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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Travel Tuesday - public transportation

America is a car culture and we do love our cars, once you get out of a major city center you will probably be very hard pressed to find pedestrian friendly places or even public transportation.  I live about 10 blocks from the Minneapolis city limits, according to the bus company I would have to walk over a mile to catch a bus. 

As Americans most of us don’t really think about public transportation, especially if you don’t live close to a large city. We just jump in our car and go. Until I went to college I had no idea how to go about riding the city bus, I had never been on one before.  I am not sure that my mother has ever been on a city bus.

We had a friend from Europe visit for our wedding. One day as we were all getting in the car for the very short trip of maybe 4 blocks to the restaurant and she asked why don’t we walk?  We thought about it and realized that although the distance itself was short, there was no safe way to get there on foot!  Which really made us think about how different our cultures are.

Most European cities have very good public transportation systems.  If you are visiting a major city think about using public transportation instead of renting a car.  Plan your trip around places that you can walk to from your hotel, your trip will seem more intimate and relaxed.  I know that one of the reasons that I remember Heidelberg & Lucerne so much is because they were so pedestrian friendly and we walked places from our hotel instead of taking a tour bus (I was with a big group.)

When you are looking into hotels investigate where the closest bus or underground stops are, try to find a hotel is close to several lines.  This will give you lots of options and you will be less likely to need to transfer to get to where you want to go.  Don’t forget the public transportation is great for people watching too.

Check out the Eurostar (especially if you are traveling in the UK or France) and the other train systems.  When I was in high school and went to Europe on band tour we took trains to several places (we even took a sleeper train from Paris to Switzerland.)  We were all able to get around Germany & Austria using their train system – did I mention that I had no experience with public transport prior to this?  We spoke no language other then English (ok, one of us spoke Turkish – but really not much help there) and we still managed to get around very easily.  I can tell you that we saw some amazing scenery while riding the train from one town to another.

And don’t forget that you will be able to casually mention “oh I saw the funniest thing when I was on the Metro/Underground/subway . . . “

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