By Paulette Ballard
Moments column

As told by Rockie Sain

The summer after my college graduation, my girlfriend and I went backpacking in Europe for six weeks. We flew into New York City first. I had not bought my Eurorail Pass (to travel by train in Europe) so we had to go to downtown New York City, backpacks and all, to buy one. 

Our first stop was to be in Luxembourg, however, we stopped in Reykjavik, Iceland. The plane had been overbooked and passengers were asked if anyone wanted to spend the weekend there – all expenses paid. My girlfriend and I jumped at this chance.

We had a fascinating couple of days. We saw geysers, a volcano, beautiful countryside and walked over an area where our astronauts train for the moonwalk. The ground at this training field was spongy as we walked on it. This was an opportunity we would not have had if the plane had not been overbooked. 

Two days later, we continued on to Luxembourg and stayed for six weeks. We had a terrific time backpacking through Holland, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece and Switzerland. The Alps in Switzerland were stunning. My first taste of escargot was in Belgium. We met many other young people backpacking throughout Europe, and it was an exciting time.

While in Greece, we couldn’t find accommodations. A man overheard us talking and offered us a room he rented out of his house until we found another place. We didn’t know what to do, but my girlfriend said, “Sure why not.” We went to his home, and he showed us to a room. We were a little nervous about this so we approached it cautiously.

Shortly after going to our room, the man knocked on the door. I opened it and he said he wanted to have an intimate relationship with my friend. We closed the door and locked it. We packed our possessions, waited until we heard him leave and hurriedly left his home.

We hailed a taxi and asked the driver to take us to the tourists police. We knew they could help us find accommodations where we would be safe. Here again, we made another mistake. The taxi driver drove us to his house, where we refused to get out of the cab.

We looked around and saw a car dealership across the street. We jumped out of the cab, ran across the road and explained to the owner of the dealership what we had gone through twice. The cab driver was yelling for us to pay him. The dealership manager told him to go away, and he was going to help us find the tourists police. He told us he didn’t want us to think all Greek men were like the first two we had met. He called us a taxi and told the driver to take us to the tourists police station and no where else.

We arrived there about midnight to find it closed for the night. We didn’t know what to do at this point, but we were exhausted. My friend got her sleeping bag out, laid it down in the alley beside the police station and said she was going to get some sleep. I was so frightened by now, there was no way I could sleep. The following morning, the tourists police station opened and they arranged a place for us to stay. 

As I look back on this now, I can’t believe how naïve we were, how things turned out and how differently it could have been. We made it through Europe safely after all and it was a wonderful momentous adventure.


Paulette Ballard collects interesting, funny and unusual stories from people in the Denver area. If you have a story you would like to submit for her column, email it to In the subject line type “For your column.” Include your name and phone number for her to contact you.