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All in all, this was a very successful trip. While the pace was a bit hurried (I think we could have easily used an extra day in every hotel location, save St.Gallen), we did very well in terms of improving our country count, managed to visit mostly new places, and never felt as though we were engaged in relentless marathon drives. Given more time, I would have loved to have returned to Prague and Munich too. Moreover, despite the fact that we’ve taken a number of vacations approaching this duration (such as last summer’s), the itinerary/driving really made this one feel like we were gone for an extended period of time. We did, in fact, “get away”…

I do think cruising with small children is an easier form of travel. The logistics are just more straightforward: your accommodations and consistently toddler-friendly dining travel with you. On balance, this is both good and bad. On the one hand, it saves time and effort spent on ‘everyday life’ activities. On the other hand, caring for a toddler forces you to live more like the locals (in terms of engaging in kid-friendly activities and the chores of daily life). That said, I wouldn’t hesitate to drive again.

The trip had far more highlights than lowlights. Indeed, I think every place we went is now firmly affixed to the “return” list, especially Bavaria and Poland. And, while we were lukewarm on Berlin initially, it has a lot of cultural venues that are worth exploring. Thus, while it’s not the prettiest city, it’s certainly worthy of another in-depth visit. Realistically, it will likely take us another 3 years or so to finish the 157×50 (err 39? 40?) goal. So, if we’re not back in Central Europe before then, I suspect we will most assuredly return soon thereafter.

Finally, this trip reminded me just how much we like experiencing new places. I think that’s been one of the great advantages of the 157×50 project’s goals. By definition, you’re forced to expand your horizons and travel more widely. Fortunately (or unfortunately), once you’re on that path the thrill of exploring becomes addictive and you find yourself thinking: “why not drive from Budapest to Turkey?” or “maybe we should island hop through Indonesia?” Of course, we’re not hostel-dwelling, backpacking vagabonds. We’re far more (and unapologetically) bourgeois by this point in our lives both by choice (why inconvenience yourself when you needn’t have to?) and necessity (traveling with a toddler, while I’m sure it’s technically possible w/ backpacks and in hostels, I think you’d have to be stark raving mad to do it). But, I digress…

Final score: +6 countries and +1 state for us; +13 countries and +1 state for Emerson!

Up next: the Caribbean over Thanksgiving.

3 Responses to “Summer 2012: Final Thoughts”

  1. Dick says:

    Welcome home my friends. Dinner soon.

  2. Brett says:

    Welcome back! I always imagined driving overseas would be more stressful than it’s worth (language and rule differences). Not the case?

  3. Paul says:

    With an up-to-date GPS and a quick review of Rick Steves’s guidance for driving in various countries, it was fairly stress free. Language wasn’t a problem, as I just ignored names (following the turn by turn of the GPS regardless) and road signs are mostly symbolic. Rule differences weren’t significant either (some countries require toll stickers, some want headlights always on, etc.)… or I just blissfully broke the law in my ignorance. :-)

    Roundabouts come natural to me. If not, they could be stressful.

    I think car rentals make the most sense to: a) visit places in the countryside, or b) to link major cities (though trains can do that too…), or c) both of the above. Driving in the “big city” is best avoided. It’s more stressful, the GPS is less effective (turns can come too quickly), parking is a hassle, and you generally can’t drive in the historic core anyway. So, we left the car at the hotel’s garage until it was time to move on.

    Perfect places to drive are like southern Bavaria and the Black Forest in Germany or (I’d imagine) the Loire Valley in France. The hill towns of Italy would be great too, but I think the drivers become crazier the further south you go and car rentals are much more expensive in Italy than say Germany (I only paid about $600 for 10 days for an SUV… even with gas and parking, it was the cheapest way to get 4 people around by far).

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