Our first European “Impression” has been an absolute blast. I use the term “impression” because this part of our adventure has involved two flights (with one to come), 16 cities in eight countries, a week on a boat and approximately 45 squillion hours on a Busabout bus… not that I’m complaining. This has all been neatly squeezed into seven weeks and it has flown by so fast I’m struggling to remember where exactly we’ve been. I can hear you all now… “Oh you POOR thing, forced into spending such a looong time in such a HORRIBLE place… how about you swallow some concrete and harden the f**k up!” Fair call. But, truth be told, Amber and I are actually craving some routine right now and are looking forward to setting up camp in London.
Now, back to that jealousy-inducing stuff. We’ve just spent our last full day of our European Adventure at Lapad beach in Dubrovnik lazing about in 30 degree heat and we’re now back at our guesthouse getting ready to revisit Dubrovnik’s beautiful Old Town for one last dinner out. Tough life. What I thought would cap off this adventure is the impression (there goes that word again) I’ve got of the PEOPLE in Europe. Bearing in mind the huge generalisation that involves pigeon-holing such a diverse and patriotic group of individual nationalities, I would say the one thing that permeates throughout the nations we’ve visited is… passion. Passion for all number of things. But, from my experience in particular, passion for the following things:
- Terrible Driving. This is not to say ALL Europeans are “passionate” about driving like blind, lead-footed maniacs, but the huge amount of (to put it plainly) CRAP driving observed (particularly when seated up front on the bus) leads me to believe that it’s somewhat of a national sport. Various events that would be held in any Crap Driving Championship might include; Longest-time-spent-driving-right-on-top-of-the-centre-line, Fastest-speed-past-a-pedestrian-crossing, Longest-time-spent-parallel-parking-on-a-main-road, Playing chicken with the biggest/fastest truck/bus/brick wall and Most-unnecessary-avoidance-technique-at-high-speed.
- Hypocritical attitude to the English language. To be fair, this is mostly pointed at the French and, to a lesser degree, Italians. I swear a large amount of customer service representatives in Europe go out of their way to pretend not to speak English, in the hope you will either bugger off from whence you have come or attempt to speak their language thereby giving them a huge laugh because your attempt at asking for a large beer has sounded similar to asking for a large elephant or letterbox or something equally as embarrassing. I say “hypocritical” because, in general, Europeans seem happy – if not apparently “chuffed” – to stroll around wearing t-shirts with cliché tag lines written in… English. Just this morning, while being serenaded by terrible Croatian pop music videos, I saw a lead singer wearing a t-shirt exclaiming “F**k Google, Ask Me”. Oh how hilarious.
- Doing Bugger All. Here’s one thing we can probably all relate to. Given the right time, frame of mind and level-to-which-important-stuff-has-been-done, I’m ALL for doing bugger all. But these crazy Europeans are passionate about it. It’s no wonder various EU countries are so much financial strife – they ritualistically make a habit of doing BUGGER ALL. Spain is a fine example. You wander on in to a shop, they ignore you until you make a half-ass attempt at Spanish, they laugh because you inadvertently asked for a Butterfly coated in Facial Cream for lunch, they take your money, then (because it’s 12pm) they close shop for a 4-hour “siesta”. Tough life.
- Correct Change. This one cracks me up. In little ol’ Un Zud, retailers cherish any form of money. To them, it’s cash in the till… it’s their livelihood. Retailers in Europe (without any nationally-specific exception so far) take heed of this! I’m sorry I don’t have correct change for the €1 bottle of water I so desperately want, maybe it’s because I only just managed to get cash out of one of your temperamental ATM machines (the 3rd I’ve tried today) and all they gave me were €50 bills. How about you generously accept my business and be grateful for my tourist dollar? Then I’ll carry on enjoying my time in your country. Silly really.
- Budgie-Smugglers. Yes, Europeans LOVE their Speedos. Needless to say, the togs/undies rule (introduced by our good friends at Tip Top) does not apply in Europe and, by the amount of “old man wang” spotted on various Spanish beaches… even swimming apparel is optional.
Some of you may think this is me being harsh. It is really, but I have actually absolutely loved my time in Europe. It’s crazy big, amazingly beautiful (quite dirty though) and full of awesome new experiences and (mostly) great food. Some of you hopefully had a laugh, and that’s good, there’s more to come on Europe yet…