Grande Tour to Europe

Dear all:

I am a Taiwanese living in Taipei. Since being a high-school student, I have had a dream of taking a trip to Europe. I have been to US in 2000 on budget travel and now am wondering about taking a tour to Europe, the land of western cultures. However, I still have 2 years to go in college, two years in military service, and one year or two years working or in graduate school. Therefore, I can go to Europe only after those things done which may take 5 or 6 year long.

Here is my naive and rough route:
Taiwan -> England -> Ireland -> France -> Spain -> Portugal -> San Marino -> Vatican City -> Greece -> Bulgaria -> Romania -> Hungary -> Slovakia -> Czech -> Poland -> Ukraine -> Belarus -> Lithuania -> Latvia -> Estonia -> Russia -> Finland -> Sweden -> Norway -> Iceland -> Denmark -> Germany -> Austria -> Switzerland -> Luxembourg -> Belgium -> Netherland -> Taiwan

Culturally speaking, I need to study European history from ancient times up to date, and history, geometry, tourist guides of each individual country. The most important thing is the language, I guess, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Hungarian, blahblahblah, blahblahblah. And that is the first one of all problems.

Economically, I plan my tour to take 2 years more or less. The money issue is critical. That means I have to starting making money if I wish to go.

This journey must be long, harsh and risky beside my European Dream, especially for a Taiwanese man, and that’s why I post this message here.

My plan is still in womb. Any suggestion to any issue is welcomed.

Too much. There is a whole lifetime of travel in there. What are you hoping to find in Belgium ? (unless of course you’re a beer afficionado) You might consider Scotland instead of Ireland, and I see you’re going to Vatican City, but haven’t mentioned other places in Italy. Russia’s in Asia. Why not just Norway, and forget about Finland and that other place whatever it’s called.

I view it as some kind of rite of passage. It is ridiculous to go through each country within 2 years, I know. Maybe I should cut it to half, retaining the Romantic and Germanic countries and Greece.

I also agree that it is too much. Normally, a summer in Europe is a good start. What you do is buy one of those Eurail passes, and travel around as you wish, seeing various sites.

Certain times of the year may be difficult to travel, such as winter. That is why I recommend just using the summer periods. Generally, European summers are cooler than Taiwan.

Actually, I have spent several summers in Europe. People say that travel broadens the mind. Reflecting back on my travels, and all the jobs/employment since I have had, I really don’t see any great amount of direct relevance. It was fun but then it was time to move on to doing something else.

Another excellent option would be to go to a language program in Paris, France, or Madrid, Spain, or some big German city, and then travel around between semesters and on holidays. I think that would be more rewarding. Additionally, you would have some solid language skills to show for your time spent. My NT$ 2.


A few notes about the language situation:

Learning all 12 languages (or however many there are in the countries on your list) would take you many, many years. Fortunately this is not necessary, if your purpose is just to travel.

Not all languages are equal. You’ll find English speakers everywhere. If you still have time to learn other languages after English, most Europeans would choose French or German, and possibly Russian or Spanish.

But consider choosing a less commonly-studied language like Romanian or Greek, or even Sami or Basque. You will learn more about a specific region, and be more welcomed by that language’s speakers.

Another possibility is to learn the (very easy) artificial language of Esperanto. Not many people speak it, but if you learn Esperanto, you can stay with other Esperantists in all of these countries–and have an entirely different experience than just as an ordinary tourist. And keep costs way down.

I have found that being a tourist can be tiring, especially for a long time. It’s fun to travel, but eventually you want something deeper than “just tourism”.

Since you have a couple of years of college left, have you considered trying to study in Europe? (Possibly the Taiwanese military will object to your departure.)

Wow! Way too ambitious (at least it would be for me). I would focus on a few regions that you could group together for single journeys. For example, you could go one summer to the British Isles (or as the Irish sometimes say, “these islands”). On another summer, you could go to Spain, Portugal and Morrocco (I know Morrocco is not in Europe). Then France and Germany. Then Eastern Europe (say, the Czech Republic and Hungary), then Scandanavia, etc…

This way, you could focus on really exploring specific regions, rather than racing through all of Europe and Russia.

And I would work on English, though it seems you are pretty proficient already. Hungarian would be difficult … its one of those languages that falls outside of the typical Asian and Indo-European language families… like Finnish… a bit strange.

Richard’s Eurail suggestion was a good one. I did that back in 1982 and had a pretty good time. If I didn’t have any money to spend on a hotel, I would take a night train and sleep… one night, though, I got drunk with a British soldier and an Aussie fellow on the train as we crossed from Denmark to Sweden (the train crosses on a ferry) … I ended up sleeping in the luggage rack… but I digress…

I also noticed you didn

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Agree. Don’t go to Ireland, nothing there (or so I have been told). Norway? beautiful, but empty, In scandinavia, choose Denmark instead. 2 years in Europe is way too much. Go for the Interrail thing for starters and see how things develop from there.

Ahh, Scotland. Land of milk and Buckfast.

Anyway, as to the rest of it, I don’t agree that two years is too long to spend traveling in Europe. You could spend your life and not get bored. The other great thing about Europe is that, with its open borders and open roads, it’s a great place to hitch around, especially places such as Germany where there is something of a tradition to it. Hitching is cheap, informative and only a little bit likely leave you dead in a ditch somewhere on the outskirts of Cologne. People who pick you up are usually people who have done it themselves and know what its like to stand on sliproad for three hours, and though you do sometimes find everybody ignoring your thumb, on the whole you end up where you intended to go. However, the best times are when you don’t end up where you intended to go and discover something completly unexpected - such as a ditch somewhere on the outskirts of Cologne.


Before you plan your itinerary, you may need to ask what’s your main purpose for this grand tour in Europe? What do you really want to see, learn and explore from it? It seems that you’re not looking for an easy/relaxing experience, though.

I don’t know if it’s practical to plan your expedition 5-6 years ahead, but why not reading books or travel guidebooks about all the countries in Europe in order to get a rough idea of those countries, and then take your time for a decision? Books regarding history, culture and art, etc. in the European region are good too if you’re really interested. But only you know what you really want!

Thanks for all of your replies. I think I’ll put up a website to publish my ideas and help me refine my thinking, containing info of cultures, languages, tourist guides, etc.

Any idea is welcomed.

Ireland (written by slightly homesick expat…)

Cliffs of Moher
Where the Atlantic crashes onto the coast at the highest cliffs of Europe after 3000 miles of open ocean.

Aran Islands and Connemara in the summer- Gaelic culture and the Irish language, windswept and basically unpopulated (except for hordes of American tourists!!). You will never have seen anything like this. Visit the great fort on Aran Mor where you can see a bronze age stone fort placed on the side of a magnificent cliff. Cycle around and look at the Karst limestone and fields surrounded by picturesque stone walls.

Visit Galway city during the Arts festival where you will meet people from all over the world and catch traditional music from Ireland and worldwide. Walk the river on a soft summer evening where it stays light until 10 pm and see people fishing for salmon and trout.

Go to Cork for the Jazz festival in October every year. Here you can get pissed (drunk) non stop for three days, meet all sorts of people from grandads to gangsters and still feel like your cultured. While in Cork you can go surfing and fishing if you like (bring your wetsuit).

Drive to Tipperary (it’s a long way :laughing: ) and visit Kilcooley abbey, where you can see the haunting ruins of an ancient Cistercian monastery destroyed during the reformation in the 16th century and look at the grave and tomb of a Norman knight inside complete with faithful dog from 14th?? century. Check out the cows and say hello to my relatives, eat some Kilmeaden cheddar cheese, nice.

Go to Kerry and drive the ‘Ring of Kerry’ and look out at a scene from your imagination. You can see the spikes of the skellig islands where monks lived as hermits a thousand years ago.
Visit Dingle and the many pubs and restaurants there and take a boat out to see Fungie, a wild dolphin which lives in the bay.

Visit Dublin, Trinity College, museums, Grafton St, amazing pubs, Stephen’s Green, Georgian architecture, Howth Hill, Guinness Brewery and everywhere you walk you can discover something new. Walk the streets and visit the homes and pubs where great writers and poets like Joyce, Beckett, Yeats, Shaw, O’Casey, Kavanagh, Behan and Wilde once trod.

Go to Newgrange in Co.Meath and see a 5000 yr old giant stone age burial tomb that lights up at the dawn of the winter solstice every Dec 21st.

These are just some of the places and things you could do. This doesn’t mention the bad things like crime, traffic, prices or poor weather but if you want to do and see something different come to Ireland.

Of course if you’re a regular Taiwanese you can just go to Paris and Milan for the fashion and London for the English and that’ll be Europe done :wink: