|Athens, July 1990|
Since we had almost no money, we spent most of our time touring in Eastern Europe where life was cheap. Armed with our Eurail Pass, we slept on trains at night, sitting straight up in a compartment full of strangers. We would time our arrival for the opening of the tourist information offices, the banks to change money, and the embassies to arrange the visa for our next day’s destination. We stored our backpacks in the central station lockers and ate from street vendors. Each morning we would read through our travel bible, the “Let’s Go Europe”, deciding on destinations for the day focusing first on the places without entrance fees.
|The night train to Belgrade|
After 21 days, I had changed. I had lost 10 pounds. Dinar, Drachmas, and Forints jingled in my pocket. I had seen the inside of many beautiful churches, and the outside of many famous museums and music halls. I had met gypsies, communists, Aussies and Kiwis, and cute boys from Eton. I had traveled so far by train I was convinced I surely should have fallen off the edge of the earth.
And I swore that I would never travel Europe again on so little money.
|Old Jewish Cemetery|
Still, crossing the medieval Charles Bridge with the seething mass of tourists, I saw backpackers. The real ones, carrying their world on their back like turtles. The whole of their adventure was before them. They were off to see the inside of churches and the outside of expensive museums. They would soak in the architecture and look in shop windows. And that night they would stare at the schedule board in the Central Train Station and decide where to go next. They will meet everyone: gypsies and communists, Aussies and Kiwis, thieves and saints.
And for that moment, I was jealous.