A ping pong bar, the best collection of art I’ve ever seen and lounging in a beautiful park with no company save for a few wandering peacocks. There is no way to sum up the two wonderful weeks I spent inter-railing through Eastern Europe last summer. After much debate my friends and I decided to for-go the traditional girls’ holiday to some sweltering Greek island in favour of a well-rounded and action packed whirl round the best of Europe’s cities. We disembarked in Amsterdam on a sunny Tuesday morning full of anticipation and eager to explore. The fairy-tale city (it really does feel like an invention of Walt Disney’s) is a strange dichotomy of hedonism and highbrow culture and we sampled both. Amsterdam was possibly my favourite stop on my travels purely due to the Rijksmuseum. The newly renovated gallery contains an absolutely stunning display of art through the ages – obviously its collection of the Old Dutch masters is second to none, crammed full of De Hooch and Vermeer, I could have spent all day there. A morning of galleries gave us awful museum feet so relaxing on the Vondlepark was much needed relief. If you think Hyde Park is idyllic the Vondlepark is on another level- vast green lawns broken up by glistening ponds and the occasional jogger is a haven in the middle of the city.
I was hesitant to leave Holland after such a short space of time but Berlin beckoned and upon arrival it became apparent that we could not have chosen anywhere more different. Sprawling, hectic and industrial Berlin is huge and the mother ship of everything ‘alternative’. I saw the endless museums and tourist spots but also stumbled across the Modern Art Museum of Berlin tucked away near check point Charlie- a real hidden gem. As well as culture Berlin has the best nightlife in Europe (I think so anyway) and the former factory club Tresor does in no way disappoint. What is essentially a dungeon with red mood lighting offers to locals and tourists a-like an unforgettable night of heavy techno and smoke filled warehouses – emerging at six am to a city full of commuters was one of the more surreal moments of our eurotrip. Nine am yoga on the roof the following day helped to balance my mind and ease the exhaustion that comes with travelling and staying in hostels.
Another eight hour train journey followed and we covered Prague and Budapest in six days. Scraping the surface of two fascinating cities with baffling metro systems only increased my appetite for exploring European countries. The free walking tour of Prague was invaluable and the bustling street markets on the Charles VI Bridge sold endless eye-catching trinkets. Like Berlin, Prague prides itself on its growing club culture, and the five story club with an ice bar at the top is drawing international attention as a must go to venue. The city is walkable and so welcoming (with very student friendly prices) well worth a visit! After only one night in Budapest I hopped on the plane home with the knowledge that I had packed a ridiculous amount into two weeks and the desire to return again soon and go even further afield. Inter-railing is a cheap, exhilarating and unique way to experience a country and I recommend it to anyone. Europe can be easily over looked but with increasing ease of access there is no reason not to hop on a train and go explore a different culture on a shoe string budget.
words and photos by Claudia Forsyth