… into the rear view mirror, I wanted to share a few final thoughts on that trip.
I must say, the independent trip went much better than I anticipated. The last time I did an extended independent trip, in 1983 through Japan, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore, it was really a lot of hard work. I had a heavy bag with me, I stayed in the downtown Sheratons (except in Japan, where the local AmEx set me up), and relied on the local Gray Line for tours.
This time, I had a light bag (small bag packed so full I couldn’t do any shopping – it was the carryon bag from coming in to Kandahar), I made the hotel arrangements on the Web from Rick Steves’ suggestions, and I made my own “tours” with his information. I also enjoyed the pleasent change from the long monologues by the Grand Circle tour guides: they seem to be more interested in cramming me full of information. I must admit, it does mean one must do one’s study-up homework in advance, but it’s an enjoyable price to pay for gaining some control over one’s own pace. I’d rather just relax and enjoy where it is that I am.
One favorable feature of the earlier trip that I encountered again is the ease with which locals will strike up a conversation with you, if you’re travelling alone. That happened a number of times, eventhough I did not have time to thoroughly brush up the German due to my Kandahar schedule. So the local facility with English was a great help. And those bits of personal contact were a great plus for the trip.
I used several different guidebooks in preparation: Rick Steves’ Vienna and Tirol, DK Eyewitness Vienna, and the Cultural History of Vienna from Blue Guides. All of them were useful, and had good points. But no guidebook – none, zero, nada – is a substitute for the trip itself! So I look forward to my return visit.