no matter where you go, there you are

Friday, July 9, 2010

money, money, money; must be funny; in a rich man's world

Being the neurotic, organized person I am, before I set about traversing Europe, I spent probably 4-6 weeks planning everything. From housing to transportation to estimations on the cost of food, I budgeted for everything. Before I left, I was going to know exactly how much money I would be spending. I knew there would be some additional expenses I wouldn't be able to account for exactly such as night train fees, but even these I put into my budget. What I didn't plan for, which is bad because it made me frustrated that I would have to spend more, was expenses due to unknown fees as well as what I will call "cultural expenses."

Reservation fees for the trains was the first big shocker. The EuroRail Pass was great and all the information provided online was quite helpful in terms of telling me what I needed to do when I got to Europe. In Paris and Italy, most of the trains I would be taking needed advance reservations, so when I got to Paris I went to the train station and made reservations. From what I remember, the EuroRail information said there would be fees for reservations, but I took that to mean that the fees were going to be only a few Euros. NOPE! Some had fees as much as 10-15 while others were as little as 5. And that is PER train ticket, not just for the collective purchase. With all the train travel I had planned on, those fees added up quick and sooner than I could blink I was out 75 Euros.

Another un-thought-of expense: internet. Some of the hostels I stayed in were really nice and had free internet. Some were not as nice and made you pay. And the fee was, in my opinion, a little high. Something like 1Euro for 10 minutes. Then when the hostels didn't have internet, or I needed to kill time and didn't feel like reading for fear of dozing off, I ventured into the internet cafes and depending on the location, some were nice (4Euro+soda for 1 hour) and some where pricey (5Euro for 30 minutes, I think). Though I probably could have done without some of those visits and held myself back from paying at the hostels, I am a sucker for the internet, and did, on many occasions need it to communicate with Anne in Vienna.

Lastly, there were the "cultural expenses." There were 2 that I encountered that, while I love many aspects of Europe, these things made me miss home a LOT: 1) Paying to pee and 2) Paying for tap water. I call these "cultural expenses" because almost all the other things I spent money on are kinds of things I would spend money on back home in the USA: reservation fees, museum entrance tickets, etc. Paying to pee and paying for tap water are both things I've never seen at home and have attributed as ways of the Europeans.

To me, going to the bathroom is part of human nature. Heck its part of all breathing creature's nature. Therefore, no one should have to pay a fee to use a facility that is built for this aspect of human nature. That's just cruel. What if I didn't have change on me, and my bowel decided to go on an adventure one morning? Or my monthly visitor decided to come a little early? What would I do then? The cities of Europe don't want me to relieve myself on the street corner, do they? No...because its unsanitary and I would get arrested. Therefore, you shouldn't have to pay to pee. It's just cruel. Especially in a train station!

Water is another thing I think is ridiculous to pay for when it doesn't come in a bottle. Before ordering water in the Italian restaurants I went to with Anne and Lauren, we had to ask if the it cost anything. If it did, I wasn't getting it. I had my water bottle on me and would gladly drink from that instead. We're already paying for the food and service, so I was not going to pay for water I could get by going into their bathroom and refilling my water bottle from the faucet.

I don't know where either of these "cultural expenses" come from and why they are in place, but I don't like them. I know someone could probably tell me why there are fees like this, but it doesn't make them any less annoying.

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