Travel

Wandering through Strasbourg

As an Interior Design exchange student I didn’t have a lot of time for solo travelling during the study semester. I was on campus on most days of the week, listening to class lectures in German and English, and each day I would take the bus home with all my groceries and books, cook myself a simple dinner (usually pasta!) and do my homework or prepare for tests or assessments.

Thankfully during the semester the university would organise some really great, inexpensive day trips or overnight stays in neighbouring countries to encourage networking and broadening of our minds. It was so exciting to just forget about the overflowing workload on my desk and explore a new place, clear my head, indulge in photography, and try a new cuisine and a new culture. We’d all get on a bus and go on excursions to places such as design exhibitions in small Belgian towns, or the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein near the Swiss border with Germany or for one of our assessments we’d get involved in the design of our very own exhibition stand at the International Furniture Fair in Cologne, a short train ride away from my university in Mainz. All these experiences were amazing and gave students a deeper understanding of interior design and architecture practices in the real world.

I began to eagerly plan my own solo trips once the semester ended. I had an insane amount of wanderlust and yearned to see more and more countries around me. So I bought a train ticket from the station, organised a hotel for two nights and ended up in the most picture-perfect French city known as Strasbourg.

Buildings

Much to my dismay, not everything went smoothly. For starters it was raining and it was a Saturday morning in winter and that made getting out of bed hard and getting to the train station even harder as buses were scarce. Somehow I managed though and a few train changes later I was no longer in Germany, but now in France.

Tourist Area

Strasbourg was a very empty city that February. I had seen images of its main square so alive during Christmas time and I’d also seen the flowers blooming in gorgeous half-timbered cottage windows in summer, but unfortunately that winter it was just that little bit quieter and colder! If it hadn’t been for the university program organising a tour to Strasbourg that I missed due to my study load, I probably would never have even thought of visiting this magnificently enchanting city but I was really eager to see what my classmates got to experience. Sometimes that’s all the inspiration we need to see a new place!

Strasbourg

Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region in France and lies near the border with Germany. It is home to the European Parliament with its ultra modern façade, and was once also home to Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of movable type printing, who was ironically born in Mainz! An entire square called Place Gutenberg is dedicated to him and a statue stands there in his honour. The elaborate gothic red sandstone Strasbourg Cathedral is located at the heart of the city and is one of the main attractions for visitors. My favourite place to explore was Petite-France, where the river Ill splits up into a number of canals and stunning half-timbered medieval houses provide the most romantic of backdrops. Strasbourg was indeed the most brilliant of destinations for a weekend away and in my opinion it’s a little gem of a city that needs to be seen in all its glory, no matter the season.

Gorgeous Buildings

Half-Timbered Buildings

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