Where in the World to Travel - Part 2

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In Part 1, I talked about how we decided on which part of the world to go to first. I ended that post by saying, "So, we’ve decided on Europe. Now what?". There are so many different countries and cultures in Europe we're now presented with only a slightly more defined paradox of choice.

I'll start with the easiest decision. My family had a foreign exchange student from Switzerland stay with us for a year when I was in high school. His family has become our family and we're really looking forward to spending more time with them. It will be great for Eleanor to get to know her Swiss aunt and uncle and to interact with her Swiss cousins. Not to mention they've generously offered to have us stay with them. Woohoo!

Narrowing our choice further was aided by the Schengen Agreement. Huh? Exactly. The European Union has an agreement called the Schengen Agreement. It states that non-European Union citizens may stay for no longer than 90 days in any 180 day period (without an extended stay visa). Most European countries are part of this agreement, with a few exceptions. Given that we plan to stay in each country for 30 days, we are allowed 3 Schengen countries. Switzerland is our first. Notable countries that are currently independent of the Schengen Agreement are Ireland, the UK, and Croatia.

We also need to consider the weather. Given that we're leaving in July and staying until December, we'd like to go to more northern countries first and save the warmer southern countries for later in the year. And, as it turns out, we have a friend getting married in London in August. So, we should start in Ireland or the UK.

What happened next is an example of the cool things that happen when the dots start to connect. A friend, who lives in England, saw our first post and generously offered to let us stay at her place while she is back visiting her family in the U.S. Woohoo again! We're looking forward to getting to see England and spending time with her when she returns.

So, we've locked in Switzerland and England. We're now left to decide on 2 Schengen countries and 1 non-Schengen country. At this point, the remaining non-Schengen country is easy. The more we hear and read about Croatia the more excited we are about staying there for a month. We're not sure exactly where in Croatia we'll stay, but we're thinking Split. If you have any suggestions, please let us know.

The remaining 2 countries were picked partly because they speak the languages Deanna and I have studied and would love to become at least somewhat fluent in. Deanna has studied Spanish, so we'll go to Spain. I have studied German, so we'll go to Germany. You might think, "You're already going to Switzerland, they sort of speak German, right?". They do speak and understand German (in addition to other languages throughout the country), but the language they speak daily is a dialect called Swiss German. It is related to the German language but sounds quite different and is difficult to understand even for Germans. It is also not a written language and so is difficult to learn.

Ideally, we'd like to go to cities in these countries that are not the largest and most touristy, but are also not too small. We are, after all, trying to live not like tourists, but like locals. We need access to public transportation because we will not always have a car. We do want to see the sites, but that is not our main purpose for traveling. We have our cities locked down in England and Switzerland, and we are thinking Seville in Spain. We are still undecided on where to live in Germany. If you have any suggestions, please let us know!

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