Memories Of Youthful Travels
It's a hot summer in the early Eighties. My travelling companion and I drown in curiosity and careful appraisal as we lurch along the train, throwing our bags overhead. I turn and all eyes are upon us. They feel no embarrassment at being caught, and only after being stared down will they finally turn away. Everything about us is analyzed: our bags, our boots, our clothes, our faces. Their eyes run over us in a staged progression. It is not an undressing, it is a clinical evaluation. And the prognosis, in my imagination, is a series of emotions: derision, disgust and jealousy, but also admiration.
In France we saw a chain of billboards depicting two lightly - encumbered young men being passed on a mountainside trail by a gonzo hiker, dwarfed by a huge pack that dangled with every necessity and luxury imaginable. Although we never deciphered the French slogan underneath, the butt of the joke was clear.
We are admittedly smelly and sweaty. People stare as we eat on the trains, perhaps with hunger or perhaps because they cannot comprehend our rudeness; never mind that they themselves do it often. Sometimes they would even move away from us after we sat down near them. Europeans are proud to the point of snottiness over their commitment to civil rights. It is a delusive commitment, believe me.
But after all, are we not on holiday? Two young lovers exploring the world, dirty and grungy, but we have one another. I doubt that the romanticism can be lost on the European mind. We carry our lives on our backs like turtles. We find adventure and the exotic in the everyday, like miniature Marco Polos in the lands of Khan. And not only are we not fearful or intimidated, we laugh and carry on. Brits and Kiwis, Yanks and Aussies, Frogs and Krauts. We are bound together by a lifestyle of guidebooks and train station lockers. We form our own society, swapping war stories on trains, chatting over tepid coffee in hostel dining rooms. Thieves and misfortunes become badges; nothing short of serious injury stops our ambition.
Or at least this is what I imagine. Like seeing a praying mantis take on a tai chi stance - one long claw out - stretched towards me, the other kept high near its head - it is really only my personification. There is no telling what the mantis is really thinking or doing.
And I never will. But that's because I cannot speak to a mantis. Or eat with a mantis. Or drink with a mantis.
The Munich hauptbahnhof on a late June day. I leave Julie with the packs and go looking for a glass of beer to dry the wet streak between my back and my shirt. "Noch eins biere, bitte," I asked the man in the stall. He doesn't understand me. I repeat myself. Still confused. I point to what I want. Beer, give the Canuck some beer. And if Canadians think that their beer is superior to the American brew, it simply cannot hold a candle to the German variety!
Continued In Memories Of Youthful Travels Part 2