From Rome I worked my way up through Florence and then spent a weekend in Venice, before heading back to Munich. Once I was back in Munich I got some of my things together and the realization that my 3 month journey through Europe was dwindling away. I had 3-4 weeks left before I had to catch a plane out of Madrid… back home… back to reality. I was eager to get as much out of my last few weeks as possible, and in that spirit I decided to head north before working my way into Spain.
I booked with RyanAir and caught my 1st flight out of Memmingen airport a couple hours outside of Munich. The first stop on my itinerary was Edinburgh (pronounced ed-in-burrow) and found my hostel after a long day of busses and planes. At this point I felt confident at traveling in Europe and finding hostels had become more of a routine than an adventure. Every new hostel I entered felt more like returning to a temporary home. After traveling for 2 months I was beginning to discover a lot about myself and I was beginning to feel more at ease with who I was. Traveling brings the best out of people and by taking your own adventure you afford yourself the possibility of stumbling on the person you truly want to be.
I spent the first two nights in Scotland and discovered the overall feeling of Scottish culture. From my limited experience; I saw a culture where people were fiercely proud, loved to have fun, and were never afraid to laugh! I went to a comedy show with some people from the hostel the first night and the owner of the hostel even went with us. We had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs! The next day I wandered the city with a Couch Surfing friend’s brother who happened to live in the city. He gave me a local’s perspective of the city and It was nothing short of amazing. We saw the Edinburgh Castle, some shops, coffee houses, etc. through a meandering, relaxing kind of day. Later that night I met up with some travelers in the hostel and we ended up talking all night, which had become strikingly common amongst the backpacking world I had now become apart of. Before the sun came up we decided to climb Calton Hill and waited for the sunrise. We were giddy with tiredness and the sight of the grayish sky that covered the rising sun was too much for us… We had the expectation of sun rays shooting across the early morning sky, only to see clouds and a dreary, dull horizon We laughed hysterically and deemed it a Scottish Sunrise (photo above)!
After 2 nights in Edinburgh I flew to Dublin. On that flight I continued to think about the positive effect that traveling was having on me. I was consciously the happiest I had ever been and found myself apprehensive of my travels coming to an end. It was on that evening flight that I first considered traveling as being a more permanent solution to life; rather than just a break from life. It was also on that flight that I snapped a photo of the setting sun that gives some insight into how I was feeling. I was elated with happiness and calm; but that experience seemed to be fading like the sunset. Dublin (a brief detour from the UK …)
Dublin proved to be as great as any other city I had seen. I visited the Guinness brewery (highly recommend despite the expensive entrance charge), the Jameson Plant (not actually where they distill anymore), and took a tour into the famous Wicklow Mountains (where Braveheart and P.S. I Love You were filmed). The scenery was perfect and although I spent my first couple days fairly alone; I enjoyed the freedom and peace.
After my couple days of solace I ran into a few girls from the Netherlands and we wandered around and visited the Temple Bar area which is about as good as drinking and nightlife gets. After 3 nights in Dublin I bid my new friends farewell and flew to London, England.
Let me preface my 2 days in London with a note to the reader. You will not like every place you visit and sometimes things are just destined to go a bit wrong. The more you travel the more you associate the cities you enjoy with the company that surrounds you. So I went to London expecting quite a bit I suppose, and perhaps that was my first mistake. I have talked to countless people who loved London and there is without a doubt an aspect that I must have missed when I visited. That said… the following is my experience in London.
At first, I had some issues with customs because I had now left the Schengen Zone (Germany-Scotland), re-entered (Scotland-Ireland), exited again (Ireland-England), and planned on re-entering the Schengen Zone 2 days later. It looked suspicious to the customs agents and so I got some hassle at the gate. I made it through fine, but it was a bad start to my entrance into England.
Without being overly dramatic I think it’s important to note that it rained the entire time I was in London. Another immediate problem I had was with the bus system. For the life of me I don’t understand how or why the London bus system is so difficult to understand … it is made worse by the grumpy bus drivers who become irritable at the first sign of having to talk to you. (Keep in mind, I had been riding busses, trains, planes, metros, taxis, and ride shares for the last 2 months in Europe. I had a pretty good idea how to get from point A to point B, but the London bus system seemed laughably difficult to me and knowing English seemed to help very little.
I got into my hostel late the first night. It took me 2 hours longer than it should have while I was wandering through the rain and trying to figure out what bus to take (the hostel directions sucked as well). Needless to say I wasn’t thrilled when I checked in, but the hostel staff was fairly nice so I let it go. Once I dropped off my bags in my room (10 person mixed dorm) I met a few girls from France and we made quick plans to see the city the next day. At that point I left them for the time being and decided to go down to the bar that was connected to the hostel. It was a long day and I needed a drink to relax and kind of get my bearings and positive mentality back. After a couple hours I was happily buzzed and talking with 3 extremely enthusiastic, massive, and fairly aggressive Londoners. They were fun guys to drink with and I didn’t feel threatened by them, but there was no doubt that they were of the “fighting spirit.” Eventually the bar-tender came over and kindly asked them to leave (it was the 4th time he told them to calm down), and they were not happy about it. “Listen hear buddy,” my massive new friend said to me. “We like ya so we don’t want to git ya into no trouble. So why don’t you take a smoke break outside so you can stay away from what we’re about to do.” I smiled, thanked them for the drinks and said goodbye without any more prompting.
As I smoked in the drizzling rain I was thinking I was glad that things didn’t get out of hand and that I had escaped from the chaos that was about to happen. As I contemplated that thought, the bar door flew open and a heap of bouncers and my new friends came crashing into the street. There were fists swinging and a healthy amount of English-accented curse words and I had front row seats to it all! Without dragging through the details of who hit who: my new friends refused to leave and the cops were called. It took a handful of cops to restrain them, but eventually order was restored and the drizzling rain was all I could hear on the street again.
After a few minutes I tried to go back into the bar, but a rather block headed loaf of a bouncer stopped me and asked what I thought I was doing. I told him I was going back into the bar without really thinking, and then started walking again. He put his arm out to stop me and said that because I was with the other guys I wasn’t allowed back in. I was pretty annoyed, but it did make some sense from his perspective, so I told him “okay, but I’m staying in the hostel so can I get by to at least go back to the hostel?” That was when he got all excited and decided that I needed a personal escort to the hostel front desk. He informed the desk that I was fighting with the bouncers and they probably don’t want guys like me staying at the hostel.
At this point I think it’s important to say that I am 130 lbs, I’ve never got into a fight in my life, and I usually have a fairly laid-back demeanor. The idea of me fighting 300 lb Londoner bouncers was almost comical, but the fact remained that he continued to lie about me being involved… the fact that he was flat out lying was infuriating.
With some liquid courage I stood my ground and tried not to laugh at him … his pride was on the line and the girls behind the desk didn’t seem to keen on going against what he said, but he just seemed so ridiculous at the time by making such a big deal out of something I had nothing to do with. After a few words it became apparent that hostel (St Christopher’s Inn) was going to side with the lying bouncer and they kicked me out. A police officer (still hanging around from the little disturbance earlier) escorted me to my room to get my stuff. He turned the lights on and woke everyone up while I got my stuff together. I apologized to the french girls because I wasn’t going to be able to hang out with them the next day and then allowed the cop to steer me back down the stairs and into the street. It was the first time I’d ever been kicked out of a bar or a hostel and I found that after a few hours in London, I was rather perturbed about the whole situation.
I found another hostel down the street at 1am, but couldn’t sleep because I was so annoyed. So I went to the new hostel’s bar and met up with some Americans. We wandered around for most of the night and I spent the next day not really doing anything. I was pessimistic about London and I couldn’t seem to shake it. I found children to be out of control, people to be rude and short-tempered, and a never-ending downpour of rain didn’t help. I spent my last night trying to sleep, but my bed was directly on top of the base thumping in the bar below. After a few hours I got up, dismissed London as a write-off and checked out of the hostel at 2am. I went to the airport in the middle of the night and couldn’t wait to get out of London. I was 9 hours early for my flight back to Germany.