© St. Petersburg Times, published March 2, 2003
TAMPA -- Rick Steves, who turned classroom lectures into one of public television's enduring series, comes to the Tampa Bay area this week for a speech and appearance boosting WEDU-Ch. 3.
As a college student, Steves traveled through Europe for three summers on the cheap: He lived out of his backpack, used a rail pass, and stayed in B&Bs and family-run hotels. Back at the University of Washington, he shared his experiences in casual discussions with other students but realized he often was answering the same questions from different groups. So he organized a night class, for $5, to relate his journeys.
That was in 1975, at the university's Experimental College. The response was so great that by 1980 he had not only led tours but also had published his first guidebook.
His Europe Through the Back Door business is now his full-time occupation, overseeing more than 150 escorted tours yearly and the production of more than 20 guidebooks. Scouting locations and then filming his TV series for PBS stations since 1991 takes more than three months each year.
Friday, Steves will present a slide show and lecture from 6-7:30 p.m. at the WEDU studios before hosting three hours of live Rick Steves' Europe shows beginning at 8:30. Reservations are required for the lecture. Tickets are $12 for WEDU members, $15 for nonmembers.