Thursday, April 17, 2008

Crazy European Adventure Part 1: Prologue and Travel...

If I was in a progressive rock band, that's what I would name the first track, a 26 minute symphonic rock opera with themes in Eb and G, played as a Tabla and Bassoon duet in 26/32...

*Realizes only two people will get that joke*

*...*

*...*

*Doesn't care...*

The week prior to our leaving was one of horror, dismay, and a huge amount of drugs. It was originally me, Flower, and Oliver going to France, but Oliver had to drop out for one reason or another, and I had an extra train and ferry ticket. Around the same time, Flower's friend from York, Simon, had showed up in Knoll Court with 5 ounces of Marijuana after having pushed a Kilo for some crazy guy in York. I'm used to being around it at this point, but that week, the amount of weed being passed around was obscene...

During the binge, Simon got a phone call from the crazy dealer guy, and learned that everybody in York thought that he had stolen 3000 pounds from the guy and that people were out to kill him. Yes, kill him. Like..with a gun. This is a kid who has been living homeless since his parents called the cops on him for selling weed. I felt kind of bad for him, and I had the means, so I invited him to come to Europe...

Two days before we left, I went to the station to get the train tickets. It was then that I realized that the trains would have us arrive in Dover hours after our ferry would leave, so I had messed up pretty big. We all came together and found that the cheapest thing to do was take a bus from Newcastle to Amsterdam, then visit towns between Amsterdam and Paris before returning to the ferry in Calais and riding the train to Newcastle. So, at midnight on April 1st, we hopped on a bus with our backpacks and were on our way...

The first leg of the trip, from Newcastle to London, was uneventful, though I did see some stereotypical London-y things like...


We mostly slept and listened to Symphony X on the iPod, an epic band for an epic journey...
We had a couple of hours in London before leaving on the next bus, so we took the opportunity to walk around the city at 5 AM, a time when only smack heads and joggers prowl the city. Oh, and we were there, too...

We ate some sandwiches and prepared to board the next bus. The driver was at the side ushering people to put their bags underneath in the storage area, we only had backpacks, so we were about to board the bus when-

"Hey you, put your bags under de bus!"

"But..we only have rucksacks..."

"Under de bus!"

"Our food and water are in these backpacks..."

"UNDER DE BUS!!!"

So we put our backpacks under the bus. After boarding the bus, we took a look around and found that everybody else had kept their backpacks without issue. You know what that means. Three young kids traveling alone, two of them with long hair, all with facial hair..they must be drugged up hippies so let's make their life a living hell..MWAHAHAHAHA!!!!

At one point we stopped and got off the bus for a quick rest. As we were getting back on, Flower started a dialogue with the driver. It went something like this...

"Hey, we noticed that everybody else on the bus has their rucksacks. Our food, water, and medicine are in those packs, can we get them from under the bus?"

"No. Eets impossible..."

"Um..no it isn't. We are on a bus, it's stopped, and you have a key. Can you open the side so that I can get my water, please."

"On plane, you put luggage under plane and can not reach it. Eet is same on bus."

"*blank stare*"

"You speak English?"

"..."

"No, you no speak English. I no understand you. I no talk to you."

For real. A Dutch bus driver who could only form very basic, grammatically incorrect English sentences presumed that Flower, a native English speaker, did not comprehend what he was saying because, apparently, Flower now doesn't speak any English. Good, that makes sense...

A couple of hours later, we were at the ferry station in Dover where Flower was "randomly" selected to have his bag checked. After passing through security without a problem, he boarded the bus with his bag, but had accidentally forgot his cell phone at the security station. The driver grabbed it and brought it on the bus. Flower walked up front to reclaim it and, in front of everybody, the driver exclaimed...

"You forgot phone! You are stupid man. Stupid, stupid man."

Yeah, it was time to have a go at this guy. We decided to wait until we got to Amsterdam, though, we didn't want to be kicked off a bus and be stranded in mainland Europe. It rained while we were on the ferry, but we were determined to get good photos of the cliffs there. They are truly stunning...

We drove through France and Belgium to get to Holland, swerving this way and that, barely avoiding cars while driving at breakneck speeds on a huge bus. My sleep was interrupted four times by the driver slamming on the breaks and swerving into another lane to avoid smashing into other vehicles. I counted...

At one point, we stopped at a rest stop. Rest stops in Holland are WAY cooler than in America. You walk into a rest stop in America, you see a dirty bathroom, lots of dirty people, McDonald's, Burger King, and some greasy chicken place. We walked in and saw this...
Yes, that is fresh meat and fish from a butcher, along with a section with fresh vegetables. There was a pizza station as well with a brick oven and, for dessert, there was a smoothie bar with all fresh fruits. Flower had a slightly different experience upon entering the rest stop...
If you think Ronald McDonald is creepy now, though, you should check this out. It appears that McDonald's has a legacy of pedophilia as well as making people unhealthily large. Who would have thought? (Answer: I and several others would have)...

After boarding the bus, Flower decided to use the bathroom prior to leaving. The driver came back and banged on the door loudly while he was in there...

"You! What you doing! Not allowed! Not allowed! You smoking!? Get out!!"

"Um..I'm using the toilet. Is that not allowed?"

"We have problem. You are stupid crazy person, you understand?"

"..."

Then, suddenly, we were in Amsterdam. Twenty hours on a bus with a crazy driver that nearly killed us while insulting us simultaneously. It was the beginning of the trip, though, nothing could dampen the excited and nervous feeling we all had about arriving safely at our destination...

In true American fashion, the first thing we did in Amsterdam was complain to the bus company. I pulled out the mechanical pencil that I had taken along for journal entries and wrote a strongly worded letter laying out all of the injustices we faced during the journey thanks to our driver. We requested that his position be revoked, but if that wasn't possible, reviewed. Yeah, that'll show him. All three of us signed the letter and gave it to the manager guy. I suspect that piece of paper is in a bin somewhere now, gathering dust with all of other Brits and Americans who were unhappy with the service. Oh well, we were in Amsterdam, one of the most interesting and beautiful cities in the world. Who could be angry for long? (Answer: Not us)...

So we made it, it was time to begin the full on adventuring. The next seventeen days would be some of the craziest any of us would ever experience and, looking back on it now, every positive and every negative made the trip that much better...

More to come shortly..:-)

-Matt

1 comment:

meloogal said...

MORE PLEASE MORE MORE.

If I had been there instead of Simon, I bet we all would have been able to keep our packs. You must learn to travel with females because we a) have boobs and b) cry. And boobs/crying translate in any language.