Lincolnshire Peasant

Exploring places from a peasant perspective.

Category: Interrailing

Nine Days Left

Yesterday a thick package containing my InterRail Pass fell through my letterbox, and I realised that I am actually going to Europe. For so long it seemed to be in the distant future; like children and arthritis. But exams distracted me and now it looms menacingly close. I leave in nine days time, and if all goes to plan I will be back by the 5th of August, when I can begin recounting my tale to you. Though it is quite possible that we will not return at all, perhaps frozen on a lonely Bavarian street or lost deep in Hungarian peasant country, forced to pick potatoes to earn our keep.

The ticket information leaflet is plastered with pictures of glamorous young people relaxing in train carriages and hugging amorously in front of the Eiffel tower. A noble dream, but I suspect we will look more like  contingent of hard bitten tramps, and my thoughts will likely be of murder rather than love after spending 22 days imprisoned in a train carriage.

Anyway, I am taking my camera, and will return weighted with experiences to share with you. Wish me luck.

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An Ersatz Colosseum

Before I recount this I must speak in our defence, it had been a long day and we were all rather bleary eyed from making hostel reservations.

A few days ago, we were flitting around Europe on Google Earth, locating our hostels and generally trying to get an idea of each cities layout. All was well until we decided to whet our wanderlust a little and scout out the sights we would be visiting in Rome. In true tourist fashion, we quickly found the Colosseum and zoomed in. Unfortunately, the sight that greeted us was less than impressive.

At once we burst into outcry. We expected a great, impressive arena of stone! But here was a rather dinghy looking thing, that appeared to have been constructed from corrugated iron and concrete. However, this disappointing lack of charm from above was dwarfed by our outrage with the evildoing of the Italian Government. How dare they desecrate such a prestigious ancient ruin by surrounding it with a rail yard? And hideous grey warehouses too! We spent several minutes energetically cursing such barbaric vandalism, until realisation  slowly began to creep over us. And then it became all too apparent.

We were not looking at the Colosseum at all, but rather the turntable of a large railway depot, about three kilometre east of the real thing.

Making Money

Travelling is great. One of the main drawbacks is the expense, unless you sneak aboard a tea clipper bound for Singapore, or go to Skegness. Certainly it is easy enough to amass the money to go abroad if you are a thirty something engineer and have no mortgage: you simply stop feeding the children. But what if, like me, you have no job and have to spend most of your available time studying? Here are a few ideas that I came up with to finance my trip to Europe:

  • Sell a sibling. Generally they are a nuisance with no real talents, and you could make a tidy profit by selling them to a coal mine or local aristocrat. This has the added bonus of reducing food expenditure!
  • Set up a dictatorship. By declaring your house or town a sovereign nation, you are free to print your own currency. Try it! I’ll leave it to your respective governments to explain any little niggles and flaws with this plan afterwards.
  • Become an industrialist. By buying up any natural resources in the area and building a workforce of unwanted siblings, you too can become a successful capitalist!
  • Sell something you don’t actually own. This is a particularly easy way to get cash quick, so long as you can then evade any irate purchasers. Things you might want to consider selling include famous landmarks, large buildings, and neighbours houses.

The Europe Expedition

At last, with summer fast approaching, we have set in stone the itinerary for our train-voyage across Europe. We locked ourselves in a darkened room with an atlas, a few laptops and some guide books. Eight hours later we emerged, bleary eyed and vowing never to look at a train timetable again. However, our self-incarceration was productive, for we have now booked the hostels and planned the train routes. With the logistics arranged, we can finally focus on exactly what we will be doing in each city. I will definitely be able to scratch a few items off my To Do list along the way.

We will set out from London and roam for more than three weeks before returning home; feet sore, wallets empty, wanderlust satisfied.

In the first week we shall journey up Germany, visiting places such as Mainz, Wolfsburg and Berlin. Then comes Eastern Europe and the cities of Prague, Vienna and Budapest. Once we have had our fill of the former Habsburg Empire we shall catch a southbound train to the sunnier Mediterranean to explore Venice and Rome and relax a little. Next is the most dreaded section of the journey; a marathon 18 hour train journey from Rome to Paris, twisting and turning through the Alps. We shall spend the last few days limping about Paris, before returning to England for a well earned rest.

If you have any advice or would like to recommend a place to visit, please leave a comment!

Image courtesy of www.welove2ski.com 

Consulting Czech Guy

A location we all hope to visit on our travels in Europe is Prague, and so who better to ask than a native? One such person sprung to mind; Alexis, the British Council’s Comenius Programme assistant, who currently resides at my school.

 Sophisticated, cultured, and Czech, he is extremely friendly, and was delighted when we expressed an interest in visiting his homeland. And so he arranged an incognito rendezvous in a shady recess of the language department, where he poured unto us his knowledge of Prague, recommending all sorts of fascinating places, like Kampa Park and the Cafe Mlejn. All went well except for some cretons coming and sticking their uncultured noses into our meeting, as though it was a god given right to converse with the Czech Guy. Evidently we will not be able to keep our travel plans secret  from them for much longer.

One place that particularly piqued my intrest was Alexis’ tale of the old Jewish quarter of Prague, and a story of the Golem, a man crafted from clay and animated by the rabbi and magician Judah Loew ben Bezalel, to protect the city. Deep within my soul a voice whispers that something potent awaits me in the dark and narrow streets of that place. Something, perhaps, that would make my Jew coin from Marrakech pale in comparison, if it were possible for such a dark magick to be paled. Alternatively, it might just be the wanderlust getting to me again.

Prologue

This time last year, a group of fellow students and I visited Morocco, where we met and saw a massive variety of people and places. I have since lost the photographs in a harddrive failure and misplaced the only souvenir I purchased, an ancient Jewish coin, but I still have a great many memories from that week in North Africa. While I had travelled before, this really piqued my desire to see new cultures and places, and I can no longer contain this need.

And so I am financing an expedition to Europe, the land of empire builders and inventors, the birthplace of our civilization. I will be exploring it by rail, with a student Interrail ticket. Accompanying me are the most trustworthy and ingenious of companions that I could find. Truth be told, I didnt look awfully hard.

Connor, an old accomplice from Maroc, will be joining me. An expert linguist, he will be acting as translator as we converse with the locals, and ensuring we do not cause offence by breaching any heathen customs. Fluent in French and German, and so perfect for Europe!

From the grimy conurbation of Manchester we will be joined by Madeleine, an acquaintance of Connor, who I have never met. I presume she is a young city orphan waif, much like Oliver Twist. However, she has learned to write, and I am sure travelling will widen her horizons and help her escape the poverty of her home city.

Oh, and Charlotte too. A tough little thing, who is alright so long as she doesnt cook you risotto. Emphasis on the little, she has growth hormone issues which she is very sensitive about. Poor little midget.

I must mention, here, my fellow geographers; who will not be accompanying us. I would like to thank them for their support at home, for making all which I achieved, and for being a  font of support and encouragement as I navigate the logistical perils of purchasing train tickets and booking hostels. And I would also heartily recommend interrailing to anybody else intrested seeing Europe on a budget. Have a look into it at http://www.interrailnet.com/ .