Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Summer - how was it for you?

Student Summers are a transient luxury so we should use them as productively as we can while they're available. Here is some advice from a 3rd year Medical student who urges all students to 'get out there and explore'!

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


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How to be more like everyone else then anyone else. Meet people just like you. See the same cities and bars as your friends who went the year before... and throw up and pass out in the same flea bitten hovel of a hostel in some dank alleyway of the Eastern Bloc. Freedom and adventure? Think again. Not one train track or paving stone of the pedestrianized city centres have not been trampled by other naive 'adventure seekers' as yourself just moments before. Try something new. Drive to the airport with a bag packed, an open mind, and jump on the next affordable flight to 'whoknowswhere' and live a fortnight or 2 outside that comfort zone and lonely planet itinerary. Or better still- drive there! No train timetables or bus routes to inhibit your travel, and better still, you can visit the most remote and isolated reaches of every country you visit. Scrap the guide book and head to the coast.. because lets face it- who wants to be stuck on a stuffy overcrowded train or sweltering streets in the height of summer. There you'll meet the real locals, rather than the same old rag tag mix of post-grad, museum-going, fanny-pack Americans; heavy-drinking, loud-singing Germans and irritating gap-year students from England. Not to mention the Aussies. Meet the real inhabitants of a remote picturesque beach. Curious faces will greet you everywhere you go but I'll guarantee you get a warm reception. If you're prepared to rough it a bit the only expense is petrol, supermarket food and new gas canisters for your travel cooker. Don't get me wrong, I had a great time interailling a few years ago but looking back and hearing tales from my friends that have been before and since, we all seemed to do the same things: "Swimming in the baths in Budapest? No way! Me too!","Auschwitz, the Acropolis and Prague Castle? Snap! No way we were there at the same time, how funny!?!". How dull. Why take pictures when you can just buy the postcard? Liven up your summer a bit and come back with a real and original tale to tell to all your budding John Goddard mates. This summer I drove to Africa and back from Belfast in a 35 year old VW camper. 2 months doing that cost less than a month interailling and was infinitely more incredible. The summer before that was an illicit trip to Mexico on the roll of a die, once again paid for with just a month or so working at the start of the summer. Don't be another one of the 'Eurotrip' herd, be creative and impulsive and let your whims carry you on a journey that'll give you everything your itchy feet and insatiable curiosity are thirsting for.. And a lot LOT more.

10/19/2007 9:09 pm  

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