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Julie's European Vacation

This page created 6 July 2007
By Julie Kruss

For those members who don’t know me, I am the Assistant Co-ordinator at ADAVIC. On July the 23 rd I left Anna, her team of office volunteers and the cold, windy Melbourne winter for the heatwaves in Europe. I travelled to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Munich, St Johann in Tirol, Venice, Rome, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Nice and the French Riviera…..phew! Since I have been back, so many people have asked me which city I liked the best. I had so many amazing experiences it is hard to know where to start! When asked where my favourite place was I often say Paris and Berlin because they both offer alternative things.

Paris is like the classical female archetype of Europe. Paris is beautiful and I can see why they call it the city of love – you really can imagine an old-fashioned romance – getting doors opened for you, dancing in the street, flowers! No, I didn’t experience any romances in this city – cheap hostels are not really flowing with romantic males but you can imagine it!

On the opposite end of the scale is Berlin. Berlin is the masculine archetype of Europe and is a city which acknowledges its terrible history in an effort to rise above the Nazi atrocities of WW2. It is deeply proud of how far it has come and its people are extremely passionate about their city. I went on a guided tour around most cities but Berlin will always stick in my mind. At the end of the tour our guide was explaining the fall of the Berlin Wall and how families who had been separated for decades finally got to meet, stories about husbands who had been at work on the east side the day the wall went up and were not able to go back over to the west, grandparents who had never seen their grandchildren and the romantic stories of lost loves…all were true stories. Our tour guide was so passionate about this event that he started crying. There is something deeply touching about a grown man crying; it really demonstrated that passion for one’s country can be shown in the most simplistic of ways.

Going to Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany was also an eye opener. Without getting into too much detail the camp is massive, larger then ever imagined, yet the actual gas chambers are tiny. People were taking photos of the gas chambers…as I had become friends with a Jewish girl and gone to the camp with her we both found this deeply offensive. Which brings me to the only low of travelling…you really do see some disrespectful people. When in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, tourists were taking photos even though there was clearly a sign and guards telling them not to. I had to ask myself many times why a photo was more important then preserving the artwork, etc.

Finally, before I left I was determined to go skydiving at some point. It was something I wanted to do for years, mainly for the challenge and because no one actually believed I would. Skydiving down the Austrian Alps was extremely expensive yet priceless. Yes, I nearly required a change of underwear but when the parachute was finally pulled I was gliding softly between two snow-capped mountains. On one side of me was the Austrian/German border. On the other, green fields and a tiny village. What an adrenaline rush!

………And who could forget the food – authentic Italian pizzas, flavoursome gelato and pesto straight from where it originated! And then there’s the rich cheeses and fresh bread of France – absolute heaven! On the other hand, I never want to eat a big fat greasy sausage like those in Germany ever again! Let’s just say I really appreciated vegetables when I got back!

This is only a small selection of the memories I have from the trip but what I remember the most is how I felt before I left compared to when I got back. You see I ventured on this trip by myself. While most people go overseas with a friend, I could no longer wait for my friends to finish uni and save up enough money. Before I left for London I sat in the airport with my mum and dad and I thought my mum would be bawling her eyes out, but it was me – I had suddenly realised I was taking this trip by myself. I realised before I left that I used to be a very independent person, being an only child. But in the last few years I had seemed to lose some of that independence and confidence. Before I left I thought doing something by yourself was embarrassing and reflected that you were all alone. I know now that it is ok to be alone. Being alone is not the same thing as being lonely. Travelling challenged my idea that being alone is a negative. Doing something by yourself allows you to evaluate who you are and where you are going. It allows you to gain insight into what your positives and your negatives are. It gives you strength, self esteem and confidence to begin to change what you don’t like about yourself. You also begin to appreciate who you are and your positives. My holiday overseas is no longer a trip…it has become a journey.

I want to thank Anna for being so great about me taking time off from ADAVIC so I could go on this journey and also Catherine for filling in for me while I was away – from what I’ve heard she did a great job! All in all, I covered 1 continent, 7 countries, over 13 cities, met more people then I can count, made some really good friends, got a bit of a tan and most importantly learnt a lot about myself……..all in under two months!

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