Though I haven’t been traveling for a long time, I’ve been around a fair bit. And even when you’re on a weekend trip, things happen to you. So when you’re actually on a slightly extended trip, MORE things happen to you! Good things, bad things, funny things, insane things! So here’s a my top ten list of some of the nice things I got to experience… People who went out of their way to help me, gems I stumbled upon while wandering aimlessly etc etc…
So, in chronological order… Tadaaaa!
(1) Eating Kniddelen Off The Beaten Track in Luxembourg
I had booked my up and down tickets 4 days apart assuming that there’s a lot to see in the little country, but I was wrongly suggested that a day is enough for Luxembourg. So I spent a day and a half in the city, thought I was done, and spent the other two in Metz and Trier. Thing is, 1 day is enough for the city, but not the country. Thankfully, the girl I went to Trier with (someone I met on couchsurfing), decided to show me around the countryside a little bit.
AND she got me a box of homemade Kniddelen. Just like that!
(2) Carpooling For Free
I carpooled fairly extensively all over Europe, and I was pretty much used to the system. Arrange a ride, meet at the designated spot, drive along making small talk, reach, pay and leave. Maciej, though, was so amazed to find a (all his words, not mine 😛 ) solo, female, Indian, carpooling traveler, with no concrete plans, not even a place to stay in the city we were going to reach in a few hours (and, of course, also because I’m so nice 😄 ), that he didn’t just refuse to take money for the coffee we had on the way (which is still okay), he treated me to lunch at a nice Pierogi place in Wroclaw AND didn’t let me pay him for the 4-5 hour ride!! All he wanted in return was postcards (which I finally sent!!) and coins from India, and a promise that I would stay safe.
He also gave me his friend’s mother’s number so I could stay with her in case none of my other options came through.
(3) Going To Prague
Much to my dismay, I missed my original ride to Prague from Berlin. This led me to Wroclaw for a day with a half-formed plan in my head to catch a bus to Prague from there the following morning. I looked up some buses, found a convenient one and saw there were enough tickets left. But, yes, I’m a genius and I didn’t think it would be necessary to buy a seat in advance, and just showed up at the bus station about an hour early. Sold out, of course. I was getting frustrated and pissed off and then Tamara showed up like a blessing with an extra ticket. I wondered if it was a scam, what with her turning up at the perfect moment and everything, but it wasn’t, and I happily got to Prague on a nice air-conditioned bus with nice people sitting around me. Tamara said the ticket wasn’t hers, so she couldn’t let me pay for it, and I said I couldn’t just take it for free. We finally ended up bumping into each other in the evening at Prague and I treated her and her friend to dinner. Win-win!
(4) Hitchhiking For The First Time
It was late, it was getting dark and I was scared out of my mind. I had never hitchhiked before, and the idea was appallingly terrifying to me. I had missed the last bus and I was literally in the middle of nowhere, no cars, no houses… Nothing. Almost in tears, I stood by the side of the road (with a very sulky face, mind you), having given in to the fact that I would have to resort to hitching a ride to my hostel 100kms away. Now, there are some rules for hitchhiking, none of which I knew at that point. You should look smiley and happy and a joy to have in a car. I was the exact opposite. I thought someone would feel sorry for me and give me a lift. Of course, it doesn’t work that way. If I knew, maybe I’d have gotten a ride earlier.
But anyway, 4-5 hours of struggling later, this lovely family helped me. They deserve a post of their own, and that’s here 🙂
(5) Stumbling Into An Absolutely Random Restaurant Which Turns Out To Be Absolutely Delicious
I’m superbly uncannily talented at walking right into tourist traps and spending good money on absolutely sub-par food. So when I happened to see this signboard in front of a restaurant a street away from the main touristy central area of Budapest, I skeptically walked up and down the street a few times to figure out if it was worthy of a visit or not. It passed the ‘menu language’ test. By not having an English menu, it confirmed that it wasn’t solely for tourists. I entered. The staff barely spoke English, and I just gestured to them to serve me anything nice. A bowl of delicious cold fruit soup and a plate of fried cheese later, I was wonderfully content (almost uncomfortably full) and down only about 4 Euros. Compare that with the same meal in the main square which would have set me back about 20-30 Euros!! Pity I couldn’t find that restaurant again
(6) (Almost) Any Hitchhiking Story Actually
Barring one scary story, which will finally be revealed in Part 3 of this series, all my hitchhiking experiences were delightful. Everyone I rode with was extremely friendly and helped me as much as they could. Some went much further out of their way to make my life that much better. Marjeta and Vid bought me ice cream, took me home for lemonade and then Marjeta met me the next day in Ljubljana for coffee and a walk in the city centre.
(7) Getting To Go To Croatia
Croatia was not a part of the EU when I moved to Milan last January. So I had pretty much struck it off my to-visit list for the year. There were plenty of places to visit with the Schengen area, why bother? But when I was in Berlin in late July, some girl I spoke to randomly mentioned that Croatia had just joined the EU!! On 1st July, in fact!! Thankfully, I make no plans, ever, in advance, and because of that I managed to visit Zagreb and Split for a good 4 days!
(8) Getting Invited To Stay At Someone’s Home
When I read about these ‘getting invited to stay’ and ‘getting invited for meals’ in other blogs, I never imagined it would happen to me. How does it happen? Am I supposed to drop hints when I’m talking to random people? Am I supposed to straight up ask? Will they? Would I ever offer to let some strange tourist stay at my place just like that? Well… It didn’t just happen once with me, it happened TWICE! One time was with Liliana in Bucharest, who overheard me asking for directions to the city centre in the train and insisted I stay with her.
The other time was with Ugi, Marko and Mateo, who I just happened to share a table with at a restaurant in Split. Next thing I know, we’re chit chatting and I’m laughing my head off at their (particularly Ugi’s) politically incorrect, but perfectly true, comments.
(9) Finding a Travel Buddy
Angel, the extremely nice and friendly manager at Hostel Mostel in Plovdiv decided I shouldn’t have to travel by myself in strange countries in Europe. Though much of my traveling for the year was behind me, he handed me a little Scooby to keep me company for my last few weeks.
(10) A Tour Guide In Thessaloniki
I was only in Thessaloniki for a day, a few hours in fact. I reached in the afternoon and had a flight at night. When I reached the bus station though, it turned out that there was a bus strike, and the only way to the city centre was a (relatively) pricey cab ride. Taking a cab would go against my ‘backpacker’ image 😛 so I decided to walk it. A little while later, a taxi stopped next to me. The passenger was a man who had been with me on the bus to Thessaloniki, and he offered to drop me to the centre. Then he spent an hour or two taking me to some sights nearby. At that time I was a bit annoyed and contemplated running off when he wasn’t looking, but hey, it was a nice thing to do!
It does go to show that the world is actually such a nice place. Maybe my funda of not carrying pepper spray is justified, no? 🙂 What are your favourite travel memories?