You know when you’re at McDonald’s post-clubbing?
Yes, yes you do.
Everyone pretty much looks like hell. Girls are walking barefooted with feet dragging across the filthy filthy linoleum floor, dudes are squinty-eyed and discussing the night’s triumphs and mishaps, and it is arguably one of the grossest places to be picked up at at the end of the night.
There’s always a few people who are still club-drunk and are laughing loudly, sputtering out their menu order with the coherency of a toddler, and are generally making a fool out of themselves.
That’s Winda and I, the morning after we’ve broken Fabrizio’s ancient key, missed our morning train to Florence, and are subsequently left wondering our purpose in life in an Italian McDonald’s. We buy 1 euro espresso shots.
We are so. Freaking. hHngover.
It is 9:00 AM in Rome — we had to leave Fabrizio’s apartment due to his checkout policy/we needed to get out of there ASAP before we broke anything else of his.
We are laughing-slash-crying because our heads hurt so much from last night’s escapades. We look like crap. We have our giant backpacks with us — of which is comedic in itself because our backpacks look like they could eat us.
Just to backtrack a bit, this was not our only drunk night in Rome. We also had the opportunity to party with some ridiculous Italians.
Lemme tell you the story.
We’ve set up at Campo de’ Fiori. We have our mojitos, our grape-flavoured hookah. We are basking. A group of Italian dudes at the next table motion towards us to join their table. We submit to their boyish timidness (derived from speaking in broken English) and yet, their Casanova calibre assertiveness. They literally move all of our stuff — our drinks, hookah, table, and chairs — to join their table.
Naturally, they begin introducing themselves. Here we have a lawyer, e-commerce specialist, accountant, and..
“Taxi driver!” They exclaim in unison, pointing out their most outgoing friend whom had initially approached us. He smiles sheepishly. They pause for a second, taking in his self-consciousness. “… And stylist!” They add with enthusiasm/thick Italian accents, pronouncing it stye-leest!
We chat. They are hilarious. One of them, named Francesco, has an amazing handlebar moustache — reminiscent of our friend Alessandro — and continuously strokes it. They talk about their jobs and the friends emphasize just how stylish the Taxi Driver-sash-Stylist is. They really want us to know that he is more than just a taxi driver.
The Stylist invites us to a club.
We get into a cab and head to a Roman club. In hindsight, was it a good idea to get into a cab with strange Italians? I’m gonna say no…
Bumpin’ is not the word I’d use for the club we’re at — maybe simply interesting. The Stylist turns out to be an amazing dancer. Really amazing. Winda steals his stylish hat. We booty bump with Francesco. The Stylist does the Harlem Shake a few times. The ratio between men and women at this club is way off.
I can’t really remember all the details of getting home, but we do. A cab takes us back to our AirBnb in trastevere and I remember him asking for a kiss instead of paying him in euros.
Hard pass, my friend.
Ciao, Roma! You were so good to us.
Sidenote: I come back again for another adventure later on in my Eurotrip — this second time we meet two Italian boys who ask us if we’d like to break into the Coliseum! God bless the Italians.
A long and enchanted sigh escapes from my lips as I think about Italian food. First order of bidness is obvious then:
After praising the Lord Holy Jesus for bringing forth Italian cuisine, we meet an Italian. By the colosseum. And he insists on buying us gelato. We are not in Rome–at least not per se–we are, in fact, in a Lizzie McGuire movie.
He’s in fitted jeans — rolled and cuffed above the ankle — spotless Converse low-tops, a loose and perfectly draped sleeveless top, and round tortoise shell glasses. His hair is nicer than mine — a sublimely curled quiff — of which he runs his fingers through a little too often. He’s got olive skin, tanned to the perfect shade of beige from this Italian heat. He speaks in erratic hand gestures and a booming voice. To add to the spectacle, the man’s donning a handlebar moustache — of which he frequently strokes with his thumb and index finger (simultaneously) when in contemplation.
He is with an American friend. Oh, and his name is Alessandro.
“It was nice meeting you.” We are trying to leave.
Contrary to popular belief, we didn’t come to Rome to meet boys, y’all.
“I-ah woulda like to buy you gelato!” Alessandro boldly declares. His English is drenched in a heavy Italian accent and every statement sounds vehemently dramatic. The dude sounds like he’s reciting lines from a Greek tragedy.
I feel a sharp nudge in my ribs. Winda is very intrigued.
I stare at Alessandro. I’m flattered but not exactly swept off my feet by his proposal. We did not come to Rome to be swindled by some Italian casanova. “No, that’s okay.”
“No! I woulda like to!” He says. With more theatric hand gestures.
“You really don’t have to.”
“I-ah know I-ah don’t have to, but I-ah want to. I-ah inseest.” He insists.
Winda taps him on the shoulder to ask him the most important question of all. “Are you also buying me gelato?”
I can almost feel the soft breeze of her eyelashes steadily batting.
He squints at her behind his impossibly hipster glasses for a sec, as we hold our breaths, wondering just how well-versed he is in the art of Italian game. Any gentleman would extend the offer to a lady’s entire entourage.
“Yees. Yees, I-ah will!”
So, I left Denmark (extremely hungover, eyes swollen from crying, and boarding a 9-hour bus ride to Berlin) and my best friend from home met up with me in Europe..
Which only means more adventure-timing to write about. We visit London, Barcelona, Rome, and Berlin–we only get into a moderate amount of trouble.
“You do NOT want to get political with me!” I’m screaming. Top of my lungs. Full force. I’m screaming, and I’m probably spitting all over my friend who is trying to calm me down.
My head weaves to the right of her face, so I can get a good look at my oppressor. She’s too quick for me and continues to mirror my bobbing and weaving so that I can’t make eye contact with this douchebag motherfucker.
“You do NOT want to get political with me!” I repeat, because clearly–he does not want to get political with me.
It’s 5AM on a Saturday morning, post-club, we’re standing in line to hail a cab, it’s misting out, and I’m embarrassing myself and my friends in front of large percentage of the city’s Danish youth. I am just raging at this giant Norwegian guy in the middle of the street–jumping towards his towering physique, flailing my arms in the air in all my fury, and just being extremely World Star Hip Hop-ish cray.
He had asked me in a very accusatory tone, “Why do you have to bring such an attitude to Denmark?” To which I was immediately offended by and when the yelling started.
“What the FUCK is that supposed to mean?” The East Van in me is awakened.
He subsequently calls me a racist.
In my drunken state, I transcend into this obnoxious know-it-all Canadian girl. “You want to talk about political correctedness? Let’s do it LET’S DO IT NOW!” I shout.
“Kaylynn,” this is about the fifth time one of my friends is clasping my shoulders. “Let’s go home, it’s not worth it. Ignore him.”
More shouting ensues, further angry drunken words are exchanged, and I continue to make a scene despite the cajoling of my friends. Someone tells one of my friends to shut the fuck up. Tempers flare. I am going to kill someone via heated political discussion anytime now.
One of the Norwegian Guy’s equally massive friends appears on my left, “We’re really sorry. We’re going to go home this way, and you and your friends can go home that way, and we’ll never have to see each other ever again.”
He’s probably genuinely hoping he never runs into us ever again. In hindsight, I can understand why.
I don’t remember what exactly happens next, but I somehow get shuffled away from the Norwegian Guy and his very tall friends, and we get into a cab. I vocally and very liberally express my hatred for the Norwegian Guy as the cab driver takes us back home to our dorm. What a fucking asshole. I complain the entire way home about my attitude. I complain about my attitude.
“Do I have an attitude problem?” I wail in the backseat of the cab.
I have no pictures from that night, but here is a picture of me when I’m not trying to antagonize strangers while studying abroad in a foreign country.
“That will be 80 euros,” the airline dude says nervously.
Airline Dude’s very sweaty brow is reflecting off the fluorescent lights hanging above us and his attempt at feigning any last ounce of authority is more or less transparent. Poor guy probably gets reamed at on the daily for telling people they have to pay 80 fucking euros for luggage. It is literally some Utter. Fucking. Bullshit Vueling is trying to pull here.
It’s 9:30AM and I’m standing in Budapest airport with the world’s dirtiest ponytail, reeking of pálinka (Hungarian fruit brandy), and half my consciousness intact. We’ve been milling around in lineups like cattle for the past half hour. If I wasn’t still drunk from last night, I would be gratuitously casting dark gazes, making snarky comments in my head, eye rolling at conversations I’m not invited to, and being an all around salty asshat. But because I’m still mildly intoxicated from last night, I’m just floating in a vapid daze. We got home at 5AM last night, slept for 45 minutes, then booked it to the airport.
It’s been quite the night with the Hungarians.
“80 euros?” I sputter in astonishment/in my barely conscious stupor.
“That is very expensive.” I say slowly, as if he isn’t already aware and because I’m really hungover.
I stare at him, “That is very expensive.” I assume I’m repeating myself because I’m currently lacking the brain capacity to say anything remotely comprehensible.
The lady next to me starts laughing at me. She’s caught an earshot my unintelligible efforts at adult conversation. If there’s impaired driving, this is impaired negotiation.
“Fuck,” I whisper exhale and hand over my 80 fucking euros for my fucking stupid ass backpack. This is what Winda and I get for thinking we could get away with bringing our backpacks as carry-on. This is what we get for fucking with budget airlines.
Last night was such a mess. We meet Hungarians. More engineers. They buy us a lot of pálinka and we are then subsequently required to shout “Pálinka!” every time it’s consumed. We get our asses handed to us in foosball–after grabbing Winda by the shoulders and looking her dead in the eye and saying, “Don’t worry, I’m really good.” I am not really good at foosball. We go to a lot of bars. Hungarians have a way of making just about anything into a bar–twinkly lights, patio furniture, overhead projector with the FIFA World Cup on display, miscellaneous food truck, a tiki-ish bar, et voilà. Then there are the infamous ruin bars which, imagine a dirty, old, crumbling abandoned building, add various types of garage sale furniture, hang a fishing net over the ceiling, and serve alcohol. We drink Somersby apple cider, and I am extremely pleased. We almost get taken to a random flat (keyword: almost.) Hungarians are kind of romantic–I get told my beauty is like stars in the night sky, that I’m a Hungarian princess, and that this guy would marry me if he could speak English. Winda gets a stalker. I get a guy who doesn’t speak English (not the same guy who said he’d marry me.)
Winda resumes her role as Monica Gellar and I’m Phoebe in that episode where Phoebe is dating a diplomat who doesn’t speak a lick of English, and Monica is dating the functioning translator. I say this multiple times throughout the night. Loudly. The guy I’m with just looks at me and smiles very often.
“Oh. My. God.” I say, about fifty times throughout the night.
We stumble less than gracefully through the front entrance of our apartment building at an ungodly hour and laugh loudly/regretfully at the ridiculousness that is our night. In hushed tones we both agree to not say bye to James because he sucks and our time to escape is now.
Next stop, the Eternal City.
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.