I’ve just spent the last two weeks visiting my sisters and traveling through Western Europe – the countries I have desperately wanted to avoid on this trip of mine. I call them the nagging wife countries, because I know that one day, I will be back visiting these countries when I am older, richer, and with a nagging wife. Hence me wanting to spend the least amount of time here.
So what are the nagging wife destinations? I spent a few days in London, visiting my two sisters, and seeing my new baby nephew. I left a few days before the bombs thankfully, and arrived in Amsterdam on the 4th of July. I spent three nights there, followed by a night in Rotterdam. I then moved onto Belgium – two nights in Brugge and one night in Brussels, followed by a night in Luxembourg and four nights in Paris. I leave tonight for Barcelona with my former workmate Max from Sydney, whom I have been hanging out with in Paris these last few nights.
I won’t talk about London because apart from a few typical tourist pictures and a gay pride march I stumbled on (absolutely hilarious) I didn’t do anything in London. The only noteworthy event was how much of a bitch the immigration lady was! Well, I suppose I deserved it. Basically, I arrived in London with 10 pounds in my wallet, no bank statements to prove I had money, no return ticket to Australia, and no outgoing pass to prove I was leaving the UK any time soon. The interrogation was just short of me getting in the nude and having a cavity search! In 20 minutes, the immigration lady learnt more about my sisters, myself and my trip than a girl would find out on the first month of dating! I managed to convince her to let me in the country, but only on a one month visa rather than the usual six months. When she said that, I said good because I didn’t want to spend more than a week in her bloody country. That did not go down well either.
Amsterdam was quite entertaining. The city was not just flooded with tourists in the every-damn-type-you-can-find, but with American college students, stoned off their face. Watching people thinking out loud, on how to find their way home, should be listed as a tourist attraction. The smell of camel shit was omnipresent, and Amsterdam as an attraction, isn’t anything special. Sure you have the “coffee” houses, the prostitutes in the windows, the live sex shows, the sex museum, and Anne Franks house.
Oh, and there are a shit load of bikes.
But once you see all that, that’s about it. Contrast that with Rotterdam, a major city in the south of The Netherlands. The city was bombed during WWII, and so everything had to be rebuilt from scratch. So as you can imagine, the architecture is super modern. Words don’t describe it- just check out the pictures! (But don’t confuse it with Brussels, which also had some funky buildings).
Whilst I was in Serbia, I met this Dutch guy, and he said if I ever come to the Netherlands, to give him a buzz and he would put me up for a night. And that I did! Bas is a top bloke to hang out with, but he also is an important person: he is doing the testing on the back wings of that giant new Airbus plane (A380). So if you ever hear of an A380 falling out of the sky, blame Bas! And blame me for having a big night out with him the night before he did some testing! Bas wrote a nice lttle summary of what I did with him, which you can read here.
Bas and I have this common interest, or rather obsession, over Serbian women. So naturally, part of our conversations were about women, and how unattractive they are in this part of the world rather than in that other part of the world. What Bas says about The Netherlands is exactly what I say about Australian women. As Bas said, sometimes he can’t tell the difference between a man and a woman on the street! Readers of my blog will notice I constantly talk about the women I see on my travels. Well I make no apologies for that. Blame the cave man in me. But secondly, I find it fascinating to see how the crux of our civilisation – relationships between men and women – are so different in these different cultures and have such a huge affect on society in general.
Bas also reckons the Euro had a large impact on the Dutch ‘no’ to the European constitution. The problem was threefold. First of all, just like in all of Europe, the changing of prices was just rude. For example in Greece, a newspaper cost 100 Drachmas. One Euro was valued at 350 Drachmas. But that newspaper was valued at one euro, or 100 cents. Everyone just did rude maths for simplicity. Secondly, shopkeepers raised their prices just before the introduction of the Euro, which the Dutch are hell annoyed. But even worse, is now that the Finance minister has just confirmed that when the Dutch currency, the Guilder, was replaced by the Euro on Jan 1 2003, the exchange rate probably undervalued the Guilder’s true strength by between five and 10 per cent.
I left Bas for Brussels, but there was no accomodation. So I caught a one-hour train to Brugge, because they had a room and my little sister reckoned it was cool. I wouldn’t call it cool, but it was nice. As well as another three-million tourists. Brugge is described as a classic medieval city suspended in time. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some pretty churches and rabid dogs on the street, which make me feel like I am back in the 1700s (because we all remember those good all days). But seriously, how did they manage to con three million people?
I went to one church built by some dude that worked in government, and did a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and came back hoping to recreate the big one in Jerusalem. The whole church was filled with his family ensigna, and tombs to his family and whatever. Now, I love narcissism, and feel so relieved to see some corrupt government official build a church which makes me want to worship him, when in fact he was caught out with a hooker and he was bribed into building a church so that things would be kept mum. But honestly, why do three million people seem to buy this bullshit as so special? Maybe I needed a nagging wife to appreciate it.
Brussels was cool.
I was expecting a boring city, but the tourist area and the main part of town was extremely vibrant. The day after I went to Luxembourg, with a German kid who was bored shitless in Brussels. The hostel was booked out, and to cut a long story short, I ended up staying at a house of 17 year old girls having a slumber/camping party. And at the party, I met these guys my age, and I went to a special event techno party, dancing with sexy Luxembourgish girls, and spending way too much money. I crashed the night at one of the guys I partied with, and then came to Paris, to be greeted by Max.
Paris is apparently the third most expensive city in the world (after Tokyo and Oslo). And damn it shows – a bottle of coke at this shitty cafe-restaurant outside our hostel cost 4.50 Euros! At the same time, nothing can be compared to Paris – it is the most amazing city I have ever been to, and you need months to explore the place. You turn the corner, and see this building decorated in stone in the most intricate detail that you wonder how they could have ever achived that. And thats just some random building on the corner. Then check out the one next to it!
Did all the main tourist sights, and had a big night for for Bastille day. Even bumped into three kids from my school days – David Beamen, Jill Davidson, and Pip Johnson. And separately, met up with Aaron Rathmell. Went to Versailles for a day,and just spent half a day lazing in the gardens which were amazing.
Paris was described by a girl I met as a very sexual city, and I totally agree with that. Crazy vibe. But I am dying of heat right now, so I will end this post, promising more interesting posts once I start my Eastern Europe trip.