In the little town of Media, Pa., an ex-university professor is doing his homework so that thousands of Americans can enjoy Europe (along with Britain) for a song this summer. He's the little leprechaun we've written about on numerous occasions, Hal Taussig, who continues to ask the questions: Wouldn't you rather hear the tinkle of a cow bell than the toot of a taxi, or settle down in Scotland or Wales than ride a crowded tour bus through Britain?
Besides Switzerland, Scotland and Wales, Taussig hosts Americans traveling in Germany and Austria at prices that even Frommer can't beat.
His company is called Idyll and he promotes the Untour, which simply means vacationing without all those hassles involved with guided tours. Instead, Taussig puts his people up in chalet apartments and cottages in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, London, Scotland and Wales for as little as $20 a day and after this they sightsee on their own.
Taussig's packages are designed for travelers who've grown weary of dawn departures, packing and unpacking and the prospect of yet another long and exhausting day aboard a tour bus.
Instead of regimentation, there's relaxation.
Travelers settle down in an apartment in London or a farmhouse in Scotland or a chalet in Switzerland and sightsee at a pace they set for themselves. On a rainy day one can toss another log on the fire, heat up the coffee pot and relax with a good book.
Along with a chalet in Switzerland (there's the choice of 21 villages) the Custom Untour ranges from $250 to $447 for three weeks, including transfers, a fondue party and an orientation session with Taussig & Co. who provide tips for a happy and restful holiday.
In addition to the custom tour, Taussig operates his Classic Tour, which in the case of Switzerland, for example, includes round-trip air from Los Angeles, Chicago or the East Coast to Zurich, transfers and a Swiss Holiday Card that's good for three weeks of unlimited travel by train, bus and lake steamer, thus allowing the vacationer time to sightsee by day and return home at night without so much as packing an extra dress or a pair of slacks. They also receive newsletters filled with tips on shopping and sightseeing.
Here's what A. M. O'Neal of Orlando, Fla., wrote about his three weeks with Idyll in Switzerland: "We had a home base to travel from and return to. No packing and moving every day. We didn't have to be any place at any particular time. We arranged our schedule from day to day, according to whim and weather. No pressures."
The majority of chalet apartments in Switzerland are scattered between Lucerne and Interlaken and along the shores of Lake Thun, areas that spark pictures of all those post-card scenes one imagines whenever the thought of Switzerland comes to mind.
Taussig offers a couple of side trips with his Swiss Untour that include a visit to a Swiss festival and a trip to an Alpine village where cheese is made.
In 1982 Taussig's price per person in a Swiss chalet came to $16.66 per day. Five years later, in 1987, it figures out to barely $3 more. And in the case of two or three couples sharing a chalet, the rates are even cheaper.
In Germany, Idyll's apartments lie between Bingen-am-Rhein and Koblenz, which makes for easy access to steamer excursions along the Rhine.
In London, Taussig & Co. coach travelers use the London Explorer Pass (good for travel on the Underground and bus system) as well as car rentals in Wales and Scotland. Last fall, only a few miles from Edinburgh, I looked in on a cottage in Taussig's rental pool that sleeps up to eight persons at $7.50 a day per guest in four bedrooms. This with a picture window on one of Scotland's greenest valleys.
At those prices, who needs Frommer?
Write to Hal Taussig c/o Idyll, P.O. Box 405, Media, Pa. 19063 or telephone (215) 565-5242.
If you get to Grindelwald during your visit to Switzerland, drop by the jewelry store operated by Herr M. Schreiber (opposite Grindelwald's Grand Hotel Regina) and meet the town's friendliest shopkeeper. Herr Schreiber is honest, concerned with the visitor's well-being. He's also Grindelwald's happiest fella. Offers tips on his village while repairing your watch or showing you displays of new timepieces (Omega, Tissot, Lanco, Audemars, Piquet). Speaks excellent English and is fond of Americans. Besides watches, Herr Schreiber's store is stocked with dozens of other excellent gifts. Everything from diamond rings to cut glass figurines. He took my watch apart, cleaned and repaired it, buffed the crystal, charged only $6.