Lonely Planet Writer

European discoveries contest

Have you ever experienced a profound sense of discovery while travelling? A momentary epiphany that dashed your preconceived notions of places and cultures? Has an unfamiliar type of food opened your eyes to new world of flavours, or a museum finally helped you 'get' art?

For this contest, we want to hear about your discoveries from your European travels.

As inspiration, here are some moments of discovery from the European travels of Lonely Planet staff:

"Having spent a couple of evenings hitting the pubs in the Temple Bar section of Dublin, I left with two distinct revelations. The Irish don't think twice about mixing it up cross-generationally, as 25 year-olds sat with, sang and laughed with grandparents. And amazingly, even with the Guinness Brewery within spitting distance, the beer of choice seemed to be Budweiser - who would have guessed..."

bruges"While traveling in Bruges on a mother-daughter trip, we were hankering for a real local spot for some mussels and frites. I stopped in a great little bookstore and asked the owner for a tip. Boy did she steer us in the right direction. I love finding great local restaurants, my favorite spots after 10 years in NYC were the ones off the grid. Asking a local while traveling helps you find those spots."

"In sports, scoring is overrated. The USA is conditioned, more or less, on a score-first-ask-questions-later mantra regarding its sports. But when I was living in London a few years ago, I changed my take after watching a 1-0 Arsenal win over Newcastle at an English Premiership match. I hadn't seen any game as exciting in the US -- even with only one score in 90 minutes."

ramsgate"Sitting in The Town of Ramsgate pub looking over the Thames I had the sudden realization that I was in a pub that was considerably older than my entire country. A simple London pub, and not even the oldest pub around, what with the 1520 Prospect of Whitby just down the street. The fact that people had been sitting here drinking roughly the same ale and probably having roughly the same conversations about how bad the weather will be tomorrow long before the American Revolution was even a glimmer of a possibility momentarily blew my mind (perhaps the ale helped too)."

"On a trip to London, I reconnected with a college friend. She connected me with one of her husband's classmates, who at attended Cambridge. He agreed to give us a tour of the town, reliving his university days along the way, and even took us punting up the River Cam. One of my favorite parts of the trip. Three years later, I returned the favor when he was in New York, taking him out on the town in the West Village. And as for my college friend, she was merely an acquaintance at the time, but connecting on the trip rekindled our friendship and she is now one of my closest friends in San Francisco."

ascona"Traveling through Ascona, a village on Lake Maggiore just over the Swiss border from Italy, I went to have dinner at a local grotto restaurant. During warmer weather you can sit outside in the large a vine-covered patio, but on this cold night everyone had to crowd inside and share a few cramped communal tables next to a tiny space heater. At the table you could hear Italian, German, Swiss-German, French, Spanish and English all being spoken simultaneously - perhaps not a single person could speak them all, but there was no problem communicating. It was one of the most fun and magical dinner conversations I can recall, but probably almost boringly normal to locals in this part of Europe where so many languages collide."

"Italian kids are the most gourmet I've encountered. While working as a counselor at a summer camp in Rome, one of the campers warned me to wait until the next batch of pasta was served in the lunch line because it was not al dente enough. The two of us headed for the back of the line, but this created a new problem: no salad left! That's right, the kids took heaping plates of almost-perfect penne, raided the tomato bar, and left us nothing. They ate all the apricots, too. Since when do six-year-olds raid a salad bar and finish all of the fruit?"

budweiser"Czech Budweiser is better than St. Louis' Budweiser. I might have guessed it, but the answer came with an exclamation point on my first trip to Prague, back when it was still Czechoslovakia, and the local Bud got slammed before me without me asking for it. After two I had to stumble back to my rented apartment. It's not just taste, but strength, I found myself adjusting to."

The contest

The discoveries above are simply examples and inspiration from our staff, now we'd like to hear yours.

Here's how it works: A 'discovery' should be limited to 100 words, and it should describe something that was an everlasting memory/lesson learned from travel to Europe -- it could be a place, or museum, or food type, or way to do things, or something that changed a general perception of a place/culture one had before going.

Post your discoveries as a comment to this blog to enter the contest. You can submit as many as you like. The discovery that's the most surprising, most revealing, most inspirational (as judged by Lonely Planet staff) gets a free Lonely Planet guidebook of your choice.

Contest ends Thursday August 6 at 9pm GMT, and the winner will be announced on the Community blog shortly thereafter. Your entry must be yours and not infringe on any rights of third parties. Lonely Planet respects the privacy of others, and your personal information will only be used to tell you if you've won (see our privacy policy).

[Photos: Good morning Bruges - Wolfgang Staudt; Town of Ramsgate Pub - Andy M.; Ascona - MuntyPix; Budejovicky Budvar - rodliam]