FIVE THINGS TO DO IN EUROPE (THAT ARE NOT TOMORROWLAND)
originally published in Zephyr magazine.
Perhaps you're looking to avoid your southern-cross stamped compatriots, maybe you just didn't get tickets and need to console yourself with alternative plans. Either way, here are five things to do in Europe this summer that aren't a Belgian music festival.
1. Flirt with Death in Norway
(and flirt with everything else while you're there, too)
Hiking the majestic fjords of Norway is an experience nothing short of life-affirming.Whilst financial molestation is inevitable, what Norway lacks in affordability it makes up for in cinematic wilderness and an alarmingly attractive population. If ugly Norwegians exist, they're difficult to spot. This considered, Norway is undeniably worth a visit in your twenties; when you're most likely to be agile, and least likely to be hideous. Three noteworthy trails in particular - Priekstolen (Preacher's Rock), Trolltunga (Troll's Tongue) and Kjeragbolten (structurally precarious famous-on-instagram rock wedged between two cliffs) are all within easy road tripping distance of one another.
Great for: the physically robust
Less so: the poverty-stricken
Be sure to: road trip during the warmer months. Help sooth the constant threat of bankruptcy by taking advantage of the local law Allemannstretten, or All Man's Land, which basicaly means that as long as you clean up after yourself you can set up camp anywhere in the wild, for free. No way. Yes way. Norway.
2. Eschew Inhibitions in Istanbul
You may think a traditional Turkish bathing ritual isn't for you. You'd also be forgiven for presuming the transition from being dignified and clothed to splayed on a marble rock, tits out, could be an uncomfortable one. Though in the sticky chaos of Istanbul, where cats seemingly outnumber deodorant users, being silently washed by a stranger in palatial splendour is a totally beautiful thing. Traditional bathing rituals typically last about an hour, and once you've been scrubbed, rubbed (not like that) and dried, you're bundled up what felt to me like one-million-threadcount towels, and directed to a cabana-lounge to sip tea and marinate in your own opulence.
Great for: simulated affluence.
Less so: the bashful.
Be sure to: find a good one. Kilic Ali Pasa Hamam in Karakoy is excellent.
3. Bender in Berghain, Berlin
Arguably the most infamous club in the world, Berghain is a labyrithnic shine to minimalist beats and unflinching sexual display. Set in an cathedral-esque abandoned power station, is open from Friday night to Monday morning without break. Unsurprisingly, it's hard to get in. Three-hour queues are not uncommon; selection is brutal and rejection is rife. As fabled as the club's door policy are the bouncers who enforce it; Sven (who looks like a vampire cross-bred with a felon) is known in Berlin as the 'lord of the night', a celebrity status attributable to his years on the door. Another, Rummelsnuff (who looks vaguely like a potato), is a renowned German musician. Some hail the door policy as an attempt to curate an ideal party crowd, and protect Berghain's alternative scene from curious, judgmental eyes.
Great for: avant-garde heterosexuals, voyeur-types, lovers of amphetamines.
Less so: the especially sensitive.
Be sure to: go on a Sunday morning, where the queue is smaller and the crowd local. Don't speak in the line. Dress casually.
4. Join the Good Kind of Communist Party in Budapest
Communism might not do much for a city's cultural scene whilst in effect, but the ruin bars of Budapest are a fine example of how an awkward transition to democracy can pave the way to a killer nightlife. At the turn of the millennium, Budapest was plagued with abandoned buildings and citizens in need of a stiff drink, and a handful of locals connected the dots. True to their name, ruin bars are just that; drinking dens build into the remains of decrepit buildings. The paint is peeling, the entrances nondescript and the drinks, predictably, as cheap as the rent.
Great for: the poverty stricken.
Less so: the fancy.
Be sure to: use Google Maps. Their lack of signage can make bars tricky to find.
5. Get Gloriously Fat in the South of France
This is no time for your faux-gluten sensitivities or your #cleaneating, this is a time for French Food, and loads of it. The glistening Riviera, known for its fairy blue sea and disproportionate amount of zillionnaires, moonlights as a dazzling culinary melting point. The food along the Cote d' Azur throbs with vibrance; permeated with Mediterranean and Provincial influence, it makes good use of native flowers, local citrus and olive plantations. Think honey and sugar-coated violets and cheap (but excellent) rosé. Think steaming bowls of moule et frits, baguettes lathered in goats cheese and game-changing pistachio gelato. Think eggplant stuffed with meat and breadcrumbs, orange blossom brioche, slow cooked beef and deep-fried zucchini flowers. Think crispy chickpea flowers and excellent olive oil. Think strategic weight gain to make the savagely pebbled beaches less assaulting to the body.
Great for: old people, rich people, old rich people, lovers of food, diggers of gold.
Less so: the lactose intolerant.
Be sure to: digress from the beaten path that is Cours Selaya market and old town. The Liberation neighbourhood is home to a smattering of top-notch Italian delicatessans, and the world's best, as appointed by me, gelato shop: Arlequin.