Europe Trip Journal – Entry 1: Vertigo

Last night I learned that its possible to wish death upon a stranger you don’t even know.

At first I thought I’d be the only guest in the 4-bed room I booked a bed in. I intended to go to sleep so that I’d get a healthy 8 hours of sleep. However, the place being a youth hostel, a group of kids kept running across the hallway, keeping me up. But hey, no hard feelings. At roughly 1:30 or so another guest arrived. He did not talk much and quickly went to bed. And then the snoring began…

As if that was not enough, another guest arrived – banging the door since his card didn’t work – and took the bed above mine. Apparently he could not sleep either due to the snoring, so at some point when I barely managed to drift away, he stood up and left the room for half an hour or so, leaving his light on and the room illuminated.

It suffices to say that this was not a great night.

At the train station I learned another lesson. I already knew that for some trains you need a seat reservation in order to be able to board. ‘Easy’ I thought. Just book the seat before boarding, et voila! Wrong! Apparently you can only book tickets up to 3 hours before departure, so now I am stuck at the train station, waiting for a train that is scheduled to leave in 3 hours.

As nothing goes quite as expected when traveling, I had a bad, but short experience while sitting in the Thalys to Paris. Apparently one paragraph above I had bought a reservation for the right train, at the right time of day, but at a totally wrong date. Luckily the conductor had a good day and was nice, so I got away with a warning.

When I arrived at Gare du Nord, Paris welcomed me perhaps a bit rejective. I had the feeling the city knew that I was the stranger. The people rushed by, not caring about me and the only people that approached me were beggars asking for money. So I was a bit lost, wandering through the streets that felt as if they would arrogantly ignore me.

My first stop was the hostel. I had learned yesterday, that its a good idea to resolve the “bed-problem” as quickly as possible. I booked a room for two nights and brought my bag to my room. This is another benefit of getting a room early: you can get rid of unnecessary ballast. Then I quickly changed my phone a bit while tasking a very short rest, and then it was time to explore the city.

Without my backpack I could go undercover. I felt like if I just walked confidently enough, Paris would accept me as one of its kind. I thought, as long as I didn’t have to speak to someone, how would they notice? And so I walked as if I owned the streets.

My strategy is to first seek water. A river is most times a good place to start, as it makes for a perfect point of reference for orientation. Also, since the water I picked was the Seine, I imagined this strategy would quickly lead me to interesting places. Oh boy, it did 🙂

Curiously I went close to the riverside, so to my right was a wall most of the time, so I could only see the lefthand side, meaning the other riverside with its palatial buildings. Still, on my side of the Seine were many houseboats and nice trees and plants. My goal was to reach the Eiffel tower (what a surprise!), so I had a few kilometers ahead of me. Suddenly it peaked over the rooftops of the houses to my left. Only the top was visible. Exciting!

Can you see it?

At some point I felt like it would make sense to cross the Seine. I walked over a pompously decorated bridge and entered the streets at the other side of the river. Being closer to the houses meant I could not see the Eiffel tower anymore 🙁 so now it was time to follow my inner compass to the rough direction. After 10 or so walking minutes I turned a corner and suddenly I could make out a huge steel structure; one foot of the giant tower. Like in a Jurassic Park movie, I lifted my head up and there it was: the giant mighty Eiffel Tower. Its size was surprising to me. I theoretically knew before, that it was a big structure but like with Wind turbines, one cannot really understand its dimensions until one gets close enough. This is why at some point I want to see an orbital class rocket close up and in person.

Suddenly its there

The Eiffel tower has 3 floors that you can visit. If you have the chance, DO IT! I booked the cheap option, meaning I had to take the stairs. After some airport-style security checks I could take the first flight if stairs. A lot of stairs. Like, a giant lit of stairs. After an eternity I took the last step and was greeted by a sign that read “1st floor”. Right, there were 3 of them. Already I was high above the city and could see much of Paris’ buildings from above. But no time to rest, the next flight of stairs awaits.

Again, there were more steps than anticipated, but after an eternity I arrived at level 2. From here you can only continue by lift. There was along queue before the lift, which was annoying, but also meant some pause for my hurting legs. Then I could enter the lift. I entered it with the mindset that the lift will only bring me higher up the last 30% of the way. However, if you look at an image of the Eiffel tower,you can see that the second level is actually quite low down. I wasn’t aware of that in the moment, so I was caught by surprise that the carriage kept going up. And up. And up. Aaaand up. After an eternity (and some yawning to get rid of the pressure difference that had built up in my ears), the lift stopped at the top. What a view.

I had stopped the time. Inclusive waiting in the queue for the lift, getting up to the top took me 37 minutes. Here are some photos I took, although by no means do they justice to the experience.

Then it was time to walk back to the hostel. After another 2 hours of walking my feet and legs and my back were destroyed and now its time to recharge for tomorrow.

I forgot to buy ear plugs…

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