An American Goes to Europe

Here are my thoughts re: touring in Europe, my first trip there in my life.

  • Bern
    • Bern is lovely. The city is arboreal and clean, has great public transit, and mostly friendly people, who were tolerant of my pathetic attempts at German. The food was delicious, and it was here that I first discovered when you ask for a black coffee in Europe, for the most part, you’re going to be served an Americano. (Espresso with hot water.) It’s quickly turning my already snobbish coffee-palette into something even more snobby, but I’m okay with that. There’s also a strange obsession with giving you a spoon with every coffee you get, even though they might ask you if you want cream and or sugar and you respond in the negative. But whatever, it’s good coffee, and for the most part has none of the burnt / bitter taste that a lot of American drip coffee has. Also, scones with butter and jam for breakfast? Me likey. Bern also re-introduced me to the European tendency to force you to insert a card into a socket by the door to make the lights and air conditioning work. These things are ridiculously easy to bypass, but it’s still an annoyance when you take your card out (because laziness wins over hacking the system) and now the bathroom lights don’t work. Geez. The walkability of the city is lovely, and the parks were nice too. Bern is basically the stereotype of what Americans think a European city is going to be like.
  • Bergen
    • Much cooler than Bern, thankfully. The whole city smelt of fish and bus exhaust, which was weird because I didn’t see any public busses that I can remember. Great food, again, but a surprising lack of place to find coffee. I ended up going into Starbucks and nearly spitting the Pike Place back out…I’m not sure if that particular batch was just that bad, or if I had become much more snobby than I originally was. It was awful. Bergen is also where I discovered that all of Europe is on 220V on their outlets, and not just Norway. In Bern, I had tried to plug in my electric shaver and it just loudly buzzed without working. Assuming it had gotten mishandled on a flight and broken, I threw it out, only to realize by the time I was in Bergen that it was just unaccustomed to twice the voltage it normally got. So, now I have a new electric beard trimmer that works on both. The hotel situation in Bergen sucked, too: my room was the size of a closet, smelled strongly of parsnip and damp, and my bed was literally the size of my bunk on a tour bus. Tiny, tiny, tiny. I did see most of the Pet Shop Boys concert here after the Halsey set, though, and that was just a delight and a half.
  • Ireland
    • A city with none of the charm of Bern, all of the smells of a back alley dumpster, and a boatload of litter all covered with a thin layer of grime. It’s as if several jumbo jets were stuffed with all manner of trash – plastic wrappers, glass and plastic bottles, plastic drink cups, napkins and paper coasters from restaurants, chewing gum, cigarette butts, and bottle caps – flew over the city and subsequently exploded. The downtown areas are aggressively grimy, covered in black spots of chewing gum and there’s broken glass everywhere. The canal that runs through the middle of the city is no different – a thick layer of beige scum coats the surface of the water near every lock, with cigarette butts, bottles, and other trash floating in the water. The canal is apparently a popular place to hang out and drink by the youthful inhabitants of the city, which is fine, but seriously, the litter is out of control. Remember how New York looked in Shaft? Basically that, except they drive on the left. Regarding the accent: it might be that perhaps as the world becomes more global, the accent is vanishing, or in a very racially diverse and large metropolis accents disappear. At any rate, while I heard a brogue a few times, it was much less pronounced in general than I expected it to be. Very few people here sound anything like a Lucky Charms commercial. Also, it’s basically impossible to find any place to eat after 22:00, past that, the city basically shuts down unless all you want to consume is alcohol. The indie coffee shop scene is great, they’re everywhere, and they’re all pretty high-quality, which I definitely appreciate. The National Museum of Ireland gets blown away by almost anything in the States. The best one is definitely the National Gallery, which has an impressive amount of art on display. The Science Gallery is fun, but like the National Museum, really small and easily gone through in an hour or less. The Smithsonian or Field Museum are absolutely light-years ahead of these. All this to say: I didn’t hate Dublin, but I definitely had to enjoy it in spite of its dirt and grime.
  • Glastonbury (England)
    • Heathrow is a nightmare. I’m sure there are good fish and chips to be found, but the ones that I had were pretty meh, at least in the chip department. Glastonbury itself is pretty boring as a festival, but at least they had a previz rig at FOH.
  • Germany
    • I was in Germany, I’m told.
  • Italy
    • I went to Bergamo to see Clay-Paky, one of the oldest and most respected automated lighting manufacturers. That was amazing. The trains are clean and inexpensive, and the trip through the Italian countryside was lovely. I picked a restaurant that was more touristy than I initially thought it would be, but the after-dinner limoncello was good. The pasta wasn’t. Negotiating a taxi when I couldn’t speak the language was…fun. Very friendly folks. Good gelato.
  • Sweden
    • I was briefly in Sweden, I’m told.
  • Denmark
    • Roskilde festival. Asshole festival people who insist on the wristbands being on my wrist, instead of on my laminate. I hate those damn festival wristbands, and some meathead moron telling me how it should be was really fucking annoying. The food was amazing for a festival, and definitely amazing in every other sense as well.

Leaving: by the time it was time to fly home, I was so damn sick of stupid security theatre bullshit that I was in no mood for the “security” questions of the lady who was chatting me up to let me into my gate in the Copenhagen airport. “What was your favorite place on your trip?” “The United States.” I could hear the eye roll of the PM, who happened to be standing behind me, but the whole exercise was a complete waste of time. The only questions they needed to ask were “Did you pack your own luggage” and “What country are you from?”, security questions so penetrating and insightful that surely any terrorist will immediately be reduced to a quivering mass of jelly by them.

Exit, through passport control

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