11 cities. 9 students. 1 ½ days in each city.
At first glimpse, this sounds like an amazing, if not intimidating journey; and whilst this is true, the trip was also not without its downsides.
Leaving my hometown on the 1st July 2017 for the first leg of my journey to Brussels was one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to do. Although I am by no means dependent on my family, practically a whole month away from them seemed very daunting. Nonetheless, the prospect of travelling Europe with my best friends to commemorate the end of our educational journey together was just too good to miss. Travelling to Brussels, Amsterdam, Cologne, Berlin, Prague, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava, Zagreb and finally Split was not only the most gratifying thing I have ever done, but due to the short period of time we spent in each city, we were forced to go out and see the best features of each location, which was incredibly enlightening both culturally and historically.
The prospect of travelling Europe with my best friends… was just too good to miss.
The first thing I would advise to people thinking of interrailing, is to book your seats on trains in advance. As we learned the hard way, lots of the trains go to a multitude of different destinations, and will therefore, be filled to the brim with other travellers like you. The most eventful journey was travelling from Berlin to Prague. When the train pulled up to the station, we saw it was filled with bodies standing up and felt reassured that so many people were getting off. Nope. Instead there was just that little room, so myself and my friends, along with three other boys, spent 6 hours in this tiny area between two compartments (right next to an ‘out-of-order’ toilet) with all our luggage. It was character-building, and that’s probably the only positive thing I can say about it. The amount of time we spent on trains was also a little staggering and potential interrailers should plan around this. That being said, long train journeys were a perfect time to nap, write in travel journals or catch up with family members.
Despite the setbacks, the trip was still so rewarding. Personally, my favourite cities were Amsterdam, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest, as each had such a rich culture that we got to explore. The best bit of the whole trip was watching the sunrise at 4:00 am from Buda over Pest, and whilst walking back down the viewpoint, stumbling upon a huge playground full of slides, climbing frames, mini trampolines… Being able to act like a child again, especially with your best friends after the stress which was A-Levels, was one of the best things about the trip. Other highlights include the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, going up the Bundestag in Berlin, looking over the beautifully modern city and staying until closing time, singing ‘The Lion sleeps tonight’ in front of the Turkish Embassy (an embarrassing but comical experience), and of course seeing how many creative meals could be made with baguette, salami and cheese from Lidl. (answer: not very many at all!)
If I could go back and do it differently, I would spend more time in each city so that we could truly immerse ourselves within the culture for longer than a day and a half, even if that meant visiting fewer cities. That being said, travelling and especially travelling with my friends was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. So, if there’s another bit of advice for people thinking about going interrailing; plan your route and what attractions you plan on seeing and plan your budget and your trip will be just as amazing, if not more, than mine.