Interrailing 2022: the route

Following on from the previous post with tips for using a Global Interrail Pass, here is my first month’s Interrail route that made good use of a flexible Europe-wide pass. On the whole it avoided countries that require seat bookings and supplements. All journeys were free with the pass apart from the the short ride from Jenback to Fügen (Austria) and the Swiss Bernese Oberland mountain railways/cable cars (the Interrail gave a 25% discount though).

Travel day 1

From Devon to Namur, Belgium. This was as far as we could comfortably travel whilst avoiding an expensive overnight in Brussels and the routes into Germany that are currently somewhat unreliable. Namur is cheaper than Brussels and has a bar with 47 beer pulls!

Travel day 2

Namur to Luxembourg. Back when I was a tour guide in the 1990s, our coaches often diverted to Luxembourg to fuel up with cheap diesel. In frustration I’d gaze out at the city clustered above, below and along the edges of a deep river gorge, unable to leap off and explore. Now, after all those trains, it was a pleasure to walk this charming city.

Travel day 3

Luxembourg to Strasbourg (France). Strasbourg was a morning stop on our 1990s coach tours, although there wouldn’t be time for more than a quick stroll around the waterways and 16th century buildings of Petite France and a glimpse of the Cathedral’s astronomical clock. Today Petite France was busier, but no less enchanting . . . even when the peace was broken by a guitarist practising Wish You Were Here, the chords flying out of an open window on the upper floor of a half-timbered building.

Travel day 4

Strasbourg to Interlaken (Switzerland).  What I’d heard about the unreliability of Deutsche Bahn was illustrated today, as the first train I’d planned was cancelled, and every following one was delayed. It was a relief to get to Interlaken and an even bigger relief to join the bus (free for tourists) out to Wilderswil, where we were staying.

The fact that I can remember little of Interlaken from my tour guide days, apart from the deep turquoise river, suggests I let the passengers off with a map and rarely bothered going into town myself. Interlaken has some grand architecture but many of the visitors seemed to be aimlessly drifting past the jewellery and souvenir shops.

Wilderswil, however, retains its village atmosphere, despite being close to a suburb of Interlaken. The Jungfraujoch is within sight and Wilderswil is also the start of the Schynige Platte cog railway. There are a couple of supermarkets, which is perfect if you stay somewhere with cooking facilities (Switzerland is expensive). I recommend the fresh spatzle noodles!

Travel days 5 and 6 – day trips in the Bernese Oberland

An Interrail gets you a discount on most of Switzerland’s private railways, which makes the painful prices easier to bear. To get the Interrail discount you must buy your tickets at the ticket offices, not a machine. We bought round-trip tickets, which made it slightly cheaper:

Day 5: a triple journey starting with the cog railway to Schynige Platte, followed by the First gondola above Grindlewald, and finally the mountain railway from Grindelwald via Lauterbrunnen back to Wilderswil (or Interlaken). Note that this itinerary involves a 10-mile mountain walk from Schynige Platte to First, with an optional summit of the Faulhorn. If you’re up for that, and the weather is clear, it’s a spectacular hike with views of the almighty Alps (Eiger, Jungfrau, Schilthorn etc) plus a couple of mountain restaurant possibilities.

Day 6: Wilderswil (or Interlaken) via Lauterbrunnen to Kleine Scheidegg and back via Grindlewald/Lauterbrunnen. Once again, a 25% discount with the Interrail. Kleine Scheidegg is at the foot of the Eiger, with the possibility to hike the Mannlichen summit, or simply wander up to the mounds of glacial moraine beneath the Eiger glacier.

Travel day 7 – day trip

A day trip to Lucerne, using the Interrail pass. Worth it for the scenic ride along the shores of Lake Brienz and the steep climb and descent over the Brunig Pass.

Travel day 8

Interlaken to Chur. Avoiding a scenic route that involved many changes, we instead went for a faster connection via Zurich to the cathedral city of Chur, in eastern Switzerland.

From Chur it’s possible to use the pass on many of the Rhaetian Railways routes, such as the train that cuts through the Rhine Gorge, allowing you to walk along the gorge between stations such as Versam and Valendas. More spectacular is the Albula railway to St Moritz, a UNESCO World Heritage line that corkscrews through the mountain. The train’s commentary warns passengers that they may find the views ‘confusing’.

Travel day 9

Chur to Fügen (Austria). A ride of non-stop scenic beauty along the Arlberg line to the Ziller Valley in the Austrian Tyrol. Fügen is a Tyrolean village where I once spent a season as a ski rep for Neilson. I never forgot the view across the valley and fortunately, the valley and the village haven’t changed that much. Nothing new obscures the spire of the little Pankrazberg church on its conical mound.

But the village has inevitably grown. Almost every business has expanded although they still operate under the same family name. Even the wood factory has added a ‘visitor experience’. But it’s at the top of the Spieljoch gondola where things have really changed, with the ski lifts joined by pricey family activities such as zip wires. With climate change threatening lower altitude ski resorts, I guess it’s a way to shift the commercial emphasis to activities that don’t rely on snow. It doesn’t detract from the spectacular walks and the ability to lunch at the impossibly high Kellerjochhutte, where you can eat Tyrolean knodel dumplings on a level with enormous grey peaks.

Travel day 10

Fügen to Graz: breaking up the journey to Slovenia with a stopover in Austria’s second city.

Travel day 11

Graz to Maribor (Slovenia). Maribor is a small, laid-back Slovenian city that happened to have the best coffee of the entire trip at Rooster.

Travel day 12

Maribor to Salzburg. A beautiful city, if you can find a way through the crowds shopping for chocolate Mozart Balls.

Travel day 13

Salzburg to Augsburg (Germany) via Munich. The short distance enabled a daytime stopover in Munich, where we headed for the famous Hofbrauhaus beer hall. What had changed since I used to bring my coach passengers for a litre of beer? What I liked back then was how locals sat in quiet corners away from the tourists, staring into their beer, and that hadn’t changed. But nowadays the tour groups shuffle in behind their leader wearing headsets, their eyes on the person in front rather than taking in anything of the surroundings. None of them looked sufficiently awake to get through a litre of beer…

Travel day 14

Augsburg to Cochem. The Mosel River has some charming villages but facilities can be sparse. To avoid that we stopped off in pretty Cochem, fully aware that it was a tourist honeypot. It was a shock to be charged almost 7 euros for a glass of water (not listed on the menu). I should have known when my landlady spent more time telling me which restaurants to avoid than any she’d recommend . . . Still, if you want castles, museums, boat trips and an Irish bar, then you could do worse.

The Mosel Valley at Beilstein

Travel day 15

Cochem to Namur. Back for a final night in Namur, avoiding the unreliability of the Koln-Brussels line. Our evening coincided with a Festival of Wallonie, with amateur bands playing throughout the streets lined with beer stalls. Unfortunately that meant the bar with 47 pulls wasn’t open . . .

Travel day 16

Namur to Devon (England).

One thought on “Interrailing 2022: the route

  1. Pingback: Interrailing 2022: ten tips – Michelle Lawson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s