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Travelling in Western Europe: What We Know Now


A typical multinational tour of the EU and its surrounding nations will, even at this late date, present the traveller with a baffling array of coins and notes and denominations. This is true in spite of the modernization in the last 30 years of various monetary quirks and irregularities, such as the elimination of archaic coins like the "florin" and the "half-penny" in the UK. The canny traveller soon discovers that, with exception of the mighty pound sterling, most of the foreign money is not worth much - but, luckily, things don't seem to cost too much either. This is certainly the case now, when a well-heeled American can shop Germany like it was some third world backwater bubbling over with bargains - the only difference being that the bargains are Swiss watches and German cameras rather than tapestries and carvings.

In any case, our advice for the travelling musician who is carving his way across Europe is to ignore the details of the local currency and its baffling valuations and devise for himself a plan based on rough estimates, sizes, shapes and colors, and the approving glances of local shopkeepers and waitpersons (or the indignant glare if you've screwed up). Here's a system that seems to work just fine.

Breakfast for two in hotel restaurant: Two dark color notes or five thick brass coins, with two or three medium silvery coins as a tip.

Herald Tribune, when available: One light or bright colored note and a tip of the hat

Headache remedy containing codeine: Flash wad of notes, hand over one of the big ones with gold writing, then head for the street without waiting for change

Freddie Roach CD: Just show contents of pocket, let 'em take whatever they want

The beauty of this system is the simplicity, the fact that it will work for people who may temporarily be unable read numbers or make calculations, and the fact that it works fairly well even if the money in your pocket happens to be the currency of some country other than the one you are currently in.


One of the chief hazards of European travel has to do with the uncertainty as to the precise makeup of the nutritional staple known as the Club Sandwich. Here's the way it breaks down:

UK - same as US but not very tasty. Exception: Scotland, where a sheep's thymus will be added in some cases

France - same as UK but with ham instead of bacon, but much much tastier.

Germany - same as France but with addition of fried egg and unpredictable amounts of mayonnaise - not as good but still better than UK

Denmark - surprisingly similar to German version but with boar's bacon cut up into tiny little pieces and no mayonnaise at all.

Sweden - same as Danish but much harder to order and longer to arrive.

Norway - same as Swedish but better in every way and not shy about telling you either.

Finland - didn't spend the night there so who knows?

Netherlands - same as France but with cubensis mushrooms - mayonnaise flavored with absinthe and black pepper and tomatoes by request.

A few miscellaneous musings

:: Don't order the pasta in a Dutch restaurant

:: The more frequently your guitar tech changes your strings, the better you play

:: When performing in Scandinavia, humorous headgear is not a likely to be taken lightly

:: Be appropriately grateful when you are staying in a country that is famous for its beer

:: As the end of the tour approaches, certain bandmembers may tend to become inconsolable - that's alright.

:: European commercial radio ticket contests are not likely to be conducted in accordance with the same rigorous contest rules and standards that apply in the U.S., i.e., most of the winners will be either pals of the DJ's, involved with various Steely Dan tribute bands, or off-duty dentists. There is nothing to be done.

:: There is a shocking lack of consensus on the best mechanism by which to flush a toilet, and a near universal disregard for the pliability and tearability of toilet paper

:: There are no better folks anywhere than Steely Dan fans. Period.

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