Travel

Mesmerised by Munich

View of Frauenkirche

I had fallen in love with the idea of travelling after my spontaneous, first solo trip to Prague. The study semester had begun by the start of October and I was up to my elbows in architecture projects, assignments and tests at the Fachhochschule Mainz (Technical College) in Germany. I knew that in order to get the most out of my study abroad program I would have to find a balance between study commitments and travel, something that I found hard to do given the “Joey Potter” style of dedication I took to my education! I found out that one of my favourite singer-songwriters was performing in Munich in November and began looking at accommodation options and tickets to his show.

My family always jokes about me being the ambitious go-getter, the sort of person that cannot get rid of an idea once it’s planted firmly in her head and someone who follows through with anything she sets her mind to. I look at it as one of my biggest strengths. Without ambition I wouldn’t have become an international exchange student in the first place, nor would I have lived in London for 2 years or even started my own stationery label. Long story short, I found cheap hostel accommodation in the heart of Munich for two nights, bought one ticket for the concert and since I was going all the way to southern Germany, I even booked a trip to the beautiful, neighbouring city of Salzburg, Austria for a day trip!

My story continues in the Bavarian capital. I caught a morning train from Mainz to Frankfurt and from there took another high-speed train to Munich, whizzing past idyllic German villages and picture-perfect sceneries. It was a dull and rainy day unfortunately and it was quite cold in mid-November. I checked-in to my hostel and began exploring the city immediately. Munich was such a comfortable city to explore on foot, but the rain however was making it extremely difficult to enjoy what I was seeing. So at every opportunity I went inside shops, cafes and churches to stay warm and dry. The churches in Munich were incredible. From the Late Baroque style of the Asamkirche to the Italian Baroque style of the Theatinerkircher and the iconic Frauenkirche with its late Gothic interior style, Munich’s churches left me speechless. I spent the rest of the day wandering through their main square Marienplatz, home to the New City Hall, Fish Fountain, column of St. Mary and the Old Town Hall. My favourite part was how everyone’s mood instantly became uplifted upon the theatrical Glockenspiel striking midday, with music and small dancing figurines taking us back to our childhoods if only for a moment.

I stopped by a small cafe to grab a bite before returning to my hostel room and getting ready for my night out. I caught the tram to my destination and stood in the crowd waiting for the show to start. The support act was Jack Savoretti, a person whom I’d never heard of before that night and someone whom I began to admire from that night forward. He captivated me and the entire audience with his soulful innocence and charm, with melodies that took us to another universe. Readers of my blog would know that Jack and I have gone on quite a journey since that cold night in Munich, as I made sure that during my time in London I would go and see more of his shows whenever I could.

Then Gavin DeGraw took to the stage and astounded his fans by how down-to-earth he was and the incredible range of his vocals. Of course being a major One Tree Hill fan I was pleased when he performed the show’s theme song “I don’t want to be” and the majority of songs from his album Chariot. It was a brilliant gig and I’m so delighted that I attended it despite being slightly petrified that I was in a cold, wet and dark city all by myself.

The next day I visited Salzburg but we’ll leave that for the next blog post. On my third day, the weather had improved and there were blue skies all day long. I decided to enter the world-famous Hofbräuhaus, one of Munich’s oldest beer halls. Their clientèle included the likes of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, John F. Kennedy and George H. W. Bush to name a few. I tried their famous white sausage with pretzel and drunk about 1/5th of my glass of beer. Feeling adventurous, I decided to climb a narrow, dark tower of St. Peter’s Church to the viewing platform on the top floor. From there I could see the entire city clear as crystal but unfortunately the Alps were not to be seen that day. The next morning I set of for Salzburg but we’ll leave that for another blog post.

Visitors to Southern Germany should definitely try to visit Munich if at least for one day, as it’s full of hidden churches, history, Bavarian culture, beautiful architecture and interesting people with stories to tell.

Travel

European Stories

I find myself reminiscing about the past more and more these days. Maybe it’s because I keep seeing beautiful photos on Instagram that remind me of my own travels or maybe it’s the millions of various other channels of information such as TV travel shows, websites, newsletters and social media that keep taking me back to the time when I was young and free in Europe. Either way, I felt like writing a series of blog posts to tell my story. A story about a 19-year-old ambitious, Australian girl with a dream; to travel and discover who she is.

When I was a teenager I lived in Germany as an exchange student for 6 months. I never thought this experience would help define my life, but it has in ways that I continue to discover every day. It allowed me to experience how people in many different countries in Europe worked, played, loved and lived. As a 19-year-old visitor, I saw with my own eyes just how many bicycles there truly are in Amsterdam, felt just how cold a European winter in Munich can be, believed in fairytales again in Prague and got lost in the most narrow, beautiful streets of Florence. I enjoyed delicious Belgian chocolates in Brussels, felt the presence of Mozart over the city of Salzburg, crossed canals of picture-perfect Strasbourg in France and held up the Leaning Tower in the mandatory photo everyone simply must take in Pisa.

Travelling opened my eyes to the beauty of the world around me. I boarded overnight buses to the Czech Republic all on my own and climbed towers for picturesque views of cities from above. I engaged in the art of photography and learned about the importance of money by paying rent for the very first time in my life. Sometimes I was joined by my dad on travelling expeditions, sometimes it was just me and the wide, open road. I felt the friendliness of complete strangers when I was totally lost and saw the hardships of locals just scraping by with the clothes on their backs. It sure was an eye-opening experience.

In many ways travelling helped me find myself and grow to become an independent, mature human-being. I was forced to make my own decisions, whether it be leisurely, academic or financial. I’ll never forget the night when my friends and I were working on a group assignment until 1 am and I had the sudden urge to call my mum and tell her not to be worried about me, that I’d be home soon and that I’m safe. Then it dawned on me that I was responsible for finding my own way home in the middle of the night and apart from the people around me, I had no family to immediately rely upon. One of my team-mates fortunately lived in the same apartment block as I did so we caught the bus home together. I’m extremely close to my family and found it the hardest not having them immediately next to me, especially in moments when I’d usually rely upon them.

It would bring me so much joy to be able to re-live some of the most precious moments of my youth again by writing about them here. The human mind can only retain a certain amount of information until slowly but surely pieces of the story become blurry. I didn’t keep a diary of my time as a solo traveller, I simply didn’t have the time but I’d like to write about my solo travels in the cities of Prague, Munich, Salzburg, Strasbourg, Amsterdam and Brussels so that some day I could look back on those days and know that I TRULY lived when I was younger.

I got to experience all these places for different lengths of time and while I can’t go back to any of them unless I board a 20-something-hour flight from Melbourne, I’d love to travel to each of them again through my memories, photographs and stories on this blog and I hope you’ll join me.

Europe Intro

Music

Jack Savoretti: musician, dreamer, poet

Happy Birthday to the incredibly talented musician, Jack Savoretti. I’m so honoured to be doing a post about one of my absolute favourite singer/songwriters ever, on the day he was born. Half Italian and half English, Jack’s poetic style of singing is unforgettable and his soulful renditions always leave you wanting more.

I discovered Jack’s music when I was in Germany for Gavin DeGraw’s European Tour in November, 2008. One cold autumn morning, I took the train from Mainz (the city where I was living and studying as an exchange student) to the beautiful Bavarian Alps town of Munich in the south. I had no idea who Gavin’s support act would be as I was just so excited to be attending my first ever European rock concert! As a huge One Tree Hill fan I was so thrilled to see Gavin DeGraw (who sings the opening track to the show) performing live before my very eyes. It would be a dream come true! I arrived quite early to the show, took my place in the crowd and waited patiently for the concert to begin. A man stepped out on stage in a cowboy hat and was holding a guitar. He opened his mouth and started to sing. No one moved for the entire gig and no one spoke a single word. The auditorium fell silent. Maybe I was so captivated that I  just didn’t hear anyone else, but all I remember is how mesmerising the husky voice of the singer was, how meaningful the lyrics were and how beautifully he was strumming the strings of his guitar. Jack entertained the audience for a while, thanked us for coming to the show and said goodbye. Gavin was on stage within the next 20 minutes and he was amazing as always, but I don’t think anyone could quite get over how entrancing the opening act was.

The next day I took the train from Munich to Salzburg in the early morning. I still remember the exact feeling I had during that ride. The music from the night before was still very much in my mind and of all the songs I heard that night I had Jack’s soulful “Between the Minds” firmly stuck in my head. I had never heard that song before the show, but the fact that I was still humming it in my mind the next day said a lot. I was completely hooked on Jack’s music after the first time I heard him sing live.

I was determined to get my hands on his first album. My dad was visiting me from London for Christmas that year and I asked if he could buy me his album as it was easier to find in Jack’s native UK. On Christmas morning I opened my laptop’s CD drive, put in the CD and listened to the entire album non-stop. I had shivers down my spine from “Dreamers” and “Dr. Frankenstein”, amongst others. I became a true fan of this man’s work and tracked his progress with the subsequent album “Harder than Easy” from Australia.

As most of you know I spent the past 2 years in the UK, running my own gift shop Graceful Avenue in Watford. I was thrilled to be able to attend more of Jack’s shows whilst I was in his home country. I saw him perform at The Garage in October, 2011, and then at Bush Hall in June, 2012. Each show just got better and better, and Jack’s confidence grew and grew as did his fan-base. Jack’s third album, “Before the Storm”, arrived by post to my London address while I was on vacation with my sister in Italy that summer. I can confidently say that he’s come a long way and his music has evolved greatly. His third album is terrific and I love most of the tracks on there!

Standing there in his Bush Hall show in London, in the front row with my braces, smiling from ear to ear, listening to the most beautiful musician sing the most beautiful songs ever written was such a highlight. The very first time I heard the song “Crazy Town” I was in love. Jack sung the song without his iconic guitar and was only accompanied by a pianist. His voice was so powerful and bold that he took the crowd to a place out of this world. That performance would have to be my favourite of his live songs because I remember exactly how it made me feel and the electric atmosphere in the room.

I’m so happy to have discovered this amazing man’s music. I can’t imagine my life without it. Thank you Jack for charming your way into my life for these past 5 years. You deserve to have your music heard by everyone in the world. I hope to see you performing in Australia one day. Happy Birthday!

See Jack performing “Crazy Town” at Bush Hall in London, June 2012 on this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blv0F-ArTyQ

Please visit: http://www.jacksavoretti.com/ to hear Jack’s other songs and find out more about him.

(Photos shown here are my own and cannot be reproduced, distributed or copied without my permission)