27 days, 6 countries, and 10 cities made up my summer Interrail trip around Eastern Europe. It was nothing out of the ordinary, but it was the perfectly casual whistle-stop tour I had been craving…
Warsaw & Krakow, Poland.
We landed in Warsaw on a terribly hot summer´s day, got lost almost immediately, and then had a gander at the newly built Old Town. We took advantage of the Warsaw Free Walking Tour, and the free opening hours of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
It was nicer than I had expected, but was incomparable to the treasure that was Krakow. We stayed in a party hostel, pub crawled, and I beat two lads at beer pong, because apparently that is sport I can play… During the day, I opted for the Free Krakow Walking tour in Spanish and tragically managed to understand sweet FA. We ate a lot of ice cream, experienced an epic thunderstorm, and chilled out in an adorable tea garden with a group of English lads.
Our last day was spent in Aushwitz. I can’t possibly write a short summary about our experience. All I will say is that it was harrowing, but necessary. We actually ended up missing out train to Prague that night, and had to spend 10 hours sat in the aisle of a fully booked night train. It was as horrible as it sounds.Prague, Czech Republic.
Prague was cool. We spent a ridiculous amount of time in our cosy hostel pub chatting with fellow travellers, which was for sure the highlight. The omelette station at breakfast came in as a close second. When we did manage to venture out, we took a peek at the city centre and wasted money on the abysmal Museum of Communism. I splashed out on the Prague Alternative Walking Tour, which was absolutely fascinating and probably the best 25 euro I spent during the whole trip.
Budapest was almost identical to my trip last year, and almost as awesome. Without a trip to the Sparty it certainly felt a lot more hygienic! We partied, ate GelARTo, checked out the House of Terror, and formed this really cute hostel gang for a few days. We also encountered the Refugee Crisis first hand, which made us very angry. Then we almost missed our train, because it turned out we were just terrible at changing destinations.
Brașov & Bucharest, Romania.
We decided to head Brașov there just a few days before as the big cities had started to tire us out. It was freakin’ perfect. The people were as friendly as angels, and had a magnificent dry self-deprecating humour that I hadn’t yet found outside of the British Isles. We explored Castles, learnt a lot of history, and drank beer in an Irish Bar where absolutely no one else was drinking. It was splendid – so splendid in fact, that we sacrificed 2 nights in Bucharest to stay there.
Of the 13 hours we were in Bucharest, we spent 1 hour eating kebabs, 5 minutes turning down marriage proposals, 8 hours sleeping, and a couple of hours walking around. We saw the parliament building (which was SO white) and spent about an hour in the old town questioning whether or not we were actually in the old town. It was very run down, and screamed communism. I am 100% there is an awesome side to Bucharest, but unfortunately we were unable to find it.
Sofia & Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
We had boarded a long and stuffy train to Sofia, Bulgaria. We passed dozens of sunflower fields, then oil rigs and nuclear power plants. Crossing the Dunube/Friendship Bridge was epic. On arrival we were shaken by a scary drunk dude taking photos of us in our cabin (nice), but we got to our hostel safe and sound.
Sofia was hot, soooo hot. We hunted down the Museum of Socialist Art (and LOVED it), went on the free walking tour, and got all excited at by the ancient Roman ruins. In Bulgaria the discourse about Communism changed and wasn’t so extremely negative. We saw the most beautiful cathedral, and I fell in love with the Sofia statue… Yep, Sofia was definitely my second favourite stop.
And then we headed to Plovdiv, one of the most ancient cities in Europe. It was small, a little bit boring, but very picturesque. As classicists we felt like the coolest kids eating lunch in the old Roman stadium… for 4 hours. But thanks to our first encounter with bed bugs the night before (yup), we decided to head back to Sofia that night to party instead.
And from there we jumped on our last train to Thessaloniki, Greece. My memory of Thessaloniki is for sure faded by the horrific humidity. I remember sweating, a lot. But I also remember going to THE TOMBS AT VERGINA and drinking lots of frappes. One night we got on a weird pirate ship looking boat and drank cocktails out in the Aegean, and witnessed a surprisingly calm protest. I love Greece, but we were so tired and slimy we allowed ourselves to kick back and let our bodies recover.
So, would I recommend the trip?
Hell to the yeah. It was damn cheap, each country was absolutely fascinating, and every stop had something different to offer. The route we took was very straightforward, but around Bulgaria I would advise taking the buses instead because the trains not only felt unsafe, but were also super slow. If I were to do it again, I would do it in Autumn or Spring as none of the cities were built to cope with the heat.