We meandered through eastern Europe, if memory serves, next stop was Bucharest.
We found a small holiday park with cheap apartments which had a swimming pool. We got food on the site and had a few beers.
I remember having a tantrum over something and grabbed the train timetable book and said to John and TW that I would go the rest of the way (When I say ‘way’, we had no route planned at all) on my own. After about 5 minutes of swearing at each other we resolved our differences and drank more beer.
What are 3 boys supposed to do there after? A swim in the darkness and skinny dipping obviously. The locals thought we were all a bit mad. Yup, they were not wrong.
After that we headed for Sofia. Arriving at the station I was desperate for a sit down on the toilet. I barged through crowds of locals asking for dollars/pounds to exchange on the black market, to find the toilets. Stand-up style toilets with saloon doors … great. I had just started squatting and some local stuck his head over the top of the doors, “Dollars?”. I am usually very polite, however I was really looking forward to my much needed poo in peace and so replied with a simple, “Fuck off, I am trying to shit!!”. My face may have looked angry given the rear end struggle and he left.
I don’t recall much about Sofia, eastern Europe all merged into one for me. Beautiful buildings, people struggling to earn a crust and the most natural looking females. No make-up, no bling, just an air of coolness and style.
From Sofia, we headed to Istanbul. My god!! I felt like Indiana Jones. It was amazing. Mosques lined the sky line. We found somewhere to sleep and headed off exploring. We went into one mosque and took off our trainers at the door, being totally respectful. Seconds later I spun on my heals as some kids were attempting to steal my adidas running shoes. They dropped them and ran.
We decided to get a ferry to Bandirma and then a coach to Cesme, a local holiday resort. We found some cheap accommodation and dropped our rucksacks. A short walk into the town, some food and bottle of Raki. As we wondered the streets and harbour drinking neat raki from the bottle (I remain this classy even today), the locals were advising us to drink the raki with water. We knew best obviously. Once that was gone we found a bar on the beach, drank some more and danced on the sand. I imagine that Club Tropicana was a similar experience.
On leaving we figured that going over a large hill/small mountain between us and the hotel was shorter route than walking around it. Up and over we went. Blind drunk, we met a guy with donkey and TW asked him for directions. John and I laughed and carried on.
TW hit the hay and John and I took my tape player and got on to the flat roof of the hotel. Looking at the stars, listening to the Doors I would imagine, we passed out. I woke with a jump. My legs were over the edge of the roof and a fall far enough to do some very serious damage was below. I sobered up fast, woke John and we got back to the room. The hangover the following day was crucifying. The locals smiling at as if to say, “we knew best!!”
We got back to Istanbul. I was here that I called home to find out my A-levels results. Not bad for 2 years of having a good time and winging it.
We then headed across the Greek coast to Thessaloniki. I had some serious bowel issues by this stage. White, cold sweats, red hot sun, carrying a very heavy rucksack and diarrhoea. Stand-up style toilets and a jug of water as the flush was not a great experience. Death seemed unlikely, however I was not in good shape. I had to last what seemed like hours on a bus to a coastal resort without letting my bum cheeks relax. I made it.
We camped (the only time used the tent that we carried around for a month) on a site a few strides away from a glorious beach and spent about 4 days chilling, we needed it. We got healthy sun tans, swam in the sea and enjoyed the views. Although I have no idea where my photographs are, I recall one of John, sat on the sand in his shorts, with his scrotum hanging out, blissfully unaware.
I decided to try my hand at windsurfing and water-skiing. The latter was hard, however because my Dad used to water-ski I thought it would be much easier … wrong. The former took me a while to get going, but once I got the sail in the right place I was making good progress. After a few minutes I turned to see where I was. Oh shit!!! I could not even work out which beach I had come from I was that far out. I dropped the sail and sat on the board.
About 5 minutes later the windsurfing guy and a young lad came out on a pedalo. I jumped on the pedalo and the young lad effortlessly took the windsurfer back to the shore. I have never attempted to try that again. John and TW thought it was hilarious, obviously. I had watched Jaws as a youngster and knew I was probably minutes from being eaten.
We ventured back through Yugoslavia and got robbed again on the train by some Italians who, with the help of a some Scandinavians, we tried to apprehend them. We were chasing them down the train when the emergency brakes were deployed and they jumped off the train and legged it.
Next stop the Alps!!! We stopped in Geneva, spent our entire daily budget buying a sandwich and a can of coke for lunch. We did not hang around. As beautiful and as important as Geneva is internationally, it was not within our price range. Chamonix the next target.
We decided that we would get a small train part way up Mont Blanc. We got off the train and walked further, until reaching the base camp at early evening. It was full of bearded men in Berghaus jackets, who looked at us as if we were not worthy. Trainers, shorts and t-shirt might not be ideal for climbing Europe’s highest mountain, however it was a last minute decision, so cut us some slack guys. We asked if they had any beds and they didn’t. We skipped back down the mountain a little and found a goat hut. It was shelter to some extent.
It was terribly cold, however John and I had big bulky 3-4 season sleeping bags and TW had his thin green rectangular sleeping bag which he claimed had been designed by NASA and reminded John and I often as we stuffed our bulky sleeping bags away every morning. I awoke to the sound of TW shuffling around. I looked up from my warm sleeping bag and saw TW rummaging around putting on every item of clothing that he could, he was freezing. I laughed a lot!!!
We got to Calais and slept in a park if I recall. We had no clean clothes and looked a bit road worn. We thought we deserved a treat. Finding a swanky restaurant we went inside. The waiters tried their best to ignore us. Rudely so in fact. John hated snobbery with a passion. He got out a load of notes from his bag and waved them in the air and sure enough a waiter came running over, only to be told, “You can fuck off, we are going where we feel welcome”, or words to that effect.
We headed back to England, into my home town of stoke and went straight to the pub (before going home). Had a good night out and a certain AW, brother of TW, got his manhood out in a chip shop. He was drunk and had clearly missed me more than I had appreciated.
Life was never quite the same after that summer. Travelling, sleeping rough, living life.