All good things have to come to an end, and so does Anna’s trip. Only Seville is between her and her journey back: “I’ll arrive in Barcelona in the middle of the night. My plane to Helsinki leaves in the morning. These weeks have been a great experience but I do look forward to getting home tomorrow.”
3.2.2012: Language barriers and Spanish tortilla
The next morning I needed to go back to the railway station in order to take the train to Sevilla. I had learned something from the previous day’s experience and took a taxi straight from the hostel door.
I arrived in Sevilla at about noon and was met by the next and final Eustorian of the trip, German.
It was too early for lunch in Spain so we walked around a bit before going for lunch. After that we went to take my backpack to German’s home where his parents were waiting.
“German had to study for next day’s exam so his father, also called German, took me to see some sights of the city. I do not speak Spanish and he spoke quite little English but somehow we managed to understand each other. It was fun to see that you don’t really need to know many words to communicate successfully.”
At this point of the trip I started to feel quite exhausted already, so I did not protest having a night in.
“Real Spanish tortilla, Monty Python from tv and a comfortable bed. What else could one want?”
4.2.2012: Last day, going home
“This morning I got to follow my normal morning routines: shower, coffee, breakfast, some more coffee. Only difference is that I was about 4 500 kilometres from home.”
I packed my backpack ready because I would be leaving in the evening. German had his test in the morning so I did some more sightseeing with his father.
“We went to the Cathedral and Giralda tower to see some sights. There were so many stairs up that I forgot to be afraid of heights when we finally made it to the top. I was just happy there were no more stairs.”
When German was done with his exam it was already lunchtime and we went to have some traditional Spanish tapas with his parents. Then it was already time to say goodbye and board the last train of the trip.
Going on a trip where you backpack to different countries gives you much more than just the experience of visiting new places. There is no way to avoid complications during a journey like this, and it is great to see that you have the skills to solve those problems. What has been your most memorable trip? Have you planned a backpacking trip but haven’t yet put the plans into practice? Please share your experiences and tell us about your dream destinations!
Travelling alone can be great: you get to do what you want, when you want. Still, there are moments when you wish you were not alone. One of those moments for me was when the train timetables changed all the time and I was unsure whether I was ever going to make it to Madrid on time. Have you travelled alone? When and where? What was the experience like?
2.2.2012: Getting lost in Madrid
My original plan was to arrive in Barcelona in the morning and continue straight away to Madrid where I would spend the day – on my own again, since I didn’t know Eustorians from Madrid. Thanks to the snow, the train arrived in Barcelona at 3 pm and it was late in the afternoon when I arrived in Madrid.
I had checked before it would be easy to find my way from the railway station in Madrid to the hostel where I had pre-booked a bed. It was not so easy.
“Finally I asked directions from two policemen. They gave me clear and easy instructions on where to go to. I walked for one and a half hours. Then I saw a taxi and took that to the hostel. It was less than one kilometre away. I feel very proud of myself.”
Thanks to my late train and wandering around Madrid it was already time to go to sleep when I arrived at the hostel.
1.2.2012: Italian railways struggling with snow
In Milan there was no one for me to meet so I spent the day alone. I didn’t want to go too far from the railway station because in the evening I was going to take the train to Barcelona. As I tend to get lost easily, I didn’t dare to try my luck. So, I ended up walking around the area near the station.
“This has not been the best day. Luckily the coffee is good.”
The snow naturally caused a lot or problems for the trains and also my train was about four hours late. Finally it arrived and I was happy to notice that this night train had actual beds.
In Milan, tiredness started to hit me and I wasn’t in my best mood. Now when I think about the day I spent there I feel like I lost an opportunity to get to know an interesting city, but at the time I simply didn’t have the energy to do anything special. Have you experienced something similar during long journeys? In a situation like that, do you think it is better to take a day off and rest even if you miss seeing something or do you rather just keep on going and through that get excited about the travel again?
30.1.2012: Slovakian Cola and movies from home
Early next morning we went together to Bratislava.
“As the journey included walking, a bus, a train, some more walking, another bus and still a bit more walking, we had to leave early.”
We walked around the old city and enjoyed the sunny weather. The trip had been quite hectic so far and I was happy when we decided to stay in for the night. On our way back to Trnava we went to shop for something to eat and then went back to Zuzana’s place for a movie night. Based on her recommendation I tasted Kofola, the local cola-drink (“interesting, very different than Coca Cola but not necessarily in a bad way”).
“We watched the Finnish movie “Rare Exports”. It was new to all of us, also me, and having a calm movie night felt really nice and home-like. This is what I needed at this point.”
31.1.2012: Cookies from an Austrian lady
It was a travelling day once again, so I did not want to have too much program. However, I did go to see the local shopping centre of Trnava.
“There was a free bus to there and back. It was full both ways, so apparently this is a popular destination also for others than tourists.”
With Zuzana’s help I was able to sort my next train tickets. I had already bought a seat for a train to Venice, but it turned out that there was no connection from there to Spain where I was supposed to go next. So, after many misunderstandings and some frustration, I took a train to Vienna.
“I sat opposite of an elderly Austrian lady and managed to have a discussion with her in German. Felt so proud! She told me that she had been married to a Slovakian man and lived in Bratislava for decades. When her husband had died she had moved back to Vienna but still often visited her friends in Bratislava. She gave me a bag of self-made cookies when we arrived in Vienna so that I would have some snacks on the long way to Spain.”
In Vienna I needed to quickly change trains. Next stop would be Milan the next morning.
Many European countries today share a common currency but there are still 24 official languages only within the EU. Without Zuzana’s help, I would have been in serious trouble with my train tickets due to language barrier. Where have you been faced with a language barrier? How have you coped with the situation?
What sights would you recommend there? What kinds of places have you visited in Prague?
28.1.2012: Pub crawl in Prague
We began our morning in Prague by making travelling arrangements for the next day. I made sure that my train to Bratislava was leaving at the time I had written down before and Hanna found out how to get to the airport. From the next day on I would continue the trip on my own as Hanna was going back to Finland already.
It was just 10 am but we were already hungry for lunch. Finding a place that would be open at that time on a Saturday was not easy, but we managed to find one in the end. On the positive side, it took us so long to find a restaurant and eat that once we were done we could already check in our hotel. The room with actual beds seemed like a suite after spending the night before on a train.
“I showered, washed my clothes in the bathtub and then we left to go to the old city.”
After a very touristic day it was time to meet the next Eustorian of the trip: Ondrej. He had promised to take us on a pub tour and that he did. The idea was
to have one beer in each pub and then continue to the next one.
“The first pub was a very tradition Czech pub – or at least that’s what Ondrej told us. How would we know?”
We managed to get through six pubs and clubs, too many beers and also some interesting pub food (as a vegetarian I got the skip the delight of tasting “drowned man”. It was 5 am when Hanna and I got back to our hotel.
29.1.2012: Homesick backpacker
The long pub crawl meant neglecting our wonderfully comfortable beds and having just a few hours of sleep. Despite feeling slightly tired we did not want to skip the possibility of seeing a bit more of the city. Hanna packed her backpack for the last time during the trip and we went back to the old town for a while until both of us had to continue our journey.
“I went to the railway station with Hanna since she had to take the bus to the airport from there and I was going to take the train to Bratislava. We went for one last cup of coffee and then she had to go. It felt strange and lonely to say goodbye to her as we had lived almost symbiotically during the journey. Sitting at the railway station alone I felt homesick for the first time on this trip.”
There was not time to dwell in homesickness for long because I needed to catch the train to Bratislava and from there to Trnava where I had my next Eustory-stop at Zuzana’s home. She met me at the railway station in Trnava at 10 pm and we took a taxi to her place.
“I felt like a royal guest. The bed had been made ready for me while the hosts themselves slept on the floor, and Zuzana had prepared tomato soup and wafers. I think it took me about two minutes to fall asleep after the delicious meal.”
My visit to Prague was a really brief one and I have been thinking about travelling there again many times after the InterRail. I only had the time to see the most known destinations of the city, but based on my short visit there I assume that the city would have much more to offer.
26.1.2012: Warsaw offering its best
Warsaw. 7 am. One hour of sleep. That combination made us probably look like zombies but fortunately we made a delightful discovery at the railway
station: the nicest public bathroom we had ever seen. It gave us the chance to wash up and refresh our faces as much as it was possible regarding the conditions, and we headed out to windy Warsaw.
As the Palace of Culture was located conveniently just across the street from the station, we decided to visit it. Somehow long hikes did not sound fun at that moment.
“After trying almost every possible entrance to the building, we finally found the door that lead to the sight tower. As I had already visited the tower on my last visit to Warsaw (and as I in general have no burning need to go to high places), I stayed downstairs in a café with our backpacks while Hanna went to see the sights. I was quite happy with this arrangement.”
In Warsaw we had planned to meet the one non-Eustorian of our trip, Anna. I had gotten to know her during a project in high school and had also stayed at her house before, so it seemed natural to make her home the next stop on our tour. We met Anna for a traditional Polish dinner – in a pierogi restaurant, naturally.
After that it was time for our next Polish museum experience: The Warsaw Uprising. Once again, two hours was nowhere near enough for the visit.
“It was cold and dark when we exited the museum. How can -10 degrees feel so freezing? We needed the combination of bus-metro-bus-walking and after two hours made it to Anna’s home. Warmth!”
27.1.2012: Voting in presidential elections
“I woke up feeling refreshed and pampered myself by taking a shower and washing my hair. Funny how small things grow to be very important when you’re travelling.”
A relaxed breakfast, backpacks ready and out to the city again. The weather was nicer and we decided to first go to Lazienki-park. From there we navigated ourselves to the Finnish embassy as the Finnish presidential elections were held during our trip.
“The right to vote and voting itself seemed even more special than usual abroad.”
In celebration of voting or just in order to get warm, we went to a café in the old town and drank
comforting cups of hot chocolate. From there Anna had to leave and Hanna and I continued exploring the old town. Our exploration wasn’t a very long one as it got colder towards the evening, and we ended up going to a bistro for some more pierogis before going back to the railway station and catching the night train to Prague.
My experience of Poland was filled with different forms of culture: history, cuisine, art, pubs… Luckily I had quite many days to spend in Poland compared to the other places I went to during the InterRail, so I had the chance to visit different kinds of places. Usually the most difficult part of travelling is prioritising the things you want to see and do, as you never have enough time to do everything you’d like to. What kind of culture do you focus on during your travels? Are you a food enthusiast or do you rather focus on getting to know the museums and exhibitions the city has to offer?
24.1.2012: Card games in the middle of the night and tasty beer
The train from Hamburg to Berlin arrived at 11.10. This meant hours of waiting at the station in Berlin as our train to Poznan was leaving at 4.28 am.
Waiting for a train in the middle of the night was as much fun as it sounds, not very fun. The station was cold, so we tried to find warm places within the station that were open at that time of the night. There were two: McDonald’s and a room with ATMs.
“The promise we had made in the beginning of the trip not to step in a McDonald’s had to be broken. We tried to kill time playing card games there.”
The warm ATM-room turned out to be the perfect place for power-napping. Also, a good moment to write postcards. After what seemed much longer than five hours, we finally got to board the train towards Poland. Oh the happiness!
“Our seats were so comfortable: wider than usual and they could have been tilted back if I had known how to.”
Our lovely sleep was interrupted twice because of a boarder control – first in the German and then in the Polish side. Still, even a few hours of sleep felt amazingly nice and we were almost awake when we arrived in Poznan in the morning.
“We had an hour before our train to Gdansk left. We tried to book seats to the next train but that turned out to be impossible as the lady behind the “International tickets” -sign did not speak any English. Luckily booking the seats was not necessary.”
We arrived in Gdansk in the afternoon to meet the next Eustorian of the trip, Martyna. We had lunch with her and then went all together to Sopot, the neighbouring town, and met Michal, another Eustorian who had promised to let me and Hanna stay at his place.
“Martyna went back to Gdansk and Hanna, Michal and I went to Michal’s place. There we got to shower, drink coffee and put on clean clothes. I felt rather newborn. We also got to meet Michal’s girlfriend Karolina who got home. What a nice person – and she has studied Norwegian!”
The rest of the day was dedicated to relaxing and having fun. We had a lovely Italian dinner and then Michal guided us to a pub tour. First stop was a pub
where we got to sit on a sofa in the balcony. Next we met Martyna for a drink in another pub and made our final stop in the most unique pub I had ever seen.
“The idea was that you could not find the pub unless you knew it was there. An old bicycle was hanging on the wall and black-and-white films were running in a small tv decorated with Christmas ribbons. I drank the best beer ever at this pub: the secret was that it tasted like honey, not like beer.”
25.1.2012: Night train to be remembered
“Michal and Karolina had already gone to work when Hanna and I woke up. What a lovely feeling when you’ve had the chance to sleep!”
We spent the morning in Sopot at the beach (watching the sea, it was not swimming weather) and walking around the town. Then, we went back to Gdansk to visit a “Roads to freedom” -exhibition which presented Polish history.
“We walked around the exhibition for two hours and there would have been things to see for the entire day. In the end, hunger won and we left the exhibition to go for lunch.”
Gdansk/Sopot was the first stop where we got to spend almost two entire days, so we got to meet also Martyna again. She took us on a tour around the old part of Gdansk and as she studies architecture, we learned a lot about the buildings there.
“It was rather cold outside so we decided to grab some coffee. However, we ended up eating ice cream.”
The train to our next destination, Warsaw, departed from Sopot so we once again took the train from Gdansk there. We grabbed our backpacks from Michal’s place and said goodbye to both him and Martyna at the railway station.
We had planned to get a good night’s sleep on the night train as it took about five hours and arrived in
Warsaw conveniently in the morning. In the beginning it seemed like a good plan: there was room for eight people in the train compartment and there was sitting only one other person in addition to us. However, very soon we got to notice that sleeping would not be possible.
“Two young boys entered the compartment carrying three full bags of beer. They did not know the guy sitting there before but bonded quickly with the help of the beer. Obviously, all the windows had to be kept open in the compartment so that the beer would not get warm. Our protests were unheard.”
The next morning we took the train from Copenhagen to Hamburg. In the beginning arranging all the train connections was somewhat challenging, as my diary shows:
“When we arrived in Hamburg we first went to book seats for the train that we are going to take to Gdansk tomorrow. Unfortunately it turned out that we have to take the train to Berlin earlier than expected as the night train I had checked out before is not running. So, we’ll get to spend five hours at Berlin railway station in the middle of the night. Nice!”
The day got better from there. Our hostel was easy to find, nice looking and clean. After a dinner at an African restaurant we went to take an evening walk on Reeperbahn and ended up going to the casino there – no jackpot but great fun, especially watching the super serious poker players.
23.1.2012: Tourists in Hamburg
In the morning we packed our backpacks again as we would not be going back to the hostel and went to see the city. At lunchtime we met Tina, the connector of all Eustorians.
“We went for a sushi lunch and after that took a tour in the port area of the city. We took the tour by Tina’s car as the weather was, once again, not on our side. After that Hanna and I continued on our own with our backpacks as Tina had to go and pack hers – she’s going on an Asian tour soon.”
The rest of the day we spent like the regular tourists: seeing sights, visiting churches, drinking coffee and tasting local beer. In the evening we started our journey towards Poland – a long, long journey.
I found Hamburg to be a laid-back and fun city. In general, I think it is always good to visit also other cities in a country than the capital, because it broadens the picture you get from the country. Which German cities besides Berlin have you visited? What off-capital destinations of Europe would you recommend?
21.1.2012: Sleep-deprivation and rainy sightseeing in Copenhagen
“The plane landed in Copenhagen at 7.40 am. It meant waking up at 2.30 am local time – after one hour of sleep.”
The beginning of my travel diary shows a continuing theme of the Eurotrip – sleep was used very economically.
Despite the slight sleep-deprivation, my friend Hanna and I did not want to waste time as we only had one day to spend in Copenhagen. We found our way to the city centre and met Juliane, a Eustorian, who lived in Copenhagen and had promised to be our guide in the city – and she let us stay in her apartment.
It was raining and soon the rain turned into wet snow, so we decided it was best to see the city from the river while sitting in a tour-boat.
“During the summer the boat does not have a roof, but luckily in winter it does. Still, it is possible to open the windows, and some people used this opportunity very much. Apparently getting photographs is very, very important for some. The tour-guide was amazing in presenting the city’s must-see locations – in English, German as well as Danish.”
After the tour we still had some sights to see; the statue of H.C. Andersen and some bright neon-signs; for instance. After a sushi dinner we were all feeling exhausted, so we decided to call it a day.
“Not sleeping, walking all day and the time difference of one entire hour obviously are enough to draw a person out of energy at this age.”
Juliane gave us the keys to her apartment and went to stay at her friend’s house, as all three of us would have had problems fitting to sleep in her flat.
All in all, I found Copenhagen to be a vivid and modern city with lots to do and many interesting details. The time I spent there was nowhere near enough and I’d love to visit it again. Have you ever been to Copenhagen? What was your most memorable experience there? Please share it with us!