European Travel Tips For First-Time Bands

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Local favorites the Wild Moccasins embark on a six-week European tour this weekend. Rocks Off knows how daunting international travel can be, especially when you're on a multi-country blitzkrieg that exposes you to numerous languages and many differing cultural mores in a relatively short period of time.

Rocks Off wants to make sure our local boys and girl don't commit a "cock-up" (that's British) or "make a blue" (that's Australian, so forget we mentioned it), so we drew on the vast collective international knowledge on hand to put together some tips for traveling the Continent (that's Europe).

Ed. Note: Someone on this staff freely admits watching EuroTrip all the way through, but we're not saying who.   The first of which would be: don't use the word "blitzkrieg." Trust us on this.

Now, any run-of-the-mill travel guide (Fodor's, Let's Go, Travel Sick.) will remind you not to forget your voltage converter and tell you how to let someone know you're diabetic in French ("Je suis allemand!"), but only Rocks Off can tell you the little known tidbits that will make your experience that much more rewarding.   And in the interest of potentially fatal (and hilarious) gaffes, we've peppered the actual travel tips with outright lies, which should make your trip much more entertaining. Bon voyage!  

  • Rocks Off sees that your tour starts in Brussels, which is too bad because it's recently been crowned the most boring city in Europe. It's the Dallas of the EU, in other words.
  • The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is depressing as hell, but absolutely necessary. Visit it, and then imagine spending 25 months in a 500 square foot apartment...with your bandmates. It'll give you a whole new appreciation for how inhumanly cruel the Nazis were.
  • When in Düsseldorf, be sure to check out Kling Klang Studios, home of electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk. They love visitors.
  • There's a strip club in the lower (rail) level of the Frankfurt Airport. We wish we'd known this back in '93 before we'd blown all our money on duty-free booze.
  • If you make it to Heidelberg, head up to the Thingsstätte, an amphitheater built in 1935 for Nazi rallies just north of the Neckar River. Be there for Hexennacht ("Witches' Night"). It can get... interesting.
  • Underwear isn't just unpopular in France (per the famous schoolyard rhyme), in many places it's illegal to wear at all. Go commando the whole time just to be safe.

Do you really have to visit Jim Morrison's grave in Père Lachaise? Fine, then at least allocate some extra time to walk around and see some of the other (more deserving) tombs. Our personal favorites are Oscar Wilde, Victor Hugo, Isadora Duncan and this guy. Take the Metro to the Gambetta station, or you'll be walking uphill the whole time.

  • Walk the Seine in Paris, take your time. If you've only got a day or two in the city, hit the Musée d'Orsay and Notre Dame instead of the Louvre. You'll just get frustrated otherwise.
  • If you ride the train for any length of time in Switzerland, you'll eventually see someone smoking crack or heroin. Helpfully point to one of the many Rauchen Verboten/Défense de Fumer/Vietato Fumare signs and cough in an exaggerated fashion to get your point across. Swiss junkies are known for their sense of humor.
  • Yes, they speak three languages in Switzerland. Four if you count Romansh, which nobody does.
  • The Cold War may be over, but any woman you meet in a café in the Czech Republic is still probably a Russian spy.
  • Germans are obsessed with feces. We know; we're German and we don't understand it either. Just be aware that the little shelf in German toilets isn't a design flaw, it's there so you can inspect your...leavings.
  • Whatever your grasp of foreign languages, the informal will take some getting used to. Here's an illustrative anecdote:

While traveling through Bavaria, Rocks Off went to various bars in an attempt to nail the St. Pauli girl meet some locals. We smoked at the time, and would try to break the ice by asking for ein Licht, "Licht" being German for "light," which we remembered from occasionally attending class in college.

For some reason, these Teutonic heathens would just stare at us until we produced by cigarette. Upon which they'd light it and continue ignoring us. This went on for a week or so until a kindly bartender in Garmisch took mercy on us. Seeing the proffered smoke, he picked up a lamp from the bar. "Ein Licht."

Then he produced his lighter, flicking it on, "Einem Feuer." Whereupon he lit our cigarette (and continued ignoring us). Mystery solved, and it's good to know the regulars at half a dozen bars in Southern Germany probably still laugh at the dumbass American who came in that one time.

  • Don't listen to the haters: Fanny packs are both stylish and practical. We used ours to carry a handgun, which is perfectly legal for Americans. Europeans understand our need to be armed at all times.
  • If you take the ferry from Dover to Calais (or vice-versa), we don't recommend drinking three pints of Boddington's to "calm your stomach." We do recommend bringing a friend on deck with you to make sure you don't pitch over the side while chumming for Channel sharks.
  • While you're in London, take the Jack the Ripper tour...the Donald Rumbelow one. And get there early.
  • The dollar is currently pretty strong against the Euro, so don't go negotiating that Jay-Z clause into your contracts just yet.
  • Stonehenge is worth the visit. Loch Ness isn't, unless you're fond of spending the entire two-hour trip around the loch staring unblinkingly at the surface for any sign of that stupid monster until you get a migraine, which we totally didn't do.
  • The residents of England and France, and most of Western Europe in general, are extremely grateful for the United States for their role in defeating Hitler in World War II. They also need to be reminded about it constantly. Some useful discussion topics include: "If it wasn't for us, you'd all be speaking German," and, "It's okay, we're used to bailing you guys out."
  • When in Great Britain, remember:

"football" = soccer

"crisps" = chips

"chips" = French fries

"fag" = cigarette

"pissed" = drunk

Hence, the question "Can I bum a fag, mate? I'm pissed." should not be cause for alarm.

  • If you're not used to it, European pop music in its native environment can be astounding in its awfulness. Keep your MP3 players charged.
  • Every bar in Ireland and Scotland has karaoke. Every. One. Dust off your Spice Girls lyrics.
  • Resign yourselves to the fact that you won't be able to get decent Mexican food over there. Rocks Off swears they gave us ketchup for salsa at this place in Limerick. We felt like Henry Hill.
  • Enjoy the extensive public transportation system and puzzle your new European friends with tales of DWI checkpoints and "no refusal weekends."
  • Use protection, send postcards, and take lots of pictures. Oh, and whatever you do, stick to the road. And beware the moon.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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