Ten days, one mission
By Laura Peacock
Ten days and one mission – see as much of Europe for as cheap as possible! This is what I and two friends set out to do. We decided the easiest way of doing this would be by getting an InterRail pass, which allowed us to travel in five countries within ten days. After discussing several countries we wanted to visit we then had to decide on a route – harder than it sounds when you’re taking into account overnight trains.
But eventually we had made a plan that included everywhere we wished to go, and a sensible way of getting around.
We made it to Berlin in one piece and checked into our hostel for three nights. The next day we were ready to start the sightseeing and after a continental breakfast, we did the free tour of the city centre we’d seen advertised.
Three and a half hours later we were very glad we’d taken this opportunity and I recommend it highly. Points of interest we were shown included the Bradenburg Gate, Berlin Wall, and Berliner Dom.
After testing our German and coming up with “nicht gestanden”, we set off in search of the Holocaust Memorial. Built in 2005, it is an area of 2,711 concrete blocks of various sizes which can be walked through from all sides, letting visitors choose their own way in and out of the complex. In the afternoon we visited the Reichstag, where you could enjoy a unique panorama of the capital.
We hit a few problems trying to navigate the train system using the metro map but after some helpful locals led us to the right place we caught the train to the East Side Gallery. The paintings at the East Side Gallery, a 1.3km stretch of the remaining Berlin wall, document the time of change and was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
Prague, Czech Republic
It was then time to catch the train to Prague. We had our own carriage, which was much like riding the Hogwarts Express!
We were staying in a hostel with a shared kitchen, which made eating on a budget much easier.
We took advantage of the free tour in Prague which turned out to be less informative than the one in Berlin but still worthwhile, showing us all the basic sights.
Highlights included seeing a severed arm hanging in a church! There were a number of tourist attractions in Prague that we avoided purely because of the cost. It would definitely be worthwhile going back in the future with a bit more money to spend.
Later in the day we hired bikes and rode along the River Vltava which was a good way to see a lot of the city in a short space of time. Next up, Vienna!
For the next few nights we would be staying in Vienna City Hostel, a small but well-kept hostel in the centre. Vienna proved to be an expensive city both to live and sightsee in. Most of our time here was spent walking around the beautiful buildings and visiting the cathedral. We also visited the Vien Museum which is free on Sundays.
Salzburg was the place where we were most foolish with our tiny budget.
We decided to do the Sound of Music Tour, a four hour coach trip visiting the main sites where the movie had been filmed. As someone who hates coaches and musicals to say I was not looking forward to this trip – for 33 Euros – would be an understatement.
Even by the low standards I had imagined, the tour was pretty poor value for money.
However Salzburg was not a complete let down, we did get to see some lovely parts of the city and take in some beautiful views.
Finding a cheap hostel in Venice was a struggle, however after some searching we managed to find A Venice Fish – a small hostel in the centre that served home cooked meals in the evenings. To describe Venice as a picturesque city would be an injustice – it is unlike any other place in Europe.
The city stretches across 117 small islands and is connected by 409 bridges. One of the main tourist attractions is the Basilica of San Marco, decorated inside with marble and colourful mosaics.
Another tourist pastime is catching a ride on a Gondola. To save money it’s a good idea to join with other people looking for a trip where possible, as the price charged is per gondola (80 Euros for us) as opposed to per person. We attempted to haggle after being told this is normal procedure, but the owners were not prepared to budge on the price.
After two nights in Venice it was time to travel to Zadar on another overnight train.
The last stop on our visit was chosen primarily for its beach location. Zadar is a city in Croatia on the Adriatic Sea. Paying for a bed on the overnight train was definitely worth it, although it’s good to bear in mind the borders you will be crossing throughout the night.
Passport Control come on board and check your documents – potentially disturbing a good night’s sleep! Watermelon and inflatables were bought on the beach and we spent three lazy days soaking up the sun.
Before we knew it, we were back at the airport and ready to fly back into London.
We had a really fun trip and probably wouldn’t change much if we were to repeat the experience – apart from possibly skipping the Sound of Music tour!