Thursday, 25 July 2013

Interrailing, part 1: Amsterdam

At the beginning of the year two of my best friends from school and I finally (after years of talking about it) sat down to organise an interrail trip.
Rebecca, Siobhan, me (and lots of mojitos!)

Pretty much everyone of our generation has an idea of what this involves but if you were wondering it's basically a train ticket you can buy which gives you unlimited rail travel around countries in the European Union on almost all rail companies. There's different types of tickets you can get and they're cheaper for those under 25.
We decided on the 10 travel days within 21 days option. This means that you enter 10 dates within a 21 day period and you get unlimited travel on that date. There's extra rules surrounding times of trains and things like that, which can help you to take overnight trains and waste as few of the days as possible. If you're going for this option I'd suggest you read into these rules carefully beforehand, so that you can make the most of it and not run into extra costs along the way.

We planned our route as follows: Amsterdam-Brugge-Brussels-Berlin-Krakow-Prague-Budapest-Venice.

We realised half way along that the middle bit of our trip took a bit of a zig zag route, but it didn't make much of a difference.

Plaza de Espana, Sevilla
I spent one night in Seville before heading off on the trip. I love and feel comfortable in the city so I wasn't at all worried about occupying myself for one night. However airports are a different story. I love travel .I'm content to take long journeys alone. I don't even mind flying! But for some reason I just HATE airports. They make me nervous, I always feel like I'm 'doing it wrong'. Ah well needless to say I was slightly nervous flying out of and into two airports I'd never been to before. And yet fate decided not to help me out at all and landed me right into the beginnings of the French air strikes. Already nervous flyer told that they have no idea when the plane will be able to leave. Fantastic. After a lot of back and forth we were quickly hurried onto the plane and told we had only 10 minutes to get ready and make our time slot. We left about 2 hours late and took an alternative route around Italy and Germany, to avoid the French air space and I met up with my friends in Amsterdam just 1 hour after they arrived. It all worked out in the end :) 

Amsterdam canals

We stayed in Amsterdam for 3 nights and it both met and exceeded out expectations. It has a reputation for being very open minded and that is certainly true. We ended up strolling into the red light district unexpectedly and I might have been pretty shocked if I hadn't already known about it.

Hostel: Flying Pig Downtown - 9/10
This was probably my favourite hostel of the whole trip. It was about 10 minutes away from the central station and pretty easy to find. Look out for the massive cheese shop and you'll know you're almost there. When you enter you're immediately confronted by a lively bar and chilled out reception staff. The bar has a pool table and further back was a smoking room where we were informed we could 'smoke what ever we wanted'. The bar has regular party nights, with music and free shots and the smoking room is lined with comfy cushions, books, chess sets etc. It's a fantastic environment for meeting people.
The rooms were a little bit tight and although each bed had it's own cage below it for your case, you could only get into yours it those around you weren't using theirs.
Breakfast was free and wifi was available in the bar. Laptops could be rented.
The location was good and we were close to pretty much anything we wanted to see. But it was the atmosphere and friendliness that really made this hostel. A little pricier than some but the cheaper drinks at the bar saved us some cash in the end as we were able to retire to our hostel but still hang out rather than forking out more money on some of the expensive bars.

Siobhan enjoying the sex museum

The city: I totally loved Amsterdam. It has a really cool atmosphere and beautiful buildings. We took a free tour of the city to begin with and later a ten euro Red Light District tour. I would highly recommend both as the first gets you adjusted to the city (which can be a bit of a maze sometimes) and the later really gives you an insight into the history of the area. We also checked out the Sex Museum and the Anne Frank Museum. The later was really interesting; it takes you around the actual house where the Frank family hid from the Nazis. We also managed to find one of Amsterdam's most famous flower markets, awaiting for all your tulip needs. Whilst in Amsterdam you have to try the chips with mayonnaise. At first I couldn't see what all the fuss was about- sure chips with mayonnaise is popular everywhere. No this is REAL mayonnaise. It's just so deliciously addictive. But mayonnaise obviously isn't the only substance Amsterdam is famous for. Of course one of the things people are most aware of about the Netherlands is the relaxed attitude taken towards soft drugs. There are "Coffee shops" (as officially advertising what they're selling still is not legal), where you can purchase and smoke to your heart's desire.

Flower Market
Tips: The Dutch speak English fantastically well and were very friendly on the whole so if you're lost just stop someone on the street- if they have a bike, they're more likely to know their way around. Speaking of bicycles- WATCH OUT. Seriously, they're everywhere and if you're not used to the bells you honestly stand the risk of getting in a nasty accident. If you hear a bell, move. Amsterdam can be quite expensive so look out for offers for the museums in your hostel. Also if you're feeling peckish but don't have much money, you can buy small burgers for around 2 euro from any Febo vending machine; yes that's right, a vending machine with fast food!
Do not take pictures of the girls in the Red Light District. They will smash your camera and possibly your face too. Also if you are tempted to rent the time of any of the girls know exactly what you're getting for your money before you step in. Anything that's done outside of those parameters you will be charged for. If you refuse, then a panic button will be hit and a large angry bouncer will make you pay up.

Next post: Brugge and Brussels

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