Sunday, August 5, 2007

Where am I going and why am I in this handbasket?

Yes, we're alive! I feel compelled to apologize for the dearth of updates (I'm sorry!) but I shan't dwell explaining it and instead I'll do my best to rectify it. At the very lest I'll provide some thumbnail sketches that you can ask for stories about later.

Last we spoke we were leaving Amsterdam via a day train, with no reservations. This fairly casual, off the cuff style had served us quite well to this point. Crowded Cinque Terre made room for us at Mama's pensione, Nicole and Olivier opened their arms to strangers in Fribourg, and Hili appeared as if divinely summoned to welcome us to Klosterneuberg. Even Budapest somehow guided us to the right place through a series of happy chances. We did well and perhaps were even a bit spoiled. So much the better. All the while we knew we were trading certainty for freedom and as we worked our way back west we started trading the other way. You want on the train, you reserve ahead of time and pay for the privelege. Same for hostels in the big tourist cities.

{They know the backstory, cut to the chase. Yessir!}

Let this diagram represent our intended route:
A) Amsterdam-->Paris-->St. Malo

Let this dog turd represent our actual route:

B) Amsterdam-->Brussels Nord-->Brussels Midi-->Brussels Centraal-->Paris Nort-->Paris Montparnasse-->Rennes--> NIGHT -->St. Malo.

Yup, thats right; after more than 11 hours of traveling we arrived 60km short of our goal and missed the last train by 30 minutes. Ouch. And we thought we had already paid for the hostel in St. Malo, so we didn't relish finding and paying for yet another room, in Rennes, at 10:00 at night. We elected to stay the night in the station and catch the first train in the morning. Whereupon the local yokels informed us that the station closes at night. I had some choice words, but we had no choice. It's really quite perspective-broadening to be put face to face with how little circumstances care if you are pissed at them; pretty soon I had to just let it go as getting mad was utterly not going to accomplish anything. Instead we turned our attention to something that I had never considered before: where's a good spot to sleep outside in an urban area? Alongside my newfound respect for homeless of all stripes I also recalled all my camping experience. Where's a good spot to sleep ANYWHERE? Well, I thought as we surveyed our concrete landscape, might as well start with the 5 W's of any survival campside: Weather, Wood, Water, Wigglies, and Widowmakers. Wood and water weren't a concern as we weren't planning on building a fire and boy scouts always bring extra water, but we still wanted a place out of the weather, away from any wigglies, and clear of any dangers that might make for unpleasant rousings, in this case other indigents, trains, and cops, in about that order. Fortunately, in a "you can only get better from here" turn of events, we found the escalator down to the entrance of the closed metro station. Stopped for the night, the escalator formed a narrow staircase down to a cave-like burrow that ended at the drawn security door that led to the station. Out of sight, out of the weather, and with a natural choke point to limit...

Continued in next post for reasons of readability and because this box in the Heathrow airport is crippled by the protective features they've installed on it.

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