I’ve never really had segments on this blog, but I thought maybe I’d start one. I’ve been spending a lot of time planning pending trips to various parts of both America and Europe. I haven’t been on a major trip in almost two years (excluding my Vegas retreat last summer on the cusp of my sanity) and the planning phases have got me feeling sentimental about some of my past trips. I thought for the next few weeks I’d share some of the highlights.
So I bring you…
Travel Log 1: Penis Flashing in Germany
The summer of 2011 I was forced to leave my beloved, temporary residence in Edinburgh, UK and return to America. In true American pilgramage to Europe fashion, I tred to fit all of my stuff into two suitcases (Tip: Don’t ever take a rolling suitcase to Europe), and bought one of those open train tickets.
I had traveled once before on my own, much to everyone I’d left in America’s shock (“But weren’t you so scared!”), kind of by accident. This trip, though, had me doing a three week loop through the Germanic countries by myself before I’d come South and meet a nice Scottish friend in Munich.
I was a week or so in, having a good time, couchsurfing with some cool dudes, trudging my way through Cormac McCarthy in various European parks and basking in the splendor that is fine cheese. I made it to Berlin pretty much unscathed (although I had left my locket in Amsterdam and my shampoo in Brussels).
My favorite thing to do in European cities is explore parks. Kind of low key, but I was essentially broke and therefore couldn’t afford most tourist attractions. I sprang at a German grocery store for a baguette sandwich and a tiny bottle of wine (I wouldn’t eat for two more days because of it), and crossed the wall to East Berlin.
East Berlin is pretty quiet. It’s like a wild, almost overgrown park. I found a nice bench on a circular path and sat down with All The Pretty Horses and my sandwich to enjoy a nice afternoon.
An old man on his bike kept passing me. I only noticed him because there wasn’t a whole lot of traffic on my circle and he passed multiple times. Every so often he would sit at another nearby bench and shuffle around awkwardly. My eyes would flick from my book without trying to, automatically drawn to his movement out of the corner of my eye.
I began to feel his gaze unwanted on my skin. It made me uncomfortable, but, seeing as I was within plain sight of other people, I wasn’t too worried. He just continued to bike on by and shuffle around on his bench, paying me a tad more attention than was necessary.
I read my book as he’d bike by. I became determined not to look at him as I struggled to keep my attention on the quiet story before me. I could see him stop in front of me from my peripheral vision. I wasn’t going to look up though. Not for the life of me.
He coughed though and, on instinct, my eyes dashed off my determined stare into the pages of my book. Before me he stood beside his bike. Out of the bottom of his shorts, I saw in that fleeting glimpse, the old mad had exposed his giant erection.
“Dude!” I shouted in immediate reaction, my hand snapping up to my face to shield my eyes as if I had just looked directly at the sun. I didn’t know what else to do.
Quickly, before my fear could grow to hysteria, the man must have put away his penis and hopped back on his bike. I was too scared to look, but I heard (with palpable relief) him bike away quickly. I, too, hurried to shove my stuff back in its bag and took off. I glimpsed him one last time on the main sidewalk, speeding embarrassed down the path as if racing from a fire.
This was probably the strangest moment in my life, and the only time I ever felt terrified as a traveler (I don’t want to dissuade anyone from traveling alone… It’s amazing and no old man with a hard-on should persuade you otherwise!). I sprinted back across the wall, shaking, where I ran into a crazy French-Canadian girl that I’d met at my hostel earlier who calmed me down and did her best to turn the entire thing into a joke.
“I don’t understand why he was so embarrassed! What did he expect me to do?” I’d questioned as she plied me with beers I couldn’t afford. “Just go all starry-eyed and be like, ‘Oh, thank you for showing me your magnificent penis, old man in the park!'”
“Oh yes!” she’d joked. “You look like creepy old man is just your type. You hussy! You were clearly leading him on by reading that book and avoiding eye-contact.”
I moved on to Vienna, sharing the story with my next couchsurfing host, a hilarious translation student. whom I loved “Don’t be culturally ignorant,” she’d laughed. “He just wanted you to taste your first wienerschnitzel!”