Back on track: my return to Interrailing 30 years on

Dixe Wills repeats his teenage Interrail odyssey, at a more leisurely pace this time, pausing to reflect on the unique opportunity the 31-country pass offers

Ah, the Interrail experience. How many of us have cherished memories of zipping inexpensively across Europe delving into new and thrillingly esoteric cultures, befriending the locals, mangling their language beyond all comprehension, and enjoying all manner of mind-broadening episodes that simply wouldnt have happened in Blighty? Anyone who has known me for more than 15 minutes will have heard my story of the older gentleman in a Copenhagen cemetery who collapsed into uncontrollable fits of laughter when I asked him if he could direct me to the grave of Sren Kierkegaard (pretentious, moi?). Youve come looking for Kierkegaard, he managed to splutter, at the wrong kierkegaard.

Europe and Moor from 1974, Morocco was part of the Interrail family for a couple of decades


100+ DFY Websites, Pages, Ecom Stores And Blogs!

DFY Hero is a set of 100+ Done For You Battle-Tested And Proven-To-Convert Stunning Websites, Sales Pages, Squeeze Pages, Ecom Stores And Blogs.


Complete Facebook Marketing Suite

TEN Traffic Apps For The Price Of ONE - Create A Flood Of Leads & Sales For Your Offers AND For Your Clients


FREE Roku TV Channel Development

For NON Profit Organizations !


Those Danes, eh? Still, it means Ive never forgotten the Danish word for churchyard, a linguistic nugget I just know will come in handy one day.

Or theres the New Years Eve I spent sitting with my hosts around a less-than-perfectly-tuned television in a flat in Athens watching the Serbian version of Hootenanny. For four hours. With no sub-titles. If youve never had the pleasure, I can tell you that it involves a lot of childrens choirs and glitter.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about these two Interrail-enabled events is that they happened nearly 30 years apart. The first when I was a young tyro cutting my peripatetic teeth; the latter just 18 months ago, when a confirmed flounderer in the murky depths of middle age. And while the earlier trip was inspired by the affordability of the ticket, the latter came about because of a decision to do my pennorth for the environment by not flying.

Apparently, Im not alone in this. Research carried out by Eurail the company that administers Interrail reveals that, for their customers, sustainability is more and more influential in their decision process, especially in the north European countries. And if, like me, youre fortunate enough to have the time to go leisurely to your destination (Im an author: the only thing were famously rich in is time), youll find that far from being some sort of hair-shirt sacrifice, a trip across Europe by rail is one of the wonders of modern life.

The writers second Interrail route

Like other European institutions, such as the EU and Eurovision, the Interrail pass was born in part out of idealism. The International Union of Railways (UIC) launched it in 1972 to make it affordable for young Europeans to discover their own continent. Or at least the western half of it. Of the then 21 countries involved, only two Hungary and East Germany were behind the Iron Curtain; though non-aligned Yugoslavia also took part, and even Morocco was part of the Interrail family for a couple of decades. The ticket was only meant to be on sale for a year, to celebrate the UICs 50th anniversary. However, the scheme proved such a success, with more than 85,000 European youngsters taking up the offer, that its been going ever since. And they truly were youngsters in those days: at 22 you were too long in the tooth to qualify.


First-of-its-kind "Mobile First" Site Builder

Quickly Build The Fastest Websites On The Internet That Are Virtually Guaranteed To Land You Higher In Google Search Results!


100% fully automated E-book maker 

INSTANTLY create professional  E-book's , Reports, Guides, Lead Magnets, Whitepapers, and digital info-products AUTOMATICALLY, and “ON-DEMAND”… at a push of a button!


FREE Roku TV Channel Development

For NON Profit Organizations !


That all changed in the 1990s when a range of all-age Interrail passes was introduced and the number of participating countries increased to 31. Theyre a little more expensive than their equivalent youth versions , but you still dont have to travel far before they start saving you money and children go free up to the age of 11. When my most recent ticket came through the post (a pleasing nod to a less frantic pre-internet world) Id be lying to say it didnt give me a little frisson of anticipatory delight. How often do you get the freedom to flit about where you like in 31 countries?

Classic tracks old Norwegian Interrail posters

I began my more recent Interrail jaunt in Montreux, Switzerland, with a ticket that granted me seven days of rail travel within a month (journeys can be started and finished anywhere in Europe). A first ever visit to Greece was long overdue but, when planning my trip, I realised I was painfully ignorant about much of Eastern Europe too. After much poring over of maps and timetables, I made for Hungary (via Venice and Ljubljana), then Romania and Bulgaria before finally reaching Greece, to explore Thessaloniki, Athens and the island of Paros. Thus, not only did I see a good slice of Greek countryside from the train I can particularly recommend the scenery between Thessaloniki and Athens I was able to sample several other countries along the way.

I was really quite smitten by Budapest and made a mental note to return. Those medieval buildings! The friendly people! The island in the middle of the Danube where I plodded around the shoreline running track! (Its a crying shame about the nations leaders, but no Briton can throw stones on that score at present.) By contrast, I now know that Bucharest is not for me. Apologies to fans of the Romanian capital, but although I stayed with a wonderful young couple, I found their home city a representation in concrete of a long, sad and weary sigh.

End of the line the writer travelled overland all the way to the Greek island of Paros. Photograph: Poike/Getty Images

My introduction to Bulgaria came with a change of trains just over the border at Ruse. The fantastically Stalinist station looked heroically bleak as the wind whipped wet snow across its mighty platforms. A monolith that now serves barely a handful of trains a day, it made for a sober illustration of the nations difficulties in sloughing off the Soviet years.

By contrast, my fondest memories of Athens are of the long, happy hours hanging out in old squares and ruins with their legions of genial semi-feral cats.

I still had enough days left on my pass to take a ferry over to Bari (there was a nominal fee some ferries are free with the Interrail pass, others are discounted) and sail gracefully back to northern Italy.

It was quite a contrast to my first Interrail experience in 1988. Back then, I had no choice but to purchase the month-long use-every-day ticket even though I could only get a fortnight off work (nowadays the passes range from short, one-country trips to three-month odysseys). Before I left, the sum of my first-hand knowledge of Europe amounted to a weeks family holiday in Italy and a day-trip to Boulogne, so I was keen to see as much of the continent as possible. This desire, allied to the fact that my menial office job wages afforded me the slenderest of budgets (5 a day, if memory serves), meant even hostels were an indulgence. I therefore slept on a train or at least remained slumped half-dazed in a seat every single night but the first, when a friend living in Aix-en-Provence put me up.

Budapest and the Danube. Photograph: Tanatat Pongphibool/Getty Images


Recommended For You

2019 DFY Rebranding

2019 DFY Rebranding

Videtar Pro Annual

Videtar Pro Annual

PointRank Elite - Page #1 Rankings In Min, Leverage AUTOMATED Live Events

Get Page #1 Rankings In MINUTES Without Backlinks, Video Creation OR ANY SEO Knowledge.


I travelled alone, unable to find anyone else who fancied spending two weeks of October living like an indigent outlaw on the run. Looking back on it now, my itinerary was the work of a maniac. After Aix, the remaining 13 days of my schedule read MarseillesFlorenceViennaBregenzZurichCologneCopenhagenStockholmTurkuHelsinkiOulu (further north in Finland than anyone would really want to go)TurkuStockholmOsloBergenOsloCopenhagenDsseldorfParisCalaisDoverLondon. I seem to recall doing Bergen to London almost non-stop, getting home just in time to rock up zombie-like for work the next morning.

I couldnt replicate that journey today, even if my body could take that much sleep deprivation, because so many of the night trains I used have been discontinued, victims of the absurd cheapness of short-haul flights, their prices kept artificially low by global anti-taxation measures drawn up 75 years ago to boost the then fledgling airline industry.

I recently found the journal I kept of that journey. Juvenilia is by definition embarrassing it includes such scintillating revelations as Amiens cathedral is very big but its evident that the trip did broaden my horizons. Although I never went to art college, as one note written after seeing Oslos Vigeland statues promised me I would, within six months Id resigned from the menial office job and eventually ended up living in Guatemala, working in human rights (the ending of the countrys 36-year civil war coincided with my sojourn but I try not to take all the credit).

Although Interrailing remains a pursuit associated with youth, last year just over a third of the 300,000-odd passes sold were snapped up by people over 27 (the current youth ticket limit). And those any-age sales were up 6% on the year before, perhaps partly driven by those travellers who no longer want to fly.

Nobody would pretend that it isnt a more expensive option than jumping on a plane, but it does become a real competitor to flying in summer, when flight prices soar. And taking the train across Europe instead not only spares the planet, it can be mind-expanding and even life-changing as well, no matter what your age. What price can you put on that?

My itinerary

Day 1 Montreux to Venice
Day 4 Venice to Ljubljana (via Trieste)
Day 5 Ljubljana to Budapest
Day 7 Sleeper train to Bucharest
Day 9 Bucharest to Sofia
Day 10 Sofia to Thessaloniki
Day 12 Thessaloniki to Athens
Day 17 Ferry to Paros
Day 19 Ferry to Athens
Day 24 Train/bus to Patras, overnight ferry to Bari then train to Fidenza

Travel costs
A seven-days-in-a-month adult global pass, first-class (I splashed out dont tell my younger self) cost 327. It should have been more but Interrail had a 15% sale on (it currently costs 397, 305 for 12-27s and 357 seniors, under-12s free). Second-class tickets are around 30% cheaper. Its worth signing up to Interrails mailing list for news of offers. The local fare was so cheap from Thessaloniki to Athens and Athens to Patras that I didnt use my Interrail pass on those days. The return ferry to Paros was 37. Reservations cost around 20 in total.

Total spending on accommodation and rail
929 in 24 days (around 39 a day)

Looking for a holiday with a difference? Browse Guardian Holidays to see a range of fantastic trips

This article contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. All our journalism is independent and is in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative. By clicking on an affiliate link, you accept that third-party cookies will be set. More information.

Original Article : HERE ; Curated & posted using : RealSpecific

This post was curated & Posted using : RealSpecific

Thank you for taking the time to read our article.

If you enjoyed our content, we'd really appreciate some "love" with a share or two.

And ... Don't forget to have fun!

Leave a Reply