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Image credit Catherine Holland

Introducing Interrailing and Exploring Europe

Europe has some of the most beautiful cities renowned for architecture, culture and buzzing nightlife. InterRail has made traveling this spectacular continent easier than ever, offering two, three and four week packages. Multiple routes are possible, so once you buy your one-way ticket to destination number one, the world (or Europe) is your oyster! Mapping out spontaneous routes suits the true adventurer but below is the route which captured my heart. During my four weeks, I travelled 100+ hours via train and bus, I had some of the most amazing pub crawls, met weird and wonderful people and lugged my backpack from one dodgy hostel to another.  

Having mentioned a desire to one day interrail, a friend asked if I wanted to join her and her friends along the tracks from Mid to Eastern Europe. Travel-thirsty, I decided to take the plunge of joining these strangers with whom I would suffer and master the trials and tribulations of interrailing. I set off with one mate and came home with 12 best friends.

Image credit Catherine Holland

Image credit Catherine Holland

We landed in Amsterdam with heavy rucksacks which would slowly lighten as towels and clothing were lost or left behind along the way. Unnecessary beauty products were thrown out along our travels as we quickly learned vanity had no place. We spent a shortened spell in the home of the Ann Frank, and the Heineken and Vincent Van Gough museums. Our original plan of four days turned into three and that’s the beauty of interrailing: flexibility.

In replacement of another day in the ’Dam, we opted for an earlier train to Berlin. This beautiful city, saturated in art work from galleries, markets and graffiti, still has remains of the famous Wall standing, representing the swell of history this city has. Walking tours are an excellent way to see the main tourist spots and get a vivid history lesson. However, with rented bikes, a Geography student travelling with us used his map skills to guide us through the vibrant city while having the freedom to stop off wherever we wanted.

Oscar Dresses

Image credit Catherine Holland

From here, we braved our first night train to Prague. Once we got over the fluctuating heat, dingy carriages, questionable roommates, the “toilets” and the triple bunk beds, the journey could be called nothing less than “an Experience”. But our reward was sweet; the scenery and architecture in Prague is nothing short of breath-taking. The pub crawls aren’t too bad either and home to the five story nightclub, Karlovy Lazne, it’s definitely a student must-see.

Krakow brought the experience of visiting the most famous and largest Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Our tour guide brought us through the grounds depicting a heart-breaking era with stories and sights one could never imagine.

Budapest. Oh, Budapest. Sparty bath parties, beer bikes, open mic nights and that damn humidity. This Hungarian treasure is where one friend broke her ankle, another got scammed by the taxi mafia, the language barrier got us in a spot (a lot) of trouble and where, by far, we had the most fun. Do yourself a favour and take advantage of the nightlife in this dirt cheap city.

Slovenia is a country I never thought I would put down on my travel bucket list, however after a quick google search of “Lake Bled”, I understood the hype. Swimming out to the island with a few friends rowing a paddle boat alongside is one of my fondest memories of interrailing. The tough swim was worth it to see a couple tying the knot in the tiny island’s church, capturing the ideal romantic’s dream. But to make sure we didn’t get too relaxed, we let loose canyoning and white water rafting in the Slovenian mountains. Take me back!

My experience of interrailing had its highlights and unforgettable nights; it fuelled friendships and brought a new found desire for history, culture and travel. The four weeks I spent trekking around Europe gave me much more than a holiday resort ever could. Ironically, even though I returned home half dead after it all, it gave me a new lease of life, a yearning for travel, adventure and knowledge. Traveling is like the gift that keeps on giving, every country I went to taught me something new, educational or not. My advice? Give it a go. You never know where you’ll end up.

About Catherine Holland

catherine.holland@reading.ac.uk'

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