Don't jaywalk in Germany, and other hints for travelers:
Germans are a quiet, methodical people with a bent rule abiding ideology: the type of people who can plan genocide but won't jaywalk.
Being in a hostel is like being in a college dorm, except they're willing to sell alcohol to you at any time and you never have to go to class.
I used to think that college was torture, especially living in a dorm. I thought that never again would I have to be around so many beautiful women who want absolutely nothing to do with me. I would go out into the real world, with more distance between me and the beautiful women, and I could relax. Then I started living in a hostel.
Despite how many people have been traveling extensively, most conversation does not focus on where you've been or what you've done in the past. There are three main things you talk about, 1) where you're from, originally. This comes before introducing yourself, and it's quite normal to know where someone comes from weeks before you actually learn their name. 2) How much longer are you hear for/traveling for. 3) Where are you going? The third category is where the talk of the past comes in. Usually it's only in a limited context: "I'm going to Germany next." to which you respond, "You should go to Kiel for Kiele-woche, but skip Oktoberfest" or vice versa. Talk of the past is valid if it's advice for the future. Unsurprisingly, most conversation skips over one and two, and focuses on destination options. Other than travel, the conversation talks about alcohol. Especially the new types of alcohol you can get while traveling, and how much money you've spent on alcohol while traveling, and how much more you can drink now that you've been traveling, etc.
Hostel life revolves around the dual and linked poles of people and alcohol, but not necessarily in that order. The two are so integral to hostel life that, when my aunt visited and asked me what I did other than go out with people to bars and clubs I had to ask her to repeat the question so I could think up a suitable answer, which I still failed to do. What else was there to do?
This entire country needs subtitles. Talking to Scots is like trying to have a conversation with a Jackson Pollock painting, something's definitely going on, but there's absolutely no way you're going to be able to figure out what it is.
"For those of you who haven't heard already, yes, I am alive, and yes, I am in Edinburgh. The presence of vicious fuck-you knives in my checked luggage was not enough to deter me, and so, after virtually no difficulty getting through security (except for being pulled out of line at one gate 'randomly', which I insist was because they saw that I was reading 'Catcher in the Rye', and not because I look like a blonde Islamic fundamentalist with this beard), I am now in the Prince's Street Backpackers Hostel in Edinburgh, Scotland. Hooha!
"and it,'s for the most part, pretty great. I've met a couple good people, who have since left...still, I don't meet people all that easily, so it's a bit nervewracking. Luckily, I'm spending most of my time doing touristy things. I won't be able to get a job all that quickly, since the BUNAC office (the place that authorised my work visa and has to stamp it before I can work) is closed for the week because the two people are on 'vacation' (miserable bastards).
"But, as I said, I'm in the hostel. Although I did have to walk up 77 steps to get to it, it is rather worth it. It's the cheapest hostel in the city, but also happens to be nice, as far as hostels go (of course, I'm only speaking from very limited experience with hostels...this being my third). I'm the only guy in my dorm room, with 9 women...and that's not too abnormal in this hostel. And the first time I entered the dining room I came upon a group of four people sucking on a massive hookah straight out of 'Alice in Wonderland.' so it looks like it could be an interesting experience out here in sheep country.
"But how could I hate it here? They have a whisky (or 'Scotch' to those of you who are outside of Scotland...for some reason they don't call that here) here that literally has my name on it! it's not particularly good, as far as whisky goes, but how could i turn it down?"
09 Nov. 01
"It's really viciously cold out here right now. The Scottish wind comes at you from all sides, making the Chicago weather seem downright calm. It snowed here last night, big car sized flakes...perfect weather, actually, for the Aussies and Kiwis at the hostel, who'd never seen snow before. Really amazing to see their faces light up and them go sit by the window to watch it come down. I wound up dealing with weird questions. NO, you don't have to use an umbrella, it's not as thick as rain and it won't soak you through that easily. No, it's not going to bury the city that quickly, it's melting as it hits the ground. Yes, it does that a lot."
11 Nov. 01
"Ummm. I think I had things to say, but I just saw on CNN.com that Ken Kesey just died. And this rather depresses me. I can't really say much more than that. He wasn't my favorite writer; I only read 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest', but, by virtue of reading HST's letters and Wolfe's 'Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,' Kesey's become a symbol of the 60s. And his passing reminds me that the peace-loving activist psychedelic 60s are truly dead and gone, and we're in the patriotic carpet-bombing vicodin/percodan addicted 21st Century. A brave new world of gods and monsters, with far too many monsters and not enough decent iconoclasts left in the world. "
12 Nov. 01
Last night was to be my relaxing night. After a Friday night that I dind't particularly enjoy much until after about 4am, when I started talking to a couple people in the kitchen, I was just ready to have our Sunday group dinner, read some, and eventually go to sleep. But instead, I wound up going out to a pub that had drinks for a quid, drinking there and talking to a couple great people I'd never met before (side note: how come that nearly every time I meet cool people, it turns out that they're leaving the next day?). Then we took to the streets, in search of a club. (Pubs close at 1am, clubs close at 3am). So we went to a club. And wound up drinking and dancing. Next thing I know, we're on the street, looking for something to eat, talking to a couple of Scottish guys who think I'm 30 years old and describe how their day went as 'my friend and I went out to the grocery store to get a newspaper and some food for our flat, and somehow wound up starting to drink. 12 hours later, we still don't have a newspaper, and we ate all the food we bought.' Which seems rather close to how my day went as well.
23 March 02
An odd and wonderful sight this evening, while walking to a midnight movie. The Scottish rugby team, out on the piss after what was a humiliating loss to the French team earlier in the day. Still, the team was kilted out with matching jackets, and being lead by a bagpiper. And then they spontaneously burst into song: the Scottish national anthem, to be precise. Within moments, the bagpaper took up their lead, and almost instantly after, the entire street joined in, singing along. The street being Lothian Rd., the main strip for clubs and bars, at 11:30pm on a Saturday, that was a lot of people. It almost felt as if it were staged for me, like the entire city was conspiring against me to make me feel as crappy as possible for daring to leave so soon.
BACK TO EUROPE
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