- This piece was written over a year ago. It may no longer accurately reflect my views now, or may be factually outdated.
- This piece was originally written for my old site, Oh What? Oh Jeez! As such, it may not have transferred over properly and some images and links might be broken (and, to a lesser extent, my writing from years ago is about 80% run-on sentences).
Truck Driver: [in German] Berlin! I also sexually assaulted a horse in Berlin.
Scott: He’s going to Berlin.
Truck Driver: [in German] Nowhere near Berlin.
Scott: All right, come on, let’s go.
Another year, another Eurotrip – LUECS’ annual continental jaunt has been and gone, with the main difference between this year’s and the last’s being that I was on the society executive this time. As Eurotrip Leader. Making Eurotrip 2016 my baby.
I arrive at the Underpass and join the rest of the exec. milling about outside the coach, looking busy. Papers are shuffled, questions are asked with no interest in the answers. I get in a fight with the driver over the distinction between a bus and a coach, and then a ship and a boat.
A ship can have boats, but a boat can’t have ships he says, smugly.
What about airships then?
That’s a spurious question.
Meanwhile, Lois is late and Darren is shitting himself. At the very last moment, a taxi ploughs into the layby and disgorges the offending Geordie, along with her forty or so bags. With that, we’re off!
Norton Canes services, GB
We stop to transfer our interim driver out in favour of Brian, who will be taking us to Central Europe and back. It’s dark now, and as Brian takes his bags out of his car me and Harina ponder the finer points of being a coach driver. “I think it would be quite lonely”, she concludes. I don’t know, it seems like they all have quite a good time. Then again, I play Euro Truck Simulator 2, so what do I know?
Despite the dark, the services look eerily familiar. As we leave, it hits me — I’m back in Norton fucking Canes services, of ‘2014’s Jailbreak’ fame. A chill runs down my spine.
Arriving at the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel — we stayed here last year, and it’s not changed a bit — I cock up the check-in time, sending everyone off for a couple hours, drawing them back only to tell them to go off for a couple more hours. Really, it was Darren’s fault, but that’s neither here nor there. Me and a band of merry men set off in search of Chipsy King, hunger in our stomachs and fire in our eyes. It is divine. Vlaamse frites and Belgian mayo are all I live on whenever I visit Amsterdam. Perhaps the odd roll.
The first night, I take my motley crew to The Waterhole — a bar I discovered on last year’s ‘trip and have visited every time I’ve been back in the city. We catch the tail end of happy hour and get a handful of carryover pints each. It’s standing room only when we arrive, and before long not even that. A few other groups arrive too, though this early into the trip everyone is still pretty much keeping to themselves.
We get back for the hostel bar’s happy hour, and I get to talking with a Dutch girl behind the bar about working in hostels. She tells me to talk to the manager when she’s in tomorrow if I’m interested, and that this is her last night. When I arrived at the Flying Pig Beach Hostel to work there over the summer, a girl who’d just finished her last shift passed me in the doorway and wished me luck. I wonder if it’s something about me that sends them packing upon my arrival. Then I get drunk.
Later, people’s craving for Amsterdam herb leads to my directing them to Betty, Too!, a coffeshop I’m sure would be a personal favourite if I were into such things.
Waking at midday, I spend the entire second day in bed, eating entirely innocuous cakes and listening to music. It is beautiful. People grow concerned and keep asking if I’m okay. Pah.
We arrive at our temporary home, the Sunflower Hostel, by way of what feels like about half of Berlin. It’s my first time here, and I’m struck by how the East-West distinction is still so visible, in the architecture if nothing else. I’m also struck by how well the spraypaint, stickers & posters industry in Berlin must be doing, as every conceivable surface is plastered by some combination of the three, all irritatingly advertising events that aren’t on whilst we’re around. Will takes us to Hofbräuhaus München which, though expensive, is certainly filling. Fighting my way through a pork knuckle, I feel like an excitable Cornish miner at the discovery of every new seam of meat, of which there are apparently a limitless number of. I also ponder why, between ‘pork knuckle’ and ‘liver cheese’, the Germans seem determined to name their food in such a way that nobody in their right mind would ever want to try it.
That night, we make our way to Matrix (after shouting down the Berghain supporters). Getting lost initially, we run into another bunch of tourists and somehow find it, the entrance built into the side of a bridge in what I recall looking like a construction site. The inside is no less esoteric, apparently taking up the space of a number of defunct storm drains or something – the rooms are long and thin, with curved rooves. The music is good, though the drinks expensive. I get a currywurst on the way home (only the first of many), but end up giving most of it to a homeless guy by accident. Unintentional altruism is surely the most noble kind.
The second day consisted of a visit to the Reichstag, which I made with about a minute to spare after fannying about on the U-Bahn for ages, and then having to deal with Darren’s useless phone directions. The self-directed tour is interesting, and as we make our way down the monolithic front steps I look out over the Platz der Republik and think of the fighting it saw just over 70 years ago. Less sombrely, perhaps, I think about how much I now want to replay Call of Duty: World at War. However, the initial feeling of the history’s immediacy and proximity colours the next couple hours as we go to see the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which is certainly a harrowing affair, followed by the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism, which all agreed was pretty goofy, though well-intentioned.
We start our drinking (and smoking) at Marrakesch Orientalische Shisha Lounge & Cocktailbar, which Gareth assures us he is in tight with the owners of. That would certainly be handy, if he was bloody with us, but regardless we get treated to a nice private room of our own. The place seems to operate on a 24/hr happy hour which, whilst I very much appreciate it, I do feel like they could save 50% on their printing costs by not bothering with the non-happy hour menus. Eventually, we move on and drink the rest of the night away at the hostel bar — happy hour consists of 2-4-1 cocktails, and I’m pretty sure I brush against giving myself diabetes with my fifth watermelon pitcher. The bar playlists starts as very dark Berliner techno, which gives an edge to the proceedings, but soon transitions into more glitchcore stuff before settling on Aphex Twin. Conversation drifts (as is so often the case lately) to SU politics, and the gays are up in arms over the NUS’ decision to ban gay reps. We all have a jolly good outrage and go to bed.
The trip to Prague is lengthy and brutal, but the hostel — Hostel One Prague — is a treat. We unload our stuff wait for the hostel’s bar to open – a charmingly dingy basement affair. The beers are 30 Kč, and the music is solid. One of the hostel staff sets up a game of flip pong — like beer pong, mixed with flip cup, mixed with a primary school sports day relay race. I discover I can’t aim or catch for shit, and eventually some overenthusiastic Americans (isn’t it so often the way) put most of us off. I’m pretty sure the bar girl is doing lines, and resolve that this may be one the best hostels I’ve ever been to. The others go to local club Retrohouse, but I stay behind to look after a ‘tripper who misjudged her capacity for drinking 70% Czech absinthe.
I spend the second day with a gaggle of ‘trippers wandering around somewhere in the beautiful, though packed, Old Town. Gareth takes us walking for an hour or two to get back to where we started, and we rightfully pillory him for it. We hunt for a bar showing the Scotland v. Czech Republic match and end up in Spirit Bar — the drinks are so cheap and the servings so large we ask the waitress to make sure we haven’t messed up. Everything’s going great, and then…
I find myself, four hours later at 1am, having to guide two of the ‘trippers to the only English-speaking police station in Prague, through the streets filled with riotous drunken Glaswegians, and now very uncomfortably sober. Victoria — one of the international students no less — has had her passport pickpocketed on the tram. The US Embassy in Prague is closed Friday–Monday for the long Easter weekend, so we can’t get it cancelled or a temporary visa to get her back to England. We ring everyone: the Home Office, the Foreign Office, the State Department, every US embassy from here to London. Nobody can help us with a bloody thing. The State Department number returns a
number not found.
At the police station, we buzz the intercom three times before we’re let through — the cop on duty doesn’t speak a word of English. From what I can gather he calls in his mate, who arrives in borderline pyjamas. She tells us that if we report the items as lost, it’ll be 30 minutes worth of paperwork to fill out; if we report them as stolen, it’ll be 2 hours. A sly way of cutting down on Prague’s crime figures, and we of course opt for
lost, but I wonder what would have happened had we called her bluff. During all of this, the exec. President Vic, who is back in Lancaster, is shitting herself inside-out and ringing everyone from uni Security to the CEO of LUSU. I get a call from Security, who takes forever to tell me there’s nothing he can do and to whom I have to spell out Vic’s very French name in half-remembered NATO phonetic
M for Melon.
The next morning, we have no choice but to leave Victoria behind. Her flatmate, and strong contender for Bestie of the Year, Cat stays with her, and the hostel offers them free rooms.
Cologne is our one-night stopover, in order to break the journey from Prague to Lancaster up into more manageable chunks. The marvel, driving in, at the sheer size of Cologne Cathedral, before arriving at the Station Hostel. We check everyone in in record time, having by now become somewhat pro at it, and venture back out in no time.
Hendo is insistent we go to a specific restaurant she went to last time, such are the needy whims of the vegetarian. Finding it full, we settle for some run-of-the-mill sports bar. Before long, we’re back at the hostel bar, only to realise that not only have we just missed happy hour, but that the bar had the same food we just ate on offer for cheaper. The drinks are again cheap, and the memories increasingly hazy. The bar girl is getting as drunk as us, her definitions of a double or a 0.5l growing increasingly more generous. Josh ends his night with his head in the girl’s toilet, whilst I go to sleep and am reportedly unwakeable, despite someone kicking me in the stomach to try and get me to help with Josh.
As we drive back to Lancaster in the morning, Josh looks every bit the bag of cold piss I’m sure he feels like. Tansy decrees that he be put nowhere near her on the coach, and so I claim his old spot. Jamie and I spend the journey back to England alternating between ripping Zsofia for being Hungarian and reminiscing about the Empire.
I get off early with Zsofia and we get some extortionate trains to London. After the Brussels attacks, there’s police crawling all over Victoria station as I get an even more extortionate train to Peterborough on my own.
Another year, another Eurotrip.