Interrailing in Europe 2013

Interrailing trip across Europe. 18 days. 9 countries.

Destinations included London, Bruges, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Lake Bled, and Venice.

 

Video filmed with Fuji X100s. While an excellent camera for still images, the video functions are much more limited. As such, it was not ideal for the changing situations of an interrail tour but being light and small it was the camera of choice.

Music: danosongs.com - Living the Daydream (Instrumental)

Interrailing  Europe Guide

In July 2013, three Irish friends set off on an inter-railing trip across Europe. A total of 18 days, taking in 9 countries and visiting the cities of London, Bruges, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Lake Bled, and finally, Venice. Below is a quick account of our trip and some photos which may be useful to others planning a similar trip or to use as a guide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We purchased the Interrail 10 day in 22 day train pass. This pass allows you to choose any 10 days to travel on within a period of 22 days. This was perfect for our planned journey of 18 days.

 

Leaving from Dublin we flew to London Gatwick for our first destination. It took us a while to get out of the airport, but eventually we arrived in the city and headed to our hostel near Hyde Park. London is a busy city and we were quickly taken in by the hustle and bustle of daily life. We visited Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street as well as taking a look around the City financial district. For food, there is a plethora of restaurants to be found in areas such as Piccadilly Square. We spent only one night in London opting to move on to the continent and get the real inter-rail journey started.

 

 

 

 

 

We took the Eurostar (not included in the inter-rail ticket) across the channel to Belgium. First we were heading for a quick stop to Bruges and then onto Brussels. Bruges turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. Sometimes referred to as 'The Venice of the North', the canal system coupled with the historic city centre makes this a very visually appealing location. We spent our time wandering the streets and rented bicycles on our second day to cover more ground. At night, Bruges is very quiet and we took a leisurely walk around the city limits barely encountering anyone.

 

Bruges
Bruges

After a very quick trip to Bruges (just over 24 hours in total), it was time to move on to Brussels. We had a few days to spend in this mainly administrative city. A few people we had met in Bruges had warned us that Brussels does feel a bit 'soulless'. We arrived with open minds but did feel inclined to agree after a while spent exploring the streets. If you do get bored there is always the the delicious Belgian chocolate and beer to keep you occupied!

 

Soon it was time to pack our bags again and get ready for the next destination, Amsterdam. Amsterdam was very busy and we had trouble finding a hostel and ended up in a 'budget hotel' which wasn't great.  More canals and cycling were in order here. This city is designed for cyclists and getting around by bike was very safe and well managed.

Amsterdam

Berlin, the German capital, is a wonderful, youthful and vibrant city. Two of the group had been here on a city break  only a few months before, nevertheless we were excited to be back. If Berlin is known for one thing it has to be its night-life. There is an abundance of weird and wonderful clubs and venues, often in pretty unusual and underground venues. During the day visits to the  Bradenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial and the  Reichstag are suggested. Berlin is a surprisingly cheap city and good deals can be found in restaurants and bars throughout. The U-bahn and S-bahn systems are also great and will take you pretty much anywhere you may need to go.

Holocaust memorial in Berlin
Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

From Berlin, we were taking the train to Prague. In an unusual turn, our original train never turned up and seemed to disappear from the schedule altogether. A dash across the station to a different platform meant we just caught a later train. To make things worse, the air-conditioning on this train seemed to be broken (something we would soon become all too familiar with). We arrived in Prague just as a large thunder storm rolled in. We got caught in the ensuing rain and arrived at our hostel on the other side of Charles Bridge soaking wet. Not the best start to our stay. The next morning we started to explore the city. Prague is absolutely packed with tourists in the summer months. While Charles Bridge is lined with statues and has some stunning views of the castle and town, it is also extremely crowded at times. The Old Town Hall with the famous Astronomical Clock is worth a visit, although be warned the hourly clock show is famously rather disappointing! Segway tours seems to have taken off in Prague and while some might say they are a bit gimmicky, it is actually rather fun. Prague is cheap and has some great food at very reasonable prices. If you go outside the main touristy areas, there is some excellent deals to be had.

Charles Bridge in Prague

The train from Prague to Budapest was not fun. A fire at a station on the route resulted in the train moving at a snails pace for a sustained period of time. Add to that that broken air-conditioning and the restaurant car running out of water and you get an image of a hot and sweaty train carriage which is very accurate.

 

Arriving in Budapest we were struck by the heat. Budapest was hot! Seriously though, 40 degrees and a mixup with our original hostel meant we wandered the streets for a while in the intense heat. Luckily, we were able to find an alternative hostel without too much trouble. The heat during the day actually made being outside uncomfortable. We spent most of the time looking for water or cooling down in a local shopping centre. In terms of what to do, crossing the Danube over to Pest is worthwhile for a different perspective of the city.

Budapest city workers spray water on tourists to help them cool down in the intense heat

Vienna is a city home to some stunning buildings and architecture. The Museum Quarter is a great spot to spend some time either exploring the museums or just chilling in the square. On our second day we took advantage of the city bike scheme. This has to be one of the cheapest schemes I've used. We paid ? to register and were able to use the bikes for an hour at a time for free to explore the city. An excellent way to spend a day.

 

Vienna can be expensive if eating out so it is best to look around before choosing a restaurant. We had done research on where to eat but twice it happened that when we visited a restaurant they were closed for their summer holidays. Slightly strange during peak season but I guess everyone needs a break!

 

After Vienna, we were heading to Lake Bled in Slovenia.

Museum in Vienna
Museum in Vienna

Lake Bled turned out to be my favourite destination and by far accounts for a disproportionate amount of  photos and videos from the trip. This small mountain town is a traveller's haven. The hills, mountains and lake are strikingly beautiful. A welcome retreat after the city living we had become accustomed to. We stayed in a small hostel in the centre of town with easy access to shops, restaurants and the lake front.

 

Renting a boat and rowing over to the island is a must. While climbing up one of the many hills provided a serene panoramic view of the lake, town and surrounding area. Walking around the lake's edge is rather enjoyable and takes about an hour, there is also locations to rent bicycles. Swimming is of course on the agenda. There is a dedicated swimming area but one must pay to enter. Instead, we opted to head a bit further down to near the rowing club. The water was slightly cold but pretty relaxing. If you are feeling adventurous you could swim over to the island. None of us dared! The food in Bled was also good and reasonably cheap. You have to try the famous Bled cake.

View of Bled island and lake
Bled castle up high

From Bled, we caught a night train to Villach, Austria. This train was packed and there was people sleeping on the ground throughout the carriages. Luckily we had paid a small fee to reserve seats. In Villach, we took a midnight stroll around the city before catching some rough sleep at the train station. The benches were surprisingly comfortable! In the early hours of the morning, we boarded our last train of the trip bound for Venice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Venice was perhaps my least favourite destination. Throngs of tourists and the general vibe of the place didn't make for the most enjoyable time. It is very much a tourist city and prices for accommodation and food reflect this. We found it hard to find a suitable hostel centrally located so opted instead for a cheap B&B. If eating out watch out for hidden service and cover charges which are often discretely included.

 

And so our trip came to an end, it had been 18 days and we had travelled through 9 countries. Finally, it was time to catch a Ryanair flight home to Dublin. It had been a great trip and I would recommend an interrailing adventure of some kind to everyone. Given the flexibility of the ticket and countless train lines, there is a huge amount of destinations and trip types to choose from.

© Gearoid Gibbs 2014, all rights reserved

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