And so, as I lay there, it was safe to say that Christmas was ruined. But let’s start at the beginning.
It was mid December and I found myself in a hot little village just outside of Alexandria, Egypt. It dawned on me that Christmas was fast approaching and I was yet to see anything remotely festive. Now, although I’m not Christian, I thought letting it pass by without some kind of involvement would be a real shame.
After an hour or so of research into the nearest place that would give a crap about Christmas, and the cheapest way to get there out of Northern Egypt, I managed to find decent direct flights into Athens. Greece for Christmas it was then!
I landed into Athens and head straight to Monastiraki where I’d organised a pretty decent hostel as a gift to myself. Around the city the vibe was just what I was craving, a chill in the air, markets, Christmas pop songs spilling out of every shop front and more tacky souvenirs than you could shake a novelty candy cane at. I filled up on mulled wine and fruit cake and called it a day.
I spent the next few days exploring as much of Athens as I possibly could. I love the balance of old and new. They have managed to build a modern metropolitan city on the foundation of beautiful ancient ruins without compromising either aspect. A few of the highlights for me were the Acropolis, the Temple of Zeus, the National Gallery and the Panathenaic Stadium (where if you play your cards right you can hold an Olympic torch!). I loved it all.
Christmas day arrived, I had been out in Gazi square for a massive Christmas eve party so getting up was a real struggle. I looked around my hostel room, the whole place was empty and everyone’s bags had gone. Nice and quiet, result! I forced down a bit of food (which pretty much consisted of the remains of a bag of oranges that I’d bought for a Euro the day before) and immediately felt better.
For dinner I had arranged to visit a family at their home out nearer the coast. This isn’t an odd thing to do, loads of hostels put adverts up around Christmas time so that lone travellers don’t end up missing out. The whole day was great, we had traditional food, played games, it was exactly what you want from a Christmas day. I left in the early evening feeling extremely happy and was already thinking about the New Year and future plans.
Still a little fragile from the night before and with an extremely full stomach I made my way up to my room to end the perfect day. The plan had come together, this is exactly what I’d wanted. The hostel room was still empty, but for two suitcases propped against the bunk bed across the room, so I made a call home and then contently drifted off to sleep.
About midnight. I hear the familiar scraping of metal and the gentle thuds of a drunk person trying to manoeuvre a key in a lock. “Here we go” I thought. After about 30 seconds I decided to get up and open the door from the inside.
“Alright mate? How’s it going?” I said, before the door was fully open. The words fell flat, met with absolutely nothing. Stood in the doorway was the most cliched German couple that I have ever seen, probably mid forties, overweight, the whole shabang. I knew immediately that it wasn’t because of rudeness that they were blankly staring, I just hadn’t been understood. They weren’t drunk but had clearly been trying to use their tiny locker key to open the door. The silence still lingered for about ten seconds as I turned and walked back towards by bed in the corner.
“I am here?!” The guy (let’s call him Fred) said, I looked over my shoulder and he was pointing at an empty bottom bunk. “Wherever man, these are all free”. He made a nod like gesture and slopped down onto the bunk. He then pointed at the bed above him and spoke in brief efficient German to his wife.
She (let’s call her Wendy) strained with her shoes and finally her mighty cankles burst out like water from a split paddling pool. She kicked the shoes aside and arched her head up to assess the peak that she was about to attempt to summit. CREEEEAAAKKK!!! The ladder took the force of her weight as she lurched up to the top bunk with surprising competence. Then, as if she had been shot with a tranquiliser, she slammed down onto the mattress and writhed around in her pillows and blankets for a moment. A few more straining metal sounds and the battle was over, she was down for the night.
Quiet again. Perfect. I got up and flicked off the light but it didn’t make too much difference to the room because there was still a glare coming through the curtains from a streetlamp just outside the window. I settled back into my nest, put my headphones in and started to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” on my computer.
SCREEEECH!!! From the semi darkness, over the sound of my film, I heard the stress of the bed across the room. Wendy was on the move. She heaved herself to the end of the bed, down the ladder and to the floor with all the grace of a dazed hippo trapped inside a duvet cover. The bed sounded like it was about to break as she rolled into the bunk below. For about a minute there was a lot of commotion, she had woken Fred from his slumber and he didn’t sound best pleased.
The creaks and grumbles became slower and more rhythmic, “Oh no” I thought to myself, “are they!?”… they were. I closed the lid of my computer, grabbed my wash bag and towel and shimmied out of the room. “I’ll have a shower, give them half hour, it’s Christmas”. Half hour went by. “Maybe give them another ten minutes, I don’t want to walk in on them”.
After what was close to an hour I slowly walked back in and was greeted by an image that I still can’t fully erase from my brain. They were both naked in the middle of the room, Fred was behind Wendy doing his thing whilst she was bent over heavily clutching onto the lower frame of the empty bunk bed in front of them, together forming what looked like an “h”. Wendy looked up and somehow I was locked in a stare with both of them at the same time. I panicked, they didn’t stop what they were doing, my entry (to the room) had just appeared to spur them on. In my shock however I didn’t leave. Instead I just scooched around them and back into my bed, justifying the decision to myself by thinking “if I turn around and leave now it’ll look weird”.
The session continued until what must have been three in the morning or beyond (I was too scared to check the time). And so, as I lay there, it was safe to say that Christmas was ruined.