This is in fact the first time I have been travelling by train in Europe, except for Norway, Denmark and a single trip from Newcastle to London many years ago. I have always preferred train to bus or car, and sometimes even to plane, so it is maybe a little strange that I haven't travelled more this way. On my list was some of the cities in Europe that I have never been to before, like Prague, Budapest and Berlin. I would also very much liked to go to Italy, especially Rome, but I had to make some choices to get some more time on the places I visited, rather than rush through a lot of places and cities. And there will be more chances.
I will not write a lot about each city, you can have a look at the pics, just some words about the travel in general, the route I took and what I think about it.
Well, I started with a trip by plane though, my interrail ticket could not be used in my own country, so then I could as well start with a cheap flight to London. I have been to London some times before, but never to other places in the UK, so this time I wanted to see at least one more city on her majesty's island. My choice was Manchester. Unfortunately I have no pics from there, and I guess Manchester is not a tourist magnet, but I got what I wanted; to see one of the old industrial towns of UK, which also has its China Town. Not like the China Towns in South East Asia, in Manchester it is more some streets with basically oriental restaurants. But they call it China Town.
Then back to London and the Eurostar train to Brussels You don't get free passage with your interrail ticket on the Eurostar train, but you get a very reduced rate, the earlier you book the more reduced (I think). It is quite amazing that this trip don't last more than 2 hours.. so why on earth do someone fly from London to Brussels?
The centre of Brussels is nice to walk around in, especially the area around Grand Place with its street cafes and restaurants and beautiful old buildings. Not once did the food disappoint me, which I can't say about UK, or any other places I have visited (though most of the times I have been satisfied). One day, when I went out from the North train station, I was suddenly in what I guess is the “red light district” of Brussels I feel really bad when I see the prostitutes sitting in shop windows like some other merchandise. This way of looking at women is really disgusting, and I started wondering... this is the capitol of the European union; why is this not more discussed in a city that hosts politicians from all these countries? Or maybe a city like this need to cope with the “demands” of all the powerful men visiting the city? In my own country, in Europe and the rest of the western countries there is a lot of talk about the womens position in Islam And there is, in my opinion, a lot to criticize in this matter, but we certainly have a lot to do in our own countries. And in either Malaysia or Indonesia, big Islam countries, I found the poit of view which says that women, or women's bodies, is something you can buy or sell.
Another thing... after having seen the centres of power, the areas around the EU commission, the EU parliament and different financial institutions, it is obvious what today's “cathedrals” are made of. It is dark glass, in fact this is also the case in South East Asia. This is what symbolizes power today. And maybe there is a symbol in the fact that you can see out from these buildings, but you can't see in. What is inside is hidden for us who have no access to them. In Brussels the women for sale is highly visible in their windows, but the men (and women) with money and power is not visible.
We just know they are inside there some place.
From Brussels to Budapest
If you have bought an interrail ticket you can travel without additional charge on most trains throughout Europe, but if you want to be sure to have a seat, or if you travel on trains where seat or sleeping place is compulsory, you have to pay for the seat or couchette. It takes some time to find internet sites with reliable information about timetables and costs, but I ended up with the conclusion that the web site for Deutsche Bahn is far the best. And far better than the experts at the booking office at the main train station in Brussels I came there with a suggestion, but they managed to convince me that another route to Budapest would be far better. This “better” option included a 5 hour stop at Frankfurt Airport (I took the train to the Frankfurt Central and catched the next train from there). My next stop was Stuttgart from where they had booked me a night train to Budapest. To my surprise I discovered that this night train in fact started in Frankfurt where I had just been, and stopped in Stuttgart on the way. So from that time I used the Deutsche Bahn web site to plan my travels and did not ask anyone else for advice!
It was also a little amazing to discover that unlike most of the other long distance trains (which sometimes was just a few hours travel), this train did not have a restaurant or bistro car. The service if you were thirsty or hungry was rather poor. Maybe I also was a bit extra disappointed since this is in fact a part of the old Orient Express, and from the film of this old Agatha Christie story I know it was far better before. When I disembarked in Budapest I managed to forget my cell phone on board, I had put it for charge, so for the rest of my euro trip I experienced how life was when we did not have this thing by hand all the time. And also how stupid it is to let the phone be the only place you store numbers when you are on travel.
Well, but what about Budapest? Budapest is a wonderful city, I don't have to say more. And I have to say many thanks to Eszter, the cs'er who hosted me there, and which I managed to get in touch with even without the cell phone.
From Budapest to BerlinThe reason that I went to Berlin before Prague is that I wanted to join a festival for members of CS and similar web sites (Hospitality Club etc.), the BBC (Berlin Beach Camp). After having been there I think I might make this an annual occasion to go to Berlin. It was fun to meet all these persons, and especially the polish friends I made there. So now Poland is definitely on my “to do” list. I also got the opportunity to visit some relatives a little outside Berlin, though a short visit.
One of the things I did during the camp was to take a guided tram trip, we had two experts on trains and trams with us during our travel in the eastern parts of Berlin (there is no trams in the west part, except for one who starts in the west part and goes to the east). I also got to see and join some of the carnival which was going on in Berlin at the time. I did not see so much of the central parts of Berlin though so I am looking forward to do that some other time.
Berlin to Prague
Also a night train with rather poor service. But I had an all right sleep and arrived Prague in the morning. I had booked a hotel here since I got no response on requests on CS (the cs'ers in Prague get a lots of requests so I should have made my requests a long time ahead of my arrival). It was a little surprising to come to locked door at the small hotel, but after some calls (which had to be made from an old fashioned telephone box), it turned out to the best. Nice room and friendly owner.
I think Prague is the most beautiful city I visited. But also most crowded with tourists. Nevertheless I had a great time there, with good food in nice and small restaurants, lovely walks in narrow streets. When I needed to escape a bit from the worst of the tourist crowds I just walked over the Carl's bridge and went around in the streets on the other side. Prague is also easy to get around in, if you have a map of the city together with a map of the transport systems, it is easy to find the way. I will highly recommend the trams, they go everywhere, and you also get to see a lot from them.
From Prague to Amsterdam
Again a night train with rather poor service, though it in fact started from Prague in the late afternoon and did not arrive before late morning hours the next day. I have only been in Amsterdam once before, when I, together with a friend, drove through a part of Europe some months after I got my driving license at the age of 18.
Amsterdam is just as beautiful as I remember it. To be a big metropol it has a calm and relaxing atmosphere. Some of it reminds me of Copenhagen, and it is not only the brick stone buildings. In Copenhagen you will also find a huge number of bicycles, but Amsterdam exceeds this number by far. But just watch up so you don't walk in the bicycle lane... I can tell you that it is not appreciated!! And when you walk around in this relaxed atmosphere and look at the beautiful buildings and canals, you might suddenly find yourself in a bicycle lane – and the atmosphere is not so relaxed any more...
Amsterdam to Hamburg
Even if these trains does not take too many hours they have a good restaurant car. So this is a very pleasant way of travelling. In Hamburg I had a CS-contact, Bettina, that was to meet me at the station and that would host me. I only had a day here and Bettina took me a little around in Altona where she lives, a tour in a park and alongside the Elbe where it was possible to see both the charming river front on the Altona side, and the impressing shipyards and container harbour on the other side.
Jo Jenseg Web-album by Jo Jenseg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Norway License.