Ahhhh..where to begin for the epic journey that was three weeks ago?
Well, let’s start off with how I got there. (AKA which option was going to be easier on the wallet, amirite?) I booked a flight with Turkish Airlines to Geneva, from Houston, for only $700. What’s the catch, pray-tell? A 20 hr layover in Istanbul returning back home from my trip. That’s a small price to pay for getting across the biiig pond. Plus, Turkish Airlines were going to provide a complimentary stay at a 5 star hotel during the layover, and provide f r e e breakfast. I whipped out my card, before you could say ‘cranberry scones’.
So, yeah, my nomad ass lands in Geneva, Switzerland, for the start of my polo adventures. Nathalie, (local messfam/polofam/ all around Xena warrior) picks me up from the airport, since she IS AN ANGEL SENT FROM ABOVE (1979). She offers me a comfy mattress and some cheese, as soon as I walk in through her door. I try not cry at her thoughtful accommodations. ~Ya gurl loves cheese~ (insert fart noise)
Her house is amazingly massive and beautiful. The house is very swankalank and adjacent to vast fields of greenery. Switzerland always makes me feel alive with the sound of muuUuUuUsic.
The next day, we plan our road trip to Lyon, France, where the Tournoi de Gones tournament will take place. I agree to meet her at 7pm, at her job, before I bike away to go do some city ‘splorin.
I forget my phone charger.
Aware of this, I make sure to turn-off my phone, as I bike around the city. I turn it on, occasionally, to update my Snapchat and Instagram.
I’m not a cave animal, after all.
The sun slowly begins to set, and I turn my phone on to get directions to Nathalie’s job. My phone is being weird, and let’s me know it’s surprisingly already at 10% battery. Dang u, Apple. I google maps cycling directions to the place, and as I’m making my way downtown/
And I think I’m home-bound…..my phone dies. By this time, it’s dark out, I have 15 minutes to make it to our agreed time, and my spidey senses begin to kick in. Either A) I could wander around until I find a store that sells a phone charger and charge my phone, Or B) Go to the pizza place to my right and see if the employees happen to have an iphone charger. This is 2016, after all. Like, hellerrrrrrr? I go with option B. I enter this “Italian” mecca, in search for an Apple charger totin’ savior. I ask in Spanish of course, because everyone (mostly) in Europe h8s Americans. The 15 year old cashier takes pity on me, and I hand over my phone. I eat a slice (duh) and leave once I have charged it for 10 minutes. Praying that my phone doesn’t die in this rural-ass, suburban neighborhood, I race to my end location. My phone dies 10 minutes later, before I reach Nat’s workplace. Luckily, I can sort of remember where I am, and very fortunately, see Nathalie outside, loading her car. That’s the story of when I almost died in Geneva.
Am i extra?
Anyways, I tell them my ‘woe is me story,’ as we load the van. Julien is roadtripping with us, too! He looks the same as last year and I remember what a kewl guy he is, as soon as he offers me a beer ;_;
We arrive to Lyon around midnight, and are in search for the fête. That means party in French. Huehuehue :B We wait outside our host’s flat, until she can make it back home, but somehow this turns in to 7 people drinking outside her apartment. I meet some local messengers, and a bikepolo player from Paris. I bond with a local cyclist about shitty American rap and I think, I think that I do the dab >>>> Skrt skrt. We cackle and everyone finally starts winding down. We all end up going to sleep around 3am.
Lyon has some steep streets, no one mentions. Fok. There is this huge hill that must be climbed before arriving to the courts. Just one more time, I think to myself, as I reach the top of the hill. Just gotta climb this beast one more time. I gasp for air and wave at others to leave me to die.
We arrive at the courts. The 2 courts are nice, big, and are attached to some sort of recreational place. I meet my 2 team mates, who hail from the lands of Germany. We lose some and win some. I am most excited about the cool, complimentary tote we receive, honestly. During the last day of the tournament, I realize that the French have set such a high skill level of play, in comparison to other countries . 2/3 of the bike polo team that won World’s the previous year, end up taking 1st place.
What international German player do we all know and love? Gitti! Duhhhh! Berlin is my next stop, and Gitti graciously hosts my vagabond bod. She is very busy having a job and stuff, so I end up exploring a bunch by myself. I visited some tall ass building (that I already forgot the name of), and spent a lot of time in coffee shops during the first day. Y’alllllll it was cold! Biking was so easy/friendly in Berlin, but man was it painful. The icy wind cut my exposed skin, all through town.
I’m from Texas, pity meeeee.
My last day there, I spontaneously met up with a friend of a friend, that I hadn’t seen in years. I leeched off his planned adventures and joined him & his bud for most of the day. I reconvened with Gitti at night, and she took me on a cycling tour of the city. It wasn’t as cold as the previous days, so I happily biked along. We ended the night with Bibimbap, a Korean dish that I had never tried before, and MAN was it delicious. 😛
The last night, I scheduled a Blablacar to go to Krakow, Poland, for my next tournament. Blablacar is basically what would happen if Facebook and Uber had a baby. It connects drivers and passengers willing to travel together between cities and share the cost of the journey. Truth is, I was kinda scared, since it was my first time using the website. My buddy, Lisa recommended this as an affordable alternative to travel. I was open to give it a try, since she’s still alive and all. I always think of the worst, so I screenshot my driver’s contact info and picture and send it to my sister/detective, Grace. I leave her clues and details, in case my driver m u r d e r s me.
I live. I don’t get murdered and I realize my friends have been right all along. I am a bit dramatic (thanks, ma). My driver is this hard-working Polish d00d, Michal, on his way to visit his family, after being gone for 8 months. He tells me that it is very hard to find work that pays decently, in the small city where he is from. Michal works in Sweden as a commercial truck mechanic. He lets me know that he had no idea what he was doing when he initially started, but was so desperate and eager to learn, in order to provide for his family. I listen to him tell me about his life story, and am secretly grateful to live in a country, where work is easily attainable
I doze off. I know, I know, I know. The one and only thing you should NOT do, is to fall asleep, while in a car with a stranger. But it was so early in the morning, and what about the jet-lag (still), plus, the tiredness! I felt bad for dozing off, but I see Michal alert and upbeat, so I don’t feel as guilty for sneakin’ in a nap.
He drops me off at my host Stan’s apartment, in Krakow, and we part ways. I call my host, and he is still helping out at the courts, so I proceed to build my bike outside of the big apartment building. I receive a handful of odd stares, as residents walk by. ‘Whatchu lookin’ at, fools?!’, I wanna say, but don’t. 30 minutes later, and I’m off to find the courts. I almost die and anger a relieved pedestrian, for barely missing a trolley train, whiz past me. This makes me super alert and extra cautious >_>”’. I finally arrive at the courts and after circling what I think is my final destination, am assisted via Facebook, on how to access the secret entrance. I meet my host, local players, and greet Adrian, a player that had visited our Houston club in the summer if 2013.
The tournament is called Polfa Fallout. This was probably my favorite tourney during the whole trip. Why? The people were so nice ;_; I’m a sucker, when it comes to sweet, selfless people. Plus, I was sooooo out of my element, and I liked that. This was the only tournament that I was going to attend, where I did not know anyone that well. I tried to fight through my shyness, and immediately made friends with a girl wearing metallic, shiny shorts. She looks like she knows how to have fun, I thought. She did. Her name was Joanna. We danced to no music to stay warm.
My team for the tournament was Piotr and Stan, two really rad guys from Krakow. We passed and played well as a make-shift team. The tournament had a bunch of really silly rules, like the one I had attended last year in Raleigh, North Carolina. Overall, the tournament was incredibly enjoyable and a lighthearted one. New friends were made, new Polish liquor was consumed. Helpful buds taught me educational Polish words like ‘ KURWA!’
Sidenote: I also had this unforgettably delectable dish called, Masabaha, at the tournament . I unashamedly researched and found the person who made this dish, and am still waiting for the recipe, months later. I’m lookin’ at you, Hummus Amamamusi.
Prague, Czech Republic
I woke up at 5 am to ride my bike to the train station in Krakow. I am now heading to Prague to play pick up and do some tourist shiz. I arrive extra early to the platform, to break down my bike. <<Man, I need some couplers, I think to myself.>>
I arrive to Prague and splurge on an uber to my hostel, because I’m too tired to build my bike up again. ($5) I meet up with Eliška, whom I met during Hell’s Bells last year. We get some beers and she offers to host me the next couple of days. Yay!
The following day, she gives me a tour of her favorite spots around Prague, before we go to polo. I meet the Prague bike polo club and get to play a few games, before the sun goes down. After pick up, we go to get some beers at a bar, and I realize that it is cheaper to buy a beer than bottled water in this city.
Barão de São João, Portugal, Portugal
My last stop is a small town in Portugal. It is the tiniest town I have ever played polo in. The city is called Barão de São João and has a population of 800! It is an hour and a half away from the Faro Airport. By this time, y’all. Like, y’all, for real. I am done with carrying my DANG bike. Instead of taking public transportation and sweating for 5 hours, roaming around an unknown city, I hire a car. It’s not five bucks or anything, but it isn’t too expensive, since I carpool with some other visitors. It takes an hour and a half to get to the small town where the tournament is held.
It is seux, sew tiny! I see some goats as we drive to the village. I wave. They don’t wave back.
As soon as I arrive, I build up my bike and play pick up. The weather is awesome and I greet/ catchup with buds from all over Europe.
My team mates are Sylwia and Liv. We slay some dragons. We get second to last place. Boot leg karaoke was done had during a rain delay. Pretty sure everyone did some drugs and no one offered me any. Rude. I was too busy playing pick up and fuggin’ up my knee, ANYWAYZ.
Zsofia from Bristol was kind enough to loan me a tent. She even put it up for me, after she realized how useless my camping skills were. (Thanks, bud! if ur reading this m8).
I met so many sweet WTF players. They all invite me to come visit them later on, and I tell them I will. I try to get a stick and poke from Shaki, but we’re all 10 bevvies in.
The tournament is ascuuces and I love how intimate, yet very diverse it is. 10/10 would go again.
I get soooo bummed that I have to leave the night the tounrnamnt ends. Soemoen finds me a ride to the airport, but it’s 1 am, and the open at 6am.
The airport feels like what I think the North Polo feels like.
It is so dang cold, I can’t even fall asleep, because I’m scared to lose some toes. I roam around and hide in the bathroom until it’s time to board my plane.
I arrive to Istanbul at midnight and am provided a swank ass bedroom in 5 star hotel. I almost cry. I forget how luxurious hotel beds are and am so excited to have my own room/privacy. I have two queen beds in my room, by the way. The first thing I do, is take a shower. After that, I jump back and forth, from bed to bed. I feel like a KWEEN. I finally put some clothes on and turn my alarm on to get a solid hour at the breakfast buffet in the morning.
Omg guyzzzzz. Can’t believe y’all read this whole thing. Forgive my inexperienced writing, but I’m learnin’! Thank you for your time ❤