There is no greater feeling than a metro card in your pocket and good music playing in your ears. I love the city.
On a solo journey through some of Europe’s major cities. I am a wandering soul but not so much that I packed all my belongings into one backpack and am staying at hostels. I have a backpack and a 20″ roller bag, a nice jacket, and a European hat. I’m staying in nice apartments in the most desirable neighborhoods through airbnb.com. Sometimes I rent the entire place and sometimes I stay with roommates to help show me around. I don’t expect to find god on this trip as much as I expect to track down some really nice street art and landscapes. My major motivation to spend all of this money is to know what it feels like to live in different European cities and take photographs of Europe. It’s also rounding out the last month of my 6 month no dating spree. Taking this trip alone and being content with the world I see with my own eyes. Learning what my world actually looks like.
I hope you enjoy the photographs of Europe from these cities – Madrid, Barcelona, Prague, Berlin, Paris, and London.
I’m a little perplexed by London. Perhaps it’s because it was my last stop on the Euro trip and fatigue was making me see things. But I’ve been to very few places where I’ve witnessed a grown man peeing into a trash can on the side of the road while eating a submarine sandwich in front of a castle.
This place is rowdy, the people are brash, and I had a harder time understanding their English than the French being spoken in Paris. And at the same time it’s pretty damn cool, just depends what kind of mood you’re in.
I made sure to walk through Notting Hill reciting the famous Julia Roberts line, “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” Snapped that one for sure. And most of the time I spent bugging out over how much everything reminded me of the movies. The accents, the little top hat looking taxis, and the beautiful parks stretching grass blades across the whole the city.
If it didn’t cost 45 pounds to take a piss in a public toilet I’d return to this city with more time. Until then, I’ll rent an entire villa in Spain for the same price.
I keep looking for the words to describe Paris. What is different about it? How are the building and sidewalks any different than Spain, or Berlin, or Prague? All of these cities have been real life vignettes from films I grew up watching. But Paris feels different. I do believe the perception of a place has as much to do with the experience as the place itself. The second I turned down my street in Le Marais I got the feeling that I could take a bullet in the chest and not even stop to notice.
These pretentious, disheveled street philosophers don’t care much to have a perfect hair cut or the best hygiene, but they manage to be more cultured and more sophisticated than the rest of us on our best days. I saw a homeless man last night that was better dressed than me. Leather shoes and a newsboy hat. Not only were his clothes more stylish, he also wore them better. “Am I a dork?” I asked myself feeling as basic as a guy in a button down waiting in line at a club in Vegas.
Cafes on every corner. The chairs facing out, the people facing out. So they can people watch. Because they are all freaks and creeps. But it’s not a secret here in Paris, it’s a celebration.
I did see a homeless woman with two small children sleeping on a mattress under the street lights and a heavy blanket. I did not like that. Because there is nothing you can do in that situation. Give money and the girls lose their mom for the night to a man in an ally and a needle filled with junk. Keep walking and feel a hole in your stomach for the next 60 paces.
Shakespeare & Company – a bookshop, a library, a place where great artists used to come and volunteer to sweep the floors so they could crash on a cot next to a piano in a room filled with classics. Hemingway hung out there. So did Henry Miller. You can’t keep better company. Just to smell the scent from their ears as an original idea came to them.
La Rotonde – a palace of a cafe where tea is served in fine silver and the same great artists came to eat their crepes and drink their drinks.
Maybe I’m a sucker for Paris like everyone else is a sucker. But I can’t find it in me to deny this place of its magic.
The Berlin Wall wasn’t exactly as I dreamed it up to be. I was thinking more Great Wall of China magnitude but I don’t know why. There was some cool street art throughout and I guess if I could read German, some interesting stories of the city’s history. Berlin is just a giant graffiti canvas.
Men with long sweaters down to their knees. Tight leggings tucked into leather boots. Dark sunglasses cut in circles to cover their introspective eyes. Tight cropped haircuts up the sides and explosive waves of hair spilling out of the top in a way that is supposed to look casual but required the application of nine different products over the course of three hours.
Punk rockers with green hair and backpacks, torn up jeans covering their bloody knees.
A poor kid with a cup begging for change at the train. “No,” I told him.” “Oui,” he said. Wrong language kid, although I appreciate the European nod you just gave me.
An older lady begging louder for change at the train. Screaming at the boy, spitting on him when he gets too close. Maybe it’s his mom, maybe she is just an awful person.
There is trash littered all over the sidewalk. It is dirty here. And somehow, the trash is lit with a certain charge that makes me want to be OK with the grime, because it feels like hustle.
I fall in love every time I open my eyes. With style, with a gaze, with the way someone smokes a cigarette, with the leaves, the cold, the train, and everything else I really look at.
I realize the impact of war now. I read about bombings and things from my comfortable desk in Michigan. This city is post-apocalyptic. There is a medieval cathedral next to a steel and glass Mercedes Benz super building. Abandoned fields run the length of the train line and bud up to desolate factories.
Artists fled here to recreate. Now that they have tagged every wall and exhibited every piece the rest of the world wants to be here to see and to feel what they made. And because they brought their art, which brought the rest of us, they can no longer afford to stay here. I hear Poland is going to be the next scene, that is what they are saying. Berlin is dead already.
A major change from Spain, where everyone was kissing me on the cheeks and handing me beers and cigarettes. Where I tried to speak the language but mostly failed. Where I went to the beach and stared at castles in the same afternoon. Prague had the unmistakable sense of lingering oppression. Communism on one shoulder and the memory of war on the other.
Most cities have cool names for their neighborhoods. North Park, Hackney, Nob Hill, Harlem, Kew Gardens, and the like. You learn everything about Prague when you Google search, “best neighborhoods to stay in Prague,” and the results come in:
Wait for it…
And it doesn’t really stop. Or maybe it does, around 18 or so.
The streets weren’t filled with people singing and dancing like Spain. The style wasn’t as inventive. You weren’t likely to catch a smile from a stranger. More than anything, everything felt accounted for, clean, efficient, and a little grey.
I got so much work done though. I felt compelled to write so many things, call so many people from back home, and sort through a lot of thoughts. It was an emo few days, loaded with introspection and self-doubt, but man did I write what was in my heart.
The other fact is, Prague is absolutely beautiful. Unaffected by the war, aesthetically, not psychologically, Prague has bridges built in the 17th century, museums from the 10th century, and a castle (Prague Castle) that was built in 870AD. What does that even mean?!?!?
I would definitely come back to Prague in the late summer or early Fall and plan on meeting up with a group of creative friends and building out a make-shift production studio in one of the 200 year old apartments downtown. I know we’d have tons of inspiration and the right energy to get work done. It doesn’t hurt that Prague is dirt cheap.
BarTHelona! My love. Within 10 minutes of arriving to my apartment in the very hip and trendy El Born neighborhood, my roommate Israel asked if I wanted to jump on the scooter and ride across town to play ping-pong with his friends. Fuck it, I thought. And so it went.
My trip here wouldn’t have been what it was without my choice in accommodations. Israel and Urbez were so warm and friendly, I felt like they were brothers. We had dinner together a few nights, cruised around the city, played in a soccer game where I used my own testicles to block a kick to make up for my inability to score any goals despite 7 chances, hopped along rooftops, and said the word, “PACHANGA!” to each other at every silent moment.
When I wasn’t with them I found it very easy to get around and stay entertained. Between the urban scene, the parks, and the beach, Barcelona is about as diverse as a city can get.
I can’t stop thinking about how ‘warm’ it felt there. My neighbor invited me to a roller derby match, then made me dinner (3 courses of pasta and dessert) with her other friend at 1am.
Sleep at 3am, wake up at noon. OK, Spain.
So many experiences here that were just that, experiences. I was overly social from the beginning and it never slowed down. I honestly think I’ll spend the rest of the trip recovering from this.
Madrid was mostly meeting a friend that I had known very well for a very long time but never actually met. If you got a hold of the story from start to finish you could probably make a movie out of it. Advice to those meeting and talking online – cut to the chase and meet in person.
Thank you Europe. I will never be the same person again.