Shortly after I graduated from high school three of my friends and I went on a tour of Europe. One of those crazy ones where you spend 17 days and nights in such constant motion that when all is said and done you are not entirely sure which church was which and what museum was where and even who, exactly, you are. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
We went with a group that was formed through an assistant principal at our school (which was famous for Mario Lopez) and her husband who was the teacher at another school (which would later become mildly famous for a post-Columbine school shooting). The group of about 40, included students, teachers, and other adults under the title “chaparone” but who were really just along for the tour. There were five of us from my school, and, I think, 467 students from the other school. Don’t judge my math. I told you I was tired. And they were, primarily, annoying. It was rather like an episode of The Hills* and the kids were angsty (not us), gossipy (OK, us), and rich (definitely not us). We survived by giving everyone code names (like Toe Man, Muppet Girl, Johnny Quest and The Naked Mole Rat) and giggling an awful lot.
We spent the year prior having monthly meetings not unlike watching Rick Steves (but less Canadian**) wherein we learned lots of stuff like how fanny packs are good and don’t drink the water in Italy. Mostly, I think I did not pay attention. This is evidenced by the first thing that happened to me which was that my luggage decided it thought Florida was rather a nicer vacay spot and, being unprepared, I had to
borrow keep someone else’s (NEW) underwear the next day.
But to back up about 36 or so hours I should say this is how our flights went:
San Diego –> Dallas where we sat on the runway for 45 minutes listening to local weather reports of an incoming vicious storm only to be told that this plane did not, technically, have any weather radar. Being something apparently important for planes, they un-boarded us and told us to find some other flight and thankyouverymuch. Naturally, with a group of 40 people, this is not a particularly easy thing to do. But the powers that be did a good job and more than three hours (and several DELICIOUS hot buttered pretzels) later we were on our way to Gatwick in England.
As it turns out, in England they call gas pains “trapped wind”. This is, in my humble opinion, a far better name for it and it is one of those things that makes me wonder if life might be better if the American Revolution had ended differently. Nevertheless, it took a few minutes of slapstick-style conversation to work out what we were talking about.
Also, the eggs there were pink. This kind of freaked me the frak out.
Once we had finally landed in Frankfurt and determined that my luggage, indeed, was not in Germany, we met our bus driver whose name was Franz or Frank or something else that started with “Fra” and ended in German. He was, clearly, quite used to driving huge buses along curvy cliffside roads, but we were not yet used to such an experience and it made us all, shall we say- scared?
We stopped in Koblenz for the night in a fantastic little hotel that was literally on the banks of the Rhine. We were given room assignments – three to a room which left Sofia to bunk with Katharine and The Naked Mole Rat while I stayed with Hanna and Kathy. Sofia may have been without people she knew well, but at least her shower was in a bathroom. Ours was actually in the middle of the bedroom.
Also, the toilet paper was pink. I am unclear as to why this sticks out so vividly in my memory since I grew up with various colored Northern toilet paper (the color of the paper matched the girl on the front of the package and my grandma used to let me pick the package – I liked green best) but there you have it.
We went into the main hotel for dinner which included tomato soup. It was so delicious that I completely changed my mind on the matter of tomato soup and became a fan of it (but not on facebook. yet).
After dinner we wandered outside to enjoy the lovely evening sun and the odor of sewer*** (please don’t ask me why I remember such things, but every time I smell this particular bad odor anymore, I take a deep whiff and sigh, “ahhh, Germany” due to the fact that memory = smell in my brain and therefore sewer = happy). We were told it was nearly curfew and so we had better be ready for bed. “WTF?” I protested, “It’s still light out!” But it was, in fact 10:30pm – two hours later than our summer sun sets. Funny how that science stuff works.
Into bed we climbed, utterly exhausted after such a long journey – I had not slept since San Diego and I think that put me at roughly 36 hours awake. It’s a wonder I was standing up. Oh, right, I was young and childless. I still had energy in those days.
As as we come to a close this episode, I just realized I never got to the part about the prostitution at all. Apparently, I am going to diary the entire trip (truly, I am afraid of forgetting it – I am old and my brain is tired). I began this once years ago, but never finished and I think most of my readers are different than in those days, anyway.
Stay tuned for Munich in which you will hear about golden women and men who try to lure us to our doom with giant teddy bears (the men were not golden).
*I really actually haven’t seen The Hills so I am assuming a lot here.
**I think he is actually American, but for the longest time I thought he was Canadian so we’re going with that.
***The rest of Germany smelled quite lovely. Please do not judge it based on this one moment.