By contributing writer Stephen Maynard
There comes a time in everyone's life when they feel the need to live in less than hospitable conditions, drink profusely, and have sex with people who don't speak their language. Because we all can't live in LA or NYC, the next reasonable alternative is to participate in what has now become a rite of passage for college students: backpacking across Europe. Last summer I indulged in this practice and returned to North America with a depleted liver, a plethora of STI's, and new cultures to hate—but most of all, I took home a wealth of experience. These are a few survival tips for the college-aged person that you won't find in any guide book.
Amsterdam IS All It’s Cracked Up to Be
The Dutch capital has been given a reputation of a balls to the wall party city, a frat boy's wet dream. This perception is not too far from the truth. Imagine if Dr. Seuss designed a city—a city containing such a sensory overload and “anything goes” attitude that gay ecstasy addicts ask you to tone it down a bit. That, my friends, is Amsterdam.
Whether it’s drugs, booze or whores, Amsterdam will more than cater to your needs. Within a short time of walking around the city, you will realize that you are in heaven. In the Red Light District, brothels, live sex shows and sex shops line the street (more on them later). Marijuana smoke billows out from coffee shops and drunken tourists can be seen stumbling through the streets in no particular direction no matter what the hour.
If drugs are your thing, you must be aware that although soft drugs such as dope or hash are tolerated, harder drugs like cocaine and ecstasy are illegal. If you feel the need to indulge in some of Amsterdam's finest, just go into a coffeeshop, ask for a menu, and from there you will be able to select your choice of dope, hash, or spacecakes.
For those of you who are not avid users of narcotics, beware a mix of spacecakes and hash, as you may later find yourself sitting on your bed in your hostel, hallucinating that your childhood stuffed animals are attacking you.
If you’ve ever wanted to share a room with 3-24 other people, have your roommates come in at all hours of the night, or have a couple going at it on the top bunk, then hostel life is for you. This inexpensive form of accommodation is preferred by backpackers from all corners of the globe.
Hostels are basically good for three things: sleeping, drinking and fucking. Most hostels are equipped with a bar that serves cheap booze, making for a popular hangout among fellow thirsty travelers. Don’t plan on meeting locals in your hostel, as they’re typically overrun with Americans, Australians and Canadians. The best thing about staying in a hostel is that within a couple of days you will either have moved on, or a whole new crowd of travelers will have arrived. So if you’ve made a complete embarrassment out of yourself by sleeping with 3 or 4 pug-fugly guys in the same night, or got so piss-ass drunk that you wound up pissing yourself at 3am in the reception lounge in your boxers, fear not, in a couple days, you’ll have a totally fresh start.
The “Spirits” of Europe
Europe is known as much for its alcohol as it is for its ancient ruins, medieval castles, hate for Americans, and unshaven women. From the Beer Gardens in Germany and the Vineyards in France, to the absinthe-induced hazes in the Czech Republic and Ouzo Parties in Greece, Europe will please all of your thirsty needs.
Because beer and wine are brewed all over Europe, they are generally cheaper than any other beverage. This both works to an advantage and a disadvantage. If you want to splurge, get a 1 Euro bottle of wine for the evening and go nuts. If you’re on a budget, and end up having to drink beer for breakfast, well, you have a long day ahead of you.
Because of the younger drinking ages and the acceptance of alcohol throughout the French community, I was even able to have a beer with my Big Mac Meal in a McDonald’s in Paris; same price as a regular beverage, but they have their own tap for it. This is by far the greatest contribution the French have made since the ménage à trois. Also, thanks to the tolerance of alcohol across Europe, there are very relaxed/no open container laws. You can walk through the streets and ride the subway while drinking a beer or a bottle of wine—a far cry from the $445 fine for open alcohol where I'm from.
For those who like their liquor a little more psychedelic, absinthe is for you. Favored by Hemmingway and Van Gogh, absinthe is a form of liquor high in alcohol, and containing worm-wood, a drug with mind-expanding properties. Not surprisingly, it’s illegal in most places in North America. Traditionally found in Eastern Europe, it isn't a party until you experience former Soviet Union countries through the hallucinogenic eyes of a good absinthe trip. Buyer beware: although it sounds appealing, absinthe is not for everyone. If chasing an imaginary rabbit through Prague's most hardcore techno bar, or riding on a subway with a group of German high school kids at 3am isn't your style, stick to weak stuff…. pussy.
Sex for Sale
If the saying “sex sells” is true, Europe would be on sale more than AstroGlide in San Francisco. Everywhere you look, T& A featured in the newspapers, magazines and on the streets. I’m not complaining—I thoroughly enjoy all of my volumes of “White Treats and Black Meats”—but sometimes I would like to go a day without having to see a German girl's Black Forest plastered on the front page.
In several countries prostitution is legal, the most popular being The Netherlands. While strolling throughout the Red Light District, any of your wildest fantasies can come true. If you’re too poor to get a hooker, simply pay a couple Euros for a one-man masturbation closet, where you can chose a movie, please yourself and dispose of your tissue all in the privacy of a small booth. If watching two people go at it is your thing, you can indulge in one of the several choreographed sex shows. Looking for a more informal sex show where the audience can participate? No worries, there are plenty of those too. Some may feel that these are not private and intimate, but believe me, there is nothing more romantic than watching Darth Vader eat a banana out of a girl's crotch to the crowd chanting the Imperial March.
But for those who want to pay for sex, you have come to the right spot—windows with girls in bikinis line streets. It sounds amazing at first, but then you get close, and look into the eyes of a prostitute, it can be intimidating. It’s like taking a face-off against Wayne Gretzky, or stepping into the batter’s box against Roger Clemens—you may think you’re good at what you do, but now that you’ve come up against a professional, only one thing can happen… you're fucked.
Because the main things in the life of a college student are living in a tolerable society, along with sleeping, boozing and fucking, and we’ve already explored those topics, I will exit with a few short tips based on my experiences.
-As you probably know, Europeans refer to soccer as football, but they don't refer to it as a pussy sport… you've been warned once.
-If you are ever drunk, lost and barefoot in Rome at 2am, banging on the Vatican Wall yelling “sanctuary” will not grant you access.
-Take advantage of the exchange rates in Eastern European countries, 100Kc (approx $5) can go along way with a Czech stripper.
-Gyros (pronounced Euros) are the most economical and delicious street food you can buy. Your digestive system, however, may not agree.
-If you can’t score a seat on a train, stay in the dining car and keep on ordering bottles of wine so you can't get kicked out until you’ve come to your stop.
-Local girls don't like to be taken back to your hostel.
-Holocaust jokes have a time and a place. On your way to a concentration camp in Germany on a mid-Sunday afternoon is neither.
-The canned rum and coke is possibly the greatest invention of all time.
-National Swiss Law states that you cannot be loud outside after 10pm. Trust me, there is zero tolerance, especially if you don't want to be escorted to your room by big burly Swiss security guards.
-As a general rule of thumb, the further east the country, the cheaper the dollar and the hotter the girls.
-If you are Canadian, be proud of your nationality. The locals will love you and you may even score free drinks; sew a Canadian flag on your backpack so people think you are from Canada.
-If you are American, don't flaunt your nationality. The locals will hate you and you may even score a free drink in your lap; sew a Canadian flag on your backpack so people think you are from Canada.
And Possibly the Most Important Thing to Remember:
-Dutch prostitutes don't sympathize for whiskey dick. If you can't keep it up, there are no refunds.