I haven’t posted anything on this site for absolutely ages – mainly because I was lucky enough to spend the summer interrailing across Europe. So I thought I’d mark my triumphant return to the blogosphere with a bit of a guide to interrailing and a little bit of information on all the places we visited….
Planning the trip
It started with four friends and one crazy dream… to get drunk in a variety of European locations. Slowly but surely after pouring over maps of Europe and many exchanged Facebook messages we came up with a rough preliminary route of where we wanted to travel.
The plan was to meet in Barcelona before travelling on through France and Italy towards Eastern Europe. From there we wanted to visit the likes of Ljubljana, Budapest and Krakow before heading back towards the UK via Berlin and Amsterdam.
For this route we decided to get the 10 journey in 22 days pass from the Interrail which cost £219. (http://www.railpass-shop.com/). It is possible to buy an unlimited one month pass but we went for the cheaper option. In the end it was a wise decision as we didn’t even use up our full ten journey allocation.
I then bought a couple of books that were pretty indispensible on the trip: The Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget and Thomas Cook’s European Rail Timetable.
The Rough Guide (along with Kim’s Lonely Planet guide) gave us a really good of what to see in each town as well as decent places to eat and drink at reasonable prices.
And the European Rail Timetable was indispensible in helping us plan journeys from place-to-place. While it is possible to find out train times over the internet, web timetables are limited by the locations and times you enter. In comparison the Thomas Cook guide shows you pretty much all the routes and times of every train running through Europe over the course of the summer. It also had a useful key guide showing which trains required a reservation. In short, if you are going Interrailing: BUY. THIS. BOOK.
So we booked our flights, packed our bags and headed off to our first destination…
Barcelona (14th-18th August)
We had four days in Barcelona and it proved to be a great place to start the trip.
We stayed at the Urbany Hostel- an absolutely massive and pretty great hostel. Our room, which we shared with a super chatty Swedish guy and a bus driving Italian lady, was basic (bunk beds, etc) but decent. The massive bar downstairs served dirt-cheap beer and Sangris at only four euros for a 1.5 litre glass. Well I think it was four euro but my memory of that bar is a little hazy!
For our first day in Barcelona we took a stroll down Las Ramblas and around the port. We had a great all-you-can-eat luch at Fresh Co. before heading down to Citudell Park for a well deserved siesta.
In the evening we had a few sangrias at the hostel before heading out to the Fiesta de Gracia, an annual week-long street party held in Barcelona. The streets around the fiesta are all decorated and there’s a variety of different bands playing through the night on different stages. Definitely worth going to if you happen to be in the city when the fiesta is on.
On the second day we hit the beach. We accidentally got on the wrong train and headed in completely the opposite direction to where we thought we were going but by a massive fluke managed to arrive at Badalona, a small town outside Barcelona. Badalona happened to have an awesome and not-too-crowded beach which we spent the morning and part of the afternoon at.
After that we headed to Parc Guell, which was designed by Gaudi and overlooks the city. It’s massive and massively popular, mainly for the spectacular views it offers of Barcelona. We eventually managed to find our way to one the highest points of the park – a cross that gave a 360 degree of the city. We sat there for about 40 minutes and it’s genuinely hard to describe how amazing the view from there was. I wish I had a picture to show it but sadly I used up my camera’s battery a few minutes before by taking a picture of Kim sat by a bin. C’est la vie!
The next day we managed to sort out the next stage of our Interrail journey at the train station. The plan had been to go on to Nice but sadly we found the train was fully booked and decided to go to Montpellier instead.
After sorting that out we headed to the Gaudi house, which was rather expensive at €8 each for etry. Still quite interesting though, especially for anyone interested in architecture. When we finished there we headed down to the Gothic quarter for some paella, which made for a good start to our attempts to eat some kind of local speciality in each country we visited.
On our final day, Kim and Ollie continued with the Gaudi theme and visited the Sagrada Familia. Old Gaudi was quite the busy architect it seems. Darren and me went to the Nou Camp instead. It was absoutely with rammed with people willing to pay the fairly extortionate €18 entry fee. The stadium tour saw you herded around the changing rooms, the stands and the manager’s dugouts. It was ok but the huge number of people doing exactly the same thing made it slightly less enjoyable.
The extensive museum at the stadium was, in my opinion, more worthwhile than the tour containing thousands of artefacts relating to Barcelona and football in general. The sheer amount of things they had on display did mean some of them were fairy irrelevant though – the box used in 1950 presidential elections at the club, for example.
Overall, I’d say a visit to the Nou Camp is only worth it if you are really into football – anyone who isn’t will just get bored senseless. And even if you are into football, I’m fairly sure watching a game at the ground (if you can manage to get tickets) would be a lot more memorable than just taking the tour.
After that, we packed our bags and headed for the train station, tickets to Montpellier in hand. Our Interrail adventure was ready to truly begin…