Thursday, October 29, 2009

Night Walking Europe

Five pm. The days are getting shorter, and Verona is already starting to get a little dark. Walking past the Roman arena and past the tourist shopping streets, I get to the back streets. It sounds crazy, but it really feels like Romeo and Juliet happened here. I feel like I'm walking through the streets of somebody's adventure behind closed doors. I can feel something happening behind these quiet corners. There's a plot afoot if I can spot it at the right time next to the river, in the darkened cathedral, down the alleyways and behind the simple, old painted doors. Maybe I'm already part of it.

Six pm. The sun is setting. I've seen a lot of sunsets, but this one over lake Bled, Slovenia, is one of the best. The sky is a cloudless, vivid magenta against misty blue mountains and the castle in the hills up above. The lake is calm, aside from the swans and ducks circling closer for a chance at the dinner I brought with me.

Seven pm. I'm early. Aperativo happy hour doesn't start for another half an hour, and even I know that in a place as fashionable as Milan, being early gets you nowhere. So I head past the massive designer shops with billboard sized quietly  of models doing things you only do if paid very well, and head into a park, watching the people and singing to myself to stay entertained. Soon it's buy one drink, get a free dinner buffet, and I've got about ten people who are coming to share it with. But not early.

Eight pm. Venice is a completely different animal at night from how it was in the day. We get lost. That's what you do here. In some ways, it's the best part. We wander past cracked and dirty facades that would be repulsive anywhere else, but here over moonlit canals and bridges are all nighttime charm and age. After the churches and past the gondalas, we find the square we were looking for and head towards the four glasses of fragolino strawberry wine, one for each of us, and the best thin pizza we've ever had in our lives.

Nine pm. Sometimes I wonder why I spend so much time just walking around. That's all it is when you think about it. Walking around. Ten pm. No purpose, nothing in mind. Sometimes I'll have a mission, but more often than not, I'll have a night where all I do is walk. Eleven pm. I realize why. All I have to do is look up. I am in Zagreb, Croatia. It's getting cold, and I'm leaving the bars behind. Just the old Austro-Hungarian facades air and smell of the Balkans. And salsa music.

...salsa music?

The doorman makes a move as if to stop me, then smiles and waves me in. The latin music is pounding, several continents out of place. The low-ceilinged basement is lines with dancers. I haven't done this in a long time.

But the room is full of men. I need a partner. I go out to go back to my hostel, where I know I can find one. I don't know yet that by the time the two of us arrive, the place will have closed its doors, and we'll end up at basement bar sipping local beer and listening to a completely different tune, but it doesn't really matter, we still have a good time. Besides, what it comes down to, for me, was just another walk at night.

Check out this entry's Photos.


  1. "the best thin pizza we've ever had in our lives."
    Go. To. Naples. That is all.

    Actually, these are all really cute vignettes; I wonder what the stories around them are.

  2. Nice post and pictures but made me kinda sad. Most of us girls don't walk in our own cities at night alone much less consider doing so in a strange place. Doesn't mean we can't/don't double and group up to see the sights. Thanks for reminder it is worth the trouble to figure out getting out and around. Would be interested in other girl reactions/suggestions as your readers see this.

  3. I honestly love this website. Your posts help to remind me why I love traveling on vacation so much. You seem to really love your site.I love keeping up with the latest travel tips online. Keep up the great work.

  4. Count C- If I could go everywhere I knew I could find amazing food I would never come home. Actually, that's a brazen lie-- dungeness crab cakes in Seattle and deep dish pizza in Chicago guarantee that. Still, my point is, I can't do it all. At least not on this pass. The main comforting thing is that of all the places I've been to, Europe will be the easiest (if not the cheapest) to return to later in life. Maybe we'll head for Napoli Pizza later together, eh?

    Anonymous- Ouch. My bad. Well if it gives you any comfort, the night walk theme was chosen at random out of three options: night walks, day walks, and rain walks. I went with night walks because I've had the most of those lately, but I've seen some of the most interesting and genuine stuff on this trip in the pouring rain. You don't need to worry so much about your safety, just get some good rain gear (or a swimsuit if you're feeling gutsy and the culture permits) and something to keep your camera dry. And anyway, I would actually encourage you to try walking around at night-- just not alone. Bring a (male) friend or two, and use your street sense. Hmm.. might have to make a post on that one later...

    Web designer- Thank you so much! Tell all your friends too ;p. Seriously though, If there's one thing I'd like this website to do, it's inspire people to go out and see the world themselves. By the by, if you'd care to offer any design advice to an amateur, the site could probably use a little sprucing up ;D.

  5. Oh, I know Joel. But Just Sayin' that northern Italian pizza ain't holdin' a candle to southern.

  6. What a beautiful site-such a treat when you can't go yourself-wonderful pic.Thanks so much..