Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Ten years ago today - My European Adventure

Ten years ago today, I set out on one of my most wonderful adventures - a four week solo backpacking adventure through five European countries. Since I'm on vacation in the real world, I thought I'd pilfer from my own material and reprint some of the entries from my travel journal over the next month.

6:25 am 27 July 1995
10 km over the Celtic Sea

This is so indescribably cool! We've just come into sight of the very western tip of England. The sun is just rising behind it. I can't believe I'm actually about to fly over England. The sunrise is so beautiful. How odd to have had the sun set just four or five hours ago behind us and now see it rising in front of me. How disconcerting, yet oddly reassuring. The same sun also rises here.

The trans-Atlanic crossing was quick and relatively painless (if you don't count cramped knees and a stiff neck.) It was dark most of the way, so I pretty much convinced myself we were still over Labrador the entire night. I am so ready for this trip!... I'm not afraid at all now. For all the nervousness I feel, I could be descending into Toronto.

God, you should see it down there. How different it looks from Ontario. If Canada looks like an orderly patchwork quilt from above, then England looks like a crazy tile mosaic.

same day, 9:40 am

How can I describe Amsterdam? Coming out of Centraal station, I almost turned and made a run for the airport and the familiarity of home. Even at 9:00 in the morning, Damrack (the main "strip" coming from the station) is seedy, dirty, decadent and intimidating. It's also terribly foreign (not unlike New York City) and extremely intriguing.

Swallowing the urge to flee (or hide!), I walked out onto Damrack in what I thought was the general direction of Rodhuisstr, home of Hotel de Westertoren. I suppose now is as good a time as any to lament that Amsterdam has no (discernible) street signs, and the sidewalks look dangerously like the streets (and vice versa).

After getting turned around (but not quite lost) more than once, and almost being run over by, at various times, a car, a cyclist and a tram, I found my most recent home at the top of the most steep, narrow staircase I have ever seen. Because the room wouldn't be available for a few more hours, the friendly proprietor let me stow my pack in the office, gave me a map and set me off to wander for a while.

And so I wandered. The further you get from Damrack, the more absolutely breathtakingly beautiful the city becomes. Incredibly narrow cobblestone streets crisscross the canals, lined by tall, cramped, narrow canal houses. Everything is close together, stacked precariously high and completely enchanting
. This is the Europe of which I have dreamed.

It is almost 10:00 and the city is starting to wake up. I'm almost finished my small, powerful coffee in this charming, canal-side corner cafe, and the city is calling me to lose myself in it. But I'll be back.