It began innocently enough. I was happily dining solo in Salzburg, sipping on my glass of elderberry wine, when I caught a distinctive, very familiar sound coming from the table to my left … an Aussie accent. Two Aussie accents, actually. How funny, I thought. Here I am halfway across the globe in a restaurant in Austria and who am I seated next to? Brian and Sheila* from Perth. (* I admit, I can’t recall their names so I’ve replaced them with a couple of suitable substitutes.) They were a lovely couple, and I returned to my hotel happy to have made a bit of small talk with some fellow travellers.
My next Australian encounter came at the train station leaving Salzburg for Venice. As I walked back and forth along the platform looking confused and searching for section C (sure enough it turned up directly between B and D — please refer to the blog’s title for a reminder of my ineptitude) I stopped and asked an approachable-looking lady and her friend for help. She quickly told me where I should be in her friendly Aussie twang, and we chatted about how we were all switching from train to bus in Villach and were worried about the slim connection time. How random, I mused, and continued on my way.
I didn’t see her again once I boarded the train, and, luckily, made the bus transfer on to Venice in time. But the next day as I was sitting and typing in my Venetian hotel’s lobby, I spied her and her companion at the other end of the room snoozing on a couch. Random had definitely switched to weird. Australians — again. And at the very same hotel! From this point of my journey on I became more and more aware of just how many Aussies were travelling around too.
I should probably make a disclaimer here. I have nothing against Australians — some of my best friends are from across the ditch (there, I said it) — but there’s something of a long-standing rivalry between us Kiwis and the Aussies, and of all the accents I heard around me while in Europe theirs just seemed to be everywhere. I certainly never came across any other New Zealanders, heard very few Brits around, the odd American, a couple of Canadians … but so many Aussies!
It became a bit of a long-standing joke between Sandra (who is — you guessed it — an Aussie) and I on our three-week trip, with me constantly pointing them out: “Did you hear that? Did you? Another Australian.” Eventually she had to agree. They were everywhere. From the twentysomething backpackers on my train from Venice, to the family of four at the outdoor cafe in Milan, to the loud elderly couple on a bus in Krakow … I was surrounded. Even the European telly schedule had been infiltrated — I swear that in both my Munich and Salzburg hotels, I flicked on the box to catch dubbed-over reruns of the Aussie chick-farmer series McLeod’s Daughters.
In a trendy student bar in Prague we watched as two cocky young men circled the room, going from table to table of attractive girls and trying their luck. Typical European lotharios living up to the stereotype, we thought with equal measures of amusement and admiration, as we continued to spy on their attempts to pull. Eventually one of them made his way near our spot (with girl on arm) and yelled out to the other: “Grab us a beer will you, Ben?” Sandra and I exchanged shocked glances. AUSTRALIANS. Working the room of hot young Euro things like it was their day job.
It’s pretty stupid, but I suppose a part of me felt like all those Aussies we kept running into were taking a bit of our novelty factor away. Like, that was our claim to fame … could there be room for two more Antipodeans? It’s ridiculous to imagine that as a tourist you’re unique in any way. At least a million others have been there before, wherever it is you end up. Fine, I told myself at that point. I give in. They’re taking over the world, clearly. But at least they were providing a bit of entertainment along the way.