I’ve never been as happy to be in a stranger’s car before. Getting to Zagreb was a struggle to say the least. Our train from Budapest was scheduled at 5:45am meaning that we had to wake up at 3am…that didn’t happen – we overslept, massively. Thankfully there was another train at 3pm meaning that we’d get into Zagreb, exhausted, at 9pm; we just had a tedious morning of sitting in Mcdonalds to get through! We shared a cabin with 2 other English couples on our 6 hour journey, most of which Bex slept through, while I watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (now one of my favourite films). The Airbnb owner (who I’d known to be an old man named Zeijko) said that he’d kindly pick us up from the station and take us to the apartment. When we arrived in Croatia, a young (very attractive) man named Filip said that he would be taking us…so we gingerly got into his car whilst I followed our route on Google Maps. Our apartment turned out to be the nicest Airbnb we had stayed in so far, Filip had laid us out free chocolates, sweets, coffee and extra towels so we were very happy.
Country three – Hungary – and the popular tourist city of Budapest. The popularity of the city has grown since George Ezra (swoon) released his single of the same name, and I’m among the thousands who have become more curious about what the city holds. We boarded our fast train from Vienna and sat in a comfy carriage for only two and a half hours; passing some hilariously named towns, Mosonmagyaróvár was a personal fave and it was the first Hungarian stop! We arrived and headed straight to our Airbnb, the first where we had the whole place to ourselves, which was smaller than we thought but still manageable!
A few weeks earlier, I managed to book us tickets to watch the Snow White Ballet in Erkel Theatre on our first night. Beforehand, we stopped at a cafe/bar called Grand where we both had a hot dog, chips and a coke each and it totalled 1000ft (£2.68)!!! Budapest you have won on the cheap food front! We then headed to the ballet which was incredible! The bowing sequence ending the show was a little bit over-excessive….just a little…they did around 4 cast bows then another 3 individual ones. We got bored of them repeating the same thing so we left before the majority of people did – worked out well as we avoided the queues! Our first night ended with us drinking cocktails over happy hour in the Shot Bar terrace on the street. Watching the sun set over the gorgeous city was an amazing first look at what our Hungarian life held for us.
I can’t help thinking of the Ultravox classic when I think about Vienna, the gorgeous Austrian capital. For many, many years Vienna has been at the top of the ever-growing list of places I want to visit, and I finally got there! Our first full day began at St Stephen’s Cathedral which, once again, was covered in scaffolding (woo!). Upon finding out that the Archbishop of Vienna was seated in the Cathedral, we found it fitting to light a candle inside out of respect. A short walk around the corner saw us facing the Catholic Church of St Peter and its recognisable green dome. Many horses pulling carriages trundled past and I remember saying to Bex that ‘this is Vienna, this right here’ because it was so classically Viennese.
All day, I was so overwhelmed by all of the gorgeous architecture that I got so snap-happy exploring the Hofburg Palace, Austrian National Library and Maria-Theresien-Platz and my memories of the day all blur into one! Our short walk through the courtyard of the palace was particularly memorable as we passed the entrance to the infamous Spanish Riding School – the horses were stunning! We then began to walk around the Ringstrasse that encases the city centre of Vienna; you can easily see most of the landmarks by walking this road.
Our first Interrail venture led us to the capital of the Czech Republic – Prague. My parents visited Prague during the winter season 7 years ago and I’ve been dying to go ever since; but with better weather! After a very long day travelling from Sheffield to Manchester, flying to Prague and navigating the public transport (bus, metro then a tram), we finally arrived at our gorgeous Airbnb where we were greeted by a friendly purring of two gorgeous cats.
Waking up in Prague was blissfully quiet and only the whistling sound of birds could be heard out of our top floor window. A full day of exploring laid ahead so we slapped on the sun cream, grabbed the cameras and headed back onto the metro; buying some baguettes on the way.
Well! I’m glad you asked! I’d first heard of Interrailing 2 years ago when my friend Luke set off around the continent for a month or so, I fell in love with seeing his Instagram posts where he’d be in a different place every few days – goals or what!? At the age of 17, I knew it was something that I’d want to do but I didn’t have the money to do so nor the confidence, or someone to come with me. My first year at University changed both of these points. I was lucky enough to have spare money leftover from my Student Finance after paying my rent which could fund the majority of my trip, and I gained a budding travel companion in my flatmate, Bex. From here, we were set, and a lot of planning followed!
This weekend, my parents came up from Norwich to visit me in Sheffield and we took the day-trip to Matlock Bath in Derbyshire to visit the Heights of Abraham (which were closed when my parents last came to visit). The guided tours around the underground caverns were amazing!! Our guides turned off all of the lights at certain points so we could get an idea of how dark it was for the miners when they were only guided by candlelight – it’s very hard to see, let me tell you that. Even though I only live an hour away from Matlock, it’s hard to believe that I’ve never been here or expected to see views like this (especially as I come from Norwich which is basically the flattest place in England). Word of warning, you get a leg and back ache after visiting here because you have to duck down in the caves and walk up a lot of hills!
I cannot be happier to say this, I’m finally going Interrailing this year!! I’ve looked back over the years and I originally started planning an interrail trip in March 2015, little did I know that I would be taking this trip 2 years later! Myself and my flatmate Bex will be taking Eastern Europe in June for 2 weeks on the ‘5 days in 15’ pass travelling to 7 cities in 6 countries (which take a whole chunk out of my 21 before 21 challenge):
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Vienna, Austria (the place I’ve been wanting to visit most for ages!)
- Budapest, Hungary
- Zagreb, Croatia
- Ljubljana, Slovenia
- Lake Bled, Slovenia
- Milan, Italy
Some would say that we’re not doing a strict ‘backpacking’ trip as we’re choosing to stay in Airbnbs instead of hostels as I found that often Airbnbs are only a few €s expensive (and sometimes cheaper!) than the hostels and you get more privacy; we are living out of backpacks though! I feel so lucky that I can do this trip whilst I’m a University student and grateful that I’m able to travel now while I have no commitments with work or ‘adult life’; its also going to be a big ‘well done’ as we are going a few weeks after our final exams for this year so it’ll be a big weight off of our shoulders :).
If anyone has been interrailing and has any tips or you have been to any of these cities and have recommendations, I’d be very grateful if you could leave them below!:)
The first trip of the year has been booked- Dublin, Ireland. This is the first time that I set off from Manchester Airport so that’s a learning curve, it’s also the first time that Bex (my flatmate) will fly on a plane so she’s nervous but in capable hands. Flights from Manchester to Dublin were unbelievably cheap (around £35) so we’re popping over the pond for one night and staying in the Abbey Court Hostel which is gorgeously quirky and covered in graffiti (not the scummy kind).
If anyone has any recommendations for what to do during 2 days in the capital, please let me know below!
My first spontaneous trip of 2017 saw myself and my flatmate (Bex) getting a very tiring megabus to Newcastle Upon-Tyne for a night out on ‘the toon’. The girls from next door at our flat lived in Newcastle so they clued us in on the best places to go on a night out there- their top suggestion was friday night’s ‘dirty pop’ at the O2 Academy but this sadly wasn’t running. We booked ourselves into an Airbnb in Fenham (a 10 minute drive into city centre) which only set us each back £18 for the night and was cheaper than a hotel (see my review here!). Friday night saw us clambering into an uber (£5 to Fenham) clutching bottles of Bucks Fizz, downing them in the Airbnb (being careful not to blow the corks all over the house), and jumping into another uber to Collingwood Street to where all the clubs are.