For my own purpose and reflection, I feel a strong desire to write about my experience of being ‘an Aussie in Europe’.
It’s a totally different experience from my travel to date, and one that I want to share here, with the hope in years to come, when I read over my musings, I’ll be able to re-live the feeling as much as look through all the beautiful photos I’ve taken along the way. And of course, the real reason for this entire blog, so my kids can re-live it all as I will over the years to come.
So please bear with me with a post that’s more about me and less about than the places we are travelling through at this point in time (and perhaps my thoughts and feelings might re-ignite some wonderful memories and feelings for you too.)
So… sitting in my Swiss buddies cozy little chalet in the middle of the Swiss Alps I started thinking about our next leg of the journey. As luck has it, and due to some changes to our itinerary, we’ve ended up with a week left begging.
As I started the search I quickly realised that there were just SO many options, so many countries within reach, within such a short distance. This realisation, teamed with a few hours of researching different itineraries, really bought home the difference of being in Europe compared to our home country. Only the act of travelling, the physical act of researching and booking (very short) flights, train journeys even sometimes buses that can take you from one country to another, brings to reality actually how big the beautiful ‘island’ that we call home actually is.
Strangely enough, although I knew it logically, and had heard other people speaking about the ease of travelling around Europe, I was totally unprepared for the actual act of doing it. I felt like a ‘Europe virgin’ a little bewildered, a little naïve, completely green yet very excitable – bordering on euphoric! For example – call me ignorant, but I didn’t know until this moment, while discussing these insights with my Swiss buddy, that there is a place here in Switzerland that you can literally stand with an arm and a couple of legs in 3 different countries, now that’s a whole new perception on playing a round of ‘Twister’ right!
When I landed in Basel I was a little confused when I reached the immigration gates. The sign pointing to the left read ‘France/Germany’ and the other pointing to the right read ‘Switzerland’. Luckily I looked up rather than following the crowd and steered my little travel team to the correct gate ending up in the country I was meant to be in. I mean it’s a crazy moment for someone who’s been bought up in a country surrounded in coastlines and expansive oceans, where the nearest border crossing is via plane or a lonngggg boat ride away.
When I speak of travelling to our nearby town, ‘only 3 hours from Perth’ my friends and travel companions look in shock and wonder – “only 3 hours and 270kms!” It comes as a bit of a shock to some when you explain that the distance from one end of our vast state to the other (state … not country!) is comparable to moving through 4, 5 even 6 European countries!
The one thing that I’ve been really looking forward to about this European adventure is the history. It felt like I’d been waiting for my whole life for this, and I just knew how much we were going to be blown away by what Europe is most famous for – its history!
The feeling that I get when immersed in history, art and architecture is quite difficult to explain to my non-Aussie mates. I know that our culture rivals any other in the world, our indigenous people and their legacy in artefacts and weaponry date back between 40,000 – 60,000 years ago, with the aboriginal culture know to be the ‘oldest continuous culture on the planet!’ This certainly stacks up against most European timelines, but the difference is that where in Australia it’s in the nature, it’s in our landscape, the vast open spaces, the brilliant expanse of our night sky, it’s in our stunning coastline, here in Europe it’s a mark left by man. It’s in the architecture, the art, the statues, the cobblestone roads – the CASTLES! The legends of the past live on through these incredible marks of history and at times the feeling is almost tangible, it’s like travelling back in time. It’s so so different to what I have been brought up with. I feel like a little kindergarten kid seeing and learning for the very first time, it entices a curiosity to know more, and that’s an incredibly captivating feeling.
So from my rambling it’s no secret how much being immersed in this history excites and fascinates me. I can’t help but let that out on occasion (like always!) and the most wonderful thing is through sharing this excitement, I’ve seen it become a big part of Jed and Deni’s experience also. It delights me to see their faces as we’ve wandered from site to site. There are times I have felt the need to apologise to them for my outbursts and the endless pauses in front of each stunning display of ageless beauty, then I look at their perfect little faces and realise that they’re getting this too – no need for apologies. There truly can be nothing better for a mumma travelling with her babies!
So, where was I… oh yes, sitting in that cosy mountain chalet in the Swiss Alps planning the next leg of our European adventure. The choices in front of me, especially when this little Aussie was taking into consideration the ‘distance factor’, almost made me dizzy with excitement. I thought about Paris, the city of love, but I wasn’t doing this leg of the adventure with ‘my love’ so that didn’t feel right. Southern Italy came up but I thought a week wasn’t long enough to truly experience it as I’d like to. Denmark and the ‘ultimate Lego adventure’ was also a consideration but didn’t tick all the boxes either. Then there was Prague. It has always been on my travel radar, for reasons I’m still not sure of, and 6 days seemed like a good pocket of time to wander around the city. When discussing it with my friends here in Europe there was no doubt that we needed to go. ‘The most beautiful city in Europe – you just HAVE to go!’ was the common response. If they hadn’t been they wanted to. So what’s a girl to do? I checked the travel options and had us booked on a flight from Basel to Prague an hour later. It was a spur of the moment decision that brought with it a little bit of nervousness, and an overwhelming sense of excitement – seems we were heading to Prague!