Europe By Bus | Days 7-10 | Prague & Budapest

November 6th 2016

I’m afraid I’ve been lumbered with work for the last couple of days and so I’ve been neglecting this blog. Updating it every day might have been a bit of an ambitious idea, but I’m going to try harder so don’t give up on me!

Today is my last day in Budapest. ?

 

I’m in this restaurant on my own and the waiter guy was so clearly judging me for going there alone (or more probably being a woman eating alone) which is weird because the whole reason I decided to come in here was that there were two other people on their own. Actually strike that, another lonesome guy just walked in so there are THREE of us now.

I don’t normally eat in actual restaurants alone, I’m more about the food courts, cafes and informal places without waiters, but I’ve been walking for about four hours ever since The House of Terror and if I didn’t eat and drink soon I was going to go mad and/or collapse. To make up for the awkwardness I’m trying to look all sophisticated and writery so they think I’m reviewing this place so they stop judging and start giving me free stuff.

So on with the blog. I’ll get to the beautiful city which is Budapest (or rather Buda and Pest as it used to be) in due course, but first, let’s catch up with the last few days in Prague.

Halloween

People in Prague really don’t celebrate Halloween. Or rather they do but apparently, it’s on the 2nd of November and is more of a ‘day of the dead’ type thing. So it was a bit weird bring in the hostel and seeing everyone else Halloween photos from back home when I literally just saw one group of people dressed up here and realistically they were tourists, but the night was still quite fun.

I ended up drinking with some Spanish and German people in the hostel kitchen and played an array of confusing drinking games.  I also went over the bridge onto the other side of Prague and walked up a very big hill to get an amazing view of the city. The lovely Kavita took me up there as she was somehow already an expert on the entire city (make sure to look at her blog).

 

1st of November

This was my last day in Prague and I’d finally got to grips with the city (with a lot of help from Google maps, of course, thank God for 02s European travel offer) so I made my way back across the bridge to take a look at John Lennon’s wall. There was a guy playing the guitar and singing his songs and it was a beautiful example of street art.


 

 

 

I accidentally ended up having the healthiest lunch ever mostly because I went into this healthy foods cafe place because I wanted to charge my phone and they had plugs and so I ended up having a meal made up entirely of vegetables. It was really nice though.

 

I ended up getting a private tour of the Alchemy Museum led by a really hot Czech guy as I was the only one there for that particular time. The Alchemy Museum is pretty cool. You go underground and see these little rooms where they used to make alchemy positions without anyone ever finding out until last century, and you get there through a real life revolving bookcase!

The fumes from the potions they were making used to waft up into the streets and they made everyone so high that they kept hallucinating and apparently they were all convinced that these fiery goats were coming at them.

Apparently, the philosophers stone from Harry Potter was a real thing( or person) which goes back to the BC times (maybe that’s common knowledge, I’m not sure). In any case, the tour was really interesting and I highly recommend it.

Oh, and on my way to the Alchemy tour, I stumbled across this art gallery which was full of neon heads and mechanical legs.

After the tour I met up with my local friend and we went to a bar/restaurant place that did loads of vegetarian options (there is nothing quite like a free burrito when you’re traveling!) and we went to a German bar and this awesome little tiki cocktail place. It definitely helps to know a local who can show you all the stuff you’d miss as a tourist.

On my way to the Alchemy tour, I stumbled across this art gallery which was full of neon heads and mechanical legs.
 


 


 
Prague is a really good place for vegetarians. They price the food by weight, but my plates were pretty packed and they were still really cheap.

 

 

Summary: Prague

Prague is a beautiful city which literally looks like it fell out of a fairy tale. It is a very popular tourist destination (even though I went in October/November it was still pretty rammed) and it’s not as cheap as the rest of the Czech Republic, but it is still one of those places that you have to see to believe.

 

Check back soon for my entries on Budapest, Brasov, and Bucharest!

Europe By Bus | Days 6 & 7 | Prague

  • 1st November 2016

Prague is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The architecture doesn’t seem to have been marred by the 1950s concrete horrors and the strange glass towers that so many other cities (including my very own London) are full of.

In Prague, pretty much every building, even regular shops, and houses look like it fell out of the 16th century. Prague feels like it has been untouched by every war and major tragedy of Europe’s recent past. It basically looks like a real life city version of Disney World, and it’s awesome.


 

 


 



 

Before I came to Prague, I was starting to worry that I was going to have a very lonely time in Europe. It’s not like I didn’t speak to people at the last two hostels, but I didn’t exactly go anywhere with anyone or really spend any time with them.

All that changed in Prague. My hostel was small, cheap and fairly basic, but the people were great. I actually knew someone in Prague already so my solo traveling was about to become (at least temporarily) much less solo.

One of the other people staying in my hostel in Prague was Kavita. When I met Kavita she was still making her way through Europe, but now eight months later she has been through Russia, she caught the Trans-Siberian Express, she has been to China, Japan, and SE Asia.

She is literally living my dream and I am incredibly jealous of her. Y’know when someone is more successful than you but you can’t hate them because they’re nice? In all seriousness though I’ve only met a few other travel bloggers during my hostel stays (perhaps people don’t want to bring it up because you don’t want to be that guy) and I’ve really enjoyed following Kavita’s brave and crazy journey. See here for Kavita’s take on Prague.

On my first night in Prague, I went for Indian food with my roommates and played strange Australian/American drinking games. After that, I met up with my friend from Prague and we went to Prague’s Radio One station where we sat around drinking beer and taking legal highs whilst these guys did their radio thing.

After that, we went to this pub which apparently never closed and I ended up falling into bed at 4:30 which meant the next day I was very hungover and only managed to stagger out of the hostel at 3:30 pm in search of vegetables. I did discover a very rejuvenating vegan buffet though (my first and only ever experience of Loving Hut) and all the beautiful buildings in the old town square including the astronomical clock perked me up somewhat.


 

 

Prague has a lot of overpriced weed products which don’t actually get you high. You can get the cookies and lollies that they sell in the shops in Amsterdam and they also sell this absinthe and weed ice cream mixture which was surprisingly nice (although sadly not real).

 

 

Don’t Forget The John Lennon Wall!

Summary

Prague really does look like a fairy tale city and I was lucky enough to go during October/November when there are fewer tourists so you can actually see things. They also have a lot of busking and amazing warm wine which works out to around £1.10. Seeing as it’s normal for me to pay £6 for a glass of wine at home this was very exciting.

The one downer that happened in Prague was that my phone decided it didn’t have enough space for me to take photos and, considering that 1) I don’t own a professional camera so I basically rely on my phone and tablet for photos, and 2) I was making a travel blog which is kind of pointless without photos it really was quite distressing. I had to delete pretty much all my apps and it was still touch and go for the rest of the trip. These are literally the epitome of first world problems, but somehow it doesn’t feel right to see the world if you can’t also save it for later.

Keep your eyes peeled for alchemists, bus journeys, and Budapest!
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Europe By Bus | The East Side Gallery

The east side gallery is obviously a must-see when you go to Berlin, and it definitely did not disappoint. I am a big fan of street art, but even if you’re not you’ll still love walking along and see all the crazy and colorful pictures.

30th October 2016

I’ve always loved how Germany doesn’t hide from its past but instead tries to subvert it to show things have changed. I saw this in Munich when I went to Haus der Kunst, the former great German art gallery which was built by the Nazis to showcase ‘pure’ Aryan art.

In 1937 there were two exhibitions shown in Munich: one of them was the Great German art exhibition and the other was the Degenerate art exhibition. The Degenerate art exhibition was basically designed as an art freak show and was meant to mock the modern art that Hitler found objectionable, although now the Degenerate artists are still well known and their work is respected whilst the great German artists are condemned to obscurity.

 

The point is that Hitler hated modern art and the great German art building was created to showcase the kind of art he wanted to see, and that building is now used as a modern art gallery which celebrates everything the Nazis tried to get rid of. Rather than get rid of the building they turned it into a massive fuck you to the Nazis. It’s an amazing gallery which I can’t recommend enough.

The same is true for the east side gallery. Rather than tear down the wall they have turned it into a colorful celebration of tolerance, freedom, and art.

During my alternative Berlin walking tour, the guide said some people want to tear down at least part bid the wall to make room for some fancy modern buildings, that they want to build flats and shopping malls and offices where all this iconic historical stuff now stands.

That can’t happen. The east side gallery is so important. It’s important not just because it looks amazing or even  because it is a powerful homage to freedom that has subverted a symbol of impression and restriction into a symbol of tolerance and hope, but also because it is an iconic part of history which shouldn’t be destroyed just so they can create yet another office block or shopping mall or block of flats.


 
 
 
 


 

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Europe By Bus | Day Five | Alternative Berlin

This post was originally published in October 2016.

My last day in Berlin totally changed my view of the city.

I went on the Alternative Berlin walking tour, which is an amazing 3.5 hour guided tour where they take you to see some of Berlin’s best graffiti, street art, and alternative neighbors.

I learned so much more about this place. Berlin has such a huge alternative scene and it is full of amazing art, crazy little bars and while streets plastered with graffiti and yet if you didn’t know where to look it’s quite easy to miss.

The tour guide Bas (?) talked a lot about how former Bohemian areas have been torn down to make room for yet another shopping mall or massive apartment duplex no one can actually afford.

Berlin in the 90s sounds amazing. There were (and still are) entire streets filled with graffiti. There were massive squatting communities, crazy neighborhoods, and wild parties.

An alternative, liberal and free lifestyle was the norm.  It’s amazing to see how this city responded to their past and all this art and culture is a vital part of Berlin which it looks amazing and makes this city so cool and unique,  and yet the powers that be seem set on destroying it.

They keep building expensive flats that no one can live in and more and more shopping centers and office blocks and if it keeps going the way it is then the alternative side of Berlin will keep getting smaller and smaller until it becomes another glassy, corporate and soulless clone.

I can’t understand why they think this will improve Berlin’s economy. When you travel you don’t want to go somewhere that looks just like where you came from. I love England don’t get me wrong, but if you go to pretty much any main shopping area of the U.K they all look pretty much identical. The shops might be in different locations and the buildings may be different, but it’s all the same stuff whether it’s in Cologne or London or Paris or wherever.

We have places like Shoreditch which still have their original shops and awesome little restaurants but you can see the sneaky introduction of these expensive, ‘trendy,’ chains everywhere and whilst these places try to appeal to young people and hipsters by making themselves look alternative their not. They are chains that you can find everywhere.

We still have a lot of amazing places in London, especially if you know where to look, but we are also overrun with chains and talk glassy penis buildings. I don’t know why you would want to commercialize a city which has uniqueness as one of its biggest selling points.

What I love about Germany is how they have all these unique shops, bars, and cafes which are small chains s or one of a kind. In England, you can’t walk down the street without coming across a Tesco local but apart from Lidl, Rewes and Aldi they actually have a lot of their own independent supermarkets and locally owned businesses, much more than we do, and I just hope it stays that way.

*****

The tour meets at the Alexandraplatz Starbucks underneath the TV tower. This is a really nice commercialized part of Berlin, and it’s definitely worth going to see the fountain and taking a few photos before the tour begins.


 
 
 

 

 

The tour was really amazing. We went to see one of the last remaining alternative strongholds in Hackescher market.


 
 
 
 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Then we walked to Kreuzberg and saw some amazing street and learned about a lot of the artists and graffiti laws in Berlin. All of this art is illegal, but the penalties can range from €5 to €10,000 or jail.


 

 
 
 

 

This is a portrait of a homeless man. There is an artist in Berlin who draws homeless people and leaves them all over the city as a way to give them back their identity.


 

This is the tour guide. I can’t remember his name (maybe someone can help me out?) but he was awesome.


 

The tour ended nearish to the east side gallery by the river opposite a bar/club called Yaam, where the guide told us we could get ‘anything we wanted’. I walked in after to take some photos and ended up staying for hours. I had hot wine (and other substances) and talked to the guys who worked there.

One of my fondest memories of Berlin is at the Yaam where I and a bunch of other people just sat around a table in silent and peaceful companionship.

This place was awesome. They have a fake beach,  hammocks and amazing art, there is a really mixed crowd of customers chilling and smoking weed, and the staff were very welcoming (if a bit out of it).


 
 

 

After that, I went to the east side gallery but my phone died just as I got there. Of course, you should be able to enjoy it without the proof and new Instagram uploads but I was still horrified so the next morning I woke up at 7 30 am to go back to the east side gallery before my coach to Prague.

I ended up very nearly missing my coach in the process as there were still loads of rail works and I got all confused and stressed but by some miracle I got to the coach at 10:57 (my coach was at 11) and made it to Prague which is where I am now.

I got a little too trigger happy at the east side gallery and so I’ll be making a specific post for it later on today. For now, I am quite hungover and I haven’t actually been outside yet (which is terrible. It’s 3:38) so I’m going to gather my bones and venture outside for some (hopefully healthy as I do not feel human) food.

Stay tuned for The East Side Gallery!

 

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Europe By Bus | Day Four Part Two | The Holocaust Memorial

06/07/2017

I visited the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin around eight months ago. The Holocaust, as we all know, is probably the most horrific parts of modern history and the true depth of the evil that occurred during the Nazi regime is something you can’t really put into words. This systematic, pseudo-scientific atrocity which treated humans like farm animals and separated them by the most arbitrary things into who deserved to live and who should be disposed of is something you never can or should get over.

The thing about history is that it’s very easy not to think too deeply about the horrific things people have done to each other. Statistics don’t bleed as they say and when you’re reading a history book, watching a video or writing an essay you write down these statistics and describe these events but you become desensitized. Sometimes you read something particularly bad and it shocks you, but after a while, you come to expect that most parts of history are pretty bad.

Places like the Holocaust Memorial are important because they force us to go beyond the statistics and actually comprehend who these people were and what happened to them. The Memorial is very effective because they show us that these statistics describe real people. It’s very difficult, but you need to visit it because we need to remember the extent of what humans are capable of and how a poisonous ideology like eugenics was used to justify it. These events happened a long time ago, but we can never forget them.

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Entry from 28th October 2016

I could write a whole bloody essay on that place but to keep things nice and blog length lets just say it was powerful. Very powerful and almost horribly well done.

Everyone knows about the Holocaust and everyone knows the 11million dead figure, but you still don’t … know.  You don’t know about the 5-year-old kids and entire families and people in their best clothes thinking they’re going to get work when they’re about to be gassed.

The Holocaust memorial was so powerful because it is dedicated to personalizing the Holocaust and showing you the victims. There is a general information room which has stuff about the build up to and the murder of the disabled, Roma, Sinti, Catholics, political prisoners, and of course the Jews.

The rest of the museum is less general and focused on the individual experience; so there is a room full of experts from the letters and diaries of the victims including children and young teenagers and it shows that most of them knew. They knew people were being murdered and they knew they were going to die, and they were right. Out of all the experts in that room, only one of the writers survived the Holocaust.

Then you have a room full of stories about individual Jewish families. They used family pictures and they tell you what the family did for a living and then they show you how many of the people in that photo were murdered. Some did survive and one even lived right up until 2011. Most didn’t.

Then you have this dark room that you can sit in and the surrounding screens show a name and then they tell you a bit about the person. Some of the names are just part of the records so they tell you about particular incidents or camp and say “such and such was knew of the victims” and sometimes they don’t know anything else about them, but sometimes they do and it’s horrible. There was a 5-year-old girl called Simone from Istanbul who was murdered. 5.years.old.

The Holocaust museum will traumatize you a little, but then you need to be traumatized a little. You need to see the victims not as nameless stats from a history book you never really read but as real life people who were murdered not for anything they did but because some warped pseudo-scientists and crazy egomaniacs decided they weren’t really people.

The scariest thing about the Nazis is that real life villains don’t do things just because “mwahahah I’m evil”. They believed in it. And they weren’t the only ones. America sterilized and murdered people in the name of Eugenics. Britain started the whole damn thing. The idea of breeding humans like dogs and killing off the sick ones wasn’t just accepted, it was implemented. This was less than 100 years ago.

 

I’m not sure if it’s just me, but before going to university I hadn’t really learned that much about Eugenics. I’d never studied Nazi Germany in depth before, but I still find it a little odd that, whilst you obviously know that they murdered people for being Jewish or Catholic or against the Nazi state, I’m not sure how much earlier education goes into what their ideology actually was or the fact that it wasn’t limited to Nazi Germany.   The idea of breeding humans like dogs and killing off the sick ones wasn’t just accepted, it was implemented.

The fact that Eugenics was very popular in America during the 1930’s is known, but I don’t think it’s still widespread knowledge. When we talk about Nazi Germany we normally limit it to what was going on there, but it’s important to realize that America was also sterilizing people they deemed to be ‘unfit’ of ‘breeding’.

Obviously, after the world found out about the true horrors of the Holocaust other countries would have wanted to dissociate themselves with any memory of the ideology that spurred these atrocities on, but we need to remember it. This is a significant part of not just Germany’s past but also the USA’s and, to a lesser extent, the U.K.

We need to remember how evil humanity can be not so we hate ourselves but so we can fight the idea that one group of people gets to decide who is worthy of life, who is lesser than or more than someone else.

****

The Fuhrerbunker is apparently three minutes away from the memorial but as far as I know its in this park which was closed off at night so apart from reading the little information board and learning through the gate I didn’t really see much.

The Mall of Berlin is massive and really quite beautiful. They have quite a big food court where I bought a tofu burger which turned out to be literally tofu. In a burger. With salad and sauce. Fried tofu doesn’t have a lot of flavours and it was a little disconcerting at first but at least it wasn’t soggy and the protein made me feel alive.

I even managed to walk back from the mall to the hostel with only one “ahhhhhh where am I!?” moment and even then it turned out I was actually in the right place, so, all in all, I think I can call that a pretty successful day.

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Europe By Bus | Day Four Part One| Berlin

This post was originally published in October 2016. Roaming charges in Europe are now free for other European citizens (which includes the U.K for the moment).

October 26, 2016

My feet are aching.

I’ve finished my work for now so today was my first real chance to see Berlin properly. I am pretty hopeless at regular maps and I didn’t want to end up lost in some strange suburb so to get to the Berlin Wall Memorial I ended up spending £13 on the data for Google maps before remembering 02 does European add-ons for £1.99 a day, so that’s just fabulous.

When I first got to the wall I thought I was in the wrong place. I’m not totally sure what I was expecting to see but somehow I wasn’t expecting to see.. a wall. Like a regular concrete wall.

I’d thought the East Side Gallery and the Berlin Wall Memorial were the same thing so I actually went into the Berlin Memorial Museum to see how I could get to the main wall before realizing that what I was thinking of is about an hour’s walk away in a totally different direction.

Even if wasn’t quite what I was expecting I’m still really glad I saw the Berlin Wall Memorial. I’ve done a lot on Nazi Germany but I didn’t know much about the cold war and the time of divided Germany so I learned quite a lot today. They have all these individual accounts of people living on the wrong side of the wall and there’s a viewing platform where you can normally see way past the wall to the surrounding landmarks.

Walking around the wall, reading all the information and seeing the memorial to the people who died is quite intense. It seems so crazy that all these people were shot trying to get to the other side of the street and you just can’t imagine now how that would work or what that would be like, but it was only about 60 years ago. It’s even crazier that some people *coughTRUMPcough* still want to build walls today.

 

Getting back from the wall was way trickier than it should have been. I somehow ended up on this long distance train going to Oranienburg because I thought it was the station just outside where my hostel is when it’s actually not even in Berlin.

I realized a few stops in and then has to get the underground allllll the way back to Alexanderplatz and then Another train back to the hostel so I could get some wifi and collapse on the sofas with one of their €1.80 beers.

After some recouping time (and a cheeky beer or two) I went back out to see Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust museum, and the Fuhrerbunker. Checkpoint Charlie is about half an hour away via foot from the hostel but it’s literally down one massively long road so it wasn’t exactly complicated. On the way, I stumbled across some beautiful buildings.

Checkpoint Charlie itself is worth seeing and its another reminder of this divided Berlin that is so hard to imagine now, but the nearby museum was about €11 and the act of paying for museums offends me as a Londoner so that didn’t happen.


Berlin is an amazing city which is full of history, beauty, and tragedy in equal measure. My original blog post was a lot longer than this, but I’ve decided to break day four into two posts as the next one (the Holocaust Memorial) should really be read on its own.

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Europe By Bus | Day Three | Berlin

October 26th, 2016

I really can’t imagine what staying in a hostel would have been like without the internet.

Imagine this: a small group of people sitting together in the reception/ bar area of a hostel in central Berlin. These people are not talking. In fact, none of these people have spoken to each other since they walked in, saw an empty seat and sat down. Most of them haven’t even acknowledged each other. Several of them are drinking beer, some are having tea, all in deathly silence.

Sounds weird right?

But then imagine the same group of people are all on their phones, tablets or laptops. They still aren’t talking to each other and they still aren’t acknowledging the world that’s right in front of them, but they are messaging their friends on Facebook, uploading their photos to Instagram and/or watching other people live their lives on Snapchat.

Suddenly it’s completely normal.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my phone and tablet. I like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. And honestly you don’t want to be social and do the whole “where are you from and where are you going” all the time. Having a phone or tablet means you can go into a cafe, bar or restaurant by yourself and sit and eat by yourself because you’re not just there on your own staring into space. You’re not alone because you have a phone, and it makes everything easier.

But all the same, I just can’t imagine what it would have been like in the ’60s or even 10/20 years ago. If we didn’t all have our phones as shields what would we do? Would we make an effort to meet each other or would we all just sit there staring into space? I honestly don’t know.

I think it’s a lot harder to meet people in the bigger, more established hostels. Or maybe it’s harder to meet people in Europe. Or maybe it’s hard to meet anyone who isn’t a super needy desperate man. Or maybe it’s just me.

×××

Berlin is really nice. There is this Indian restaurant that does vegetarian kebabs and thalis right next door and the owners speak just enough English that you can successfully order food. I eat tons of vegetables at home and its hard to keep that up abroad when the only vegetarian stuff you can easily get without going into a restaurant is sandwiches, so this place has been great and the guys who run it are so friendly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I finished working at about 5 pm and spent the next few hours getting lost on random streets. I haven’t seen the wall or any of the iconic stuff yet but I somehow managed to come across what I think is museum island.

Berlin is really artistic and it’s full of beautiful architecture. I didn’t think it would be given the whole Soviet thing but some of these buildings could rival the beauty of Munich.

Did I mention all the street art?


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My Time In Munich

This post was originally published in May 2016. For the original link please click here. 

Munich is a truly beautiful place.

Although a lot of it was destroyed during World War 2, they rebuilt most of the city to look like its former self and so, although many of the buildings are new, the architecture looks authentic and old with only the very occasional tower block to spoil the otherwise fantastic view. Munich has basically been completely re-built, but it looks untouched.

You have wonderfully big parks, massive churches, city walls, fountains, lots and lots of pubs, free music events, art galleries and even outdoor surfing. Before I went to Munich, all I really knew about it was the Degenerate and Great German art exhibitions (see my next post), but I fell in love with this city and hope I will be able to visit it again in the future.

There were, however, some rather strange moments in Munich.

The Man From Munich

My first day, much like in Cologne, was quite uneventful. Although my hostel (Wombats) was literally right opposite the Hauptbahnhof station when I first got to Munich my map confused me so I walked straight past it and down some long street until eventually realizing and having to go all the way back, all with my massive backpack. But I eventually found it.

Although it didn’t have a kitchen, it did have a bar with relatively cheap beer and a communal area with a glass ceiling and an outdoor patio feel about it.

I stayed in an eight bedroom dorm and, as with the other big rooms I’ve stayed in, it was harder to meet people than it is in the smaller dorms. Most of my roommates didn’t really talk outside of their little groups. It’s strange because you would think in theory the more people you stay with the more people you would meet, but that’s just not the case.

I did meet a guy from South Korea who told me about the nightlife in that country and a guy on a stag do in a pink wig though.

On my first full day in Munich, I wandered around the city a lot, found some really pretty gardens, and took lots of photos.

Then when I was walking back to my hostel at about 6 pm (the bar opens at about 5 and I wanted some nachos), I stumbled upon this outdoor gig in the mainMarian Platz part of the city. The gig was in German, but I was intrigued so I bought a beer and watched for a while.

Did I mention it rained pretty much the entire time I was in Munich? Well that day was no exception, so before too long it started to pour and I was huddled under my hoodie. Just when I was about to leave, this guy in this brown jumper started talking to me and asked if I wanted to get a drink.

Now I hadn’t met anyone in Munich so far and yes the male stripper incident had made me slightly weary, but this guy meant in a proper bar with witnesses and such, so I said yes and we proceeded to run to this Irish bar a few streets away.

And the guy seemed nice and normal and we drank massive tankards of German beer and he taught me that I was mispronouncing pretty much everything I was trying to say in German. This guy really wanted to go to a club and, because I figured I should see some of Munich’s nightlife and I didn’t know anyone else, I said yes.

And that’s when things got a bit strange.

The guy said he loved me, after about two hours of knowing me, and that he would move to Berlin or Italy, or London or wherever I wanted to live.

Understandably I think, this properly freaked me out so I tried to explain that telling strangers you love them just isn’t the done thing. He said in Arabic there isn’t a difference between the words for love and like, and seemed to calm down a bit so I stayed for a bit longer, but then I was getting tired so we went back to Marienplatz and to Hauptbahnhof.

And that’s when he started crying.

Literally.

So I tried to comfort this dude whilst also trying to stress that I wasn’t looking for marriage, love or a relationship. Eventually, I got back to my hostel and had to send him the dreaded “you’re nice… But let’s just be friends” message on Facebook.

It wasn’t quite what I was expecting on my Friday night.

The guy was actually really nice and I’m glad I met him, but I do think that some people need to try a bit harder to establish a foundation and work up to this stuff, not just expect it to happen. It doesn’t work.
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Europe By Bus | Day One | Cologne

Note: This blog post has been adapted from the original post I made back in October 2016 when I embarked on my first ever proper backpacking trip around Europe. Click here to go to the original post.

These posts are half diary entries and half informational guides for transport, accommodation and things to do in these locations. I had very little experience with backpacking when I first started my Europe By Bus series last year (I have been doing it for a while now), but I wanted to leave the entries as un-touched as possible so you can follow my journey as it was rather than my recollections of it in hindsight.

This trip taught me a lot about Europe and the wider world and, whilst I would be hesitant to say it made be a ‘better’ person (I don’t think traveling by itself can do that) it definitely made me more confident, capable and open-minded.

I hope you enjoy this series and stay posted for more entires! I will also be adding details of my more recent trip to France, Spain and Portugal and even America (which unfortunately will involve some planes).

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October 24th, 2016

I’m currently in the downtown hostel in Cologne Germany. It is 12:46 am and the guy underneath my bed (I’m on the top bunk) is one of the weirdest snorers I have ever heard.

He’s quiet from brief intervals that are just long enough to give me hope, but then he starts again. It’s a mixture of aggressive bear-like snoring, sighing and snorting and it really is quite spectacular in the most horrible way possible. Each snore is more aggressive than the last and it’s getting to the point where I don’t know if I want to cry, laugh or jump out the window.

I left my house at 6:45 this morning and was on the Flexi bus/Mega bus until 8 pm. I do genuinely like buses but for some reason this one was so packed someone had to sit next to me, which was okay because they didn’t try to make conversation (buses are for quiet, reflective and anti-social time okay?) but it meant I couldn’t stretch my legs out across the other seat like the obnoxious creature that I am and so I ended up having to do stretches and back rolls in the Eurotunnel instead.

I had the misfortune of having a child sitting behind me today. Now I like children don’t get me wrong, but when there is a child literally kicking the back of your seat with all his might and then when you look over at the mother and she’s all “sorry… Do you want to sit somewhere else?” When there are literally no other seats it’s just like .. seriously?

I understand that you can’t control your child and little kids are going to cry, but you could at least apologize and try to make the journey better for everyone. I’m always torn between feeling sorry for the parent because there’s not really a lot they can do whilst also being filled with a feeling of extreme hate.

I read an article recently about having child-free zones on planes and me for one am totally for it. Kids are great, but they just don’t have the inner filters and sense of embarrassment that older people have.

Some of my friends say that it would be discrimination against children and it’s not different from discriminating against someone on because of their race, sexuality, or gender, but that’s obviously not true. If an adult were to kick the back of someone’s chair, scream for the entire journey and talk to themselves at the top of their voices then they may well be removed from the area.

Discriminating against someone for who they are as a person is very different from acknowledging that children can display behavior that can really ruin someone else’s trip.
When you’ve been on a plane for 14 hours with three kids behind you constantly screaming, chattering and hitting the back of your chair it does kinda ruin your day/ Parents have (and should have) the option of taking their kids on the plane or train or anywhere else, but we as sleep deprived irritable adults should have the option to avoid them if we so choose.

Let me know your thoughts on that subject, and please don’t think I’m hating against parents. I know it’s not your fault, but it’s also not my fault that I don’t find your screaming infant as adorable and tolerable as you do.

I finally got to Cologne at about 8:30 pm and walked into my dorm room to find two guys lying on their respective beds glued to their phones in dead silence. I’m quite glad I have work to do (I’m a freelance writer and I’m going to attempt to travel and work at the same time) as backpacking isn’t always the social Utopia people make it out to be.

Maybe it’s just a Europe thing or maybe our phones and tablets have kind of eradicated any need to meet real life people, I’m not really sure.

It’s not like you can’t meet people in hostels, last time I went to Germany there was a Polish guy who tried to kiss my legs (seemed to think that was a totally normal way to act around someone he’d known for about half an hour) and the most beautiful man I have ever seen who was from Chile and talked to me about fruit, but it’s just always a little awkward at first.

Phones are great as they take the pressure off actually having to try and be social and interesting but it probably makes it harder too. I can’t imagine what hostels used to be like before smartphones. That’s just a totally different world.

Aside from the snorer who is still fucking at it, I have to say I’m really happy to be traveling again. I always feel so confident and weirdly relaxed when I’m alone in a foreign land like you don’t know what’s going to happen but you know you can handle it.

I’m going to Berlin tomorrow and then heading to Prague and beyond so it’s quite exciting. After this trip, I should hopefully have visited ten countries this year, nine of which I had never been to before. I spent the last two years working in a call center and wishing I was traveling and I haven’t done as much as I originally planned so far as I was trying to establish my ‘career’ somewhat so I’m glad it’s finally happening even if it is just for a month.

I’m going to get my phone and blare some classical music into my eardrums in an attempt to drown out the snorer now. I can still kind of hear him but at least it’s just background noise now.