Scotland Pt. 1 (of 24)

GUESS WHO’S BACK, BABY!?? You all thought I was out of the game, well, guess again, fuckheads! I’ve just been saving up for 10 months to lull the blogosphere into a false sense of security, and now, just when they least expect it – BLAM!

People tell me all the time that my intros are their favorite part of these blogs, but I’ve got a lot to get to today so I’m just gonna jump right in.

My last blog post was about day like 5 of a 14 day trip through Eastern Europe that I took, um, basically a million years ago at this point.  I’m gonna skip all the rest of that so I can write about something that happened just 2 weeks ago; sorry to all my invested, loyal readers.

My buddy and #1 blog fan Rich (hey Rich) and I went to visit our Scottish friend Laura for a week in her home of Scotland.  You may remember Laura from the last blog post, in Slovenia, where we visited Lake Bled and drank all day instead of doing anything.

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You may remember this picture from my last blog post, back in March

I’m happy to say that this time, we learned from our past mistakes.  We limited our drinking, planned out a thorough itinerary, and really made the most of our time in Scotland.

Psych we got totally fuckin’ LIT babyyyyyy!!!!!!

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A rare shot of us 2 frat stars in the half-second before we drained our beers 

It was Rich’s first time leaving the country, so he was pretty nervous, but he was obviously comforted by the fact that he was with such an experienced traveler as myself.  I told him not to worry – I’d show him all the ropes.   He was such a bumbling and naive guy – it reminded me of my first time traveling!

 

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Always stopping for souvenirs!

Rich had lounge access from his credit card (hey, not bad for a noob), so we got there like 2 hours early just to chill in Dulles Airport’s “Turkish Lounge” next to our gate which turned out to be dope as fuck.

They had this buffet with just like perfectly cooked chicken and some pita and hummus and like this rice dish and desserts and it was just fuckin’ awesome.  And a free bar!!  Is this how rich people travel??  Finally, I was an affluent traveling gentleman, like I’ve always been meant to be.

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Perhaps you would like to join me in the Turkish Lounge, ladies?

We just kicked back, charged our phones, used the wifi, ate and drank as much as possible, and just thought about how there were thousands of commoners outside, just pathetic wretches, sitting in uncomfortable chairs with $8 Whoppers, dripping mayoey lettuce into their laps.  Fuck those people.

Around boarding time, Rich and I finished our drinks, grabbed our bags, and leisurely strolled over to the gate.  As we approached, we noticed the gate looked a little empty.  Huh, that’s weird.  Then we heard over the loudspeaker, “Last call for boarding for passengers Richard Tyson and Stephen Flowers for Primera Air Flight 2280 to London…”  OH SHIT.  We got to the gate and saw there was absolutely nobody else waiting to board.

What happened?  Tune in for part 2/24 to find out…

 

 

Jk lol.  Luckily they hadn’t closed the gate yet, and we made it on the flight.  Turns out the flight had been moved earlier, which I didn’t even know was possible, and the announcements weren’t being broadcast in our lounge.  We were honestly probably within a couple minutes of missing our flight, despite having gotten through security like 2 hours early, because we’d been living it up in the Turkish Lounge.  The airline, Primera, only has flights from DC to London twice a week.  We would’ve been totally fucked; we may have ended up cancelling our trip.

As it was, though, we kicked it in the lounge till the last minute and waltzed onto the flight with no wait like a bunch of fuckin’ ballers.  Thanks for waiting, you dirty destitute peasants!

Primera Airlines was at the time offering a flight from DC to London for just $120, which obviously was fucking insane.  Of course, I did get charged $24 for both my carry-on and my backpack, which, I guess maybe I should have checked the baggage guidelines.

Anyway the flight was fine, we landed in London the next morning with a 3-hour layover.  We were flying RyanAir, another discount airline, to Edinburgh.  This is where I encountered a second problem.

I hadn’t previously checked in online, and it turns out that with RyanAir, if you don’t check in in online, you have to wait in the Customer Service line with all the irate customers who had missed their connections.  What the…I’m a member of the Turkish Club!  Who did they think they were dealing with!?

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Just like that, my life had been turned upside down

I figured I’d just get on the wifi and just check in on my phone.   I came to find out that the ticketing service I’d used (Kiwi.com) didn’t allow online check in within 24 hours of the flight.  So I ended up waiting in this line for an hour while Rich waited.  Surrounded by common riffraff.

When I got up there, I told them I was there to check in, and the lady tells me there’s a 55 pound penalty fee for in-person check-in.   That’s about $72 in real money.  $72 to print my fucking ticket for a flight I’d already paid for.  And just to kick me while I’m down, they called it a penalty fee, as if to say “well, this is what you get for not checking in online, it’s your own fault, you should have thought ahead, Steve, aren’t you supposed to be an experienced traveler?”  Fucking motherfucking cocksucker pieces of shit at this point the costs in unanticipated fees ($48 for bags and $72 to check in) was equal to the cost of my original plane ticket.

Rich later happened upon a newspaper article that said RyanAir got 28% of its income from its extortionist fees:

 

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Fuck RyanAir, fuck Kiwi.com, fuck Primera Air, fuck London, this trip was fuckin’ bullshit.

Anyway we met up with Laura at that same airport (she lives in London) which was, like, whatever, and flew to Edinburgh.  Details next time, but, long story short, we got drunk and didn’t do anything productive or worthwhile.

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Can’t do this in America!

That’s it for now, tune in to the next post in 7-10 months!

 

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Slovenia

Alriiight, hope everyone’s been good for the short 4 months since my last blog post!  Some of you might think, “Hey Steve, isn’t that too long between posts?  Who really gives a fuck about following your blog if your posts are a million fuckin days apart?”  But what you don’t realize is that this is actually a master’s class (#MasterClass) in keeping readers’ interest – you gotta keeping people wanting more.  Paradoxically, less…is more.  That’s a free life tidbit.  Feel free to comment how it’s affected your life below.

I left Budapest on a bus to meet up with my Scottish friend Laura “Big Ginge” Smith and her English boyfriend, Chris, who were embarked on a 3-month journey in a converted van across Europe that happened to sync up pretty well with my trip.  The plan was to meet in Slovenia and then travel down the coast of Croatia together, the two of them a happy couple, and me the single American pussy-slayer to bring a little pizazz!!

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Here’s their stupid van.  They put a bed and a gas stove in the back, it was a pretty cool setup I guess.  Saved a lot of money, which they needed since  Laura’s highest-paying job since graduating college was working as a middle school custodian

We met up at Lake Bled, Slovenia, which attracts tourists from all over for its fairy-tail like beauty.

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I mean look at this shit

I left Budapest at 1030, changed buses at the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana (pronounced, L-jubl-jim-job), and finally got to Bled around 8 pm.  My phone was nearly dead, and I didn’t have any international data, but luckily, Laura had said she would meet me at the bus station, so I wouldn’t just be floundering about late at night trying to figure out how to get to the hostel from the bus station..

I got off the bus, took a look around, and – big surprise – no Laura!  Ok, well, she must have been held up.  I managed to find my way to the hostel on my own – mostly through guesswork/being a fuckin’ twice-deployed Army veteran, I can find my way around Kandahar, I can find my way to a fuckin’ hostel in fairy-tale bullshitland, Europe – and was able to describe the two of them sufficiently to the host (one big stupid loud crass redhead, and her English boyfriend, probably talking about, I don’t know, the Queen, or MI6), and found them drinking wine in the hostel room.  Hey guys, great to see you!  Ah no, no trouble at all, don’t worry about me!

We went out that night to the one bar and one club in the town, which were clearly supported entirely by under-25 English-speaking tourists staying at the only two hostels there.  Not much happened of note until we were on the way home – that’s when SHIT got REAL.

This little beat-up sedan drove past Chris and suddenly stopped, and these 4 dudes piled out and surrounded Chris, going “What’s up!?  What’s up!?” Ready to kick his ass.

Chris, who was hammered, smiled and went “Hey, what’s up?  I’m Chris,” in the friendliest, most benign way possible, and started shaking their hands going “I’m Chris.  I’m Chris,”  and this seemed to take them so off guard that they went from getting ready to beat the shit out of him to just…introducing themselves.  The wind completely went out of their sails in the span of about 10 seconds.  I introduced myself as well (I had been about to start yelling “Yeah rip his fucking head off!!), and we ended up talking to them for a bit, and learned that they were from Serbia.

After a couple minutes of very friendly chitchat, they just apologized for the whole thing and sort of sheepishly pile back into their shitty 4-door sedan.  Right before they left, one stuck his head out the window and said, I shit you not, “Have a good night…WE’RE GOING TO GET SOME PUSSY!!!” and they drove off into the night.

This was the only interaction I’ve ever had with Serbians, and it went about exactly as I would have guessed an interaction with Serbians would go.  Sometimes, your ignorant and outdated conclusions about a country based on little to no evidence just turn out right.

Side note: One of the biggest lessons I learned traveling is that not everyone speaks great English, but EVERYONE I knows what “pussy” means.  Many times at bars I’d say to random foreign guys “What’s up, you guys getting some pussy tonight?” And 100% of the time, they would be like “Fuck yeah!”  Literally never failed.  It’s part of the international language, like music, or mathematics.

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7/10 Slovenians in these buildings are talking about pussy right now

The next morning we got up late and hung over and went to check out the lake, but it was thunder-storming, so we ducked into this dinky little schwarma place, which appeared to be the only restaurant in town.  The food there turned out to be the absolute worst schwarma I’ve ever had.  Normally I can’t get enough, but this was awful  – old, rubbery, shit-grade Slovenian mystery meat sandwiches, is what that was.

Around the time we all realized how shitty the food was, Chris discovered that his new Google Pixel, which he’d just bought a week ago, had been subjected to water damage as a result of being kept in the same backpack pocket as a half-eaten peach that Laura had stuck in there.  You know, how sometimes when you’re eating a really juicy peach, and you’re like, “This peach is really filling!  I can’t finish it right now – I’ll just stick it in this backpack pocket here!  Not wrapped or anything, so that it gets covered in backpack lint and little crumbs and all that nasty shit that accumulates at the bottom of backpack pouches!” Well, Laura found herself in this perfectly relatable situation and did just what any reasonable person would do.

Chris’ phone no longer made sound, and this put him in a really sour state that seemed likely to last all day.  The rain didn’t show any sign of letting up, our sandwiches sucked, Chris’ new phone had irreparable peach juice damage – people weren’t having a good time.  I decided we might as well have a round of beers (what else were we gonna do) to lighten the mood.  After 2 more rounds, things did start to lighten up quite a bit.

This ended up turning out to be a real “careful-what-you-wish-for” type scenario.

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Taken with a Google Pixel

Around the end of the third round, the weather started to clear up, so we decided this would be our last round.   Perfect – just a quick trip to the loo for ol’ Stevie and then it would be Lake Bled central, with most of the day ahead of us to truly enjoy it!  As I relieved myself, I filled my head with blissful thoughts of the scenic panoramas I’d soon be capturing on my Nikon intro-level DSLR camera.

Imagine my dismay upon my return when I found that Laura and Chris had decided, nah, fuck it, let’s just go ahead and order another round.  Why not?  Not like we can drink shitty beer from the world’s worst meat sandwich shop just any day!  So we finished that round – by this time it was like 3 pm – and then, somehow, they two fucking Brexit fucks managed to order like no joke three more rounds every time I wasn’t looking.  I guess it wasn’t too hard to distract me after a while.  I literally told our waitress “Don’t bring us any more, ok?”  But she didn’t listen.  Slovenians.

You can’t tell from the pictures, but I was having a bad time.

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Guys, stop, seriously

We entered that schwarma shop around noon, and didn’t get out till probably 6, after about 7 or 8 pints each.  This is, by the way, the only day I had in Bled, and I hadn’t even laid eyes on the fucking lake yet.

This was my first indication of something that would become very evident throughout our trip:  Chris and Laura, seasoned travelers with all the time in the world to do whatever they felt like wherever they went, had less of a “make the most of it” attitude and more of a “eh fuck it lets just get drunk and kind of hang out, it’ll still be there” attitude.

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Oh aye, sure, it’s greaat, but you know its just a big hole full of water at the end of the day innit?

We finally got out of there and shambled down to the lake in the remaining hour or so of daylight.  It was beautiful – would have been great to get a chance to hike around the lake, see some of the famous vistas from the other side, like the one from google images above, but I guess I’d have to content myself, for the rest of my life, with just the one, most pedestrian, easily accessible viewpoint, in the waning hours of the day.  Really glad I came all the way out here.   Traveling for the next 10 days with these two is sure to be a blast.  But hey, at least I got to drink a bunch of shitty beer at the worlds most back alley trash dump of a schwarma shop!

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I mean sure, that’s nice

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But sometimes, the best views are right in front of you

Later that night, Laura and I went to the bar and talked to these Norwegian speech therapist girls who were absolutely enamored with Laura and her travel stories.  I learned that Laura, who’s basically just traveled since graduating college (uh cool but how’s her blog), was just absolutely idolized by young women travelers.  They saw her as everything they wanted to be, this free-spirit woman who’d been all over the world and had an endless supply of travel stories.  I may as well have not been there.  I’d sit there sipping my beer and periodically interject; “hey yeah actually I’ve been to Australia too, just with my family in 8th grade oh ok yeah Laura no you go ahead.”  After we hung out with them for several hours, we learned they both had boyfriends, so that therefore the time we spent talking to these people from different places and learning about other countries had been a COMPLETE FUCKING WASTE OF TIME.

And that was it for Bled!  Day 1 with the UK fuks, and so far its going GREAT.

Budapest Part 2

OOHHH SHIT ANOTHER BLOG POST SO FUCKIN SOON!?? WHO IS THIS GUY!?  WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DID YOU DO WITH STEVE!?

Jk ya’ll don’t worry, its the real Steve, of Traveling With Steve fame, just with a lot more time on my hands now that I’m unemployed (things are goin’ great!).  Which pays BIG dividends for you, the loyal blog follower!

Speaking of – the Facebook likes have really dwindled since blog post #1 way back in April and, I hate to bring this up, but that’s why I do this, guys, for the little red noties, hanging there at the top of my screen when I log in like Christmas stockings full of social media validation.  Honestly, you don’t even gotta read the rest of the post, just go back and like it, we’ll both be better off, this is probably gonna be garbage anyway.

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Plenty of pics to break it up though, don’t sweat it, 1 pic per paragraph, that’s my new rule.  New post, new rule, new blog, new Steve! No job!  No job, no problem!  This blog is my livelihood!

Quick recap from last time, I had just finished a day wandering around Budapest with the two pyramid-scheme Polish girls.  Luckily, it wasn’t a complete waste of time, because I did get some sick new travel pics for my Tinder.

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Somebody get this guy some pussy STAT

The next day I went one of those free walking tours of Budapest, which they have in most major European cities, and are great because the tour guides are always like young and cool, and you just tip them however much you want ($0, unless they fuckin’ impress me, I did improv in college), and they’re usually pretty good ways to see the city off the bat.  You learn a lot, its low-key, and most of the tourists are other young people, so you can talk about like, you know, beer and doing coke and stuff.

I took some solid shots of Budapest, much better than the ones from the second deck of the sightseeing bus, go figure:

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St. Stephen’s Basilica

 

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St. Stephen’s Basilica pt. 2

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The Chain Bridge,  Hungary’s equivalent of the Brooklyn Bridge.  I mean, sort of, the Brooklyn Bridge is 300 feet longer, but who’s counting?  Wow, good job Hungary, what a biiiig bridge you got there!

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This is the Pest side of Budapest, taken from the Buda side.  It used to be two cities – that’s the first and only fun fact anyone who’s been to Budapest will ever tell you about it

At the top of this giant hill we climbed, during which our tour guide told us how in Hungarian “pussy pussy” meant like “hello,” I met these two British girls, Sian (pronounced like Sean (Paul) but with a British accent) and Alison (normal), who were in Budapest for the weekend.  There were also these two Indian dudes, one of whom was real fuckin’ weird.

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Weird Indian dude in purple, normal Indian dude next to him, there’s the two British girls back there, and literally everyone else in this picture is a Chinese tourist

The rest of the tour was pretty good, idk I’d get into the stuff we saw but I really don’t remember much that I learned about it and nobody really cares to read me rehash it anyway, look it up if you care so goddamn much, here:   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budapest

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What you really care about is the PICS, that’s what keeps em comin’ back!

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BOOM here’s another one, that’s the sexy sexy Parliament building, third largest in the world, yeah that lil’  trivia tidbit’s for free, don’t forget to like!

Later on I went up to the top of St. Stephen’s Basilica (remember the pic from before?  Cool how everything ties together isn’t it, that’s called foreshadowing, def worth a like!), tied for number one largest tower in Budapest (and comin’ in number two for largest tower belonging to a guy named Steve, yeah you know what I’m talkin’ about), which had some great views of the city:

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Down in that square there were a bunch of young people on rented mopeds just zipping around, like, for fun.  Which makes no sense to me; why in the world would you travel all the way to Budapest just so you can scoot around a church square at 7 mph, looking like a fucking asshole?

On the way back down I randomly ran into the British girls again.  We made plans to meet up later at a bar crawl that the hostel they were staying at put on every night.  Like the free walking tours, in most major European cities you can also find a bar crawl like this that caters to young English speaking tourists looking to get belligerently drunk and ruin every bar they go to (count me the fuck in).

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Which way to the next cultural experience?

For those keeping track at home, yeah that’s right I’m on plans number TWO with foreign girls I met – two days, two plans!!  Pest Side, Best Side!  Pest Side Story!

Next stop was the Heroes’ Square, a big ass monument which is pretty cool, but more importantly offered a fantastic opportunity to take shots of the dozens of Asian tourists that were there.

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Ohh fuck yes

Asian tourists are seriously a sight all on their own.  I got ten times as much enjoyment out of watching them than I did from the square itself.  I saw a lot of them on this trip, and they always had a few things in common:  They always travel in large tour groups of like 30-40, they have umbrellas and huge hats to protect them from the sun, and they wear a lot of really colorful clothing that looks like they found it on clearance at Ross.

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This dude on the right in the yellow hat is scopin’ out the hoes

And of course there’s the pictures they take; all tourists take photos, but these guys take it to another level.  They take shot after shot, and most of the time its just of one person.

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Ok hold still honey I’m just gonna take 36 more, just in case

Also, nobody has adopted selfie sticks like old Asian women.  They fucking love it.  They would stand in one spot for 20-30 minutes just taking selfies from every possible angle.

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Can they tell how big my hat is?

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Get out of my selfie bitch

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My name is Inigo Montoya

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EXPECTO…PATRONUM!!!!

Later on that night, I met up with the British girls for the bar crawl, which was really just an exquisite exchange of culture; I think we both learned a lot from one another, and both came back more enlightened and refined.

Sian and Allison hadn’t met many Americans before, so I think it was pretty exciting for them to encounter one in the wild.  Which was great for me, because I got to basically set their entire perception of what Americans are like.  A real opportunity to positively portray Americans, at an unsteady time in our relations with our European allies.  It seems like a lot of the foreign perception of Americans is of us being loud, hyper-patriotic, overconfident douches who play a lot of drinking games like beer pong and flip cup.

So of course I represented my country well, and confirmed every single one of these stereotypes to the utmost of my ability.

The bar crawl started with a big game of flip cup, which I guess is only really played a lot in the US, and all these inexperienced foreigners were fucking up their flips over and over like a bunch of first-year GDIs.  So when I nailed it on the first try and downed my inch of beer in a half second – par for the course at any frat house in the colonies – I was like this drinking game messiah, sent from the New World to show everyone how we party in the greatest country on earth.  Then I started chanting USA! USA! and Allison looked simultaneously mortified and kind of starstruck – right before her eyes was a real live American, fist pumping and aggressively chanting the initials of his country, just like they do on TV.

Europeans also love red solo cups; apparently they don’t have those in Europe, but they’re in all the movies, so if they’re at a party then its like a real novel, fun thing.  They asked me if we actually drank out of red solo cups at parties.

Uh yeah, only all the fuckin’ time.

In return, I got to learn a ton of great British words and phrases.  There’s cracking, which means like, “great”, as in “I’ll be at the bar crawl in 10 minutes,” “Cracking.”  They also say gutted, which means sad, like “My phone died before I could finish the snapchat of that American chugging his beer, absolutely gutted.”  Or when I told them I had a travel blog, they said I better not “slate” them in it, which means I guess to talk shit about, so an example of slating would be “The British girls were cool, but were straight up garbage when it came to flip cup and chanting USA.”

Taking a piss, in British, means to like be kidding around.  Also they say trousers instead of pants, and pants means underwear!  And they don’t say panties; these girls thought panties was a really gross word, like moist, or phlegm, or succulent.

They also got a real kick out of American dollar bills.  Sian waved a one dollar bill around and said “It just feels meant to be given to a stripper.”

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This excellent selfie is the only memento of our cross-cultural exchange

The bar crawl was a lot of fun, though after the first couple bars its a bit of a blur.  On my way home, I was walking down the narrow streets that surround the bars on the Pest side of the city, and this woman on a corner grabbed my wrist and said “Hey – hey – you like sex?”  Which, I gotta say, excellent salesmanship on her part.  Get them saying yes right off the bat.  I politely declined and kept walking, and about 50 feet past my watch almost fell off my wrist.  The buckle had been almost completely taken off – the hooker tried to steal my watch!  She almost succeeded too; it was pretty impressive.   She must be good with her hands.

So that’s it for this post, and for Budapest!  Next stop, meeting up with some big Scottish girl and her British boyfriend in Slovenia!

Thanks for reading, and hey if you have some thoughts on the blog so far, please leave a comment; I’d love to hear your honest opinions!  Only positive ones, though; if you’ve got something negative to say, go ahead and shove it up your fuckin ass, I don’t wanna hear that shit.

 

 

 

 

Budapest Day 1

BOOM What’s up motherfuckers!!!  Welcome back for the start of my EPIC 3-week Eurotrip, a whirlwind of culture, cities, sights, people, whale mats, bus rides, bunk beds, and, most importantly, gettin’ fucked up WOOOO!!!

Note: This all takes place back in early July.

Stop 1 of the trip was Budapest, the capital of Hungary, known for being really old, not very expensive, cool looking, stew, wine apparently, and having a totally sick nightlife.

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Cool looking, can confirm.  Jury still out on stew

I landed and exchanged $50 for like 40,000 Hungarian florins, and hopped on the bus to the city.  I helped a lost-looking Polish girl figure out which bus to get on, and ended up chatting to her on the way into the city (fuckin’ world-wise ladykiller, you know me guys, this is classic Steve).  However, this ended up getting me into a little bit more than I bargained for.

The Polish girl, who we’ll call Olga, told me she was visiting Budapest for a week as part of an organization called WorldVentures DreamTrips (mouthful) that sets up “dream vacations” for their members.  She had been a part of WorldVentures for 3 years, and she loved it; she got to go on dream vacations to tons of different places, and had friends now “all over the world”.  And these dream trips were, believe it or not, cheaper than regular trips!  Membership in the WorldVentures, though, was invite-only; they only wanted to travel with people that were fun to travel with (obvi).  She worked in banking, but her true passion was travel, and she wanted to work with WorldVentures full-time someday.  She handed me a business card with her name on it, and on the other side it just said “Follow Your Dreams.”

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I found this on Google Images but its actually really close to what her card looked like

Alright so this was all real fuckin’ weird, but you know what, there was a language barrier, and I didn’t get to talk to her too much about it, so I didn’t read too much into it right then.  We friended each other on Facebook, and she invited me to check out the city with her and her friend the next morning.  Hell yeah, just arrived and already made a friend with a foreign stranger, fucking CRUSHING this single traveling adventure.

So the next morning I met up with Olga and her friend, who turned out to be like, 40, and also didn’t speak a word of English, to go on one of those Hop On/Hop Off double-decker bus tours you see in every major city.

Travel pro tip – never go on one of these fucking things.  Stupidest way to see a city ever. It’s full of fat tourists and their fat kids who got on the bus because for them it’s easier than karting their families through the metro or down busy city streets, and they just want to sit for a while and see the sights with as little effort as possible, because traveling with children is exhausting and miserable.  You put on these garbage airplane headphones with the scratchy ass black earpieces and listen to a pre-recorded voice drone about everything as you pass by.  It cost like $35 and it’s just the least authentic, most un-immersive drive-by way to see a foreign city ever conceived.

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Some shitty picture of I guess a horror clown circus freak show that I took from the bus window; not pictured, dozens of sweaty English-speakers and their children all not giving a fuck about Budapest

Of course I didn’t really realize this at the time, and I was happy to have travel companions, so I bought myself a ticket and hopped on.  We stayed on the bus for maybe 1.5 hours, and I did get to see most of the main sights of Budapest, and got a pretty good lay of the land.  But mainly stewed and formed the opinion of hop on/hop off bus tours that was expressed in the previous paragraph.

We finally got off that double-decker, spilt-ice-cream-cone and I ❤ Budapest t-shirt nightmare family vacation wagon at Gellért Hill, a big ass hill on the West side of the river that overlooks the whole city and has some dope views.

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View From the Top ft. Random Asian Guy

At the first main viewing point, Olga and her friend unrolled a blue and white sign that said “You should be here” and asked me to take a picture.  I guess “You should be here” is the totally fuckin obnoxious slogan of WorldVentures, that just very kindly gets straight to the whole bullshit my-life-is-amazing god-I-love-traveling look-at-me social media photo bragging that everyone loves to engage in nowadays, anytime they leave their zip code (hate people like that, nobody cares about your travel adventures, idk how people can be so self-unaware).

Alright I feel like I should say I do feel a little bad being as critical of this day as I am, because Olga was very nice and friendly, and I’m sure she’d feel bad if she read this, but she probably won’t, and hey you know what else, I’m not here to censor myself because then what’s the fuckin’ point, right!?  I’m just up here spouting bullshit!?  You come here cuz you know its gonna be REAL, and if I’m not gonna tell it like it is, then I might as well roll out a “You Should Be Here” sign myself for a Valencia-filtered Instagram shot of me shoving a baguette up my ass at the Eiffel Tower with the caption “Take Me Back #WanderLust”.

On the way to the top of the hill were a bunch of stands selling little touristy knick-knacks and a couple fun, authentic, Budapest-specific historical activities you can only do there, like shooting a bow and arrow.

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Preparing to defend their virginity

At the top of Gellért Hill is the Liberty Statue, Hungary’s shitty ripoff of the our much larger and more impressively named Statue of Liberty.

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Sorry, is it behind that little garden fixture?

At the top, which offered some great views of the city, and which I’d really recommend visiting, we ran into 3 dudes who were also part of WorldVentures.  Apparently there was some sort of big event this weekend, and a bunch of WorldVentures people were in town.  Olga asked me if I wanted to go – she said there would be around 7,000 people there.  I said “What kind of event is it?  Is it a party?” And she said “Um, well, it is sort of like a party,” which is a really disconcerting way to describe anything.

Apparently these other dudes are pretty big deals in WorldVentures, real higher up types.  Olga and her friend were very impressed by their status level.  It was 3 older men, in like their late 30s or 40s.   And this is when I finally really got tipped off as to what WorldVentures is all about.

I witnessed the highest-up WorldVentures big fish take a video of himself on his phone that went like this, as best I can remember: “What’s up everyone, I’m here at the Liberty Statue in Budapest, Hungary, and I’ve got just a beautiful view of the city from up here, truly amazing.  The Liberty Statue up there, you can see it behind me – Liberty, what’s that mean?  It means freedom – the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want.  That’s real freedom.  But most people out there, they never get that.   They’re tied down by this system in a 40 hour a week, 9 to 5 job that they hate, and they never get to do what they truly want to do.  But you can be just like me.  You just have to get out and do it.  With WorldVentures, we travel around to all these incredible places all over the world, and wherever we go we run into friends!” here he puts in the Polish girls in the frame, and they wave and go “Heeeeyyy!”

So now I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of exactly what WorldVentures is all about.  I do some quick Googling on my phone and find a variety of sites confirming my suspicions.

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How do I sign up??

Turns out that WorldVentures is a classic example of a multi-level marketing company, also called an MLM, which is basically the modern version of a pyramid scheme, but with enough steps in between to technically be legal.  It checks all the boxes for a typical MLM: too-good-too-be-true sales pitch: the promise of leaving behind your 9-to-5 job and fulling living your life, being a self-starting entrepreneur, etc.

You pay $55/month plus a $250 signup fee (total $910 for first year) to get access to their travel packages, which are purportedly at discounted prices; however, the discounts for any given trip is like maybe an $80 value, so you need to travel and spend a ton of money for it to really be worth it.  But, you can get your monthly fees waived for a given year by recruiting 4 other people to Dream Trips.

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You can read more about Dream Trips here. There’s also a great This American Life podcast about MLMs in general, which I’d heard before this trip and is what really clued me in, that does a great job illustrating how these companies prey on people who are unsatisfied with their lives, and the kind of damage they can do.

So now I know that these Polish girls are completely taken in by this scam, and I’m thinking, 1 – I need to get the fuck out of here, and 2 – should I tell them?  I go through scenarios in my mind of how I can try to explain to this poor girl that not only has she been taken in as a sucker for the past 3 years and probably lost thousands of dollars with WorldVentures, but also that her dream of leaving behind her unfulfilling life as a banker and achieving self-actualization by traveling full time is almost certainly doomed to fail.

Between the language barrier, the fact that we just met, and the level to which she has probably already had to delude herself to reach this point, I couldn’t imagine that conversation being successful.  So I decide to cut my losses and bail.

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I stick with them for another meandering 2 hours while they try to navigate using solely the hop on/hop off bus system (which is a fuckin’ dumb ass way to try to get around) and while I cast about for some plausible excuse to ditch them.

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I’m trapped, please send help

Finally I go with “I’m tired and am gonna go back to the hostel and nap, hopefully we can meet up later?” (classic) and bounce.  We did not meet up later.

Instead I made the absolute most of my time on my own, with the freedom to do what I wanted to do: I walked around taking pictures of the city at night, hiked back up Gellert Hill and got sorta lost on the way, made a great Snapchat story, decided to wait it out a few hours until sunrise so I could snag a sick sunrise shot, tried to sleep on a bench using a trash bag for warmth, gave up after an hour, and walked back to the hostel without seeing the sunrise.

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When u post ur snapchat story again on ur blog

Right so that’s Budapest Day 1!  What a great time!  If you want to have experiences like this and travel the world like me – check out WorldVentures DreamTrips!  The more you travel, the more you travel!

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P.S. I felt bad after I wrote this and sent Olga a message on Facebook telling her in the nicest terms I could that she might be the victim of a predatory pyramid scheme that is scamming her out of all her money with the empty promise of a more fulfilling life, along with a few helpful links.  She hasn’t responded.  Also don’t worry I set my Facebook post on this blog so that she wouldn’t see it, so, hopefully that function works properly.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen

What’s up motherfuckers!  All my dedicated blog followers have no doubt been waiting with baited breath for the closing act to my 4-day trip to Munich that I took way back in like idk fucking March or something.  Suffice to say posting about this trip to Garmisch (-Partenkirchen) has taken a lot longer than I thought it would, not because I wanted to like, figure out the best way to tell a great story, but more in the same way that you leave a shirt on your floor for like 6 months because you just couldn’t be bothered to pick it up right away, and over time it just becomes a habit to choose not to pick up that shirt.

The good thing about all this time that’s passed is I’ve forgotten everything that happened except probably the only things worth really telling anyone about.  My trip can be boiled down to basically this:

  1. Garmisch is fucking crazy beautiful, this old looking Bavarian town surrounded by incredible views of the Alps everywhere you look.
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Dear god

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What the fuckin fuck

2. The thing to do at Garmisch is to go to the top of the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany.  You can get up there by hiking, taking a 2-3 hour train ride, or taking a sweet like 30 minute cable car.  Since I still had to drive 6 hours back to Baumholder to go to work the next day, I didn’t have time for any of these except the cable car.  So I drove about 30 minutes to the cable car station, realized I was at the wrong place, drove another 30 minutes to the right place, and was greeted with this:

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Sorry folks, park’s closed!

Well, fuck me I guess.  So I didn’t go to the top of the Zugspitze.  Great, cool, totally cool, great trip, awesome.

I did get some pictures of the Austrian town Ehrwald, which is just as crazy beautiful, and more quaint, smaller, and less touristy that Garmisch:

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Jesus Christ people actually live here

Though it was a little tough to enjoy fully that since I was in a pretty rough mood about not being able to get to the top of the Zugspitze.

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Here I am, once again

3.  I did get to check out Partnachklamm, the #2 (of 2) things to do in Garmisch.  Partnachklamm is this totally sick kind of otherworldly-feeling gorge with weirdly turquoise rushing water and sunlight filtering down the steep rock walls through sprays of water.  You walk along for about a mile or so along a narrow path cut into the side of the rock.  It feels like a place where you would find a really cool Pokemon.

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Feels like there’s an Articuno back there

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Hope I brought enough Ultra Balls

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This is a good spot for a save in case I need to try agian

There were also some nice views on the short hike up to the gorge:

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Hey look a functioning cable car, what a crazy impossibility

That’s it for that, leaving us with the last significant part of this trip:

4.  I got a parking ticket (never paid, suck it Germany!!!)

And that’s it!  I know, enrapturing.  So worth the wait.  I almost didn’t even write about this but I just had such dope pictures that I had to share.  You know what, maybe you should just check out the pictures, and not read any of it, because there isn’t anything that interesting.

Next post though – oh boy, it’ll be a big one.  Next post will be Budapest, the first place I visited in my wild, epic, honestly soon to be legendary, 3-week Eurotrip.

Munich, Day 2, and Day 3 – Aftermath

I woke up on Saturday, day 2 of my trip to Munich, recovering mentally from the ignominy of the previous night, with the intention of sampling what I understood to be the “classic” Munich breakfast: Weisswurst, beer, and maybe a pretzel.  Weisswurst traditionally comes in a bowl of hot water, I assume to make it more appetizing,

Mmm

and is made without preservatives, so it has to be eaten before noon.  That’s why its a traditional breakfast – not because it tastes good, but purely for the sake of utility.  Very German, and kind of the opposite of the American breakfast.  Does anybody in Munich actually eat this for breakfast anymore?  No idea.  Anyway, I went to a nice brewery down the street that the hostel recommended for breakfast.  I arrived around 10 or 11, and of course, by the time I arrived, they had stopped serving breakfast, Weisswurst included.

My disappointment was tempered by a sort of defeated unsurprise, and resignation to the fact that I was a terrible piece of shit traveler, who had ruined, and who would continue to ruin, my own trip to Munich with my seeming inability to plan ahead farther than about 15 minutes.

I got a plate of sausages anyway, and a beer, just to sort of console myself by eating something approaching authenticity:

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I mean it at least looks German enough

I had planned on checking out one or two more places in Munich, and then heading to my next stop, Garmisch, that night.  However, I was interrupted from my self-disparaging sort-of-German weiner-filled non-breakfast by a surprise message from one of my co-workers, who said he and and two other guys would be headed to join me in Munich that day, and would be there in just a couple hours.  At this point, the prospect of friends to hang out with seemed like the perfect thing to turn around a trip that I had nearly finished determining, over a mouthful of unwanted sausage, to be a doomed-to-fail comedy of errors, so I scrapped my half-baked plans like afternoon Weisswurst and resolved to meet up with them and to all just get drunk in Munich for the rest of the day.  So, I pretty much re-did Munich Day 1, but with more beer, and 3 more dudes.

We met up at Augustiner Brewery, the favorite brewery of my friend Ken, who has Bavarian heritage and speaks ok German, as well as my friend Chow, who has Chinese heritage and speaks ok English.

We all had a couple large glasses of beer (it was very good, solid recommendation), booked a 14-person room in the basement of a hostel that cost about 12 Euro each, and then went to check out the sights.  I was basically an expert in Munich tourism and history at this point, so I energetically served as a (somewhat inebriated) tour guide, dishing out the handful of half-remembered facts and tidbits I’d managed to retain from previous day.  By the time I wrapped up my tour, it was approaching the evening and we were all pretty hungry / losing our buzz, so we went to get some dinner.

Past this point, the rest of the night is varying degrees of hazy.

We ate dinner at a German food place, where I scared the shit out of the German woman sitting at the table next to me when I almost knocked my plate off the table, but then immediately blew her mind her in equal measure with my cobra-like American soldier reflexes by nabbing it at the last second, saving the day in a 1 second roller coaster of nerves that she will no doubt remember for the rest of her life.

After that, we walked around for way too long looking for a bar to get drinks at, ending up at this English place that sold a bunch of douchey cocktails, like they think they’re better than everyone else, with their little petticoats and accents and teas, fucking assholes, who needs them, them or their shitty cocktails.

Then we went back to our hostel to nap, which was probably the best decision we had made all day; perhaps the best I had made or would make for the entire trip.

Upon waking we went back to Fruhlingsfest, the miniature-Oktoberfest with the beer tents and carnival attractions.  We hung out in the beer tent for a while, at a table with some old people who we talked to for way too long (especially for them – not much time left, gotta spend it wisely), but the clear highlight of Fruhlingsfest was this sick spinning swinging ride we went on.  I didn’t remember this until I saw this picture, and then it came back to me how fuckin awesome it was, and how much of an absolute blast I had on it:

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WOOOOOO!!!! WOOOOOOO!!! WOOOOO!!! -Me the entire time

After a couple hours, we took a metro out of Fruhlingsfest on the way to some bars. Though some naysayers may contend that I was in no state for this, I stalwartly perservered in my role as my friends’ trusted guide to Munich, whipping out my city map from my back pocket at each station, and giving it a nice crisp pop, so everyone around me knew which motherfucker was about to navigate some shit.

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Don’t worry guys, I got this

We tried to go to one club that was highly-rated on Google Maps, but weren’t allowed in (no idea why), so we went to the bar next door instead, which actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because there we met a group of several German girls who were out celebrating a 21st birthday, and who were much, much friendlier to us than we deserved in the state of minds in which we found ourselves at that time.  They were very fun, and seemed to be (inexplicably, and to the continued wonderment of all, to this day) having fun with us as well.  Or so I’ve been told, because – and I may have mentioned this – I was quite inebriated at the time.

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Guess which person in this photo doesn’t remember it being taken

One member of our party (not me) had the brilliant and well-considered idea of purchasing shots for the entire table, which is what I blame as the tipping point from a pleasantly hazy remembrance of general events to a complete black hole for the next few hours.  But luckily my friends were kind enough to give me a recap.

We eventually left for another club, along with a few of the girls from the birthday party.  When we got there, everyone managed to appear sober enough to be allowed in, except me.

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At this point our group faced an impasse, and, being the altruistic team player that I am, I told everyone, don’t worry about me.  I shrewdly separated myself from the situation by going to stand 10 feet away in a dark corner, not saying anything for about 20 minutes – out of sight, out of mind.  Nothing says “No need to worry about me, guys” like this sort of sensible behavior.  Luckily, also during this time, one of our guys had gone on an Odyssey in search of an ATM, so, I wasn’t the only one holding things up.

Eventually the most lucid member of our group volunteered to take me home (like I fuckin’ needed it, I had my map, only friend I’ll ever need).  We stopped at another bar (which let me in – guess they knew how to fuckin party), but it was full of old people or something, so we walked for what I remember being approximately like 15 miles back to the hostel.

There we found a few Irishmen, one of whom was passed out facedown under the table:

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My hero

We talked to them for a while, and eventually the other guys who had went to the club came back (sans German girls) and we all went to bed, around 6 am.

If you’re wondering at this point, hey Steve, did this night affect your plans to visit Garmisch the next day at all?  Why, thank you for asking, as a matter of fact, yes, it completely fucked them up.

The next day the other bros left around 11; I stayed in bed until 2, vainly hoping to sleep away my due reckoning.  When I got out of bed, checked out of my hostel, and walked outside into the unforgiving light of day, I was nearly 24 hours behind schedule, had a pounding headache, and existed chiefly as a walking embodiement of human misery.  I plodded with my bags for 15 minutes back to where I’d parked the Wagon.  Then I puddled around the surrounding area looking for a Walgreens or something for some Advil.

Here’s a fun travel tip: they don’t sell any headache medicine anywhere in that entire godforsaken country.  That conclusion was the sole bounty at the end of a 45 minute search of everywhere within a 2-block radius of my hostel.  I checked Google, I checked the train station, I checked the closed pharmacy, I checked the weird little convenience store selling food for immigrants.  At no point in my trip so far had I so missed the everyday, thoughtless, convenience of America.  I finally accepted defeat and got some coffee to make myself feel better, and while I drank it I pondered my latest 2 lessons learned:

4. Always bring Advil or something, and

5. Don’t drink so much that you totally and irreparably fuck up your entire next day

I finally made it out of Munich and drove an hour South to Garmisch, listening to the oddly 80s-pop centric radio stations that dominate that area.  I checked into a bed and breakfast in Garmisch around 4 and went to my room to feel sorry for myself for a few hours.  Finally I started to feel a little better, and I went into the town to get some food at a highly-rated doner kebab place; it was closed (color me fucking surprised), so I found another one that was more poorly rated and settled for that because, you know what, it’s what I deserved.

After that I did some (not enough) preparation for checking out Garmisch the next day, and went to bed, wrapping up 48 hours that did not go at all the way I thought it would.

Tune in next time for Garmisch(-Partenkirchen), which I didn’t bungle quite badly enough to preclude snagging some absolutely sick landscape pictures.

 

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Sneak Preview ft. Pussy Wagon

 

Munich, Day 1

This past weekend I finally was able to visit Munich, which has been highly recommended to me by several people.   It’s known for everything that is quintessentially German: Oktoberfest, pretzels, bratwursts, and BMW.

Mainly, though, its known for beer, so, obviously you know this FRAT STAR was going to visit the SHIT out of Munich and get FUCKED UP on some DOPE GERMAN BEER.

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Foreshadowing

Also, I fucked this trip up in a number of ways, and learned several lessons which I will graciously share with you throughout the post.

First off, Lesson One – get your shit together before you leave, and leave early.  Instead of doing this, I stayed up late the night before, waited to pack until the last minute, and ended up leaving 4 hours later than I originally intended, leaving me with a kind of lingering sense of needing to make up for lost time, that never quite left for the entire trip.

On the plus side, I was lucky enough to score a straight-up Pussy Wagon as my rental vehicle: a two-door SmartCar-sized white Fiat with a pink convertible rooftop:

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Line up, ladies (because I can only fit one other grown adult)

When I got to Munich, I found a big typical chain hostel downtown filled with a diverse multitude of foreigners from all over (aka 90% American college students), the kind that has daily free walking tours, a downstairs bar, and small packs of early-20s iPhone-wielding American girls looking no doubt for a perfect picture to show Facebook how much they love traveling (I’m right there with you, girls).

Getting to the hostel, checking in, finding parking, and getting my bearings took a solid hour, most of which I spent considering my second lesson learned: like, plan ahead, dipshit, you could have figured all this out beforehand.

Alright so I finally got a map and bounced out of the hostel to check out the sights.  Munich was founded by a bunch of monks like a thousand years ago and all the coolest, oldest buildings are all in the Old Town, and are all within walking distance because when they were built, nobody had cars!  Cathedrals I guess were like Starbucks in fuedal Germany, and they just kept building them literally right across the street from one another.  So I got there and just started knocking shit out left and right.

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Western gate to the Old Town – Karlstor.  Named for Karl, who, built it? Or something? Maybe I should have taken that walking tour

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Neues Rathaus, the place with the world-famous Glockenspiel (the little figures that go around at noon each day)

I passed by the Brunnenburbl Fountain, featuring a naked boy, a spitting satyr, and the earliest known dab:

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After walking around for a while, I got really hungry.  Luckily, as I walked down the main pedestrian thoroughfare, Neuheuser Strasse (I’ve had to google every single one of these names so far), there were plenty of food stands.  Perfect – nothing like some nice street food to hit the spot!  I’m sure I can rustle up a juicy authentic Munich bratwurst at one of these bad boys.  What’s that sign say?  Spargel?   Wonder what that is.  Let’s check it out:

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What the…

This guy is just selling a bunch of vegetables? Spargel is like, weird-looking white asparagus?  Alright, weird, but, probably just this one stand.  Let’s find another one.

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Oh no

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Dear God

 

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Fucking Super Spargel???

As it turns out, it was the height of white asparagus season, and it was apparently all the rage in Munich.  Everywhere you looked they were selling Spargel.  It was advertised at food stands, restaurants, everywhere.  I had thought Munich was known for bratwursts and pretzels, and all I could find was a bunch of vegetable stands with crowds of Germans clamoring for these pallid alien-legs.

Finally, at Marienplatz, (didn’t have to google that one, suckas!) I found a stand that sold pretzels.  The pretzel I got tasted pretty much just like any other pretzel (I must not have found the secret local ancient pretzel bakery – should have researched it more), but it was a truly excellent tool for kitsching up photos of Munich landmarks in the most Instagram-appropriate fashion:

 

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#Pretzels

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#Munich

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#ShrinkingPretzel 

I went over to St. Peter’s church, the oldest parish church in Munich and the building that started the entire city, which has a high tower you can climb to the top of for some sweet panoramic views of the city.  I climbed up a ton of super narrow stairs,

DSC_0225past several wheezing old tourists who couldn’t hang, to get to the balcony, which did indeed offer some sick views of Munich, including this well-lit, perfectly framed picture I took of Frauenkirche, probably the most famous church in the city.

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Boom – wow, great shot Steve.  Truly you have a great eye for photography.

Literally the first Google Image result for Frauenkirche

Frauenkirce is one of the main landmarks of Munich, I guess because its huge, and some historical stuff.  Fun fact, almost the entire church was destroyed in WW2, but the towers, which you can see from almost anywhere in the city, were untouched.  Here’s some more pictures from the top of St. Peter’s:

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Some cafes down below with people eating, presumably, Spargel

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At the bottom there is Victualienmarkt, a perrenial farmer’s market with a beer garden (dope) in the middle of it

One thing they don’t tell you about the balcony around the top of St. Peter’s Church is that its like 2 feet wide and crowded as fuck.  It wraps around the tower, with a sign pointing clockwise to direct traffic.  But there’s two doors to get in and out of the tower, on opposite sides, so no clear start or end point.  What this means is that people are standing in a circle, all waiting for the people in front of them to move.  But since they’re in a circle, they are actually in front…of themselves.  So you literally stand there for like 10 minutes with the only movement being additional people coming out to further crowd the shit out of the balcony.

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Its like a Japanese metro up here

So I snapped what pics I could and got the hell out of there before I suffocated, bouncing jauntily back down the stairs to flaunt my youth as I passed the hollow, defeated stares of dozens of elderly wheez-bags teetering on the knife edge of heart failure, not saying a word to them about how shitty and crowded the prize that awaited them after the greatest physical effort which they had put forth in years.

After that it was early afternoon in the beer capital of Germany, so I went to get a brew at Hofbrauhaus, the most famous and most touristy beer house in Munich.

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I feel like you could quantify how touristy a place is by its proximity to a Hard Rock Cafe

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And don’t forget the Starbucks across the street

It may be touristy, but Hofbrauhaus is still a classic beer house experience that serves pretty good beer and pretty good food.  I got a large beer there which improved my spirits by a considerable margin.

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Here it is, remember, from earlier??

After draining my beer like Kobe and helping a group of old Chinese tourists take a photo, I went to Englischer Garden, which is like Central Park, except almost twice as big and with four enormous outdoor beer gardens, so, better.

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Chinesicher Turm (Chinese Tower), marks one of the main beer gardens

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There were hundreds of outdoor tables like these at each garden – most of them filled with people who knew how to party, unlike these beerless fucking nerds

I started to realize that Munich in the Summer must be the absolute best place ever.  There are outdoor beer gardens like this everywhere, and spending a weekend day leisurely walking around, stopping for a beer and pretzel/brat/Spargel here and there sounds like a perfect day.  I’m pretty sure that’s a huge part of why people love Munich.

After walking around some more, I got dinner at a random restaurant, and when I opened up the menu there was a special menu featuring, wouldn’t you know it, Spargel.

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This Spargel thing was clearly a huge deal, so I had to see what the fuss was about.  I ordered some schnitzel off the Spargelkarte and waited in eager anticipation for what was sure to be the best goddamn asparagus I had ever had.

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Ohh yeah just look at those babies

I bit into the Spargel and it tasted like…asparagus.  Regular asparagus, nothing special.  To be fair, the waitress did inform me, when I ordered, that they only had the green asparagus, and the way in which she said it seemed to indicate that this ought to be a disappointment to me, so, who knows, maybe the white Spargel is the amazing stuff.  The green was all I had, so I guess we’re all left to wonder, for the rest of our lives.  Sorry, readers.

After meandering back to the hostel and taking a nap, I checked out Fruhlingsfest (Spring Fest).  It seems like most major German cities have a Fruhlingsfest for about a month from late April-May, and its sort of a mini-Oktoberfest: a carnival with some beer tents set up.  People dress in Lederhosen and Dirdnls and get hammered in a big tent and stand on tables and sing and dance to a live band.  I wasn’t exactly prepared for this (Lesson 2, back for more), but I figured I might as well check it out.

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A bunch of carnival rides and games

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The real attraction

Inside the beer tent the atmosphere was super energetic, and close to the stage almost everyone was standing on tables and dressed in the traditional garb; it was crowded, but not overwhelmingly so.  Very cool to check out, though admittedly not a ton of fun for a lone (alpha) male.

After that I decided I would be adventurous and attempt to enjoy going to bars by myself, which led to lesson 3: don’t…do that.  It was not fun.  Great experience, of what its like to be a pariah, that I hope to never have again.  It was like I was an Indian who had committed a terrible sin in a past life and been reincarnated as an untouchable.  I mean I guess when I think about it, I’ve never been at a bar, in any situation, and thought “boy, sure wish a single dude would come up and talk to me and my friends – that would add a welcome spice to our night!”  One girl I courageously spoke to worked in HR, and I asked her if she had fired anyone recently, and she said, quote, “No, but if I could, I would fire you, Stephen.”  So that about sums it up.  At least she remembered my name.

The next day, though, some friends from work joined me, and we went out together, and that was in some ways much better, and in other ways, much, much worse (spoiler alert, we got LIT AF).  Next time, on Traveling With Steve.

 

 

 

 

Baden-Baden

Hello and welcome to Stephen’s European Travel Blog 2.0, now on a new site, and with more pictures!  After a 6-year hiatus from my study abroad in Copenhagen, which I may have mentioned briefly to one or two of you at some point, I’m back in Europe and ready to fuck shit up like its 2011.  Question is, IS EUROPE READY FOR ME!??

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I DON’T THINK SO MOTHERFUCKER!!!!

I’m currently living in Germany in a southeastern town called Baumholder, or as the Germans call it, “Where?”  I’m here until the end of June; mostly I do a bunch of office work before going back to my room to watch Netflix buffer for 80 minutes and make sure I’m up to date on the facebook posts of people I never talk to, but this past weekend I finally had the opportunity to go somewhere cool.

I decided to go to Baden-Baden, a spa town known for its thermal springs that was settled by the Romans.  It was originally called Baden, which means bath, but then a bunch of other German towns with baths also called themselves Baden (not cool guys), so in order to fix it the inhabitants were just like, fuck it, we’ll call it Baden-Baden.  We’ve got twice as much bath as those other singular Badens.  How you like us now?

That’s 100% true, I did not make that up.  Seriously, look it up.  Here’s a Google image of the town:

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Baden-Baden-Baden-Baden

I left early in the morning to start the 4-hour train ride to Baden-Baden.  Its only a 2-hour drive, but Baumholder is so out of the way that it takes twice as long to get anywhere by train.  It like barely makes the cutoff to be connected to the rail network.

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Baumholder’s garbage dump of a train station

I had three goals for my trip: get a bunch of dope location pictures with my new DSLR camera, check out the city and the Roman spa, and snag an irresistable new tinder pic to start racking up those right-swipes with the German Frauen.

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Check.

I got to Baden-Baden around 10 and started checking out the town.  Pretty much everything worth seeing is within a 15-minute walk, so I was able to grab some sweet around-the-town pics in fairly short order.

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Boom.

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Yes

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Nailed it.

I was a little disappointed about the weather, which was overcast, unlike the beautiful blue skies that Google had led me to believe covered Baden-Baden 365 days a year.

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Are you kidding me with this weak shit

Downtown Baden-Baden is a picteresque network of cobblestone pedestrian roads lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants; the town and its buildings are very old and it looks exactly how you would picture it.  There are a couple churches; there’s ruins of a castle overlooking the city; there’s a river running through it with bridges crossing every couple blocks.  It’s a charming, quaint town that feels straight out of a postcard or a novel.

And there’s one other thing I really started to notice as I walked around:

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Everyone here is old as fuck.

Everywhere I looked was another geriatric.  The average age was like 75.  I had a longer remaining lifespan than any like 8 people chosen at random added together.  I started abandoning my search for beautiful location shots in favor of documenting all the people clinging to the edge of life:

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I’m gonna eat this ice cream, what do I have left to lose anyway, fuck it

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Looking for a nice graveyard

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Are those my friends?  No, that’s right, all my friends are dead

I guess a quiet old spa town surrounded by natural beauty in which everything is within a non-fatiguing 10-minute walk sounds like a pretty attractive destination for retirees.  I’m sure that when I’m 80 years old and my whole body hurts, I could do worse than a city in which the main attraction is spending 3 hours wading around in a hot tub and then taking a nap.

I was joined around noon by my one fellow coworker who was also able to take the day off to come visit Germany’s hottest destination for over-60s, which was nice because I had someone to walk around with, as well as snap some excellent candid shots:

 

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Just having a look around

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Oh were you taking a picture?  I didn’t notice

Her name is V (for Vendetta); she didn’t want me to post any of the pictures she was in (idk why, they were so candid), but she definitely, 100% exists and was there.

After walking around and grabbing lunch at a cafe (where I made a great Snap story, hope you caught it), we eventually made it up Mt. Merkur, a mountain about a 15 minute bus ride from downtown that gives an excellent view of the town and surrounding countryside.  There’s a cable car up (obviously, otherwise 80% of the tourists would have a heart attack before they reached the summit), and at the top there’s a beer garden, an observation tower, a playground, and a bunch of people paragliding from a little grassy lawn.  It was really cool to watch them take off and float around in the sky, really looked like the most amazing experience.  The whole time I so badly wanted to see one of them to just eat it in the treetops.

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Crash crash crash crash

Here I came the closest in my quest for dope epic landscape pictures so far, though I don’t really know how to work my camera still, so I think I could have gotten better shots had I known what I was doing.  So, the quest continues.

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Photo credit: Me

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Also me

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Surprise candid

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Beer Garden

After Mt. Merkur, the only thing left to check out was the thing the city was named for: the spa.  There’s two main spas in Baden-Baden (that’s why there’s just the two Badens in the name): one modern one, and one more classic Roman one, which has been around for 140 years, called Friedrichsbad.  The spas are fully nude, and 4 days of the week they mix men and women, and the other 3 days they are separated.  Saturday is a seperated day, which was pretty lucky for me and Guy Fawkes because that would have taken the spa experience from pleasantly boundary-pushing to awkward as fuck.

Obviously you can’t take a camera around with you (maybe a Go Pro? I didn’t ask), so I will do my best to recreate the experience as vividly as possible using only the power of words.  Warning, there’s no pictures for, like, 7 paragraphs.  That’s pretty much all the pictures, actually, so you might want to just bail now.

The spa experience consists of 3.5 hours, walking through a series of 14 different stations.  The water is from natural springs, and supposedly has healing mineral properties, which I might believe if my mind was really old and not working super well anymore.  Its only like 30 Euro, so, really not a bad price for what I assume is one of the top spa experiences in the world.

Once you’re inside, you really feel like you’re in a different place.  It feels very much like you are insulated from the outside world; it’s almost dreamlike.  The staff is very professional (which is good, because nobody likes to deal with rude staff when their balls are hanging out), its all made of stone,  and every room has a glass domed ceiling.  The lighting is natural and you can’t really tell where its coming from.  Its very quiet.  It really feels like you are in an ancient Roman bathhouse.

It starts off with a couple saunas with these heated wooden lawn chair type things.  There’s no instructions and there was nobody else in there, so I was like, well, I guess I’ll just lay down on one of these hot-ass wooden lawn chairs.  After laying there for about 5 minutes, I started thinking, hang on, how many old naked dudes have laid on this thing before me today?  Just as I thought this, another guy came in and laid his little linen towel down first, and that’s when I understood – oh I see, I’m the idiot foreigner laying his bare ass on the common heated chair like a goddamn savage.  Sorry everyone.

After that comes the “soap and brush massage,” which is where you get to lay down and have some 40 year old dude brush your entire body and then lather you up with his bare fucking hands.  And it’s exactly as completely uncomfortable as it sounds. I walk in and the dude gestures to lay down on the little massage table and I say (hoping against hope) “face down?” and he’s like, no, face up.  So I lay on my back, my junk just chilling, while this guy gives me something that was 50% bath, 50% massage, and 100% weird as fuck.

While it was all uncomfortable, by far the most uncomfortable point was when he rubbed my stomach.  Who wants a stomach rub?  In any context?  When was the last time you thought to yourself, gosh, my stomach muscles are so tense, I could really use a soapy rub-down, from an older male stranger.  Luckily he carried on a conversation in German with his coworker the whole time, so it wasn’t like I was laying there in a deafening silence broken only my the slick sounds of his soapy, practiced hands and strangely heavy breathing.  Small blessings.  I kept thinkin, “I paid money for this.”  It lasted about 5-10 minutes, and needless to say I was quite relieved when it was over.

The whole point of this spa is “ultimate relaxation.”  This was station #3, and so far, I wasn’t really feeling it.

From there on, thankfully, there was a lot more saunas and pools of varying temperatures and a lot less man-on-man belly rubbing.  They raised your body temperature through progressively hotter saunas and then cooled you down through progressively cooler (spring-fed, healing mineral-infused) pools.  Little signs on the wall reminded you to stay quiet and suggested how long to spend at each station, though you were free to do whatever you wanted at your own pace.  Finally at the very end, after you dry off, the last station is just a room full of beds where you go take a nap.  That was my favorite station.  Apparently the staff on V’s side wrapped her up in blankets – what!?  I didn’t get that shit!  All I got was a double-dose of soapy tummy rubs!

Baths aren’t really normally my thing, so I was out after about 2 hours rather than the alloted 3, but, I did feel pretty relaxed at the end.  Even with the soap-and-brush personal space invasion, it was overall a good experience that I would recommend.  When in Rome, right?

That about finished it up for Baden-Baden; we got some dinner and checked out the (MASSIVE) night life of Baden-Baden (shit was POPPING OFF), which consisted mainly of one (DOPE AS FUCK) latin-themed bar playing more Sean Paul songs than I knew existed,

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Bad-a-bam-bam-bam

before passing out for 6 hours so we could catch a train back to Baumholder that got back at a semi-reasonable time.

And that’s it for post #1!  Hope you enjoyed it, and thanks for reading!  Here’s hoping I will get out of work at least one more time before I go, and this won’t be my first and only post!