Location: Calgary, AB, Canada
I am now back home in Calgary. I slept for fourteen hours last night could probably sleep for another fourteen.
It was an amazing trip, and I can't wait to get out there and do it all again. Man oh man, I need to find a job.
It's not likely I'll be posting anymore. Thanks for reading, ya'll.
Location: I Amsterdam., Netherlands
Just catching up with a couple of notes about the fine city of Amsterdam. I spent two days here while waiting to catch a flight home from London.
I met four pretty cool British guys who were just starting a vacation throughout Europe, whereas I was just finishing my own. I decided that I would have to finish my time overseas in style. These are those kinds of famous last words that usually bite me in the ass.
I finally got to go to a European soccer game with my newfound friends. The local team, Ajax Amsterdam, has a massive stadium that fits just under 50 000 people. I am impressed, and I do not impress easily. Watching the intensity of the local fans, the matching intensity of the rival ones (who were sequestered in a caged off section), was really cool. If I only knew what they were saying...
The game ended up tied, with the visiting team being quite happy. Apparently they suck. Well, the local fans did not like this performance, and proceeded to riot just outside of the stadium. Have you ever seen the Dutch riot squad charge at thousands of drunk football fans? I'm proud to say that I'm part of that select group that has. I then wet myself.
That night we stumbled onto a pub crawl covering seven bars. I was told not to expect going home until morning. Sweet.
The talent on this particular pub crawl was less than satisfactory. I'm pissed off, but not to be discouraged. I can make my own fun with these folks.
I meet two Irish girls. They look a little new at this whole drinking thing despite being Irish, but I decide to have some fun with them. They ask where I've been on my trip so far. "Everywhere except Ireland", I reply. They ask me why not, shocked. I tell them "It's not even a real country anyway."
Apparently Irish girls are patriotic. I got slapped twice at the same time, hard, and I could see the fires of those Emerald Isles burning in those eyes. They were pissy anyways.
Since I'm already acting like a dick, I figure I might as well keep the ball rolling. One girl is fairly tipsy, and dancing accordingly. She has barely any balance at this point, on top of probably not being the most coordinated person to begin with. Well, she falls over and smacks her head against the wall, before falling onto her ass. Would you help this girl up? Probably. I decided to point and laugh at her. Strike two with the ladies.
I had one girl convinced that I live in an igloo. Not a proper one, mind you, but a two story snow building with central heating. Europeans are apparently gullible as well as being ugly.
I stumble home with a couple of friends early in the morning, in the pouring rain. We got lost (obviously), and I would have been better served just to jump in a canal. My clothes did not dry for three days. I did get some stories from the pub crawl, a wicked hangover, and a free shower. It was a pretty fun night.
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
I am in Amsterdam for just a short while, and will leave for home from London tomorrow morning. It is surreal being back in the city where this whole whirlwind began, but a little reassuring at the same time. It will be good to get home, terrible to leave.
My hostel was great this time around. Where the Flying Pig was dirty, smelled of poo and full of shiftless stoner layabouts, the StayOkay Hostel is...well, not. Very clean, very big, great breakfast.
I'm just checking in for a second here, but I will be writing a bit later about the pub crawl that I went on last night. My final night, drinking with a bunch of Brits, was a fitting way to cap off the trip. When I have the chance, that story will be told.
I'll be back in Calgary on September 5. Give me a call, if you have my number. If you don't, I guess I didn't care enough to give it to you.
Location: Berlin, Germany
I thought I'd mention my encounter with the Scientologists in Berlin before I get too far ahead of myself.
I was walking towards Postdamer Platz to go check out some of the buildings, when I see a group of people wearing red golf shirts handing out pamphlets. Not knowing what it is, I say no thank you.
As I continue walking for a couple seconds, I see a table with a bunch of books are some machinery that looks like a heart rate monitor. No way. This kind of stuff doesn't actually happen, I think to myself. I must have died and gone to funny story heaven.
Let me tell you, there's not many things funnier than a German Scientologist. As I stare at the equipment, I'm approached again by a cult member and asked if I want to take a test. "A test for what?" I coyly ask. "A test of your happiness" is the reply. Sweet. I expected as much. Messing with this girl was going to be fun.
I sit down, and she places in my lap some equipment with two metal cylinders I have to grab and hold with each hand. I ask how it works, and she points to a meter on the console that waives back and forth depending on some unknown stimulus. She certainly didn't know what caused it to move, but told me that my anxiety was the key. More stress, the needle moves up. Less, it moves down.
I'm sitting there in the middle of a group of bystanders, giggling to myself about the absurdity of this situation. "Why are you laughing?" she asks me.
"No reason at all. You must be a very strong person to be so grounded by your faith." I reply, straight-faced.
The needle is already bouncing back and forth before any questions are asked. I must be a messed up individual.
Girl - Do you have much stress in your life?
Me - Nope.
Girl - What about your job? How's that?
Me - I'm a snowboarder. I don't get stress. (The needle hasn't stopped bouncing back and forth.)
Girl - What about your family? Do you get along?
Me - I can't remember the last fight we had. We're like the Cleavers.
Girl - Who?
Me - Haha.
Girl - What if your family died? Would that make you unhappy?
Me - More than likely.
Girl - AHA! So you are apprehensive about that?
Me - Wait a second...because I don't want my family to die, you think I need Dianetics? Is that the best question you've got?
Ok then. I have no stress. She is stumped, and it's becoming clear I got the special needs interviewer asking me questions. Any good salesperson would try to create value for this product, make it into something that I would need. Any person not half retarded could do it, at least...
Me - Let me ask you some questions then. What's the deal with Tom Cruise?
Girl - There's no deal with him. He's a good ambassador.
Me - He's insane. You don't see that?
Girl - He's just in love.
Me (whispering) - You're twisted.
Girl - What?
Me - I said, I like your religion. *cough
Girl - Uh huh...
I am still holding the sensors. Because the needles hasn't stopped jumping, she takes it as proof that I need to give her money to buy her book. She assures me it will help with my stress and happiness.
Girl - Dianetics can give you all the answers you seek.
Me - Did Tom Cruise put you up to this?
Girl - No...
Me - I can get you out of here. Give me your hand and we'll run away.
Girl - I don't understand you.
Me - I can't help you unless you're willing to help yourself.
For thirty bucks, I can buy a book teaching me the wonders of Scientology. Oh boy! Plus, all the proceeds go to keeping free testing available in cities around the world. What a noble cause. For brevity's sake, I get up to leave. As I'm hounded by a couple more culters to sit back down and take the test again, I start laughing out loud. What a ridiculous sham. I really will have to explain this better when I get home, because it's absurd to get it all into writing.
L Ron can sit on it and rotate.
Location: Buh-b-b-b-berlin, Germany
I am back in sunny Berlin, sitting on the beach and drinking a cold beer. Wait a second. It's 14 degrees here. I must have heat stroke or something.
Getting back to Berlin from Thessaloniki was like returning back to civilization. Everyone speaks English, there are no packs of wild dogs, small children don't fake an injury to rob you, that kind of stuff.
I'm checking out a couple of the spots we missed on our first go around and chilling out before I head back towards Amsterdam. Five days to go. Ugh.
I joined a walking tour going through Potsdam with Brewer's Tours. The owner, Terry, gave us the tour himself. Terry is a fussy old British guy who has the habit of closing his eyes while speaking on long, rambling stories. I don't believe he even noticed that there was a group of us walking with him all day. He's like the Mole from the Wind in the Willows.
Apparently I have trouble concentrating on his riveting stories, at which time he will stop his speech, grab you, and pull you to the front of the group:
Mole - I am speaking. Are you on drugs or something?
Me - Right now?
Terry was not impressed. I thought it was funny being the group wise ass. The old Thai lady also thought I was a riot, so I guess I did something right.
The rest of the palaces were pretty neat except the Communists let all of them fall into disrepair. I chilled out in Churchill's room where they had all those WWII conferences. I think a career in politics and alcoholism might be in order, a la Winston.
I am going to Dusseldörf this afternoon, and will catch a football game there tomorrow. Is there anything to do in Dusseldörf, you ask? Damned if I know, but I'm going.
Location: The whole country, Greece
The theory I have come up with regarding the Greeks is that if you don't expect much, you generally won't be let down. Do not expect simple directions, common sense or even polite hand gestures. Do expect to be yelled at. If it doesn't happen, bonus. But it probably will.
The Greeks have what seems to be a country wide custom of yelling at everything and everyone. This morning alone I've seen people yelling at pigeons, dogs, cars, dogs in cars, other people and myself. Why is an entire race of people so pissed off? It all seems so unprovoked.
A guy a couple of days ago at the train station was so worked up yelling at the ticket window that he had tears forming in his eyes. He rambled on in his gibberish language (it's all Greek to me, duh) and pounded his fists on the window. I think he was upset about getting an aisle seat or something, but I didn't ask because I think he would have punched Jesus at this point.
This happens every day! If anyone knows what their deal is, or why Greece decided to become the Land That Common Politeness Forgot, let me know. I'm going to see if I can get video of a Greek freaking out today.
Location: Thessaloniki, Greece
I slept on a bench again last night. It was magical.
That's the end of the story. The beginning goes like this:
I made a detour to the town of Kalabaka, which is in the interior of Greece. The town itself is wholly unimpressive. It does, however, have a whole buttload of monasteries that are perched on top of these towering cliffs. They are perfectly carved to sit on top of these ledges and apparently monks have been doing their thang there since the 14th century. Do a search for Meteora if you want to see some pictures better than mine. I swear, my hands are as steady as a guy with palsy on crack behind that camera lense. Nothing turns out.
My favorite part about these buildings was that many of them were built before stairs could be carved in. Each one has a fishing pole thingy sticking out of its side. This is the lift tower. Picture old monks being hauled up the cliffside by this fishnet thing, dangling 200 feet above the ground. Eat my ass, cliff jumping.
Back in the town, there is only one small train station. We're talking one office and a platform. No one speaks English.
The earliest train I can catch is at 17:30, so I hop on and prepare to switch trains 20km down the line and zip up to Thessaloniki. I will have to run to catch my connecting train, as it leaves from platform four. I triple check the sign, making damn sure that it says what I think it says. I get to the platform just in time and see the proper signage on this platform. Everything is like it should be, and everything points to the fact that the train is just late.
Well, the only other train in the station rolls away a few minutes later, with mine nowhere to be seen. What the hell? An old Greek guy waddles out of the office and yells at me in some gibberish. Greek maybe? It sounds like gibberish. "Thessaloniki?" I say. Old guy starts to laugh and points at the damn train rolling away, on a different platform, at the wrong time.
Well, I LOSE it (that's for Ryan). Not really, but it wouldn't have been a problem if some staff member was present beforehand. They all desert their posts and hide in a back room while queues of people form outside the windows. Got a question? Tough shit.
That was the last train of the day. Not good. I also find that talking to Greeks is like pounding nails into your skull:
Me - Is there another train tonight?
Moron - Ehhh, maybe. Do not know.
Me - But is there?! English?!
Moron - Do not know.
Me - Can I take a bus?
Moron - Yes yes yes.
Me - Ok, good. When are those?
Moron - Do not know. Thirty minutes? One hour? (he is shrugging at this point)
Me - Am I on Candid Camera? Are you serious?
The bus ended up showing at the station four hours later. From that point, it's a two hour trip after transferring on another train. Good God. Of course the hostel registration is closed at 3:30am, and of course I am a zombie at this point. Sweet lady bench is calling my name with her siren song. I oblige. I hope to round out the hat trick of benches before the trip is up.
Location: Thessaloniki, Greece
It seems that I tend to repeat myself. I can't be bothered to read my old entries, so when I write something for the second time, you're gonna have to sit back and enjoy it.
I control you all. Check out the nametag, you're in my world now, Grandma.
Location: Santorini and Crete, Greece
I'm playing catch-up again with the places I've been to. I'm also not feeling particularly creative at the moment, so I'll be brief.
Took a ferry from Athens to Crete, maybe 10 days ago, with a couple of people I met at the hostel. We landed in the city of Heraklion where I proceeded to sleep on the ground beside a bench for a few hours. Finding accomodations is hard at 5am. I don't even want to think about what I was lying in.
We spent a couple days in that town, bumming around on the beach and eating Gyros. Gyros are like doner kebaps, except instead of lettuce they put fries inside the pita. Unorthodox, but you know what? That's how revolutions are started, dammit.
Grabbed a bus west towards the city of Rethymno, and stayed at a hostel where I slept on the roof. Yep. Fifteen of my closest friends and I, enjoying the stars. I did even more lounging on the beach, with gyros mixed in, and met a couple of cool people to hang out with. Our plans to see the Samaria Gorge one day were dashed by a wicked hangover. Apparently McDonald's sells booze here. Apparently I don't know when to say no. I was told a quote by Dave, as he was told by someone else. Quitting, as he was told, is for quitters. I'm no quitter.
After a few days there, I went north to Santorini. Santorini is the island you see on postcards whenever someone mentions Greece. I will say that this part of the trip was one of my favorites. I had some great company from a couple Aussies and some Brazilians, drank more wine than is reasonable or healthy, and soaked in as much of the atmosphere I could in two nights.
Up until now, showing up at a hostel out of the blue has worked out fairly well. No reservations, no headaches. There have been a couple of close calls where I would've been sleeping on the beach, but I always seem to narrowly avoid disaster. Plus, I usually ended up sleeping on the beach anyways. Wherever you fall down is OK, but the beaches have free chairs.
I'm in Thessaloniki right now, and will go over to the train station tomorrow to find out where I'm going. I have no set plan, and I'm going to see what's available when I arrive. I might end up in Croatia, I might end up in Serbia. I have no clue, but I'll be in touch.
Send me some messages. I like to feel important.
Location: Santorini?, Greece
Just dropping a line from Greece. I'm in Athens, going up north towards Croatia. No time at all on this comp. Agh!