Read Lou Reed’s European Travel Diary

Rock icon Lou Reed died yesterday. The former frontman for the Velvet Underground was 71. He’d undergone a liver transplant earlier this year.

Upon news of Reed’s death, The New Yorker unlocked access to “Diary by Lou Reed: The Aches and Pains of Touring,” which it published in 1996.

In the piece, Reed chronicles 10 days on the road, talking about stints in Lintz, Antibes and Prague, and lost luggage, lengthy layovers and exploding shampoo bottles. The similarities between Reed’s travels though and your last European visit ends there: Reed was hanging out with David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Vaclav Havel.

Adventures By Disney Announces New Options For Europe And Beyond

Adventures by Disney has announced that it is expanding its catalog of travel itineraries for 2014 with new options to Europe and several tours specifically created for the teen traveler. These new additions to the line-up will expand on the company’s already diverse group of tours that are designed to provide adventure travel options for families while delivering a distinctly Disney experience.

New to the Adventures by Disney portfolio is a nine-day escape to Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic that includes visits to the vibrant and cosmopolitan cities of Salzburg, Prague and Vienna. While on the tour, travelers will experience ice caves in the Alps, visit wondrous castles, tour a marionette workshop and get a private after-hours tour of the famed Vienna Zoo – the oldest in Europe.

If Italy holds more appeal over Central Europe, then the new Enhanced Italy tour may be more to your liking. This classic family escape will take travelers to the streets of Rome, Tuscany, Venice and Florence, offering VIP treatment along the way. Highlights include an after-hours visit to the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, a private pasta-making class and of course a special gondola ride through the canals of Venice.

Finally, ABD has announced three new adventures designed specifically with teenagers in mind. These options include escapes to Peru, Costa Rica and Arizona and Utah, and feature activities intended for teenagers at each of those destinations. In Peru, for instance, they can go stargazing around a campfire in the foothills of the Andes. In Costa Rica, they’ll take in the exotic and diverse wildlife of the rainforest and in Arizona and Utah, they’ll have the opportunity to go on a bike ride through Boynton Canyon in Sedona. Each of these itineraries was specifically crafted to engage teenagers and allow families with teens to travel together.

Since its inception eight years ago, Adventures by Disney has been providing high quality adventure travel opportunities for the entire family. These new offerings will only expand on the company’s award-winning service while offering more choices for customers. If you’re looking to introduce a little adventure into your next family escape, they can definitely help you accomplish that in a unique and well-crafted manner.

Prague Will Introduce ‘Singles Only’ Dating Cars On Subway

Riding the rails through Europe is an often-romanticized journey – unless, of course, you’re referring to a subway system. In that case, the only time people bump into each other tends to cause annoyance, with most choosing to sit alone and stare at a book or advertisement in a desperate attempt to avoid eye contact with fellow travelers (not to mention buskers).

But an initiative by the Prague public transport system intends to change the way people feel about getting from here to there by introducing singles-only “love trains,” Spiegel Online is reporting. A spokesman for Ropid, the city’s public transport authority, told the news outlet the initiative is part of a long-term campaign that aims to bring to light activities you can do while riding public transport that you cannot do inside your car (like reading or playing games on your cellphone … or in this case, getting to know a complete stranger). Ropid plans to work with dating agencies to help facilitate the program, which will only operate on nights and weekends – cause as GOOD points out, you don’t want to risk running into Mr. Right before you’ve had your morning coffee.

[via GOOD]

Powerful Explosion Rips Through Prague’s Tourist District

Anyone familiar with Prague’s postcard-perfect Old Town will be saddened to hear a powerful blast tore through the tourist district this morning, reducing one building to rubble, shattering windows and – worst of all – injuring up to 40 people.

AP is reporting the blast, which is believed to be a gas explosion, stranded tourists on street corners and caused evacuations in the surrounding buildings. Windows were blown out of the 19th-century National Theater, one of the most important cultural institutions in the Czech Republic. According to the news outlet, the center of the explosion was a row of several-story tall brick buildings that date back about a century.

Prime Minister Petr Necas likened the blast’s destruction to an air assault or a bomb explosion, but mayor Bohuslav Svobodo ruled out a terrorist attack. Only two injuries were serious, but two or three people are believed to be missing. Rescuers are searching through the rubble, while the blast has also caused major traffic disruptions and confused thousands of tourists in the area.

[Photo credit: Smtunli, Svein-Magne Tunli, Wikimedia Commons]

Prague: A City With Claws

I was at a laundromat in Santa Cruz, California, reading the New York Times travel section. It was the spring semester of my senior year of college, a period of complete uncertainty for me. I was about to graduate. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I only knew what I didn’t want: to stay in Santa Cruz or move to San Francisco and get an office job of some sort. I needed a purpose. I needed a direction.

And that’s when a life-changing thing happened to me at the laundromat. When the guy next to me, who was reading the main news section of the Times heard the buzzer to his dryer go off, he dismissively tossed the paper over his shoulder. It hit me in the face. Well, okay, it skimmed my face. Alright, it almost hit me in the face.The point is … I picked up the newspaper and the first article I saw was about how bird poop and pollution (poop-lution?) were combining to rot the statues on Prague’s Charles Bridge.

I’d been to Prague three years earlier. I was only there for three days but I was almost paralyzed by its beauty. It had a down-on-its-heels feel to it, having just come up for air from 41 years of Soviet negligence. I met a young American couple that told me there were thousands more like them there. Young yanks just hanging out. They had planned to open a pizza-by-the-slice placed and call it Brooklyn Pizza. I moved on to Berlin a few days later but I couldn’t stop thinking about Prague.

And then here I was reading the article about the city and its eroding statues. What was in the article was unimportant to me. I was having an epiphany, a realization that was so simple I never thought it was possible. I thought my life needed direction and I was going to take that literally. I needed change and it almost hit me right in the face. I would move to the capital of poop-lution: Prague.

So that’s what I did. I spent my days teaching English and my nights drinking beer with drunk old men in smoky pubs. I wandered the city’s narrow streets, gawking at the Baroque palaces. I took classes on the art history of the city. I stood around Charles Bridge – yes that same bridge that was supposed to be dying from asphalt cancer, and one of the most beautiful bridges in the world – staring up at the Prague Castle with the gothic St. Vitus cathedral plopped in the middle.

OK, so I still didn’t have a purpose. In fact, in Prague I had less of a purpose in life than I had in Santa Cruz. At least there I was getting a college degree.

But, while sitting in a café in Prague on a random Tuesday afternoon, I realized, that was sort of the point. Prague let me exist there; it let me hang out and do nothing except for live a rather debauched life, and it didn’t care. It didn’t judge me.

To be fair, though, I didn’t exactly move to Prague to live like a bohemian (and I mean that with a capital “B” and a lowercase “b.” I actually wanted to go somewhere slightly out of my comfort zone. I wanted to struggle a little – to learn something about myself. Yes, I could have chosen a more challenging place (Afghanistan, anyone?). But the beer and sausages are so much better in the Czech Republic. Anyone ever had an Afghan sausage? They’re TERRIBLE.

And so for three years I lived in Prague. I traveled around the country. I made friends. I even learned Czech. How I didn’t come away from there with a gorgeous Czech wife is a miracle. It doesn’t sound very challenging but three years later, I was a profoundly different (and, I hope, a better, stronger, wiser) person. And then one day I woke up and realized my life was so great in Prague there was nothing left to do but to leave it, to find another challenge.

And so I waved goodbye to the City of a Hundred Spires and did something else. But now over a decade since then, I still go back again and again and again.

Why? Because Prague is me. I am Prague. Prague is the reason I’m a traveler and a writer and a travel writer. I go back to get that reminder of the lesson that Prague first taught me: it’s OK to not live a normal life. It’s OK if you don’t have an office job and live in the suburbs (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It’s OK that I’m not making a six-figure salary. It’s OK to go out in the world and let yourself drift. You’re not a loser for doing that! Unlike my mom and dad, Prague never said: What?! You want to be a travel writer?! But they make no money and, really, they’re just losers who can’t do real journalism.

Kafka likened his home city to a mother with claws that won’t let you go. Perhaps. But to me, Prague is more like your friend’s cool mom who lets you party at her house. And after you drunkenly jump off her roof into the pool, she’s standing there waiting with a towel to wrap you in.

So, who else is ready to jump in the pool?

[Photo Credit: David Farley]