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by Jim Humberd
Although generally unknown to most Americans, there are millions of campsites in Europe, located in most every country, many situated in a most magnificent location. In France alone there are 12,000 campgrounds, with over 900,000 campsites. Europeans have taken advantage of these locales in every manner that can be imagined ‹ tents, buses, caravans, RVs, small buildings, motels, and modified railway cars. Many campgrounds have room for thousands of guests, and we often find restaurants, grocery stores, and a variety of other shops. Remember, a clerk in a grocery or bakery is thrilled to meet an American, a waiter and a bell hop are thrilled to get a tip.
At many campgrounds (Paris for example) small trailers or manufactured houses are available for rent. All the splendor of staying in a campground, without the need to own or transport camping equipment. The tents we saw ranged in size from tiny to huge ‹ some had barely room for one person, some held a dozen sleepers, others had multiple rooms for a family. There were thousands and thousands of caravans (what we call a trailer) in campsites throughout Europe. Most were likely owned by a family, but many were for rent to passers-by.
Many young people camped in ancient double-decker London buses that had been outfitted with seats, a kitchen, and a toilet downstairs, with bunks (including, we were told, a secluded "passion pit") upstairs. At several places (Amsterdam, Berlin, Budapest, Paris, Prague, Venice, Vienna, Warsaw, and others) the campground was home to one or more large tourist buses with three or four dozen college-age sightseers. They spent the night in maybe two dozen small tents, but not, we were assured, always in the same tent.
In addition to thousands of backpacks and trailers, by the mid 1990's there were so many RVs in Europe, "No Campers Allowed" and "No Camper Parking" signs were proliferating.
In two different years we met a group of 10 to 15 American couples who were traveling in VW Vans. Each tour was directed by a "wagon master" who made arrangements for campgrounds each night, gave directions and instructions where to meet the next night, and what to do on the way there.
Some people like the regimentation, Jim and Emmy are so individualistic they have said "no" to being "wagon masters."
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