Travel advisory by a “crazed” American in Europe.I can’t offer much in travel tips. My name’s not Fodor, I didn’t go to Berkeley, and you know, even if I did, I’m not exactly willing to pass on helpful suggestions to the goddamn masses. I mean, where were you when I was getting an anal probe from Colonel Klink at Checkpoint Charlie?
I won’t tell you what you should do in Europe– like munching on mushrooms in the Swiss Alps– since that could get me in trouble. The last thing I need is your mother laying a lawsuit on me because little Karen ate some fungi and sprained an ankle during a heated croquet match with a playing card…Now, I never personally participated in the sport, but I must admit, I did bet on it once. So, in trying a responsible member of society (Christ, I’m almost thirty), I’ll tell you what you should not do when you finally decide to check your conformity bag at JFK and travel abroad.Yes, Europe’s been in decline for nearly twenty score, but one day, we will be them. It’s sort of like taking a gander at your girlfriend’s mom to gauge how savagely the vicious hand of time’ll spank her.
1. Don’t close your eyes in a Paris train station. Oh, you need to blink? Hmph. And I thought you left the comforts of America back in Willow’s Grove… I’ll have you know there are lizards out there that haven’t blinked since Watergate and they’re getting along just fine, thank you very much. But, if you have to indulge in compulsory bodily functions, have your bags spot-welded to your wrist. Yes, the French have their faults- too many to mention here- but I must say those fondue filching fops have the quickest fingers since that Thai girl at the messa– uh, sorry, different story… And should the unfortunate heist take place, please, don’t waste your time telling the police. You’ll get Clousteau pecking half a word a minute on a Vichy typewriter as you parley vouz ongley that fateful moment when you decided to sneak a glance at your watch. Besides, they’re snickering at you the whole time, and there’s nothing worse than being scoffed at by a petty public official, particularly one who knows the words to “La Marseillaise. But there is one fringe, or should I say, French benefit. When you’re a victim of such crimes, you do get a “curse-out-a-Frog-for-free” card. For me, this perk proved to be especially valuable since I was well versed in the gospel of George Carlin. Apparently, ’cocksucker is considered polite badinage in the land of voluntary surrender and moral ambivalence.
Read how to solo travel and backpack Europe alone
2. Don’t try to speak French. I know, I know. You heard Parisians appreciate it when Americans attempt to ask, “where‘s the nearest shitter?” in their native tongue (which, by the way, hardly sounds course at all in the Gaulic language). Well, let me tell you, that’s complete and utter imbuvable (see, isn’t that better than shit?). When I checked my wine stained backpack at the lobby of the Louvre– this is before it got stolen by the fop– I wanted to ask the attractive girl behind the counter which floor the Mona Lisa was located. The problem, was I didn’t know exactly how “Mona Lisa” translated, so I sheepishly inquired, “parley vouz ongley?” To which the employee turned to her friend “isn’t that cute? Parley vouz ongley?” She quickly shifted her cold, French dipped pupils towards me. “Yes, I speak English.” Now I know why they burned Joan of Arc… The point is, there’s absolutely no benefit in feigning to sound like them. It won’t get you better directions, it won’t get you a better table, and it sure as hell won‘t get you laid. Besides, who the hell wants to sound like Maurice Chevalier?
3a. Don’t eat at McDonalds. For God’s sakes, you’re not in Kansas anymore. Resist the temptation to order a Big Mac because you can fucking pronounce it. This is the type of unfettered jingoism that makes us the reigning scourge of the planet. Sure, it’s cheap and you know what you’re getting, but so is Renee on 54th and– oops, did it again… In lieu of the Golden Arches, I want you to go to that charming little cafe on the Champs D’Elysee that charges you 25 francs to breathe their rarefied air. And no, that leaf of parsley isn’t a garnish, Billy Bob, it’s the entree. Yes, you may starve, but at least you won’t go out a fat, dumb, happy American. And there’s no better place to rot away than the cruddy banks of the Seine. Hell, an auteur director might scoop you up, slap a beret on your scalp, and cast you in ‘Les Mis.
3b. Don’t eat in Switzerland. Unless you want to blow your entire nest egg on a sliver of Gouda, just skip food entirely. Don’t worry if you’re about to succumb to famine– there’s always a benevolent Saint Bernard with a ready barrel of moonshine roaming the countryside.
4. Don’t board with a heroin addict. This is sort of the adult version of ‘don’t take candy from a stranger. I understand it seems obvious enough to avoid this pratfall, but if you’re a free spirited soul and think reservations should be left to the Navajo, you just might find yourself on some sweltering afternoon trudging through Amsterdam with a 100 kilo North Face strapped over what used to be your shoulder. When this occurs, you essentially have two choices: get the hell outta Dodge or bunk with a convicted felon with a hankering for China Black. I know Frost suggests taking the path less traveled, but somehow I don’t think Bobby ever stayed up all night with an open Swiss knife at his side, ready to plunder the smacked up sonofabitch who charged him 20 guilders to bunk on the ratty floor of his Section 8 flop house… Or maybe he did, but it was definitely after that “Two Roads” yarn.
5. Don’t go to a porno theater in Amsterdam. Before you panic, let me stress something: I’m talking about theaters here, not the whores themselves. They’re not the problem. Frankly, from what I heard, you get reasonable portions at fair prices. Kinda like Denny’s. But the theaters? Hmph. You want to avoid them, like… well, like Denny’s. Now I had never been to a porno theater before. Titty bars, brothels, peep shows, the Oval Office, sure, but never a picture show… But there I was, in the red light district, browsing the lovely merchandise in the neon lit windows– who says guys don’t like to shop?– when I had a sudden urge to splurge. Instead of diving right in, though, I figured I’d whet my whistle at the local movie house– kind of like downing a few Jack and cokes at the homestead before hitting the bars. After plucking down seven and half hard guilders, I strolled through the seamy gates of Hell. Fearing the bodily fluids on the seats– and the distinct possibility of future ones– I choose to take in the cinematic treat standing up (what, you never saw Ben Hur on your feet?). Then, right in the middle of the pivotal chariot scene (it was a high budget porn), the hand of an elderly gent reached over and tried to grab my fanny pack. Like a Daisy air rifle, though, his shot fell a little short, hitting my half-erect penis instead. Now, either the guy was a thief or a pervert, but I wasn’t about to file an investigation. I immediately fled Gomorrah and proceeded to the nearest cafe, where I regained my masculinity by inhaling half an ounce of Saskatoon skunk. Lesson? Stick to the whores.
Read how to meet other travelers and have sex in hostels
6. Don’t do laundry in Germany. And you thought that Econ final was tough? Try applying fabric softener in a Munich Maytag. Twain once remarked that German is a dead language. It’s a little known fact that he muttered these words while attempting to put his white suit on spin cycle… The worst thing is, no one’ll give you a hand. Even though most of these crew cut thespians speak English, “Allied” is still not a sanctioned word in the Germanic language. Don’t fret, though, you’ll fit right in with your stench-laden apparel. It just so happens that ‘Proletariat is the rage these days in the house that Marx built (Groucho gets most of the credit, but all the brothers pitched in… except Zeppo.)
7. Don’t mention Hitler in Munich. To Deutschlanders, this is the equivalent of screaming fire in an open theater. It’s not free speech and, yes, you will be punished. I learned this from chatting with the bike rental guy at the Munich train station. As I tackled a quart of Bavaria’s finest, I bantered with the American emigre, who spouted off the privileges of the European workforce. You know them bastards get 8 weeks of vacation a year? Imagine how good their cars would be if they wouldn’t knock off every Groundhog’s Day? Anyway, the conversation turned to Goethe, Bach, and that tennis chick who grunts every time her racket hits the ball. Then, I dropped the Fat Man. The nanosecond ‘Hitler spewed off my tongue, the pedestrians shrieked and hit the deck as if a Sherman was rumbling through the station. My eyes darted around, searching for the Gestapo who I was convinced was going to goose step over and ship me off on the nearest train to Dachau… The problem is the people of Munich have never gotten over the fact that the Fuhrer launched his World Tour here. They’ve actually been duped to think that the great beer putsch was really just an elaborate advertising campaign by Beck’s. Yes, they’re a little obtuse– Bavaria’s considered the Texas of the U.S.- but what do you expect from the people who brought us lederhosen?
8. Don’t ride on an overnight train with drunken Irishmen. Now I don’t mean to disparage the fine folks of Ireland. Heck, I admire them for their sustained lobbying efforts to brand Guinness the fifth and final food group. But when you want to catch a little shut eye, blimey, avoid them like lepers- er, leprechauns. Imagine this: you’ve spent a tiresome day in Amsterdam, roaming around, smoking weed, drinking Heiny’s, perusing at heinies, perhaps even grabbing a heiny, and now you’re bushed. You desperately need some sleep. You retire to your tiny Euro rail bed and shut the cabin door. Ahhhh. Peace at last, peace at last, lord almighty, peace at last. Then, as you’re about to fall into the deep comforts of REM, a gang of plastered Irishmen breaks out into a rousing rendition of “Danny Boy.” Of course, this is followed by a whole repertoire of lyrical hymns that have the depth of a Dice Clay monologue. You bury your head under your makeshift pillow and wish them damn fools would be just like their other countrymen and pass their time blowing up some abandoned Jaguar in Trafalgar Square.
9. Don’t get stoned and visit the Museum of Torture. Contrary to what you might think, there are actually some cultural exhibits in Amsterdam– they’re just hidden under that wafting cloud of bong smoke. Let’s see, uh.. Rembrandt was big here a few centuries ago… There was that little girl who hid in the attic… They’re the perennial host of the prestigious Cannabis Cup. Oh, and they’ve got the single greatest museum in the civilized world. The Museum of Torture. Sure, there’s the Louvre and the Met, but in all honesty, once you’ve glimpsed at one bowl of apples and oranges, you’ve pretty much seen them all. On the other hand, how many times have you viewed a wooden device that actually stretches your limbs until they snap off? It’d make a helluva infomercial… But, whatever you do, don’t sample the wares at the Grasshopper before you enter its hallowed halls. In a word, it’ll freak you the fuck out. Viewing these antiquated electric chairs with stony eyes will elicit feelings of pity and sorrow that were meant to be only experienced by victims of the Inquisition… or Boston Red Sox fans.
10. Don’t tell anybody you´re American. They hate you. It doesn’t matter that you just blew ten thousands lira on a genetically enhanced statue of David and that without your patronage their economy would strangely resemble Mozambique‘s, they loathe you. The one thing that unites Europe more than a David Hasselhoff convention is the common, deep-seated hatred for Uncle Sam. And since you are technically on their turf, it would be a fruitless task to defend Old Glory. (When they come here, though, feel free to kick their ass). So, you must do the next best thing: lie. More specifically, tell them you’re Canadian. Better yet, throw down a few Canadian dollars, buy a little maple leaf, and slap it on your rucksack. See, to a European, Canada’s the cute, cuddly teddy bear who, through no fault of their own, is forced to share a bed with a monstrous boar who stays up to the wee hours of the night, devouring Doritos, waiting for the next Baywatch episode (the only difference is, we watch it for Pam Anderson). Besides, lying is an essential part of the European trip. And I’m not talking about white lies. Oh, no. I’m referring to the deepest, blackest prevarications your soul can muster. I mean, who the hell’s gonna know that you’re not really the star of some WB sitcom ? And, you know, if they do happen to call you on it, scurry through the nearest exit. The last thing you want is to befriend someone who actually watches the WB.
– by Duke Snider
P.S. There is one last tip, and personally, I think it’s the most important. The fact is, there’s going to be a time when you’re alone. It’s inevitable.And since I assume you’re under the age of 86, odds are you’re going to be horny. Now, if you must satisfy your urge to dispense the raging monster within, please, clean your hands first. Because let me tell you, the last place you ever want to find yourself is mid-stroke with remnants of cayenne pepper on your fingers (that‘s another story for another time).
The point is, you may disregard numbers one through ten and that‘s fine, that‘s your inalienable right, but trust me on the cayenne pepper thing.
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