Archivo: June 2009
Fresh off a disappointing experience in Prague (where not one single local pitched in to share insider tips that would’ve injected our visit with real experiences), we moved on to Budapest with our reserves of optimism half-empty, convinced that another ExperienceLess effort would fall flat again.
We second-guessed ourselves, wondering if our message was clear enough. Given the cultural and linguistic nuances, we thought we might have a hard time meeting our target objectives.
All doubts vanished five minutes after sitting down with our sign in Deak Square, located in the heart of the city and a meeting point for native citizenry. What a true uplift to witness the ease and amiability with which we were received!
Needless to say, our Moleskine filled up with experiences to savor in Budapest almost instantly. The highlight of our “sit” occurred when three young guys came over to chat and invited us to celebrate a friend’s birthday at a bar right on the Danube. We didn’t give things a second thought and ended the night toasting the “friendship” engendered by our makeshift cardboard sign. The improvised fete wrapped up at the crack of dawn, 6ish or so. Unfortunately – or perhaps, fortunately – no photographs were taken to record the goings-on that night.
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Prague received us with a wide smile, great weather invited us to trek up and down every one of its streets. Buildings and boulevards which seemed designed by the finest, most inspired architects in history. Prague is, undoubtedly, a giant museum, a city built to satisfy the whim of kings. As we headed there, we kind of suspected that our ExperienceLess endeavors might run into a wall, unlike previous cities we visited. Sure enough, we found the streets overflowing with tourists hellbent on contemplating the city’s endless treasure of beauty and majestic pomp. And so, we did crash into that wall.
We pulled out our ExperienceLess sign near a castle, in parks, on bridges, even in the metro, but there’s no way we could enlist the help of locals to live real experiences in their city. No surprise, really, in a city bursting with out-of-towners. Whenever we did find a bar where we could chat up someone friendly, invariably one had the impression that locals were fed up with so many foreign types.
Given the circumstances, our only choice was to toss our sign into the nearest waste bin. Fortunately, we happened to have the phone number of a Czech girl who told us about an open-air concert on the banks of the Moldava River. Once there, we kicked back with a healthy dose of beers, a lively crowd and assorted activities. The improvised entertainment worked out just fine in the end. Nevertheless, we sort of wished we had gotten tips on Praga from a friendly local.
When the idea of staging our ExperienceLess came up, naturally we wondered whether people would get — and, respond — to our “show” (signs & sit-down) as we hoped they would. There existed a certain degree of risk that our initiative would be seen as a joke and we’d only end up sitting on our butts for hours, perceived as nutty-spacey weirdos. Happily, we can report that this has not been the case; there are people who get what it means to be “experience-less” and who have offered their help, thereby enabling us to live those cities we’ve traveled to.
Such was the case in Berlin, where yours truly woke up one morning with nearly-unbearable aches and pains in his abdomen, proof of just how satisfying the previous night’s experience had been. And I couldn’t have felt these sensations without the inestimable help of Tania and Vicki, two sweeties who’ve been living a year or so in this capital city and turned me on to a couple of experiences that I never would had without their help. The first was a free demonstration of hoola-hoop with a tangy twist to it in a nearby park. The other was their recommendation of a bar, decorated very tastefully, where you paid one euro to get in and whatever you thought appropriate on the way out. Can you believe that??!!
They say Berlin is one of those special cities. Well, it’s true. And it’s probably because of its people and the contrast in styles and nationalities which give it that extra dimension. Without a doubt, people make one city more interesting than another. Hope to see you again real soon, Berlin!
The second stage of our trip has brought us to Amsterdam. The Dutch capital is renowned for its coffee shops and Red Light District, but there’s a few behind-the scenes experience worth living too.
Following a hectic Saturday night of bar-hopping, we hit the streets again to spread the word about ExperienceLess. We started off by camping out with our signs on a corner of Leidseplein Square, right alongside a friendly Russian painter who was busy working away in water colors. She clued us onto the fact that this square was a real tourist haven, and if we were looking for something else, we should head over to Vondelpark. So, off we went.
Once there, we parked our bikes under an oak tree as old as the city itself. Michael, a thirty-something native of Amsterdam, stopped to chat with us. We explained to him just what it means to be “experience-less” and he proceeded to point out a few of his favorite hideaways on a map. Among other hotspots, he recommended that we hit D.helsststraat, an area known for its 100% Dutch bars.
Just about when we’d filled our Moleskines full of new experiences, a young Dutch boy named Niels came over, introduced himself and told us he had been living in the capital city for awhile. He, also, took an interest in our movement. After listening to us explain the whys and wherefores of ExperienceLess in fine detail, he invited us to his house for dinner. We had a great time together, sharing with him and his buddies some not-to-be-forgotten Tandoori chicken, Serrano ham, good wine and equally good conversation. As a digestive, everyone participated in an extended session of Frisbee which ended in the wee hours and served as the topping on the cake to a perfect night.
Someone once said that a trip is not measured in the kilometers one travels, but in the number of friends one makes. Well, if that’s true, we now count at least four new friends in Amsterdam , who we’ll gladly show how to live San Sebastian, our home-base, whenever they want.