012 12:01 AM
2Agree with Fwoggie on the language.
Of course its better to speak the 'local' language if you can,but my German is very poor and I've been there plenty of times.Many people speak good English and are happy to use it...and if they don't,its not difficult to make yourself understood in most situations.
Oct 23, 2012 12:08 AM
3Also...why do you discount the UK?
It has plenty to offer...as do Germany (and Spain).
Cost-wise there will probably be little difference..maybe Spain in general is a bit cheaper (though Barcelona is not)..and England a bit more expensive (esp.London).
On the food...as Fwoggie suggests,most hostels have kitchens.And all these places have plenty of markets and supermarkets.Apartments are also available but will cost a fair bit more.
So...I would base it on personal interest and what you want to see and do rather than cost (or language).
Oct 23, 2012 1:35 AM
4Honestly, if you are not that confident in your ability to speak Spanish, I think you might have more of a problem finding English speakers in Spain (depending of your budget of course) than in Germany. At least, that's what I experienced. Germans are good at languages, especially English. They might have an accent, but it's much less pronounced than most European accents. Seriously, I spent over two months in a non touristic part of Berlin, without speaking a word of German.
On the other hand, I had people making desperate faces in Barcelona when I asked if they could speak English... My Spanish (almost inexistant) was usually better. I had less trouble finding people who spoke French than English ^^
Renting an apartment for a week in Berlin, for 4 people, used to cost 250€. It probably has gone up since I last checked though...
Oct 23, 2012 5:16 AM
5As an over-60 myself, I suppose I could list the many countries I've visited without speaking the local language - it isn't a problem providing you remember you are in their country and are their guest, so be polite, smile a lot, don't get frustrated when things go wrong, and at the very least learn the words for please and thankyou.
Now, plan to go to Germany if that's your dream. It is a super country, much under-rated. The north is different from the south, and both are different from the east. Both cities and countryside have much to offer tourists. Trains and buses are easy to use and there are some bargains (we can tell you about those later when you've got more of anitinerary). English is taught as a second language in school and has been for many years, so most people under about 40 have at least a basic grasp and in tourist areas you will be surprised (if not embarassed) at how well english is spoken. Cost of living broadly speaking the same as the US, so look at the cost of air fares, check out accommodation on booking sites like booking.com or trivago to see what you can afford, and get planning - really, just go for it and stop worrying!!
Tell us where you're interested in going and you'll get lots of help here sorting out draft itineraries which you can then price up in more detail. Don't leave it too long getting back to us!
Oct 23, 2012 5:20 AM
6http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rentals/germany/r32 you can check here for prices if you like to rent a vaccation appartment in germany, as others wrote there are hostels and also Gasthaeuser which often have cheap rooms, the later will not provide cooking facilities.
If you travel through Germany out of season or in the shoulder season you often see signs 'Zimmer frei' 'rooms to let' you can ask how much they want for a night, in case it's to expencive just say thank you and walk away.
Don't worry about not speaking german, older people might not be able to but for the younger ones english is madatory in school, we do get lots of tourists from around the world and very few speak german, also we travel to places where we can't speak the language, this is very common in Europe.
If I take a 3 hour ride to the west from my home I have to speak, Dutch, Flaemisch or French, hey I'm happy that I can speak english as a second language, if I go to the east I very soon need Polish or Czech, little further Hungarian, I don't know anybody how speaks all the laguages spoken in Europe I've heard of some which mastered it, so don't worry coming to Germany if that's your first choice.
Also it's very likely that they speak catalan in Bareclona which is different to the spanish spoken in south america, at least my sister in law told me so when we went to Majorca together, she learnd spanish in SA and had a hard time reading the menues.
If it makes you feel better learn the basics, Guten Tag, good day, or just say Hallo, Auf Wiedersehen, good bye, Danke, thank you, Bitte, please and you'll survive fine in Germany. even without you will.
Oct 23, 2012 7:10 AM
Oct 23, 2012 7:34 AM
8Just 2 points
1) Consider booking an openjaw ticket. Fly into city A, back home from city B. There is no point returning city A unless justifiable, otherwise it's a waste of time and money.
2) Don't book anything until you've ironed out a sensible itinerary. We'd be happy to critique a detailed one. Suggestion: go for 3.5 days per destination as a rough rule of thumb for a starter for ten.
Oct 23, 2012 8:05 AM
9Also it's very likely that they speak catalan in Bareclona which is different to the spanish spoken in south america, at least my sister in law told me so when we went to Majorca together, she learnd spanish in SA and had a hard time reading the menues.
Spanish and Catalan are two different languages; i.e. Catalan language isn't a dialect of Spanish language.
In Barcelona, you'll find Catalan speakers as well as Spanish speakers. All the Catalan speakers know Spanish too. Most, if not all, street signs will be Catalan only.
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