My First Eurotrip, A Look Back

This series is a look back at my very first Eurotrip in 2007, during which I visited Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. I never kept a journal during that trip so I am writing this mostly from memory. All photos were taken with my old pocket camera.

Flash Forward: Munich

In 2007, as I approached my 36th birthday, I was given the opportunity to travel overseas for the first time in my life. Prior to that, I had never done much traveling outside of some long drives up and down the East Coast to places like Maine and Florida, and parts in between. I hadn’t been on an airplane since my high school senior trip when I was 18, and the only foreign country I’d ever visited was Canada, but that had just been a road trip over the border to Niagara Falls, so I’m not sure that even counts. The thought of traveling the world had never really crossed my mind. I did not understand what it means to be bitten by the travel bug, but that was about to change.

My uncle, Kipp, invited me to join him on a trip with his high school German class to Europe during spring break. It was a trip he made with his class every couple of years. On this occasion he had an open slot for a chaperone and asked me if I’d like to be one. My trip would be completely free except for the surcharge I would pay to guarantee a private single room. I jumped at the chance. I mean, how many times do you get offered a free trip to Europe? For me it would turn out to be twice, but I didn’t know that at the time.

At the pre-trip group meeting I met the students and other chaperones. Among the advice given was to bring a small suitcase since you would be lugging it around everywhere. I took that to heart and crammed my entire 10-day trip into a suitcase roughly the size of a carry-on with no room to spare. So of course when I got to the school on the day of the trip, everyone else had giant suitcases. 🙂

Ready to depart with my tiny suitcase.

When we went through security at the airport in Philadelphia I was pulled off to the side and searched—it would be the first of three times on this trip I would be specially searched at an airport. I can only surmise that I resembled the profile of what they deemed to be a suspicious person worthy of extra scrutiny—maybe it was the goatee.

Eventually we got on the plane for a short flight to Boston, where we would connect to Germany. I had the window seat. The man sitting in the middle seat next to me decided that it was more important for him to spread his newspaper out over three seats with his elbow hanging half over my seat than it was to give me the courtesy of my personal space. It was a short flight so I just pressed against the window and endured it, though nowadays I would probably say something.

We reached Boston and boarded a Lufthansa flight for Germany. This time I had an aisle seat, which was key for an 8.5-hour flight during which I was unlikely to sleep. It was my first experience flying international and I couldn’t believe all of the food and drinks were free, so I indulged plenty, perhaps hoping that alcohol would numb the smell of the bad B.O. guy in the seat in front of me. The in-flight movie was Rocky Balboa (this was right before they started letting you choose the movie you wanted to watch on your own screen).

When we landed in Germany I had a much easier time getting through customs than in the States. I walked around for most of the first day without being able to hear properly—I hadn’t yet mastered the art of getting my ears to pop during landing. We met up with our tour guide, a British fellow named Tom, who guided us to our bus. Our group was just large enough to warrant our own private bus, but small enough that we each had an entire row of seats to ourselves—a very comfortable way to spend nine days on the road. This trip spoiled me because when we returned in 2009, the bus was filled to the brim with three groups and everyone battling for seats during the entire trip.

Before long we were on the Autobahn headed for the city of Munich. After navigating a traffic jam we arrived at the main square in Munich, known as the Marienplatz. We were unable to check in to our hotel until later that afternoon, and I hadn’t slept on the plane, so by this point I was running on fumes. In the end, I would be awake for 32 straight hours on my first day, but none of that mattered because I was standing in Europe! I honestly never thought I’d see another continent. I had never even owned a passport until this trip. Being here was sublime.

We arrived just in time to see the famous Glockenspiel spring into action like a giant cuckoo clock.


Closeup of Glockenspiel figures.

After the Glockenspiel our group split up. Uncle Kipp and I had lunch at a nearby cafe, where I enjoyed my first Euro-beer, plus sausage and sauerkraut. The next day for lunch I would have essentially the same thing, except with fries instead of kraut (the fries were so tasty; they were more like crispy fried potatoes). Besides beer and water, the drink I enjoyed most on this trip was Fanta, a popular beverage over there, which tastes a bit different than in the States–not as sweet, more refreshing and natural tasting (well, as natural as soda can taste, anyway).

After lunch we did some sightseeing.

Rathhaus (Munich’s City Hall)

The Feldherrnhalle (sight of the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, Hitler’s unsuccessful first attempt to seize power).

Munich has some amazing cathedrals. Here are a couple of them:


One of the massive stained-glass windows inside the Frauenkirche.

I couldn’t fit much of the cathedral into this shot, the downside of only having a pocket camera.

Theatinerkirche Interior

Later we climbed 300+ steps to the top of the Peterskirche tower to enjoy some spectacular views of Munich. The inside of the tower, with its winding steps and dark, narrow corridors, really makes you feel like you’ve traveled back in time to the medieval era.

The photo at the top of this post was taken from this vantage point. Here are a few more:

I was too lazy to straighten this out. 😉

The Olympic Tower. On a clear day you can see all the way to the Alps.

Looking down at the Marienplatz square.

While up here we also got a birds-eye view of the Glockenspiel in action. A little later we met up with the rest of the group and headed back to the hotel to finally check in before heading out to dinner. All dinners were included in the tour, but the best meals were in Munich because we went to actual restaurants (dinner was served in the hotels of the other cities we visited).

The first night also happened to be my birthday, so Uncle Kipp arranged for the waitress to bring out a steak with a firecracker in it and the group sang Happy Birthday. My other recollection about that first restaurant was that they served the best tomato soup I ever had, almost like eating spaghetti sauce.

My birthday steak.

After dinner we headed to the famous Hofbrauhaus for drinks and I had my first Mas beer, which is a draft beer served in a full liter mug. The beer in this region is very easy to drink; it goes down much more smoothly than beer in the States (I’m not a big drinker, so it only took 2 1/2 of these Mas mugs on the second night to give me my first hangover since college).

Me with Uncle Kipp

Later that night we returned to the hotel for a much-needed night of sleep. In the morning we would be taking a tour of Munich followed by a visit to the Dachau concentration camp, which will be covered in the next installment.

Rathhaus at night.

View more photos from this trip.

Related Links:

Writer, traveler, photographer, hiker, film/TV addict, amateur chef, casual gamer, and occasional tennis & saxophone player . . . in real life I do web design.

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Europe, Germany, Travel
2 comments on “My First Eurotrip, A Look Back
  1. Sue says:

    Love the suitcase. We each had one suitcase on wheels but they were huge. Now you are a world traveler with tons of ideas of new adventures. You were certainly inspired on your first trip.

    • Yes, who knew that one trip would open the floodgates to all the adventures I’ve had since? I never expected to be bitten by the travel bug, but once you get a taste of it, you want to go back for more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow Michael Rappa on

Join 295 other followers

Instagram Feed
Devils Tower, Wyoming - August, 2017

Another prairie dog shot, this one in the iconic standing pose. Not as sharp as I would have liked, but not too bad for handheld at a 250 mm focal length.

#animals #devilstower #nationalmonuments #NorthAmerica #Photography #prairiedogs #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #wildlife #Wyoming Devils Tower, Wyoming - August, 2017

There is a giant field beneath Devils Tower that is entirely covered with prairie dogs. I was so mesmerized by the little critters with their cute screeching noises that I almost forgot I was there to visit the tower.

#animals #devilstower #nationalmonuments #NorthAmerica #Photography #prairiedogs #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #wildlife #Wyoming Devils Tower, Wyoming - August, 2017

This shot only features the top of Devils Tower, but I liked the variety of colors in the landscape.

#DevilsTower #Wyoming #NationalMonuments #travel #buttes #landscapes #photography #UnitedStates #NorthAmerica #RoadTrips #hiking #colors Devils Tower, Wyoming - August, 2017

A closeup shot of climbers scaling Devils Tower.

Pretty soon, climbing will no longer be necessary because, according to a sign I saw at the site, they are apparently installing an elevator to the top. Although it would be neat to see the top of the tower, I think it’s unfortunate that they are going to ruin its appearance with an elevator apparatus. I’m glad that I was able to see Devils Tower in all its natural glory before this happens.

#buttes #devilstower #hiking #nationalmonuments #NorthAmerica
#Photography  #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #Wyoming #climbing Devils Tower, Wyoming - August, 2017

A view of Devils Tower from my hike around the base. This is the opposite side of the tower from the shot I posted yesterday. The black dots in the sky are birds.

#DevilsTower #Wyoming #NationalMonuments #travel #buttes #landscapes #photography #UnitedStates #NorthAmerica #RoadTrips #hiking Devils Tower, Wyoming - August, 2017

A lifelong dream sparked by 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' was finally realized when I visited Devils Tower last August--40 years (and many plates of sculpted mashed potatoes) after I first saw the tower on film. I had no idea as I hiked around Devils Tower that just two days later there would be a 40th anniversary screening of the film at the tower itself. Just missed it!

#DevilsTower #Wyoming #NationalMonuments #CloseEncounters #travel
#buttes #landscapes #photography #UnitedStates #NorthAmerica
#RoadTrips Deadwood, South Dakota - August, 2017

I chose to stay in Deadwood during my three nights in South Dakota because I was a huge fan of the HBO show and have always been fascinated with the Wild West. I thought it would be cool to walk in the footsteps of Deadwood’s famous residents.

The drive in to town was interesting, as I steadily climbed the Black Hills while passing “Bighorn Sheep Crossing” signs. I only had time to explore the main strip because I spent most of my visit taking day trips out of town, so it’s not really fair to render a judgment without having taken the time to fully check out everything Deadwood had to offer. Still, I found it to be kind of a disappointment, mostly just your average casino town, which isn’t really my cup of tea.

Nevertheless, I saw several points of interest during my walks around town, such as the spots where Wild Bill was shot and where his assassin was caught, the Bullock Hotel that was built by Seth Bullock after the events of the show, and a few establishments named after notable people and places such as Charlie Utter and the Gem Theater. The recreated “gunfights” in the middle of town were also neat.

#deadwood #NorthAmerica #Photography #roadtrips #SouthDakota #Travel #UnitedStates #wildwest #historictowns #blackhills #oldwest Mount Rushmore, South Dakota - September, 2017

This is a zoomed-in view of Mount Rushmore from a lookout point a couple of miles away on Iron Mountain Road, a scenic mountain drive that I highly recommend taking before heading to the monument. If you go south to north, you will drive through a tunnel that perfectly frames Mount Rushmore; makes for a memorable photo. This shot may not look like a panorama due to its more squarish shape, but it was stitched together from two different photos.

#IronMountainRoad #MountRushmore #nationalmonuments #NorthAmerica
#panoramas #Photography #roadtrips #Scenic #SouthDakota #Travel
#UnitedStates #mountains Portland, Oregon - August, 2017

The view from my apartment during my stay in Portland last summer.

#NorthAmerica #Oregon #panoramas #Photography #Portland #Travel #UnitedStates Yellowstone National Park - August, 2017

Yellowstone Lake, the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in North America.

#yellowstonelake #nationalparks #NorthAmerica #panoramas #Photography #roadtrips #Scenic #Travel #UnitedStates #Wyoming
#YellowstoneNationalPark #yellowstone #lakes #water Yellowstone National Park - August, 2017

The Grand Prismatic Spring, one of Yellowstone's most stunning features, is the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world. It's difficult for a ground-level photo to do it justice, but if you climb the hill visible in the background of this shot, you can get a nice bird's-eye view of its beauty.

#GrandPrismaticSpring #nationalparks #NorthAmerica #panoramas #Photography #roadtrips #Scenic #Travel #UnitedStates #Wyoming
#YellowstoneNationalPark #yellowstone #hotsprings #MidwayGeyserBasin Yellowstone National Park - August, 2017

Vertical panorama of the Dragon's Mouth Spring in the Mud Volcano area of Yellowstone. Pictures don't do justice to this remarkable thermal feature, but you can see how it got its name as smoke appears to shoot out of a gaping mouth.

#dragonsmouthspring #nationalparks #NorthAmerica #panoramas
#Photography #roadtrips #Scenic #Travel #UnitedStates #Wyoming
#YellowstoneNationalPark #yellowstone #hotsprings Yellowstone National Park - August, 2017

This is a portion of Hayden Valley featuring rolling hills. Hayden Valley is one of the two prime locations for spotting wildlife in the park (the other being Lamar Valley), and one of the most popular destinations in the entire park.

#nationalparks #NorthAmerica #Photography #roadtrips #Scenic #Travel #UnitedStates #Wyoming #YellowstoneNationalPark #haydenvalley #panoramas #hills Yellowstone National Park - August, 2017

This is Lamar Valley, one of the two prime locations for spotting wildlife in the park. The other is Hayden Valley. I saw wildlife in both locations, though Hayden Valley had much more.

#nationalparks #NorthAmerica #Photography #roadtrips #Scenic #Travel #UnitedStates #Wyoming #YellowstoneNationalPark #lamarvalley #panoramas
Michael is reading…
Wanderlust Travel & Photos Blog

Experiencing the World One Trip at a Time


by Evelina Di Lauro

Natalie Breuer

Natalie. Writer. Photographer. Etc.

aviation, sport & street foo-shmoo... whatever...

an engineer's photographic dilemmas

french ideas

Fine places in France and around the world.

Book 'Em, Jan O

Ghosts, Tall Tales & Witty Haiku!


If travel is an addiction, I'm afflicted.


Rick Mallery

Poems & People

what if poems could be symphonies, and people their orchestra?

%d bloggers like this: