Discovering Europe with Australian eyes
What is usual for Europeans is actually exceptional for many people living outside of the famous continent. It is exceptional for Europeans to go outside and discover the world, but I’ve noticed it is even more exciting when Australians are going to Europe for the first time. It is such a mysterious, faraway and iconic fantasy. I’ve never heard of anyone being disappointed by it, it really is a must-do. Here is the story of Alice, young Australian girl, who left Australia to discover Europe for the First Time.
Can you tell me a bit about the trip you did in Europe?
My boyfriend Fraser and I went travelling for two and a half months and covered most of Western Europe (and a bit of Eastern). We began our trip with a week in London over Christmas, before hopping on the EuroStar to Paris, where we spent another week over New Years. After Paris, we spent a month and a half travelling by EuRail to Lyon, Geneva, Lucerne, Munich, Vienna, Prague, Dresden, Berlin, Amsterdam, Bruges, Brussels, Ypres, and then back to the UK where we did a road trip around England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
Which places were memorable?
Paris is the most beautiful city I’ve been to, and getting lost in it is something I really loved. The Louvre is an obvious attraction, but I actually preferred both the Musee d’Orsay and the smaller Musee de l’Orangerie for their impressionist collections. There’s nothing like waking up early and walking through the back streets of Paris – the smell of freshly baked breads and croissants followed us everywhere and we couldn’t help but stumble upon a beautiful little boulangerie for a yummy baguette or almond croissant.
Having studied a lot of recent Germany history in school, walking around the streets of Berlin and seeing where the events I’d read about had actually taken place really made me appreciate the challenges the city had to live through for so many years. Walking through the Holocaust Memorial, decommissioned World War II and Cold War bunkers and Stasi prisons were emotional experiences.
Amsterdam is such a cool city! I couldn’t stop taking photos of the narrow, crooked houses along the canals, which looked all the more beautiful against a grey and wintery backdrop. We started every morning with Dutch Pancakes – a fantastic way to begin a day of walking around the city. We ended one of the nights with a walking tour around the red light district, which really opened my eyes to an industry I quickly realised I didn’t know much about.
Honourable mention to Prague and Bruges, which were both stunning!
What made you want to discover Europe?
As a girl who’s spent her entire life in Sydney, Australia, Europe was somewhere I wanted to go to experience art, history, architecture and food. Every city we visited had its own culture and I loved getting to see parts of history that I had read about but never seen. We also really wanted to experience a wintery Christmas in the northern hemisphere! We had romantic ideas of walking around the London streets in the cold with cups of steamy mulled wine in our hands stumbling upon Christmas carols, which we did many times!
Europe was somewhere I wanted to go to experience art, history, architecture and food
How did you organise to make it a perfect trip?
Firstly we sat down together and decided which cities we wanted to visit and how much time we had to spend in each place. We decided that we would travel between cities using EuRail and that we would stay in private accommodation using AirBNB. We booked all accommodation before we left because we knew exactly where we wanted to go and didn’t want to miss out on anything with the time that we had. We also did research into what each city had to offer, but ensured that every activity we did served our own interests rather than what the tourist websites told us to do. In saying that, TripAdvisor was our best friend for little tips, trips and reviews!
What would you definitely recommend for future travellers?
We would definitely recommend using AirBNB if you’re after comfortable, private accommodation. While hostels are great for backpacking with friends, we thought private apartments would suit our needs best as a couple travelling for several months in winter. We had excellent experiences in all the places we stayed for great prices! We’d also recommend EuRail which gave us the freedom to travel as many times within Europe in 2 months as we liked. EuRail was an affordable, reliable and no-fuss way of travelling between cities and countries. We’d also recommend walking tours! We did walking tours in Prague, Dresden, Berlin and Amsterdam and every one of them was great! You get such an interesting insight into the history of the city in just a couple of hours which allows you to really make the most of your time in the city.
Walking a couple of hours allows you to really make the most of your time in the city.
Are there any things that you wish you would have done during this trip?
Having never been to Europe before, I tried to get as many recommendations for ‘must-do’ places before we left from friends and family who had already travelled around Europe, and we structured parts of our trip so as to include as many of them as possible. Unfortunately, as a result of doing this we ended up spending several nights in a few places that we felt we ‘had to’, but upon arrival quickly realised that there wasn’t actually much there that appealed to our own interests. In hindsight, I wish I’d taken the time spent in those places and put it into places that, from my research, I knew we’d get a lot out of. One place in particular that I think we really missed out on is Budapest - especially since we were so close to it while in Vienna.
The other big thing I wish we’d done is to keep the cultural experiences of the trip as authentic as possible - especially when it came to food. Overall we tried to eat as much authentic local food as possible, but we definitely came to realise that the best food is found far away from the touristy spots. I wish we had stuck solely with the ‘eat where the locals eat’ mentality throughout to avoid some of our more negative food experiences in the touristy areas.
How does it feel for an Australian girl to discover Europe for the first time?
Europe was incredible! I really got what I wanted out of the trip. It opened my eyes to art, culture, architecture and history that I’ve only ever read about in books. The feeling I got in Europe was very different to Australia. Walking around every city I could feel and see the history around me, which is something I’ve never really experienced where I live. Everywhere I looked was inspiring and I definitely want to return soon.
Would you go back to one of the places and explore it more?
I would love to go back to many of the places! For some time now I’ve dreamt of working in London – a city full of ambitious people where there seems to always be something new on. I will also definitely be returning to Paris, in my opinion the most beautiful city I’ve been to. I would never get tired of the cobbled streets, the old buildings, the art galleries, the baguettes and the walkways along the Seine.
Walking around every city I could feel and see the history around me
A future trip in your mind?
There are so many places I would love to travel but I’m currently lusting over Japan, Scandinavia and New York. Luckily enough I’m currently planning a trip to New York with my family at the end of the year, and Fraser and I are thinking of doing Japan next year! There are so many cultures I want to open my mind to so can’t wait :)