If you couldn’t tell already, Winda is the ringleader of all things organizational. I occasionally call her Monica–as in Monica from Friends–to shine light on her particular OCD-ness and to purposely grind her gears (she’s not too fond of Monica–the word hate is often used when I bring her up), but for real–God bless Winda and her incessant need for order.
She is the reason we have yet to be kidnapped and then human trafficked as a limited time Asian commodity. She is the reason why this trip exists. She is the reason why I get up in the morning–because, quite literally, she is the one near-violently shaking my shoulders and going, “Kaylynn! We have stuff to do today! Get up.”
As a personal challenge to myself (and possibly a means of amusement for Winda), I am given the reins upon our arrival in Budapest. It is my sole responsibility to find shelter in this foreign country. Our European adventuring vitality is in my hands.
“Go, Kaylynn.” Winda nods to what’s ahead of us. It’s almost 9PM in Budapest, the sun is beginning to set, and we’ve arrived in what looks like a neighbourhood where panhandling is its main source of income.
I pause and look at her with the uncertainty of a child. We have just taken a bus from Prague to Hungary, and it was sooooo relaxing: cappuccinos were flowing and righteously handed to us; we were all happily nestled in plushy leather seats and basking in non-stop air con.
Now I’m holding a fucking map. I hate maps. Don’t give me a map. I’m not in Vancouver anymore–there are no mountains indicating where north is. I’m so confused. And sad. So very sad.
Winda crosses her arms and gets increasingly tight-lipped as we venture back and forth around the subway station. We walk one direction. We stop. We go the other direction. We stop. The walking aimlessly continues.
We are padding along the dirty sidewalk with our massive backpacks and a look of perpetual bewilderment plastered on my face. I know the Monica Gellar that resonates deep inside her wants to point us in the right direction/wants to yell at me for being a navigational aberration.
I stall a little. I’m hoping to awaken the OCD beast within her.
“Ummmmm,” I bite my lip and pretend to read the street signs. It’s all in Hungarian. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore. We venture towards what looks like a very dirty, spray-painted red, and audibly abandoned nightclub.
I get really sad for about ten seconds and wonder if I accidentally booked us a nonexistent/located in a shithole Airbnb. I had one job.
Winda’s now irritated and muttering under her breath–because I’m clearly leading us towards a Hungarian drug lord or a room full of money launderers.
I smile at her innocently, “Maybe it’s this way?” I offer despairingly, banking on any ounce of sympathy.
She doesn’t answer.
“Okay! I DON’T KNOW ANYMORE! Winda, help me!!!”
She snatches the map out of my hands and subsequently gets our shit in order. We arrive at our destination (it was five minutes away, in my defense) and meet our lovely Hungarian host. We also meet the most annoying person on the planet. And he lives with us.
We visit the famous castle. We watch a clock tower show (overrated.) We indulge in amaaazing strawberry and grapefruit beer for a euro, from a restaurant owned by the sweetest little man who helped us find our hostel on our first day. We have cute European breakfasts in our hostel. We go on a pub-crawl. We embark on a walking tour in 30 degree heat and learn more about Czech Republic during WWII (personal fav) alongside some self-deprecating narration. We befriend Americans. We get into a yolo-frenzy one morning when we come across what’s called bubble beer. It’s exactly what you think it is. It’s bubble tea but instead of a taro slush or whatnot, you are drinking syrup flavoured beer. I get passion fruit and rainbow jelly; Winda gets plain beer and pearls. She thoroughly does not enjoy her bubble beer. I most likely consume high fructose corn syrup mixed with alcohol at ten in the morning.
We have more Czech potato soup to the point where we feel like potatoes. We go to the Lennon Wall and gaze silently at its chaotic beauty–nodding approvingly to ourselves that we are all indeed dreamers. We have a lovely picnic with things found in our hostel room. We take a romantic paddle boat ride under the Charles Bridge. Winda tries making me call her captain. I refuse. Winda and I fall in love due to her exceptional organization skills and my bratty but surprisingly endearing behaviour.
Joking. That’s not until later on during our backpacking trip.
I’m ready to leave now. To my chagrin, we end up staying an extra night in Prague because busses heading to Budapest are booked full. I am near devastated. I want to leave this country. Everyone here is kind of cranky and I’m over the architecture. When it comes to backpacking, I’m smitten by the way a city feels as opposed to how it looks. I’m all about feeling as opposed to aesthetic value. Winda is like, “But the city is so beautiful!” Prague is stunning if you’re into gothic buildings, Disney-ish castles, and one big bridge–but I, for one, am over it. Prague is like the handsomest guy at the bar but he has absolutely zero personality/dumb as a doorknob/ends up being racist.
Bye, Prague. You were all kinds of beautiful and that’s about it.
We arrive in Prague. I’m recovering from an allergy attack, but am ready to bask in all the presence that is well-preserved buildings and el cheapo beer. We have heard rumours of Prague. Mainly that it is party central, dirt cheap, and that the ice cream is pretty legit. So we roam. We have dinner. Czech cuisine is particularly potato-ey. Winda and I are huge fans of their potato soup, and their beer is bubblier than expected.
It is fucking roasting in Prague, by the way. Stickiness is at an all time high, we are panting 95% of our time here, and it is a no-pants nation. As the sky dims on our first day in Prague and hordes of young travellers congregate in preparation for a night of debauchery (synonymous with Prague’s pub crawl), we wander into Prague’s Old City Square. It is très nice. The rumours are true–this is the equivalent to Helen of Troy–it is like standing in a fairytale come to life.
Face-To-Face With The Degenerates Of Our Country
We meet a fellow Canadian on our first night, and spoiler alert! I fucking hate him. As we’re seated having drinks on a patio–the evening air is all nice and serene, and with the Old City Square bustle in full view–we can hear his douchebag drawl from a mile away. “It’s called yellow fever in Canada,” he says knowingly to his friend, “Just go up to them and ask them how they are, and where they’re going tonight,” He’s purposely speaking very loudly. Homeboy’s got a case of unashamed, self-proclaimed yellow fever/most likely objectifies women on the daily. I obviously have to destroy him.
Canadian Douchebag is sitting with friends (which baffles me till this day, because really? He has friends?). His nice Hungarian friend asks us to take a picture of their group. Hungarian Friend explains that he’s here with his brother and his brother’s new wife (cue awww), and with his friend, Canadian Douchebag. He asks where we’re from, “We’re from Canada,” we say. Canadian Douchebag interjects–all slouched in his seat and oozing a perceived coolness about all things–“I’m from Canada too. Toronto.” No one fucking cares.
Hungarian Friend joins us, and we really like him. He tells us about his search for true love (I am dead serious, as is he), his struggle to find love while working in Germany due his issues with German and Hungarian women alike (no German wants to move to Eastern Europe, German women are hard to get, etc.) This man’s got a torrid love affair with media’s depiction of true love, and we sympathize for him.
His friend, Canadian Douchebag, however, is suuuuuch a colossal douche. He waddles over, uninvited obviously, and sits down next to me. An aura of ickiness immediately clouds over us.
“You Viet? You look Viet.” he nudges me, while simultaneously paying tribute to all panda fever stereotypes everywhere.
Is this flirting?
“No.” I respond dryly. Levels of unamusement are rising at speeds never seen before.
“What are you girls doing tonight?”
“We’re going out–”
“Can I come? I’ll pay,” Ignorant, sexist, and talks over people! We have struck Yukon gold here (pun-intended).
“No. We have our own money.”
“OK then, you can pay,” he throws his head back laughing, holding his stomach–fully absorbing the pronounced hilarity of his joke.
His presence continues to severely irritate me. He drones on–with the most pitiful attempt at flirting in the I’m-an-asshole-but-you-like-it approach.
I want to tell him he’s not remotely cute enough to pull that off. Instead, I whip my head to look at him dead on, and say, “You need to leave.”
His eyes widen in disbelief at my blatant lack of decorum, “Are you serious?” he stutters.
“You think you’re ahead right now, but I’m telling you, you’re not even in the running.” Not even.
Winda bursts into laughter from across the table.
The look on his face would make any feminist proud.
“You think I’m joking, but I’m not.” I add, shutting down any suggestion that this might be some flirty kind of witty banter.
He’s still staring at me in shock. “Wow,” he over-enunciates the ‘o’ in a dramatic attempt to make me regret my audacity. “Wow.”
He gets up to leave and turns to his Hungarian Friend, “This one’s a bitch,” he lowers his voice but not so that I can’t hear him. He wants me to hear his last stab at self-preservation.
Thank God, we got rid of that one.
Besides getting Canadian Douchebag to go the fuck away and befriending his Hungarian Friend, we resume our night of indulging in cheap beer and asking our server for fun facts about the Czech Republic. We love fun facts. We learn that Škoda (car brand that saved our life in Iceland) is from the Czech Republic. We eventually venture into Prague’s nightlife district, and subsequently fall asleep at a club.
The constraints of jetlag has produced the following napping milieus: public spa room, in the parking lot of a Taco Bell, at our hostel in Germany instead of going on a pub crawl, and now a club in Prague. Yes. It is possible to completely doze off while eurotrash techno reverberates off the walls. Our bodies have failed us. We go home with our heads hung in shame, and pray for a better, less sleepy, tomorrow.
If there exists a certain finesse to catching trains, Winda and I have not mastered it. Fuck no. Catching trains borders on the familiar processes of me going, “We’re not going to make it,” Winda saying, “We have to make it,” a scramble for appropriate train accoutrements (snacks), the preeminent mad dash (it is so not cute to run with a giant backpack, let alone with two), and a lot of panting.
We finally get on our train (arms laden with sandwiches and currywurst.) Being from Canadia and all, we rarely use trains to travel, and so the idea of reserving a train seat is beyond us. That is, until we get on the actual train and notice just how fucking packed it is.
After a lot of, “Is this seat taken?” we finally settle into a cabin with a nice Taiwanese boy who studies mechanical engineering in Frankfurt, and adult twins from somewhere in Bavaria. An older German dude joins us later, but that’s later.
Allergies? This Is New Information.
We’re slowly getting comfy in our seats, nestling deep into our nap positions, when it starts. I’m suddenly overcome with a case of the sniffles. My eyes begin to burn–it literally feels like someone smeared Tiger Balm on my eyelids. I rub them until my eyes water. My eyes hurt to open because they’re basically swollen shut now. Winda panics and says, “Are you okay?!?! Kaylynn, I think you’re having an allergic reaction!!!” Fuck me.
The rest of the train ride is spent with our cabin window closed because we figure I’m allergic to pollen. Our new Taiwanese Friend and the Adult Twins are so incredibly understanding about the whole ordeal, despite the fact that we basically spend the next 5 hours and a half in a makeshift sauna. I kid you not, it’s 23 degrees+ outside, and so our cabin is now refuge to sweaty international bodies.
Obviously, I feel like a complete fucking asshole the entire time. Old German Dude joins us for a little while, sweats his ass off for some time, and then nopes the fuck out as soon as the train starts emptying. For the rest of the train ride, Winda and I change into denim shorts, and I have aviators on to mask the hideousness that is my eye situation right now. Crisis under control.
I Buy Chocolate From A Giant Dick
Train rides are kind of like roadtrips, because you are literally stuck with a certain amount of people for a certain amount of time. In addition to Adult Twins from Bavaria, Old German Dude in khaki shorts who definitely hates me, and every Asian mom’s dream come to life (did I mention that our Taiwanese Friend is trilingual?)–there is a delightful youth marching band aboard, whom squeeze out a cheerful song every now and then; a group of Italian teens that repeatedly burst into the chorus of Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You, and abruptly stop after “I need you baby, to warm the lonely night,” because they don’t know any more of the song; and our personal fav, the Bavarian Bachelor Party.
It all starts with a group of guys in their mid-20s knocking on all cabin doors–box of condoms and candy in tow–asking if we’d like to purchase anything for a euro. I give them my best Fuck off, now glare through my sunglasses, as they badger our Taiwanese Friend about getting a condom–since he’s so appropriately seated with Winda and I. One of them is donning a giant penis costume. His friend explains that they’re collecting money because Giant Penis is getting married soon, and this is his bachelor party. Everything makes sense now. The penis. The condoms. The shameless solicitation of spare cash.
We learn that Prague is the Las Vegas of Europe, and that publicly humiliating the groom via forcing him to wear unflattering costumes for the entirety of the trip is the norm. Taiwanese Friend is a gentleman (like I said, poster child for Asian moms everywhere), and agrees to give them a euro in exchange for a photograph. Winda and I buy chocolate, and the throng of chanting Bavarians disappear for the time being.
The Bavarian Invasion
The Bavarians come back–three of them to be exact. They reek of beer and the faint smell of day-old cigarettes. Two of them start talking to us–asking us if we’re sisters (we’ve gotten that a lot), where we’re going and where we’re from, and the likes. The third Bavarian is clearly very drunk and hyper. He begins to parkour in the train. I’m dead serious. I ask his friends, “What the fuck is he doing?” and he pops his head into the cabin, “Parkour!”
We never get their names so, I’ll just have to name them based on their personalities: Tall Glass of Water, What-Are-You-Like-40?, and David Guetta. David Guetta is the one parkouring, by the way. While Tall Glass of Water and What-Are-You-Like-40? try to lay the mack down, David Guetta continuously cockblocks his friends by brazenly and repeatedly sliding the cabin door close. This goes on for a long period of time: David Guetta slide the door close on his friends as they are mid-sentence, TGW and 40 slide it back open in exasperation.
They tell us about their plans in Prague: strip clubs and big asses. TGW literally says they’re going to find strippers with a big ass. Being very interested in European languages, Winda and I ask the guys to sing us their national anthem. Please start picturing two grown ass men with guttural German voices, slightly inebriated and swaying, and occasionally–but pridefully–slurring the words to the Bavarian Anthem. We are laughing at this point. Such a marvellous spectacle is upon us.
In the brief moments between trying to crawl to the ceiling and do backflips off the walls, I tell David Guetta that he looks like David Guetta. He abruptly stops his acrobatics and stares at me dead on, “I am much better looking than David Guetta.”
He trudges between TGW and 40 (as they’ve been standing on either side of our cabin door), and gets to eye-level with Winda and I. Very seriously and mildly drunkenly, he wants to clarify, “I’d like to think that I am in between looking homeless and looking like David Guetta. But I think I look more homeless than I do David Guetta!”
And he goes on. He tries to say, “How dare you!” but it comes out, “How you dare!!!!!” with excess saliva, and some wobbling. He says some crude things about David Guetta that I won’t repeat. We are laughing. Offended David Guetta is hilarious. We love Offended David Guetta.
“Hey Winda, Didn’t You Say You Wanted A Pretzel?”
TGW, 40, and David Guetta eventually leave. Winda and I discuss food (one of our greatest passions.) I say I wish we had gotten more currywurst, and she says, “I really wanted to try a German pretzel.”
Lo and behold, a new face comes knocking on our door.
This guy–definitely an active member of the bachelor party–stumbles towards us, drunk eyes all wild and ablazin’, wafting in the scent of expired beer, and wielding a half-eaten pretzel. “I’ve come to offer you a pretzel!” he boldly announces, and then very nearly falls over. Winda politely declines. I look at Winda and tilt my head, “Hey Winda, didn’t you just say you wanted a pretzel?” She gives me the death glare, “No.”
Our guest introduces himself as the brother of the groom. In response to our refusal, he offers–in broken English and struggling to find the right word for chive–to butter the pretzel and serve it to us with minced chives (schnittlauchbutterbreze.) How sweet is that???? I smile at Winda and say again, “But you said you really wanted to try a German pretzel just now!” She’s about to cut off all my hair in my sleep.
Spoiler: we never take the pretzel. Because, really, where has that pretzel been? What is its life story? Do we even know about that pretzel’s life? Instead, we have a nice chat about the brother of the groom’s new piece of real estate situated on a farm. Him and his girlfriend bought it together. Very, very sweet.
And then we arrive in Prague.
I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me… But it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much–my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain, and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… You will someday.” – Lester Burnham, American Beauty