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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Sneha Lala: Interrailing Across Eastern Europe

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    30 Sep

    I’ve wanted to go interrailing for a long time and through Gateway, I’ve finally been able to fulfil my wish. Planning the holiday was trickier than anticipated as ensuring we always had affordable places to stay and organising the right trains required a lot of research. Going on the night trains was a new challenge in itself having to navigate stations where nothing was in English and understand reservations written in foreign languages. On our first train ride- we accidently got on the wrong carriage which it turned out went to Vienna instead of Budapest so had a stressful sprint through the train to make it to the other side before the carriages split. Challenges like this were unexpected but exhilarating and taught me about living and planning in the spur of the moment. Despite not needing to implement the plan, we were able to come up with a last minute plan of how to get from Vienna to Budapest at no extra cost to us.

    I learnt a lot about adapting throughout the trip- particularly in Croatia. We were planning to go kayaking and do water sports on the first day but upon arrival, realised our entire stay would be plagued with storms. However, we realised Split hosted a range of architectural and historical wonders to explore. We also visited a waterfall a couple of hours away where the weather was better and the natural beauty was breath-taking.

    The trip started in Prague where we spent four days. We went around the city centre learning about the stories behind the monuments scattered around, witnessed the famous clock at the turn of the hour, ate chimney’s (a traditional dessert), saw Lennon’s wall, explored the river on a pedallo and saw the castle. While exploring the castle complex, I learnt about the history of the country and city and gained an insight into the Czech Republic’s bloody and tumultuous past.

    After a rather stressful night train, we made it to Budapest. I faced illness in a foreign country by myself for the first time, we went up Gellert’s hill  and visited the castle. We also visited Dohany Street Synagogue. It’s the largest synagogue in Europe and its dome like architecture was influential in synagogues to come. I found this a particularly interesting stop as it allowed me to explore the history of Judaism, as the rest of the trip compromised of Christian religious monuments.

    The next stop was Split. Here we visited the Palace. The cellars were amazingly maintained and while working around I could truly imagine what they may have once been amongst the ruins. It felt humbling to walk around in a building with so much history. A particularly interesting sight at the Palace was Jupiter’s Temple, later turned into a baptistery as despite it’s changed use for a different religion, the Roman feel in the architecture remained. In Split I also pushed myself to take use of every opportunity. We visited the waterfalls on a slightly rainy and cold day but I persevered and went inside them and the experience was definitely worthwhile. I also pushed myself while swimming to improve my agility and swimming ability. I also pushed myself to ignore any fear of heights through climbing numerous rock faces and going paragliding.

    Our final stop was a one day look around Zagreb. The challenge in this location was fitting in a lot of sights into a short amount of time. This tested my planning skills as well as my time management skills as we could not afford to waste time as this would risk us missing our flight.

    I’ve loved my experience interrailing. I’ve challenged myself and made memories for life. I’ve seen the most breath-taking aspects of nature, been awe inspired by the architecture and learnt about different cultures. Both my knowledge of the countries has grown and my knowledge about myself and my belief in my own capabilities. I am so grateful for this opportunity.