As a winner of our 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship, Jarryd traveled to Europe to write about its history, festivals and individual cultures.
“So, this is what Europe looks like.”
When I boarded the bus from the airport to downtown Berlin I studied the world outside of the window through jet lagged eyes. Everything is so clean. Where are the street dogs? Everyone appears to be following the road rules. Maybe I have just been in Asia too long, but these were my first thoughts of Europe. I was shocked at how civilised everything was. It may take me a while to get used to this. But I like it. Normally I am not a fan of big cities. I tend to find them more or less the same as whatever other busy cities I have discovered. Berlin seems different however. It has a rawness that oozes out from the streets. The history here is quite intense and still fresh in the local’s memories. The political vibe floating in the air is unlike anything I have ever experienced. Perhaps it is not as civilised as my first impression. This city longs for further exploration.
The crowd was getting restless. 20,000 people began surging back and forth, struggling to give themselves space to breathe in the record breaking heat wave that had struck Buñol. Unable to move freely, the atmosphere grew more intense as we all waited anxiously for the first tomato truck to arrive. Historically La Tomatina would not start until the ham, resting on top of a 8m high wooden pole, has been brought back to the ground, but due to the unsurprising difficulty of this now the festival begins at 11am regardless of the location of the pork. There is a loud blast, similar to a gun shot, and the audience screams enthusiastically. As the first truck arrives people sitting in the large tray start hurling tomatoes at us, and the mood changes from frustration to jubilation. It has begun. Tomatoes start flying through the air, covering everyone in a thick, red and pink mess. There is no escaping from the onslaught and people begin picking up remnants of the fruit from the ground and rubbing it through each other’s hair. The streets are inches thick in tomato soup. Excited party-goers attempt to swim through the sea of Bolognese.
The day was just beginning, but my current journey was coming to an end. I didn’t want to sleep before I jumped on my transport to Barcelona. On the one hand I was worried that if I closed my eyes, even just for a minute, I would miss the bus. On the other I knew that sleeping would mark the end of the scholarship.
A motorcycle, a bus, three flights, another bus and the subway got me to Berlin, Germany. A long walk, a bus, a train, three more flights and a tuk-tuk would get me back to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, three weeks later. When I left my cheap, unreliable motorcycle in Asia I was unsure of what to expect during my World Nomads travel writing scholarship in Europe. Now that it was time to start making my way back across the globe I was unsure of what to expect for my entire future. I had ample time sitting on comfortable transport thanks to GoEuro to think about how things could possibly pan out in the next few weeks and months once I return back to my ‘home’ in South East Asia. Rather than be disappointed that my time in Europe had come to an end, I was incredibly excited to start challenging myself to make the most of the rewards that came with the scholarship.
The closing lines from my favourite poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost, are:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
When I eventually did decide to close my eyes and rest I was excited at where I would be when I opened them. Which road would I find myself on? What direction would I take? Keeping true to my style, I imagine it will be the one less travelled by; The path that leads towards the unexpected. Only time will tell.