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If April proved one thing, it was that Vienna truly is – for now – my happy place. But just to be sure, I took a whirl at trying out some other cities for size, to see if they may fit, if I may mould myself to their rhythms.
If I could ever imagine moving back to Australia.
Because that’s the eternal Expat question isn’t it? Earnest aunts and even good friends casually make you question your existence and future.
‘Do you ever think about going back?’
‘When will you go home?’
To which my immediate (internal) response is always
‘No clue, maybe never, maybe in 2 years?’
‘Um, I am home, thanks.’
As my lovely subscribers know (not subscribed for real-time updates? Whatcha doing! Get on board!) last month was a complete whirlwind of travel – bouncing from Brisbane, to Byron Bay, back to Vienna (for just 4 days!) and then 10 days holidaying in London. It was utter madness, but gave me the unique chance to taste-test living like a local in these other cities, just to see how it could work.
Here’s what happened.
I’m sweating as I trudge up the unfairly steep, manicured garden stairs of King Edward Park, to my AirBnB in Spring Hill. The city is, undoubtedly, gorgeous. Brisbane has surprised me with its splendour – all green trees and parks, stately government buildings and the 1900’s ‘Queenslander’ homes that make you feel like a time traveller.
But day after day I face these stairs to get home. Combined with the humidity of this close-to-tropical Queensland city, my curls cannot take it. They are fizzing, staticky, sticking, encasing my head in a permanently irritated air. Less ‘luscious long curls’ more ‘1980’s aerobics-class perm’. A small irritant sure, when compared to the sunny glory of the city, but I catch myself asking…
Could I do this on the daily?
Maybe. The supermarkets staying open until midnight is a definite perk (what extravagance after Vienna’s strict 7pm closing times!)
The city is built on the waterside, so taking ferries between suburbs is possible. Plus the Southbank area of restaurants, museums and gardens is given over to community festivals and families on weekends.
The fitness and outdoorsy-ness of Brisbane folk is admirable, to say the least, in this heat. There’s an endless stream of joggers, cyclists, training groups and active-wear clad people streaming along the leafy running tracks of Cliffs Point Park. I can’t claim to be a fitness freak, but I could see myself cycling through the city to work on the daily.
There are cute brunch spots, funky bars and coffee shops down alleyways. And it’s so very close to get to the beach.
I could talk myself into Brisbane…and yet.
And yet it all feels so similar.
The city squares are staggeringly familiar – almost replicas of Melbourne’s shopping arcades. The CBD is choked with Australians who work 50+ exhausting hours a week, spending money on mortgages and cars they can’t afford. There’s strict liquor licensing and when we went out partying it was forbidden to dance on barely raised surfaces for fear of falling. Security hauled us off for fear of liability.
Australia was the same old, and yet different in ways I’ve yet to clarify for myself- but the air has shifted there, into a country I’m not so sure I could adjust back to. I’m not the only one who’s noticed it either.
So, while Brisbane is lovely (and I will definitely be sharing with you guys all its highlights and treasures that I enjoyed) it’s certainly not home. Not yet. Now now. Not until I find a product that can tame curls in humid climates anyway….
The dirt and muck from the big grimy city gathers under my fingernails in black arches, reminding me throughout the day that yes, you really should use that hand sanitizer in your bag. The tube fills with suited and booted commuters, silently shuffling into formation, to be spat out onto tiled platforms, told to Mind the Gap, rushing to the escalators and then up up up to the final release from the Underground into the dripping splendour of London in Spring.
I love London.
I hate London.
London will always be my foul mistress.
Having spent weeks at a time living on friends couches, in hostel dorms and occasionally holidaying in hotels over the last 8 years, I’ve tried London from all angles. Each time I visit, my patience wears thin by day 5 or 6 and I’m itching to escape the city.
Something about the drab high street shops, the limp water pressure in showers (what is that about?), the perpetually freezing apartments no matter the time of year and the hectic pace of the capital just doesn’t agree with me.
But Oh, when London is good it’s INCREDIBLE.
The variety of cultures, cuisines, street art, museums, theatres, shopping and things to do! How can you ever be bored in London? There are pockets of the city that I’m still discovering despite my many visits and I hope it will always be so.
London is a city for movers and shakers. For fast paced money makers, those that can hold their own in the ever-shifting landscape of competitiveness. Who can rush down the station steps at Waterloo in peak hour and not feel like a lemming being shunted into a neverending churning machine of humanity.
London is the best and worst of all the cities I’ve visited. I cannot fathom living there, and yet each year I cannot resist visiting, just to try it on for size.
Ah Vienna. The place I swore was the most boring city in Europe. The airport so small and swift you can go from touchdown to out on the highway in 22 minutes.
Vienna is the ideal city for early thirty-somethings who have played the partying and travel games in their twenties.
Filled with cosy places like the adorable Himmelblau
There’s nightlife, sure. But more importantly, there are wineries, good homeware stores, plentiful outdoor parks and woodlands to go hiking in. There’s a slower pace, a sedate, relaxed comfort to the city that really only unravels itself once you get beyond the tourist areas. And there are some really excellent places to eat and drink.
The yearly articles about ‘Why Vienna is the Worlds Best City’ never quite nail it. They talk about the classical music, museums, the palaces and the so-called ‘quality of life’ living here. But they miss out on the specifics that make it so excellent.
- The enforced closed stores on a Sunday – that make you go out and relax, so you switch off for a day.
- The public parks that come complete with not just kids playground equipment, but adult gym equipment to support your fitness endeavours.
- The parks that have dedicated leash free zones for dogs – a literal playground for puppies!
- The weekly free events and concerts hosted by the city of Vienna, in Rathausplatz, Donauinsel and yes, palace grounds.
- The reliability and multiplicity of public transport – you never wait more than 7 minutes for a tram, and if you do, there’s a train a 5 minute walk away that will also get you to your destination faster.
- And of course, there’s the simple lifestyle.
Vienna doesn’t do pizzaz, or one-upmanship, or showy displays of success. Sure, there are some areas of the 1st district you would need to sacrifice a small child to afford, but for the most part, Vienna is a low-key city.
Well, except for its architecture, that’s most definitely grand
I have 8 pairs of heels that haven’t been worn in over 12 months because in Vienna, everyone wears sneakers out on a Saturday night. It’s just that kind of place.
Breathing the crisp, fresh, spring air when I landed back in Vienna, my heart knew where home was.
It’s where I can get a meal with delicious local wine for under €20 and still have change on a good night out.
It’s where I can walk, bike and stroll around freely with camera in hand, knowing pedestrians have right of way everywhere.
It’s where my brain is engaged every day trying to speak German, searching to find new beautiful buildings and regularly surprised by the beautiful randomness of the city.
So yes, dear reader, if you’ve made it this far – I still choose Vienna. Though the other cities were fun, and my mind may change in years ahead, Vienna is home for now.
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