Interailing - Trains, tracks and tantrums
Interailing in Europe
The typical summer for an Irish student typically holds two travel options - to the USA on a J1 or to Europe with an Interail pass. Having had a little dose of the U.S.A. following a visit from a pen pal, myself and a friend took to the railways of Europe for two weeks. Though tiring, it's the cheapest and probably the most rewarding way of visiting the continent.
While travelling spontaneously may be half the fun, I decided I would rather know where I was going before I got there. Being a bit of a Monica (fans of 'Friends' will know what I mean), all the organising was left to me. The bother of working out an itinerary and writing to the various hostels is paid off by the security of having a definite bed for the night. The hours spent of my life spent waiting in USIT will never be returned to me, but alas, such is life on a skin-tight student budget.
Our own journey began with a flight to Prague, followed by visits to Vienna, Regensburg and Munich, with four days in Paris for dessert. To everyone who doesn't know where Regensburg is, it's a small town about an hour and a half from Munich, whose existence was revealed to me in the Rough Guide. Yes, I did the stereotypical tourist thing and bought a guidebook, after long consideration in Hodges Figgis. Overall, it's a good idea: handy for giving a general idea of the sights and various accommodation options, not to mention information on the availability of tampons in Eastern Europe.
There was a definite negative correlation between time and money when it came to restaurants, with the cheapest often out near the suburbs. DIY lunches from a supermarket are recommended, while those on tighter budgets may prefer to avail of cheap set menus or student cafes for a main meal in the middle of the day.
So, what was it like? Prague is fantastic for those on a budget, with admissions and food being cheap. I personally abhor the idea of eating in McDonalds on holidays, but it might be a better option if cabbage and dumplings rank among your pet culinary hates. Shops in the tourist centre stock Soviet army caps and pocket watches, along with cheap designer wear, good for impressing your more snooty acquaintances. 'Picturesque' is the best way to describe Prague, with the Charles Bridge, Castle (a rather motley collection of buildings boasting wonderful views), and the Golden Lane, supposedly home to alchemists in former times.