Having been to London few times, I didn’t feel the need to hit the touristy things again. I like Buckingham Palace as much as the next person but trying to get a reaction out of a guard gets old after a while. I only had four days and I wanted to make the most of it, to see friends and to get to know the London of Londoners.
“Oh my God, how was it?” is the phrase put to me most often today. I have just arrived home from a quick ten-day trip to Europa, to celebrate the momentous occasion of my Opa’s 85th birthday in Austria. My father hails from a small (ish), rural (ish) town called Dornbirn in the East of Austria. From the balcony of my grandparents’ home we look over the Swiss mountains and the Bodensee, which separates Germany from Austria.
It’s 2009 and I’m sitting on a dirty blue couch in my friend’s brothers flat in London, having flown in the day before.
The boys have gone out drinking, Jade is in the bathroom and I’m sitting in the lounge drinking tea with an Australian girl who’s name I can’t remember anymore. I want to say Rebecca. Let’s go with that.
Rebecca doesn’t live there, she’s just as much a guest as I am but she doesn’t know that.
“Do you mind if I have some Coke?” She asks me.
“Oh well, it isn’t my house but I’m sure they won’t mind. Check the fridge,” I tell her.
She gives me the side eye.
“Um,” she says, “I meant coke.”
And she waves a little bag of white powder in front of my nose.
Oh, hello big wide world! Just a young, naive girl from a small town.
So I sat there in total silence, watching Rebecca cut lines on a dinner plate with her Oyster card until Jade came in the room, took one look at what was happening and shouted, “Oh my god, is that what I think it is?!”
Now we were two young, naive girls from a small town and that was how we found out that ‘powdering your nose’ means something totally different in England.
She wiped off the dinner plate with her hand and put it back in the cupboard and when one of the boys used it the next morning for his toast, I didn’t say anything. But I did throw sneak glances at his pupils for the next hour.
Just in case.
God, I was young.
Yesterday New Zealand officially became the thirteenth country in the world to embrace gay marriage, hot on the heels of Uruguay who passed their bill last week.
While it is unbelievable that in 2013 only thirteen countries in the world legally recognize marriage between same-sex couples, I’m not going to focus on that. That we can focus on next week. Today I just want to celebrate the massive achievement for homosexuals in New Zealand and around the world!
**confetti and sparkles and champagne for errr’one**
Frankly, most of the time I’m just surprised that it’s even still a thing.
Remember how I said I was going to post stories from my amazing Eurotrip in 2009 with my beautiful friends Jade and Sam? Well, this seems like the perfect time to tell you about the Madrid Gay Pride Festival, the biggest party I have ever seen.
Madrid Orgullo or MADO is one Europe’s largest LGBT pride festivals and takes place over a whole week.
See this picture below? This was just ONE square. The whole city was taken over by just thousands and thousands of people. I have never seen so many people in my entire life.
But I’m jumping ahead. We arrived in Madrid on a Friday evening to stay with Jade and Sam’s cousin, a Saffa who had moved to Madrid to finish his political studies. The sneaky bugger had done a bachelors at UCT and then managed to convince the Univeristy of Madrid to sign him up for a Masters, having never done an honours.
Shortly after our arrival he and his flatmate, a Brit, ordered us to put on a pair of flat shoes and our best party make-up. Surprise surprise, the gay pride festival was happening and we were going.
I don’t even know how to describe it. Thousands of people. Everyone was dressed up to the absolute nines. String vests and cowboy hats and pink feather boas were everywhere. Half naked men danced on balconies and on speakers. Bruno was rumoured to be making an appearance but we never spotted him.
We ran from square to square, holding on to each others shirts. We bought beers at exorbitant prices from illegal street vendors and danced wherever we stood. Music blasted out across the city. I never saw one fight, one unhappy face. It was the craziest, most exuberant atmosphere.
Jade and I never got hit on once, which was a nice change. The Europeans are quite a handsy bunch. Sam, however, had to watch his back.
If you’re in Europe in July, make sure you get to Madrid between the 3rd and 7th. This is one of those parties you need to experience.
The Netherlands (since 2000)
Belgium (since 2003)
Canada (since 2005)
Spain (since 2005)
South Africa (since 2006)
Norway (since 2009)
Sweden (since 2009)
Iceland (since 2010)
Portugal (since 2010)
Argentina (since 2010)
Denmark (since 2012)
Uruguay (in 2013)
New Zealand (in 2013)
Gay marriage is “partly” legal in Brazil, Mexico and the USA (where it is legal in some states but not supported by the federal government).
Countries which have a proposed bill but which has not yet been passed include Andorra, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Nepal and
2009 was a really great year for me.
I had gone through major first love heartbreak the year before and spent a lot of time moping around, locked in my room with masses of junk food and endless, mindless hours of series (back in the good ol’ days when Stellenbosch University still had a global sharing network).
Then 2009 rolled around, I started off the year as a fresh 20 year old with the world at my feet.
And one of the great things I did that year was to go on THE EPIC EUROTRIP with my very good (great) friend Jade and her brother Sam.
Going through all the photos now, I think I might do a couple of blogposts on them. The memories are too good and the stories are too fantastic.
But I’ll do that next week.
For now, one of the things we did. In fact, one of the first things we did, was to go out partying in Berlin. We landed up at a place called Kunsthaus Tacheles (Arthouse Tacheles).
This remains the most fascinating place I have ever experienced. I have told so many people about it and I was genuinely upset to discover that authorities closed it down towards the end of last year. (Read about it here)
The thing about Tacheles, it was a mixture of a club. coffee house, late night food stop and (as the name suggests) art space.
The other thing about Tacheles, everyone operating out of it was technically squatting.
Tacheles was a derelict department store, bearing the legacy damage from bombs. The inside of the building centered around a long, winding flight of stairs. The walls were covered, every square inch, in graffiti and murdered teddy bears hung down on string from the ceiling.
Everything about it was crazy and surreal and totally illegal.
We were taking photos when an armed man came around the corner and very harshly (and not in either English or German) informed us we couldn’t take photos. We’re pretty sure there were drug deals going down, the reaction was too intense.
One floor up we found artists and designers peddling their (truly beautiful) wares, but the man with the gun had freaked us out so we go out of there pretty quick.
Men with guns are always scary but at 1 am in a place like that? Hells no, baby.
Downstairs there was a sandpit outside with chairs and a man selling baguettes and bretzels. Through another door on the side was a club called Zapata, though I don’t remember us spending much time in there.
We had made some friends along the way, the boys you see in the pictures. They were British and about Sam’s age (slightly younger than Jade and I). Really nice guys.
We met some truly awesome people on this trip.
I don’t remember their names but the blonde boy is labelled Baxter in my Facebook album, so that might be it.
Honestly, best three weeks of my life. I had the MOST amazing time. I saw and experienced so much, and I did it with some of the best people I know.
I have so many stories I could fill a book.
Watch out for some more posts to come in the next few weeks, I’m taking a long trip down memory lane!
When the travel bug bites, it bites hard. My feet are itching and my passport is dancing.
[Disclaimer: All these pictures are my own. For more photos of the building and what it was like inside, click here (thanks Google!).]