I was lucky enough to have a few weeks of leave in July and August, which I used to go back to Europe with my family. As well as catching up with friends and family (and even a few work colleagues), I spent some time experiencing different parts of Europe as a tourist – five EU member states!
First we went to my home country, the UK, which is one of the world’s most visited countries. Although I know the UK pretty well, it was great to introduce my family to some places I hadn’t been to for a while, such as Stonehenge and Cambridge, both easy day trips out of London.
My children had never been to Paris before. We happened to arrive on the last day of the Tour de France and saw some of the last races. Paris has some of the world’s finest museums and galleries and of course we visited the Louvre but also some less well-known sites such as the Rodin Museum. We took the short train journey out to Versailles, and, back in Paris, also devoted some time to strolling down the Champs-Élysées.
Next we visited a new destination for us – Prague in the Czech Republic. We were impressed by the spectacular architecture and charm of the old city, which has been very well preserved. You can get a great sense of history and culture by visiting some of Europe’s historic cities.
Last we visited Germany and spent a few days in and around Munich, including day trips to the breathtaking scenery of the nearby Alps. The Königssee lake is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. We were also able to slip across the border into Austria to walk around Salzburg, another historic town which was the birthplace of Mozart and still promotes a strong musical tradition.
Lasting impressions? Great sights, fascinating history and culture, delicious food. And it is really easy to get around – as most EU countries are also part of the Schengen area, to cross most borders you don’t even have to show your passport. For Indonesian visitors, a Schengen visa will give you access to 26 European countries. I was also struck that, these days, most people in the major tourist locations speak English. It was quite hard for me to practise my French and German because English is spoken so well!
Later this year we will be promoting Europe to Indonesian visitors with Destination Europe – the first European travel and cultural fair in Jakarta. Most of the European countries will be there with tourist information, as well as travel agencies, airlines and other parts of the travel industry. There will be performances of European culture, chances to sample European food and drink and even sample lessons in European languages. Europe is an amazing destination, so we hope to see many of our Indonesian friends at the fair – at Balai Kartini on 18-19 October.