Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ten things I learned on my trip to Austria, Italy, and Switzerland...

Here it is, time for another ten things I learned post.  I like to think of these lists as a good way to sum up a trip.  It so happens that I learned a lot during our most recent travel.  I may have even learned more than ten things.  So, with no further delay, here's my list of what I learned this time.

10.  Bier Bottich Bad...  apparently, it's a beer spa franchise and other hotels are jumping on the bandwagon.  The experience pretty much looks to be the same at the places who offer this particular beer spa treatment.  Other types of beer baths exist, but if you find one with this logo...


It's distinctive, isn't it?

you know you're in for a beer jacuzzi soak in what looks like a beer keg and a rest in oat straw.  Now that we've done it twice, I think it may be awhile before our next beer spa treatment, unless we go somewhere that's different.

9.  Good brakes are an absolute must in the Alps.  This should go without saying.  I'm mentioning it, though, because there are some very steep passes in the mountains.  Before you drive there in your car, you may want to have your mechanic check and make sure your brakes are in tip top shape.

8.  Tipping is not a thing in Italy.  Sure, it's likely that your tips will be appreciated by some servers, but it's not something that Italians really do.  At least not based on my observations...  A lot of times, you pay a cashier separate from the server, which doesn't lend itself to tipping anyway.  If you do tip, just round up the bill.  Otherwise, you may end up being unintentionally offensive.  Also, remember that in a lot of Italian restaurant locations, you pay a couple of euros as a cover charge.

7.  Smog is a thing in Italy.   It's very sad, actually.  I never realized just how polluted the air was there until this particular trip.  It makes me realize that environmental laws are a good thing.  The air quality is noticeably better in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

6.  You may see Confederate battle flags in Italy.  My Italian friend Vittorio says that some southern Italians have co-opted the so-called Stars and Bars because they relate to the American South and the whole Civil War thing.  I don't know how true that is or if he's just pulling my leg, but I sure as hell did see a Confederate battle flag in an Italian Agip station.  By the way... shopping, even at truck stops, is awesome in Italy.


This was a surprise.  So was all the olive oil and other Italian food stuff for sale.

5.  If a waiter offers you a glass of Champagne in a five star hotel, it could be Cristal and you may get serious sticker shock.  Granted, it was our own fault for not simply requesting the wine list first.  We weren't thinking.  Lesson learned.

4.  Power outlets are different in Switzerland.   I had totally forgotten about this little idiosyncrasy of life in Switzerland.  We will have to invest in a couple of adaptors for our next excursion.


Weird.

3.  German sounds different in Austria.  At least it did to me.  But it could be just that I am a long way from being able to communicate or understand the language.

2.  Not every European country totally shuts down on Sunday.  We found stores open in Austria and Switzerland.  We weren't in Italy on Sunday.  My guess is that Italy does shut down.  Someone can correct me if I'm wrong.

1.  Italian truck stops/Auto Grills are amazing.  You can pee there for free and they offer very good food and relatively convenient parking.  You may have to run the shopping gauntlet maze to escape the store, but you won't have to fish out fifty cents to take a whiz.  Of course, you also won't get to sit down on a toilet seat.  The toilets in the ones we visited were all seatless.  I recommend the Auto Grill because if you get off the Autostrada just to eat, you'll end up having to pay tolls more often.  It's a pain in the butt.  Also... if you drive in Italy, make sure you have cash to pay the tolls.  Italy is not unlike New Jersey, toll booth capital of the USA...  


George Carlin about sums up driving, especially in Italy.


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