I was coming from Caracas were we call buses “little vans” or “little cars” and the metro is to fear during rush hour. It doesn’t matter which of these transportation methods you decide to use. You will always find the typical street sellers with dubious merchandise or beggars asking for money with the same speech about their needs and limitations to earn money. The motorcycles in my city are synonym of anarchy and the protagonist of our mornings… and afternoon as well, but nowhere else in the world you have the privilege of being escorted by groups of macaws that also want to cross the capital.
The airway was the first means of transportation and the Heathrow Airport in London is the first stop of this trip. When the English capital is mentioned, the two floor red buses are the first thing that probably comes to our mind.
But this transportation method is more than the symbol of the city, there were numerous times that they made me encounter with unforgettable people: a guy that comments the news as if he were a news reporter, but of the one he reads in his newspaper, a driver that opens the door a lot for you and gets used you as well as you get used to him and they are no longer strangers, a melancholic musician that decides to tell you his story that nighta that he split from his band and a guy that comes closer and flirts with you and to say goodbye he steals a kiss.
There are thousands of lives that you visualize through the window seeing the people walk by and millions of details on the Street that you could see from up top on the second floor of the bus.
Entering the “tube” a name that the English gave to the metro was like descending to a type of bathroom of dry value with an odd smell that in a way I ended up getting used to it and due to its warmth it was the first place I wanted to be in during the winter and the last one in the summer. The wagons had a vintage style, the one you get fond of and the rails where home to a great amount of rat families.
“Mind the gap”, it stole a part of my heart and aural memory and the official “round” logo of the London Underground, was like a light at the end of the tunnel, every time I got lost exploring the city.
Identifying the tourist became an easy task. It was enough just to see who would stop and contemplate the colorful map of 11 lines, confused, planning their best route to their destination.
The locals walked as if they programmed to do only that in their they were submerged in their routine and to get distract from them and make them mad, the only way was to stand on the left side of the escalators, thing that tourist knew how to do very well.
Going out of the platforms, especially the central ones, I would always find some type of art manifestation: musicians, mimes, dancers or painters that would create a joyful atmosphere, unique and unmatched in the middle of the sober city environment.
The Harwich sun was hiding, at the east of England, with the beautiful view of the sunset, I ventured in the ferry with destiny to Hoek Van Holland, Netherlands. In a matter of minutes I would only see the lights of the port that we were going further in the darkness of the night.
With the sunrise we arrived to the Netherlands, after having slept in the middle of the sea and after a quick breakfast on board the next step was to take a train in direction to Amsterdam. A train like any other but with a dream view; the grass looked greener than in another place the windmills would move slowly with the fresh summer air and in the background there was a rainbow that greeted us.
As we arrived to the central station it was very early to check in to the hotel and luckily I had cinephile as a trip partner who remembered that he had seen in a movie that there were lockers at the station, where we could store our backpacks and to go kill the time roaming around the small city in my favorite way: walking. And what better way to do as I am a walking expert, a guide that doesn’t ask for more than what he can offer in exchange to show the most famous and curious places of the city.
Ending our tour, very hungry, we dare to take the tram in the stations where we didn’t understand a word, and with luck we could understand the name of the station the corresponded to us, in just a little bit we started understanding the language and we would recognize most of the stations.
The Dutch and Paris
On the fourth day we were very comfortable and we decided to use the typical transportation of Amsterdam: the bicycle!
It is worth mentioning as the people from London don’t stand the tourist on the left side of the escalators, the Dutch can be very stubborn when you are not going at their same rhythm and by accident you cross into their path; that is why my experience in two wheels was starring by the sounds of bells that they would ring repeatedly so I would get out of their way, but without dwelling the incredible sensation of freedom that I felt at the moment.
The next day we got on the bus that left us in Brussels, were I didn’t find anything special about the transportation, but was a nice stop for two days where after we took another bus to Paris.
The Parisian metro turned out to be to by a total contradiction of the glamour of this capital of fashion. The walls were stained due to water filtration, the seats of the wagon didn’t transmit trust to sit on them and the smell was simply terrible, without talking about the antipathy of the ticket vendors and other traveler; even with that it is worth submerging in that infra world because the reward is going to the surface.
That was the last destination by land and after we flew to Barcelona. By a little cluelessness we took a flight that arrived to Reus, Tarragon and because of that we had to do a trip of one hour to arrive to our destination, as we arrived to Barcelona I was surprised with the similarities of the streets and buildings with Caracas.
As we arrived to the terminal, of my friends asked the driver how to get to this address which was the hotel that we were staying in, we didn’t know how to react when he told us in a very nice manner the directions and the route was 40 minutes by metro and it was located in surrounding area of Barcelona, another city called Badalona.
We were very tired and with a basic level of Catalan and after fighting with the machine to buy our metro tickets, we got into the wagon almost empty only wishing that we could sleep, when we got to the hotel it was midnight and luckily the staff was still there to receive us. The next day after resting and with sunlight, we went to Barcelona. The metro was completely different full of people and most of them with their summer look and very loud when talking and some apparently didn’t know deodorant, and that was why I probably memorize faster the word “sortida” in Catalan and “salida” in Spanish.
The end of the journey
With this as my last destination of the trip, today I realize how different the transportation methods are in different countries and the good and bad aspects that they could have.
The public transportation of a city is very important in its identity and that works to learn about their culture, different life styles and even a little bit of the language. So my advice to any traveler is that they go out of their comfort zone, forget about taxis or renting cars and explore the public transportation to get the real meaning of the culture of the place, you never know what you are waiting to discover.