So here we are in Europe – and though I’ve been here many times, this time it’s different.
Firstly, my fashion sense is almost non-existent –> which you can see from the various photos. Sadly, the outfits will only repeat themselves in varying combinations. But them’s the breaks – it’s all about functionality: quick-dry fabrics, all of a similar colour scheme. Cotton is out (takes too long to dry and holds moisture leading to heat rash and general smelliness), hybrid ‘tech’ clothing is in. You know the ones you get at those oh-so hip ‘adventure’ shops, right?!#$%&*
The only thing I can do so express myself through my ‘look’ is change my hair or use eyeliner & lipstick vs. going au naturale. Oh, and I’ve got one bandana that I can use as a hair tie. Yipee!!
The second thing is a sense of being on the move. Everywhere you are is temporary and yet where you are sleeping that night is your main place of rest & respite. Hotels & hostels become more important. I hated the idea of hostels, but the fact they all have kitchens and wi-fi is a godsend. We’ve sort of come to the conclusion that a private room in a hostel is the way to go.
More lessons learned to come…but before I get carried away and introspective let’s talk about places!
Across The English Channel
We took a wonderful ferry overnight from Harwich, England to the Hook of Holland. I can’t recommend it enough! The cabins were so nice, and the ticket included a train fair to anywhere in The Netherlands. You can also get one that includes the train from London on the other side. On-board was everything you could want from a cafe, bar and restaurant to casinos, a video game room (for the young ‘uns, not us really) and cinema!
The Netherlands were a great first stop – as everyone speaks English. And I mean EVEYRONE! This must account for the many American and British accents we heard around Amsterdam.
Speaking of Amsterdam – boy, there is SO much more to it than marijuana and hookers! It is probably the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to in Europe. Built around concentric rings of canals – streets are lined with trees and boats. Cars aren’t that common, as everyone rides a bicycle or scooter. While we were there we visited the Rijksmuseum, to view paintings of the Dutch Masters such as Rembrant and my new favourite: Frans Hals. Many of the scenes were of Amsterdam or people who lived in there, and it’s so easy to see how so many could find inspiration from the place. It was apparent that art and design are still very much alive there.
I also recommend the Indonesian food there, as many immigrated as a result of the spice trade, as the Dutch were the captains of this period with their infamous Dutch East India Company – often thought to be the world’s first corporation. They were so evil ! Later, we hope to visit these same spice islands at the end of the trip for some added meaning and symetry (well, unintended symetry actually).
Another nice thing to do is take one of the free ferries across the estuary – it’s very quirky and industrial and makes for a nice break from dodging cyclists.
We then hoped a train to Berlin. Well, actually it was more than hop – it was 8 hours. But who’s counting? I’ve been to Berlin many times, having spent a summer in the nearby town of Neuruppin when I was 17. Also, I know I will be back because I love Germany. I’ve got an understanding with the place really (or so I like to think). I’m always excited at the idea of using my (bad) German language skills !
I also experienced my first dorm room in a hostel (U Inn Berlin). We had private lockers to keep our stuff safe, and were greated by a nice 20-something from Glasgow named Jim. Going on his second pub crawl that night, he seemed to be traveling around Europe mostly with drinking as his agenda. I was a little disappointed, I mean – I didn’t think Germans even had pub crawls! But Chris, always the voice of empathy, pointed out that it was good he was at least meeting people from different countries and going to German places.
I slept with ear plugs and only slightly woke-up when Jim came in around 4am. There was some other mystery bloke in the bunk below mine – but I never met him and he left rather early.
Onwards now to Poland…