2019 Interrail trip to Europe
Since my first Interrail in 1975 my love for Europe and train travel had never faded. I had repeated the experience on another six occasions. It had always been my intention to do another Interrail once I had retired and revisit places from the 1975 trip and some destinations of other past Interrail trips.. While my itinerary would include places where I had family holidays, it would also include new experiences. There were still a number of places I had not visited that were part of my school boy travel dream. Barcelona and the Matterhorn, to name a few.
Of course, the world had changed in a significant way in comparison to 1975, and it would be fair to say I had changed as well- 64 not 20. One major change was of course the Internet. Also I had more resources now to invest in a more comfortable and longer Interrail in 2019.
At home, in December 2018 when I started planning my 2019 trip I knew it was going to be vastly different to my experience in 1975. For a start I was going to be travelling solo and for the longest trip duration that I’d experienced. I used the internet but also my trusted map which dated back to 1974. Europe looked nothing like it did then, a big example East and West Germany were on the map.
The tools available to me for planning and researching were extensive of course. The internet was paramount so it won’t surprise you that a very high percentage of my bookings and purchases where done online. The sites used were also extensive- Airbnb, hotel booking sites. The Interrail and eurail website were massive and included the whole European rail network timetable. It worked out to be incredibly accurate. I used many other travel sites; shipping lines for my sailings, airline sites for flights and tourist office sites for information on eating out, public transport and general tourist information.
So I had my route and my itinerary. Seven countries or eight if you include Liechtenstein (the transit to Switzerland). My plan was to leave on the 9thof September and return on the 10th of October 2019, a total of 32 days away. No discussion with anyone else since I was going on my own. The itinerary was tweaked many times between the start of planning in December 2018.
In the middle of August I purchased the pass online for it to be posted from the Netherlands on priority post. Also the price was in Euros so I was waiting for the best pound/euro rate to get the best deal. I paid £262 for a 7 travel days within the month rail pass with a senior discount. The passes had changed considerably since 1975- any age group can travel now and it has a wide variety of travel options for your pass, including if you wanted the same as 1975 e.g. a full month’s travel with no restrictions on travel dates. By travelling in September and October close to off-season, I got some good deals for hotels. All of my rooms were en-suite and most provided breakfast as part of the price. I used Airbnb on four occasions in the more expensive places like Stockholm but I also liked the choice of Airbnb in Munich and Portoferraio, so chose them over a hotel. I was getting on a roll and had the time to research hotels in the places that I was going to visit. I was enjoying this now. In 1975, we didn’t have this much time or options to investigate alternative accommodation.
As I had gone through a few rucksacks over the past years’ journeys, I decided to buy a new one for this tour. So I made a trip to a few outdoor stores to see what might be best for my needs. Of course rucksack technology had changed massively since 1975. My choice was one made by Vango. It was light but strong and designed in a way you could access everything easily. It had a good frame that could be adjusted to fit the shape of your back and straps to keep it tight to your body; it also had some security strong zips that I could padlock. I know, not perfect but it was something. It was a flat pack so it kept your clothes relatively uncrushed. It even had a Saltire sewn onto it but it didn’t wash your dirty clothes.
It was eight weeks before departure when I spent my time getting organised by buying a few items for the trip. Next to the purchase of my Interrail pass which went smoothly I also purchased currency; Danish Krone, Swedish Krona, Swiss Francs and Euros. A strong padlock for my rucksack was next on the list. Of course travel insurance was essential; I did not want to take any chances. I also took some language skills with me; I learned tourist German and a bit more Italian studying books, listened to CDs and practiced while travelling over the past years. I remember locals were having a laugh at my expense when getting words mixed up.
As the 9th of September approached I needed to decide what to take with me. My new rucksack was 50 litres in size; I know what does 50 litres look like? Well it does have a lot of space. I was going to be away for thirty two days, and just as 1975, perhaps cool in the north and hot in the south. I would have to choose carefully what clothes I was going to take. Shorts and t-shirts for Spain and Italy and a jumper and even a jacket for the evenings for the Scandinavian countries, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Thankfully, no sheet sleeping bag this time. Furthermore, I, of course, would be taking a lot of technology with me; none of which were available to me on my first Interrail. So my smart mobile phone, iPad, smart watch, digital music player with Bluetooth headphones and a bit of old technology, a digital camera. I used both my phone and camera for videos and photographs of the trip, downloading them later onto a laptop and editing them on photo and video editing software.
So, the time arrived. Unfortunately some four days before my departure day I came down with a temperature, a continuous cough and a loss of smell and taste, where have we heard that before? On the day before my departure I got the okay to travel. I have to say this did spoil the lead up to my big trip.
So the 9th finally arrived. At my age, I was not going to have the same Interrail experience as 1975; No hostels or sleeping on trains; this time there were also many other experiences that were different from 1975 though many that were the same. After packing and checking everything at least three times the night before I rose at 3.30am. My friend picked me up at 4.15am to take me to the airport; It was dark, wet and windy. Here we go - first stop; Stockholm. As eco-friendly I tried to be, my timetable did not allow to travel to some parts overland. I had to take two flights during my trip to travel to Stockholm and for the return trip home. On the plane, I posted my first Facebook post/blog. One of many. The flight was very quiet. It was a 6.30am departure after all, no view just clouds all the way.
Arrived at Stockholm Skavata airport on time. During the 1 hour and 20minute journey by bus, I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the miles of forest land as we headed to the centre of Stockholm. Having spoken to fellow travellers over the years they fully recommended this Nordic city. With good directions from the host I easily found the Airbnb, located in a residential area of Stockholm. It came with a big Dalmatian that just barked at me for 3 days. I wasted no time and made my way to the old town square. Built in medieval times, it had fantastic almost pastel-coloured buildings, the square houses, the Swedish academy and Nobel museum – which unfortunately was closed on Monday. This would better not be my luck for my tour. I had a beer in the old town costing me £8. Well you are in a prime spot. I met Mark from Maine, USA - he was the same age as me and his family were originally from Sweden. We had an interesting chat over our beer.
During the next two days in Stockholm the tour really started. I visited the Vasa museum that tells the story of salvaging a warship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 and it was totally rebuilt and preserved. What a place, really enjoyed it, two and a half hours and it passed so quickly. Then a walk to the ABBA museum. Spent two and a half hours again, brilliant! Just what I expected! I love the band and their music reminds me of past Interrail travels. The following day I started with the city hall. It was a cloudy and cool day. I walked all the way to the top, 365 stairs up and well, the same amount down as well, funny that. It was an amazing view of Stockholm and suburbs. During my trip so far my Fitbit fitness tracker and my smart watch were telling me I was doing at least 22000 steps a day. I make that about nineteen km, or eleven miles. I walked to the Swedish parliament which was disappointing and back to the old town square, viewed the grand stock exchange building and then onto the Nobel Museum which was truly awesome and very moving, especially the black civil rights section. After a short walk over the bridge from the old town square I spent my afternoon in the National Museum which had some great artwork on display. I Face-timed my family that evening then packed my faithful rucksack for my journey to Copenhagen tomorrow.
Stockholm - Copenhagen, Denmark
The next morning, I left early – like always, to avoid arriving at my destination at a difficult time in the evening in case of problems. I left a written thank you and a Saltire badge – that I took from home to pass onto people I had met as a memento. The train to Copenhagen took five hours; enjoyed music, quiz book and looking out the window. When I arrived at the main station in Copenhagen I felt a strong wave of emotion. This was where it all started 44 years ago. I eventually found Maria’s Airbnb, located in a really nice area. Maria must be in her late 70s, nice sweet lady and well educated. We got off to a good start after me fixing her Wi-Fi. I did a tour of the area and to my great surprise the Faelledparke, the big park next to the FC Copenhagen stadium, was only a short walk away once again bringing back memories of 75. This is where Scotland played Denmark. So headed into town, and like on past Interrails, obtaining a map at the tourist information office was my first port of call. I ended the day by visiting the old flesh market and food market and had a Tuborg for old times’ sake.
The next day I started my sightseeing at the Rutanda, the round tower, for some panoramic views of Copenhagen and visited the SMK National gallery of Denmark to see the Golden Age exhibition, some fantastic stuff by Christen Kobke. I did not know this artist beforehand. Then on to the square, where the painting I have at home was painted by Paul Gustav Fisher – a Danish artist. That made me realize how much I enjoy his work. Then the short walk to Nyhavn, amazing buzzing place great street markets, buskers, beautiful pastel-painted buildings. I loved the love padlocks on the bridge railings, hundreds of them, couples of all genders pledging their love for each other. I moved on towards the Mermaid since I missed it last time. I wanted to see what Ronnie meant when he said she was beautiful. She was. I had a walk around the Faelledparken park and FC Copenhagen stadium that was completely upgraded and located in an open green space. I was still making up my mind about running the ‘’5k park run’’ the next day, but I was recovering from a virus. No park run for me. Maria’s kind gift of benylin cough mixture did make me feel better, so I walked to the park to watch the end of the run. I gave Maria her Saltire badge. She was delighted and I thanked her for the stay.
Copenhagen – Wurzburg, Germany
Up and away early again, I went to the station and had a nostalgia look around, and got on the bus to Rodby. There were no trains due to engineering work on the line. Then on to the ferry to Puttgarden Germany. The train got onto the ferry; I remember that well from 1975.. A bit of a rough, wet crossing, a big contrast to 44 years ago. Got to Hamburg with 8 minutes to catch the train to Wurzburg. No bloody departure board to find my platform! So my tourist German kicked in. I was lucky I was near the right platform and just made the train. I was soon to become aware that many European stations were more like shopping malls than places to accommodate travellers.
When I arrived, 1.5 hours late, I used my German again and found the hotel. After over 11 hours of travel it had been a long day. This was my first hotel and I was not disappointed. The room had a new ensuite and was quiet. The hotel reception suggested the Alter Kraven, German for the old crane, just across the road would be a good place to eat and drink; cracking Wurzburger Hofbrau beers- the ones I missed out on with Ronnie and Alan. The meal was a traditional German dish with potato dumplings. Just what I needed. I started the next day with a walk over the Alter Mainbrucke and on to the youth hostel. I went in and spoke to the staff and asked about a curfew. “What curfew?” they asked. I Whatsapped Ronnie photos of the Youth hostel that he never slept in and the wooden staircase where he did. I walked up to the fortress, a well-known attraction with a panoramic view of the city and area. When I returned over the bridge at lunchtime I noticed there was a small wine bar on the bridge. Everyone was enjoying a glass of wine in the sunshine, so I did as well. We were all enjoying a busker with an accordion. I don’t normally drink wine at lunchtime but… It was here that I really decided that this was a one off and I was not going to hold back in doing things on this tour.
The next morning I had a straightforward journey to Munich. When I arrived I had to get a locker for my trusted rucksack. This was not without incident- try getting five euro coins for a five euro note for the locker in a modern station. I found the tourist information office to get my map and purchased a three-day travel pass. I found my bearings in town centre and went to Marienplatz and watched the famous Glockenspiel with its colour and music and story. I then stumbled upon an open-air food market. I never knew there were so many variations of German sausage, I had a number of free samples and enjoyed the traditional flavours. I found the Airbnb. The owners’ dad, welcomed me on arrival, but never saw anyone after that. That evening I returned to the centre and into the Domegarten restaurant which had a traditional Bavarian menu. It was very busy and I was asked if I would be happy sharing a table. I would not normally share a table with a stranger but I did with Sebastian from Zurich. He had finished his meal but we enjoyed our conversation that lasted well over an hour. We shared all sorts of chat from what is Scotland like, to me learning a lot more about Switzerland.
The next day I was planning a lighter day, starting off with a walk up St Peter’s church just off the Marienplatz. It’s high, very high. I got a bit of vertigo. Not fun, but managed some photos. As a German beer-lover I went to the famous Hofbrauhaus, a massive beer house. A traditional brass band was playing which reminded me a lot of the night in Salzburg all those years ago. It was worth a visit. I then Walked to the Englischer Garten in the centre of Munich. This park is massive. I’d been lucky with the weather. It had been very warm and sunny, so I enjoyed some classical music buskers in the park. Went to the same place to eat as the previous night but waited until the Red Star fans had gone to the game. At the restaurant you used the blanket provided on your seat when it grew cold. I noticed this was a theme in central European city restaurants. They encouraged people to still eat and drink outside but keep reasonably warm. The following day I went to the Olympic park on the Metro. Still very impressive. I started with the Olympic tower, spent ages there enjoying all the famous markers around the tower which marked out famous sites. It was a clear day and one of the sites just visible was the Berchtesgaden which is only fourteen km from Hallein, the place we visited in 1975. Next was the Olympic stadium. I stood on the pitch where Germany beat Holland in the world cup final in 1974.
Munich – Innsbruck, Austria
Got the train to Innsbruck. It travelled through the Austrian Alps, towering mountains with snow on the tops even in September. Got into my hotel room. It had the squeakiest floorboards and smallest en-suite in the world. I walked up to the ski jump which dated from the winter Olympics of 1964. It had a great view of Innsbruck and the mountains around it. I watched ski jumpers jumping off the platform onto the artificial surface. I could imagine what it would be like on snow. Enjoyed a walk in the centre visiting the Golden roof shining brightly in the autumn sunshine. Then to the old town. I had visited Innsbruck in 1976 on my second Interrail with Ronnie and Stewart. Alan had other plans that year. But I had forgotten a lot about the city so it was like visiting somewhere new. I bought one of my customary fridge magnets; I can hardly open my fridge door with the weight of all the magnets that I’ve gathered over the years. When eating that evening I got talking to an Austrian family in my tourist German, but found it difficult to understand them. They explained that they came from a town on the Austrian Swiss border and their dialect was hard to understand. It made for an interesting meal. I admit I did use my translator app to help have the conversation. Wish I had that in 1975.
Innsbruck - Zermatt
Up early at 6.45 to an amazing sunrise, the whole sky was bright red. Then onto the train to Zurich which passed through Liechtenstein and also journeyed along one of the longest lakes in Switzerland, Lake Zurich which is twenty-five miles long and two miles wide. The railway line runs along most of and it was very impressive on the train to Zurich. I struck up a conversation with two cyclists, eccentric pensioners from London. I thought they would be difficult but they were interesting and we had a good conversation. They panicked as the train arrived at Zurich as they had a tight train connection. I hope they made it. No change to 1975 - it’s all about the people you meet. Zurich station had not long been modernised. It was spotless and spacious. Then the train to Visp and then literally up to Zermatt. The train journey between Visp and Zermatt was impressive as expected. The mountain range was nothing like I had seen before and the amount of water coming off them created impressive waterfalls.
Zermatt was a bit of a maze and my hotel room was small and a bit dated. Trying to get my first view of the Matterhorn from the hotel roof I saw nothing but very low cloud. Had a walk around Zermatt. A pizza was £22. Well, you are in a ski resort in the middle of the Swiss Alps. I visited the mountaineers’ cemetery full of gravestones of mountaineers that had perished on the Matterhorn. The youngest, a seventeen year old from New York; Donald Stephen Williams died in July 1975, just five weeks before we departed on our first Interrail, he was just three years younger than us. The inscription on his stone was “I chose to climb”. I thought about his parents as they perhaps waved him off on his boat journey or flight to Europe probably very worried about their young man climbing one of the highest mountains in Europe. This was very moving. It rained overnight and again low cloud so disappointing, as the Matterhorn was what I came here for! The Matterhorn museum was the first ascent of the day. It was full of detail, stories and artefacts all on the history of the Matterhorn. I know that’s what you would expect but it was very different; the artefacts and displays seemed more lifelike than seen before.
As the clouds lifted I took a walk in the sun in the right direction and boom- the Matterhorn, in all its glory! The sun shining on it as the clouds would cover the peak then reappear moments later. I was surprised by its colour almost silver. No Google maps required here. Fantastic! At long last! I felt a bit emotional. It’s just a mountain, yes, but I had waited since primary school days for this experience. This moment I had waited for, for fifty five years. I will never forget it. I decided the day before I was not going to take the Gornergrat train if it was going to be low visibility. This vernacular railway travels between Zermatt and Gornergrat. Gornergrat has a hotel the highest in Switzerland, not surprising, with the most magnificent view of the Matterhorn. Since the weather cleared up, I decided to go. I was very excited. The experience was not disappointing. I disembarked at Gornergrat with my ears popping just like being on an aeroplane. It had been snowing that morning, so the air was fresh, clear and clean. Well it is 3089 meters high! As the clouds cleared the view was awesome; the mountain range around the Matterhorn was very impressive with of course Monte Rosa being part of it. This really was a dream come true! I stayed there for some time soaking it all in.
The journey down was pleasant but not as good as going up. I felt a tinge of sadness for reasons I can’t really explain. Perhaps it was because I was leaving a place I have waited so long to visit. That evening I went to the Hotel Post for a burger and a beer. I met a group of young adults from Singapore, Seng and his future wife and a few other friends, one being a photographer. They had been at Gornergrat to do a pre-wedding photo shoot, which is a popular thing to do. I really enjoyed their company. This day was one of the many major highlights. Posted a big blog with lots of photos on Facebook. During another face-time home I could not stop talking about the day.
Zermatt – Castiglioncello, Italy
I had a very long journey in front of me. Nine and a half hours to Castiglioncello on the Tuscany coast of Italy. My wife and I made friends with an Italian/Canadian family that split their time between Ottawa and Castiglioncello and we spent many summers there. The time at Castiglioncello was purely for rest time as I had been doing a lot over the last sixteen days. The journey was only 234 miles but involved the following route and changes- Zermatt-Brig -Milan-Florence-Livorno-Castiglionchello. Most connections went well but a long day travelling and it was very hot. I arrived in Livorno and had to wait for the connection so sat on the platform with a cold drink and was delighted to be back in Italy.
When I arrived at Castiglioncello, it was the smell of pine from the park across from the station that took me right back. It’s said that smells and music trigger memories and dates. The hotel and room were very pleasant with a private balcony and in a quiet part of town. I had always looked at this hotel during visits and thought I would like to stay there. I had a walk around the old town along the railway and decided to find my friends’ house with the off-chance that they may still be there even with it being September. Unfortunately we had lost touch many years ago. Once I found it I tried to communicate with elderly neighbours in my tourist Italian. I found out that they still visited Castiglioncello in July and August. I think these neighbours were suspicious of this Scottish visitor, so I left. I went for a walk down the Via Mare to the sea and along the beach toward Rosignano Solvay. It was very windy but sunny which made the sea very impressive. It would have been excellent for surfers. That afternoon I went poolside and with it been off-season I had the pool to myself for the three days!!
The next port of call was the island of Elba. So I boarded the train to Piombino for the ferry to Elba where I met Alisha from Florida. She was doing a three month yoga course in Florence University. She had also worked in the film industry so we had a few things in common with having taught filmmaking. I shared the ferry trip with her. It took an hour to sail to Portoferraio. We then said our goodbyes. My accommodation was situated in the old town of Portoferraio which dates back to the 18th century not that far from Napoleon’s house. His house as you would expect, was very grand and his bed was very small. It is said that his house was the first to have wallpaper. Spent the day in and around Portoferraio, watching fisherman repair fishing nets. What a skill! They were using the traditional method of fixing nets and were weaving the nets without even looking. I then walked through the old town. It was so Italian I know that sounds daft but narrow streets with washing hanging out and kids running around making lots of noise.
Elba – Barcelona, Spain
Up and way at 6.40am,while it was still dark. A relaxing walk even with my 16 kilo faithful rucksack on my back. Had a chilled sailing and made the train in plenty time so I felt a bit more relaxed. I made the connection at Campiglia Marittima and boarded the Rome train. I thought I got away without the reservation, but a ticket guard asked for one. I tried explaining my way out of. Not sure she really believed me, but she would have enjoyed me trying to explain this in my Italian. I thanked her when I left the train. Civitavecchia was a shipping port town and very busy. I had to find somewhere to leave my rucksack (I still had ten hours before my sailing). The only place was a dodgy shop but I had to take a chance, which reminded me of 1975 and the Zagreb hostel. I went down to the sea and really just filled in the time before my scheduled sailing at 10pm. I got my rucksack back, all okay. Phew.
When I embarked on the Roma the ship’s name, it was chaos from the start. Many people at the reception desk complained about one thing or another. I eventually got my cabin number and key. The cabin was for four. There was not one thing that went right during this twenty hour sailing. I should have known better. The Italian shipping line was called Grimaldi and grim it was. I had now reached the first of October. I’d been away twenty three days; I didn’t sleep very well in my cabin. My fellow cabin mates were pleasant but noisy sleepers and the cabin was very warm and stuffy. The day was very windy so I could not take in the sun. It ended up being a very boring sailing. I could hardly wait to get to Barcelona. I was hoping this long sailing was going to be an enjoyable experience but it wasn’t. When we eventually got off the ship with my new found friend Alexander from Mexico, we walked together to Christopher Columbus statue in square Plaça del Portal de la Pau. I wish I had a Saltire badge handy to give to Alexander as he had been a big help, using his Google maps and his Spanish language to help me find my Metro to Catalunya square and La Rambla
The city was buzzing with people of all nationalities and cultures. The La Ramba had a really nice feel and it being a lovely warm night did help. The hotel was very adequate even though I walked past its tiny entrance a few times before I discovered it was my hotel. My room was a single but it’s spacious for me. The view was an internal walk but it meant that I did not hear much from the busy noise of the main boulevard, the famous La Rambla. I had many plans for Barcelona. One as mentioned before was going to the Champions league match between Barcelona and Inter Milan at the Camp Nou and hopefully seeing one of my football heroes Lionel Messi. I was anxious that I did not have a hard copy of my match ticket but the kind receptionist printed off my Barcelona football ticket.
The next day I bought my three-day travel pass, now a routine and at the same time the map. I then started with a walk down La Rambla taking in all that it had to offer via the Placa Reial square, such impressive architecture, down to the Christopher Columbus monument with its neck breaking height. I bought my ferry ticket to Alcúdia at the same time as I did not want to take a chance of not getting on the ship. Next, off sightseeing taking in Gaudi’s sights. Prior to this adventure I was not sure about Gaudi’s work but the Casa Batllo, Le Pedrera and of course Sagrada Familia were all striking and different in many ways. Unfortunately there were still many cranes around the Sagrada Familia due to the ongoing restoration work. The walk to the Sagrada Familia was a long one so I took the metro back to Catalunya square. That evening was the big match so off to the Camp Nou. I wanted to get there at least an hour before kickoff. Had a walk around the stadium once I got in. Had a brilliant seat with a great view on the goal. It was worth every penny as I got to see Messi play. Fantastic. Final score 2-1 Barcelona When I returned to my hotel I could not sleep thinking about this football experience. What a day..
I made the decision to do the Camp Nou Museum and stadium tour the day after the match rather than on the same day. The museum was really well laid out and Messi’s golden boots and Ballon d’Or were on display. It was also interesting seeing the stadium when there was not a match on. I headed back to Catalunya Square and spent an hour or so taking in the many buskers there. Ate tapas that evening, really for the first time since having a bad experience on one of my former Interrails to Granada in the 80s. I felt I had missed out on some fine Spanish food back then. That evening I did a repack of my rucksack remembering my experience of Dover in 75. No surprises this time. My last day included a walk to the cathedral around the old streets, Placa Reil and La Rambla. I found the fresh food market to be just like the Borough market in London; the smells were delicious and atmosphere noisy, and passed by the marina to have a look at the super yachts. I took a sailing trip that afternoon around Barcelona bay in a boat where I met Jacob and Sabrina from Nazareth in Israeli. We shared some really interesting cultural stories. They did not know much about Scotland and I learned a lot about Israel. As we disembarked I passed on a saltire badge.
So I boarded the ship for my journey to Majorca. I asked a crew member about sleeping longer when we arrived at Alcúdia as I thought that Alcudia was the final destination and the journey terminated there. She told me that the ship then sailed to Ciutadella in Menorca so that’s not a good idea. This took me back to my experience in 1975 regarding boarding the right train carriage for the right destination. So I got two and a half hours sleep on a couchette type seat. I arrived in Alcúdia at 4.00 am. This was probably the closest to my 1975 night train journeys. I stayed in the port departure lounge until 7.30 am, played patience card game, listened to music and tried to sleep on a bench. I walked in to Alcúdia town centre then went for the 8.04 bus. A bus arrived. Not my one and the driver told me the bus left from the old town. “Where’s the old town?” I tried to ask, I’m very tired. The driver very kindly told me to get on the bus and drove me to the stop. Very kind of him, thank you. I would never have found that bus stop. I caught the 8.04 and the driver was originally from Glasgow. I knew that because once I paid my fair, he said cheers in a Scottish accent that he had not lost.
Having been to Puerto Pollensa many times with my family I knew its geography well. My hotel, in comparison to 1975 and other hotels on this trip, I had a splendid room. Went for a long walk that afternoon and has dinner at a restaurant called Trattoria De Razza, one that we frequented as a family. Face-timed my family then an early to bed. When I say my final days of this trip were really to get some sun and rest after all the travelling, you might think “we’ll you have had that”, but I really wanted to finish it in a place where we had fantastic family holidays so I spent the whole day poolside soaking up the October sun, reading books and listening to music. Sitting not far away I heard three young women speaking in Gaelic so got speaking and I could not believe it, one of them was a former pupil of the school I worked at. She and her two sister pals were from Skye. They were great company and in some ways, echoes from past trips that it really is a small world from bumping into someone from Mastrick at a Scotland match in Copenhagen to reuniting with Dutch backpackers in Rome.
Going home today, didn’t sleep very well thinking about transfers to the airport. Walked to the pickup point. Beautiful sunrise and a very pleasant walk with my Vango buddy on my back. The transfer bus journey and flight were uneventful in comparison to the last thirty two days. When I got off the plane in Edinburgh I was hit with an icy blast. It had gone from 27o to 10o. It was wet and windy. Well, I do live in Scotland.
‘’Last Facebook post ‘’
Well that's it, the end of 32 days of amazingness and awesomeness. The tour has been just what I wanted it to be, but better. Something I will never forget. While away I've missed a lot of people 💓 even though I've been travelling on my own. I've had these two faithful buddies with me. One now looking like something from the punk era after some repairs (my rucksacks) ... Even though I've been on my own, I've really not been lonely, because I've made so many new friendships, met so many people from different countries and cultures. That’s what travelling is all about. I’ve also been shown so much genuine kindness from strangers that it has been truly moving. But, talking of friends, I want to thank YOU. I was encouraged to do a blog and I'm so happy I did. I had my moments when away but with all your positive comments and likes on Facebook and the same on WhatsApp. it's been fantastic and so reassuring. You know who you are. A massive thank you. Love Len x’’
The comparison of my interrailing in 1975 and 1976 with Ronnie and 2019 are in two different worlds. One obvious difference was the internet and a Smartphone. I activated my data roaming. That was a very good decision as I really needed the internet and email on my phone. But very importantly being able to communicate with my family via text, Whatsapp and face time.
Prior to the tour, I changed my itinerary several times. But with hindsight, the final one I got spot on. My travel plans were tight so any missed trains or boats would have screwed things up. I was very lucky most of it went to plan. I also spent a lot of time, and this was important, researching where I was going, what attractions to visit, travel passes, where to eat, how to get around. I used google maps, also checked costs and how to get to my accommodation. This played a very large part in the trip’s success. Also, when I got to a town or city, I was always planning for the next day or two. Even Having a limited knowledge of German and Italian really worked for me. It got me through at a number of levels. The experience of having previously done six Interrails and other European travel was massive in terms of having been there before and the experience.
Reflecting on this 2019, It has become more apparent since my return how happy and proud I am that I have done the tour and how important it was to revisit important places for me that involved travel – also fulfilling travel dreams of a young schoolboy. I will always remember the people that I have met. That has been a really important part of the tour and honestly the people who helped me; this was such a massive part of the trip. On a few occasions I would have been really stuck if not for help from others. Meeting others from different countries and cultures that’s what it’s all about. Perhaps more people should do this and we would perhaps have less conflict.
Perhaps this is the naivety of an old man..
Duncan Simpson volunteer historian and archivist for the YHA and author of the history of the YHA.
Dixe Wills travel writer and author for the Guardian newspaper and many travel books.
Andrew Martin author of Night trains and many other train travel books..
Ronnie Robertson friend and fellow inter-rail traveller.
Alan Robertson friend, author and proof reader of this article.
National Library of Scotland.
The University of Edinburgh Library.
Mastrick Library Aberdeen
Aberdeen Central Library
Aberdeen journals Ltd DC Thomson
Nanja for her sensitive editing
Judith my wife for putting up with me during the writing of this article.
Note: the article has been shortened to make it easy to read for everyone. However, I do have the full versions available, so if you are interested → see attachment.
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