by Molly Burke
I went to Europe to “find myself.” I expected a summer of falling in love, learning new foreign phrases and sipping wine by the Rhine (or was it the Seine?). Instead when I came back three months later, I was 5 grand more broke, 20 pounds heavier, and had the worst case of athlete’s foot I’ve ever experienced.
Don’t get me wrong, backpacking through 10 countries and 20 some cities was exhilarating, but my notions of a romantic European vacation flew out my hostel window after the 25th debilitating hangover. So if I didn’t happen to find a hot British man to take home to my mother and never had that Elizabeth-Gilbert moment of true self-awareness (I’m starting to doubt that she really did either…), what did I have? The best stories of drunken debauchery, that’s what, and the perfect five stories to share with my foxy friends.
The one with the ninja creep. I feel asleep on a train in God knows where (I want to say Germany but German men aren’t this creepy). My backpacker-in-crime, Caitlin, was passed out in the seats behind me, also sleeping off another night of cheap wine and club liquor. I opened up my eyes to try and catch the train station’s name and saw a man sitting directly across from me staring in my direction. Too tired to care, I closed my eyes again. 10 minutes later I woke back up and he was 2 feet closer—still staring. Eye mask now on, I fell back asleep, only to be awoken a short time later with him in the seat next to me (the human version of Ninja Cat). I grasped my purse tighter thinking he was a (slow-moving?) pick pocket. As I looked at him strangely, he moved his face directly in front of mine and commanded “Kiss.” I put my hand in his face and said a loud “No.” To which he leaned back in and pointed to his lips, commanding “kiss,” again. Thinking I’d sound scarier in German I yelled “Nein!” and kneed him off of me. Ninja creep giggled and hopped off at the next stop.
The one with the escort. Caitlin and I were drunk off of red wine and French meat (sadly not a hot Jacques’ junk, but pigeon from a fancy restaurant), when we spotted a couple: man, white, 70s, gray hair and in a suit; woman, black, 30s, looked like a gypsy goddess. The two, an unconventional pair to say the least, couldn’t seem any more in love—cuddling, caressing and conversing. Despite the overwhelming Parisian mood (we were right by the Moulin Rouge, you know, truth, beauty, love BS), I decided to press them about their relationship (since I don’t fall for the above BS easily and it was totally my business). They finally admitted that he pays her to be a “travel companion,” aka a really fancy escort. But what did I learn from this eccentric coupling? That love comes in many, unusual forms, and if that’s really something that can be bought…by all means go for it. Gypsy Godess + Graying Bizman 4eva.
The one with the British stag party. We met a group of 5 men traveling in the same train carriage as us from Madrid to Pamplona for Running of the Bulls. They looked a little older than my dream, football-playing, 20-something, British, future husband, but with the prospect of free drinks and place to crash (we were going to sleep outside, seriously), we made friends. Slightly older men celebrating a stag (bachelor) party? Yes please. 12 hours later, the hot bald one and I had a sangria-fueled makeout session while still out partying at 5 am. 3 hours later I watched him run with bulls, as I snapped photos dressed head-to-toe in traditional San Fermin garb. THIS WAS LOVE. Well it was love until he admitted they were actually celebrating their friend’s 50th birthday…who he went to University with.
The one with Anheuser. We were at Delirium, a tap house in Brussels known for having over 2,000 varieties of beer (the most in the world), some having over 10 percent ABV. We sat down with two men, one a hot Scot, the other an American from St. Louis who had a penchant for Boston, Boston College, St. Louis, Budweiser and saying “Fuck Miller Lite!” a lot. He was also a staunch conservative working as an intern for a socialist European party (which I advised him wasn’t the best idea if he wanted to fulfill a dream of running as a Republican in the US government.) Either way, dude love Budweiser beer. I asked why his allegiance was so strong—was it his St. Louis roots? Turns out his heavy Bud-drinking habits were genetic—he was the great grandson of an Anheuser (the Anheuser-Busch family). Five 10% Belgium beers later and poor Budweiser boy was vomiting all over a room full of heavyweight Belgians. #AMERICA