Map of Europe in 1360.

Bob's Travel Recommendations

Travel Around the World

So you've seen my Toilets of the World site and my other travel-related web pages, and you wonder how you, too, could enjoy such plush accomodations? Here's how to find the places where I've gone, sometimes more than once, and lived to tell about it.

Know What You're Doing

Read about where you're going. Attempt to prepare yourself. Get something like a Lonely Planet or Rough Guide book. If you need to sort out local minibus schedules, including how to pay for your ticket and how much it will probably cost, they will do the job.

For detailed travel planning in Europe, get the European Rail Timetable.

Is It Safe?

Of all the places I've gone, the most dangerous in several ways is the U.S.A. Really. The shuffling zombie armies of vagrants in Atlanta are creepy and threatening, and Washington D.C. can be dangerous in multiple ways at once.

No, Seriously, How Dangerous Is It?

Nowhere near as dangerous as it used to be:

Homicides per 100,000 people
England Netherlands
& Belgium
Scandinavia Germany &
Switzerland
Italy
13th/14th Century 23.0 47.0 37.0 56.0
15th Century 45.0 46.0 16.0 73.0
16th Century 7.0 25.0 21.0 11.0 47.0
17th Century 5.0 7.5 18.0 7.0 32.0
18th Century 1.5 5.5 1.9 7.5 10.5
19th Century 1.7 1.6 1.1 2.8 12.6
1900-1940 0.8 1.5 0.7 1.7 3.2
1950-1994 0.9 0.9 0.9 1.0 1.5
Source: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, citing "Secular Trends of Violence, Evidence, and Theoretical Interpretations" by the criminologist Manuel Eisner, Crime & Justice: A Review of Research 3 (2003), also in "Violence and the Rise of Modern Society", Criminology in Cambridge, Oct 2003, pp 3-7.

Also see Michael Wood's In Search of England, which tells us that in the 13th century 40% of all crime which came to court in England was larceny, largely of farm stock. 20% was burglary (forced breaking and entering), 10% was robbery. Homicide was nearly 20%! Compare that to today's U.S., seen as a violent society, where only about 0.5% of crimes are homicide. London had 5 murders per year per 10,000 people back then, while Miami ("murder capital of US" in 2001 when he wrote that) had 1.5.

Learn to Speak Something Vaguely Approximating the Local Language

At the very least, a basic greeting and the local words for "Please" and "Thank you". And then there are:
The Dangerous Phrasebook The Useless Phrasebook

On the topic of languages, there is a wonderful passage in the "Languages of the World" article in Encyclopedia Britannica, in the section about Latin-based languages:

Many Romance dialects have virtually ceased to be spoken in the past century. Of these, Dalmatian is the most striking, its last known speaker, one Antonio Udina, having been blown up by a land mine in 1898. He was the main source of knowledge for his parent's dialect (that of the island of Veglia, or Krk), though he was hardly an ideal informant: Vegliot Dalmatian was not his native language, and he had learned it only from listening to his parents' private conversations. Moreover, he had not spoken the language for 20 years at the time he acted as an informant, and he was deaf and toothless as well.

Do not poop in the sink!

Americans really need to learn what a bidet is before venturing overseas. Read this explanation!

Maps

All sorts of maps of Europe and west Asia: euratlas.com

Hostel directories

hostels.com hostelz.com hostelsclub.com

Realize that American credit cards may have limited functionality

There's a traveler's inconvenience caused by the U.S. being a little behind the rest of the world in some ways: Almost all countries' banks now issue credit cards that are smart cards, with electrical contacts and an embedded chip. It's a very nice security feature, you must use a PIN to use the card and so a stolen card simply cannot be used. All Australian credit cards have been smart cards since 1985. The problem is that old-fashioned American credit cards don't work in a lot of the automated kiosks, for example, the handy system that sells tickets in French train stations. We have to go stand in line with all the other Americans at the staffed ticket window where we can still use our quaint no-security cards.

Citibank is a huge international bank, so, after returning from a trip overseas I went into a Citibank branch in Chicago and asked when they would be issuing smart cards. The teller didn't have any idea what I was talking about, so she called Citibank's regional credit card expert. Then he didn't know there was such a thing. The same thing happened when I asked in another Citibank branch in Chicago.

Later, when I was in New York, I asked in a large Citibank branch in mid-town Manhattan. Finally, they knew exactly what I was talking about! Citibank had experimented with issuing smart cards to their customers who live in New York, but they found that the American market really has no interest in such a thing. What is preferred in the U.S. is a card with an RFID chip, so you don't even have to take your wallet out of your pocket. Just stand close enough to the register and your card will be billed.

Of course using cash is always an option as well. If you need cash quickly you can always use a car title loan. For example, Title Max has loan options that can get you cash in as little as a half an hour.

Travel Quotes

Then there is Eric Ambler

Many Americans seem to think that patriotism makes it wrong to go anywhere. A menacing character in Eric Ambler's novel Journey Into Fear has this to say about patriotism:

In times of peace only the fanatical nationalist demands that a man should surrender himself body and soul to the government of the country in which he was born. Yet, in war time, when men are being killed and there is emotion in the air, even an intelligent man may be so carried away as to talk of his "duty to his country." You are fortunate because you happen to be in a business which sees these heroics for what they are: the emotional excesses of the stupid and brutish. "Love of country!" There's a curious phrase. Love a particular patch of earth? Scarcely. Put a German down in a field in Northern France, tell him that it is Hanover, and he cannot contradict you. Love of fellow-countrymen? Surely not. A man will like some of them and dislike others. Love of the country's culture? The men who know most of their countries' cultures are usually the most intelligent and the least patriotic. Love of the country's government? But governments are usually disliked by the people they govern. Love of country, we see, is merely a sloppy mysticism based on ignorance and fear. It has its uses, of course. When a ruling class wishes a people to do something which that people does not want to do, it appeals to patriotism. And, of course, one of the things that people most dislike is allowing themselves to be killed. But I must apologise. These are old arguments and I am sure you are familiar with them.

If you're not bored yet, you might be interested in (or at least tolerate):
Toilets of the World web site
Rudimentary Turkish Grammar