St Moritz

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.

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Interrailing 2022: ten tips

A long time ago in Lisbon, on what I thought would be my final Interrail trip, I celebrated my 26th birthday. According to my diary, the hostel wardens gave me a beer and a group of Australians bought me a glass of port wine.

Back then the month-long Interrail pass was limited to youngsters. Not any more! And now you can buy a pass limited to specific countries and lengths of time. You can even get Interrail to plan your trip for you, including accommodation.

But I’ve always dreamed of returning to the freedom of a ‘global’ pass that’s valid across Europe. This year, celebrating 50 years of Interrail, the global Interrail pass was briefly discounted to half price. And adding a second month cost a mere £22 extra for a senior!

Two months of rail travel gave me the freedom to visit new places as well as embark on a memory trip. As well as interrailing in my youth, I’d also worked as a travel guide/ski rep in Europe. I used the rail pass to revisit a few places I continue to dream about some 30-odd years later.

The second month was used to revisit Poland 50+ years after my Polish father drove us there for holidays.

10 tips for smooth Interrailing
Here are some practical tips that I picked up for using the mobile pass (the next post gives a brief guide to the first month’s route). Some people swear by using the old paper Interrail pass, but I’m a fan of the mobile pass, which uses the Rail Planner app.

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Enjoy the region and take your time: The Interrail diaries

A speedboat cut across my vision and pivoted when the owner caught sight of me sitting on the rocky shore. It was the mid 1980s, in Savonlinna, Finland, and Scandinavia was sweltering under a midsummer heatwave. The boat pulled up and I kept my eyes on the man’s face, trying not to look down at his turquoise Y-fronts as he talked and shrugged and made suggestions. Yes, I was Interrailing. No, I didn’t want to join him on his boat. No, I really wasn’t tempted to stay another day and join him at ‘a country house’

These memories surfaced recently as I read an article in the Guardian about the resurgence of Interrailing. Like the author, I’ve also kept the diaries from my trips across Europe. Little grey spiral notebooks purchased from Boots, with detailed itineraries and page after page of vocabulary and pronunciation notes for Portuguese, Greek, Norwegian, Finnish and Czech.

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