Most of my life I’ve lived in The Netherlands. As this is a very small country, it is easy to travel abroad. If there are no traffic jams, you can be in Belgium or Germany by car in less than an hour. Also Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy and Germany are reasonably close to each other regarding distances.
It’s hard to imagine for most North Americans how ‘small’ Europe actually is. Last week I met a girl from Calgary. She told me that she sometimes visits her brother for the weekend, travelling 16 hours! In 16 hours you can drive from The Netherlands to the middle of Spain, passing Belgium and France. And France is even the biggest country in Western Europe.
Fact is, if you add up the square kilometers of the European countries which are most visited by North Americans, you can understand the proportions a bit. Countries like France, Italy, Germany, The Netherlands and Spain have a total of 1.75 million km² while Canada alone has 9.9 million km².
Another difference with North America is that you don’t have roads in Europe that continue in a straight line for hundreds of kilometers. Besides the lack of space, there are simply too much villages, cities and borders in between.
In the Alps you’ll find quite winding roads like spaghetti laid out on a mountain. A good example is the Mount Stelvio in Italy. It is a breathtaking road. BBC’s popular car program Top Gear once voted it as the most beautiful road to drive in the world. I even rode it by bike, long ago…
Anyway, the advantage of Europe is that you can cross several borders within one holiday if you plan it properly. Not only by car (europelives.com/self-drive), but also by train, on a bike (europelives.com/cycling) or even on foot (europelives.com/walking). But remember that each country still has its own style, culture, language and …something innocent like bread.
Welcome to Europe!
You’ll get a good impression of Europe by watching some of our Flickr photos.