From 13 to 28 August I interrailed across Europe with four close friends from secondary school, visiting Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Berlin and Amsterdam. Not only did I enjoy seeing the typical tourist sights and attractions, but also found that experiencing the different cultures in such a small period of time really emphasised the differences across countries.
We spent just two days in Budapest, where I stayed in my first hostel. This was brilliant as it allowed us to meet people from across the world, who similarly wanted to see as much of the city as possible in a short period of time. With them we visited St. Stephen’s Basilica (and were shocked to see St. Stephen’s right hand!), the parliament building, Heroes’ Square and Buda Castle.
We also had a two night stop in Vienna, which definitely felt like a more relaxed and striking city. We started by visiting the Hofburg Imperial Palace and Stadtpark, then the following day did a walking tour. This allowed us to learn about the history of the palaces and museum quarter properly, as well as the classical musicians that have always been the foundation of the city. We enjoyed it so much that we also did a walking tour on our first day in Prague, in which we learnt about the origins of the Astronomical Clock, St. Vitus Cathedral, Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square. On a rainy day we also visited Prague zoo, where we saw a range of animals including polar bears!
Berlin, the most memorable stop of the trip for me, was where we fully submerged ourselves in the history of the city more than anything else. Visiting Checkpoint Charlie, East Side Gallery, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp were extremely harrowing, and as I had never experienced anything similar before I ensured I learnt as much as possible from the sights.
Our final major stop was Amsterdam, which was certainly the most easy-going stop for us. We enjoyed the amazing food on offer including Stroopwafels, and on the final day did a trip to a nearby beach on the train! We also visited Anne Frank’s house, which after reading her diary was particularly saddening.
Overall, it was an amazing 16 days of travel, in which I learnt a lot both educationally and practically. Through organising the trip and staying in hostels, I feel I developed a lot of experience in budgeting and organisation, plus I gained confidence for future travels. Without Gateway I would not have been able to go on the trip, so am very thankful for the fund and its support.