Innsbruck, Austria

I barely had enough time to get over my jetlag before heading before heading down to Austria with my friends Phillip and Chris.

We flew to Zurich and caught the train to Innsbruck. The train trip was everything I could have hoped for. We glided through snowy scenes of tiny villages and rocky alps for hours, all with wifi and a tea service. That's how travelling should be.

Flughafen station in Zurich, Switzerland

A snowy village on the way to Innsbruck, Austria

From my Innsbruck hotel room I had a great view of the sleepy little town surrounded by snowy alps. I'd never been anywhere like it in my life. I had seen snow before, but only in Berlin and New York, never resting on mountains.

View from the Hilton Hotel, Innsbruck, Austria

Old town in Innsbruck, Austria

We ate and strolled throughout the town. At one dinner Phillip turned to me and said, "Do you realise this is the fifth time we've sat down to eat today?"

The highlight was our last day in Innsbruck when we journeyed up into the alps. I lost my wallet (twice) and then found it (twice) in the snow, but I could have stayed up there all day snapping plenty of pictures.

Halfway up the mountain

On top of the mountain

Me on top of the mountain

The Long Haul

Long haul travel is similar to surgery; you choose to undertake a period of pain and discomfort for some greater outcome (and accept the small risk that things might take a turn for the worse). At least with surgery you're guaranteed a good sleep.

My flight out of Melbourne wasn't until around midnight, and I had plenty of things to organise during my last day in Australia. I ran around the city getting last minute things, running into familiar faces and stopping for chats. It was a busy, tiring day in itself, and the travel hadn't even started yet.

It was going to take three flights to get me to Berlin. Melbourne to Dubai, Dubai to London and London to Berlin. Departing a bit late, around 1am Melbourne time, I was ready for a sleep after the first meal. I had scored one of the seats without a seat in front, and in payment for some nice things I must have done in the past, the seat next to me was also free during the first leg. With all the stars aligned I managed a few hours, sleeping through the second meal (a shame I'll never forget).

Landing in Dubai I turned on wifi to receive a torrent of emails. It seems that after years of running happily without being touched, as soon as I hop on a long haul flight a bug developed in Repertwa, my sheet music website which meant people were paying but not receiving their orders. People weren't happy. It had already been 12 or so hours without a response from me. I whipped out my laptop in the 30 minutes I had before reboarding the plane and sent each customer their music manually. There wasn't any time to fix the bug, so I just pulled the site down until I could fix it.

For the second leg the free seat was occupied by an aviation nerd who wanted to discuss the differences between this flight and a Singapore Airlines flight. I was pretty close to requesting my oxygen mask fall from above but he eventually settled down. He was that sort of hyper-friendly person and I thought there was some slight chance he was flirting with me. Until I saw a picture of his girlfriend. His Hail Mary after we landed was a nice little reminder of why I shouldn't assume anything.

I carefully spaced my bathroom visits to give me something to do, but of course you're at the mercy of the cabin crew to clear your tray tables after meal service. I was finally clear and able to go to the bathroom when I stood up and treked down the aisle. The plane took a dive and I started to walk like a drunk mime. There was a small crowd gathered for the bathrooms, and one cabin crew member preparing the duty free purchases. The drops and jolts got more violent until I was looking around for something better to old onto. People started to lose balance and fall into each other. The crew member looked up and checked the seat belt sign, but it wasn't lit. "I think you should go back to your seats." Back we went. A few moments later the flight crew turned on the seatbelt sign and then ordered the crew to be seated immediately. That's never a good sign. For the next 30 minutes we sat, strapped in and jolted through the sky. I was desperate for that pee when we were finally allowed to stand again.

One of my pet peeves is the rudeness of people who stand up first, immediately after landing. Their bag is more important than ours. They must be at the front of the customs line. They need the first taxi. They are more important humans than us. Well I say no. If I was in charge of the universe, everyone who stands before the seatbelt sign is turned off has done the wrong thing and must be punished. Everyone who stands prematurely (ie. the arseholes) will be made to sit with their seatbelt fastened until the last passenger, even those in wheelchairs and requiring assistance, are removed. One of the cabin crew on the other side of the plane is clearly on my side and screamed at the arseholes as they jostled for their bags. "YOU MUST SIT DOWN. YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED TO BE STANDING." At the top of her lungs. I could have proposed to her right there and then. Truly someone after my heart. Well the arseholes ignored her as if she was a street preacher. The moment she stopped screaming, the seatbelt sign went off and her cause was extinguished.

Walking through the economy cabins of the A380 after a long flight must be similar to visiting a flood or tornado ravaged country. How people can do that much damage in such a short time is incredible. There are food scraps on the floor, drink stains down the seats and tray tables, blankets, pillows and their respective wrappers strewn across the cabin. It looks like we forgot how to be human.

By the time I got to London, I hadn't slept since those first few hours. I was feeling pretty ragged. I would have paid a plump stranger to let me sleep on them for 20 minutes. By the time we boarded for the final, thankfully short flight I was starting to lose control of my body. Everything from my right butt cheek down to my foot was aching and making sitting very uncomfortable. I slouched forward and fell asleep in an uncomfortable curl. I woke up, probably only five minutes later with patch of drool in my lap. I would have been embarassed but the man next to me was still sleeping in the same position as I had been.

Finally reaching your destination is glorious. It had been 30-something hours since Melbourne airport, and probably close to two days since my body had been horizontal. There wasn't much more to do than to crawl into bed and stay there as long as possible.

Meanwhile, In Berlin

When I got home last night it must have been around -1┬░ celsius. I'd lost control of most of my face and hands. I've definitely escaped the Australian summer.

A few months ago I decided to accept an offer to swap apartments for two months with a couple in Berlin. They wanted to be in Australia for summer and wondered if I might be interested in a swap. I said yes and within the weekend my flights were booked. From early in the new year to the end of February, I'd have a place to stay in Berlin, and nowhere to stay in Melbourne.

I know I'm extremely fortunate to have a set of conditions which allow this to happen. Firstly, I live alone in an apartment in the middle of Melbourne, so I have somewhere worth swapping with. Secondly, as a freelancer no one else owns my time. I can disappear for two months without consequence (and income).

This isn't the first house swap I've accepted. Two years ago I swapped with a couple in New York and spent two weeks pretending I had a beautiful Upper West Side apartment overlooking the park. That was a great experience, so I had no problems putting my trust in these guys I'd met over Skype.

So here I am in a lovely apartment in quiet Sch├Âneberg settling in, doing groceries, strolling through the neighbourhoods, looking bewildered when people speak german to me, catching the U-Bahn and seeing just how much currywurst is too much currywurst.

Eating a mound of heavy food soon after arriving in Berlin

Queen Victoria Market

For quite a while after moving to Melbourne I regarded the Queen Victoria Market as a place of gaudy t-shirts, awful leather belts and pan-pipe music. After a few recent visits I've been starting to enjoy it again, particularly during special events. It's never better than during the Night Markets which have just started again on Wednesday nights. The crowds are enormous and the air smokey, but it's a fun place to be (as long as you don't stray into the souvenir stalls).

Jean Paul Gautier at NGV

#TakeDownJulienBlanc