European Vacation: Part 3


Welcome to our final installment of the misadventures of a previous European vacation taken by two brothers in the early 2000’s. The rest of the German trip went well enough, but there were still a few more National Lampoon like moments. Like the day we drove across the border to Innsbruck, Austria (again, to add to the total number of countries we visited on the trip).

by Woolfgang Stuck via Wikimedia commons

We arrived in the late morning, found a place to park, and began wandering around the downtown area. Neither of us knew anything about Innsbruck, but we quickly found out (from some of the postcards in local gift shops) that it had hosted the Winter Olympics not once, but twice. That was quite impressive.

What wasn’t impressive was the fact that practically nothing was open. We assumed (coming from the Bible Belt of the U.S.) that because it was Sunday, people were waiting until afternoon before opening up. But instead, it seemed that the only things that were open (even after noon) were the few gift shops and a very sad casino that seemed to only have a few blocks of slot machines.

So we can truthfully say that we have been to Innsbruck, Austria, which was home to not one, but two Winter Olympics. As long as we stop the story there, no one has to know what a complete waste of a day that trip was!

Finally it was time to begin working our way back to Amsterdam, and eventually back home. As I mentioned before, we decided to spend the night in Luxembourg to rack up another country on our personal lists.   This also led to further cultural confusion on our part, as we got off the train in Luxembourg City (the capital city of Luxembourg) and tried to find out how to get to our hotel.

Unfortunately, just like in Innsbruck, everything was closed! But this wasn’t because it was a Sunday. This was because it was after 6:00 p.m. It seemed the entire country closes around 5:00 p.m. Even the train stations, which had no one working in the information booths, ticket booths, or anywhere else we could find.

by MMFE via wikimedia commons

Again, this was the main train station in the capital city of a Western European country! We eventually found a random guy walking around who was able to tell us that our hotel wasn’t at this train stop, but that we needed to go a few stops away. So we hopped on the next train going in the right direction, got off at the correct station, and then got a taxi.

I have to admit that we were not impressed so far with Luxembourg. And we were less impressed with the taxi driver we got to our hotel. Of course taxi drivers are known for taking advantage of naïve tourists worldwide, but this guy takes the cake. We showed him the address for our hotel and he promptly drove us through winding streets for 10-15 minutes, finally depositing us in front of our hotel (at a Western European sized fee).

We quickly ate dinner in a café close by that was open, promptly went up to our room, and waited for morning (since nothing else seemed to be open). The next morning as we were checking out we asked for a taxi to the train station. The person behind the desk looked confused and asked why we didn’t walk. We said we weren’t sure how to get there, and the person said, just turn left outside of the hotel, cross the street, and you’re there. We were probably 150 meters from the station!

This wasn’t the first time I had been taken advantage of as a tourist, and it wasn’t the last. But it still did not endear me to Luxembourg and I haven’t gone back since (even though I’ve had plenty of people tell me it is a lovely country with lovely people).

by Michael Paraskevas via wikimedia commons

As we returned to Amsterdam for our final (at least that is what we thought) night in Europe, we went out for dinner and last minute souvenir shopping. Back in our hotel room we watched the Simpsons (this time in English!) again, and prepared for our trip back home.

The next morning we checked out of the hotel and made our way to the airport. Unfortunately, for some reason my brother and I were on different flights back home. Remember he was on a Buddy Pass, which meant he only got onto a flight if there was an empty seat. On our initial flight over he sat in First Class while I sat back in steerage. This time, I watched him check in and go into the gate room (each gate in the Amsterdam airport has it’s own room with security check, which was the first time I had seen this) and sit down, waiting for his flight.

by Massimo Catarinella via wikimedia commons

Thinking that he was safely on his way back to the US, I went to my gate and checked in and got on my flight (which went to New York City for a few hour layover before heading to Atlanta). When I landed in New York I called my parents to see how my brother’s flight went.

This is when I found out that my brother actually never got on his flight, and was stranded alone in Europe (Amsterdam, of all places for an eighteen-year-old to be stranded) without much money, any credit cards, or any other way to take care of himself.

Remember, this was the guy who didn’t even really want to go to Europe in the first place, had asked my parents to come back early, and was now stranded there alone!

The guilt our father felt for not allowing him to come home early was huge, and he told our mother that as long as my brother could get on a flight to anywhere in the continental U.S., he would drive there to pick him up and bring him back home.

My parents were able to find the hotel we had booked the night before through my emails and book a room for him to stay in again (as well as speaking to the hotel staff to explain the situation, since they usually wouldn’t allow that sort of thing). Somehow my brother, who was not known for paying attention to details that were not sports related, was able to find his way back to our hotel from the airport (without the name or address mind you, as I had all of the information with me).

by Pnickell0 via wikimedia commons

He checked into his room and then went out to find something to eat. He said he found a place selling “New York Pizza,” which was some of the best pizza he’d ever had.

The next day he was able to finally get on a flight home, after watching a few early flights without seats available leave.

What had started out as my own version of the “National Lampoon European Vacation” sequel had ended up as my brother, the reluctant traveller’s “Home Alone: Lost in Amsterdam” sequel.

It was the beginning of my globe hopping lifestyle, which my brother has since also joined. My work has taken me to live in three different cities in China, as well as cities in Vietnam and Brazil.

His and his wife’s jobs have taken them to several locations around the U.S. and will one day take them to international locations as well. We both learned from our European adventure, and I hope others who might be reluctant to travel outside of their comfort zone will also take the risk and go somewhere they’ve read about in a book or seen on TV or in a movie. It could be the beginning of your own National Lampoon style vacation!

Next: European Vacation: Part 2

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