3 Weeks. 6 Countries. 8 Cities. 500 Dollars.
GERMANY. CZECH REPUBLIC. AUSTRIA. HUNGARY. ITALY. FRANCE.
~ Berlin. Prague. Vienna. Trumau. Budapest. Milan. Florence. Paris ~
A Gypsy Budget Part I: Anywhere But London
My 28 days with my pack of British misfits (http//www.agypsybreeze.com/apps/blog/show/42480241-snow-white-6-dwarfs-a-joffrey-pt-i ) in London was up and I had to go unless I wanted to be deported. Anxiety riddled inwardly as money dwindled. I knew the decision to come to London in the first place as soon as I had returned home in November was one that was not approved by my family or friends, but I had done it anyway. And I wasn’t ready to go back yet.
First things first, I just needed a ticket out of this country and I figured I could work out my next move once I exited. A cheap one-way ticket to Berlin was booked impromptu over careless whiskey dreams around 3 am and this time I was dragging one of the guys with me. Nige had 3 weeks off in between jobs and as always, he was eager to jump aboard A Gypsy Breeze.
It was the day before departure over lunch with Nige and his Dad that I realized how foolish I must look. I had no plans and no answers to Mr. Prescott’s questions about where we would be going, what we wanted to see and how we were going to travel. Really it didn’t matter where we were going; all we knew is that I had to be out and we weren’t ready to say goodbye so we were going anywhere but here. The phrase, we’re just going to wing it, was met with a bewildered and confused stare and I cringed inwardly knowing that my travel philosophy was not going to go over well as an explanation to anyone, especially any further border officials I might come into contact with that may be as angry as the one I had encountered at Heathrow airport on my way in.
Five hours before our early flight, a makeshift sketch of a plan was drawn. I had $500 left to my name and nothing coming in anytime soon. A wiser girl would have packed up her things, booked a ticket back home with that money and called it a day, but I wasn’t ready to quit yet. I lived for this thrill. We set a challenge for ourselves: 6 countries, 3 weeks, and $500 to get us from Germany to Paris where we would part ways at the end of the 3 weeks – Nige going back to England and me getting on a plane home unless I figured out a next move free of charge. We decided on Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Munich, Switzerland, Amsterdam and France…. an outline that would change course the further we traveled. We’d plan our next move in the current city we were in and so forth.
Descending into Germany was like falling into a grey abyss. The sky was grey. The ground was grey with dirty snow and the buildings were grey. It was freezing. Half expecting the German guards to deport me to America immediately less I reek havoc on another European country, I shakily handed my passport to the man behind the glass. After thoroughly inspecting me up and down and flipping through every page of the worn little book, he stamped me through and I heaved out relief as I entered.
Berlin was a strange place. Half of it in ruins and the other half built up with modern cityscape structures. It was all very grey and militant, as one would expect Germany to be. Heavy smog hung low over the ground leaving the earth indistinguishable from the sky. I wondered if we might be hidden from the rest of the world, some lost piece of land under this cloud, undetectable from those above, looked over and passed by without recognition. No one in. No one out.
The days lulled on- gloomy and sad with an oppressive presence that the people long ago seemed to give up on lifting. They carried on, as one often did in such conditions. But I couldn’t help but wonder … Did they remember what the sun felt like? The way daylight dances off of the rivers and buildings?
Darkness fell and gave the city an eerie glow, a beautiful brokenness. The Brandenburg Gate lit up at night powerful and victorious, proudly welcoming a past that stood before destruction. And the ominous Holocaust Memorial shrouded in moonlight with its stone rectangular blocks, taller and taller the deeper you crept, engulfing you in the sorrows of a thousand nameless faces.
In Eastside Gallery, strangers passed the colorfully graffitied Berlin wall ordinarily on their way to work and I wondered if they ever forgot the history here and what it represented. Dragging my fingers against the cool stone as I walked beside it, I wondered what it might be like to grow up here caged in by this wall before it was just a symbol. How many hands had touched this spot where mine now lay? How many men and women looked up to the top right here and dreamed of the day they could be reunited with their families on the other side? Were the tears of the long forgotten broken-hearted stained on the stone behind this paint? I wanted to be a part of them, to leave my mark that I was here. Rummaging through my purse, I found a dark red nail polish and painted my message into the wall with the rest before it was time to move on.
We had survived the first three days off of German street side currywurst and cartons of wine, rationing our money as best as possible. It was time to move on and it was decided, Prague simply could not be overlooked as we traveled south.
I introduce Nige to Bla Bla Car, a surprisingly “reputable” (if you could call it that) car sharing service I had used a time or two in my travels. Our driver is a very matter-of-fact German named Ivano. He picks us up after dark at the airport, hollers a bit about us being late, drives fast and sharp and then drops us off in Prague a few hours later. An impossibly tall youth helps us find our way through the metro, although Nige wouldn’t be inclined to admit as much, confident in his metro navigation with a hint of resentment for the 3 feet the boy had on him. The city is cast in darkness as midnight encroaches. We only have one day in this city but I’m determined to be swept away.
Prague by daylight is a different thing entirely. It’s cold and wet, snowing and grey. But as soon as I step outside this morning, my heart swells and I instantly regret only having one day here even before its begun. The colorful buildings and ornate architecture are something out of a whimsical fairy tale. Music and church bells fill the air and even on a cloudy, snowy day in January, I am in love immediately. Bubbles dance through the air everywhere, dashing color against the grey sky. Magic wafts through the air hinting of cinnamon and every turn down each street is more majestic than the next. This is the Europe I love.
There is so much beauty and old world glamor here compared to Berlin. I don’t know what I expected from the Czech Republic but it certainly wasn’t this. The temptation to see and do everything, cram in all the sites into 9 hours was not one that tempted me. Instead, I only wanted to do one thing… I wanted to get lost in Prague, swept away in its magic, so that is precisely what we set out to do. One day could never be enough and yet it captured everything we hoped to find.
With his frozen hand tucked into my mitten, we made our way down the cobblestoned streets, leisurely turning down each curving, narrow road we pleased in anticipation of what we'd find next. My eyelashes fluttered to see through the snow flakes and I giggled at his red nose. "What?" Nige asked in that adorable sideways, shy grin, blinking his bright blue eyes. "Nothing," I smiled and swung his arm as we passed a bread shop, the air outside it swirling with warmth and exotic spices.
Here in this moment, on this winter day, in this foreign European city, it seemed inconceivable that this was the same boy from under that bridge in Lisbon. That we were those same two strangers that had just happened to meet on that sultry night last June under that Portuguese full moon. Now, 9 months and 6 countries later, we were lost to the outside world, swept away in Prague...
Flight - London to Berlin: €30 with Ryan Air
3 Days in Berlin:
Bratwurst/ Currywurst - €1.50 ( 2-3 times a day)
Wine - €1.70
Train - €3.30, €2. 70 (Note~ If you attempt to screw the German honor system for their metro by not purchasing a ticket, they will inadvertantly screw you back with a €40 fee.)
Groceries - €6.20
Ride to Prague - €15 with Bla Bla Car
Hostel: €8 per night
.... Road trip continued in subsequent post with overall trip expenditure logistics.
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