I love travelling.

What I love most about it though, is not the endless stream of beautiful sights and historical monuments. They are, of course, lovely to look at. They are, also, a fascinating way of gaining some – dare I say this – anthropological insights (Bones ftw!); most strikingly, the fact that religion has, and has always had, such a powerful grip on society, and also ahem the appalling extent of the human ego.

But, these things aside, the real pull for me lies in the moving and comic little moments that chance thrusts upon you when you least expect it.

Like when you are tired of manoeuvring your way around the streets of Salzburg late at night with aching feet, and then the kind husband-and-wife owners of the eatery you are waiting in tell you that you are welcome to rest a bit longer in their restaurant after closing, while they clean up.

And then when you think they cannot get any kinder, they inform you that Italy’s trains are on strike, and help you google and call the train company to ensure that you are not stranded without a place to stay because your overnight train has been cancelled.

And then when you feel like you have exhausted your thank-yous, they drive you to the train station and send you off with some drinks for the journey and with well wishes, telling you ‘You are just like our children’.

Or, like when you think you are on just another vaporetto trip, the driver invites you up to the cabin and you get to try your hand at (driving? steering?) a boat in the Venetian lagoon.

I love all this about travelling. I love how such encounters remind you that regardless of culture and national boundaries and language barriers, some things about the way human beings live are universal, and always good and true. Kindness is universal. Comedic moments are universal.

Beauty (and the appreciation of it) is universal – else people would not travel from all corners of the globe just to see Venice and Salzburg for themselves.

It feels so unreal, though, that the world can be so breathtakingly beautiful, so deceivingly peaceful – even amidst times of such turmoil elsewhere on the globe. Sometimes travelling feels like you have stepped into a very large and realistic museum, one whose living, breathing, flawlessly beautiful displays you get to actually participate in.

In St. Gilgen and Salzburg we sat for hours on end on the dock, licking our stracciatella and coffee and strawberry gelato. Clouds and sunrays lumbered and wove their way around green and blue mountaintops that enveloped the shimmering surface of the lake, while we shared thoughts on life and love and religion.

Unreal.

In Venice we boarded vaporetto after vaporetto in high spirits, feeling the wind in our hair, shouldering through masses of noisy, chattering middle-aged tourists decked in linen shorts,  floral shirts and straw hats with ostentatious cameras hanging from their necks. Venice is like a painting on a sunny day. It becomes drenched in  brilliant shades deep blue, orange, red and gold.

Again, unreal.

But it is of course, all real. The world really is a beautiful place.

While we wandered through various shops and streets, Lizzie and I repeatedly lamented the fact that we were not rich and old. Oh, if only we were! We would treat ourselves to opera tickets! Gorgeous glass sculptures! Intricate but impossibly expensive works of lace! Hang-gliding and parachuting over Salzkammergut! We pointed out homes by the Wolfgangsee that we liked, and pretended we would someday own one like those we saw (in our favourite colours and with music rooms included!).

Well, who knows? Perhaps one day we might just make all that happen. One day, in many many years, after eons of slogging and saving, of course. Especially so for me – as this particular trip that I am blogging about is the last time I shall be happily traipsing around Europe for a long, long time because after the 31st of July it will cost me at least 800 pounds and 13 hours to get me into the continent at all.

But for now, retrospectively, I am satisfied. All the pictures and souvenirs and wonderful memories tell me – I have been very, very privileged indeed. Really, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

 

 

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