|Matty's Slightly Inebriated Euro-Trip
|by Matt Ryan
Before I became a Tour Leader with Topdeck I did a trip as a passenger. My trip was fantastic. Awe inspiring. And mostly drunk. My trip diary to follow:
Like many, upon my return to my home country (NZ) I have found myself constantly looking at my photos and imagining I was back somewhere in Western Europe desperately looking for my headache pills. This has since progressed to looking at other traveller's websites, and I have become inspired to find many travellers have created sites containing very relevant information on their trips as well as fantastic and in-depth insight into their experiences.
Unfortunately if you are seeking such pertinent information from this site you may be bitterly disappointed. Whilst I possibly could have produced a document which had some actual use beyond something to read on the toilet, I decided writing about the some of the things most other travel bloggers seem to skip or simply aren't dumb enough to do would be a lot more pleasurable to write and hopefully a lot of fun to read. So read on, and perhaps you'll also find out what you should NOT do on your tour.
|Doing the YMCA in Venice|
|My Favorite Links:|
|I spent 3 weeks in the UK prior to my trip staying with a mate in London in a rather full house (8 of us, just one bathroom...), and slept in a small windowless hovel affectionately known as the 'Gimp Room'. Fear not, I was not accosted by a leather-clad pervert with a bullwhip whilst I slept, but only because I kept throwing him apples...
When I ran out of apples I decided I would do a 12 day European Discovery through Western Europe. I booked by phone just a couple of days before departure, then due to ANOTHER security alert on the Tubes, I missed the 'night before this is what your trip is about meeting', so didn't have too many clues as to what I was actually getting myself into. I topped this off by absorbing oodles of experiences on the first day whilst attempting almost futilely not to vomit on the 2 hour bus drive from London to Dover as consequence of my idiotic drinking binge the night before (hey it seemed like a good idea at the time). I then took in the sights on the English Channel whilst sleeping on a whole row of seats the entire ferry trip to Calais, France. This was to the disgust of some rather antique German tourists who were hopeful I would move my feet so they could sit down, but only received my disgruntled reminder of who in fact won the war and the fact that my feet were staying put...
When I sobered up I properly met some of our tour. Our Tour Leader was Brad and our Coach Captain Adam - both top blokes. We certainly had a melting pot on board the bus - there were a fair few Aussies, a few yanks; Canada, Mexico, South Africa and Japan were all represented, and I was very fortunate to have 3 other Kiwis on the trip (my liver wasn't so fortunate). Two of them were loud, frivolous, and drank like fish. A beautiful friendship was born!!!
|Lance, Jo and me - the Kiwis...||Me, Bec and Jo on our last night...|
|After landing at Calais we travelled through Belgium (boring place, don't even bother unless you have a fetish for corduroy) into Amsterdam where it was rumoured that you could in fact order beers and joints at the pub at the same time. I of course never witnessed or experienced such zany occurrences (my fingers might be crossed as I write this), but felt like I had whilst absorbing the excitement of a 'play' in a local theatre. Just imagine it - we were all seated in grand anticipation, the red velvet curtain slithers back (the floor looked greasy) and there on stage was a couple on a revolving platform not at all shyly playing 'hide the sausage'. This was soon followed by such amazing live acts as a fair maiden smoking a cigar NOT with her mouth, another sweet damsel doing something (i couldn't repeat without arousing the wrath of the censors) with a banana, a guy playing 'flick the towel' with a 'dangly bit' not unlike that of a rather large horse but which was shaped like a banana, and a guy in a gorilla suit with a strap-on banana... Well I tell you the plot was rather hard to follow (no pun intended), but we all clapped and encouraged them to keep practicing...
It was then onto St Goar in Germany for a night of cocktails and frivolity before heading onto Munich the next day. In German drinking halls, beers come by the 'litre' stein. Hence after only 6 beers one ends up involuntarily standing on their chair singing the Barvarian version of "She'll be Coming Round the Mountain" whilst swinging their beer back and forth. I have to say of all the places that we went and the people we met, the German's were the friendliest and most fun, and if you haven't been to Munich, you must. I quickly deciphered the basics of the local language and spent time in between jingles screaming at the lederhosen clad locals "Wat ist das??? Das ist bier. Bier ist gut, ja!!!" The most common response to this was they would point at me and proclaim "Das ist Cuckoo". I'm not sure exactly what they meant - but I was led to believe it had something to do with an invitation to meet in a dark alley where they would apparently 'make me talk'. Extremely friendly folk!!! I found out in Munich it is polite to address everyone as 'Gunter', no matter who they were. The locals must have been impressed with my local knowledge. Our Tour Leader however suggested they thought otherwise...
From Munich we travelled to Austria where we stayed in a quaint little village with rolling hills where the locals skipped around singing songs from the 'Sound of Music'. Austria had similar customs to Germany, however here it was common knowledge it was polite after a few drinks to address everyone as 'Adolf'. For some strange reason not all of them smiled whilst slamming my beers down on the bar...
Venice was next and Venice was fantastic. There is something deeply spiritual about serenely cruising through the charming and romantic canals in a gondola sipping red wine and screaming at our gondola pilot "listen Gino, we paid a ‘beep’-load for this ride and if we say sing, you sing damn-you, you pasta munching git". He never sang...
It is probably prudent at this time to mention the Group Tour time table for those of you inspired by my tale and looking to enjoy the experience yourselves. 'Wake up' was usually 6am, breaky at 6.30am, and all on the bus for the next leg of the journey at 7am. This routine became slightly difficult when one only found their hotel room (it is amazing how confusing that ascending number system can be) at around 5am, and one has consumed enough booze to sedate a raucous rhino with a drinking problem. The trick I soon figured was to pack the night before, skip breaky (for an extra 30 minute snooze) sleep your precious hour & 1/2 with your alarm resting on your forehead to ensure timely consciousness, hit your alarm, scream, panic, fall out the door with your 3 tonne luggage leaving one of your favourite socks, and then employ a rather non-gracious stumbling act out to the bus still inebriated. Still having more pre-breakfast booze in your veins than Winstone Churchill, you launch into your Morning Song 'Take Me Out' by Franz Ferdinand to the utter appreciation of the tired bus mates who are desperately seeking sleep in their seats, then pass out. When you wake up drunk you don't wake up with a hang over - take note boys and girls!!!
From Venice we headed to Rome, the ancient capital of the world. First stop was to visit Vatican City and to take in the awe of the infamous Sistine Chapel. After forking out 20 Euros (about NZD$50) for my day pass to the Vatican and surrounding museums, I had one too many drinks the night before and like the moron I am, I missed the bus to the train station for Vatican city. After much cursing and air kicking and repeating to myself "what a moron - I'm going to miss the Sistine Chapel", I decided in my still slightly drunken state that I was sort of still young, fit, and surely could manage the short 2 km sprint to the train station before the train went. About 500m into my trek, I gave up as our empty bus passed me going the other way, the local driver happily oblivious to my cries of "you beeping beeping swine i was one beeping minute beep beep late" and I began my kung-fu air assault again to the pleasure to a passing bus of old fogies also heading for the train station. I saw my chance coming to the conclusion that they must be catching the same train and sprinted after the bus probably covering 1.5kms in 17 second flat. To my delight I arrived just as the train was pulling up and made it on board. Hence I did make it to Vatican City - the capital and centre of the Christian world - albeit as I attempted to enter I was adorned like an Al Queda terrorist with a towel on my head to mop up my sweat whilst palpitating, occasionally licking my own arm which was refreshing because I was sweating pure alcohol, and trying to stand straight whilst my exhausted legs were buckling beneath me to appease the security staff inspecting the queue. Naturally they just thought i was on the staff of the new Pope and let me straight in....
Rome was amazing. Imagine it's your free day to explore Rome on your own. Just picture yourself standing in the middle of the Colosseum - one of the oldest and most famous landmarks in the world. The place is huge and held more people than Eden Park. Then imagine seeing Kiwi Craig, a sheep farmer from Palmy North who is 'wise in the ways of the world' stomping in a determined fashion across the top terrace of the Colosseum. "Where are you going Kiwi???" I cry. "I don't know where I'm going..." he hastily responds. "I don't even know where I am!!!". After recovering from a laughing fit which almost resulted in me falling off the top balcony into the pits below, it became apparent that Kiwi Craig would attract many, many sheep jokes towards us.
|Mandatory Group Photo in Florence|
|From Rome we hit Florence (don't worry she deserved it), home of Michelangelo, Rafael, Leonardo and many other Ninja Turtles. This is where the infamous statue of 'David' lies, and where you can devour possibly the worlds best pizza. We had a fantastic Tuscan dinner that night which involved Italian sing-a-longs such as 'That's Amore' and "Solare Wo Oh, Contare, Wo Oh Oh Oh'. They also entertained us with an Opera Soprano chick, and if you sat at the right tables there was as much wine as you could drink... You certainly haven't lived until you have attended a Florence Discotèque. Ok maybe you have. I won't spoil the surprise...
Over the Swiss Alps the next day (for the historians - no we didn't see any elephants) we arrived in Lucerne, Switzerland. Switzerland is as good as it comes for natural beauty (with the exception of good old NZ of course), and the storybook towns were surrounded by lakes and white-capped mountains. We took a fabulous trip up Mt Stanserhorn where you travel 1920m up the mountain in an aerial cable car. At the top, no matter which way you looked, you enjoyed the serenic view of your hand. The thickest grey clouds and rain had set in, and that's all you could see basically...
Paris was our last stop, and was absolutey stunning. The antics of the brave Froggies in WWII surrendering to the 'Sausage Munchers' after a whole 4 minutes meant virtually the entire city escaped bombing, and pretty much all the buildings are gloriously intact. Hence this naive Kiwi lad wandered around in a state of complete awe at the sights - the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomph, Notre Dame, the Louvre, and found myself constantly grunting "wee wee and poo poo" at the absolutely stunning French women as they ambled along the promenades. Highlight of Paris was going to the original (since 1888 I think) Moulin Rouge. Ok I know what you're thinking - of course I enjoyed 3 hours of topless bimbos trouncing around a stage, but the show was absolutely fantastic and even the gals on tour without the least 'I'd give chicks a try if I was drunk' mentality thoroughly enjoyed a show that only the Frogs could stage. It was 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert' but with real boobies!!!
From Paris it was back to London which was a let down really. There are a lot of English people
there and no matter how nicely you ask, they won't leave.
So as a result of my 12 days of organised chaos, I decided to pack up my stuff, move to London, and beg the fine folk in London for a Tour Leader job. Yes I know what you're all thinking - after reading the above I seem far too responsible and mature for such a job, but I might just unbutton my cardy and let loose on the poor unsuspecting souls...