Despite a semi-honest attempt to slow down and smell the roses after a whirlwind April, there was nothing at all slow about May. I started out the month visiting friends, eating escargot, and feeling spritely in Clermont-Ferrand, France, and finished it off completely plum-tuckered out in Budapest, Hungary.
If there was a theme this month, it was definitely WWII. Being from Canada, all the information I got about this war was in books, movies, wikipedia, and what was presented in elementary school. It was both interesting and heartbreaking to see the effects of this war from where it happened. Between the Resistance Museum in Amsterdam, The Jewish Museum and Topography of Terror in Berlin, and the House of Terror in Budapest, I learned from a few angles how the war impacted people.
On a different note, May was my last month as a solo-traveller this time around. Oh, how my plans have changed. For the next three weeks I will be island hopping around Croatia with one of my best friends, Cailee.
So, without further ado…
Table of Contents
Where I Went
Brussels and Groot-Bijgaarden, Belgium
Hamburg and Berlin, Germany
Prague, Czech Republic
Before I got to Amsterdam, all I knew about it were the canals, the infamous red light district, and its marijuana friendliness. That said, I wasn’t prepared at all for how completely in love I fell with the city. My first day there, I couldn’t get the thought out of my head, “why didn’t I skip all the other places and just come here for a month instead?”
Amsterdam was so much more than my preconceptions. Not only is it an absolutely gorgeous city, it’s a gorgeous city with a laid-back vibe, an intense history, and an appreciation for art. Oh, and all those bikes? Totally eco-friendly.
An odd restaurant experience in Brussels
I’ll tell the full story in a Brussels recap later, but while out for dinner and beer with a hostel-mate, I ended up meeting two dudes on LSD who basically gave me a poetic therapy session in the restaurant. One of the men had short blonde hair, harry potter glasses, and refused to blink the entire time of our conversation. The second guy had long dark hair, an earring, and didn’t believe in having his picture taken.
They came into the restaurant, sat down beside us, and the conversation started like this:
Blonde guy to me: “Why haven’t you finished your frites? Do you not realize these are genuine Belgian frites? Leaving them behind is sacrilege!”
Me: (Sarcastically) “Oh sorry, does my not eating all the frites offend you?”
Blonde guy: “Sorry? What do you have to be sorry for? Stop carrying the weight of the world and other people’s opinions on your shoulders.”
Me: “I’m Canadian! Sorry is just what we say!”
Blonde guy: “Would you describe yourself as happy?”
…. to be continued.
Running into a friend in Prague
I had no idea my Toronto-based friend from college, Dezmond, was going to be in Prague until I saw his Facebook post saying he was there. I quickly messaged him from my Prague hostel, “You’re in Prague? I’m in Prague!” And so began two days of roaming around the city while day drinking, eating too many Trdelnik chimneys, and running away from strange hairy animals emerging from the river.
Visiting Hansa Studios in Berlin
I never thought that when I went to Berlin I would actually be stepping inside the legendary Hansa Studios. This is where David Bowie recorded “Low”, and “Heroes”. Where Iggy Pop recorded “The Idiot”, and “Lust For Life”. Where Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds recorded “The Firstborn is Dead”, and “Your Funeral… My Trial”. Where Siouxsie and the Banshees recorded “Tinderbox”. Where Pixies recorded “Bossanova”. And on and on.
How did I do it? I went up to the front door, buzzed the studios, told them I was there to buy merch, and suddenly the door opened. Yes, it was that easy.
My left foot
Here’s a gender stereotype for you: women and shoes. When I say those two words in a sentence, your mind probably jumps to how many women have at least a gazillion pairs of shoes. Me? I slash this stereotype into a million pieces. At any point in time, I only own one pair of shoes, and I will wear those bastards down until they literally fall off my feet, or in this case, wreck my left foot.
The shoe story starts in Berlin when I
was bullied by my parents decided that it was probably best to call it a day on my old pair of black converse high-tops. The rubber lining was ninety percent detached, at least two toes on each foot were sticking out of the fabric, and I could feel every pebble I stepped on. So, I stuck out my first-world bottom lip, and did one of my least favorite activities of shoe shopping. I ended up with a menacing pair of sturdy black boots that will (hopefully) last me the next century. The kicker is (pun intended), after one day of wearing these new boots, my feet were absolutely mangled.
It was back to the converse. I ended my Berlin trip and moved on to Prague in these, but after one full day of walking around in Prague, I knew something wasn’t right. Every step I took with my left foot ended with shooting pain and slightly numbed toes. When the pain persisted after a few days, I looked up my ailment online (I know, I know, never do this) and I learned I probably either pulled a muscle or got a stress-fracture from walking 30 000 steps a day for 2 months straight in inadequate shoes.
The only cure for this will be to stay off my feet for a few weeks, something I don’t plan to do for at least a month. Yay.
What I Read
Back in January I made the decision to participate in a reading challenge courtesy of The Girl Who Wanders. The challenge is to read 26 books over one year, which is roughly one book every two weeks. The challenge outlines different criteria for each book selection to help with book choices.
This month I read:
“A Personal Development Book”
You Are A Badass : How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero – I’ll admit that this reading challenge is the only reason I would ever and will ever pick up a personal development book; the genre is just not my bag. That said, I didn’t hate You Are A Badass. While Jen’s writing style is at times gag-worthy informal, and the ideas presented in the novel are nothing groundbreaking, I left each reading session in a really good mood. After reading this, I felt super motivated to go home, get artsy, make a vision board, and get serious about making my life goals happen.
“A Current Bestseller”
Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen – I’m a pretty big fan of The Boss, and so I was looking for any excuse to read his book during this challenge. An autobiography, Bruce does an excellent job at guiding the reader through the major events in his life with great insight and class. This wasn’t a sloppy “telling my sex and drug stories for the money” rocker bio that is all too prevalent in the genre, this was more poetic and genuine.
“No one you have been and no place you have gone ever leaves you. The new parts of you simply jump in the car and go along for the rest of the ride. The success of your journey and your destination all depend on who’s driving.”
What I Listened To
This month we lost a couple great musical visionaries. In honor of the late Gregg Allman and Chris Cornell, I went back to their catalogues. I grew up listening to these fine gentlemen and both of their deaths stung.
The Allman Brothers Band “Blue Sky”
Most Popular Post
Writing from the road is hard work guys, so regrettably I only wrote one post this month – this one detailing my time in Lisbon, Portugal.
Most Popular Instagram Photo
On The Side…
Some more Plaid Zebra posts for your reading pleasure! Continuing on with my current backpacking series.
May 10: 10 things everyone learns on their first backpacking trip – Some deeper, more introspective things that backpackers learn on their first trip.
May 14: Tips on how to save money while backpacking – Tight for cash? Check out my tips on how to save some dough!
May 18: Backpacking Stove: What to look for in a great portable stove – For the camping backpackers among us, these are the properties you should consider when purchasing a portable stove!
As I alluded to in the beginning of this post, the next three weeks will take me through Croatia with one of my best friends. I’m very excited to leave my solo-travels behind for the time being and be able to share the Croatia experience with someone. I expect lots of wine, seafood, ruins, waterfalls, and parties!