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Category: Europe

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation

It was November, 1971, and after two months of hitchhiking around northern Europe and having wonderful experiences, I realized it was time to head south like a migrating bird as winter closed in. It took me three days to cross France and when I reached the Spanish border, I headed west on a whim along the north coast of Spain, instead of due south towards Barcelona, Madrid and the Mediterranean beach resorts, as virtually all the other remaining backpackers did….

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Posters, Passports and British Snobs

Posters, Passports and British Snobs

I had a fascinating, if occasionally scary time in Northern Ireland in 1971, but I was relieved to leave (London) Derry and cross into County Donegal in the Irish Republic. My experiences in Belfast and especially the No Go areas of Free Derry were eye-opening and unforgettable, but I was now entering the part of Ireland I had really looked forward to travelling in. I made sure to find a somewhat disinterested Irish border official to stamp my passport because…

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A Stranger in a Strange Land

A Stranger in a Strange Land

I was having a great time hitchhiking around Europe in 1971, interacting with locals and other backpackers in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo and various places in Scotland. Virtually everyone I met was friendly and every place I visited was interesting. One fellow traveller I got to know in Inverness advised me, “If you like Scotland, you’re going to love Ireland.” I hadn’t thought much about Ireland but since almost all my ancestors came from there I thought it would be fun…

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Let Him Die

Let Him Die

I attend sports events almost entirely for the atmosphere. If you only want to carefully scrutinize a game it is better to watch it on TV for free. You will get far more replays, ongoing analysis and timely updates about player injuries. But nothing matches the thrill of being part of a giant roaring crowd, urging your team on to victory, riding a roller coaster of emotional ups and downs. That’s why people pay massive sums to attend live sports…

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The Ugly Americans

The Ugly Americans

I have met many delightful Americans while travelling in foreign lands, but I think it is safe to assume that collectively Americans go abroad less and are generally less well liked overseas than travellers from comparable countries because of their sense of superiority and belief in American exceptionalism. They may just be TOO exceptional for foreigners to appreciate. I encountered two of the most exceptional while hitchhiking around Europe in 1971. A few weeks earlier I had met a wonderful…

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Flying the Hippie Airlines

Flying the Hippie Airlines

By 1971 I had hitchhiked around virtually every corner of North America except the American deep south, meeting people of all kinds and travelling through mountains, deserts, the prairies, the bible belt and the great plains, plus visiting many of the continent’s big cities and basking in that California sun. Now, it was time for something new and different – Europe. I was excited by the idea of experiencing different cultures and interacting with the local people, but a little…

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The Boys of Belfast’s Ghettos

The Boys of Belfast’s Ghettos

Sometimes, just when an event you have been looking forward to for a very long time is near, a totally different and very enticing opportunity comes knocking at your door. You can simply ignore it, or offer to radically change your plans. About ten days before I was to fly to Shannon Airport, in the west of Ireland, in early May, 1981, and begin a bicycling trip around the country, I realized that a major political event in Northern Ireland…

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