Interrail 2003 - On the rails again

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Thursday 24 April 2014

Interrail 2003 - On the rails again

After having had such an amazing time Interrailing around central Europe in summer 2002, we wanted to set off again in 2003. Fortunately as light drinking, non-smoking students we could afford to save a few hundred pounds to cover the cost of another frugal adventure in Europe, topped up with a small travel bursary from our College. Obviously we wanted to see more new places, but the main attraction was the simplicity of life on the road, the joy of travelling to new places and immersing ourselves in different cultures. As we'd learned the previous year, we both enjoyed the travel as much and sometimes more than the arrival and exploring a new place.

Just as much packed as the year before!
In 2002 we'd had a 2 zone Interrail pass covering 8 countries, but we'd spent 90% of our time in the Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland zone and only gone into Slovenia and Italy for a few nights as it had been too hot. We'd also enjoyed the mountains and regretted having spent so little time in the alps of Austria and Switzerland. So in 2003 we opted for a 1 zone, 30 day Interrail pass covering Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland again, this time with the intention of spending more time in the mountains.

Unlike the previous year where we'd been tearing pages out of travel magazines on the way to the airport for ideas, we went to the lengths of picking some places we wanted to go to, although as it turned out we still tended to rely on using on-the-ground information and picking up flyers which is much more exciting than knowing exactly where you will be and when for the whole trip. I've listed some of the highlights and key points on our trip below but, as any traveller knows, you just can't capture all of the moments that make travelling so incredible.

Enjoying al fresco dinners again!
In mid-July we flew into Frankfurt Hahn airport and hopped on a coach to Heidelberg where we camped for 4 nights to catch our breath and remind ourselves what it was like in the tent while we waited for our Interrail ticket to activate. Heidelberg was lovely and the weather was amazing. We immediately fell back into our camping rhythm of waking with the sunrise, keeping our tent organised (since we travelled with so many clothes back then) and slowing our pace of life right down.

Trummelbach waterfalls
 After 4 days of rest we caught our first train and went south into Switzerland to Interlaken for our first mountains. Interlaken is right on the doorstep of the famous Jungfrau and the Jungfrauhoch railway that can take you up into the high mountains, if you can afford the ticket price that is. We couldn't. But we did take a shorter ride on the train to the Trummelbach waterfalls, glacial waterfalls which cut straight through the mountainside and which you can walk around inside the mountainside using tunnels carved out by the water in the past. After Interlaken we had to make an unplanned trip north east into Zurich. Unfortunately the poles of our Vango tunnel tent had become very brittle over the year the tent had been stored and were shattering. I'd managed to bodge up a repair in Interlaken but they weren't going to last much longer. In fact that night in Zurich one pole was so useless I used Gaffa tape to make into an A-frame instead of a dome. After much running around the next day we got replacement poles, along with a hefty dose of arrogance from the Swiss outdoor shops laughing at our budget gear (we were still sleeping on lilos).

Back on our way we headed east into the Tyrol, stopping at various campsites including at Innsbruck (former Winter Olympic Venue and historic town), Krimml Waterfalls (the highest waterfalls in Austria with a total drop of 380m) and Zell am See where we day tripped to the Hintertux Glacier and took a cable car right to the summit to see some summer snow. We also got to enjoy a crazy taxi ride at over 160 kph from the train station to the campsite followed by finding that a big biker had put his tent as close as possible to ours without getting intimate. He snored. Loudly! But the scenery was stunning and we were lucky to have unbroken blue skies every day to make up for a bit of nocturnal hardship.

Next we moved further east to Salzburg and stayed at the same camping we'd stayed at the previous year. From here we daytripped to the local salt mines and then north to visit Berchtesgarden in Obersalzburg region where we spent most of the day in the holocaust museum built alongside the "Eagles Nest" Nazi fortress.

Heading north we had an interesting experience trying to find a campsite outside Munich to avoid the expensive
Neuschwanstein Castle
 inner city one, but instead accidentally managed to wander into a naturist reserve. We also ran out of cash so after paying for the camping that we eventually found we had to survive on a cup a soup and the kindness of others for boiled water. From here when took a special trip to Neuschwanstein Castle, somewhere we'd always wanted to visited as the iconic Disney fairy tale castle is based on mad King Ludwig's unfinished creation.  

As our trip drew to a close we got the urge to make the most of our Interrail ticket, just like the previous year when we'd gone from Zurich to Copenhagen, we decided to go as far north as our ticket could take us, Skagen on the north coast of Denmark. We hopped on another night train and about 36 hours later we were stood on a remote beach watching the sand blow over an old upturned boat. The peace and tranquillity was incredible and
Night train to Skagen
made a lovely way to end out second adventure.  

We made our way back to Holland to visit Esther's family before flying back to the UK. The month had gone by so quickly again but we'd learned a lot about ourselves again. We still had the travel bug which would never leave us and we knew we were happiest on the road without any cares other than what will we eat and where will we sleep. 

But, although the trip was amazing, we also realised that by repeating an Interrail trip, even to new places, we'd taken away some of the novelty and a tiny bit of the excitement of our trip the previous year where we'd never done this before. We'd have to think of something new for the following summer....

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