Anything but Fine (Austria)

Austria ~ Vienna – 2014

As I walked the streets of Vienna, I couldn’t help but realise something; (well…aside from the gorgeous architectural heritage sprawled out on every block, and the cheery friendly folk inhabiting the bustling pavements!) No, instead what gripped me more intensely was something a lot less in your face – something that passes you by quite easily, but once you notice it – you cannot stop seeing it…Vienna is very clean, well maintained – which is great and everything, but it appears that rules are followed completely by just about everyone. I have probably lost you there, why is this a bad thing you may ask? So let me explain…the reason this struck me as unusual is that it all felt a little…well…forced. Yes, yes, people were following the rules but it was to the letter! Perhaps I am a hoodlum and I don’t even realise it, but it all made me a little uncomfortable at times.

It reminded me of a programme I used to watch as a kid – The Demon Headmaster; where the crazy head of the school would take off his glasses and hypnotise the kids into doing his will…sounds super, super paedo crazy these days I know, but it was a different climate, and the innocent child’s mind doesn’t see it that way. Anyway so in the show the afflicted kids would walk around in a daze just obeying orders, when I saw that crowds of people were standing at the pedestrian stop sign despite the fact that there was not a single vehicle in sight, it made me sure that there was something in the water here, or there was a hypnotism feature built into the Austrian television. It was the only theory that made sense to me.

Demon-Headmaster GIF

Of course my brother and I didn’t have the same problem, we simply assessed the situation and crossed the road – after all, we were drinking bottled water (ahem…okay, okay…I mean beer) and were only watching streamed episodes of our favourite comedy shows on my laptop. So we were safe! Coming to think of it that’s probably a top travel tip, so perhaps you ought to write it down? Just a thought.

You’ve probably already guessed that this policy of ours ended up badly.

On one ill-fated occasion we stopped at the end of the pavement for the red man – just as the rest of the drone population did, we looked right, then left – then repeated – feel free to compliment me on my road safety skills, cheers! – we subsequently came to a conclusion it was safe to cross due to there being NO traffic whatsoever and, well…did so!

WAAHHHHHH-WAHHHHH!” a bizarre screeching sound rang out behind me once I had reached the middle of the small road – I turned around slightly in shock, and in my peripheral vision saw a plump lady dressed in a strange outfit, still screaming and gyrating wildly – naturally I took her to be an absolute mental case, so quickly rushed myself over to safety! Phew!

Running GIF

“Fucking pigs!” my brother joked under his breath,

“What?” I chuckled, vaguely confused,

We continued walking as he explained that the high pitched noise had been two policewomen who had probably been kicking off about crossing the road on a red man – we shrugged in a ah well no big deal kinda way, and went back to the map, we were lost – that’s for sure – but we didn’t really care much, we had ate a huge lunch and a few…err…bottles of water, so we were happy to just wander about aimlessly…we got to the next block and stopped at the red man signal – this time around he was right, the road was impassible as cars streamed wildly in and out, honking as they went.

AAAY! AAAY!” something screamed in my ear hole,

“Erm, hi?” I replied – to the two extremely pissed off ladies standing next to me,

SHLURGUNN-SHLURGUNN-SHLOOZHLE, SHLIGINN…” one of them was blabbering away some total nonsense with aggressive vigor, as the other stood arms crossed, intermittently nodding in agreement.

Confusion GIF

“We don’t understand you, sorry, we-” my brother began,

“English – English!” I begged,

OH, O-KAY. YOU RUNNING AND LAUGHING!” she blurted out, red in the face with emotion,

“No…no…” I almost giggled at the thought of being apprehended for laughing, but held myself together…”I didn’t run or laugh, I would never do tha -”

YES!” interrupted the other one – “YOU LOOKED AROUND! SAW US STANDING! LAUGHED! THEN LOOKED AGAIN! LAUGHED AGAIN! THEN WITH THE RUNNING AWAY! YES!”

Oh my goodness! I really was a menace, somebody stop me!

I glanced at my brother uneasily, glaring with wide eyes – we were both sporting the standard ruby coloured Taggart cheeks – as per usual in awkward situations such as these! I tried to plead my innocence but it was a lost cause, she had fabricated some story blatantly: I mean do I look like the kind of guy who would laugh? Or run? Or even worse, do them both together? Of course not.

SO NOW YOU PAY. YES. THIRTY EUROS – SO IT’S SIXTY EUROS FOR TWO.”

“WHAT?!” my brother exclaimed,

YES! Eeen London you can’t jus cross the road…we knows zis…you have to-”

“YES YOU CAN! IF YOU WANT TO CROSS, YOU…YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO CROSS THE ROAD, REALLY?”

YAH – NO – you cannot in London, it’s the rule – so -”

“WELL IT’S A RIDICULOUS RULE!” he replied defiantly, “yes, yes! It may be a ridiculous rule – but it is the rule, so we have to follow it!” Urgh, what a great mentality to have…I glanced down at my feet because I wasn’t sure where to look, and became aware of the sympathetic stares from the other drone members of the public – which appeared to range from sympathetic looks to shakes of the head…I bet this shit happens all the time, I mean it should be an unofficial rule that if someone looks clueless and has a map in their hand there should be some form of leniency! My brother was going off on one, but despite the fact I was pissed off, I had sudden flashbacks to documentaries about young guys being locked up for years in foreign parts for some bogus crimes, and as we had a plane to catch the next day, I couldn’t see how this would fit into our itinerary:

Prison GIF

“Alright, okay. JAMES – shh…”

I grabbed my wallet and sniffled as I counted out fifty Euros, my brother muttered that he had barely any money left – “HE HAS FIFTY SO HE PAYS.” Of course, of course I do. As I handed over the money I felt my blood pressure rise and every vein in my eyeballs throb – “so where does this money go?” my brother began to inquire, “IT GOES TO US – THEN WE TAKE IT TO THE BUILDING AND YES!” So basically straight in their back pocket then. Fantastic! They began to fill out some little ticket sheet, didn’t once ask for names or any form of ID, or well…anything…just took the money and then that was that.

FIned

We began to walk off down the street (rather than crossing like we had originally planned), just to get away from them – but they followed, we quickened our pace to try and escape – but they stayed with us, largely because we had to be sure to stop and wait for the green man at every crossing. Eventually we looped around and made a break for it, eventually getting back to the hotel where I could top my wallet back up from my stash.

“Fucking ridiculous that!” my brother would repeat, over and over, “THIRTY EUROS?! Fucking ridiculous that!” I would nod and agree, shedding a private tear at paying FIFTY Euros for the privilege of crossing the road when my own brain told me I should. I was also a little irked that someone who had paid ten Euros was being more vocal in outrage than myself…perhaps he had forgotten…I should remind him…nahhh, save that for a rainy day – bank that gold for an argument in the future.

Celebrate GIF

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More from this country below:

https://storytimewithjohn.com/2014/08/28/not-so-fancy-footwork/

Not so Fassi! (Italy)

Italy ~ Rome – 2014

Maps are annoying. I mean, that’s why some genius invented the isn’t it? But when you are without a car in a foreign country, people would be right to think you are odd (at best), or a complete and utter maniac, if you were to wander the streets clutching a big chunky device that is shouting out – “TURN RIGHT AFTER 100 YARDS!” You couldn’t really argue with them for coming to this logical conclusion…I mean you would look mad. That’s unquestionable, even if you did have the Sean Connery setting on…actually, perhaps that would be even worse.

With all that said, I did run into some problems with regular map-reading in Italy. Stupid problems that other people probably wouldn’t have encountered…but problems all the same. You see the friendly chap (Paolo) at the hotel had given me a map and had outlined all of the sites I should look for – I think I still have it somewhere…yeah, here we are –

Fassi Pic

Yeah, so he outlined where we can see the Roman Colosseum, Vatican City, and all of the other tourist must sees, which was awfully nice of him. He did it all with such zeal and enthusiasm, as if he had built them with his own hands just yesterday – he also gave us a recommendation for a historic ice cream place he appeared very excited about: Palazzo del Freddo Giovanni Fassi, or Fassi Ice cream to ignorant foreign souls like myself. Paolo also recommended that “people like you”, I assume he meant people who are so white they are practically see-through, really ought to stay indoors during the hottest period of the Italian summer day; which is 1-4pm ish. He certainly doesn’t need to tell me twice! I’ve had my fingers burned enough times!

I’ve also had my ears, nose, cheeks, back, and various other parts burned as well…but that’s not the well known saying, so I…yeah…anyway, sorry, you get the point.

So yeah, with the inferno hours well remembered, the next day we set out relatively early, to give us some time before the unforgiving sun turned my neck into pork crackling. I grabbed my trusty annotated map and headed out the door! I had a good idea of the general way we would be heading, but by coincidence we bumped into Paolo as we were on route, and I was able to double check if I was going in the the right direction – “yes, yes! You are exactly, exactly!” Brilliant! It was all working out! I mean so far we were only at the end of the street the hotel was on…but still, we were exactly, exactly! Woooo!

However before we knew it we found ourselves in a very different setting. We had already passed by some boarded up buildings, as well as what appeared to be a deserted railway system… “this can’t be it, there’s no way, this can-” I interrupted my little sister, shrieking defiantly that it is DEFINITELY the right way, as it said so on the map. As I attempted to avoid her gaze I took a brief look around the immediate vicinity…on second thought it certainly didn’t look like the kind of place where you would find a traditional ice cream shop. Why you ask? Well, for one the entire inhabitants were wearing patchwork coats despite the heat, there was also this little man-made cardboard village in a neat row behind some rubbish bins – complete with cardboard doors and tears for window holes…oh and someone was warming their hands over an oil barrel whilst whistling a tune…and…well, long story short, we had clearly stumbled into the bad side of town.

Fearful GIF

Maybe it’s up there? Past that, errrr, cardboard bit?” I muttered halfheartedly…

There is no ice cream here John. Let’s go.”

Argh, no – it has to be here! Paolo said…Paolo said!”

Eventually I had to accept defeat. And one thing was for certain, I was very upset, I mean we had came here with one purpose, and that was to sample some of the world’s best ice cream – but instead I was walking through a piss stench-filled subway for the second time today…life can be so harsh sometimes guys, it is often too much to manage.

I took another look at the map…and instantly recognised that I had lead us to the location of where he had wrote Fassi Ice Cream, rather than where he had pointed with the red arrow…

“Well, I said that John – you didn’t listen!”

YOU MUST HAVE WHISPERED IT, BECAUSE I DIDN’T HEAR IT!” I barked back, delirious with hunger after skipping breakfast…I had expected to be well on my way to diabetes by now, and my instant reaction was an insane uncontrollable anger – I suppose I am a little like The Hulk but instead my problem is people won’t like me when I am hungry. I’ll be the first to admit I am a horrible, horrible person when I haven’t ate. Just the worst.

Hungry GIF

Sorry…I…let’s just head back this way, okay?”

We looped around the corner beside the railway tracks, and as we passed the bushes we were met with two grubby looking gentlemen who were taking up most of the pathway – we automatically went in single file to allow for us to both pass, it was a pretty tight squeeze as they were refusing to budge! As we tried to nudge our way past something caught my eye – I glanced down at one of the two – then looked back in front, glanced down again – what was that? I looked back in front, glanced down again – then looked back in front…errrrrrr…one of them had just made direct bleary eye contact with me, whilst in the process of shooting heroin in one of his thin arms…errrrrrr…I suddenly remembered my manners and gave him a friendly nod, which I coupled with a hiya, probably not exactly the right setting for such a phrase…but it was all that came out of my dry, raspy throat.

Scared GIF

We continued on in single file, around the short bend of the path – I tried to glance behind my shoulder, to see if they were following – actually I was expecting to have someone leap on me whilst wildly jabbing a used needle in my neck repeatedly – perhaps I have an over-active imagination, but it was actually pretty terrifying.

Anyway, a little dark, I know, apologies! But it gets WORSE! Once we actually got to the ice cream shop after a huge nightmarish detour, I accidentally picked out the wrong flavour…with devastating results…you see, the flavours were unnamed – they only had little pictures on…so I thought I was getting chocolate, caramel, and toffee – but instead I actually got chocolate, tiramisu, and rum n’ raisin:

Bad food GIF

IT WAS HORRIBLE. The rum flavour was so heavy that it overpowered the other ones completely…my God it was foul…I had basically skipped breakfast in lieu of some strong rum – if I wasn’t on holiday you would rightly call me an alcoholic. But as we all should know, there are a whole different set of rules regarding alcohol when it comes to vacations! Thankfully!

I spent the rest of the day trying not to be too disappointed, and of course when I ran into Paolo later I told him nothing other than:

“Yeah! Found the place no problem! Thanks for the map! Ice cream…wow…best I have ever had!”

I wonder whether every single person does the same thing, you know – just out of politeness…next time I’ll tell him the truth…mehh, who am I kidding?

Shrug GIF

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Amazons on Ice (Norway)

Norway ~ Tromsø – 2013

Despite bitterly cold temperatures that leave your extremities feeling like ice cubes, Norway regularly scores in the top two or three when it comes to “happiness” scores…not sure how they actually work those things out – I assume it is more technical than walking up to people with a clipboard and asking “ARE YOU HAPPY?! NO LIKE…ARE YOU QUITE HAPPY – OR LIKE REALLY, REALLY HAPPY?” Or maybe that is how they do it – answers on a postcard please. The thing is, happiness is of course subjective, so how can you possibly throw it on a scale? You see spending a day lying on a sofa ,dipping marshmallow into hot cocoa before shoving it in my face, all the while having someone massaging my feet – would make me the happiest man on earth (in my book), however you may get the same level of happiness from say…something completely the opposite…like…giving a homeless man chocolate coins and hiding around a corner to wait for his reaction, or hitting a pensioner with a French baguette – I mean, I personally would say you are deeply disturbed due to those desires, and need to seek psychiatric help…but my point is, our happiness comes from different places, so I am not sure I trust a scientific happiness algorithm.

Continue reading “Amazons on Ice (Norway)”

Sweaty Christmas! (Vietnam)

Vietnam ~ Halong Bay – 2013

I headed to Vietnam over the last Christmas holiday…which meant I was spending another Christmas away from my family and friends, which naturally sucks – but that’s not what this post is about…don’t get me wrong, obviously I love Santa and Jesus as much as the next guy…actually if only this was about them…at least I would have someone to blame.

Colbert GIF Continue reading “Sweaty Christmas! (Vietnam)”

ARE YOU SEEERIOUS?!? (England)

England ~ Sunderland – 2014

So I’m back to England at long last, and slowly but surely I am getting around to meeting up with my nearest and dearest – it’s always great to be back, but very, very weird…it’s like nothing changes, but at the same time everything does…I don’t know.

Anyway, so last week it was a friend’s birthday, so we got together and celebrated in a suitable fashion – I was excited, it would be good to meet up and reminisce on the old days. And I wasn’t wrong! It was like no time had passed at all, and soon we were back to the usual thing only best friends can get away with…calling each other deeply offensive things, and making fun of each other through a series of brutally embarrassing “did you hear about what happened when he…” tales. You will probably cry yourself to sleep later on while dwelling on these things…and it will all probably lead to deep issues that’ll require a psychiatrist in later life…but never mind, ey?

Yeah…just like the old days! Sob.

After eating at a rather nice Italian restaurant, we were lumbered with a novelty cake that no one wanted to eat…it had seemed like a good idea at the time, but after a big stodgy feast, it was something of a nightmare – which meant that we either had to carry around a Batman box in every pub and club we decided to go to…or pop back and drop it off at the house so we could boogie down without, well, no, with less, embarrassment. It fell to me and a friend to make ourselves useful, so we made arrangements to meet up with the rest of the crew later.

As we bounced back we were both in high spirits! The night was going well, the birthday boy seemed happy, and the reunion with old friends was going as smoothly as ever! But, no, that was soon to change…when we met with – her…

She was a total, and complete stranger. But decided to walk up to me in the middle of the street, and say…

“Are you fucking seeerious???? Are you…like come on…are you serious???”

She stopped in her tracks – staring at me in disbelief, her eyes popping out of her head – gesturing with her hands, pointing up and down in front of me…

“Are you serious, excuse me – like really???”

“Errr…what? Errrr…are you serious? What’s the…”

Awkward Glance GIF

I looked over to my friend and shot him a Professor X mental message of “what the fuck is going on here?!” He shrugged and shook his head. She continued her line of questioning…as her group looked on laughing. I was still confused, but began to walk away…WHAT HAD JUST HAPPENED?!?!?

I asked my friend if what I was wearing was laughable in some way…perhaps I had made some huge fashion faux-pas without realising it…maybe it was like The Emperor’s New Clothes, everyone else was telling me I looked great, but I was actually walking around stark-bollock naked and anyone with a brain was sick in their mouth as soon as they laid eyes on me…I mean, I had actually put a lot of effort into something completely to the contrary – I didn’t want to be the guy who went away for a year and came back looking like an absolute train wreck…with a big untamed Gandalf beard with rotten food from a month ago still lodged inside, and scruffy sandals that were now worn down paper thin! So rather than that, it was a fresh white shirt, navy blue blazer, mustard jeans and some brand spanking new Nike Air Maxes I was pretty proud of. I mean, I had never been able to afford them as a kid, and was forced to miss out on that trend in place of Mother bought Diadora trainers instead. My friend reassured me that I looked fantastic. So the question remained…”what the fuck was her problem?”

I looked at myself again – perhaps something was off – perhaps someone had put a huge “WHITE POWER” badge on my blazer without me realising, or draped a dead baby over my shoulder as some sick practical joke, or maybe my fly was open revealing my whole penis for some unbeknown reason…something…anything!?

Nothing.

Anyway, it got me thinking about manners a little bit – and social etiquette. Because when I had glanced up and spotted her coming towards me my first thoughts were a mixture of “oooh, she’s a larger lady/her hair makes her look like Honey Boo-Boo’s Mother a bit/is that a dress or a curtain/ewww, look at how yellow her teeth are…”

Honey Boo GIF

but you see, this goes through the machine of the mind, also known as GOOD MANNERS AND COMMON COURTESY, and amounts to nothing more than a pleasant smile and a friendly nod. I mean, yes, it backfired and launched this confused inquisition into what the fuck I was doing, and whether or not I was serious about it…but still.

I would never dream (I mean this sounds crazy to even say as a hypothetical!) of running up to her unannounced and asking her just what the fuck she thought she was doing – “Are you with your friends having fun, or are you auditioning for a remake of Mrs. Trunchbull for a Matilda remake?! You stupid bitch, are you serious?” Some would say that would be a tad rude, am I right? Maybe a little uncalled for? Out of line, perhaps?

Mammy Taggart always taught me that it is nice to be nice, and you know what guys? That has served me well so far – so that is my message to you too I suppose! After all, the old stereotype of the Englishman is supposed to be that of the city slicker, the gentleman, RIGHT?

So with all that said…my message to the lady is this…FUCK YOU! Ooops…sorry Mammy Taggart…


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Mrs. Satan (South Korea)

South Korea ~ Suwon – 2014

I have just endured a very, very, weird work situation. Loved the kids for the most part, and was blessed with some pretty special workmates – my bosses though…hmmm…how do I put this in a clear, but dignified manner? How about this for size…they were absolutely fucking mental.

Continue reading “Mrs. Satan (South Korea)”

Mad Axe Murderer Man (Spain)

Spain ~ Unknown – 2001

During my childhood my family would spend their summer holidays trawling through Europe. Wow, sounds wonderful! Well…sure, it does now, but back then I thought of it as a living hell. I mean, imagine this – five children and two adults squeezed into a battered people carrier, in searing heat…driving, and driving, and driving – STOP – get out and look at a cathedral (groaaaan), driving, and driving, and driving – STOP – get out and look at a museum (groaaaan) …and on it goes, for six whole fucking weeks.

Continue reading “Mad Axe Murderer Man (Spain)”