Monday, 29 August 2011

Euro Man Voyage 2011

Day 1 – Belgium and Holland
So, setting off from Chandlers Ford at about 9.30am on Sunday, the world was our oyster. Or at least Europe was. The channel tunnel to Calais was our first destination.
Having crossed into France and got to Belgium, we needed somewhere to stop for lunch. The choice was between a town called Diksmuide, and a town with a much less amusing name. An easy choice was made.
In the evening we stayed on a Botel (Boat-Hotel) in Maastricht, Holland, run by a man who kept a large basket of eggs on the reception desk. In case of some egg based emergency perhaps. Despite it being a Sunday night, we managed to find a blues bar that was populated mainly by chain smoking old men.

Day 2 – Luxembourg and France
Leaving the Botel behind and off to Luxembourg for lunch. And whilst there we picked up Alistair Gill, aka the International Gentleman Traveller. He's a man that the Horton clan like to meet up with in foreign lands. And it's a good job we did, because an unscheduled stop in Strasbourg was necessitated by a stone putting a bloody great crack in the windscreen of our chariot.
Happily, Strasbourg turned out to be a lovely place. We ate in a restaurant that had it's own microbrewery, with a Russian lady named Anya. Then we went to a bar and played pool. We left the bar when a small Algerian man started waving his pool cue at us in a suggestive way. I'll leave to your imagination.

Day 3 – Interlaken, Switzerland
This was the first time we noticed the decadent ways of Phil. Over lunch the next day, he ordered foie gras for lunch. It cost at least twice as much as what the rest of us had. And then he decided he didn't like foie gras. So he didn't even eat it. A quite awesome lesson in extravagance, from someone who has seemingly managed to leave the student lifestyle behind them with little regret.
After leaving Strasbourg and our hotel on the unfortunately named Rue de Bitche, it was off to the picturesque Interlaken in Switzerland. Where we were staying in a kind of semi-permanent tent. The first of two tent-type places that we stayed in on the trip. Quick word of advice: Tent hostels are not a good idea. Four walls and a ceiling is a much warmer and more sleep-conducive idea.
Whilst Nick and Chris went canyoning, Phil and myself took the novelty cave exploring option and were treated to a history lesson about a monk who defeated a dragon with only his walking staff. We also found some good animatronic puppets, which is always a joy.

Day 4 – Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
The second time that Alistair came into his own as a renowned International Gentleman Traveller, was to suggest that we go join him in Lauterbrunnen, just half an hour outside Interlaken, up in the mountains. So we went to stay at the Matratzenlager Stocki, run by Frau Graff, a friendly old Swiss lady who has been taking care of patrons since 1966!
Now, Lauterbrunnen is quite literally one of the most picturesque places I have ever been to. In the middle of a grassy valley, there are mountains either side, with waterfalls cascading out of them and a bigger snow-capped mountain in the distance. It's like a giant orgasm for your eyes. Not that that bears thinking about.
Also in the same chalet as us were some Base-Jumpers. They are lunatics. If they see beautiful mountains, the first thought that goes through their head is whether there's a good place on it to hurl themselves off of. Different strokes for different folks I guess...

Day 5 – Breakfast in Switzerland, lunch in Lichtenstein, Dinner in Austria. And bed in Munich. Phew.
So, this was the day we visited Lichtenstein. I wouldn't call it a life-changing experience, but hey, when will I ever go to Lichtenstein again? Chris bought the most expensive fridge magnet of his ever-increasing collection; expensive because of the crazy exchange rate and relative wealth of the tiny principality. And we visited the Post Museum. Oh the dazzling array of letter openers they had. And that was Lichtenstein.
We weren't sure if we really had time to visit Innsbruck after our unscheduled stop in Strasbourg, but we had planned to have dinner in Austria from the beginning, so why not stop off in Austria en route to Munich? Seemed like a reasonable and in no way extravagant idea. So, we had dinner in Innsbruck, in the middle of some kind of Medieval festival while Innsbruck did it's best to convince us not to leave.
We arrived in Munich by 11pm, and were greeted by the sight of the second tent-hostel of the trip. This one was worse than the first. Imagine a giant refugee camp full of rickety bunk beds. It was essentially a massive tent that slept 160 in bunk beds.

The only saving grace was it only cost €10 for the night. But, cheap accommodation tends to attract the weirdos. Hence I heard one American ask a Dutch guy the following question, in all seriousness: “So, what is there to do in Amsterdam other than smoke weed and bang prostitutes?” Classy.

Day 6 – Munich
In Munich we managed to have one of the most German days you could have really. We had history with a walking tour of Munich about the beginnings of the Third Reich. We had food, eating more currywurst and bratwurst than you could shake a meaty stick at. We had fashion, in the form of trying on some rather fetching lederhosen.

And of course, in the country with the highest beer consumption per person in the world, we had beer. Would have been rude not to. Needless to say, the evening gets a bit hazy.

Day 7 – Heidelberg
After a slow start to the day (entirely Munich's fault for selling beer by the litre!) we took a trip to the toy museum in Munich. Then, it was off to Heidelberg, a place we chose based on the advice of some of the locals we spoke during the previous night's festivities. Oh, and because it had a castle, and what could be manlier on a Euro Man Voyage than checking out a castle? Nothing.

We also took a moonlit walk along a bridge that had a lot of couples kissing on it. Possibly some kind of lovers bridge? Either way, it reminded me a bit of when myself and Nick accidentally walked through a gay cruising spot in Kuala Lumpur. These things happen. Honestly.

Day 8 – Trier and back home
Back in the old days, Trier was the Roman capital for Western Europe, so it's got a fair bit of history. The last destination on our trip, Trier saw the Euro Man Voyage winding to a gentle close, before we covered quite a few miles on the drive home. But we still had time to go to the Karl Marx museum, which was originally the house he grew up in, until the age of about 17, and we also squeezed in a cheeky Roman amphitheatre. We may or may not have pretended to be in the film Gladiator.

Distance covered in car: 1984 miles!!


Chris said...

Good blog Mark. One amendment though: total distance covered was 1984 miles.

Mark said...

Ah yes, went all metric. Corrected!

derrick recky said...