Only 6 days into my trip and I feel like I could happily go home tomorrow and remember this as the trip of a lifetime. Its hard to cast my mind back to Hardelot (in the North of France) because it feels like a month ago already but here goes nothing.
I left Kilburn at 6 AM on the 5th, and I got to Hardelot at about 6PM which seems ridiculous as it is only an inch away on a map, but the trip was good fun. On the eurostar over I started chatting to a girl sat next to me who turned out have left from the very same road in Kilburn as me that morning. She was an artist on her way to Normandy to do some ‘collaborative art’ with a friend of hers on the beach. The conversation eventually lagged over into a Parisien coffee shop 3 hours later where we realised we would have to part ways which was a shame. We swapped e-mails so that she could send me some photos of her work when it was done so I am excited to see if that materialises but if not, then never mind.
Hardelot itself was magnificent. It’s a nice little town that you would never visit if you didn’t know someone there but the beach, few bars and large group of really friendly guys made it all the better. We drank, we sang, caught shrimps in the sand and acted like we felt…never without a beer in hand. It was great to see Julien again and we really had fun with each other, he is working in Singapore next year so we made plans to meet up somewhere in the east.
After that I headed on a sleeper to Munich from Paris, where I hung out with some guys from a chorale who were off to Salzburg to sing at a cathedral and I agreed to go see them in Salzburg when I got the chance. I never did. Munich itself is a great city, beer is a national past time and I found out all sorts of interesting beer related facts whilst visiting. The city is beautiful and my trusty guide got me to most of the major sights and sounds from the major cathedrals, to the best beer gardens and just around the general old town centre. Of significant importance is that I made the decision to put my vegetarianism on hold whilst I travelled. Now this might shock some people who know me better but I stand by my decision. I genuinely felt that I couldn’t experience the cities of the world without being able to sample all of the food and whilst sitting in the ‘Chineser Turm’ biergarten with my new found buddy Brian feasting on bratwurst and slugging back Munich’s coldest and finest I realised how glad I was that I decided to do so.
Brian is an American longshoreman (dock worker to us brits) from California and we have been hanging out for the last few days and travelling around together. I guess if there is one thing I have drawn from travelling alone is that you have to speak to anybody and everybody or you will find yourself on a pretty lonely trip. I have met some great people and have some phone numbers to ring in different cities but Brian and I have been pretty much inseperable for the last 72 hours, and have not once run out of things to say or beers to drink. He had been hanging out in Sweden for longer than he had planned and was determined to get the most out of his pass before flying back to the US, so I told him a little about where I planned to go for the next couple of days and it turned out we both wanted to go to Salzburg.
Salzburg is beautiful and probably the highlight of my trip so far. Standing on top of the Festung Hohensalzburg, Bavarian alps surrounding, looking down onto the old city is a moment I won’t be forgetting any time soon, especially because I have about 100,000 pictures of it. The weather wasn’t great but the misty mountain tops and occasional streak of sunlight thorugh a break in the clouds only stood to add to the atmosphere of this fairytale fortress. We grabbed some food and saw some of the other sights before heading off to Vienna. Brian came along to Vienna with me on the grounds it is a better connected city than Salzburg and would give him more chance of reaching his goal of making it to Italy, where he is going to tonight. We arrived in Vienna late and with nowhere to stay but found a place, had a few beers and hit the hay for the night.
Today was spent roaming the streets of Vienna, another beautiful city it would take a lifetime to see all of. We did the usual tourist routes seeing Parlament, Rathaus and Hofburg. The climbed the Stephansdom tower at one point which was a terrible idea that left us sweaty, dizzy and in need of immediate Shcnitzel based refreshment. The highlight of the day, however, was our discovery of this great little indepedent art gallery on the bank of the Danube which was showing a great exhibition of original H.R.Giger work. The gallery itself (http://www1.kunsthauswien.com/english/mainindex.htm) is an amazing building which actually has a Giger statue as part of the permanent feature. The exhibition was incredible and had everything from sketches through to the full scale concept models for the original Aliens, but the centrepiece had to be the full Harkonnen furniture models originally made for the film Dune.
After this we headed back to the hostel where we are now and Brian is just organising the last bits and bobs before his overnight train to Venice. I on the other hand sat down to write this, and wonder what tonight holds. I might take it easy as we have been hitting the wallet quite hard what with all this wonderful German/Austrian beer we have been working through, but you never know, I guess I will hang out at the hostel for a while and see if I pick another drifter or join a group of guys perhaps. Tomorrow morning I head to Bratislava for the weekend and then hit Prague on Monday which stands to be pretty savage seeming Colin has booked tickets to see me there. Anyone who knows us knows exactly what that means…
Bring it on