So I made this website way back, 2014 way back, as a way of cataloguing my trip through Europe for posterity. Obviously that didn’t pan out the way I wanted, as I was (and still am), not a good writer. Now with all the time in the world on my hands and combined with the fact I’m not grinding through 2nd & 3rd year Mech. Eng. means that I can now actually write what I wanted 2 years later. Pictures coming later.
Oh also I just joined Golden Words so I need to seriously up my game in order to match up to their exalted writing ranks.
Part 0: Overview and Itinerary
So I came with this idea of doing a backpacking style grand tour of Europe around Canada Day, I was totally bored after spending 2 months at home reading books and watching shows and what not. Toronto was so lame to me by that point, especially after the car crash I got into at the beginning of May which really put a damper on my mood. (Nobody got seriously hurt thankfully but minor whiplash is still a pain in the neck) Needless to say I was itching to get away from it all and do some exploring.
So I planned it out and booked my flights, and bought an EU railpass that allowed me to ride virtually all the trains anytime I wanted in Western Europe. I tried cajoling a few friends into coming but as you imagine my spontaneous spur-of-the-moment idea did not lend itself to finding a companion to travel with.
So alone, anxious, and feeling a bit of holy crap! did I really get myself into this! off I went!
Friday July 24th, 2014 —England—
Day 1: Toronto -> London
~London for 3 days~
Day 4: Windsor & Windsor Castle daytrip *Windsor castle has a special tour where a guide will take up to the top of the tallest tower, I would HIGHLY recommend this if visiting. You can see everything from up there. As a side note it’s also possible to look into the Queen’s apartments with some binoculars, although don’t be a creep and do that. *
~London for 1 more day~
Wednesday July 30th, 2014 —France—
Day 7: Eurostar to Paris
~Paris for 2 days~
Day 9: TGV Atlantique to Rennes
~1 day in Rennes~
Day 10: Visit to Le Mont St-Michel *Very incredible, the online images spectacular though they are don’t do this one justice. Definitely must be seen to believe. The alluvial sand flats when the afternoon tide rolls in produces an almost mirror like quality that blends the sky, and the ground into one endless horizon. Oh also your standing on a mountain like giant castle and cathedral with a small town a hundred feet below you.*
Day 11: TGV Atlantique & TGV Lyonnais to Lyon
~1 day in Lyon
Monday August 4th, 2014 —Switzerland—
Day 12: Arrival in Geneva just past midnight
~2 days in Geneva~ *Again one of those must be seen to believe places of astounding beauty.*
Day 14: Train to Lausanne then Interlaken
Friday August 8th, 2014 — Germany—
Day 15: Train to Basel, then night sleeper to Hannover.
Day 16: ICE to Berlin
~4 days in Berlin
Day 19: Train to Potsdam
~Day Trip in Postdam~
Day 19: then ICE to Hamburg
~2 days in Hamburg~
Friday August 15th, 2014 —Denmark—
Day 21: ICE to Copenhagen
*This one was really cool and shouldn’t be missed on any train journey in Western Europe. As opposed to basically every other high speed train in the world, this one does not run on electricity as the track goes into Jutland andis not electrified. Instead it’s gas powered and, here’s the kicker, the entire train rolls onto a giant ferry that crosses the Baltic sea from Puttgarden to Roedby. A GIANT TRAIN FERRY. That’s so cool! :O see here for more details.*
~1 day in Copenhagen~
Saturday August 16th, 2014 —Sweden—
Day 22: Express train over the Great Belt Bridge to Malmo *This bridge is also really cool, especially when viewed from the shorelines of Malmo on a beautiful August afternoon like I did.
~Day Trip in Malmo~
Sunday August 17th, 2014 —Germany— Again!
Sunday August 17th, 2014 —Netherlands—
Day 22 Continued: Express train back to Copenhagen, then slooow train to Amsterdam
Day 23: Fun in Amsterdam!
~2 more days of Fun in Amsterdam!~
Monday August 18th, 2014 —Germany— Yet again!!
Day 25: ICE to Cologne
~A few brief hours in Cologne~
Day 25: Night train to Munich
~2 days in Munich~
Day 27: Day trip to Schloss Neuschwanstein
Day 27 Continued: Express train to Vienna!
Thursday, August 21st, 2014 —Austria—
~1 day in Vienna~
Friday, August 22nd, 2014 —Swizterland— Again!
Day 29: Train to St Gallen, then to Vaduz, then scenic Bernina Express train to Tirano.
*Bernina Express is actually a very misleading name, this is one of the slowest ways to cross the southern alps. But it is definitely the most scenic. Truly amazing scenery and the highest sections of the journey almost seem like from another world when shrowded in a morning fog. Highly HIGHLY recommended.*
Friday, August 22nd, 2014 —Italy—
Day 29 continued: Sloooooow train to Milan to visit cousin
Day 29: Frecciargento train to Venice after realizing said cousin was road tripping southern Italy.
***On reflection this was an incredibly busy day for me but at the time I remembered it felt normal by that point, I was so used to travelling and going between cities that from leaving Vienna just before midnight to arriving in Venice late evening, I didn’t feel unusually tired or anything.***
Day 30: Venice, the jewel of cities, the most difficult to navigate of cities.
Day 31: Frecciargento train to Milan.
~1 and a half days in Milan with Cousin~
Day 32: Frecciarosa train to Rome
~1 day in Rome~
Day 33: Frecciarosa to Naples, tourist train to Pompeii
~Day Trip to Pompeii & Mt. Vesuvius~ ***Note that my pictures from Mt. Vesuvius were subsequently lost when I lost my second phone, as Copenhagen was when I last backed up and my primary phone’s battery had died by the time (I know, stupid), so don’t hold out for those.***
*Mt. Vesuvius is beautiful, again highly recommended*
Day 33 Continued: Frecciarosa back to Rome.
~a few more hours in Rome~
Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 —France— Again!
***Being a stupid kid at the time I decided instead of flying from Rome to Barcelona at moderate expense to catch my flight back to Toronto, I would take the damn rails all the way. Partly due to the fact my railpass would make this cost no money, and partly due to the fact I thought I could squeeze in a few hours of sightseeing along the Mediterranean shores. This would later prove to be a monumentally stupid decision.***
Day 34: A lot of trains through Torino, Grenoble, Montepellier, to Barcelona. ***As you might guess I was getting pretty sick of trains by this point my railpass was although a very wise decision meant that I took the trains EVERYWHERE, I racked up over a hundred train trips by the end of this all I think.***
Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 —Spain—
Day 34 Continued:
/// Barcelona station, close to midnight, totally lost and unsure of how to get to my hostel, I decided to brave the streets with backpack and suitcase in tow.
Not a good idea.
A shifty looking guy started walking beside me as I was walking up the street. I should have taken the cue now to get a taxi. Being the broke student I was at the time with barely any money left, I decided not to.
Really bad idea.
So I feel something wet on my back suddenly and I turn around, the guy exclaims that I got some spit on my back and offers to wipe it off for me. Me being exhausted at the time and totally not feeling good after my stupid 20 hour train ride from Rome. (Did I mention I got on the wrong TGV train in Montepellier headed in the opposite direction of Barcelona, because I was stressing about losing my second phone? Yeah that made my day bad enough already.) So after putting my backpack on my suitcase to let the guy wipe the spit off, he makes a quick departure and I realize that my bag is missing!
Long story short I end up in the hostel with the help of a nice American couple who took pity on me, bagless, passportless, and without all my souvenirs and postcards I had bought along the way through Europe.
Sad story eh? Well I still made it back to Canada just fine a few days later so it all turned out well in the end. \\\
Day 35: Flight to Madrid.
***After realizing I lost the hardcopy of my railpass as well last night my plan of going to the Canadian embassy in Madrid one the AVE train didn’t pan out. I instead took a flight and through the kind help of another couple from Toronto at the embassy as well, and the helpful embassy staff, I managed to get an emergency travel passport and boarded my newly booked flight back to Toronto through Dublin.***
~1 and a half days in Madrid~
Friday, August 29th, 2014 —Ireland–
Day 36: Flight to Dublin
Saturday, August 30th, 2014 —Canada— I’m Back!
Day 37: Flight to Toronto
Collapse on my own warm, sweet, bed. Parents make awesome home cooked meal. I’m happy.
So what was the lesson I learned after spending thousands of dollars, 5 weeks, and some grief near the end?
Western Europe is amazing for sightseers, adventerurers, students, really anyone who wants to experience a lot in a geographically compact place. And a railpass is almost certainly the most convenient way to do it.
I had a really great experience for those 5 weeks and learned a lot of life lessons in doing so, being by myself really tested my own ability and aptitude in navigating foreign environments, cultures, languages, and conditions. I grew up a bit and don’t regret it at all. Even losing my bag and passport was in itself another lesson and test of my abilities to handle high pressure, discomfort, despair, and still be able to come out the other end through action, struggle, and overcoming obstacles.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to do this trip because I realize not everyone could have had the same opportunity, and for that I am grateful to the people who made it possible.
Anyways I will save the rest for a wrap-up section! If your still reading this thanks for bearing with my writing and making it all the way through!
A snippet of the next section, that will detail my journey.
Part 1 Redux: London
The tube trains got me, I couldn’t stand up straight in them. I was not expecting the famous Underground to be so, in a much nicer way than what I was actually thinking at the time, poorly thought out.
Here I was trying to get all the sights and sounds checked off with my shiny and expensively purchased London pass, and all I could think about, and look at, was that businessman in the suit who got on, slightly taller than me, whose hair was just brushing the ceiling. Quite literarlly brushing due to the swaying and vibrations of the train car.
Anyways all the sights and sounds were great, I won’t bore you with pictures of the Big Ben, Westminster, the London Eye, the Thames, Picadilly Square, the Globe Theatre, all the things you probably seen a thousand times before online.
What was really cool and interesting was the shear amount of tourists from all over trying to take those famous poses in front of the famous places, all at the same time. Whatever those Brexiters say, multiculturalism from all six continents (no antarcticans sadly) is the nom du jour on a pleasant late July evening anywhere in central London.