Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Summer days and travel notes

The summer is only around the corner and I’m sure you will be excited as I am for those long lazy summer days and months of t-shirt and shorts weather. The summer is also the time that most people travel and organise road trips around the county or further a field. Last year I went Interrailing for just under a month, this year I plan to do it again but this time stay in Germany for the duration and visit all the amazing cities there, less time travelling and more time exploring sounds like a better idea than cramming 6 countries into 4 weeks like we did last year. Berlin is the best place I have visited but felt I only scratched the surface last year; I’m keen to take in what the rest of Germany has to offer. I also plan to go to Melt festival again; we had the best weekend there last year.

above: Melt Festival 2007
I kept a note pad while travelling last year and scribbled down a few observations from time to time, here are some of them...

Everyone in Amsterdam was really friendly, always offering help or directions if we looked lost. A kid at the skate park who didn’t even speak English gave us all marshmallow cakes. How cool is that?

Dogs don’t like being bunnyhopped, but it is so much fun!

When you are travelling by train for long periods you get a lot of time to think... Its also makes short distances in the UK like Newcastle to London feel like 2 stops on the Metro. The best thing about travelling by train is that you get to take in all the scenery and sights, travelling through Switzerland or along the coast of the Mediterranean by is something that can only be fully appreciated by rail.

It is always interesting to see how relationships between the travelling group can be strained over the course of the trip. Spending 24 hours a day with the same faces you start to notice annoying habits about one another, for example snoring, excessive wind or having exceptionally bad foot odour. Sometimes it’s best to duck out for a couple of hours and have some time to yourself, otherwise you might end up killing someone you actually like!

above: Can't wait to find more spots like this! Berlin..

Its quite embarrassing sometimes when you are abroad as nearly everyone can speak English whereas we as a nation don’t really embrace learning a second language, next time I travel I plan to brush up and at least learn the basics so I don’t look like the an ignorant English twat!

There was a clear contrast when we travelled to Spain and France from Germany with regards to the people we met. We noticed straight away that people were generally less helpful and rude compared to the friendly folks of Berlin or Amsterdam. People in Prague also were not as helpful and would try and rip us off if they could. I guess it comes down to cultural differences (or distain for the English).

Interrailing is a good concept but we discovered a lot of hidden charges for high speed and night trains. At times it was a bit of a bitch handing over 10-15 Euros to book a seat after spending £300 on your Interrail ticket already. All in all though it is good value and if you are travelling in one county only it is far cheaper. Travelling with bikes can also be difficult especially if there is a group of you, another fee is sometimes charged for bikes. We found it best to dismantle the bike and stick it under the seat, avoiding the extra charge.
Roll on the summer!!

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