My Megabus journey from hell: part one

If you’ve read a few of my posts, you will know how much I rave on about the Megabus and it super deals. Yeah, sometimes you do have to question how a company can afford to take people across Western Europe for a pound a journey, but still provide a good service. Well, that good service completely vanished yesterday when my usual Megabus trip from Brussels (I make this journey a lot) took me 12 hours than I expected.

Bear in mind, the journey is usually 7 or 8 hours, so to turn into a 20 hour trip, some serious fuck-ups must have went down – and they did.

Whilst waiting in Brussels, we decided to call megabus to enquire about its 14:00 service. The service had an oil leak in Germany and needed to be replaced by another German company. Normal procedure so far. That bus turned up 2 hours late to Brussels and we headed on our journey.

It was in Calais, France that things went ‘tits up’. The coach driver pulled up at the ferry dock and announced that another bus was on its way and he has no more information. A few minutes later, the bus driver is informed that the coach will take 45 minutes. Now, Megabus has had 4 hours to come up with this replacement, how can it not be here waiting for us already?

We wait for over an hour and a half before the replacement turns up. That means by the time we arrived in London, considering ferry times and border controls, we were 6 hours late.

Being 6 hours late to a 7 hour journey can piss you off, but when you arrive at 2 in the morning, things get worse. First, your bus has definitely gone without you, but even worse, there are actually no services left in the whole station until the next morning. In other words, Megabus dropped me off in London, homeless. I called them to ask what they are going to do and they couldn’t decide on an answer. One of them suggested sleeping in the station. If I’d prepared it wouldn’t be so bad, but I had no extra food (I was starving by this point) and no extra money for my onward journey.

Now, this is where part 2 comes in or what I hope can be redemption for megabus. I had to book into a hostel in London ( a city where I never wanted to stay) and book a bus the next morning to go home ( on top of the money I’d spent on the oringinal journey). Now, I’ve sent megabus an e-mail asking for a reimbursement and it’s up to them, but so far the service has been shambolic and unapolagetic. Come on, megabus. I spend over 200 pound a year on your services. Don’t let me down.

 

Lee

Part 2 coming soon ūüôā

Dear Europe, please explain.

By definition, we Britons are supposed to be European. And we are Europeans and proud if Europe, but it doesn’t mean we don’t find the rest of Europe a bit odd. As an island, we are quite different to most of Europe with the exclusion of Ireland. In fact, socially, linguistically and culturally we are closer to America, Australia and Canada than our own neighbours. This is why I’m making this list of the WTFs of continental Europe. There seems to be something going on here that we, Brits are not being included in and here they are.

Square pillows

A pillow, in my humble opinion should always be rectangle. My philosophy being that when I roll over, my head should still be on the pillow. A square pillow just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s either too small and rolling over means exiting the pillow or worse, a bigger square pillow that hugs your shoulders and feels odd. Who invented the square pillow? IKEA?

Tickets for transport

If you take a bus in the uk, you get on at the front door and pay for your journey (except london where you’ll need an Oyster card). The driver of the bus does not have change either, so in this case we are really far behind. In most if Europe, you can walk on a bus without a ticket because you’re presumed to have bought one. Only if an inspector jumps on, are you completely screwed. This is a great way for risk takers like me to get a free ride. The only thing that baffles me is that sometimes it’s like a mission just to find the ticket sellers. In Italy, it’s tobacco shops. In prage, they are on random street corners. There seems to be no consistency at all. Sometimes, I wonder if they want us to buy tickets at all!

Double mattresses 


This one really freaks me out. A double bed with 2 single mattresses. Is it for siblings or something? Am I secretly booking the sibling room? For the record, double beds in Britain tend to have double mattresses.

Traffic light buttons

I’m referring to the strange yellow ones you found in Germany, Poland, Belgium and a few other countries. Some of them make cool noises, but the real question is, how do you press them? And do you need to press them? Sometimes I accidentally turn the volume up and have to pretend to be deaf. Other times… Well, they just confuse me.

Cobbled roads

They look great, we get it. They really look nice, but in countries with such a heavy emphasis on cycling, I’m surprised people don’t break their spine. Over in British, we are probably too pragmatic, hence our cities being far uglier than that of say Italy. Somebody in the 70s decided that all roads should be smooth and all buildings should be grey and square. Did we become stalinist briefly?

There are others.. I’ll let you off the hook for now because you’re gorgeous.

Lee

My Experience: May tree in Western Germany

Every year in the West of Germany, the streets become a traditional battleground for those who are willing to go the extra mile to express their love. It happens on the last day of April, but only really begins on the first day of May, hence why it is known as the may tree. The concept is rather simple (if I could only just explain it), a bunch of men meet at a square in the city and fight over a number of trees which will be considerably less than the amount of men. The men don’t actually fist fight, but it’s more of a tug and tussle to get the tree first and run away. Those who emerge victorious (with a tree, as opposed to most of the people who won’t have a tree) will have a token to present to their loved one the next day by leaving it outside of their house and decorating it with colored ribbons. This symbolizes that they are strong enough and dedicated enough to marry that woman, but in order to marry the woman (as the tradition goes) you will need to give her three trees. Every fourth year, the tradition will be passed on to the women, who will perform the same task of stealing the trees and leaving them outside the house of their potential husband.

The tradition goes way back to a time where a man would have to physically fight for a woman’s approval and show that he was tough enough to protect her from harm. Another change in the tradition is that instead of finding random May trees (actually has to be a certain tree, Birch to be precise), the government now provide the trees in a certain plaza near the city centre. The area will be taped off, and a countdown will begin, as soon as the number one is reached, it’s every man for himself.

IMG_0453

So… my experience went like this. I was more than up for it and being given free beer made me even more determined, but when it came down to the grind, I flopped. The first problem was that I struggled with the countdown, I heard the German words, but the English numbers were being interpreted to me with just enough of a delay to confuse the fuck out of me. Then, the other side had stormed before the number three was read out and so we were already a second behind and to make it worse, pretty much everyone in front of me fell over. I ended up lying down on a bunch of men who were scrambling towards the trees, while I was more interested in surviving than anything else. I managed to grab a tree and instead of the good old fashion tug of war or even the diplomatic scissor,paper, rock, the guy just said, “No, you can’t have it.” He looked seriously upset that I had grabbed his tree, but I thought to myself that maybe I wasn’t doing something right and I let go. In short, I didn’t get a May tree.

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This picture of me with a May tree was actually the result of just asking politely if I could take a picture with the tree. Yes, I did fail, but I really enjoyed it and with my girlfriend being about 100 miles away at the time, I don’t know what I would have done with it anyway. Make sure that if you’re in Germany at the end of April, you look out for this traditional event. It’s a lot of fun and they usually provide food, beers and music too.

Lee

My experience: Staying in a Wagenplatz in Germany

A wagenplatz is a German alternative community of alternative living which grew on the back of the new age movement of the 1960s. The communities are built on illegally occupied from many years ago or derelict areas and are found all over Germany, Austria and Switzerland. ¬†The closest group of people that I could compare them to are the traveling Irish communities here in Britain or the Roma gypsies in other parts of Europe. The word ‘Wagenplatz’ means wagon place, and each person or family lives in their own wagon. The wagons they use vary from old wooden mobile huts to shipping containers or even motor homes. Each community has its on philosophy and identity, but the fundamental idea is to live tax free and care free.

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**Taking photos is forbidden and rude in these sites, so I don’t have any of my own pictures.**

Credit: https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3039/2762528156_899516e2cb_o.jpg

My experience came unknowingly, in Cologne (K√∂ln), when I thought I was staying with a normal couch surfer in a normal home. I met my host at the main train station in and she told me that she lived in a kind of caravan and that I could have my own to sleep in for two nights. I was a little confused at where a caravan could be left in a city centre like Cologne, but she said it was walking distance so we walked there. We walked through the city streets and it felt like just any other city in Europe. Cyclists, traffic, Kebab shops, Lebara mobile convenience stores, ladbrokes betting shops and then out of nowhere, a gate to a new world. Right on the main road in between Cologne’s two ring roads, a caravan site. ¬†My first surprise was that the gate was open. Anyone could have just walked into the community, and as I was to discover, outsiders do often times walk in for a beer or to hang out.

Upon entrance, I could see just 30 – 40 wooden wagons, abandoned cars, a few caravans and potted plants all over the place, but as I got shown around, the complexity and ingenuity started to blossom. The most impressive feats were the wifi, hot shower, electricity in each cabin, herb garden, fresh water supply and a flushing toilet. Other impressive components were the music stage, running bar serving cold beers, a urinal which also lead into the sanitation system, a working table saw and a post box which was actually delivered to and not completely blanked. It was hard to believe at first how they had created this almost utopian paradise, but it did take 25 years to do so and there are still many challenges which haven’t been faced.

This particular site was themed on working as a union and living together. Other wagenplatz had different philosophies, but I was told that all of the original founders of wagenplatz were left wing socialists and activists which sought alternative lifestyles and ways to live off the grid as a group. On this particular site, everyone except for one person was actually employed either part or full time in Cologne city centre. My host was actually a videographer who had worked all over the world, and a good one at that. The other residents were generally artists, carpenters, musicians, caretakers and other handyman jobs. They chose to live here for different reasons, but the perks were obvious. There was no rent, no water charges, and electricity was the only fee which was around 35 euros a week. The site itself made money by hosting events (mainly punk rock) and charging people to buy beer (still very cheap at 1.30 a bottle) on special campfire nights. The site was also open to visitors to come and have a look around, but generally they were shunned by the local community and only visited by the punks and other members of wagenplatz.

Life here was simple and very relaxing. There were plenty of chores such as cleaning the site, working bar shifts, gardening your herbs and so on, but compared to the rat race outside, they were living easy. They made me feel very welcome during my stay and I was more than eager to get stuck into some chores. Cutting wood was the main task, as the heating system required that you made a fire in the stove and fed it enough fuel to last through the winter nights. I started my own fire one night, it started all wrong, but once I get a helping hand, the room was nice and toasty. The comforts were few and far between unless you really planned the day well, but comforts are actually supposed to be like that. That is how we once lived, on a the tip of a needle, never knowing when the hunt would return, the fire would light, the well would dry. Wagenplatz were mixing modern day comforts with our primal instinct to work for ourselves and our local communities, something most of us have lost.

The second Wagenplatz I visited wasn’t so glorious. It was quieter than the one I was staying in (which was downtown with trains one side and traffic the other), but it wasn’t on the power grid, so they had to use a generator, which makes quite a racket too. I was told that this particular site was ‘more punk’ and that the residents just got fucked up all day and partied all night. From what I saw, it was exactly the case. They had a makeshift bar similar to the site I stayed on, but it was in better shape. Inside, there were about 10 people, of which a few were so high they couldn’t make an intelligible sound. We chilled in the bar with our 1.50 beers and I looked for comparisons with the site I was staying in. They didn’t have it easy out here, that was for sure. The toilet didn’t flush, it was a pitfall toilet which could be smelt before seen, that’s for sure. The wagons were not protected or huddled in a tight village sense like the other site, and the generator gnawed endlessly. I was told it was a relatively new site at around 10 years old, and they were not able to enjoy the same privileges as their predecessors because of tightening laws.

The future for these communities didn’t seem to alarm anyone I met, but I believe there are credible threats. For one, the reason that they didn’t have to pay for water is because it was ‘hot-wired’ from the company which owned the land next to it. The next issue was that the ‘company that owned the land next to it’ actually owned the land that the site was on as well. The only thing keeping this whole alternative system is the landlord of the property. Europe is facing a war at the minute with gentrification and elitism. It is a war that cannot be won without activism like wagenplatz. I genuinely believe that wagenplatz are a concern for those in power because what they have created is essentially a completely independent way of living. The only hiccups being the monopolization of water, electricity and other essential parts of our living. The ruling class have more influence than ever. They can turn the everyday public with their constant shit-stained stream of right wing propaganda. The far right in Europe are Wagenplatz’ biggest enemies and Wagenplatz don’t receive much good press as a result. In fact, they prefer to stay out of the mainstream media wherever possible and they are doing a good job. One slip up and these guys will be treated as the new class enemies of the rich. The ‘scroungers’, the ‘freeloaders’, the ‘commies’, whatever they can call them to make people hate the people on ground level and stop looking at the rich and upper class. You may even be thinking that it’s not fair that these people get to leave relatively tax free and get their water paid for by their neighbor.

Concepts like wagenplatz need to be rewarded and supported. They stand for unity and fight for the helpless. They welcome many travelers into their wagons and will never charge you if you stay the night. They even care for refugees which our own governments leave to drown on our shores. This is how change happens, and this has been going on 25 years at this particular site and longer in others.  If you would like to visit a wagenplatz in Cologne, I can put you in touch. I hope you enjoyed this blog.

Change is coming…

Lee

More than a couch! how to get a local guide to Berlin!

I asked about 20 million people in Berlin for a couch. I’m still asking actually, but one of my declined requests just sent me a huge list of information. I know couch surfing still had it! If you ever plan on going to Berlin, check this shiz out!

********************* Public Transport *********************

http://www.bvg.de/index.php/de/3713/name/Liniennetz.html

and download: S- und U-Bahnnetz mit Regionalbahn; Tarifbereich ABC

or: http://fahrinfo.bvg.de/Fahrinfo/bin/query.bin/dn?ujm=1&MapLayer=NETWORK

The Art places in Berlin:

*********** Galeries ***********

Auguststrasse Gallery street in the district “Mitte”:

“Me” Collectors Room Olbrist¬†http://www.me-berlin.com/?lang=en

“KW” Kunstwerke¬†http://www.kw-berlin.de/

“M√§dchenschule”¬†http://www.maedchenschule.org/de/kunst.html

And other great and good galleries.

Heidestra√üe: Galleries behind “Hamburger Bahnhof” (modern Art collection).http://www.hamburgerbahnhof.de/text.php?lang=en

Potsdamer Straße (a new gallery place in Berlin):

http://www.potse.org/culture.html

http://www.tip-berlin.de/kultur-und-freizeit-kunst-und-museen/die-potsdamer-strasse-wird-zum-kunst-mekka

************* Photography: *************

Co Berlin: http://www.co-berlin.info/news.html?Itemid=390

Helmut Newton Stiftung: http://www.helmut-newton.com/

Museum f√ľr Fotografie:¬†http://www.smb.museum/smb/standorte/index.php?p=2&objID=6124&n=12

************************** Modern Art: **************************

Collectors Room Heiner Bastian: http://www.cfa-berlin.com/

Hamburger Bahnhof: http://www.hamburgerbahnhof.de/exhibition.php

Neue National Galerie: http://www.smb.museum/smb/sammlungen/details.php?objID=20&lang=en

Martin Gropius Bau:http://www.berlinerfestspiele.de/en/aktuell/festivals/11_gropiusbau/mgb_start.php

Berlinische Galerie: http://www.berlinischegalerie.de/

NGBK: www.ngbk.de

Kunstwerke: www.kw-berlin.de

*********** Off Scene: ***********

Stattbad Wedding www.stattbad.net

Kulturfabrik Moabit www.kulturfabrik-moabit.de/kufa/

Ratibortheater www.ratibortheater.de

Zyankalibar www.zyankali.de

√Ą¬†www.ae-neukoelln.de

Ori –¬†free literature readings¬†www.ori-berlin.de/index.php/de/

Surreales Museum f√ľr Industrielle Objekte¬†www.facebook.com/pages/Designpanoptikum-surreales-Museum-f%C3%BCr-industrielle-Objekte/164829883543984

CHAM√ĄLEON Theater¬†www.chamaeleonberlin.de

untergrundmuseum www.untergrundmuseum.de

berliner unterwelten WWW.berliner-unterwelten.de

monsterkabinett www.monsterkabinett.de

*********** Classics ***********

Pergamonmuseum (big Temple inside): http://www.smb.museum/pergamon-panorama_/?lang=en

Alte Nationalgalerie (Romantik und Klassizismus):http://www.smb.museum/smb/sammlungen/details.php?objID=17&lang=en

Bode Museum (Skulptuerensammlung und Byzantinische Kunst)http://www.smb.museum/smb/standorte/index.php?p=2&objID=28&n=3

Neues Museum (Nophretete is inside!) http://www.smb.museum/smb/standorte/index.php?p=2&objID=25&n=13

Altes Museum (Antikensammlung) http://www.smb.museum/smb/standorte/index.php?p=2&objID=24&n=2

And so much more…¬†http://www.smb.museum/smb/home/index.php?lang=en

Museumsinsel: http://www.museumsinsel-berlin.de/index.php?lang=en&page=0_1

**************** History ****************

http://www.berliner-mauer-gedenkstaette.de/en/

http://www.stiftung-denkmal.de/en

http://www.topographie.de/en/topography-of-terror/nc/1/

https://www.holocaust-denkmal-berlin.de/index.php?id=home&L=1

******************* And – at night: *******************

http://www.katerholzig.de (!)

http://www.renate.cc/ (!)

http://www.kaffeeburger.de/

http://www.whitetrashfastfood.com/

http://www.bassy-club.de/

a little bit upper:

http://www.cookies.ch/

http://www.asphalt-berlin.com/

http://www.week-end-berlin.de/ (with great roof terrace at Alexanderplatz)

http://www.water-gate.de/ (Great view over the river Spree)

And – THE club:¬†http://berghain.de/¬†(Prime Time around 3 am ūüôā

And so, so much more.

Enjoy Berlin,

I will do now, Thanks bro!