Another story from the European campaign. “The Lost American” actually does not refer to me, as you will see in a moment. Though I got lost on several occasions while traveling across Europe, none of them were particularly notable (more annoyance than adventure).
On May 2, 2012, while I was in Spain, I took a day trip from Madrid to the town of Toledo, which was the old capital of Spain before it was moved to Madrid in the 16th/17th century (I think it was 1561, but I’ve been wrong many times before). The old city is built on a hill, so be ready for some uphill hiking if you ever visit. Below is a photo of the old city to give you an idea of what it looks like from a distance (click to expand).
I spent most of the day in the old city, hiking up and down to see various sights. Towards late afternoon I had started to make my way down the hill towards the main gate of the old city so that I could then walk back to the train station and catch a train back to Madrid. While walking along, another tourist approached me who was a bit lost and asked if I knew where a certain museum was. He was another American with a very distinct New York/New Jersey Italian accent, and was looking for a museum dedicated to torture that occurred during the Spanish Inquisition. This is the sort of museum that isn’t advertised, but he knew roughly where it was, so once I helped him find himself on the map I was able to chart him a course to the part of town where the museum was. He thanked me, and then asked me about myself and I proceeded to tell him about my travels so far. My story must have struck a cord with him, because he went on to tell me about travels he had done when he was younger (he was about 64 years old). Back in the early 70s he had hitch-hiked from Singapore to Cambodia and showed me some old photos from the trip. The black and white photos I saw were of a much younger version of himself in the jungle; some with armed solders, other ones in various villages he passed through. Keep in mind the Vietnam War was still going on at this time and by then had spilled over to other parts of southeast Asia. He admitted that it wasn’t the safest or smartest thing he had ever done, but at the time he thought nothing of it. The photos he showed me he had kept on his person for a long time and had been meaning to show other people but had never gotten a chance, so he thought I was as good a person as any. After a few minutes of talking we parted ways and I proceeded to the train station while he walked off in the direction of the museum. I really should have gotten a photo of this guy and his pictures.