Honeymoon of the Damned

In the summer of 1989, I backpacked through Europe with nothing but a Eurorail pass and a Let’s Go travel guide.

Each day, I took out a big rail map of Europe and went to the places I felt like visiting.  The red light district of Amsterdam.  The cafes of Paris.  The beaches of Sicily.  I slept in railroad stations, strangers’ houses and the occasional hostel.

Four years later, in 1993, I thought I’d do it again.  Same spontaneity.  Same free-spiritedness.  Same sense of adventure.

The only difference:   I was now with Staci.  And we were married.

And it was our honeymoon.

Cue disaster music.


The Honeymoon Debacle of ’93 started out auspiciously enough.  With a nice day in London.

It was raining.  And the hotel was far away from everything.  But it was great.

Great because it was the only day of the trip where we were (a) not injured; and (b) not crying.

That would change in Venice.

Venice the Menace

We were booked to stay in a $200 per night hotel.  Which, when neither of you have jobs, is about $200 more than you can spend a night.  We rationalized that it would be our one fancy hotel of the trip.

That illusion was erased when we found the fat guy’s house with the homemade “hotel” sign.

Picture a place where prostitutes are killed, but not as classy.

Our room was painted four different colors, one per wall.  I think the fat man painted one wall, ran out of paint, and bought whatever color was next on sale at the Italian Home Depot.

But that was nothing compared to the bathroom.

The bathroom stood three feet below the bedroom, which meant you had to remember to walk down two stairs every time you needed to use the bathroom.  The steps were tiled and there was always water on them.

Here’s a rule the rest of the world needs to learn about bathroom entrances:

They should not cause concussions.

The good news is my falls got better over time.  By the fourth time, I was downright skilled at catching myself on the bidet.

I say bidet like I know what one was.  I do now.  I didn’t then.  Which is why I will give you this tip:

They are not drinking fountains.

The best part of the bathroom were the dimensions.  Thirty feet long and six feet wide.  Rarely do I stay in hotel rooms where the bathroom is a converted bowling alley.

And all of the surfaces — floors, walls and ceiling — were covered in tile.   That was due to the “shower.”

I put “shower” in quotes because I fear it may conjure up images of an actual shower.  You know, four walls, maybe a soap dish.

But not in Italy.  Here’s what a shower should be called in Italy:

A hose in the corner.

Allow me this brief historic digression:

Somewhere during the three centuries that have passed since America’s split with Europe, the two continents took wildly divergent courses.   One discovered that showers involve water and should have walls.  The other decided that the entire bathroom should be hosed down like a car wash every time wants to be clean.

Your toiletries, the toilet paper, the bath towel — all should be thoroughly soaked by anyone taking a shower.

The other advantage of the European method is that the entire tile floor becomes wet.  So when you fall off the stairs and onto the slick floor, you can ping off in any direction, like you’re the little metal ball in a pachinko machine.  That’s good, because it can be boring to crack your head on the same bathroom fixture every time.  You need variety.

After one day, we wanted out.  But we had already booked the room for two nights.  That meant talking to the fat man.  Who didn’t speak English.  Or at least didn’t speak English when it would be convenient for him to not speak English.

It was an odd fight.  In one corner was a fat Italian man making a lot of hand gestures and saying a lot of things that didn’t sound like compliments.  In the other corner was me, trying my best to communicate that we were not going to pay for a second night because the fat man’s “hotel” was not what we expected.  Of course, my Italian was not perfect, so what came out was this:

“Me-o not pay-o you-o.”

All I knew for sure as Staci and I were fleeing, er, walking briskly, out the door was this:

The fat man was now peppering his conversation with a lot of “polizia” this and “polizia” that.

Which is a good time to be on the first train out of Venice.

Wherever it’s going.

Ahh, spontaneity.

28 thoughts on “Honeymoon of the Damned

  1. Between this & the last trip you had which involved bats and pain, I do believe you don’t have very much luck travelling, lol!

  2. Great story Stephan! Please say that there are more coming on this trip around Europe. Thanks a ton for making my work-day just get a lot better.

  3. omg my sides.

    thank you for the historic digression. i used to have this idea of venice – as seen in that james bond movie, casino royale.

    you, sir, are the next james bond.

  4. This is why honeymoons should be taken in a city near (not in) where you live and you book a decent hotel for a few days and plan only a couple excursions. Save the big vacations for later down the road when the stress of a wedding (and hopefully money) is farther removed.

  5. Oh my. Two thoughts-one is that I marvel constantly that Staci remains married to you-I hope you thank whatever dieties you believe in for your profound good luck in finding her.
    The second thought is this is gonna end up being a VERY entertaining story.

  6. Had a similar experience in Bulgaria: the bathroom had the same dimensions with the notworthy difference that it also got lower in height, which resulted in me only be able to stand up in the far left corner.
    Lucky for me, thats where the hose was. The unlucky part was, that was also where the toilet was.

    Then again, the room was only 7 bucks a night and not 200 🙂

  7. OMG!!!!!

    The most prominent of memories from my extremely happy, balanced, responsible European upbringing is listening to our American friends and acquaintances whine. Yes, they whine a lot. “This isn’t how it is at home… this is weird… this is strange… where’s McDonald’s, I don’t want to eat this odd stuff… waah waah waaaaaaah!”

    For a country whose population springs largely from European loins to begin with–America spends a lot of time pointing out the inferiority of European life compared to theirs. It reminds me of how teenagers all of a sudden think they know everything, and roll their eyes admonishingly at those tiresome stupid adults.

    Hoses, schmozes. Euros have a couple of millenia on America. Get over it.

  8. To the Hungarian Chick – it was arrogance like yours why I chose to leave Europe after several years. America is constantly getting bashed by everyone on the planet. Mostly a result of jealousy, I suspect….but when we decide to point out a few of YOUR foibles you WHINE. Cry baby.

  9. Oh PLEASE make a continuation of this!!! This may be your funniest post yet! (and that’s saying something!)

  10. Hey did this guy, or someone from his family, open up the B&B you were talking about in October?

    Sounds like they may be related….

  11. You sure have a death wish when it comes to traveling! I would have stopped by now. Re the whole Europe vs USA thing, the euros do get kinda smug and snobby but we’re the ones with central heat and air and interstates.

  12. Had a side-splitting, tears-down-my-face, laugh well into my sleep after I read this! Brought back memories of us looking for hotels to stay on our recent trip to Italy!

  13. TheHungarianChick – Pastis says he went in 1989 and had a great time; Europe is not the problem. The second one was different because he was with Staci and it was their honeymoon, and they made some poor choices/judgments.

    Stop being defensive and arrogant and suck it up. This is a humor post on a cartoonist’s blog – get a sense of humor or get out of here.

  14. Hungary chick, when I lived in Hungary I thought much as you do but it’s not something you can say and expect much agreement with. Also, in the US, attitude towards Europe has become completely a political and partisan thing.

  15. Ok, when you’re going to pay $200 a night to stay in a hotel, make certain it’s a hotel first and not a bowling alley turned house turned joke of a hotel.

  16. Well, Venice isn’t actually modern Europe. It’s more akin to the one America split 300 years ago.
    Come to Finland next time, Steve. It’s in many ways like best of America, but, you know, better. 😉

  17. Hungarian Chick,

    Whine, whine….nasty Americans…blah, blah, blah…

    How many Europeans move to the U.S. and want to become citizens? Many
    How many Americans move to Europe and want to become citizens? few

    Go shave your mustache and be quiet.

  18. hey stephan
    you make the funniest comics I’ve ever seen ever ever. especially the treasuries. you have inspired me to want to become a cartoonist when I’m older.
    please wish me a happy 13th birthday on january 14th
    thank you for your time

  19. OMG!!! Husband is looking at me trying to figure out why I’m laughing so hard and crying at the same time. Would you please publish a book about what hotels NOT to stay at?!? Then again, Staci would divorce you during the research period. You are Roger to Jessica Rabbit.

  20. Hey Stephan, I went away for the weekend with my boyfriend recently and the place where we stayed, UGH. Every time I looked around, I pictured “a place where prostitutes are killed, but not as classy.”

  21. if that honeymoon had been good I wouldn’t have read a word of it.. as it is, your pain is my entertainment..sorry, and thanks

    you should definitely give it another go round next year and then just post the same blog.

  22. I’ll tell you this;the bathroom thing?Yeah,i grew up with that.Back when i was a child,like 4 or 5,we lived in an apartment(though we still do today).Two bathrooms.One small little thing.The other a four wall,whole or nothing bathroom.Stuck a hose into the wall,right in front of the toilet,right to the sink with two sinks and a mirror.Imagine the horrors of those who are using the bathroom.Worst was that they put a WINDOW in there.As in,window-with-perfectly-clear-view-of-those-taking-showers.

    Just to tell you.Your pain amuses me.

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