Friday, June 2

A 2 week interrail itinerary for Eastern Europe

Way back at the beginning of August last year I was seriously craving getting away, having just finished university and starting my temp job (who by the way were super nice to let me have 2 weeks off after only being there for 2 weeks!) and luckily I had another friend with a plan. This was my first trip where I wasn't in complete control which I've got to say was quite difficult for the control freak within me. I've also got to admit I had no interest with going/no clue these places existed. As I'm never one to turn down a holiday I took the risk and although not as relaxing as I wanted it was still so much fun and so cool to explore some new places.
I'm calling this an inter-rail trip but we actually ended up getting more buses than trains due to the access round the countries we went to so we didn't buy a pass like the one I got for Western Europe.
Birmingham, England
Our journey began at an extremely chaotic Birmingham Airport with a 3 hour flight to a very hot Bucharest.
Bucharest, Romania (3 days)
I wasn't really blown away by Bucharest, there was an odd mix of these really pretty buildings like the one above alongside a really commercialised area that looked like it was trying to be Times Square. One thing I would say, it was bloody boiling. Walking around a city in 36 degrees is not really my idea of fun so we took a lot of breaks.
Things to do:
- Walking tour: these are always my favourite way to see a new city as many things get pointed out to you that you wouldn't usually come across and often there are some good insider tips. I think the walking tour basically revealed to us that there wasn't a great deal to do and we possibly didn't need all the time we had there.
- Palace of the Parliament: Suggested to us by our walking tour guide as somewhere to check it, we spent a morning wandering round the Parliament building. It was around £4/28Leu for the tour and there were quite a few on offer, you did have to pay extra if you wanted to take pictures which we weren't particularly fussed about and they let you take on of the view for free (how kind). It was HUGE, google tells me it has around 3,000 rooms but I don't think we were taken into every single one. Oh and you'll need your passport if you want to go in.
Where we stayed: Bucur's Shelter - approx £8/night
A little lax with security, given that our room was on the ground floor and the door-sized window was  open the whole time we were there. They did have free breakfast and pretty decent showers though. I'm also pretty sure they had 2 guinea pigs...
Timisoara, Romania (1 day, 7 hours)
This was an unintended day trip on our way to Belgrade. We caught an overnight train from Bucharest to Timisoara which was meant to get us in with time to catch the next train to Belgrade, alas it was late and we ended up having to spend about 7 hours here waiting for the next one (in the pouring rain!). We didn't find a whole lot to do, especially as we were lugging our rucksacks along with us and embarrassingly spent a lot of the time in KFC (for the free wifi). It was a pretty little town but as we hadn't even planned on being there we hadn't even considered looking at whether there was anything to do!

Belgrade, Serbia (3 days)
Finally it was time to leave the torrential rain (which had of course stopped just as we were about ready for the train!) After crossing the border we changed trains for our final part of the journey into Belgrade. The train station we got in at was nowhere near the centre of Belgrade or our hostel so a taxi probably would have been the wiser option, given it was really dark at this point and we were slightly delusional after zero sleep. In an effort to save our money we ended up walking the 3 miles trying to find our hostel, which took a while as the instructions weren't particularly clear. We found our friend who had been waiting for us all day, she'd actually spent most of the day calling the airport as they'd managed to lose her bag!
Things to do:
- Walking tour: Again, this was a really great way to see the city and this one also included free alcohol so I'd say that's pretty decent. We tried some home-brewed rajika which I don't think was my favourite. I've linked the particular one we went on which covered the whole of downtown Belgrade including the Bohemian Quarter, which is a really nice area for food/drinks anytime of day, Republic Square and Kalamegdan Citadel.
- The Museum of Yugoslav History: This is what it says on the tin, a museum of Yugoslavian history. You can also visit Tito's (the Yugoslavian Dictator) grave as it is included in the ticket price. It was really interesting and a lot of info to take in so I recommend following it with the below.
- Cocktails on the floating river barges: Along the river you'll see plenty of bars, some of which turn into clubs at night. I believe we ended up at one at the end if you're coming at them from the centre of the city. The drinks were expensive, in comparison to the rest of Belgrade but were still at least half the price of what they would be in the UK for that kind of experience.
Where we stayed: I haven't got a clue - awaiting info from my pal on this as the guy that owned it was lovely - even though it was up a million and one stairs.

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (2 days)
This was INTENSE. So much very recent history that I honestly knew nothing about. The Bosnian genocide is something I've never studied or even read about and it happened in my lifetime. It completely blew me away, reading and watching personal accounts of the horrific events that took place and how inhumane people can be. This is also a place where I can't actually recommend a walking tour as we actually started one but the tour guide was the most disinterested and monotone guy on the planet that we ended up leaving and getting food instead. Wandering around the city, there is still so much evidence of the Siege of Sarajevo and the snipers with bullet and shrapnel damage in a lot of the buildings.

Things to do:
- Walk around the Old Town. Keep an eye out for the Sarajevo Roses, which were created by filling in the damage that shell explosions left behind with red resin and serve as a lasting reminder of the pain the war caused.
- Sajevo War Tunnel. The tunnels were used to deliver food, supplies and often people during the siege of Sarajevo that lasted over 3 YEARS, and there's a part of the tunnel, around 25 metres, which you can walk through and imagine what that would have been like. We had a tour guide for this, who I initially thought was just the transport included in our ticket to the tunnels but also gave us a tour round Sarajevo itself, including the Old Jewish Cemetery (which was used as a stronghold for Serbian snipers during the war).
- Gallery 11/07/95. It details personal experiences and tells the story of the Bosnian/Srebrenica genocide. I recommend reading up a bit about this before as it is a lot to take in. In my opinion this is a complete must see, especially if like me you are a 90s kid that doesn't know anything about it! There is so much to read and watch and left me feeling completely numb when we left.
- Visit the bridge where WW1 started. In 1914, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo, this was critical in the chain of events leading up to WW1.
- The Historical Museum of Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Where we stayed: I can't actually find where we stayed but it wouldn't have been a great recommendation anyway - although there was a free breakfast and the staff were lovely, security was a bit lax and our room was used as a gateway to the smoking area and the room itself was made to feel like a smoking area.

Dubrovnik, Croatia (3 days)
We ended up walking around Croatia going HOW MUCH as we were comparing the prices to all the places we'd just come from. Prices here were very similar to much of Western Europe as tourism is SO big here. There is so much to see though, especially if you're a Game of Thrones fan.
Things to do:
- Sea kayaking: Never in my life did I think I'd end up on one these. Also we were totally meant to be on individual kayaks but my total inability to be able to paddle meant my pal had to sacrifice his 'see-through' kayak to help me in a two-man. The trip also included snorkelling and a sandwich and snacks. As you head towards the Old town there are countless people trying to sell you this and I don't think the price varied much so I doubt the experience is much different whoever you choose.
- Old town walls: We didn't do the tour round them and just went into the Old town itself but I believe  you get a lovely view from the top.
- Clifftop bars: I don't think we actually went to the one that everyone always recommends as they didn't have any seats but we managed to squeeze into another one that still had an absolutely stunning view of the sunset.
Where we stayed: Hostel 365 for U
THE BEST SHOWERS EVER. This was a bit like staying in a hotel, no real social area and the rooms were a super high standard, especially in comparison to everywhere else we had stayed and it had quite a commercial feel to it. Good priced accommodation in Dubrovnik is quite difficult to find. It was about a 20 minute walk from the Old Town which wasn't ridiculously bad, once we'd found the right way.

Budva, Montenegro (3 days)
We actually came here for a bit of beach chill time but it turned into the opposite. The beaches were some of the busiest ones I've ever been on and we were crammed like sardines, trying to claim our space. I believe there are other islands you can go to from Budva but I remember talking to a few people back at the hostel that said there were much the same as the ones in Budva and not particularly pleasant.
Things to do:
- Old Town: This is definitely the prettiest part of the town. Very similar to Dubrovnik with lots of alleyways and little shops and restaurants.
- Ballet dancer statue: Nice pictures of the area from here.
- Mogren beach: This is a thing to do but I'm not sure I really recommend it, maybe there is a time of day that it isn't packed to the rafters. Once you've plonked your stuff and got in the water it's quite nice but not a relaxing experience.
- City Walls: Much like Dubrovnik City Walls I imagine except only costing a euro, or nothing if there is no one on the gate when you're there - ooops.

Where we stayed: Freedom Hostel
Situated within the city walls in the Old Town, this hostel had a really nice social area where you could bring your own drinks. They also did a pretty reasonable dinner every night which always looked amazing. It also had what looked like a pretty equipped kitchen but we ended up eating out as it was so cheap. They also give you a free beer when you check in.

And so concludes our two week trip around Eastern Europe. To sum it up, places I would definitely recommend are Belgrade, Sarajevo and Dubrovnik. The others I could have missed to be quite honest. There are so many places in Eastern Europe that I'd still love to go, especially in Croatia. Have you been to any of these places before? Anywhere else I need to check out in Europe?
Here's the picture evidence that I did actually end up on a kayak:

Have you seen these posts?

A Guide to Interrailing
Travel | Trek America Days 1 - 3
Travel | My 2016 Travel Lust List
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