Monday, May 3, 2010

traveling europe

When attempting to travel Europe, the enterprising young traveler would do well to keep the following facts in mind:

Europe does not want to be traveled

Europe is a jealous continent, and wants you to stay and enjoy her, not go flitting about visiting multiple cities. In that vein, she will engage in dirty tricks to keep you immobile. She may, for example, erupt in volcanic fury when you attempt to leave Ireland, or she may engage in two separate rail strikes spanning two countries and three rail companies.

People who backpack Europe aren't actually backpacking Europe

It's essential to understand this distinction so you don't go googly-eyed with a combination of unimpeded amazement, unobstructed attraction, and unabated desire to take to wife the woman who informs you she did this.1

No.

Backpacking Europe is not carrying your belongings in a pack and ascending the Alps under your own power, a la Von Trapp family.

Backpacking Europe is carrying enough clothes to dupe your travel companion into thinking you are not wearing the same unwashed shirt for the sixth day this trip2. This allows you to change at appropriate intervals, hopefully avoiding contracting the smell of a dead turtle, all while you comfortably travel by plane, or, if there are volcanoes, trains, or, if there are train strikes, bus, or if there aren't any bus seats because apparently the entire country is leaving Spain at the same time there are volcanoes and train strikes, by nineteen-hour, packed-with-cigar-smoking-and-screaming-Italian-teenagers ferry.

You can stay at hostels if a lack of stench isn't worth anything to you

On one particularly bad night in Belfast,3 a young man entered the room at some late hour to sleep in the bunk directly above me, at which point he woke me up. This isn't amazing in and of itself, but I should clarify that neither noise nor light nor movement was the cause of the disruption to my sleep. Luckily, I had brought ear plugs in preparation for these sorts of events. Regrettably, I did not anticipate the need for nose plugs, or an airtight chamber, or perhaps some sort of snorkel, or any other device that would have prevented me from breathing in those noxious fumes that emanated from that man's body.

Was he some sort of terror mechanism manufactured by a Sinn Fein separatist group? Gasping for air at 2:00 AM, these are the sorts of questions I ask myself.4

This seems like an appropriate moment to remind the faithful traveler, that, when evaluating hostels, and asking if a particular hostel's shared bathroom contains a shower, one might check if said shower can be accurately described by epithets such as "hot" or "heated" or "not sub zero". Not because I was subjected to torture via high projectile ice while knowing women giggled loudly next door to my sissified screams, but because I've heard that sort of thing could maybe happen.

All in all, traveling Europe is a glorious adventure, and I highly recommend it, minus that whole icy shower and noxious fumes and volcano and strikes and overnight bus bit.

1. This is still embarrassing to me, and I blame her marriage to another man on my not understanding the terminology.
2. At some point during those six days, showers became futile, as any improvement via soap and water on skin was instantly negated by deeply-rooted smells of sweat mixed with smoke and dirt in fabric.
3. This raises the valid question of whether or not there exist good nights in Belfast. It didn't appear to be an overly-exciting place, but I am open to correction.
4. I was a little more sympathetic a week later, after having traveled to Madrid via overnight bus and acquired my own turtle-killing smell, I took a train to Barcelona wherein I believe I caused permanent nerve damage to everyone within six meters of me. Luckily, they were hollering extremely loud German throughout the trip, so they deserved it. Of course, maybe those were screams of pain?

1 comment:

Jess said...

"Regrettably, I did not anticipate the need for nose plugs, or an airtight chamber, or perhaps some sort of snorkel, or any other device that would have prevented me from breathing in those noxious fumes that emanated from that man's body."

And this is why I'm so glad you're back!

You make me want to jump on the next underwater rail to Europe!