I left Australia in 2002 at the tender age of 23 without knowing that one day I would prefer to live on the other side of the world. With my twin sister and her boyfriend (now husband) we decided to go backpacking around Europe and then try our hands at working in London. It would be a bit of fun and then I would head back to Australia...well wouldn't I? That was what most people did. They went to the other side of the world for a year or two and then went back home.
Last night my twin showed me a folder in which our older sister had printed out all our emails that we sent when we were back packing around Europe. It was hilarious to read them! I was always very lazy on the email front, and wrote only a few sentences, whilst my twin would go into detail about everything we ate and did. At one stage I wrote that my goal in life was to live in a grand palace (this was after seeing a beautiful chateaux in France) and my twin wrote that she was homesick for water and milk (we were but poorly backpackers on a budget of 35 euro a day which was to include all meals, accommodation, entrance fees, shopping and local transport. In most countries we had to buy bottled water which was an added expense! We were used to fresh, clean and free Australian tap water!)
I had forgotten all that I had written, and there was one recurring theme throughout...that I loved Italy more then any other country I had seen and that I wanted to return and live there one day. I forgot that I had been madly in love with Florence (which is now very low down on my list of favourite places in Italy.) I was also infatuated with Rome (at least I have since lived there and do still think it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.) I forgot that I had planned to go and live in Perugia and study Italian at the international university.Some things never change in Italy and even then we were writing emails home that the Italian police wear very tight pants and saunter around town, flirting more then working. We commented on being excited to see a real live gypsy...and then a few emails on we were already sick of them begging on every street corner. Italian breakfasts were a novelty for us. Never before had we eaten a few biscotti and drunk a luke warm cappucino as our first meal of the day.
We wrote email after email about how friendly and welcoming most of the Italians were, especially when we travelled south of Rome to San Marco in Lamis, our grandparents village in Puglia and then Cosenza in Calabria which was the closest we could get to our dads village.
We loved Siena and Pisa.We thought Venice was beautiful but expensive (at least I have been back a few times and with a bit more money in my pockets.) Nice was our first stop in France and we did not write very positive things about the harsh stone beaches. We loved Barcelona, especially the Gothic quarter and felt we did not spend enough time in Madrid. Costa del Sol was thankfully -then- not over run with the British and we enjoyed our day trip to Gibraltar even though a monkey jumped on my twins back. We only slept in Seville for one night...not enough (at least I have since been back) before making the long bus journey to Lagos in Portugal...and who would have thought that I would end up living close by that very town for a few month in the winter of 2007/8. Next stop was Lisbon which saw me struck down with a stomach bug unable to see the sites...so I guess it was good I got to go back there with the bel ragazzo last year. We were soon back in the north of Spain and San Sebastian. We wrote that the bull fights we had seen on tv were cruel. We travelled onto back to France, stopping in Tours for a few nights to see some magnificent chateaux. After a few nights in Paris - by far one of our favourite cities, we were amazed by the beauty of Switzerland but commented that it was very expensive. We visited some family friends in Nuremberg in Germany and saw the stadium where Hilter used to recruit. We went to Munich but I could not bring myself to drink a beer - even if it is the beer capital of the world. We enjoyed eating chocolates and waffles in Brugge, Belgium. Amsterdam surprised us, exceeding all expectations. We got depressed in Berlin with all the history the city holds and I got lost in a concentration camp, but we did think that Germany has great bakeries. We had to leave my twins husband behind in Germany and make our way to Prague as he had lost a part of his entry visa and would have to get a new one at the boarder. Prague was beautiful, cold and best of all cheap. We saw live bears protecting a castle in Ceske Krumlov and we saw an opera in Vienna. We did a Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg, and a tour of the ice caves and the salt lakes... We headed back through Venice, then Switzerland then Paris before finally ending up in London where we decided to stay.
Backpacking around Europe for 3 months was the best thing that I have ever done.