I’m back!!! I returned on Thursday from 17 days of travelling around Europe and I can’t wait to share it with you! Before I go into all of the lovely pastry/Alps/castle/ beach-infused details, let’s talk logistics:
Who: Yours truly, the brains behind Katherinspired, the 20-something living in London for the year with a long break in between spring and summer terms who had (and still has) incredibly itchy feet.
What: Seeing the farther-away places I didn’t go last term, because how can you not when you have the perfect break in between terms?
When: March 31st - April 16th
Where: Zurich, Switzerland; Salzburg, Austria; Munich, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic; Berlin, Germany; Paris, Bayeux, and Bordeaux, France; San Sebastian, Spain. WOW.
Why: Why not? Seriously, though, I did this trip so I could get out and explore, so I could marvel at something (Eat, Pray, Love, anyone?), so I could have an adventure beyond the adventure that this year has already been.
Travel: I had a few different options for how I wanted to travel around Europe, but I eventually chose a EuRail pass. I love trains and the scenic views they provide, so I thought it would be a fun way to enjoy the journey. EuRail has several options, including a one, two, or three-country pass, a flex-pass that allows you a certain number of “travel days” within a set period, or a global pass which gives you unlimited travel within a certain amount of days. I opted for the global pass options because I didn’t want to be limited in case of train delays or anything, and because I would be travelling through so many countries. I do think it would have been cheaper to fly (…Ryanair), but then you miss the scenery and “on the ground” interaction, I think, so it was worth it. What I didn’t realise before purchasing the pass is that certain trains (especially ones in France and Switzerland) require you to make reservations in addition to having a pass, which also cost more money. That was a bit frustrating, but even with the additional cost of the reservations, the pass pretty much paid for itself if you factor in the cost of all of the train tickets. I was pretty intimidated by the idea of planning this huge trip itself, so I procrastinated a bit, but I eventually sat down one day and just began booking my trains and the dates I would be in each place, and it fell into place like a puzzle. Best feeling ever.
Accommodations: I was especially worried about hostels because I had never stayed in one by myself before. Obviously, the concern here is security both for myself and my stuff, so I thought I would have to book single rooms in all of my hostels…which is really expensive. Luckily, I found HostelWorld which is a website that lets you search for hostels using specific filters. So, when I was looking for hostels in Zurich for the nights of March 31st and April 1st, I used filters like “luggage storage” and “hairdryers available” (trust me, it was a concern). The website was fantastic — I was very satisfied with all of my hostels. They were fairly inexpensive (with the exception of Zurich, but nothing in Switzerland is cheap, anyway), clean, and all were centrally located. Also, I wasn’t expecting this, but all of them had free wifi! If you’re going to be travelling, definitely use HostelWorld so you can get the hostel you want and need.
Touring: When you’re planning a trip like this, you want to make the best use of your time. I was going to have between a day and a day in a half in each city, so I wanted to see all of the major sites and get as much of a feel for the city as I could. Luckily, I live right near one of the best travel bookstores I’ve ever encountered: Stanford’s. This place is a goldmine. They have maps (both vintage and modern), tour books, novels about travelling, and basically everything this wanderlust-filled traveller could ever dream of. Once I had booked all of my trains and accommodations, I popped on over to Stanford’s to get tour books on all of the cities I was going to. Hands-down my absolute favourite were the books by Rick Steves. This man is a genius when it comes to travelling around Europe, I promise. He has a show on PBS, as well as an app, but I relied on his tour books because they helped me make the most out of each day. What I love about his books is that they teach you the smart way to travel. He has a walking tour of the city in each book with an easy-to-follow map that takes you around the major sites, while also making it logical. Additionally, he divulges the tricks of the trade that he’s learned throughout his extensive years of traveling. For instance, when I was in Salzburg, he had rated visiting the Hohensalzburg Fortress an absolute must, but what he also did was talk about how to visit the fortress — when I first got there, he said rather than turning right at the entrance to a certain site, turn left for fewer crowds, and things like that. Some of my best memories from the solo bit of the trip were my walking tours so I highly recommend him!
Packing: I know some people are able to “backpack” around Europe with literally nothing but a backpack, but I am not that kind of person. Seriously, though, how do people do that??? 17 days of the same clothes from my suitcase were enough to push me over the edge so I can’t imagine. Anyway, I digress. I took my carry-on-sized suitcase, and a good sturdy shoulder bag and that was it. I packed basics that I knew I would be able to mix and match since I had very little room (light sweaters, layering pieces, leggings, a good skirt, my tall boots, and a pair of sneakers, etc.) and I organised them in big ziploc bags. This is especially useful for saving space since you can squeeze the air out of the bags, and is good to keep things clean because god forbid your shampoo spills or something. I packed all of my toiletries, stress remedies, first aid stuff in plastic pouches (these are my favourites), and then squeezed whatever else I thought of at the last minute somewhere else in there. My advice? Don’t leave packing for a few hours before you have to go to bed before you have to get up at 2:30 am. Trust me, don’t do this. You always have less space than you think you do and you want to walk out the door feeling like you have your life together, at least partly :)
Well, that’s it for the logistics of my trip! Stay tuned for details of my travelling day and my day in Zurich, coming soon to KatherInspired!
Inspired to be,