Home away from home

posted in: Central Europe 2019, Real Journeys, Tips | 1

Fast Travel

The first half of this trip is some of the slowest travel I’ve ever done in Europe.

The first two weeks I am spending in just three locations: Prague for four nights, Dresden and Berlin for five each. (After that, the pace gets a little faster: thirteen nights in five Polish cities.)

I spent five nights in Amsterdam on my last trip to Europe. That trip had eight separate destinations in just three weeks, so a lot of two-night stays.
My first solo trip to Europe was twelve nights in four places. In general, I’ve tried to stick to two nights minimum per stop, but there are occasionally exceptions.

There are some advantages to covering a lot of ground. The faster you go, the more different places you see. You can check off more items on your bucket list. Often, each stop is a place where the goal is to see something specific, so you can arrive and settle in at your hotel in the early afternoon, go see what you came to see, have dinner, sleep, wake up, have breakfast, and move on. And every time you arrive somewhere new, there’s a kind of quick thrill of seeing things for the first time.

Slow Travel

I’m now on the train, heading toward Berlin after five nights in Dresden. And based on my experience there, I’m eager to shift my travel style and slow down.

There’s a gradual transition that takes place the longer you spend in one place, and it’s magical. It’s a transition from alien to inhabitant, from tentative to confident, from conspicuous to comfortable, from feeling like a guest to feeling like you are at home.
I loved how that transition took place over four nights in Prague, and even more over five nights in Dresden.

Last night, my final night in Dresden, I went for a walk across the Elbe in the Neustadt (new town) area. There are no sights to see there. It’s just a place where Dresdeners were out and about, living their lives, doing their daily routine. There were lots of pubs and restaurants filled with people, nary a tourist among them. I chose a quiet restaurant for dinner, and it was totally relaxing. I was far from the throngs of tourists eating at rows of tables set up outside the many nearly identical restaurants on Neumarkt, the square I overlooked from my hotel room. While I was walking I came across a big demonstration, and I asked someone what was going on. It was a protest against a law in Saxony that gives the police greater access to people’s private information.

A block further on, more Dresdeners were sitting at the pubs enjoying their beer.
I just loved my walk through that neighborhood. I also love taking time away from sightseeing to go shopping, not in souvenir shops but in department stores, hardware stores, drug stores, supermarkets.

I love feeling like I’m in my home away from home.

It’s All Good

I’m convinced there’s no one right pace for traveling. I still love the thrill of coming out of the train station in a new place and seeing everything for the first time. If you don’t mind living out of a suitcase (because you won’t feel like unpacking everything for just a one- or two-night stay), and you don’t mind spending much of your vacation time getting from place to place, by all means enjoy being constantly on the go. There’s a lot to be said for that style of travel.

But if you’ve never slowed down, I’m starting to realize you’re missing something you cannot acquire in fast-paced travel. It’s totally worth discovering.

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