The promise of a cultural adventure on the continent lures students every year into spending their summer inter-railing across Europe. With historic and hip cities residing only hours away from each other, the savvy traveller can happily take in all that Europe has to offer. Amongst the sights and sounds of these cities however, lie many traps a not so discerning inter-railer might fall into. Europe’s city streets have both treasures to find, and annoyances to avoid.
Paris: “Do you speak English, Miss?”
Upon first glance, central Paris is post-card perfect. Entering the centre from the Palais Royal metro station, you will step out right in front of The Louvre Museum, home to the Mona Lisa. The Louvre’s courtyard acts as a beacon for the herds of tourists that visit Paris every year. When walking through this bustling area, be weary of groups of people who may approach and inquire innocently “do you speak English?” At this point, a clipboard with a petition will be shown to you, where it becomes clear that they are supposedly asking for charitable donations.
On a closer look, you may see that donators have all contributed as much as 30EUR each to the cause, yet suspiciously all have the same handwriting. When walking around central Paris, you may be approached several times in one day for this petition. The best way to avoid it is by simply walking away and ignoring them.
Rome: you wear, you buy
In Rome by the Trevi Fountain many tourists are targeted by scam artists. One particular scam occurs when a tourist is approached by a vendor who will offer to make a ‘friendship bracelet’. At this point, the vendor will tightly tie a thin strip of ropey string to the tourist’s wrist. Here, the vendor will then demand money for the bracelet, and as it is tied so tightly, it is a demand that many tourists will succumb to. One way to avoid such a scam is to remain alert in touristy areas of Rome.
Zagreb: stopping traffic
Despite being the capital, Zagreb is an unsung city in Croatia. It lies in the north of the country and its Old Town boasts some of the most breath-taking cathedrals in Croatia. On the outskirts of the town, away from the tourists you will find an interesting spectacle at traffic light crossings. On some pedestrian crossings, when the lights turn red for the cars to stop, circus performers will run into the crossing and begin to display their juggling or hula-hooping skills.
The fact that they maintain such friendly dispositions throughout is impressive given the traffic’s distaste towards these street- performers. Their performance ends just before the lights turn green again when they go into the road with a bucket, asking the traffic to give them money for their performance. Whilst it is obvious that the cars here consider these performers as an annoyance, the pedestrians can’t help but crack a smile at the ingenuity of the performers and the plight of their truly captive audience.
The cities of Europe have the capacity to offer travellers a vibrant cultural adventure. Paris, Rome and Zagreb are all cities that are wrought with history and life. Whilst it is not possible to satisfy curiosities in these cities, it is possible to better your continental travelling experience by remaining alert and safe in the world’s most culturally rich continent.