The Beginning Of A Long Journey

My Journey through Europe.

I have always believed that every human being has a free will.
I deliberately decided against the post-graduate degree, when most of my friends had chosen between a gap year or to study. Please don’t get me wrong, I think studying is wonderful and to expand one’s own horizon and knowledge can never be enough. But it gives me a queasy feeling when I think about how many young people nowadays only consider this one option, especially if they are not really determined and eager to study. Currently I’m experiencing that travel has taught me quite a few life lessons and the world is the best class so far, based on my experiences.

If someone had told me that I would still be on an enchanting world trip for the next 2 years, I would have laughed at him.
But here we are, almost 2 years afterwards and I saw astonishing and breathtaking landscapes which didn’t escape my mind since then.
YES- I love exactly what I am doing, even if difficulties sometimes occur and I have made some sacrifices, I have never regretted having done traveling – where I am at in my life right now.

As I said, everyone has the freedom to do what makes him or her happy and I wish more people would dare to do what they always wanted to do in their life or at least to try it.
I know very well that I will have only this one and only life, even if life sometimes pulls you down, the ability to go on – is all that counts at the end (sounds like a cliché?- I know).
And I have a dream that will surely be fulfilled – because I firmly believe in it.
But also because I rely myself on it, but it wouldn’t come true if I only sat around and doing nothing.
I don’t mislead myself into thinking I am supposed to do things other people or society expect from me. In summer 2015 I followed my bliss:
InterRail was the first thing I did straight after high school, still caught in a moment of excitement and misery to leave all my loved ones behind.
Here are some (useful?) information about InterRail if someone might be interested in:

  • Due to my German passport and being an European resident, I was able to purchase an InterRail ticket.
  • Everyone who lives outside of Europe can purchase an EUrail pass.
  • You can travel unlimited in trains and between all of the 30 participating countries for a certain period of time. But the night trains and high-speed-trains often require a reservation for a paid seat.
  • Regulated Age-Based Pricing:
    Children (4-11 years) : Half of the full price.
    Youth (12- 27 years):   Strongly reduced prices
    Adults (28-59 years) :  Full price fare
    Seniors (60 years on up): Reduced prices.
  • Unfortunately the Pass is not valid in your own country of residence, but it is possible to make a trip from the place of residence to the border or to an airport and back, and it has to be made within the validity period of the pass.
    Update: Since 1st of January 2016- there are two journeys free-of-charge in your own country of residence, one journey to and one journey from the border.
  • There are some time variations and different prices for the Interrail Global Pass for youth under 28 in 2017:
    5 days within 15 days (206€), 7 days within 1 month (€253),
    10 days within 1 month (€301), 15 days within 1 month (€372),
    15 days continuous (€348) , 22 days continuous (€385), 1 month continuous (€493)
  • Be flexible, open-minded and curious. Don’t get your hopes up.
    Sometimes it will cost a lot of energy and time, but it is worth it! : )

 

I have to admit that I am kind of fast traveler, and I am sure many people would be like ‘oh you don’t see much from the country, you don’t really travel the country etc.’, but I love spending time with locals wherever I am and through Couchsurfing I made connections with local people in the country I’ve been to so deeply, that I can call their place ‘my home far away from home’. If I could only choose between the options rather to talk to the locals or seeing the sights and I would only have 1 day – definitely I’d go with the first option, no doubts.
It is fascinating to listen to their stories about life, to laugh about cultural differences or just smiling while none of us is able to speak the language of the other.
But if I can inspire through my stories or help anyone – I am more than happy!
And I wished I would have documented my experiences better, but now I’m starting.
Anyway I will try my best also English is not my mother tongue, so errors and mistakes may creep in. But you can correct me in the comments if you like to, so I can improve!
I chose to travel 15 days within 1 month and my itinerary was somehow like that:
2nd until 3rd of August 2015  :Ljubljana
3rd until 4th                            :Zagreb
4th until 6th                                    :Bratislava
6th until 7th                                    :Warsaw
7th                                                        :Flight to Copenhagen
7th until 9th                           :Copenhagen
9th until 11th                                   :Oslo
11th until 13th                                 :Stockholm
On the evening of 13th I got a flight to Helsinki where I stayed 5 days before I went back to the home country of my mother, Vietnam.

First stop: The Capital Of Slovenia , Ljubljana

This old building got his own charm, so I decided to take a picture of it!
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Castle Ljubljana, Slovenia
Oh Old Town again
Old Town

Croatia was wonderful, once you are there you should and can visit Pula, Dubrovnik (very popular amongst beach travelers) and Split.

Are you keen on museums?- I can recommend this one:
Museum of Broken Relationships
They collected materials from broken couples, which one of them (probably) have sent to the museum with a story behind it. The story contains why the couple broke up and it was somehow funny, some stories will give you an uncomfortable feeling.
There was an ax on the wall, but I can’t remember the story anymore, but no murders were involved, so don’t worry ;)!
The Croatian Museum of Native Art is also worth a visit.

Chocolate for the ex!
Not enough?- You might want to buy a T-shirt from the museum as a memory !

The old town and the buildings are great to see, once you walk around the city
I mean with walking roughly 20-30 kilometres (12-18 miles).

Zagreb, Croatia
Do I love Zagreb? Yes, I do!
This building was kind of dreary.
Art Pavilion (Umjetnicki Paviljon)
Ban Josip Jelacic Monument

If you are standing at the Ban Josip Jelacic Monument, it is the perfect starting point to have a walking tour around the city. On the right you will find the
Tourist Information Center with free maps and a handbook of history, therefore you will understand the city better.

I was seriously falling in love with my next destination: Bratislava!
Definitely a place I would visit again, full of charm and an enchanting nightlife.
Everywhere the sound of glasses raised together in toast, although it is not the weekend yet;
The laughter of the people, which is warm-hearted, open and authentic.
You feel automatically attracted to the place, to the people, to your life…
Bratislava has much more to offer than just the old town. Go, go if you have the chance!
Places you might want to visit:
St. Michael’s Tower & Street, Hlavné námestie,
St. Martin’s Cathedral (Dom svateho Martina)
Maybe the pictures can explain more than my simple English.

The other side of the coin: With 38 degrees (100 F) taking the train to Warsaw, approximately 680 km (422 miles) far away for like 11 hours is not a pleasant ride.
Of course without air-conditioner, that you might try to sneak into the 1st class or whatever just to get a cool breeze in your hair and face. Asking yourself whether if you are loosing your sanity in those heats or why the train is stopping every 10 minutes and sometimes went back and forth as if they forgot some travelers at the last stops.
With a delay of 6-7 hours you just want to sleep and sleep and yes- sleep!

Old Town of Bratislava
Bratislava, silhouette.

I got more and more the feeling that East European countries have a beautiful charm, which I can’t really describe compared to Western European countries.
Warsaw was a magical city, you won’t easily forget.
People are incredibly friendly, even though they are shy to speak English, but once you encourage them that they aren’t that bad, the person will leave you with a pretty, smiling face. I adored Poland deeply- I came back in October 2016 to teach English for a eight-headed family in Piechowice.
The street artists at night in downtown are way too good and talented to be just artists on the streets, but I guess due to bad salaries or any other reasons, they have to earn more money playing on the street.
Let yourself be seduced by Warsaw and its atmosphere of being in a Midsummer Night’s Dream.
There is one vegan restaurant I can recommend to everyone:
Krowarzywa- Vegan Burger
Even if you are not vegan, you will love them!

Finally FOOD after a long train ride

If you don’t enjoy hot summers in Southern or Middle Europe, you can consider spending your summer time in Scandinavia.
For me On the top will be definitely Sweden, closely followed by Denmark. Norway is great for fishing, a father of a friend goes there every year for fishing. And last but not least a beautiful country called Finland.
Copenhagen’s best attraction is believe me or not The Free Walking Tour (Now most capitals in Europe have the Free Walking Tour, which I can highly recommend to join).
It is free, but it’s better to tip your guide. I did in the next 2 years a lot of Free Walking Tours, but the one in Copenhagen was by far the best!
It’s great to have a guide, who is passionately telling secrets and general information about their city, but the interactions with the tourists were the best part of this Free Walking Tour. We played for example a period of Danish history from the 18th century together.
The city in general reminded me of the German’s city Hamburg. Those days were unfortunately grey, but it didn’t stop me to immerse myself into the beauty of Copenhagen, while dreaming about Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales, I used to listen to in my childhood.
I still remembered everyone was in accordance to the traffic lights rules.
I didn’t see anyone crossing the street when the traffic light was red- not even once!

Me taking a picture of a tourist taking a picture of a church.
Best Free Walking Tour Guide so far, even though I can’t remember his name

Copenhagen Canal

My first concern about Oslo was – after spending some nights in a horrible and expensive hostel in Copenhagen (64 beds!! in a dorm):  it was going to be expensive.
And my fears were truly confirmed. I didn’t really eat much in Oslo due to horrifying prices for a low-budget traveler. But you can try dumpster-diving in Oslo, it’s funny and easy, but even easier in East Europe. Oslo was great, no doubts, but I would say it didn’t get a special place in my heart.
Places you shouldn’t miss : Vigelandsanlegget shows 212 stone and bronze sculptures by the Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland, which originated in the years 1907 until 1942. Numerous sculptures symbolize the cycle of human life. You can spend easily for hours upon hours in this fascinating park.
From The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet you can enjoy the view on the top.
I think no one will miss this building, since it’s on most of the postcards you will send to your family and friends, it’s just cooler to say: ‘Hey you know what? I was on this building you see right now on the postcard!’
Oslo has definitely more to offer, Norway in general- like I said the father of my friend is going there almost every year for fishing and he LOVES Norway.

Vigelandsparken
View from the Opera

Circle of Life

Do you know the ‘Bullerby Syndrome’? The term comes actually from a book named ‘The Six Bullerby Children’ from Astrid Lindgren, an author I adore. The book is set in rural Sweden, if you have time on your travels to read- I would say this one- why not?
The word exists in the German vocabulary and is a term referring to an idealization of Sweden. An Idealization about wooden houses, midsummer sunshine, moose, happiness, people with blonde hair and blue eyes,
clear lakes and so on.
In my opinion, Sweden was and is the dream of untouched nature, summer nights in the wild, endless days and counting.
My host Avinash was also one of the reasons, why I loved Sweden even more. His fond stories about how he immigrated to Sweden and how he got to love this country in its own way, let me look at Sweden in a different light. He showed me one evening around 10 pm a tangerine sunset which will last forever in my memories and I will keep those memories for not so well blessed days in my life.
His roommates were genuinely kind, one of them worked at the tourism-center, so she gave me a daily pass for Sweden. I could use the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus in Stockholm + boats. I had unforgettable days in Stockholm…Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden


Wherelse to go?: Gothenburg, Umeå, Malmö, Uppsala.
There might be the chance to see the northern lights, they usually occur during the winter months through late March or early April. A very good spot to see the phenomena is the Swedish Lapland.

A lifetime memory. My camera didn’t capture it super good, but I prefered to enjoy the sunset with my friends.
A TREEHOUSE, I WAS SO EXCITED.
Memories.

LAST STOP: Helsinki. Before my heart got stolen by Asia and its people, food and diversity.
I stayed with my cousin in Helsinki, due to his studies over there.
Hallelujah, I started to feel dizzy from all the price marks in Scandinavia
(I didn’t know I would travel to Australia in 2016), I was very grateful to see him again and to stay with him
He is living in Espoo, which is the second biggest city after Helsinki but also the neighbour of Helsinki, the two cities are very close in distance.
I spent brilliant days in Helsinki, even though I didn’t really enjoy the Sauna there-
I just didn’t like humid and hot surroundings
(this would change after Asia).
I guess you could explore Helsinki within 1-2 days.
My highlight was a fortress:
Suomenlinna was built to protect against the Russian expansionism at the beginning from the Swedish crown in the middle of the 18th century.
Nowadays it is an inhabited sea fortress built on six islands and is part of Helsinki, moreover a UNESCO World Heritage Site you shouldn’t miss, if you will ever visit Helsinki. If you want to spend the whole day, you must do a picnic- it is also famous for its picturesque picnic site.
How to get there: From the Market Square there is a ferry service to Suomenlinna throughout the year. In summer you can experience the extraordinary water bus service.
It takes 15-20 minutes to get to Suomenlinna and offers marvellous views of Helsinki and its surroundings. A single ticket costs 2,90€.

Kamppi Chapel of Silence
Temppeliaukio Church
Ferry to Suomenlinna
Suomenlinna and I 🙂

Have you ever done InterRail?
Did you like it, what were your experiences?
You can share some stories if you’d like to! 🙂

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