Things to do When Riding the Rails
1. Island hopping in Croatia
You don't need to be rich to island hop around Croatia, and with over a thousand islands dotted along the coastline it's easy to travel between them. From the beautiful port in Hvar you can rent a small motor boat and spend the day cruising between the idyllic islands. Some are wild and uninhibited, and others are more developed with relaxing beach bars and touristy areas. Each island has its own unique identity so there's something for everyone; from nudist beaches in Brac to all-night parties in Pag. Head back to the port in time to watch the sun set for a perfect end to the day.
2. Sziget Festival in Budapest
Europe is now a top music festival destination with big-name headliners popping up every summer and Sziget is one of the best. The week-long festival is held on Obudai-sizget (Old-Buddha) Island in the middle of Buda and Pest, and its idyllic location gives Sziget that holiday-festival vibe. It is cheaper than many, with a totally unpretentious crowd and a wide variety of music. Previous headliners have included the Sex Pistols, The Prodigy and the Foo Fighters but Sziget isn't just about the music - there's plenty of daytime entertainment. It also gives you the perfect excuse to explore the lively city of Budapest with its Turkish spas and unique ruin pubs.
3. Gondolas in Venice
Venice is an enchanting city built on water, so the best way to explore through the labyrinth of canals is by boat. You can take a gondola tour which is a little more authentic (but pricey) or it's equally as fun to jump on a tourist boat, glide around the city and marvel at the picturesque Basilica and abundance of palaces, gardens, churches and bridges. There's a multitude of spectacular architecture making it the perfect destination for photographers. Foodies are spoilt for choice with Italian cuisine, and art lovers can spend hours being inspired in Venice's many galleries.
4. Auschwitz in Poland
Visiting Auschwitz transforms the holocaust from a horrific historical event to a very real place where Jews were mass murdered. Walking around has a sobering effect as you begin to understand how these people were worked to death or exterminated. The tours are very interesting and informative and you can even walk through the gas chamber at the end. The magnitude of the genocide is highlighted in the museum by mementos of their hair and shoes and the air of coldness is inescapable throughout the site. Anyone with an interest in history will be captivated by the documentary video and stories of what they went through and served with a reminder never to forget those who died.
5. Sightseeing in Berlin
Sightseeing in Berlin is best accomplished by taking advantage of the free walking tour around the city. There's so much history and the knowledgeable guides know the stories behind all the historic sights like the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial, the Berlin wall, and Checkpoint Charlie plus you get to meet a new group of people. Despite being steeped in history Berlin isn't just about the sightseeing, it's emerging as a really fashion conscious city with plenty of trendy bars and riverside restaurants. You'll want to spend a night in Berlin dancing the night away and don't forget to try a Bratwurst sausage either.
6. Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia
Easily accessible from Zagreb are the stunning Plitvice lakes. The crystal clear lakes are interconnected by a set of waterfalls, each cascading down into the next lake. Around every turn the rickety boardwalks bring you closer to the lakes and the stunning green fauna. At some points you walk right over the lakes. When you arrive, take your pick from an easy hour-long walk or a more challenging 4-hour hike to the falls. The longer walk is made better by the views of the pristine National Park and you can walk up higher for even more sensational views of the Dalmatian coastline. Take a picnic to enjoy after your walk by the beautiful waterfalls.
7. Skadarlija in Belgrade
Belgrade is one of Europe's most under-rated cities but is rich in culture and great for travellers as it's so cheap! Rent a bike to explore the hot spots of the city; Ada Ciganlija is a sandy river island in central Belgrade - a great sunbathing spot. Check out the bustling Kalenic Pijaca market, and wander around the Kalmegdan Fortress. After seeing the sights, the best place to unwind is the cobble-stoned bohemian quarter Skadarlija. It covers just two blocks jammed packed full of chilled out bars and ethnic restaurants, vintage shops and live music. Taste some of the best traditional Serbian food in the gypsy-style restaurants - the mixed grills are the most popular item on the menu.
8. Canal boat tour, Amsterdam
You may want to indulge your hedonistic side in Amsterdam's red light district, but there are plenty of other things to keep you occupied when you are done with the coffee shops and cones full of frites and mayonnaise. Renting bikes or taking a canal boat along the river are both great ways of seeing the sights. Keep your eyes out for the colourful house boats as your tour guide leads you through the beautiful historic city with its slanting buildings and quirky museums. Don't forget to pop into Anne Frank's house, the Van Gogh Museum, the Sex Museum, and after dark party at Trouw, the former newspaper building converted into a warehouse with brilliant club line-ups.
9. La Tomatina Festival, Spain
On the last Wednesday of August 40,000 people descend on the mountain town of Bunol for La Tomatina - the world's biggest food fight. Truckloads of tomatoes are slung and flung into the crowds until there is total tomatoey chaos on the streets. It's all in the name of good fun but this is not one for claustrophobics as it is hard to escape the crowds. Historically the festival began when a local man retrieved a ham from the top of a greasy pole, but nowadays it begins at 11am and lasts an hour. Make sure you wear old clothes and proper shoes as you'll be covered from head to toe scrambling around in tomato juice. It's quite a sight as the festival comes to an end and the town and people are hosed down.
10. Beer gardens in Prague
Prague, in the Czech Republic, has so much beautiful gothic and Romanesque architecture you'll feel enchanted when you first arrive. You'll want to spend some time sight-seeing around Prague Castle, Charles Bridge and Old Town Square. Walk to the top of St Nicholas Church for the best views over Prague's turreted cityscape. After all that walking you'll be feeling a bit thirsty and luckily the Czech people know how to make a damn good beer. There is a great beer garden at Riegrovy Sady where you can hang out on picnic tables, listen to music and drink plenty of Staropramen.
Go InterRailing around Europe
Valid on the railways of 30 European countries, the InterRail Global Pass is probably the best way to travel this great continent independently, allowing you to travel on an unlimited basis during a certain time period. All the best countries are included, such as France, Italy, Spain and Germany.
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