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Reflections on Eastern Europe

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Reflections on Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe is fun.

I rode a bicycle through the beautiful, open countryside of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary, found work when I needed it, and made friends at every stop. I look back on this summer and I realize that it was just how a summer should be: fun, sunny, and spent outside in the cool fresh air.

This summer was exactly what I needed before walking through the concrete gates of the Big City.
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Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Brooklyn, New York City- September 15, 2008
Travelogue Travel Photos
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It seems as if the personal benefits of travel are different in various region of the globe, and I say that, for me at least, the prime directive of traveling in Europe is to have a good time. This was my third time traveling through Europe and, culturally, it seems as if Europeans are 90% the same as Americans (and the fact that many will deny this claim is just more proof of its authenticity). I would not recommend Europe as a place to have distinct and unique “cultural experiences” but rather to as a place to approach people as people rather than as cultural representatives. It is my impression that an American’s, or for than matter Australian’s, pre-set, acculturated world-views are seldom turned upside down in Europe. In my experience, hanging out with Europeans is very much the same as hanging out with my friends in the USA: we do the same things, tell the same jokes, and generally understand each other’s little cultural communicative cues and symbols. There are, of course, some subtle cultural differences – such as it is considered barbaric to drink wine from the bottle – but I have found them to be pretty superficial (but readers, bear in mind that this statement comes from a man who believes that ALL cultures are essentially the same).

Europe is an old sort of America set in Disneyland.

I agree with Mark Twain in saying that Europe possesses no higher degree of sophistication or culture than the USA. But it seems as if Europe is still held high on a pedestal because some long dead folks painted some pretty pictures, some long dead folks sang beautiful poetry, and some long dead folks wrote wonderful stories. “Europe” is for the long dead folks. If you remove the ancient backdrop of castles, cathedrals, and old cobblestone streets, I suppose that you would just find a bunch of people who like shopping at department stores and watching television as much as anybody else in the world.

But it is my impression that it is necessary to appreciate what is there in a culture rather than what you dream is there. To dream of a fairytale Europe is to find yourself in a dry, sterile, and lifeless museum. Europe is vibrant, Europe is full of life, and Europe is a lot of fun. But Europe is also 21st century and the past is gone. I do not mean it as an insult when I say that modern European culture lacks the spikes that make a traveler realize that they are in a foreign environment, as this makes the region socially accessible, open, and, for the most part, welcoming.

I love Europe as I love all regions of the world. I smile a lot there, make friends easily, eat well, and most people that I meet are willing to share views of the world that are their own and not the property of their culture. Europe is an un-hinged sort of culture, and the people seem free to step outside of their cultural bounds and let their inquisitiveness flow.

I also know that I do not have the knowledge necessary to give me a proper cultural backdrop of the region, I know that I did not penetrate far enough into Eastern Europe to feel its true vibrancy., and I also know that the countryside of a region is always far different than the cities. Overbearing, generalizing statements – such as the one I am making now – tend to always be easy to prove false. I know that my Europhile friend G is going to tear me up for writing this, and I know that I deserve it. G knows Europe, I just play there.

The cultural compatibility between all peoples from the West means that Europe is the center of the globe for meeting people from all over the world that I can talk and drink with as brothers. We are all of the same stock, and it is easy to rectify political discrepancies and have a really good time. Friends flow in Europe as freely as the beer, and I think upon my days on that continent with a hearty smile, for I know that I like it there.

I do miss Kamila, my old romping never failing or faltering bicycle, though I know that it is kept safe under the care of Lofty Cliff in Budapest.

These are my impressions of the world as I move through it.

Links to previous travelogue entries:

  • New Travel Strategy Works
  • Scholarship to Travel the World
  • Worlds Most Traveled Motorcycle

Reflections on Eastern Europe
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Filed under: Eastern Europe, Europe

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3053 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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