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Lance Como's NO BULL Travel Tips


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Hi – My name is Lance Como, my travel experience is growing year-by-year… Having traveled throughout Europe and beyond for the past 9 years, I encountered little culture shock. People in general want the same kinds of things in life. However, when I decided to take out my Nokia 3650 cell phone to take a few digital images, I found there are unbelievably cool things to look at every where you look in Europe. It’s most certainly not like walking around Golden Valley, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia or Seattle. Basically the same walks of life but with a lot more history encompasses you.

WWII has always interested me so places like Arnhem, Anzio, the Normandy Coast and Aachen and Koblenz have been destinations - real major battle grounds. To think over 4,900 US soldiers alone were killed on D-Day is mind boggling... and even more sobering is the fact over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or missing makes every step you take in freedom an honor.

Autobahn is a place to drive quite fast. Fantastic road surface, great drivers surround you but, you really burn thru fuel ($6.50 USD/gallon or roughly $120 per fill) even in a VW Passat... get places quickly I must say. Stressful tho.

So many interesting places... scroll down to see some of the many wonderful places I've visited in Europe:

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Aachen is the first German city I spent any time in (actually it was an overnight stop on my way to Paris). It’s where I learned about the 8-minute beer and in most cities outside of major metro areas the general population does not speak English.

Being a Nazi stronghold there are many reminders of WWII - one interesting place is called the Music Bunker, a converted Nazi command center. With it’s 2 meter thick steel reinforced concrete walls keeping the sound in and neighbors happy it has a bar, 60 rehearsal rooms and a 350 seat concert hall. Travel outside of the city and the remnants of the Siegfried Line are visible everywhere... from Dragon’s teeth used to stop tanks to smaller bunkers.


dragon’s teeth
tank barriers

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and known for its historic port, the Rijksmuseum, the red-light district (de Wallen), the liberal coffeeshops, and the canals which have led to Amsterdam being termed the "Venice of the North". During the Dutch Golden Age, Amsterdam was one of the most important ports in the world, with innovative developments in trade, and became the leading centre for finance and diamonds.

The city is becoming more like home to me, usually my first stop when traveling to Europe to get over jet-lag... I rent a houseboat on the Prinsengracht and have gotten to know some of the locals. You can walk anywhere at any time with no worries. I know the city better than the Twin Cities.

Over the past 7 years, I’ve witnessed a lot of change. Large buildings are popping up every where, the Roken which is the main thoroughfare heading south from Centraal Station has been torn up for years due to the construction of the underground metro to the Zuid train station (completion 2011) and eventually, Schiphol. A mess, but will be great when completed.

A’Dam is not a cheap place to visit, not unlike New York or Chicago... but for first time visitors to Europe and great place to start. English is spoken everywhere which is a great help for “learning” how to get around in Europe.


Smart cars are very
small indeed.

Queens B-Day is a
huge party.

Museumplein at night is a beautiful sight.

The garden at my
first apartment.

You don’t have to
hold it in A’Dam.


The canals fill up
during Queens B-Day.


A $3,000,000
Bugatti Type 57c


Ready for a walk
along the Zeedijk


A typical canal boat
on the Prinsengracht.


You see quite a few
Citroen D'Specials.


Not all boats are
floating in the canals.


A night shot of the
Prinsengracht.


I'm sure by now you
realize I like cars.


More bikes here than
anywhere in Europe.


More bikes here than
anywhere in Europe.


Queens B-Day packs
the city and trashes it.


Nieuwmarkt is a
gathering place.


Looking at the canal
from the boats deck.

Anzio is quaint city located about 50 kilometers south of Rome. At one time it was an important Roman port… today, it's well known for its seaside harbor setting, it is a fishing port popular with tourists and a departure point for ferries and hydroplanes to the Pontine Islands of Ponza, Palmarola and Ventotene. The city bears great historical significance as the site of a crucial Allied landing during World War II (they have a large display overlooking the land area). I actually had people as me if was an American and when I said yes... almost kissed me for saving them from the Nazi’s.

Anzio has been awarded the Blue Flag for the quality of its beaches stretching for miles, remains of Roman walls and openings dot the beaches, restaurants line the port and fresh seafood is cheap and plentiful. If I go back to Italy... Anzio will be on my list of places to spend a few days.


Bolzano is a marvelous town located just south of the Austrian border, Bolzano was not always part of Italy. German-Austrian influences are apparent in the architecture and you hear German spoken (or at least the local dialect of it). The Iceman "Ötzi" has been on exhibit since March 1998 at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology.

It was the first Italian city I spent a night in and frankly I should have spent a few days there. Due to a rather tight schedule and not realizing how long it would take to get from city to city during a week drive thru Europe, I had to move on before totally exploring the area... if I ever get a chance to visit Venice, I’ll go back to Bolzano for a few days stay. It’s an absolutely beautiful location in the Tyrol mountains.











shopping

Budapest has very easy access to what I consider the best transportation system I’ve ever experienced in a large city... the RER in Paris, Metro in Rome, GVB in Amsterdam or Metro in Prague don’t compare. You go out the front door of your apartment, walk to the corner and it’s two blocks to the Metro station one direction and one-and-a-half to the tram and a block to the bus... can’t ask for a better location. The cost for using the system is 13€ for a week pass on the Metro, trams and buses... a very good value, and you’re always within a couple blocks of the system from virtually anywhere in the city.

There are grocery stores, cafes and bars, internet access, movie theaters, basically what ever you want but a short walk from the apartment... another plus which goes with the location. Raday Utca has great restaurants and the food/drinks a of good value for being in a trendy area (about 4 blocks from the apartment).



Andrassy Metro is
135 years old


Best transportation
system I’ve seen


Catholic church in a
cave... amazing


The Chain Bridge and
Palace at night


Fisherman’s Bastion


Chain Bridge from
the Funicular


A model train in
a museum


Russians left behind
lots of bullet holes


Interior of the market


Walking toward the
National Museum.


Apples aren’t cheap
in Budapest


Jim Beam a very
popular beverage.


The largest indoor market in Budapest.

I have never seen so many sausages.

Lot’s of parks to enjoy.

A Smart car convertable... too cool.

The actual cosmonaut was there at the time.

Hands in Statue Park.

The Russians liked to portray power.

Szent Istvan Bazilika
at night.

Den Hague was a place I wanted to visit if for no other reason the Slobodan Milosevic was on trial there. But what I found was a seaside resort area where seagulls make you aware of fresh seafood. It was a short train ride from Amsterdam and I’m glad I experienced the place... however, I don’t think I would make it a destination for a weeks stay - too many other destinations to explore.

The Hague is the actual seat of government, but, not the official capital of the Netherlands, a role set aside by the Dutch constitution for Amsterdam.

However, if you drive there and are interested in WWII, there are about a zillion bunkers to explore. The area was heavily defended by the Nazi’s and it doesn’t take too much to see the ruins (most are still very much intact actually) of the West Wall fortifications.


Florence is home to David and the main reason I took a day trip there from Rome. It is the capital of the Tuscany region, has a metro population of approximately 600,000 and is considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. Of the 1,000 European artists of the second century, 350 lived or worked in Florence... in other words if you want to see art Florence is the place to go.

The other thing which sets Florence apart is the language. It’s the parent to modern Italian and you can hear a difference when people are conversing around you. After spending a couple of weeks in Rome, Florence was a great day trip and a nice train ride thru the countryside to boot.


Looking for a restaurant.

I swear David took a breath.

Frankfurt has some areas which look quite old, however they are nothing but reproductions of old buildings. WWII completely destroyed the city and it’s claim to fame is being the financial and transportation center of Germany. Others may say it’s claim is having a red light district rivaling Amsterdam’s.

Frankfurt is a multicultural city. I spent a night there on my way to Munich and tried to find a restaurant serving German food - settled in a nice Greek dinner instead. I took some time to walk the city center and found it to be like any modern city and frankly I don’t know if I would recommend it as a destination to someone visiting Europe for the first time. It’d be a more enlightening experience to stay in one of the smaller towns 20+ kilometers outside of the city to get a feel for Germany


It may look old, but isn’t.

Innsbruck was only a stop on the way from Munich to Bolzano Italy. It’s located a few kilometers from the start of the Brenner Pass thru the Tyrol Mountain range... the pass runs thru the lowest pass thru the mountains and you can drive rather fast on it.

Innsbruck had more elevated electrical wires than any other city I’ve visited. There is no doubt hydroelectric plants power the area which I’m sure helps to keep the pollution of 1.8 million trucks driving past it each year down. It’s not a large city... kind of what I expected it to be. Seemed everywhere I looked they were building something for the upcoming Olympics.


The Alps may lose the snow caps.

The Olympic rings are everywhere.

The Olympic ski jump from a distance.

A closer view of the jump.

More overhead power than I’ve ever seen.

Koblenz is another Nazi stronghold during WWII. It is a city situated on both banks of the Rhine at its confluence with the Moselle, where the Deutsches Eck (German Corner) and its monument (Emperor William I on horseback) are situated.

When I visited the city, there was The Big Steam Spectacle taking place for the second time on the Easter weekend 2004. Not only were there steam trains, but steam driven machines of all types... musical instuments, model trains, engines, boats -- anything you could image driven by steam power was on display. Shear luck to have experienced the sights.


Munich has the Hofbräuhaus but, not far outside of the city limits is the Dachau concentration camp. I was surprised a few of the people I spoke to had know idea of its importance to history... shocking actually, and sad at the same time.

I had a lunch there and was once again reminded German food is not my favorite. In general I find it extremely bland. For instance, I was told the Augustiner am Platzl (located near the Hofbräuhaus) served authentic German food - the best in Munich. Roast pork, sauerkraut, steamed broccoli and pretzels. Other than having the best beer brewed in Munich, it was more of the same... zero seasoning — roast pork was exactly that, nothing more.

I only spent a couple of jet-lagged days there, but my main reason for stopping was to see the concentration camp... I wish I would have gone to the BMW museum tho, I understand it quite an experience if you like cars and I do, maybe I’ll put Munich back on the schedule for a return trip.


Yes they serve
very big beers.

Wu was from China,
a big guy.

The Hofbrauhaus is a Munich icon.

Marianplatz at night.

Work Means Free..
not at Dachau

Dachau was
a dreadful place.

Sculpture to the Jews… so many died.

There was no escaping from Dachau

The entrance to the gas chamber.

One of many
ovens in Dachau.

Napoli is inhabited by a lot of happy-go-lucky people in general.. for instance, a red stop light means proceed as quickly as possible with out actually stopping — or, he who gets to the front of the line is the next served (an experience similar to New York City).

They say Neapolitans are a bit crazy because they know if Mt. Vesuvius blows it’s top they are all in the red-zone and are probably going to die — they watch the mountain very carefully, but the bottom line is the city is so congested there’s no way to get anyone out before the ash buries them.

I don’t think I’d recommend spending too much time there. It’s a must see tho… maybe I’m just getting too old to deal with the confusion:)


I doubt this Pompeii Citizen was happy

Vesuvius could blow its top at any time.

Normandy is “the” battle ground for the allies in WWII. To think over 4,900 US soldiers alone were killed on D-Day is mind boggling... and even more sobering is the fact over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or missing makes every step you take in freedom an honor.

I drove along narrow roads in an area of mixed woodland and pasture, the roads are bordered on both sides by tall banks with thick hedgerows grown on top of them... which limit visibility. It was in the “bocage” that some of the wars fiercest fighting took place and just thinking about what happened there made my skin crawl.

A stop a the American cemetery in St. Laurent is a beautiful place overlooking the English Channel... it’s also the final resting place for 9,387 brave men killed liberating Europe (not to mention the 1,557 listed on the Walls of the Missing). It is a truly sobering experience.


A bunker right on the breakwall to the beach.

Here lies one known only to God.

9,387 Americans in this cemetary alone.

The Normandy battle.

Reflecting pool to honor American dead.

Looking down on Ohmaha Beach.

Ostia Antiqua is located 32 kilometers from Rome... “Ostium” is Latin meaning “mouth” and Ostia was at the mouth of the Tiber River, which flows through Rome. The ancient city is actually very well preserved, more so I my opinion, than the more famous Pompeii. Ostia was a commercial center and the harbour city of ancient Rome. In 200 AD it had a population of almost 100,000 people. Well preserved are apartment buildings, taverns, grocery stores, amphitheater, public bathrooms, statues and beautiful mosaics.


Paris is a wonderful a place to spend some time and is the most popular tourist destination in the world, with over 30 million foreign visitors per year. There are numerous iconic landmarks among its many attractions, along with world famous institutions and popular parks.

I rented a loft in the Latin Quarter about a block from the Pantheon... the locals walk around historic sites like it’s no big deal. Well, I guess if you walk past Notre Dame everyday it’s no big deal. But, attending Palm Sunday Mass was a big deal to me I must say. I’ll go back sooner rather than later.


Prague is situated on the River Vltava in central Bohemia, Prague has been the political, cultural, and economic center of the Czech state for over 1100 years. The city proper is home to nearly 1.2 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of almost 2 million.

Prague is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe (it is in my eyes) and is among the most visited cities on the continent.

Rome is the capital city of Italy and of the Lazio region, as well as the country's largest and most populous comune… a comune is the basic administrative unit of both provinces and regions, and may be properly approximated to a municipality in English… with more than 2.7 million residents. The metro area has a population of about 4 million. It is located in the central-western portion of the Italian peninsula, where the river Aniene joins the Tiber.

An enclave of Rome is the State of the Vatican City, the sovereign territory of the Holy See. It is the smallest nation in the world, and the capital of the only religion to have representation in the United Nations (as a non-member observer state).

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