Sunday 11 January 2009

Backpacking around Europe

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 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.


Gil said...

Thank you for a nice European vacation!

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

You are welcome Gil!

Bitter Chocolate said...

That must have been amazing! I'm European and I haven't even been to some of those places. I have a 'to go to' list planned for "someday" though LOL I want to see Skandinavia, Greece and... Australia... but that's in the far far future, I'm stuck with being addicted to my favorite places at the moment... Ah, the bears in Krumlov :) My hometown is really near Krumlov so I've grown up going there a lot, I always loved the bears as a kid. Though there's been a few affairs when they killed a drunkard who had thought it might be a great idea to climb down into their territory on his way from a pub... From time to time, they're even discussing removing them from there, but that's the same like the discussions about Krumlov's revolving theatre (have you seen that?), they always talk about removing it but (hopefully) they never will.

Portlandier said...

What an inspiring post! I am 23 and this is exactly what I want to do...if I could just get away from my job for while. You are certainly living life to it's fullest:)

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Wow what an amazing journey. Wish I had done that when I was younger. No-one to do it with now, I would just love it, if I had a friend who could afford to do it with me, or was not so committed. My children have left home now, with families of their own, and my husband works overseas most of the year..maybe I will find someone. :-)

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Hi BC,
So you are near Krumlov! We slept there a few nights and thought it was a little like a fairytale town. I did not see the theatre...well I cannot remember that part.
As for your list of places you'll get there one of these days / I am sure. Us from Australia usually do it in one hit as we come from the other side of the world so cannot just pop over to Paris for a weekend when we feel like it.

Hi Miss B,
If you want to go and backpack around then world then just do it. I was working full time and all of that before i left...I even told people i would return in 3 months since I thought I would always live in Australia...but when I got out there I realised there were so many other beautiful places and I then decided that I preferred living over there then in Australia. best of luck to you!

Hi Anne,
Where abouts does your husband work? Could you base yourself with him overseas and do some travelling. It is never to late you know. And you do not need much money. We got by on next to nothing and had a great time. Speak to your friends and you never know...perhaps they have never told you they want to go travelling too!

LaLa said...

Such beautiful experiences, I hope to do that soon!

Monika said...

What a great post!

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

hi lala,
You'll get there one've already been to Italy so then the rest of the world is just waiting.

Hi Monika,
Thanks :)

Chad said...


I can definitely share in your enjoyment of traveling through Europe. I have been to Europe four times for a total of about 12 weeks adding up all of the trips. I have been to some very interesting places and seen many spectacular sites. I have many favorite places in Europe as it is hard to have just one. Every different city seems to offer its own unique attributes that make it difficult to have just one favorite place. I have to agree with you in that Rome is one interesting city. It's history and culture just take you back in time. Other places I have enjoyed are Paris, Bruges, and the islands of Ios and Santorini in Greece. It's great to hear stories from others that share a passion for travel as I do. Backpacking Europe was also the best thing I have ever done, and has made me a much more culturally appreciative person.

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Hi Chad,
Sounds like you too have had some great trips. i love the Greek Islands and have also been to Santorini which is just so picture postcard perfect!