During my twenty four years…ok ok, almost twenty five…I have been lucky enough to travel relatively far and wide across the globe. Despite having been to places of varying cultures, there seems to be one consistent factor throughout my travels; drama seems to follow me no matter where I go!
This recurrence of drama started on my first major trip abroad when I was 17, and got the chance to go to Russia on a history school trip. With a burning desire to travel, and knowing that Russia was most likely somewhere that I would not get the opportunity to visit again, I jumped at the chance to go. The trip itinerary meant that we would fly to St. Petersburg and have a few days looking around the city, followed by an overnight train journey to take us to Moscow, where we would spend the remainder of the trip.
St. Petersburg was plain sailing and relatively uneventful…that was until we got to the train station very late in the evening in order to get the overnight train to take us to our next destination. Standing around bleary eyed with our suitcases, all of us school kids just wanted to get onto the train, find our designated cabin and just grab a few hours sleep. We watched as our guide wandered over to the ticket man and babble a conversation in Russian, a worried look passing over her face. Returning to our group, she informed our teacher, and us, that a robbery at knife point had just happened on the approaching train on which were about to embark. Apparently we shouldn’t worry because ‘no one was hurt’, and ‘we probably wouldn’t be targeted anyway’. Needless to say this was none too reassuring when we were a group of spotty 17 year old English tourists, with ‘sitting ducks’ stamped across our foreheads!
As we boarded the train, the only comfort that our teachers could offer was to say ‘right, once you’re all settled in your bunks, just take out any money that you have and leave it on the bedside cabinet. If anyone enters your cabin and points a knife at you demanding money, just let them have it.’ Coming up with my own solution, I stuffed all of my euros into my pillow case, and managed to sleep soundly across the country until we arrived the following morning in Moscow.
You may be thinking that the threat of being robbed at knife point in a foreign country would be enough drama for one trip, but of course, me being me, there was more drama just waiting round the corner…
Due to the exchange rate in Russia, we found that most things were ridiculously cheap, which is why we found ourselves staying in a five star hotel once we reached Moscow. Assigned twin rooms, we all paired off and headed up to our rooms to settle in. My friend Rachael and I headed up to our room, where I decided that, due to the minus eight degree temperature outside, a hot shower was definitely what I needed just then.
The problem with the bathroom was the fact that the shower was positioned over a very high and deep bath, and due to my shortness of stature, it was a bit like climbing the big wall on an army training assault course for me to even get into the bath to turn the shower on. All was going well, until I had finished my shower and wanted to get out of the bath. I thought that the best thing to do would be to flick my towel over the shower rail above me, and then just scramble my way out of the bath. Unfortunately, I thought wrong. As I managed to hang up my towel with miraculously little effort, I slipped on my way out of the bath, grabbing onto the towel to prevent death or injury, and succeeded in ripping the shower rail away from the wall.
Oh my actual god!
I had just destroyed the bathroom in a five star hotel in Russia! Sitting slightly bewildered in the bath, with a massive shower pole just resting across my knees, I watched as several of the bathroom tiles just parted ways with the wall and crumbled to the edge of the bath.
Frantically trying to think of what the hell I was going to do about it, knowing almost certainly that the punishment in Russia for such a crime must have been shooting by government officials, my friend Rachael’s only assistance was to laugh hysterically at me, barely able to stand from laughing at the ‘hilarity’ of the situation!
Trailing wet footprints through the hotel room and wrapped in a rather large bath towel, I came up with a DIY quick fix of which Changing Rooms’ Handy Andy would have been proud; I found a packet of chewing gum in the bottom of my bag, and I chewed the entire packet into a manageable ball. I then went into the bathroom, and proceeded to fix my five star hotel bathroom, by sticking up the shower pole with chewing gum. I kid you not.
Ok so, it wasn’t exactly straight, but at least it was back in place…sort of. And yes, I did eventually tell my teacher…when we were about two hours into the plane journey home…
Drama continued to follow me into Greece, when, following Sixth Form my friend Rachael and I decided to elope on a six week long summer holiday. Our destination was Chaniotis on the Halkidiki peninsula near Thessaloniki.
Having settled into a rather relaxed way of life, when our only dilemma in life was to decide what factor sun cream to wear that day, we decided that whilst we were in Chaniotis, we really ought to venture out and do something cultural. A boat trip to Mount Athos on the opposite peninsula seemed the obvious choice; I mean, why not hop aboard a boat and sail around an island where Greek monks live, their wooden huts perched precariously hundreds of feet above sea level.
Whilst onboard, a free Greek buffet style lunch was included, which was all very nice except for the fact that the closer we got to Mount Athos, the windier it got. At this point, Rachael decided to set off and locate the toilets, leaving me alone on deck with my paper plate full of hummus. Suddenly, a larger than average gust of wind whipped my plate away from me, and landed, hummus side first, against a rather well dressed lady’s bare leg, completely covering her from knee to ankle in the stuff.
Desperately trying not to double over with laughter, I approached the lady, apologising profusely, and removed the offending plate of hummus. Needless to say, I was forced to find another place to sit on deck, because I couldn’t look anywhere in her direction without creasing up!
Whilst admittedly Greece was only a minor dramatic event, I would have to say that of all of my travels combined, none were as dramatic as my 4 day trip to Rome!
During my second year of university, one afternoon between lectures, I was sitting in my room just messing around on Facebook, when my housemate Donna came to join me for a chat. In one of the most whimsical moments in the history of holiday research, we suddenly decided on, and immediately booked, a short holiday to Rome. In such a short trip, nothing disastrous could happen…right?!
The initial sequence of disasters happened when we arrived at the airport in Rome, and we realised that despite what it said in our booking information, there was no airport transfer to take us to where we were staying. Inevitably, one very expensive taxi ride later, we did make it to our destination. What we also hadn’t realised, was quite how far away we were staying from the city centre. ‘Not to worry’, the receptionist at our accommodation assured us; ‘there is bus outside you catch to city centre, just buy ticket here.’ So obviously, we did as we were told, and bought 2 bus tickets from her.
For anyone who has never been to Rome before, this simple act of buying a bus ticket would sound far from complicated, even so far as to say that a monkey could do it. However, buying a bus ticket and using the bus system was not as simple as it sounds!
Once we got on the bus, an Italian woman, who didn’t speak a word of English, attempted to demonstrate to us two moronic tourists, that you need to insert the ticket in some sort of machine, in order to activate it so that we wouldn’t get fined, as apparently in Rome, an un-activated ticket is equal to the offence of not having bought a ticket, similar to failing to show a ticket on trains in this country.
Eventually, we made it safely to the centre of Rome, and had an amazing time exploring the overwhelming site of The Vatican, and we temporarily forgot the day’s minor hiccups so far.
It was only when we attempted to leave the city centre and head back towards our accommodation that things got really interesting.
Hopping onto another bus, we sat at the back and noticed a group of officials frequently looking in our direction. I tried to avoid eye contact so that we didn’t look suspicious; we hadn’t done anything wrong, and continued to gaze out of the window. After a couple of stops however, the officials approached Donna and I, demanded our bus tickets, and subsequently stopped the bus, ordering us to disembark.
What the hell?!
In broken English, the officer explained that we were being fined 150 euros each, for not paying to use the bus, and failure to pay the fine would result in arrest. Beginning to panic and stammering like an idiot, I explained that we had bought these tickets that morning to use on the bus. The officer continued that the tickets we had purchased were only for use of a maximum of half an hour once activated, and we had therefore effectively broken the law. As he then asked to see our passports, which we didn’t have on us, images of being locked away in an Italian cell began to reel through my mind. I stuttered that our passports were back at where we were staying, and offered him my driving licence, which he snatched from me scrutinizing my face, and then my ID.
After a few minutes, which felt like hours, had passed, he eventually said, ‘ok. 50 euro each now and I let you go.’
Feeling more relieved than I had ever been in my life, Donna and I handed over the cash and rushed off to a ticket booth in order to purchase the correct type of bus ticket, to get back to where we were staying, and forget that any of the previous events had even happened.
We hopped onto the next bus that we saw, bearing the same number as the one that we had caught to get into the centre, and sat down, relieved that we hadn’t been arrested, and wondering how we would have explained that one to our parents if we had been!
It was only after about half an hour when our accommodation still hadn’t yet appeared, that I became slightly concerned. A short while later, and the entire civilisation of Rome had disappeared, and we were suddenly in the middle of nowhere in Italian countryside.
You have got to be kidding me!
Considering the fact that Donna and I were the only ones on the bus, I started to picture front page scenarios; ‘two British girls found dead in Italian bus murder’, etc.
Beginning to sweat and wondering if the torture of our trip would ever end, we stopped at a garage, and I legged it to the front of the bus to attempt to speak to the driver. I explained as best I could where we were trying to get to. ‘Ah’, the driver answered, ‘you want bus 52’. ‘But…this is bus 52!’ I retorted. ‘No no’, he said,’ there two bus 52.’
Of course there were, how stupid of me.
So, all we had to do was spend another million euros on bus tickets that would add up to enough time to get us back to the centre on this bus, so that we could catch the other bus.
Eventually, thank God, we did manage to get back to the centre, get on the right bus, and make it back to where we were staying.
Needless to say, that night, we drank enough wine for about six people in order to forget that any of the day’s events had actually happened!