Summer - how was it for you?
Advice of a serial Inter-railer
- Alix Murphy
Feed your hunger for freedom with an expedition through Europe's cities by train. Having been lucky enough to embark upon this amazing adventure twice, I hereby command you to seize any opportunity and go interrailing! A train ticket, an adventurous spirit and a toothbrush will turn a run-of-the-mill summer into the experience of a lifetime...
Even the most successful trip requires minimal planning. Resist the temptation to set a rigid itinerary and leave your route open. With flexible dates of travel cheap flights are available to most cities and I found choosing the start and end points quite a challenge. However, if you have several weeks to reach your final destination, I recommend referring to a map and selecting the most distant city that sparks an interest. Istanbul may strike your fancy or perhaps you are feeling a little less ambitious and the tourist hotspot of Rome is more your style. Whatever your preference, search out the bargain flight that will begin your journey and decide your winding route homewards as your fancy takes you.
With regards the nightmare of packing, consult the usual guides and include a few essentials that may not necessarily spring to mind at first - namely hair mousse (straighteners and humidity do not go hand in hand, trust me!), student ID (for cheaper entry into all those museums you're bound to visit...) and a bottle opener (for the wine on the 12 hour night train to Prague). Leave behind a torch and sleeping bag, regardless of other advice, they'll weigh you down and never be used.
If a healthy dose of culture is what you yearn for, the city of Krakow in Poland has a lot to offer. A guided tour of Auschwitz-Birkenhau, the biggest concentration camp of the Nazi era, is a must, even for those of us who may not know much about WWII. The main square offers horse and cart rides, a relatively cheap yet grand way to tour the city, and leaders of the main youth hostels organise Booze Cruises for some night-time entertainment.
The Czech city of Prague has a wealth of sights to see and historical buildings to visit. The panoramic views over the city from Prague Castle make the climb through the narrow streets more than worthwhile.
For the culinary enthusiast, Rome exceeds all expectations especially in the more authentic restaurants off the beaten track, which are top-quality and won't break the bank. However, if you are feeling more adventurous Budapest offers something unique for every palate. Try the Hungarian specialities of goose and cabbage!
A massive motivation for the majority of travellers is the opportunity to meet young people from all corners of the world. The Hungarian lake-side town of Siofok is brimming with like-minded people drawn by the Coca-Cola beach, abundance of bars and party atmosphere. Youths flood in at the weekend where big name DJs appear in the nearby clubs. Over 26s look out of place, so don’t expect to see many families. Remember to take lots of photographs of your friends and all your new German, Austrian, Croatian (insert Eastern European country here) acquaintances!
If you've got a day to spare and happen to be near Paris why not book some last-minute accommodation and head for the cultural capital of Europe? Despite its pricey reputation it is incredibly easy to spend 24 hours in Paris and spend very little - take a walk around the Eiffel Tower by night and head to the Arc de Triomphe during the day after a stroll down the Champs-Elysees.The metro and food will be the only costs if you resist the temptation to buy over-priced items from the street merchants who prey on tourists at every corner.
Always be cautious and sceptical of anyone who tries to distract you on your travels. Don't let those four random guys take a photo with you outside the Collosseum - chances are they'll run off with your purse before your cheesy grin has had a chance to wear off. Your valuables should be at the forefront of your mind in all situations, passport and money being strapped to your being if at all possible!
I leave you with my final and most important piece of advice. Go interrailing, have fun, get out there and enjoy yourself!
Useful websites: www.bahn.de