One of the exciting aspects of cycle touring is passing through the charming, small European towns. I know a lot of people who plan a trip to some popular metropolis in Europe often Paris but then they quickly realize that the romanticized notions are often lost in the hustle bustle of the huge city. But they find the European charm they are looking for in the nearby small town they pass through on a random drive.
So whether or not you love the big cities of Europe, be sure to include activities which let’s you experience the European small towns too. There are many ways of doing this for everyone. You don’t necessarily have to go on a long distance cycling tour like I did.
HOW TO EXPLORE SMALL TOWNS IN EUROPE:
SELF DRIVE FOR A FEW DAYS
Simple. Rent a car – this should be fairly easy. And self drive with your family & friends or even solo. Choose your route with a bit of research and you will find a treasure trove of interesting places to visit. Ensure that you make those random stops and don’t just visit the places marked in a guidebook or my blog 🙂
2. TAKE THE TRAIN
In places like Switzerland a lot of tourists are picking up on this culture. Anyway you would be buying the Swiss Rail Pass which covers most of the rail routes. So you won’t be paying extra – you can just board any train and get down at random small stations and explore that town. I haven’t written about some of my adventures yet – but exploring random, small towns in Switzerland can be truly delightful. This can be replicated in other countries too. You will just have to figure out what kind of ticket to buy. Or you can just buy tickets on the spur of the moment. Nearby stations don’t really cost that much.
3. CYCLE OR MOTORBIKE YOUR WAY THROUGH THE COUNTRYSIDE
I went solo cycling, but you can definitely go in a group motorbiking or cycling.
Yea this is for the adventurous bunch of people. But it can be a sheer joy to hike around in Europe. There are many ‘Walking Routes’ across the continent which you can pick or even do some serious hiking in the mountains. This may demand some level of physical fitness but for a lot of younger people there are ample beginner/intermediate level routes to try. If you have older people in your group then probably opt for the Car, Train or Boat modes of transport.
Cycling in Germany I realized that these people do love their waterways. The rivers and lakes are absolutely picturesque and there is a culture of boating & sailing. You can explore this option if it takes your fancy. There are also ferries on the bigger lakes which you can take as a day trip to explore little towns on the lake banks.
These are just some of the ways to explore the European Countryside. There would be more I am sure. You can go on a long many-days trip or just a short day trip as it may suit your schedule. I would suggest doing at least 10 days of road trip when possible because that lets you experience a truly nomadic lifestyle. It can be quite an experience especially for us Indians.
So if you are considering a longer countryside trip then you would be wondering about the accommodations.
WHERE DO YOU STAY IN THE EUROPEAN COUNTRYSIDE ?
Again a whole host of options here,
For cars, cycles, motorbikes – you can just camp in the many camping grounds scattered across Europe. The charges would be different depending on the number of people and vehicles. You can also get rooms or chalets in these grounds, if you don’t prefer living in tents.
Camping grounds allow you use of kitchenettes, showers etc.. They even have washing machines and dryers for extra charge. You can meet other campers and explore a whole different style and culture which is uncommon in India.
2. AIRBNB / COUCHSURFING
You can find delightful places on AirBnb even for just couple of nights. They are often very reasonably priced too. And couch-surfing would actually be free accommodations. This is even a great way to meet locals and get to know more about the place.
Remember, these stay options are not Hotels – you need to keep the place clean and give it back as neat and tidy as it was given to you. Europe does not have the culture of poor people (maids/servants) cleaning up their spaces for cheap money. So most of the people clean their house themselves. Guests are expected to do the same.
3. HOTELS / GUESTHOUSES
Be totally random and don’t plan anything. Whichever small town you feel like staying in, just start inquiring about stay options. I am sure you will find some small guest house or hotel there. The rates would be higher than camping or AirBnb, but they can be reasonable too. Often when I entered a small town I would come across a notice on the town hall or library about rooms to let – and they weren’t that expensive. So this is definitely an option for you.
I am personally not a hostel person, so actually forgot to add this option until the end. But a lot of backpackers love the hostel as you can find similar travellers and you can hook up together and travel for a while. Hostels also have shared kitchenettes and many amenities. It can make for some good cheap accommodations.
Vegetarian? THat is OK:
If you realize a lot of these options actually allow you to use the kitchen. A lot of Indians who are vegetarian are worried about ‘food problem’ and end up taking tours who provide “proper Indian food” – but just opt for a place that let’s you use the kitchen and that sorts it out for you. AirBnb gives you the option to look for entire home, private room or shared room. Take an Airbnb entire home to yourself and this way you get the kitchen to yourself. No one else is cooking non-veg. Otherwise, you can carry some vessels of your own and even though it is a shared kitchen in the camping ground or hostel – you can still be cooking pure veg food in your own vessels. 🙂
Moreover Europe is waking up to vegetarian and vegan lifestyles and as you would know yoga is so popular there, so you may even come across the rare restaurants which are vegetarian. In fact the Subway has a vegan patty option – which is very filling. So don’t be overtly worried about your food – it can be managed. Just carry some of the famed Gujju theplas in case. 😉
Hope this helps you explore Europe properly at your own pace and not be at the mercy of a tour operator.
Here are 6 German small towns that made me feel like coming back for a longer stay, (there were actually more too but I passed through them without any pics – so just listed these here) 🙂