Painting Europe

Naked in a campsite laundry in Germany. How in the living laundry powder did I end up here? Now I know I have an un-natural lust for laundry but no, it hasn’t gone that far. The answer lies in a four-letter acronym. PEST.

Painting Europe Stoke Travel.

In business terms, a marketing and promotional tour around Europe. In other terms, a slightly messed up few weeks of no sleep, admin crises, sales on autopilot, tunes on repeat, with tons of Chet Faker of course, all achieved in a van blazoned with a logo of two pairs of feet attached to special times in special tents.

It also involved meeting people that made your day, meeting assholes who live in their own butt space, and becoming the most dysfunctional family ever allowed on the road.

Hi, it’s Hollie from Stoke Travel here, is your hostel manager available?

What nights would you like to book?

No thank you, is your hostel manager there? MA-NA-GER. S-T-O-K-E.

Why do you want to speak to them?

I’m from Stoke. We’re a tour operator based on Barcelona and run surf and festival trips around Europe.

I’ve been saying it in my sleep.

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The trip is now a blur of this aforementioned phone conversation and the merging inside walls of hostels, but it isn’t to say it was a trip without merits and memories that will manage to stick within the teflon walls of my cerebrum.

With the city visits being purely business (purely business used loosely in the looseness of Stoke), it was definitely the journey that made the um, journey.

There were long-haul drives of lulls and highs, of no one talking to each other, losing all mental capacity to string together a sentence (just smile and nod), shiny things, and some classic rounds of shoot, shag, or marry. Harry knew his answers to Batman, Superman, and Spiderman far too quickly.

It begins with a flight into Munich to arrive at Campingplatz Obermenzing. The Stokies home of Springfest debauchery for the next three weeks. And also the site where the legendary Stoketoberfest goes down towards the end of the year. But first we have to get people to book there. Ergo I am in an out of camp in a matter of thirty minutes ready to get some new hostel partners. My backpack is hauled into our little rental car filled with Stoke magazines, posters, booze cards, and other collateral. It is also covered nose to boot in rental car advertising, which should definitely make it easy to blend in as we park illegally. Looks like this car company have this Painting Europe thing down pat better than us.

We cruise into Zagreb, Croatia. Wait. No. We don’t cruise. I crap my pants crossing the passport check at the border, and flashback to the last time I was pulled off the bus and questioned regarding my visa.

I don’t drive. Not because of my last adventures driving on the wrong side of the road. But because my license has expired and apparently this renders driving illegal. Instead I become chief navigator and head phone call maker. I get car sick when I read a text message…Challenge accepted. I am also DJ for the international radio stations. I enter and leave five countries on that first day. Spain. Germany. Austria. Slovenia. Croatia. Our trip continues takes us to more. Slovakia. Hungary. And in these times and spaces, try to go one day, neigh, one hour, without hearing Hozier’s Take Me To Church. That is the real challenge.

Our antipodean car of a Kiwi and Aussie are also rewarded at one point with the sweet sounds of John Farnham. We are the voice and we understand it. And we made a lot of noises. Not all of them clear.

The journey was the maker of this adventure. But the destinations also proved themselves as worthy contenders. Sorry Ralph Waldo (haha) Emerson.

And here the memories begin.

We partied in a giant museum in Zagreb. Slipping and sliding to Uptown Funk with free ciders, I was in my own version of party heaven.

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Treat yo’self. And we did. With two stopovers in Slovenia. To my favourite and ever-photogenic Lake Bled. Also with an afternoon of local fish and sauvignon blanc at the equally picturesque Lake Bohinj. My partner in crime even treated herself to a wee dip in the icy cold waters. The things we’ll do for a promotional photo.

Back at Obermenzing, Springfest was well and truly kicking off. The beer halls visits were as epic as ever. The Adult’s Disneyland. The pork knuckles are still perfecting paired with a stein. It never gets old.

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Ah feck. Back on the road again.

We stop in at Salzburg. I don’t frolic in the hills that are alive with the Sound of Music. I don’t listen to Mozart. I don’t even drink a can of Red Bull. This is PEST after all.

We stop in Vienna. I do get to say I’ve been to Austria (not just to several Austrian service stations). I do have a traditional dinner and beer with old friends. I do get a brief late night tour of the city.

We arrive late into Bratislava to howling winds and our usual dilemma of parking. Even after three days in the Slovakian capital city, I don’t feel I got to know this city at all. I do however feel I can map out Ikea product locations for you in any city. Bratislava seems like one of those you need to know someone who knows where to go and what to do. You need a hot tips friend.

I am beyond excited to be heading back to Budapest. It is one of my favourite cities and I do feel I have the insider’s word on this one (thanks to my hot tips friend). I can taste the goulash as we drive. I fear for my life as I know we are about to party with Budapest Party Hostels again. This time on a boat. Motherfucker.

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We leave Budapest with a belly full of deliciousness and a hangover from hell. Thanks my old friend. No love lost. I will be back.

Not before yet another round of Springfest. Apparently you can never get enough of the beer halls. And packing up the campsite. Wooooooooooooo hoooooooooooo.

To celebrate our last night we venture up the road to the traditional beer garden for some well-deserved pork knuckle. What we didn’t deserve was the downpour that left us walking into the restaurant like drowned rats that had a shower in our clothes in another shower.

Saturated or not, we devour our knuckle, down our stein and head back to camp. Ergo, Summer and I naked in a laundry in Munich, with only Stoke sleeping bags between us and indecent exposure.

We eventually escape from Campingplatz Obermenzing and make the trek to Krakow. I returned to the grand stomping zone of Greg & Tom’s Party Hostels. We meet. We pub crawl. I miss the last pitstop and wander home dreaming of pierogi.

I discover rape fields. Not nearly as bad as they sound. Beautiful yellow canola fields where you imagine frolicking…in a margarine commercial. You end up nearly as yellow in practice.

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Berlin is not so fun when you’re working. And everyone is very German. Soz. I loved you more last time.

And Prague is even less wonderful. Being in a beautiful city and only navigating the streets and seeing the insides of hostels is a little disheartening. But we kill it, bond some more, make good friends in the city, and drag home the Weekend at Bernie’s body of Harry. One more night in Prague and he would have been as dead as Bernie for real.

Back to Obermenzing for final clean up and getting the heck out of there. Until Oktoberfest of course…

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