When I arrived at my hostel in Greece, there were 3 other people in the 6 person room: another US person, and two Dutchmen. These Dutch guys are about as subtle as a bull in a china shop. They’d yell down the hall at each other (or anyone else) when they wanted to have a conversation. They’d go out and party most of the night then wake up the next morning and work out. They’d introduce themselves to anyone, and invite them to tag along on their escapades. They’d bump my squeaky bunk when they got back from a wild night on the town while undressing then hurling themselves into their beds. If they were awake, you’d know it…and so would the rest of the world.
My first night in Athens, I went down to the common area/bar/kitchen/pick a room, any room; this place probably fit the description. Of course, the Dutch guys were there drinking and chatting everyone up. Upon seeing my face, they promptly yelled my name across the room, and offered me some of the wine they were drinking: 4 bottles for 15 euro! We were waiting until it was late enough to go out.
It seems I had arrived the day before a holiday. ‘Meat day’ is ostensibly the last day of meat eating before Lent. But these are Greeks we’re talking about, and they won’t give up their meat for anything or anyone (especially not after the lamb ban during the Turkish occupation). So they celebrate meat day by giving out free meat in the evening. And the next day, they go back to their ‘normal’ meat eating ways…which is to say they have it with every meal. Anyway, this was the night before meat day so there were going to be a lot of people with the day off the next day.
After some drinking, talking, and maybe a game or two of Jenga, the time to go out had arrived. By this point, there were about 10 of us. So off we went to a little bar they’d discovered at some point in the week prior to my arrival.
It was a small place. We were about half the people there. There were a couple guys with guitars in the corner singing old, classic American, pop songs. We ordered drinks…
A few minutes in, one of the Dutch guys ordered the table a round of shots. I think it was tequila…at least it tasted like a lot of the cheap tequila I’ve had before. Some time passes, and another round of the most-likely-tequila arrives; bottoms up!
More time passes. The ‘band’ pauses between songs. One of the Dutch guys starts chanting the name of a song. Then, everyone chants it. The band plays the first couple notes of the song there were planning on doing, stop, then start in on the chanted song. Everyone sings along…except me because I’ve never heard this song before, and even now, I don’t remember the name. But it was magical all the same.
The bill comes, and five minutes later, another round of shots come with it. These shots are on the house! I don’t know if it was the chanting, the fact that the Dutch guys knew the owner and everyone that was working there, or both. What I do know, is that you never turn down a free shot.
But these shots are different. They’re warm, and they have some strange brown bits in them. Whatever, down the hatch! It tasted of apples and cinnamon. Those ‘apple pie’ shots have to be the best I’ve had.
Leaving was quite the endeavor. Everyone threw money on the table. One of the Dutch guys scooped it up, and went to the bar rail to pay. We all got up, and walked outside expecting the final Dutch guy to join us presently…except he’s having a conversation with the bar tender. Five minutes and a hug later, he finally joins the rest of us on the street.
I wander off with one of our crew in search of food while the rest of the gang finds their next conquest. I heard them come back to the room an hour or two later, because sleep is impossible when they’re around…even if it’s just for them to go to bed. But it’s cool; I have them to thank for an epic evening.
I don’t know if all Dutch people are like these guys. They’re actually the first Dutchmen I’ve met. But I do know they’re amazing.
And this is just one example of what can happen when you travel. You meet new and exciting people; you do all sorts of things you’ve never done before; you make make memories that will last a lifetime. Experiences like these are the reason I started traveling.
I started this blog to share some of these times with all of you, and to encourage you to get out there and experience some of it for yourself. So safe travels my friends. May your tales be even better than mine.