Interrail2

InterRailing is one of those rites of passages I felt I needed to go through when I finished school. After endless pieces of coursework and stressful IB exams I was excited for my 26 day InterRail trip that I and 4 other of my friends had spent countless days planning. Looking back on it now I wish we hadn’t planned so much but at the time we had meticulously looked through TripAdvisor reviews of hostels and learned the hostelword.com website inside out.

Carpe that effing Diem please.

We started the trip with a festival and closed the trip with another festival. This was a rookie error. In between we meandered our way through the commonly visited European capitals (Amsterdam, Berlin) and finally catapulted into Spain, still in one piece with a couple of bruises and a pair of burnt boobs. At the time I was 17, when my other friends were 18, so as the baby of the group we tried on several occasions to get into 18+ venues with the excuse that I had forgotten my ID at home. I really did think it would work, surely if the people I’m with are all 18 then bouncers would believe I was too? How wrong I was.

Interrail1
Photo: Roland (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0

Here is a small selection of the countless tales I look back on fondly from the InterRail trip I took in 2012: what went right and what went oh so terribly wrong. Most of my trip it was just two of us. We had started off as 5 but we all wanted to visit different places (and Europe is bigger than you think) so we split for a week before reconvening in Spain.

Where we went right

Nice, France
Feeling the need to be a little pretentious as well as being slightly scared as it was just two of us we picked one of our destinations to be Nice. Notorious for being posh, the beautiful sea-side town was exactly the break we needed after a hectic week in Amsterdam and Berlin. (Especially after a whole load of tears were shed in our Berlin hostel over the lack of university places…) Beautiful city, amazing food. Yet, this was an economic mistake for the hostel was ludicrously expensive. That said, if you happen to have friends who have family homes where you can crash and live the (pseudo-)high life then I highly recommend it.

Salou, Spain
A pretty random choice but we spent a week in Spain and after the nights in Barcelona and in preparation for 24-hour rave festival, Monegros, Salou was the place to be. It is, to be fair, only a boat ride away from Ibiza if you’re feeling cheeky and want to spend the night there. We tittie-tanned and had a careful regime of sun lotion to maximise our tanning opportunity. The sunrise and sunset views were breathless and the cerveza was cheap and cheerful

St Christopher’s Inn Hostel in Berlin
My friend who I was travelling with at the time her boyfriend had recommended St Christopher’s in Amsterdam. So we booked it in Berlin as well (I told you it was an over-planned trip) and yes it was a great choice. The currywurst was divine and its sincere nature as a backpacker’s hostel made the stay even better. So sincere in fact, that we bumped into “Eddie Vedder”. He wasn’t’ really the lead singer of Pearl Jam, just looked incredibly like him hence why he was assigned this nickname. Eddie was in fact a fellow traveller who we’d met at the previous St Christopher’s Inn. He and my friend had exchanged a drunken kiss and she was desperately trying to avoid him. Great minds think alike…

Where we went wrong

A 12 bed dorm is too much
It is never a good idea to sleep in a 12 bed dorm. The price was tempting and we did think we’d landed the deal of century. But trust me it’s not good. The location was brilliant, with the hostel located on a street off the famous Las Ramblas in Barcelona, who could ask for more, really? Wrong. Don’t be fooled by a cheap price, especially if it’s considerably cheaper than the competition. We had booked an all female dorm hoping it would be filled with like-minded young travelling girls like us. Wrong again. There was an older lady in the dorm with us who tirelessly complained about the racket we were making. Alongside that, we hadn’t imagined one of the fellow dorm members would think of bringing a guest into an already crammed room, but she did. And there’s only so many times you can hear the phrase “Scotty let’s spoon” in a rather annoying accent and feverishly high pitched cry at 4am before wanting to implode. She had a guest over and clearly was keen to spoon.

Beware who you sit next to when travelling, they could make your trip enjoyable or a hell of a lot worse…
We were travelling from Brussels to Amsterdam. This was our first train ride using the magical InterRail pass after attending the Rock Werchter festival so we were exhausted but exhilarated at the thought of our first destination, and what better than to start with Amsterdam? We boarded the train looking like turtles, backpack and all. In our compartment was a lovely American police officer. She was pretty badass, and I for one felt “safer”. I get scared very easily. 30 minutes into the train ride, lo and behold, we hear some screaming in what I assumed was Dutch. There were 3 people stood outside our carriage compartment ferociously arguing. At this point I was close to tears and my 4 friends who were with me at the time trying to soothe my unwarranted anxiety were quickly belittled by the police officer who was perpetuating my stress by explaning that because one of the men had a teardrop tattoed next to his eye it must have meant he had been involved in a murder. Cheers officer, that really helped the anxiety…

Don’t make your first stop on the trip a festival

You know the famous post- festival blues that settle in on a tired and weary music fan once  the glitter and fun of a festival is over? Surely wouldn’t want that to taint the start of your holiday? Not to mention that lacking sleep is not an ideal way to begin! InterRailling deserves to be begun with all your energy levels stocked up!

Don’t book in advance, it’s not worth it.
Carpe the effing Diem please; live a little!

What we learnt

Do as much of Spain as possible, the food is cheap, the cities are vibrant and the beaches beautiful. Trust the advice of those who’ve done it before; they’ve been there, done that and they know what it’s like. Don’t bother with online reviews. Travel with someone who balances you out. If you are like me and do get a little over-stressed when travelling, then make sure your travelling companion is somewhat calmer. (And vice versa.) Also tourist food deals are sometimes really good value for money, particularly in Barcelona, because who are we kidding no one really knows what very good paella is meant to taste like, and the budget one can be just as great to a tired tourist!

Cover Photo: mkruesselmann (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

  • mm

    Francesca Monticelli is currently doing a Masters in Public Health at KCL. She graduated with a BSc in Biomedical Sciences from UCL and worked in PR for a bit. She is interested in health policy, popular science and food. She is Italian, from Rome and you can follow her on Twitter: @franmonticelli

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