Europe from the Red Room at Powell’s books
Saturday afternoon was the first time in months that I’ve gone to Powell’s City of Books, the famed block-long, multi-story bookstore headquartered in downtown Portland on 11th & Burnside. Next time I come back, I think I’m going to bring an esky and a sleeping bag, and just wait until the lights go out…
But I digress.
Once inside I beelined for the Red Room (Powell’s separates their books by subject into rooms by color), for the travel books. What else is out there on Eurail travel? What else is out there on guides, and the latest Euro “here’s what to do and where to go stuff“?
Some gems that I found:
- Traveling Europe’s Trains, 5th edition. Jay Brunhouse.
- Europe by Eurail 2003: Touring Europe by Train, 27th edition. LaVerne Ferguson-Kosinski.
- The Best European Travel Tips. John Whitman.
- Weird Europe: A Guide to Bizarre, Macabre, and Just Plain Weird Sights. Kristan Lawson and Anneli Rufus.
These all looked great, but there were only 2 that I took home with me… today.
- European Customs and Manners: How to make friends and do business in Europe. (“Revised and Expanded!” says the cover. OK.) Nancy L. Braganti and Elizabeth Devine.
A 1992 edition so this book is a little older, but looking over the back cover and flipping through, this is a pretty enlightening read. There are so many cultural differences big and small that we just don’t think about, but they can make a difference.
Understanding some of them before you go also just helps remind you to be on the look-out for all those quirks and different customs that keep things interesting. Not that misunderstanding social faux pas and different customs are going to end the world, but hey, the more you know, usually the better off you’re going to be.
For example, as a Yank I don’t think twice making the little thumb-to-forefinger circle of “OK!” If I do that in Barcelona though, that gesture “is considered obscene.” Fair enough. OK.
Then there are other little things, like how you don’t ask for salt and pepper when dining in France; after all, shouldn’t you be trusting the chef to know how to season a dish? That’s how the French look at it, apparently, according to the book. I see their point. And “scotch” is a brand of beer in Belgium (if you want whiskey, you ask for “whiskey”), which just on that merit alone I must try.
And the second book:
- Vagabonding in Europe and North Africa, by Ed Buryn. Nope, not the Rolf Potts book (Vagabonding) that you might’ve heard of, but this 128-page book was published in 1971, originally printed by Ed himself. Later he collaborated with Random House to do a larger run.
I don’t know what the odds are of finding many copies of this; it’s over 30 years old, and outside of a Powell’s shelf I’d never have known it existed. But if you can find it, snap it up. At $6.50 it’s cheap, it’s light enough to actually be worth putting in your pack, and Ed’s attitude reads so far like something that deserves some pack room.
Ed, wherever he is now, would make a great BootsnAll member. The main reason I bought this book is the first paragraph of the Preface:
This book tells you how to visit Europe as a way of blowing your mind and enriching your life. It says that tourism is bullshit unless you get involved. To do that, you avoid your travel agent like he was the cops, and go find out about the world by yourself, for your own self.
I’ll talk more about this book once I’ve had a good read of it, but it looks highly useful, from the inspiration of the preface to the informational chapters: “Where to go”, “Who to go with”, “Rags and bags”, “Techniques of hitchhiking”, “People you meet”.
This ought to be an interesting read.
Oh, one last thought on the Europe books. I saw a copy of LP’s Europe on a Shoestring. Yes, it looks very informative. Which it had bloody better be – it felt like it weighed 5 pounds, and was at least 2 inches thick. Sorry, I’m not putting that in my pack!
But I’ll let you know about the other two.