Across the pond vol. 6: the aftermath

28 Dec

park-guell-2.jpgMy recent trip abroad came at the perfect time. Not only did the experience help pass the excruciating time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it allowed me to return home with a gaggle of stories to delight my family with over the holiday celebrations. 

And by “delight,” I obviously mean horrify.

My time overseas wasn’t spent on the tourist trail or the sightseer’s spots. My buddy Kyle and I are twentysomething hipsters who had time at our mercy and money to burn. We stepped not a foot in a museum. Scoffed at the guidebooks. Gave the concierge a wet willie on our way out the hotel. We were determined to spend the entire trip donning a seat-of-pants-flying ‘tude, and we stuck to our guns throughout.

Consequently, the stories I brought home with me weren’t exactly the ones my family members were expecting. When they asked about the cathedrals of Spain, I detailed the behavior of the prostitutes. When they inquired about the Westminster Abbey, I recounted a 16-hour boozefest with a starry-eyed look upon my face. Ah, memories.

But our trip overseas was a whirlwind – four cities in thirteen days – and I wasn’t able to transcribe each and every memory onto paper (or, more accurately, my computer). And now, just a few weeks later, I can feel them slipping away.

Though many of the following anecdotes and observations deserve an essay of their own, I can’t risk spending too much time on one and simultaneously forgetting another. (Also, I’m lazy.) So I’m going to speed-type these memories. I fully plan to hustle my gringo ass back to Europe pronto, but in case I don’t make the return trip for a while, these memories are going to have to see me through.   

I don’t ever want to forget…

…The taste of Carling, my newfound favorite beer on the planet, at the London pubs … hearing a loud-ass cover band at a Piccadilly bar finish their set with “Teenage Dirtbag,” which completely shocked us … discovering that the stereotype of English people having bad teeth was so hilariously right on … the beautiful Hyde Park area … SoHo.

***

…Learning that many German people are, in fact, quite unfriendly. We learned this on our first night in Munich as we were approaching a subway escalator. In Germany, an escalator travels in either direction, depending on traffic. The escalators stop moving if no one is riding them, but if a person at the bottom presses the “go” button, it starts moving upwards. Ditto for someone standing at the top. Anyway, at one point Kyle and I were at the top of the stairs, noticed the escalator wasn’t moving and pressed the button to get it to start traveling down. We narrowly beat an old man at the bottom pressing the button hoping to ride it upwards, which we learned was a societal no-no when he walked by us on the stairs and loudly hissed “Fuckers!” at us while waving his bony old-man finger in our face. We were embarrassed and a bit frightened.

***

…Learning, just a few hours later, that German people can at times be downright hostile. After returning from a long dinner at the ever-popular Hofbrauhaus, Kyle and I were heading back down towards the subway. I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but as we were walking (okay, stumbling) in the train station, we were all of a sudden in pace with a few German punks who looked our way and quickly became quite agitated with us. I don’t know if it was because of our looks, actions, or just general obnoxiousness, but before we knew it, we were suddenly being aggressively yelled at by a group of crazy Germans.

We were just trying to get to our train, but as we walked the guys kept hurling insults at us. They were speaking in German, however, and since we never bothered to learn much more than “guten tag,” we couldn’t comprehend a word they were saying. I was slightly under the influence at the time but was in no mood to fight these nihilists, so I tried to explain that we meant no harm. I started saying, “sprechen English!” to them, but had to scream it so I could rise above their yelling. I’d kinda-sorta remembered the word “sprechen” as meaning “speak,” so I attempted to explain that we only spoke English, and therefore meant no harm.

For some unexplainable reason, my commendable effort to call a truce only further aggravated them, and they heatedly motioned for us to follow them downstairs, ostensibly to engage in a round of fisticuffs. Being the brave, brawny, former college athletes that we are, Kyle and I cowered in a corner upstairs for 15 minutes until we heard the subways clear out below us. We then tiptoed downstairs and into the next train. Quite an impressive display of manliness.

The next morning, as we were replaying the scene over breakfast, we realized that while I was trying to simply plead to the jerk-offs, “I speak English! I speak English!” in my broken German, I didn’t exactly use “I” in my sentence, and therefore likely tried to ease tensions by screaming at the Germans – in their home country, remember – to “speak English! Speak English!” as if I was barking out orders.

I’m starting to realize why other countries hate us.

***

…Hearing a woman in Germany sneeze on the subway, followed by Kyle calling to her, “Bless you!” Then looking over at me and saying dejectedly, “Man, I wish I knew how to say that in German.” I laughed for about an hour.

***

…The awesome subway system in Munich: clean, fast, punctual, easy to understand … seeing homeless people not only beg for money at every street corner, but to literally get on their knees to beg (I would nearly weep out of sympathy, at which point Kyle would make fun of me. It was a nice little give-n-take we had going.) … noticing pet dogs everywhere, on subways, in bars, in restaurants, at Starbucks, in bathrooms, running down sidewalks; and none of them wearing a leash … walking around the historical Marienplatz area, with its cathedrals and dark brown cobblestone streets and outdoor beer tents and decorated storefronts and tons of people happily milling around, during the heart of their festive Christmas celebration.

***
sagrada-familia.jpg

…Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona, and all its indescribable glory. The famous architect Antonio Gaudi’s life’s work, it is one of the more breathtaking sights I’ve ever seen, eclipsed by only…

***

…Barcelona’s Park Guell. Located in the north end of the city atop a huge hill, Park Guell is an outdoor commons area that overlooks the entire city. Kyle and I strolled up the hill to check out the area on a recommendation from a friend, fully prepared to see it, offer our typical monotone “yeah this is great now let’s get out of here” reply and make our way elsewhere…but it was amazing.

I don’t have the vocabulary to accurately illustrate Park Guell. It was like standing inside a classic painting. The main terrace featured a long windy bench, animal sculptures, painted mosaic tiles, wide steps and thick columns. I was awestruck.

park-guell.jpg

As mentioned, I am not one for sightseeing locations. I’ve never enjoyed being in a museum, and the very idea of seeing things just to see them mostly strikes me as useless and mind-numbingly boring…but I have no problem admitting my short time spent at Park Guell was the absolute pinnacle of my entire trip. The architecture alone was the most inspiring thing I’ve ever witnessed. I could’ve spent the entire day there.

***

…Our final walk down Las Ramblas. During our last day in Barcelona, we realized we needed to get out and see the city. We woke up super early (okay, 8 am; what more do you want from us?) on Sunday morning and headed back to Las Ramblas to get some breakfast before bustin’ out on the town. Las Ramblas consists of one long street, with a wide sidewalk – maybe 60 feet – splitting up the two sides of the street. It’s in this middle walking area that all the famous action takes place during the day – street performers, vendors, restaurants, beggars, tourists from all over the world – and (during the day at least) it can be a lot of fun. While walking that Sunday morning, the street was still mostly deserted. Vendors were still organizing their wares, hosts were setting out menus for the day, the street talent was just gearing up for a busy afternoon. Very few people out and about.

las-ramblas.jpg

Kyle and I were just walking down the street, enjoying the serenity of the morning, when we looked up and saw a man walking towards us. He was probably about 50 years old, slightly portly but not obese, bald, leathery tan skin, and appeared to be wearing shorts and some severe combat boots. As he got nearer we noticed that what had looked like a shirt in the distance was actually just a massive tattoo around his torso. And what appeared to be some tight shorts were, in fact — oh mother of god, are you kidding me? He can’t be, holy shit am I seeing things? Nope: he’s completely naked. Naked with boots on, just ambling down the street, about to pass us, coming closer and…and…that can’t be…can it?…yep, sure as shit, he’s got a gigantic cock ring perched at the end of his gigantic…oh sweet lord, I am going to hurl.

As the full-body tattooed, naked old man with a third leg that’d make Milton Berle blush walked on by us, Kyle and I were speechless. It was 9 am on a Sunday. There was no one else around. Just us, and then him, and then all of a sudden just us again. After an exhausting, unforgettable, amazing trip abroad, this experience at the tail-end of the vacation was the most surreal. We didn’t know what to say. Never seen anything like that, never will again.

I was pretty disgusted, I won’t lie. As we sat down for breakfast, I was more than slightly queasy at what we’d just witnessed.

When the waiter came to take our order, I meekly asked for a bottle of water. Kyle, trooper that he is, requested “the biggest damn sausage you’ve got in the kitchen,” which struck me as a bit odd. He swore the order and the well-hung passerby was just a witness, but the glassy stare and drool protruding from his mouth told me otherwise.

You know, now that I think about, maybe some memories are best left abroad.

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7 Responses to “Across the pond vol. 6: the aftermath”

  1. cool rut January 1, 2007 at 6:13 pm #

    Where did Kyle go to college? what sport did he play? Just wondering.

  2. BreAnne January 4, 2007 at 11:49 am #

    I’m going to Munich in March…anything I should see? What kind of German beer should I try?

  3. Brandon January 4, 2007 at 10:31 pm #

    BreAnne,
    I guess the two most obvious things to see are Hofbrauhaus (total tourist trap, but whatever) and the Marienplatz area. I also read about a cool club called Pacha, but my associate and I never made it. As for beer, it’s all decent. I enjoyed a few (too many) Lowenbrau.

    I’m expecting a full report upon your return.

  4. Acultrurry August 11, 2008 at 6:18 pm #

    mi dite il nme della canzone dell’esorcista??… vi prego mi serve un aiuto! …. il 26 ?? il complex di una mia amica ed io e un mio amico vorremmo farle uno striscione….dal momento in cui partecipa anke il mio amico trovo sia diffixile cercare una frse d’amicizia abbastanza commovente, poich?? abbiamo rapporti diversi cn la festeggiata …. cmq sapreste consigliarmi qualcosa di generico? una frase originale ke possa andare bene? ve ne sarei molto grata! grazie in anticipo , rispondete in tanti!

    ____________________________________________________________________________
    chat

  5. FrowDiori December 18, 2008 at 11:46 pm #

    Hi all!

    As newly registered user i just wanted to say hi to everyone else who uses this site ;-)

  6. Gendavsax December 19, 2011 at 6:30 am #

    бизнес новости

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