I've held back with some vulgarity and, unfortunately, some of my personality with many of these blogs 'cause you know, there are rules. This is where I break that trend.
|pictured: me modeling for "breaking that trend"|
I had the best experience of my lifetime over the past 11 days and you will see why, but there's a chance you'd never know about it. So to be blatant, I don't give a fuck anymore. People don't, and never will, realize how close we actually were to death that day in Brussel's.
A mistake saved our lives that day... yes a MISTAKE. Had my friends and I not made the mistake of booking the wrong airport, we would have been at Brussel's main airport at the exact time two explosions killed 15 people on March 22.
Traveling to Brussels in the first place was a risk we knew we were taking. Brussels, for those who don't know, is the current hub of terrorism in Europe. I'm not an expert, so I can't say why they'd chose this city, but likely due to its location. Knowing this, taking extra precaution was necessary. And we did that.
A day before arrived in Brussels, the brain behind the Paris attacks this past November was caught. This was worrisome from the get go. Walker, Herman, and I briefly discussed not even going. The conversation only took two or three minutes for us to rule out bailing on Brussel's, but the thought was there. We knew.
We arrived to Brussels in the afternoon and could immediately detect the tense attitude of the city. Not so much from the people walking around, but more from the soldiers donning full armor while shouldering deadly assault rifles. It was certainly striking enough for any regular person to think to themselves, "Okay, I see you".
Continuing on the streets, we arrived to our hostel, which was, by the way, much more like a hotel than your standard "backpacking around Europe" kind of hostel. No one expected it. Unfortunately, they booked us in a room that had apparently already been booked. So after a long night of drinking at Delirium, the best bar is Brussels, with over 2000 choices in beers, we were ready for some serious sleep. Upon entering our room loud, drunk, and you know...we noticed a family of five, including two children under 6, sleeping in what we thought were our beds. There is really no way to describe this interaction, just picture three drunk twenty something's walking into a room with a full family sleeping and everybody looking at each other like "what the fuck?". Interesting experience.
|view from undaa|
After settling that nonsense, we started the next day checking out all the sights. If you are ever in Brussels, which you probably shouldn't be right now, check out the Atomium. It is simply one of the most interesting and unique pieces of
architecture I've ever seen. If you get the chance to see it, go inside and check out the views it has to offer. You also learn about it, too. Apparently, this piece of work was viewed by the experts in the architecture community of the time as a failure, something that could have been much greater. But the people of Brussels were like "screw you, this shit is dope". And it is. Nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world.
Another must see in Brussels is the town hall. This building is what you'd expect when you think of old European architecture, and then more... There are probably around 60-70 different individual people sculpted onto the hall. Each individual sculpture is its own, there are no repeats. Take a second to think about how much detail and time go into that. The sculptures were the size of a regular humans and contained equally, and sometimes more, detail on their bodies, clothes, faces and accessories. Some were men holding swords, some we blacksmiths, some were women holding babies, some were religious figures, and more importantly, some were just regular citizens. I have a immense amount of respect for mason's, in present and the past. They work hard, laborious and stressful jobs. They've been doing it since the beginning of time - the oldest living profession. The original experts, in my opinion.
|that'd be him in the middle|
One of the best things about this town hall is it has my man Saint Michael at the forefront, stabbing Lucifer to death. Talk about BADASS. Though I'm not a religious person, I go to a Catholic College. I feel pretty blessed that my Saint Michaels in Vermont is named after the saint that killed Satan. No other saint can top that shit, let's be real.
Up until this point, as you can see, nothing had been sketchy. In fact, everything seemed normal. There were tourists everywhere, performers, vendors, it was all normal.
The last night we rode the metro around to get back home. We thought this would be a relatively easy way to get back. It'd be efficient, we said.. Turns out the metro is far more complicated in Brussels than expected. Took us roughly three hours and much consulting to finally make it home. And it so happens that the exact metro line we rode for hours is the one that got bombed only 12 hours later, killing more than 13 people.
|8:45 A.M. March 22nd: about to board a plane unaware of the attacks currently happening. just me n my dad bod chillen|
Brussels was great. A beautiful place to see, especially at such a young age. The nightlife is great. But this was unlike any ordinary traveling experience. This one changed my life tenfold compared to all the other traveling I've done, including my extravagant adventures to Antarctica and Asia. And it's because I've never been so close and, what I believe, involved in such a significant tragedy. The morning of the attack, we woke up at 4:30 A.M. to catch the train. We were walking through the main street of Brussels, the street where we'd walked for two days and others lived for years. The street that was all over CNN, BBC, ABC, Fox and every other news source hours later. And we were that close to terror - real terror.
If I took days and days, maybe weeks, I could probably put into words the beauty and magnificent features and feelings the architecture around Amsterdam and Brussel's gave me, even though it is one of those things I say "there's no way I can put into words". Let's be realistic, I can put them into words with thorough effort.
Stepping off of the plane in Budapest and hearing from my friend only one minute after entering the airport that we had just avoided a terror attack - this is a feeling I will NEVER be able to put into words. Safe? Not a fucking chance. Scared? Maybe. Confused? Absolutely. But that's about it, man. Relief was not a good feeling. That was our first day in Budapest and it fucked me up. We got to our place and I laid in bed with my eyes open for two hours saying nothing...just thinking "what if?". "What if's?" are usually unrealistic situations a person imagines in their mind, but this was far from that. It was a real situation. It was a real, honest mistake that saved us. If we were more diligent, aware of what we were doing, our flight would have been out of the airport attacked. But since we were so excited to even take this trip, taking notice of which airport to select was not on our minds. And this lack of diligence saved us. We knew the danger, we knew it. But when the danger became reality, it was scary
There are over hundreds of people currently dealing with trauma I could not begin to fathom. Let me tell you something, you can hate the fucking hell out of America for everything it stands for now a days - a greedy capitalistic society run by the wealthy for the wealthy - but you best thank the fucking lord for the safety we are blessed with. Brussels is a main city, Paris is a main city. We haven't had a significant terror attack like this on our soil since 9/11. Mainland Europeans have to think every day about their safety because the threat is real. This is something American's do not have to do and won't, at least for the foreseeable future.
I haven't felt so strong about something in a while. Death is real and it is close whether you want to admit it or not. Never think you're more powerful than anyone else because you will be caught off guard. The consequences will be detrimental.
Again, I need to thank every one who reached out that day. All my buddies back home, my family, especially my dad...it showed me that I'm far more loved than I thought. It showed me that I mattered to some people just like the people who died mattered to others. I was just lucky, I guess. My condolences go out to the families and victims. I can't comprehend what you're dealing with, just know that I was there too. Mankind stands together.
Now, if you've made it this far into the blog, you care enough. Love yaaaa. So read about some of the GOOD shit that happened on this absolutely CRAZY trip across Europe. 'Cause it was nuts.
First off, for anyone who has or hasn't been to Europe, this is a tip that will help all: pretend you are in the middle of a heist movie. It might sound a little unusual yes, but let me tell you, it adds to the excitement.
Think of all the heist movies you've seen (or should have by now). The Ocean's movies, The Italian Job, Inception... a lot of them take place in cool cities. And mostly in European cities. We traveled to many of those cities! So, why not pretend to imagine one of those heist movies going on around you. Try it out, it works.
|(Walker, Peter and Herman)|
The first city was Amsterdam, the backdrop to the film Ocean's Twelve starring George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt. Amsterdam, ladies and gents, is the place to be. The culture of the city is unlike nowhere else in the world. Yes, many drugs are legal, but I am referring to the general cultural attitude. Its laid back, friendly, unique, and simply amazing. And its NOT because everyones stoned all the time. Common misconception. The Dutch people are this way. They make Amsterdam what it is - not the drugs and red light district, its the people.
First night there, we stopped at a small restaurant, finished what we could and took our leftovers back to the apartment. I was holding my buddies box of spaghetti with Alfredo sauce on the very bumpy bus ride home and unfortunately, I spilled this every where. You have to really picture this scenario in your head, being that we were in Amsterdam, probably doing 'fun' things, and this happens. Not the ideal start, but it was funny. Ask me about it sometime...
|look at all the different way's to escape here, c'mon|
The next three days in Amsterdam were filled with walking, walking, walking, and...walking. With the help of Herman's Fitbit, we figured out that we walked a total of 35miles in Amsterdam, in three days. Simply said, "Fuck it, we'll save money without the bus". It worked out well. Since we decided to walk from our place, which was about a one hour walk hour to the center, we got to see so many things that would've otherwise been missed. Like Erasmuspark. A small little park that was on our way to the center. There is not a chance we would've found this little guy had we not walked. There was a canal running by it (which is by the way, a perfect escape plan in any heist movie), this long stretch of grass and trees, and ballin' old Dutch guys feeding the birds. Tranquil. Check it out if you're ever there because its not something that'd be on the "things to do list" here. Always worth it to endeavor the unbeaten paths, I promise.
The best park, maybe the best I've ever been to, is Vondelpark. This is a place that would be on "things to do in Amsterdam" and deservingly so. Massive in size, but cozy at heart. There are people everywhere playing frisbee, walking dogs, exercising...and my favorite, hippies doing hippie things (i.e. dancing around with hula hoops, streamers, and blasting Phish. ahhh, Burlington, where are ya?). The park has some particularly beautiful areas to check out. The tree carved into a hand saving another tree was particularly interesting. To me this represents that we as a human race aren't doing anything to save our planet while earth, pictured here, literally grabs the problem full force. This was an iconic image for me.
We finished up in Amsterdam strong. Got inebriated, ate some fire food, walked the canals at night, and pulled off the perfect heist. Get at me, Clooney.
Brussels was our next stop. Waking up at 7 A.M., walking for over an hour while lost, and arriving at the train station just in time was not a great wake up call. But hey, there was another train leaving only 30 minutes later. So we goooood. We made it to Brussels by the afternoon and got to check out some of the city. This city is unlike anywhere I've been. There is chocolate flowing from the Brussels baby's dick on top of some Belgian waffles. That's the best way to describe it. This is something Jerry Collins would enjoy very much. And y'all should do some reading on the pissing baby, it has quite the interesting back story that I'm not going to tell you, figure it out.
|there he is, pissing chocolate onto your waffle...|
This is a place worth seeing when the time is right. Illuminated at night by strategically placed lights, it warms your body.
|the beer i paid for but only got to drink half of|
Caused a ruckus, we did. Made it outta Brussels, we did. Regrets about putting ourselves in a dangerous city like Brussels, we don't. The city is beautiful, deal with it. Fuck terrorism.
Buda, buda, buda...the city I knew nothing about yet takes da mothafuckin cake for best damn place around. Holy shit, this place is equally as fun as it is beautiful. And perhaps the best part: cheap. There are so many fun things to do that you actually CAN do. Amsterdam was great, but museums there were 20-40 euros for entry. Here, in Budapest, you pay seven euros maximum. Great news though! If you don't want to pay cause you're a cheap ass, the sight of the city is worth it alone.
A special little hill overlooks the whole city in all directions. Its the most perfect spot to just wonder at life, especially right after such a serious event in Brussels. The hill is peaceful, no other description needed. On one side there is the old city of Budapest, and on the other, remnants of the USSR. A dynamic not many places in the world can understand.
There is really no way to pin "the best part" of the city because it is all so great, but then again, Parliament might take the cake. If you look up things to do in Budapest, Parliament will surely be at the top. Never have I seen archtiecutr quite like this - so grand, so beautiful...so fresh, so clean (Outkast). but for real, just look at some of the pictures. It's right out of a fairytale. If you do go, make sure you hit the place at night because that's when the beauty really comes out. It does make you wonder though...the Hungarian currency is so weak and it must cost so much to keep all those lights on. All the people making decisions for the country are in that building. You'd think they would utilize money elsewhere instead of you know, illuminating this building for 12 hours a day. But hey, I can't complain 'cause it is so cheap in this city. So cheap, in fact, you might end up spending more money just because you think you're saving some. That kind of cheap. (kids, learn to budget)
Also, side note. This is the perfect place for a heist movie. There are probably some really important documents in there that need to be stolen and sold on the black market. Official government documents...that's where the money is, baby.
Hungarians are proud people. The USSR controlled their country for years and they remember that strongly. You can notice a real sense of culture there almost unlike anywhere else. I've met people from all over the world, but the attitude of the Hungarians is unmatched. Happy people down to have as much fun as possible and eat Goulash soup. If you don't know what Goulash soup is, figure it out. I cannot wait to go back to this city someday. Without a doubt my favorite stop on the 11 day adventure.
Let me finish by saying this was a once in a lifetime opportunity on so many levels. I am more than grateful to have partaken and I gotta give a huge thanks to my Dad for it. Without his help, this trip would've been unachievable. You were right there with me man, the whole time, and I'm safely back in Ireland, away from any kind of danger...just in case you were wondering. I love you.
And to all my friends back in Burly who weren't physically on the trip with me, you were there with me, in spirit. I thought about all of you guys every step I took, thinking about how much you guys would've loved it. And it would've been great to have you all, but we'll carve out our own adventure someday soon.
I'm a changed man because of this trip, and specifically, my time in Brussels. It is not something I'd expect other people to understand, but I do expect them to realize there was a reason for it. There is always reason, good or bad, it exists. The reason I was over there, at this time, with my good friends, was to change me. To make me see the world as a different place. A real living, breathing and feeling world. We got on life to live so live it well.
Keep it real, people.
(soundtrack to this blog: GO:OD AM by Mac Miller & Multi-Love by Unknown Mortal Orchestra)
(if there are any typos in here, don't tell me 'cause idgaf)