By Nicholas Kennedy
Europe, or the inevitable ‘big trip’, is possibly the most daunting experience a young person can plan for. Next to moving out and sorting your shit at university, travelling the world is often high on the priorities list for many people straight out of high-school, or halfway through a degree. For myself, I made the fantastic decision of travelling to the other side of the world for five weeks between semesters, and through a series of discoveries, both personal and practical, I’ve ended up sitting at this desk in the mid afternoon writing to somebody reading this magazine, who may or may not be juggling the idea of travel in their plan for the future. Maybe after reading this you’ll be that much closer to figuring out whether you want to, or maybe I’m wasting my time, who knows.
Honestly, I feel sorry for the city of love. Paris is a town made to amaze, as so many places in Europe are, but the inclusion of a near endless stream of tourists at literally any point in the year is like presenting the world with the most beautiful painting in existence, and then pissing all over it while screaming. Tourism is the death of good travel; I’m not about to tell you you shouldn’t go see the Eiffel Tower or whatever, but the culture of Tourism tells you that the most famous attractions should be the highest on your list of priorities, and I say fuck the culture of tourism. This brings me to the most important thing I want to say about travel. The “Don’t Feel Obliged To Do Anything At All” thing. And it doesn’t apply to anywhere more than Paris. This is one of the most important things to be aware of at the outset of your trip. If you’re constantly worrying about fitting in the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Champs Elysees, the Arc De Triumph, or any of that, you’re going to be sitting at Charles De Gaulle airport at the end of your time in Paris feeling like you never really did anything; except for ticking boxes, and putting a face to all those names in French tourism pamphlets. It almost happened to me. I was busting to get to the Eiffel Tower on a 35 degree day, feeling like shit, and wondering why I wasn’t having the best time in the world, when I finally decided that “fuck it, it can wait”. I ended up finally finding my way there while heading to a completely different location, and honestly, it couldn’t have played out better, I didn’t feel rushed, and it felt like a completely natural experience. I meandered through the countless galleries scattered throughout Paris, and with the help of the Paris Museum Guide (which you owe it to yourself to purchase) I skipped every single line, possibly the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. I found independent clothing and design shops, went to famous patisseries, and paid nine euros to stand four metres from about 30 flamingos at the Paris Zoo, which is one of the better zoos I’ve been to, something I wasn’t expecting. Basically, the point I’m trying to make is that you owe it to yourself to make your trip work for you, not to work for your trip, or to some idea of what the perfect trip ought to be. Try new shit, and cut your lovelies.
Everywhere you look these days Scandinavian aesthetic and ideology is seeping into western culture. Ikea has managed to mass produce the concepts of Hans Wegner and Poul Henningsen and stick them in every young person’s apartment the world over. Patrick Kingsley wrote that, specifically, Danish Modernists did not just want to make good furniture, they aspired to make better homes for everyone. That is honestly, the best way to sum up living in a city like Copenhagen, “better for everyone”. Well actually, tight immigration laws seem to indicate a level of selfishness when it comes to being a Dane, and perhaps the government doesn’t look on foreigners as kindly as the general populous, but that’s a conversation for another time. Inhabiting a city like Copenhagen is a subtly rewarding experience. Prospective travellers are often told that the city is incredibly expensive, but reflecting on everything the city had to offer, it was of such a high quality that even if a sandwich was running you $15AUD, it was probably one of the best damn sandwiches you’ve had in a long time. Fortunately for the Danes, and by extension their visitors, the concepts of New Nordic Cuisine, developed notably by Rene Redzepi (Head Chef at the reputable ‘best restaurant in the world’, Noma) and Claus Meyer, have caused the quality and diversity of food in Denmark to skyrocket. When in Copenhagen, you ought to budget to spend slightly more than normal, both because it generally is more expensive, but also that there are so many interesting things to do, and eat, that you’re going to want to have a nice amount of cash to cover everything. Also, they have the McFeast like, year-round I’m pretty sure, so be prepared to gorge yourself on that shit. But the absolute best thing about Copenhagen is not it’s food, or its bicycles, or its weirdo design stuff that I’m a total sucker for; it’s the people. Danes are scarily nice. Like, will notice that you’re lost and then totally without prompting will direct you where to go, how to get there, and cool stuff you can do while you’re there, all with a smile on their face. And unlike Parisians, who might as well be stabbing you in the heart with their eyes when you don’t speak French, Dane’s relish an opportunity to speak english. I realise I’m generalising here, and I apologise to any Danes that hate english (why are you reading this anyway?), and also to any French who love english. I realise that having Copenhagen be my favourite place in an entire trip around Europe may be weird, and hey, most people are probably going to prefer Berlin or something (which is fine because Berlin is amazing) but seriously, spend at least five days there, go to Louisiana Gallery outside of Copenhagen, ride a bike everywhere, and eat crazy good food. It’s like all my fucking dreams come true.
Prague is freaky weird. You know that movie The Conjuring? With it’s freaky doll which isn’t actually relevant to the story other than just being creepy as? Prague is as if everything was like that doll. Hotels. Haunted. Massage Parlours. Haunted. Segway Tours. Haunted. Church that is literally made out of bones. Haunted. And I’m not simply saying this as a joke; everywhere in Prague, and probably the Czech Republic in general, the people seem as though there is something really bothering them, but they won’t tell you what it is and they’re pretending like everything is okay. Whether it be an old woman selling you tickets to the ‘Museum of Torture’ wax museum, or a teenager manning the front desk at the cinema, there seems to be a pervading sense of ‘down in the dumps’-ness about many Czech’s living in Prague. Maybe, they’re feeling that way because their city is basically just a hot-spot for people still trying to re-enact ‘EuroTrip’, and treating people in the service industry accordingly. Groups of lads and general shit-heads inhabit nearly every part of the Old Quarter, and they are about as enjoyable to be around as shards of glass on the ground when you have no shoes on. Honestly, my general feeling towards Prague is one of regret. I regret going there because I could have spent more time in Denmark, or Germany. I regret that even though I did stay there, I stayed in the single most tourist infected part of the city. If you have a thing for eastern bloc nations, then by all means, go to Prague, but otherwise I’d think long and hard about whether the worlds most disappointing bridge, and hordes of American families are your thing.