Joy likes to rent a player at museums, typically for $5, and get an audio tour. But often, she’s wandering around the museum looking for the exhibit being talked about.  We’ve just discovered something better: “Rick Steves Audio Europe,” a free audio and video app for your iPad, iPhone, or  iPod Touch.

We admit to being Rick Steves fans. We’ve checked out his videos from the public library, watched him on public TV and seen a few of his videos on YouTube. He also writes a travel column that appears in many U.S. newspapers, including ours.

Despite the “Audio Europe” in the app’s title, the video component is really great. We tried it out on our iPad, and it worked so well we thought, why go anywhere, let’s just use the app. We had to tap once to enlarge it to full screen, but it came in with great clarity. We used it to tour the British Museum, learn about Swedish culture, discuss the Rosetta Stone, and listen to Salmon Rushdie and other “notable travelers.”

Some of the most interesting tours were audio only. We listened to one on the Berlin Wall, 20 years after and learned many things we never knew:

  • When the wall first went up, families on either side could only wave bed sheets; no visits allowed. Later, West Germans were allowed to visit East Germany.
  • Even before the Wall came down, East Germans over age 65 were allowed to visit relatives in the West.
  • A construction boom took place in the East after the wall came down.

Once you’ve downloaded one of the tours, you don’t have to be connected to the Internet to play them back. That’s very handy if you’re wandering around Europe without WiFi.

You can download the app to your computer, but you’ll only get the audio portion of “Audio Europe.” Learn more here.

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