An early rise in Ljubljana saw us walking to the station to catch a bus to the Italian city of Trieste, it turned out to be the most beautiful bus ride I’d ever been on. We passed many national parks on our hour journey and passed the peak of Nanos which called for some gorgeous pictures. We arrived in Trieste by driving down coastal roads and through windy little streets, we then knew that we were in Italy amongst the hustle and bustle. The train station was right beside the sea which was stunning! We boarded our train headed for Milan ahead of schedule so we had time to make ourselves comfortable. It was then that I realised we were in a more modern country than we’d been used to – each row of seats had a table, the seats were incredibly comfy, and there were overhead monitors that showed where the train was on a map, the temperature and how long it was going to take till the next stop, amazing. For the first half an hour of the journey, we drove along coastal tracks so the view was beautiful. After a while, we began stopping in major Italian cities such as Venice, Verona and Brescia and I was getting cold-feet since I couldn’t get out and explore. Hours had passed and we arrived in gorgeous Milan where we headed to our hostel off the beaten track in the Lambrate district. We’d only orginally planned to have one night in Milan so we had to buy an extra night in this hostel (Mio Hostel – had a really nice stay).
“How do we get to Bled?“, the question I found myself asking a ridiculous amount of times within our pathetic 8 minutes stop over in Jesenice; which is the most difficult train station to get around that I’ve ever had the displeasure of visiting. The lady at the front office spoke hardly any English so I had to show her the Interrail app in order for her to help us – and her help was just pointing out of the front doors towards a bus? Now, we didn’t want a bus, we were looking for a train, but we spoke to some fellow English travellers who were as confused as us and we all gingerly got onto the bus. The journey should have taken 20 minutes…it took around an hour. We finally arrived in Bled and realised that we were atop a massive hill, with a gorgeous view admittedly, but we know that we’d have to trek down and up it again (with our giant backpacks on) to catch the bus back. We slowly descended the steep slope and sat beside the lake eating our baguettes and it started to rain…crap. We only had half an hour in Bled and most of it was spent enduring a thunderstorm! The walk back up to the bus station was hell, that’s the only way I can put it, rain pouring down on us, aching backs and legs, and being out of breath for alot of it without water. We got back on the bus after even more confusion and made our way back to Ljubljana.
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!
Image source: www.interrail.eu
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!:)