About to start heading home so a good time to reflect on what I got out of this trip.
Firstly, I LOVE THE BEACH! Apparently the negative ions the sea gives off lifts our mood. Don't know about that. I just know that something about it works. If you're Australian you don't live far from a beach (sure, I know some do, but work with me here). It's something we take for granted but travelling always makes you appreciate how blessed we are in that respect. It's what I most enjoyed about Helsinki. It's basically on a promontory and has water all around. And man, do they love their boats! I wouldn't have thought the climate particularly lent itself to recreational maritime pursuits but it obviously doesn't bother them. This is a country by the way that gets to 17 C max in summer, minus 20 C in winter and has an annual average of around minus 4C!!
Madrid: I related a lot to the Spanish. They are kind of what Aussies used to be but are slowly losing in our relentless push to make life "safe".
Berlin: cool place. You can be whatever you want it seems and no-one cares. Sort of the New York of Europe.
As far as public open space goes?
Definitely lots to like there and something Australia should study. Millennia of living in a hot, dry climate has allowed them to figure out exactly how to do it. We've still got a long way to go. We're still too tied to our English heritage in that sense. It has only been a couple of hundred years I guess so in a way not surprising. But we need to start learning fast. And it's actually not hard:
1. Lose the irrigated turf (except for playing fields)
2. Plant MEGA more trees - like really close-spaced
3. Break wind - well, make that break the wind. I notice this every time I go away. Perth is so windy it makes living outside very unpleasant a lot of the time. If it's not howling from one direction it's howling from the other. WE NEED TO DESIGN OUR PUBLIC OPEN SPACE ACCORDINGLY. And we're still not. Elizabeth Quay is a classic example. It's all oriented the wrong way. Unbelievable that this wasn't taken into account. As a result the place is virtually uninhabitable. We are the third windiest capital city on the planet after Chicago and Wellington. Our outdoor design needs to reflect that.
When all's said and done, I'm pretty happy that my passport has "Australia" on the front. But we have to grow. We can't trade off past glories. Places like Finland (and even Estonia where we went for a day) are surging ahead in terms of developing new, 21st century economies. We have unlimited potential in Australia to do the same but we seem still too content to just dig stuff out of the ground and sell it. I think we're waking up but, heck, pretty slowly it seems to me. I just hope it's not too slowly and we miss the ferry.