Disclaimers: All characters are originally my own. Any feedback would be appreciated at aehammock84@gmail.com


European Summer


A.E. Hammock

Part 1

Saturday, May 17

So I finally made it to the hotel. Jesus, that was a hell of a trip. I can't wait to crawl in bed and just sleep. But I should write in this first. I don't want to forget a thing about this summer, so I need to keep a record and stick with it this time.

Well, the flight was uneventful, just long and cramped. People my height were not meant to sit in coach that long. So let's see. I left Indianapolis around 4, grabbed a decent pulled pork sandwich in the Memphis terminal, flew to Amsterdam , which seemed to take forever. I just couldn't get comfortable enough to fall asleep and some jackass kid behind me kicked my seat the entire time we were in the air. Ugh.

I did sleep the entire flight from Amsterdam to Frankfurt , though. That was nice. I don't think I'd have been able to stay awake on the trains if I hadn't. Sleeping through the food service was kind of dumb though. I haven't had anything since my meal on the flight to Amsterdam , and that was last night at eight or nine. I've got no clue what time my body feels like it is, but the clock says that was about 24 hours ago. I did grab a pretzel before getting on the train in Frankfurt , though.

That was another interesting thing. I've never been on a train before today. Well, not a real one that goes anywhere at any rate. I was kind of clueless as to how the whole thing worked and ended up missing my first change because I was stupidly standing on the wrong platform and ended up needing to take 3 more trains before I finally made it to Strasbourg . Then there was a whole other adventure trying to find my hotel.

They told me in orientation that the hotel was like a hundred and fifty yards from the train station, so I figured I'd be able to walk there, no problem. Unfortunately that was not the case as I ended up roaming the streets looking for the damn place before finally giving up. I swear I'm usually great with maps, but I just could not find the Rue des Magasins, let alone pronounce it. I took Spanish in high school and college. I'm clueless when it comes to French.

After hauling my bag back to the train station and getting a cab, I finally made it here and checked in. Apparently I'm the last one in the group to arrive. I hit the vending machine and bought some internet time before coming up here, so now I'm eating gummy Smurfs and firing off emails to mom and dad to let them know I made it. Tomorrow we have an early start, so I'm gonna call it a night.


Sunday, May 18

Well today was better. Though I still haven't been able to fill up with food. Lunch was a culinary nightmare and dinner was okay, but not great. I did have a goodly amount of strong beer though, so that's good.

Anyway, the day got off to an early start. We had a tour of an old castle scheduled followed by lunch in Colmar and finally a tasting at a winery. I went downstairs expecting a breakfast bar in the hotel, as we'd been told would be provided, but there was nothing. And the vending machine was cleaned out, so my poor tummy went unfulfilled for a while longer.

When I got down to the lobby, wearing a pair of jeans and a white tank top with a gray hoodie draped over my messenger bag, I saw that the only other person there was a tall older woman sitting down drinking a cup of coffee.

“Good morning. Are you Ashley? I'm Professor Anna Spencer. We had a meet and greet last night, but you got in late.”

“Yeah, I was supposed to get here hours earlier, but my flight from Amsterdam to Frankfurt got delayed a few hours. I think I pulled into Strasbourg on the last train from Germany .”

“Well, we're glad to have you with us. You're one of our IU Indy students, right?”

“Yes ma'am. I just finished first year. I'm really looking forward to getting my grades back.”

“I bet. So are you looking forward to today's trip?”

“Well, to be honest I'm not entirely sure what we're doing.”

“Oh, we're touring an old castle and then a winery. It should be a lot of fun.”

“Sounds great,” I said with a smile as my stomach emitted a loud grumble. “Any chance we'll get some food soon?”

“Well, we're stopping in a small town near the castle for lunch so we'll eat then.”

That was not the news I wanted to hear. I was starving right then, damn it.

Eventually, I saw more of my fellow law students trickling down to the lobby from their rooms. I recognized a good third of them from my section. There were a couple who had even been in my legal writing group. Not many that I was well acquainted with, though. I didn't have any close friends in this half of the summer program, though I had hung out with Jason a few times, but mostly in the company of my friend Steven.

Before Jason and I left Indy for this program, the three of us had coordinated a nice way to spend the time between sessions. Steven is only going to Croatia , so he's planning on coming over to Europe two weeks before we need to be in Dubrovnik . Jason isn't going to London once we finish in Strasbourg, so he's planning on meeting Steven in Frankfurt, then the two of them will hit Cologne before heading to Munich, where I'll meet them after I finish in London. We're then going to go to Salzburg before catching a train to Zagreb and then a short flight the rest of the way.

I went over to Jason's group and exchanged pleasantries. While I have no beef with Jason, the rest of the group he's hanging out with this morning just rubs me the wrong way. They're the clique that's all about being rich and practicing conspicuous consumption. It's ridiculous how much petty high school bullshit gets renewed when you're in law school.

After talking to them for a bit, I wandered around the room just trying to get to know everyone's name and what schools they were from. We had a pretty good mix of schools. While most of us were there from IU – Indy, there were also students from Howard , Texas , SMU, Pitt, and William Mitchell. The girl from Pitt, Stephanie, was really cute, but didn't say all that much today. Nevertheless, I did get a bit of a vibe off her, so I think I may see if there's any possibility there.

Once we got everything in order, we all went out and got on the bus to go out and sight see. I sat toward the back with Jason and his friends, half-listening to their conversation while looking at the scenery go by.

We made it to the castle mid-morning and I noted with some excitement that there was a little food stand next to the parking lot, but unfortunately, they didn't open until noon, so I'd have to keep waiting on food. Fortunately, the castle was pretty cool. It had original furniture from the seventeenth century and a lot of renaissance era weaponry, which was really fun to look at. Finally, I wandered around the place long enough that I could go to the food stand and get a beer and a couple big pretzels.

By the time I had finished eating and drinking, it was to get on the bus and head to our next stop, the town of Colmar . As we drove into the town we passed a replica of the Statue of Liberty. Bartholdi, the sculptor who designed it was born in Colmar . We got off the bus near the center of town and went to have lunch.

Not too many places were open, but there was a restaurant that was advertising pizza, so the group reached a consensus that we'd eat there. Despite the fact they had a sign out front claiming they sold pizza, when we tried to order that particular dish, we were told they were out of some essential ingredient but they could make us tart flambées instead.

I got a basic one, with crème fraiche, lardons, and onions as I figured I could pick the onions off. I think the only reason I was able to eat the half of this culinary nightmare that I did was because I was still starving. The pretzels I'd had back at Haut Konigsberg only took the edge off my hunger. This disastrous combination of otherwise fine ingredients pretty much killed my desire to ever eat again.

After eating and continuing to get to know everyone else in the group a little bit more, people started to split up to explore the town for a couple of hours. I looked over at Stephanie, but she was talking to some of the other non-Indy people and I didn't want to interrupt. Jason invited me to go with his group, as they were going to go find a bar, so along I went. Leffe tastes so much better closer to the source.

We wandered around a bit on the way back to the bus before loading up and heading to a winery. The wine tasting wasn't what I had been led to expect by TV and movies. They showed us around the place a little bit before we went into a nice sized dining room and were served assorted breads and full glasses of six different wines. To say people were getting tipsy is an understatement. I ended up buying a couple bottles of pinot gris before we left to head back to Strasbourg .

On the bus I ended up having a pretty cool conversation about religion with Aaron Hobson, a guy who was in my section. He's a pretty conservative Christian and I'm an atheist, but he and I hit it off pretty well. The argument ended with us agreeing to disagree around the time we got back to the hotel. As we were all still hungry and I was more than slightly inebriated, we all agreed that the best course of action was finding food.

A group of about a dozen of the fifteen or so people in the program left the hotel after taking thirty minutes to clean up and stash souvenirs we picked up early in the day. We wandered out to find dinner and were quickly surprised by the shortage of open restaurants in Strasbourg after eight on a Sunday. Finally, we found a place across the street from the cathedral, which was gorgeous; I'm definitely going to have to check it out this week during the day.

The food was alright and instead of doing the sensible thing, I kept drinking. I'm not usually a fan of pilsners in general and definitely not mass market pilsners, but Kronenbourg is pretty tasty, especially the 1664. I ended up having three bottles of that. I think that brings my total for today up to thirteen, including all the wines. I think. I'm a bit fuzzy on the details actually. I'm gonna go to sleep and write more tomorrow.


Monday, May 19

It was a struggle waking up this morning. I was running more behind than I had wanted, so I went through a highly abbreviated morning routine, I skipped washing my hair and left it up, hurriedly drying off as I was supposed to meet a couple people in the lobby to walk to the school together. Aaron's not a big drinker so while everyone else was out getting drunk on Saturday, he went out walking around the city and figured out how to get to the school. I threw on a pair of Bermuda shorts and a tank top, grabbed my hoodie and bag and headed down to the lobby to meet him.

A couple other people had decided to walk with us, a woman who goes to school at Howard and, lucky me, Stephanie. She didn't drink quite as much as I did yesterday, but she was hanging in there with the group pretty well. The only person who was really sitting it out was Aaron, though he did have as much as any of us at the wine tasting. Stephanie looked well put together today and none the worse for wear, unlike me. I'm sure I looked like shit today with my hair up in a loose bun and dark circles under my eyes from not so much sleeping as being knocked unconscious the previous night.

I greeted the group and apologized for being late before we set off. It was a gray, foggy morning and the weather was not nearly as warm as I had expected. I was regretting the shorts within five minutes, but very glad I'd grabbed the hoodie. As we passed a patisserie, the smell drove me nuts, so I insisted on ducking in real quick to grab some breakfast. I grabbed two croissants with almonds and a diet coke and everyone else grabbed something as well before we resumed our trek towards the law school building. It took us a good forty five minutes, during which we had some good conversation.

I kept trying to flirt with Stephanie, but the opportunities just weren't presenting themselves. Aaron kept dominating the conversation and it was hard to talk to just Stephanie or work in an invite for she and I to hang out together without appearing rude, so I just went with the flow of the normal first week get to know you stuff.

Finally, about halfway there, the group shifted so that Aaron and the fourth person, Nina, I think was her name, were walking in front and Stephanie and I were side by side.

“Did you actually do any of the assigned reading for today?” She asked me.

“I could lie and say I skimmed it, but all I really did was read the titles of the cases when I got the packet Saturday night.”

“So you didn't stay up doing all the reading last night, I take it?” She had a definite twinkle in her eyes when she said this and the corner of her mouth curled up in a kind of teasing smile. God, those lips looked so kissable.

It took a conscious effort to pull my eyes away from those lips. “Are you kidding? After yesterday I got back to my room, messed around on my computer for a bit then fell asleep.”

“Yeah, I didn't really do any reading either. Here's hoping the prof doesn't cold call”

“Well, if she calls on me, she's definitely getting an ‘I don't know.'”

Stephanie laughed at that, which almost dispelled the damp chill that was seeping into my bones. God, I need to get laid.

I had dated Courtney all through college and we had had a pretty good sex life. We actually lived together for a couple years, but when we graduated, she got an internship in New York while I really wanted to stay closer to home and have the lower costs of going to Indy. We tried the long distance thing at first and actually managed to make it work for awhile, but in November, she showed up and told me we needed to talk.

Of course she'd met someone in New York and wanted to be with her. She told me she hadn't actually slept with the other girl yet, but who the hell knows. I was already stressing over my impending finals, so I just buried myself in my studies. I had a couple one night stands since my break up, but nothing lasting and nothing at all since I hooked up with that blonde 3L at Barrister's Ball.

“So you go to Pitt, right?”

“Yeah. It's a good school.”

“What made you decide on this summer abroad program?”

“Well, a bunch of other 1Ls I know got to talking about the Croatia program and I looked into it, decided that this seems like a good way to get some extra hours, and the price per credit was on par with what I pay back in the states, so I figured I'd get 12 credits that don't cost me any extra with the added advantage of getting to see some new places. Not to mention I kind of needed to get away and do something I've never done before.”

She looked down and got a really pensive look on her face. We both walked in silence for a half block before she looked up at me and asked, “What about you?”

“Well, there was a meeting on campus promoting the study abroad programs and I went, ‘cause you know, free pizza. Like you said, the economics made sense and I've never really been out of the country before, so this seemed like a great opportunity.”

“So, do you think this class is gonna be like a normal law school class?”

“I would imagine so, though it'll probably be less lecture with only 15 people and it won't be as easy to hide behind your computer.”

“True, that's why I didn't even bring mine; though I may wish I had in a four hour lecture.”

“Yeah, I'm kind of regretting hauling mine.” We had been walking close to a half hour at this point. “I didn't realize it was going to be so far.”

“Yeah, I know. Hey, Aaron,” she said, “How much longer until we get there?”

“Only about ten minutes or so.”

And sure enough, within ten minutes, we were at the school. My god, that building is ugly. We came in the back way, which may be why it was so ugly, but the façade was just this long curving building, five or six stories tall with dirty windows and these hideous blue and red panels beneath each one.

We went inside and headed up to our classroom. As it was on the third floor which is actually the fourth floor according to American counting, we decided to take the elevator. Despite there only being four of us, we were crammed in so close I was glad I showered. I was kind of pressed between Stephanie and Nina and couldn't stop thinking that usually I've got to buy a woman a drink before I get this close.

We made it to the room and there were rows of tables facing the front of the classroom. I went to the second row and sat my bag down in front of the seat closest to the window, taking out my computer and the packet of cases we were given on checking in. Looking out the window I could see the spire of the cathedral as well a different church with two spires. I sat down and saw that Stephanie had taken the seat next to me.

“I hope you don't mind,” she said, gesturing vaguely at the table.

“Not at all.” I tried to dampen my enthusiasm at having her sit next to me, but I don't think I did a very good job of it.

The class got underway and it was pretty uneventful. At one point the prof talked about the history of Strasbourg and made the incorrect claim that Germany declared war on France in 1870 and took Strasbourg as the spoils of war.

Stephanie happened to look up and see the baffled look on my face. When we got a break she asked, “What's wrong? You looked like something was bugging you during the lecture.”

“ Germany didn't start the Franco-Prussian War. There wasn't even a Germany at the start of that war. France declared war on the North German Confederation and got their asses thoroughly handed to them. Germany started the next two wars, but that one was all France .”

“I didn't know that.”

“History major. I wrote a paper on the Hohenzollern candidacy in undergrad.”

“I don't know what that is. I only took survey courses.”

So I gave her a thumbnail sketch of the start of the Franco-Prussian War and how Strasbourg ended up in German hands. She seemed interested, but I began to worry I was boring her, so I suggested we run downstairs to the small snack bar and get a pop.

With a Diet Coke – no, sorry, a Coca-Cola Light – and some chips in hand, we went back to the class and settled in for two more hours of lecture on the foundations of EU law.

After class, it was a trek with our interpreter to find the student food service building a few blocks away and get everyone hooked up with meal cards. For whatever reason, this turned out to be way more of a hassle than it should have been, but finally we were all squared away, but unfortunately not in time for lunch. We ended up heading back to the hotel and splitting up to do our own things for lunch.

Given that I hadn't had a chance to hit the grocery store yet, I asked Aaron if he needed anything, since he spoke French and could help me out if I got too completely lost. He and I went to the store and I loaded up on bread, ham, cheese, beer, and snacks. After putting my haul away, I decided to go exploring so I grabbed my camera and ventured forth, wandering along the canals and taking pictures. The smell of a doner kebab place was driving me nuts, so I went in there and had some very tasty meat for a late lunch/early dinner.

After spending some time inside the cathedral and looking around, I headed back to the hotel as I was in desperate need of some time to crash. Dinner was a simple ham and cheese sandwich washed down with a bottle of Leffe tripel. So far I've got to say Europe agrees with me.


Continued in part 2.

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