The air in Rome is dirty. I can feel it weighing on my chest. Each breath heavy with the fumes of busy city life. I realise how spoiled I am to have grown up in the country with air clean and crisp like cut glass. A man in workman’s trousers, a thin puffer jacket, and a blue baseball cap, sharpens knives collected from the surrounding restaurants and cafes in the boot of his car. The grinding noise blends into the hubbub of sirens, car engines, and motorbikes busying the street below. We are on the first floor of the apartment block we are staying in, in Via Silvestri. Opposite us, varieties of pine and palm trees, grow up taller than the blocks of flats they lean close to. Down on the street, a man wheels three crates, overflowing with rocket, around the corner. Matthew is working on his paper for Friday. We drink espresso, with a bowl of olives and cold cured meats that we bought yesterday from a local delicatessen, between us. In an hour or so, we will take a tram to the centre of Rome, and begin exploring…
We started our day in a cafe with coffee and cake. Mum ordered a chocolate filled pastry-thing and a cappuccino. I had a double espresso. An unfortunate habit I’ve developed since travelling Europe, not because it’s a double espresso, but because I tend to have a total of three throughout the whole day.
We’d overslept and were heading to the Louvre much later than we’d hoped.
When we got there the queue was already snaking its way back and forth from the door to an undesirable length. Men brandishing selfie sticks tried to sell us unofficial tickets repeatedly as we hovered at the information board, deciding what to do. Continue reading
I arrived in Paris late. My rucksack was heavy and I wanted to go to bed. I’d been on the move for fifteen hours since waking up at 4:30am and boarding my first train in Konstanz at 6:30am.
Mumma was meeting me off the Metro at Pigalle. She’d travelled out the same day but had arrived earlier and already checked into our hotel. We were staying at Hotel Sacré-Cœur, not far from Montmartre.
Montmartre and the surrounding area is famous for being home to The Moulin Rouge, and frequented by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Mattise, Vincent Van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Suzanne Valadon. Drinking, smoking, collaborating, and living here, Montmartre became known as a haven for artists during the period of 1872 to 1914.
It was here that we were staying.
Here that would be home for the next three nights.
Mum was excitable and chatty. I showered. The hot water washing away the day’s travelling. I could hear Mum shouting something to me from the bed room, “I can’t hear you!” I called back. Continue reading
When I woke up I had more energy than I’d had for days. I was full of beans and excitement. My transport for my next two destinations was sorted, and I had a vague plan for how I was going to get from Konstanz to Paris. I had slept for almost twelve hours.
I showered and sat at the kitchen table drinking coffee with Nina.
“Thank you so much for yesterday. It really meant an awful lot to me how understanding and kind you were. I had hit burn out. But I feel so much better today. So thank you.”
“That’s OK. I just wish I’d known what to do…”
“You were perfect! You gave me a hug, you let me have some space in the evening, but most of all, you gave me an unending supply of muffins. You couldn’t have done more. Really. Thank you.” Continue reading
Afraid of missing my train again I woke up at 6:30am to catch the 8:30am train to Ljubljana, Slovenia. It was a straight through journey. No changes. I just had to get there on time.
I slept badly. My bunk buddy snoring so loudly I thought there was an earthquake, as well as shouting in his sleep. It’s not really permissible to put a pillow over a stranger’s face, so I put it over my own instead, hoping to drown out the sound but with little to no avail.
I gathered my things and left. There was a metro stop right outside of Hostel Maverick so I didn’t have far to walk. I went to a bakery and bought some pastries for my journey, caught the metro, and in the bleary white morning light, found myself at my station with an hour to spare. Continue reading
I was looking forward to Budapest. To travelling alone again. Moving on from hostels and back to couchsurfing. This was the trajectory I had set myself on for this trip, and although it had been nice to meander into the realm of travel buddies and hostels, I was happy to return to my original path.
I climbed onto the sofa pallet bed, stepping over Stuart to lie down and give him a hug. It was 8am.
“Goodbye Stuart. Maybe see you in Budapest.” Continue reading
It was 11:00am and I wanted to leave.
Stuart was smoking. “We’re not in a rush, are we?”
“Umm, no, we’re not in a rush.” How could I say we were? We weren’t. But I wanted to go. I didn’t want to “chill out” and “slow down”. I wanted to go, go, go. I had a town to see. Sights to explore. An environment to take in.
I could feel myself getting fractious. Irritable. Continue reading
We got up, packed and were on our way to Cesky Krumlov by 11:00am. We took the number 16 to just outside of the coach station. We had six minutes before our coach was due to leave.
We couldn’t find it.
We found a yellow bus with “Cesky Krumlov” written on the list of stops on the side of the bus. “Could this be us?” I pointed.
“FlixBus are usually green. But they do sometimes contract out… I’m not sure.” We asked the driver, he nodded, or at least we thought he did, until we showed him our ticket before trying to board.
“THIS IS NOT FLIXBUS!” he shouted, pointing dramatically at the bus logo on the side, placing his hands on to it for extra emphasis. “NOT THIS BUS.” He took our bags out of the hold with dramatic exasperation, sighing loudly.
We wondered what to do. If this wasn’t our bus, then our bus wasn’t here. Had we missed it? Continue reading
The previous evening, chilling in my PJs, I met Stu. He was from Canada, had been travelling for seven months, with another three to go. We chatted and laughed. Went for a beer and bought takeaway pizza. It was nice to feel a connection with someone. I’d been sad to leave that behind in Berlin.
I laughed, “Every five minutes? You’ll be lucky if I check it every hour.” I wasn’t joking. Travelling alone, separated from everyone, I was enjoying it. I didn’t want to feel attached to my phone waiting for a text. I wasn’t even sure I wanted company.
The weather was brighter but chilly, the sky had cleared. My plan was to cross the Charles Bridge, visit Prague Castle, and then go to the monastic brewery.
I caught the number 22 to Narodni Trida and from there walked the streets until I found the Charles Bridge. I wasn’t in a rush. I was happy to see where the roads took me. Continue reading
I got back from PAX BAR the night I arrived in Prague, and went down to the hostel bar. I was uncomfortable. I didn’t want to step out of my comfort zone. I was safe in my bubble of being alone. But that’s not the point of staying in a hostel. You’re supposed to talk to people. Meet other travellers.
I sat in the bar, alone, and thought, Why isn’t anyone talking to me? And then, Well shit Hope, you might actually have to be the one to start the conversation. The prospect was horrible. A pub quiz was taking place and everyone was sat round tables in groups already. I spotted one table. Kept telling myself to just go over and join them. It felt so unnatural. Continue reading