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My first night in Europe

London to Amsterdam, May 2000

I met Ian and Christina at Gatwick. We traveled with Angie, a woman I'd met on the 'plane, to Victoria Station in London. We had soup and bread there, and chatted for a while.

We said goodbye to Angie, bought tickets to Cologne, Germany and 'saw London;' most of it underground. We popped down, over and up just long enough to see Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, The Thames, and that big Millenium ferris wheel. Oh, and also a lot of British--and also their funny little taxis and a double-decker bus plus a lot of cars, all driving on the left-hand side of the street.

Back in the tubes. Wow, what a bizarre engineering marvel that is. Ian told me that there is a saying that the rumor is there'e no 'up there;' that London is all tubes or whatever they call them. It's immense, modern, bizarre, multilayered and posted with the occasional high-tech security center.

That was London.

We traveled to Belgium via channel tunnel and got a train to Cologne. We went out to Thai food there. Ian and Christina ordered and all that in German. There I was in Germany with Ian and Christina, and having Thai food no less.

The cathedral there is immense and foreboding, beautiful in a dark way. We lingered around that on several occasions. Nearby is the original Roman gate to the city on that site. We went and saw the Rhine--a fast, powerful river.

We took a train that stopped many times up to Bad Breisig, the little city where they've been living. No taxi would answer the telephone, and so we hiked a mile or so to the top of a (very steep) hill, around and around on a narrow brick road, to the castle.

Yes, a castle. I spent my first night in Europe at the top of a real damn castle on the top of a hill in the middle of the Continent. It was pretty dandy. We toured the grounds the next day.

Then it was time to get on the next train — to Amsterdam.

I didn't mention that I was becoming a bit ill. Having become deyhdrated, I was fighting off an infection in my ear-throat gland thingy. I was sleeping a lot on the trains. I slept all the way to Amsterdam.

When I got here, I knew I had to find a place to stay, for sure. I was showing up a day late at my host's place, and had not been able to connect via telephone. I reserved a room in a hostel, having been 'recruited' by a 'runner' working for the hostel. She was cute and all, but I think I wasn't suckered as much as I just felt like a sure place to sleep was extremely important.

I left my pack there. I took the Metro- — the subway — to Weesperplein station. I met up with my host. He scolded me for being a day late, but gently. Willem was genial, and the accomocation was excellent. A houseboat in Amsterdam — you'd expect it to be cool, as long as everything is on the up-and-up. And it was.

I had to go get my pack. It seemed important for me to walk. So I did.

I found a coffeeshop on the way and stopped for a few moments. The guy there showed me where I then was on the map. I proceeded to become completely lost from there.

It's a good town to be lost in. And oh, did I get lost. Wow. Hours and hours. There were times I was just walking and looking for any place I'd passed before so I could go another direction this time.

After about eight hours of walking around central Amsterdam in absolute geographical confusion (but never worrying about safety,) I re-found the houseboat, went to my room, and fell asleep for most of a day or two.