So as some of you may know, this summer I decided to take the plunge and spend a month travelling around Europe. I think it’s fair to say that my friend Tash and I had planned just about as little as humanly possible for the trip, and the night before we left was spent making long journeys back to Islington to retrieve forgotten tickets and frantically phoning Eurostar to book trains home after failing to actually read the terms and conditions of our InterRail Pass. Needless to say, it had not been the most promising of starts.
Things still felt rather muddled as we got into our taxi at 3:45am on the first day of our trip. Our weary heads and bleary eyes were certainly not helped by the driver, who deemed it essential to regale us with tales of his run-ins with drug dealers. All the way down the M1. After our delayed flight to Berlin, (InterRail Passes are not valid in your home country) we spent an hour misreading the map to our hostel, which was particularly soul destroying and sweat inducing due to the heat and our 19kg rucksacks.
We finally made it to our hostel Pangea People in Alexanderplatz and took a well deserved rest observing the beds of our new roommates. This was a fun game until we spotted the blood stained pillow on the bunk above mine, and that there was only one free bed in the room.
The staff were very kind in moving us to a smaller, six bed dorm, which we were to share with three lovely Australian girls. Things were going swimmingly and we couldn’t really believe our luck until our final roommate arrived. Oh, how quickly things soured. In exchanging pleasantries with the newbie, he decided to casually drop in the fact that he had just been deported from Israel for ‘unknown reasons’. And that he was an ex mental hospital patient. Amidst his insistence that marijuana was better than any of the institutionalised medication he had received, I began inconspicuously hiding my most valued possessions out of fear that he would steal them for drug money.
It’s definitely no exaggeration to say that we were worried he would go apeshit on a comedown and murder us in our sleep, but thankfully, we were spared this fate, and moved onto Rome with hopes of less terrifying hostellers.
After our 20 hour train ride spent in a packed cabin we eventually made it to the Italian capital. The sun was blazing as we made our way to the hostel, but float our boat it did not. The guys ‘running’ the place (and I use that term incredibly loosely) were leery and unsettlingly short, and told us that our room was not yet available in spite of the fact we had arrived after their check in time. We decided to take a shower in their filthy, ancient bathrooms before hitting the mean streets of the Vatican City, and hoped that things would look less revolting upon our return.
We had just joined the queue for the Vatican when we were mercilessly cajoled into taking a guided tour of the place at the ‘student rate’ of €40. In a state of mental depletion due to our long travels, we unwittingly obliged. What followed was potentially the worst tour of all time.
Our guide, who we have subsequently named Leandro, was the height of a small child and thus got relentlessly lost amongst the throng of Vatican dwellers on a packed Friday afternoon. His diminutive stature combined with his quiet voice, bad English and general lack of a clue about what he was saying made for quite the charming afternoon as I’m sure you can imagine.
We returned to the hostel at 5pm, a full six hours after check in, to be told that our rooms were still not ready. We sat in the dirty communal area loudly voicing our dissatisfaction until the pleb at the reception desk announced that ‘Sara’ (me) and ‘Mr Rickett’ (Tash) could finally enter the hovels they sold us as bedrooms for£55 a night. Everything in the room was grimy, broken or both, and apart from one wonderfully camp Mexican roommate who revelled in extolling the virtues of United Colors of Benetton, the rest of the people we were sharing with pranced about naked in the early hours/cried in the middle of the night/slept in their clothes. It was an interesting few days.
So we are now in the picture perfect city of Venice, gearing up for a gondola ride and a chance to experience a little more of Italy. Our roommates here have been less diabolical, although one snored all night and another is a doppelganger of Kevin G from Mean Girls. But hey, it beats naked crying Brazilian women/fear of Japanese drug lords.
Tonight we will be travelling to Slovenia to sample more of the continent’s delights, so I will say ciao until next time!