The author of Waiting for Nobel – in further text: WFN – is honored to present to you a special guest, Bill Bryson, who will now conduct an imaginary interview with her about his fantastic journey through Europe.
WFN: It is a great honor for all of us to feature such a distinguished author, lecturer, world traveler and quite a funny guy here on Waiting for Nobel. Tell us, what made you start across Europe with not too many clean underpants/socks and all alone?
Bill Bryson: The honor is all mine; I rarely get a chance to be an imaginary guest on a non-indexed blog with 2-3 visitors a day on average, so it’s a thrill. My motivation for a trip from Hammerfest to Istanbul was nostalgia; I wanted to retrace the path I and a nuisance of a friend of mine took some 20 years ago. Though not exactly magnets for women, we had an adventure of our lives and I really wanted to see whether the beautiful places I saw in my youth were still that magical.
WFN: You started with Hammerfest because…
Bill Bryson: Because it’s the furthest north point in Europe, known for occasionally hosting one of the most beautiful phenomena in nature – aurora borealis, or northern lights.
WFN: And you saw them?
Bill Bryson: Well, I had to stay in Hammerfest longer than I planned, overhearing conversations in pubs and on streets in a language I totally didn’t understand, but yes, I finally saw a majestic white light doing a show in the sky. The long stay was really worth it.
WFN: What do you think, is Hammerfest livable?
Bill Bryson: Despite evidence that it is, since people do a decent job of living there, I think it is livable only to those pitiful souls who’ve never tried a good beer.
WFN: Where did you go to after Hammerfest?
Bill Bryson: I went back to Oslo where I started from and where I found a seriously demented ticket sales lady who wouldn’t give me a seat on the bus because she refused to believe that it was my name on the booked tickets list, and not some Burnt Byorson or something like that. I also passed through Luxemburg on that route, and had the pleasure of hitchhiking a man who drove like a lunatic, switching lanes all the time which made it almost impossible to stay alive, all the while fighting with his wife on the front seat; when the ride was finally over, he insisted I stayed over for dinner, at the obvious dissatisfaction of his wife, where they fed me one egg and gave me a piss-tasting beer to drink. Lovely times.
WFN: You already make us wish to pack right this instant and start a similar adventure. Next you talk about Paris where you had a feeling that everybody hated you. Tell us about it.
Bill Bryson: No, seriously, the Frenchmen do hate me. Especially drivers whose whole lives revolve around picking the right moment when I’m crossing the street so they can run over me, or that dear lady in the bakery who handed me a dead beaver when I asked for a loaf of bread. The most pleasant nation in the world, I assure you. I guess the beauty of the city has to be countered with something negative, otherwise it would be impossible to bear it.
WFN: I should have asked you this at the beginning: can you list all the countries/cities you visited on this trip, in chronological order?
Bill Bryson: Sure. As I said, I started from Hammerfest, and I traveled through: Oslo – Paris – Brussels – the rest of Belgium – Ahen and Keln – Amsterdam – Hamburg – Copenhagen – Goteborg – Stockholm – Rome – Naples, Sorrento and Capri – Florence – Milano and Como – Switzerland – Lichtenstein – Austria – Yugoslavia – Sofia – Istanbul.
WFN: Impressive! What were your impressions of Belgium?
Bill Bryson: Well, for starters, I discovered something that could appall many believers in the EU. The EC headquarters building was completely empty when I passed it and it wasn’t even 6 PM, which made me think of a little joke: “How many people work in the European Commission? About one third.” Ha! But seriously, you guys are in great danger with such leaders.
WFN: On to the next adventure. What did you do in Amsterdam?
Bill Bryson: This is a trick question, right? Well, I didn’t smoke weed, if that’s what you are asking me. I watched a bunch of hippies who seemed to be the last remaining bunch of this strange group on the planet. It seems like time stands still for them. I also noticed the Dutch people are pretty sloppy, and speak in a weird way that makes everything they say sound a little pornographic. Two most memorable discoveries during my visit to Amsterdam were: that the city and its houses are sinking, and a fascinating museum of Anne Frank where the images of monstrous cruelty can make your heart stop.
WFN: I guess Rome has nothing that brutal to offer to a sightseer.
Bill Bryson: Well, aside from a museum made by a monk who used his monk-brothers’ bones to make the construction, no, there is nothing that scary. Rome is one of the dearest places to my heart. I have to say, thought, that Romans remind me of Parisians in their desire to run over me when I’m trying to cross a street, but other than that they are a very cheerful, noisy bunch. Every corner of Rome is so charming, you want to live and die there.
WFN: I’m curious about what you thought of Yugoslavia, since that’s my former country, before wars broke it up into 6 different countries.
Bill Bryson: I traveled from Croatia to Serbia and I was fascinated by its untouched nature. People also seemed very friendly, but I can’t say it was the most exciting place I’ve visited on this trip. After two days in Belgrade I couldn’t think of anything else to do there, so I bought a ticket to Sofia.
WFN: Since you’re a guest, I won’t punch you in the face for not speaking better of my hometown. Consider yourself lucky.
Bill Bryson: This interview is becoming as good as my experience in that French bakery.
WFN: Thank you. Reading your book, I noticed funny situations simply stick to you. How do you explain that?
Bill Bryson: I guess I can’t help it. The curious thing is that most of my readers don’t really believe I was hanging upside down in a bus to Hammerfest, because of so little space on those seats, or they think I was exaggerating when I described my encounter with the Japanese people in the elevator whom I assured I wasn’t mad at them for Pearl Harbor. What can I say; I’m a magnet for funny situations.
WFN: And your fantastically entertaining books are magnets for readers. Thank you, Bill, for talking to us today and we are looking forward to your next book. Do you have a plan for your next travel piece?
Bill Bryson: Yes, I was thinking of expanding my horizons and checking out what’s on the bottom of the ocean. I heard those sea creatures really know how to live, especially down there where no sunlight can reach them. You’ll hear about it from me very soon.
WFN. Excellent. Thank you again, and thanks so much to my 2-3 daily visitors for hanging out with fake Bill Bryson today.