Interrail Journey - January 2016 - Part 4


Interrail - Kraków 28th & 29th January

 When arriving in Kraków we managed to find a tourist information point, where we were able to book a tour of both Auschwitz and Wieliczka Salt Mine. This meant that a taxi would come and pick us up in the morning and we would be put in groups for the tour. Another fail struck throughout the night though, as I was sick from food poisoning from the pizza I had at Dominium, so I wasn’t in the best of moods to go walking for the best part of the day, never the less I went on as I really didn’t want to miss out on these experiences. That morning we were picked up by the taxi and joined our group for the tour. On the journey towards Auschwitz we were able to watch a twenty minute video on what we would expect to see there and it gave us a brief history and overview of the camp.

We arrived at Auschwitz and were put into a larger group with a guide who showed us around the camp and went over some really in depth details about the history of the various parts of the camp. It was a really cold and windy day to visit and it was also the day after the memorial anniversary day of the liberation, so the emotional atmosphere amongst the visitors there and just the eerie feeling of being in such a dreadful place took a hold of everyone there. To sum up the sights that we saw at Auschwitz would be, inhumane, horrifying and disgusting. I didn’t want to take pictures of some of the graphic nature that was there as it was quite disturbing. The tour experience was really informative though, and is exactly what the world needs to have in place for future generations to learn of what happened and to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. 

Once our tour was finished, we were picked up again by the taxi and taken to Karczma Halit, a restaurant right opposite the Wieliczka Salt Mine where we met up with our group for the tour of the mine, which were a lovely group of Scotts from Aberdeen. I was still feeling rough so didn’t have too much to eat though and missed out on some really nice Goulash and beer. Once we finished our meals we headed to the mine where we met up with our tour guide. The tour around the mine was an awesome experience with the sculptures and long winding caverns that were carved into the mines being a wonder to see as it wasn’t something that you’d normally see. 

After our tour was finished we were dropped back off to the hotel where both Jon and I were absolutely shattered and I was feeling even worse than before. We stayed in the hotel for the remainder of the night and during which, Jon also fell ill to food poisoning. This meant that the next day we didn’t get up to a lot, apart from a very slow walk to the main square and shopping centre again to try and find something to eat which wouldn’t make us sick. As we were flying back home the following day we just took it super easy as we figured we were probably exhausted from the hectic lifestyle we had been leading over the past two weeks of travelling and wanted to be in a better shape for a flight back home first thing in the morning.

Interrail - Gatwick Airport, London 30th January

After having another rough night of being ill, we had to be up early for our flight back to gatwick at 9:55 from Kraków. Luckily, I was feeling slightly better and felt ready to fly. Jon on the other hand was a day behind me on the illness so was going through how I felt during the tour of Auschwitz and the Mine, and really wasn't looking forward to the flight back home.

We made it to the airport, dropped our bags off and waited for our flight where I was gradually starting to feel a lot more better, the same couldn't be said for Jon though. The flight, which I luckily managed to nap most of it off, went by quite fast and we were soon landing at Gatwick. Jon was feeling even worse and couldn't wait to get home. The good thing for him was the fact that Gatwick wasn't too far from Brighton, where as I had the great journey ahead of me of going through to London Victoria, hopping on the tube to take me to Kings Cross, waiting two hours for a direct train back to Hull and then a three or so hour long train ride back home. I made it back home around 7PM where I crashed and began my recovery from the exhaustion of the trip and food poisoning.

As I write this now, its great to look back on the trip and write all of these posts while looking back on what we did during our two week journey. We met some interesting people, tasted all kinds of foods from different cultures, saw some amazing sights and had a great laugh whilst experiencing it all. I can't recommend Interrail enough if you're looking for an adventure whilst on a budget. We didn't spend too much, In fact a lot less than we would have spent if we were to have booked two weeks at an all inclusive resort. We enjoyed it so much that we plan on doing a trip again in the future to experience more of Europe. Roll on the next adventure!

Interrail Journey - January 2016 - Part 3


Interrail - Budapest 25th January
 Whilst in Bratislava we decided to look up some things to do during our stay in Budapest so that we were prepared and hopefully didn’t have the same bad luck with places and attractions being closed during our stay. One of the main attractions for us on the list of things to do on tripadvisor was the Celeritas Shooting Range. For a small deposit and then another payment once we arrived, we were able to book a package at the range which included shooting a wide range of guns. The package that we chose, The Greatest Hits, included:
  1. Ruger Mk III (10 shots)
  2. Walther PPK (7 shots)
  3. Browning HP (12 shots)
  4. Glock 17 (12 shots)
  5. Smith & Wesson 18 (6 shots)
  6. Taurus 85 (6 shots)
  7. Smith & Wesson 28 (6 shots)
  8. Smith & Wesson 629 (5 shots)
  • Uzi (10 shots)
  • Colt M16A1 (10 shots)
  • Kalashnikov (10 shots)
  • Remington 870 (5 shots)
The shooting was a great adrenaline rush experience and the instructors made us feel completely safe in the surroundings with a quick instructional video on gun control and proper usage as well as demonstrations with the guns before we went on to use them ourselves. Both Jon and myself had an awesome time during our two hour session and would recommend it to anyone looking for an adrenaline fuelled experience! My favourites were the Uzi and M16, I guess all those years on Call of Duty finally paid off, ha! 

Later in the evening we met up with a friend of a friend, Yasmin, which I had done some freelance work for in the past, who now works in Budapest, so we figured it would be a great opportunity to catch up with her and she could also show us some parts of the city that we would otherwise have not known about. We ended up at an area of the city which had pubs known as Ruin Bars, these were all old abandoned factories and disused buildings which had been converted into bars, pubs, cinemas and social hubs for nightlife in the city. The atmosphere was really interesting and felt quite underground and undiscovered, like we were in a part of the city that no one knew about, though it was a huge tourist attraction. After a few drinks we called it a night and headed back to the hotel after picking up what both Jon and I can only describe as the best kebab from a take away that we’ve ever had! 

Interrail - Budapest 26th January

After quite an action packed day of shooting guns and seeing the nightlife of Budapest’s Ruin Bars, we decided to see what the city had to offer during the day so we did the typical tourist thing and hopped on a Big Bus Tour of the city. For €20 you get to see all the major sights of the city in comfort and you get an audio guide which explains the surroundings in a language of your choice. You can also hop on and off the bus at any of the stops if you want to visit an attraction or sight, as the buses run every 30 minutes and you can hop back on as long as you keep your ticket. We hopped off at Heroes square where we ventured down to see the huge Outdoor Ice Rink at the City Park. We figured it was wise not to venture onto the ice ourselves though, as our travel insurance didn’t cover extreme activities and knowing our luck so far on our trip, we’d probably break an ankle. 

Our best efforts for safety and no more fails were soon shot down in flames though as we searched for the Terror museum and found that it was closed for renovations until February. Determined not to have another day of fails, we ventured towards the Royal Palace which had a long walk up sloping steps to get to. Jon figured it would be a good idea to head up the hillside which was probably around a 60-70 degree angle, on a wet and damp day. He made it about a quarter of the way up and then realised it was a bad idea. You can probably already gather what happened next. I stood watching him as he tried to navigate back down to the path, where he ran into a tree. I was in hysterics as he gained momentum and sped past the path that I was on and carried on down towards the next hill where he swayed left and right all the way down until he fell flat on his side. Completely in stitches with laughing, I stood watching him make his way back to me on the steps, where we both cried out laughing. It was safe to say that he was no longer in any fit shape to walk around a museum as armed guards walked past us with disgruntled looks. We figured it would be best to head back to the hotel, clean up and give it up as a bad job.

After the hilarious process of watching Jon try to clean his jacket and jeans in the shower and then realising that he had no means of drying them, we headed back out to the city to grab some food before turning in for the night. We ended up at a Pointer Pub which had been recommended to us by Yasmin the night before. We both got the three course traditional Hungarian meal which included Goulash soup, Chicken Paprikash and Pancakes with Chocolate and Orange for €8 each and what an absolute bargain it was at that ridiculously low price as it was delicious!


Interrail - Kraków 27th January

We were up early to catch the 8:23 train from Keleti Station towards our final destination, Kraków, Poland. This was the train journey that we were dreading on doing the most as it was roughly a ten hour journey from Budapest to Kraków by train. The train looked like it should have been decommissioned long ago with seats grafted and doors that looked like they were about to fall apart, not to mention the windows that were so dirty that we could hardly look out on the views of the landscape that past us by. It was going to be a long ten hours. Luckily we had our phones charged, Jon had music and films downloaded while I had three books and music also to help us through the long trek.

After six hours on the train we had arrived at Ostrava Station, Czech Republic where the train came to a halt and armed police came on board to check everyones passports and performed a thorough search of the carriages, presumably for stowaways with the situation of the refugee crisis. While we were waiting for the train to depart again we noticed a hauling train arrive at the station next to us, filled with Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and Fiats cars. It was like nothing we’d ever seen before, the train seemed to go on for as far as the eye could see, packed with various car models. After a long wait at the station due to a train ahead of us that had broken down, we finally got back on our way towards Katowice, where we had to change trains and jump on another two hour or so long journey, which would take us to Kraków. 

Finally, we were in Kraków and we made our way towards our hotel and Jon managed to find a laundrette to drop his mud riddled clothes off at, which would be ready to pick up later on in the evening. Absolutely shattered from the long journey, we decided to check out the main square and grab some food and drinks from a nearby restaurant, Dominium Pizza and then onto Hard Rock where we spent the remainder of the night. 

Interrail Journey - January 2016 - Part 2


Interrail - Bratislava 21st & 22nd January
 A short hour or so long train ride from Vienna took us to our next destination, Bratislava, Slovakia. With getting off of the train and going through the station it felt like we had walked through a timewarp and somehow ended up in the 1980′s. Advertisements, architecture, style and surroundings seemed very communist/soviet era. We set about finding our place to stay and after an hour long search which took us through some back streets which looked like the location of a safe house Jason Bourne would have visited whilst on the run, we had arrived at our hotel.

After dropping our bags off at the hotel we took a look around at what we thought was a parade of shops leading towards a city centre, until we asked some people where the city centre was and they told us it was right where we were. Not a good start to Bratislava. It was redeemed slightly by a restaurant that we found down the road from our hotel called Pulitzer, where we both had some of the best rack of ribs that we’ve ever had! 

The following day we looked at some things to do around the city on tripadvisor, most of which we had unknowingly visited during our wander around the city, as surprisingly the top things on the list for Bratislava were sight seeing attractions such as statues and buildings around the centre. With this in mind we decided to head out to an old war time bunker on the outskirts of the city. So we walked and walked, and walked some more towards this bunker where we got lost, had to walk across railroad tracks where there was a grave, went through an industrial estate, past a run down area of the city and ended up asking for directions off of a bus driver who spoke no English. Two or so hours later, we found the bunker in the middle of no where. It was closed, despite the website on tripadvisor for it displaying that it was open. All hope was lost as we embarked on our way back towards the city.

On our way back towards the city we hopped on a bus, there was no option to buy a ticket at the bus stop or on the bus itself so we stood there nervously waiting for an inspector to come onto the bus and throw us off. We drove past two inspectors, though luckily enough for us they didn’t jump on, soon after we jumped off as we knew we were near the city and walked the rest of the way. After walking for 17km, riding a bus without a ticket and navigating our way back to the city centre we figured a wheat beer or two was well earned. 

Interrail - Bratislava 23rd January

After a complete fail of a day of trying to find an old war time bunker, Jon and I figured it would be best if we had a reasonably chilled last day in Bratislava before heading onto our next destination, Budapest, Hungary. We figured a trip to the castle just around the corner from our hotel would be a good idea as it was snowing and we could go inside for most of the day. 

We got to the castle and it was closed. Again, we had checked tripadvisor before going and it said nothing about being closed for the season. We took a few pictures of the surrounding area and decided to give up the day (as well as this destination) as a bad job.

Seeing as everything we had planned to do in Bratislava had turned out a complete fail we decided to head towards the one place where we knew nothing could go wrong, the pub. Firstly, we picked up a cigar from a local cigar shop and headed to a café where we could smoke inside while having a quick snack and a beer. After staying there a few hours before heading to the pub for our dinner, we ended up at a Scottish pub called The Loch Ness, where I had the biggest burger I’ve ever eaten. A three meat burger along with some home made fries, I nursed a food baby for the next 24 hours. We spent the rest of the evening at an Irish pub next door but one from The Loch Ness and decided to give up hope on Bratislava and just look forward to Budapest in the morning.

Interrail - Budapest 24th January

Moving swiftly on from Bratislava, where we seemed to have one fail after another, we arrived at Budapest! The journey to Budapest was filled with really interesting views of sloping landscapes that were filled with houses nestled in the hills. After arriving in Keleti Station we spent around an hour wondering the streets as we went in the general direction of our hotel. The roads in central Europe seem to be a free for all as pedestrian crossings may be at green to cross but cars can still drive through them if no one is crossing, so at times we had to make mad dashes across and hope for the best! 

Having found our hotel and dropped our bags off we set out to the city in the evening to familiarise ourselves with our surroundings and grab some street food. Firstly, we ended up finding an awesome waffle shop on a street corner which sold waffles with all kinds of different toppings. We stuck with what we knew and went with the Nutella waffles which were to die for. Then we ended up finding a stand which sold all kinds of meats and warm drinks, where we grabbed some mulled wine to warm us up for the walk back towards the hotel where we took a few pictures of the bridges that linked Buda with Pest.

Interrail Journey - January 2016 - Part 1


On January 15th my friend Jon and I set out on our Interrail journey across five European countries for two weeks. We came back home on the 30th and after some recovery from sickness and some much needed relaxation, it’s time to blog about it all!
I’ll be putting up pictures, videos and stories from our experiences in each country in the following blog posts.

Interrail - Germany 15th & 16th January

We flew out from Gatwick, London at 17:55 and arrived at Munich, Germany at around 22:30, as it was delayed due to heavy snow. From there we had to travel by train from one end of Munich to the other to get to our hotel in St. Quirin-Platz, which we didn’t arrive at until around 01:00. The metro system and station architecture were really clean, modern and really well laid out and easy to understand for us non-German speakers.

The morning after, we went to Marienplatz, where we signed up for two tours; the walking tour of Munich and then a beer tour at Paulaner Brähaus. The walking tour was held by a guy called Jürgen and lead us through the streets of Munich where we saw some awesome architecture, the main shopping area and various sight seeing locations. Our tour didn’t last too long as it was really cold and wet. 

Naturally, Hofbräuhuas, the beer hall seemed like the best place to keep us out of the harsh weather, so after sampling some local street food, which was so good that I went back for seconds and thirds at the stall of a nearby market, we headed there and tried out our first stein of beer. It didn’t disappoint. The hall was filled with people at lunch time. Tables lined the hall, each filled with ten or so people as a traditional band played in the centre, the atmosphere was amazing. 

We later headed back to the meeting point for our beer tour where we were grouped with eight other people. On the tour we got to see how the beer was made, taste the various ingredients and the beer straight from the barrels in the cellars. The tour lead us back to Hofbräuhaus where we were seated and our guide, Jürgen left us. There we went on to order steins and food. I went with the Beef Goulash which was great. 

Sitting with us in our tour group were four Americans, two Canadians and two Israelis. The conversations we had about our different backgrounds and cultures were great and a massive eye-opener for me. After lots of food and drink, some of the group had decided to turn in for the night, two of the Americans wanted to stay out for drinks, as did we, so we joined them and went to Hard Rock which was just across the road. We stayed there til late on watching American football and chatted about life. The experience so far really set up the trip in good spirit for Jon and I, as we had a great first full day in Munich.

Interrail - Germany 17th & 18th January

From having a great first full day in Munich we kept the ball rolling with a trip to the BMW museum and Olympic Park. The BMW museum was a great experience, showcasing the full history of the manufacturer with cars, boats, engines, equipment and new concepts. Within walking distance was the Olympic Park, sadly though it all seemed shut, most probably due to it being out of season, apart from the swimming pool, where locals were making use of its facilities. We imagined that it would have been a great sight during the summer though as the grounds were quite impressive.

After a full morning at the museum and park, we headed back to Marienplatz where we grabbed some more street food and headed to a traditional cigar and tobacco shop that we had seen the day before. The shop, Pfeifen Huber, was like nothing I’d seen before as I don’t smoke. It was really classy and had a sense of tradition and respect about it as we walked through the door. We soon found ourselves purchasing cigars to accompany our steins for later in the evening. It was an interesting experience, having a stein with cigar in hand - one that took some getting used to as we both found it hilarious. 

Later in the evening we headed back to Hard Rock as we knew the atmosphere there was good and we wanted to try some of the food that was on offer. I played it safe though with a Cheese & Bacon burger and stein. Shortly after our food, we found ourselves talking with a group of three Nigerian, South African and German men who went on to tell us about their backgrounds and life experiences. It was all a bit surreal. We knew we had to be up early to catch the train to our next stop, Vienna in the morning though so we cut the night short and headed back to our hotel to pack.

The following morning we headed out to the central station and found our train fairly easy. We jumped on an ÖBB Railjet which set us on our way towards Vienna. The four hour journey took us across some really stunning landscapes with rolling hills in the distance and fields that seemed to go on for miles. It was like something out of a movie to go through as the landscape wasn’t like anything I’d witnessed before.

Interrail - Vienna 19th & 20th January

From arriving in Vienna, we took the opportunity to go sight seeing in the evening as we’d both been told that we’d see some great sights in Vienna, we weren’t disappointed. All the buildings were dramatically lit and the main shopping area had all kinds of high class jewellery and clothing in shop windows for high prices. 

For our first full day in Vienna, we headed to the Jewish museum in the old Jewish quarter of the city. It was a really informative and quite shocking experience, as I didn’t realise how much the Jewish community still suffered post war time in many countries. One of the installations that struck me was the ‘Light Is What We See’ piece by Brigitte Kowanz. Later, I found a place for us to eat on tripadvisor and after a wild goose chase around the city we eventually found the restaurant, Skopik & Lohn. What I didn’t realise though, was that it was a white waiter restaurant with silver service. We expected our food bill to be sky high, though we were pleasantly surprised as it was quite reasonable and the food was delicious! I had Lamb shanks, though my side of steamed vegetables was brought out as a starter. Perhaps the language barrier had me order it wrong? You live and learn!

The next day we headed to Madame Tussauds, where we saw the likes of Obama, Freud, Michael Jackson and of course Julie Andrews on a backdrop ofThe Sound of Music which was shot in Austria. Some of the sculptures were so lifelike that if you stood next to them for a certain amount of time without moving or blinking you would expect them to just start moving. Later in the day we hopped on a Big Bus Tour of the city to see the sights in the day time this time around. The architecture around the city was super striking and reminiscent of Roman and Greek structures with large archways and pillars.

Later we found ourselves along the Danube canal where a whole host of graffiti art stretched along the banks. There was some really great sights and I spotted a few pieces by Nychos though sadly my phone died by this point. Gutted! With a dead phone, most of the city seen and a bag to pack before heading onto our next destination the following day, we decided to grab some food from a Champions diner in the city centre before heading back to the hotel. 

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