Reflections on Busking Western Europe (part 2)

This was Western Europe

IMG_20130726_171345Four countries, 56 cities, 4 months of traveling.

We walked out of Tarragona and found a pristine Mediterranean beach to sleep on in the middle of the night. We hitchhiked from Hamburg to Brussels in 12 hours. We were tipped everything from euros, to zlotys to American dollars to 11% Belgian beer to weed to heroin (didn’t accept it though) to gypsy flowers to guitar accouterments to songs to a-place-to-sleep. The gypsies in Montpellier loved us so much they tipped us their pennies; the gypsies in Munich hated us so much they threatened to call the cops on us for not having a permit.

We smoked hash with a group of homeless Moors in Berck-sur-Mer and attracted Polish immigrants practicing in a Nuremberg park. We played an impromptu Brasserie gig for a music-loving family in Gace. We walked 10 miles down a soggy English dual-carriageway because we missed an earlier on ramp. We sang football fight songs in the narrow streets of Nantes and ‘fume la pipa’ with college students in Montpellier. We ate mashed potato casserole with our busking alter-egos, the Ready for Buskers, in Chamonix, France. We ate fried eel on the Baltic Sea and lots and lots of cheap smoked salmon from the French Carrefour grocery store.

We attempted to speak German via Google translate while riding in the car with a Polish transplant. We got lost in the hilly residential neighborhood of Rouen and walked for hours in the rain, before sleeping in the bum camp next to the train station.

We got wasted on tips of 11% Belgian beer in Brussels, and had to sleep it off in a park because the international train station was closed all night long. We weathered out an overnight downpour behind a Lidl in Dieppe, then spent the entire morning drying out our gear over a cup of €1.50  espresso.

We made new friends. We were rescued from a missed train by a pretty college girl in Abbeville, who took us to her story-book French house and made us a full breakfast (which she didn’t eat because she’s French).  We were rewarded with 4 days of rest, rave and relaxation by a charming astrophysics student from Hamburg. We were treated to mint tea and cafe entertainment by an ex-busker from Bordeaux. We went skinny dipping in Munich’s English Garden with a German lesbian couple; we went skinny dipping in Schwerin with an older German couple who grew their own vegetables. We

We busked for an hour in Gloucester and made £4. We busked for 2 hours in Lubeck and made €120.We dumped our bag of change out in the Kebab shop and let the shop owners convert it to paper money, feeling too rich to care whether or not they skimmed some off the top. We picked pennies up off the ground.

We were shut down by the cops in Blackpool, Sitges, Vilanova, Barcelona, Mataro, Orange, Strasbourg, Rostock, Lubeck, Brussels. We got paid off to stop busking in Pamplona and Montepellier.

We found a 50 euro note on the Reaperban, just when we were starting to lose hope. We collected cans in Stuttgart for the bottle deposit just to make our lunches a little bit cheaper.

We spent a god-awful amount of time drinking Starbucks coffee.

We got to see Big Ben and that one arch in Barcelona and some really old crooked buildings in Rouen and Munich’s famous Glockenspiel and all of Lubeck, which looked like it belonged in a Disney movie. And probably some tourist crap we didn’t even know what we were looking at. But we did like the scenery. We did like waking up in the parks an walking the narrow cobblestone streets of Europe. And those beautiful, carefully stocked shelves of English mega-grocery stores bring tears to our eyes.

We saw a lot of grade A busking acts. We saw a lot of crap, too. Like the gypsy woman in Munich who played the chorus of Autumn Leaves on repeat all day long.

Yup. That about sums it out. In a guitar-nut shell.

But, damn. That’s a mouthful! All that and more, we made happen. All because we traveled poor. All accomplished because we were busking our way around, because we exposed ourselves on the streets and boldly walked along the freeway. We weren’t always monetarily successful but we did get foods, rides, shelter advice and a home-bum or two who offered eternal and undying friendship.

Because I think most people were impressed. We’re impressed with ourselves.

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