Since my last blog we have traveled from Croatia, through Slovenia to Ljubljana, on to Austria (Vienna and Salzburg) and now, just near Stuttgart (Germany). So far we’ve visited quite a few cities and this has made me think about how cities are different, and what they have in common.
Generally on our bike tour we like to ride on country roads rather than motorways, preferring quiet windy paths that lead us to lesser known places. Delving into big cities requires more of an effort in terms of (non GPS) navigation and accommodation that doesn’t crucify the budget. Also once you go to a big city there is so much to see you should really stay for a week, but an itchy palm usually sees us back on the bike in a couple of days. I always think that if you want to go to one of the big European cities you should just fly there, why bother with a motorcycle ride? Nevertheless we have found ourselves in a number of big cities; London, Madrid, Barcelona, Lisboa, Vienna; and some medium sized ones, like Porto, Seville, Cordoba, Ljubjana, Salzburg, and Dubrovnik. I must confess to liking European cities more than most Australian ones and have often pondered why. I have a feeling that the better cities are ones which started before the advent of the motorcar, when the scale was pedestrian or equine. Certainly in Australia nowadays when they design a new place they first put in the roads, then the commercial centre (shops), then the carparks, and finally the houses. But they never actually seem to plan to put the people anywhere and hence we have towns and cities designed for motorcars and not people. The primary purpose of a new city in Australia seems to be for a developer to make as much money as possible (commerce), the driving force is not primarily as a place for people to live, this seems very much secondary. We have many towns and suburbs where people loiter about on the streets as spare parts, not a part of any living city. Consequently when I was growing up I thought a city was just a place where people worked. Little did I realise that by definition a city was supposed to be a centre of population, commerce, and culture!