I’m writing today from a little café in Copenhagen, the site from which my journey with the Cambridge Student Travel Award begins. In a couple of hours, I’ll be catching the train to Hamburg, and over the next two and a half weeks will be visiting Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Paris, Vienna and my home county of Kent. 

The Cambridge alumni network of Europe isn’t something I’d pondered a great deal before my trip, but I’m so excited to meet previous Cambridge students, experience-swap, and practice my German and French in four countries that I love to spend time in. All this knowing that in a few years I’ll be one of these alumni, and with any luck living it up in Europe too. 

I’ll try not to be too boring and to include lots of arty pictures to keep you interested in a trip that I’m very much looking forward to! 



24/09 – Kent

The last stop on my Travel Award trip was the Kent Welcome to Cambridge Event in Canterbury. I had a great time meeting society members, hearing about their experience of a group that’s very different to some of the ones I’ve visited in Europe, and helping greet the Kent freshers heading to Cambridge in only a week’s time. 

That’s it from me – I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog! 

22 – 23/09 – Vienna

I visited the Belvedere Palace in the morning – it doubles up as a museum and is home to Klimt’s Kiss, which makes itself seen on almost every piece of tourist memorabilia that you can buy in Vienna. The landscaped gardens of the palace are beautiful too. 

Later on was the Vienna Welcome to Oxford/Cambridge event. I met some people already studying at Cambridge in my year, which was lovely, and had to give a short speech about my trip and the Travel Award. Members of the Austrian society at Cambridge also spoke – this was a great way to link up current students with former ones. 

The next morning, Michael gave me a walking tour of Vienna, first heading to the old town and then making our way past the opera house, the parliament building and the town hall. After a delicious traditional Viennese lunch of square pasta, coffee and cake, and a trip to Schönbrunn, the brilliant yellow former summer residence of the Austrian imperialists, I headed to the airport to make my way home. 

21/09 – Vienna

In the morning, I headed to the Museumsquartier to visit the Leopold Museum and the Kunsthalle Wien. The former has a great collection featuring most of Austrian Expressionist painter Egon Schiele’s massive oeuvre, and the latter provides a platform for modern art. It’s nice that a large concentration of the city’s ever-expanding artistic history is enclosed within these walls. 

Afterwards, I went to search for some less-lauded but still valuable art on the streets. In the roads around Mariahilfe Straße, one of Vienna’s biggest shopping streets, there are many more spontaneous sections of creative expression. 

In the evening, I was lucky enough to be taken for dinner at a traditional Austrian Heurige by Michael, President of the Oxford and Cambridge Society of Austria, and Sabine, one of the Vice Presidents. I didn’t realise, but wine’s quite a big thing in Vienna, and, unusually, there are lots of vines on the outskirts of but still within the city. We tried the typical Viennese Gemischter Satz, apparently made from several different grapes all grown together. It was great to hear about the diverse activities that the society puts on each year, and to be exposed to a bit of Austrian German. I look forward to meeting some more members of the Society tomorrow. 

20/09 – Paris/Vienna

The better part of the day I spent travelling from Paris back over to Vienna. I had a little time to wander past some of the colourful buildings on arriving, and then, later on, to stroll along the evening streets and get a sense of this vivid city at night. 

19/09 – Paris

In the morning, I visited the Rodin gallery and, in addition to the permanent sculptures, saw a temporary exhibition of German artist Anselm Kiefer’s work. Through this, I enjoyed pondering some of the links between the places I’ve visited thus far on my trip, and the artists and other people who originate from them. 

I’ve been mostly getting around on the Métro. I like the Art Nouveau exterior and the tiled inside – it’s often lot nicer than the Tube in London, and feels more condensed too, in a city underneath which trains and catacombs are almost interwoven. 

In the evening, I attended the Paris Welcome to Cambridge event. This was a busy mixture of alumni, current students both from Paris and living there on their Year Abroad, and students from all over the world currently residing in France’s capital and starting at Cambridge this September. The society’s really active, and this wine-tasting event was a somewhat sophisticated way to end my short stay in Paris. 

18/09 – Paris

After arriving at my hostel and recuperating from my overnight travels, I walked from Belleville to the Louvre, exploring Paris’ beautiful streets along the way. The Mona Lisa, albeit with clusters of tourists attached, wasn’t bad – although one of my fellow dorm-mates is convinced that we shouldn’t get too excited anyway because it’s all too probably a fake. This I can’t verify either way, but I also enjoyed the smaller section of British art in the gallery. Afterwards, early to bed in order to enjoy the following day here. 

17/09 – Munich

A Bavarian brunch, followed by a trip to the BMW Welt and the 1972 Olympic park filled up the morning. The latter is really beautiful and very green, with nearly all Munich also visible from the Olympiahügel. The park’s deconstructivist, honeycomb-like architecture was considered revolutionary in the 70s, designed as it was without the help of computerised technology. Despite the games themselves having been somewhat overshadowed by the Munich massacre, the park remains a pretty impressive feat. 

Experiencing Oktoberfest in the afternoon was also an exciting experience for this German culture enthusiast. We wandered around, peeked into a beer tent (they’re hardly tents, by the way, and despite being temporary structures look more like actual houses to me), sampled some roasted almonds, and went on a few rides. The overall effect is a little cheesy, but not so much that tradition is obscured, and perhaps this is crucial to said tradition anyway. The festival’s been running since 1810 and remains massively popular, as evidenced by the throngs of Bavarians and tourists populating its alleyways. 

Afterwards, I boarded an overnight bus, to recover from my busy weekend in München and to arrive the next day in Paris. 

15-16/09 – Munich

I won’t bore you with tales of the 15th, most of which I spent with some rowdy Oktoberfest-orientated Brits on a coach to Munich. There are lots of people flocking in for the opening weekend of the ‘Wiesn’, the world’s largest folk festival. It’s a Cambridge May Week scenario, in that the three weeks’ worth of Oktober-festivities actually take place in September, and my trip happily coincides. 

Next day, with the friends I’m staying with, I visited the Hofbräuhaus, Munich’s best-known beer hall, and Marienplatz, location of the town hall. Wandering the streets are lots of Bavarians working the classic Dirndl-and-trainers combo, or, even better, some Lederhosen with knee-length woollen socks and pink tassels. People often dress in their traditional clothes around this time, and there’s a real sense of Bavarian identity that emerges at its strongest. 

After a traditional lunch of Bavarian mushroom soup with Knödel, I headed to the Café an der Uni to join in on a Stammtisch held by the Munich Cambridge Society. I had a chance to chat with some of the members about how the society works, and received some helpful tips for finding my way around the ‘big village’, as I’ve often heard Munich referred to during my travels. 

An evening spent practicing my German with Emilia, the eldest daughter of my hosts, well-rounded the day. 

14/09 – Cologne

This morning I caught the bus to Cologne to meet my exchange partner Anna, who’s just started university down the road in Aachen. First stop, right outside the Hauptbahnhof, is the cathedral. The small scaffolding structures currently adorning it are hardly noticeable against the impressive Gothic façade, and I can understand why it’s Germany’s most-visited landmark. 

After walking a bit around the city and along the rainy Rhine, we headed to the Ludwig Museum. Within lies masses of C20th and C21st art; it’s known particularly for its Picasso and it’s pop-art collections. One of the alumni I met in Frankfurt advised me of Köln’s ‘sloppiness’ in contrast to the former city. I think, however, that this is perhaps part of its charm, as well as its function as a creative and cultural hub for the Rhineland.

Post-more wandering and wishing Anna goodbye, I headed back to Frankfurt for the night, before my trip tomorrow to Munich.  

13/09 – Frankfurt

In the morning, Sophie and I visited the Paulskirche. It was the seat of the 1848 Frankfurt parliament, the first freely elected legislative body in Germany, and so has quite a big political significance. The impressive ceiling (a new addition after the church was also destroyed by bombs) and political murals in the basement are meant to symbolise Germany’s elevation to an age of democracy. 

I had lunch with Leanne, who studied MML at Cambridge too, and now works as a solicitor in Frankfurt. Afterwards, I met Jens for coffee near the Alter Oper (pictured below, and also rebuilt after 1945 despite its older appearance). He works part time as a professor and is involved in promoting applications to the Judge Business School. It was great to hear about the paths down which their time at Cambridge has led them. 

Afterwards, a trip to the caricature museum. At the moment, they’re holding an exhibition of German caricaturist Frank Hoppmann’s work – perhaps you’ve seen some of it floating around in the newspapers. Even though I’m not really up on the German politicians who often provide material for his drawings, there were a couple of figures I could recognise. 

Tomorrow, a brief trip to Cologne, before heading off to Munich on Friday.