by Rob Koch
We’ve all had the notion of pulling off the summer backpacking trip in Europe. But, really how many of us actually get the chance to do it?
Well, I seem to be somewhat of a late-bloomer. Now I know what you’re thinking; and no, I wasn’t a late bloomer when it came to puberty. I was right on time. I’m more of a late bloomer in that it took me 6 ½ years to get through college. Of course 6 majors and three schools later, I finally got that piece of paper that so preciously sits in folder on my bookshelf. But I was also a late bloomer in the fact that I got another chance to pull off a Euro backpacking trip… at 30.
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And, just as I did close to the end of my college career, I dreamed of hiking around Europe without a care in the world, and just crashing at any random hostel I ran into as I met young free-spirited people just like myself from all over the planet.
So, after a soccer tournament in Amsterdam, I was on my way. I mailed my soccer gear home and limited myself to just a backpack, my camera, and a necessary H2no Patagonia rain jacket.
The first two nights of my adventure, I stayed at the Krasnapolsky Hotel in Amsterdam. This was just an extension of my stay for the soccer tourney. Next, I hopped on a train, after figuring out how to get a ticket that day, to the fairy tale medieval city of Brugges in Belgium. (It really was magical – Definitely check it out sometime and get De Garre beer when you get there! You can only have three, but it’s totally worth it!!)
During the train ride on my magical adventure, I pulled out my trusty Rick Steve’s guidebook and looked for an inexpensive hostel in Brugge. Ah! I found one – well actually two – but I found Charlie Rocket’s Hostel. The place was listed as a backpacker’s paradise; the place to party and meet young people out for an adventure. I was sold.
So, I made my way into the fairy tale city and walked directly to Charlie Rocket’s. I was greeted by some fella at the bar who sounded more Russian than any of the my Belgium counterparts at work in the U.S. But hey – it didn’t matter, I was on an adventure.
The cost for the room was E39 a night (that means 40 Euro. I just don’t know where the Euro symbol is on the keyboard). Then if you wanted the breakfast, you could pay an extra E4. I took the deal and was given two tickets for breakfast and a big ass key for my room. Seriously, this key was ridiculous. Actually the key wasn’t ridiculous. It was just like any other key in the U.S., but the key chain was an 8 inch long copper or brass looking thing that was heavy… like 3 pounds heavy. WTF. I had to walk around Brugges with a key like I was going to the dirty ass bathroom in some random roadside gas station in the middle of bumfuck.
Well, I got over it. Yes. And I walked up to my room – #4. Key in, turn, unlock. Standard. In the room, I found two bunk beds on either side of me as I entered and walked toward a large widow across from the door. There was a chair and a sink at the back of this tiny room and that was it. Oh yeah, tile floor. But hey, this was nothing more than I expected. I was at a hostel and had my backpack so everything was A-okay.
I spent two nights at the hostel and ate two breakfasts.
The first night I spent alone in the room, which was probably a good way to ease myself into the hostel life. The second night, three adventurers from Chile met me in the room. They were actually studying English abroad in Ireland. That was their excuse to get to Europe for the adventure. Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Maybe I can learn Thai or Italian or Swahili or something and take a few years off for another adventure.
Sleeping in a room with other people isn’t that bad, but it’s definitely better when you’re actually sleeping with someone if you know what I mean.. wink wink. The tough part is when you don’t trust any of them and then you have to basically sneak in and out the room. Or at least I felt that way because I didn’t know any of these people. The night they arrived, I was out late and snuck in like I was back in High School sneaking back into my parent’s house after a night of getting away with madness. Then, in the morning, I woke up early because I was about to go on another adventure – biking to the city of Dame and had to sneak out once again. Totally weird.
Breakfast. Well, breakfast left something to be desired. The E4 that bought me a hard boiled egg, water, coffee, or tea, cereal that I have never seen before in my life, and toast or bread with jam or a pat of butter. This wasn’t butter. At one time it might have been butter but, when I opened the packets (and I opened multiple in search of the perfect pat of butter), this was no longer butter. It had been melted, frozen, melted, refrigerated, left out in the heat, and basically had congealed into Satan’s revenge on butter eaters at Charlie Rockets. I would have been better off going down the street with my E4 and buying anything at the Quickie (a fast food joint like McDonald’s) or some random bakery and chugging water to wash down some throat piercing dry pastry.
The showers were another story.. umm.. or was I trying to shower in some random place that made no sense like the twilight zone. Long story short, IT SUCKED! We’ve all been in the bathrooms that save water by turning off the water after a period of time after you press the hot or cold button which has replaced a regular faucet handle. Yes, that sucks too. But imagine a round button like that, just one, in the shower. This is exactly what I ran into. A flippin’ button that I had to hold with one hand while I tried to bathe myself under the cool, well ice cold, freakin’ water. Uuuuugh. Even right now, 7,000 miles away it still drives me crazy! I basically had to push the button and get freezing ass wet and then lather up without water running and then try to rinse myself off in the less than adequate limited power stream of water dripping on my head. This closet of a shower was hell on earth. If I go to hell, and who knows, we’ll all probably end up there, that’s where I would end up; Charlie Rocket’s Hostel with a claustrophobic pea sized shower that spits on you ice cold water.
So, I decided to not ever go back to a hostel. That day, I rolled out of the fairy tale city of Brugges, and it really is a fairytale except for Charlie Rocket’s, I got on my crackberry and booked a room in Paris at a local hotel in the St. Germain / Latin Quarter. A single room for just me and myself with a single bed, a clean shower and… faucets that stay on when you turn the lever.
Will I stay in a hostel ever again?
No… No no no. Not ever. Never ever ever again.
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