Post Inter-rail thoughts-Part one


Even though I should be going to bed, (again its ridiculously late) I’ve decided to do something beneficial (other than sleeping.) To do some writing on here (I aim to be a writer you know, hint!) and to share some thoughts and feelings on my past travelling experiences and the experiences just waiting around the corner.

➡ So my experience of the Inter-rail trip was quite memorable to say the least. For those who don’t know, this is where you purchase a pass for a period of time that allows you to get on many trains throughout Europe and also entitles you to discounts on some ferries. First off, although the concept of the pass seemed great for a budget; it became clear that unless you plan to really live it rough, then this is an expensive experience. I’m the type of traveller who keeps an eye on her purse but does not allow her comfort standards to suffer. I don’t go for posh hotels, I prefer the hostel environment anyway, but I draw the line at dorms. Not only for security reasons, but a girl needs her personal space! I also don’t go for expensive restaurants, and actually enjoy the experience of going into a foreign supermarket and cooking a meal myself. It works out cheaper to go for self catering anyway, and plus being a committed veggie, there’s only certain types of foods I eat. I won’t enter into the “WHAT DO VEGETARIANS EAT” 🙄 debate. My point? It’s expensive.

How did I go about the trip? Well we were off to Finland anyway for a couple of weeks, so I came up with the idea (about five days before we were due to fly) to add the inter-rail to it. So basically, we took off to Helsinki on a one way flight, not knowing when we were to return. The inter-rail trip couldn’t have been any less planned really. I knew that, because I love the country so much, I wanted to spend more time in Finland, seeing a bit more than Helsinki. My best friend (and fellow traveller) also loves Finland so this wasn’t a problem. I’m not going to say that planning our next steps were fun; it would take someone with the patience of a saint to think that. It took us absolutely ages to find suitable accommodation and quite a few calls to unrecognised numbers (bearing in mind, we wanted it almost straight away and this was the summer period) but eventually we decided upon the city of Lahti, Finland as our next point of call. That was a weird feeling; leaving the familiarity of Helsinki behind on the train, as previous to this and our past trips to Helsinki, the only foreign place we had been on our own was to Roskilde Festival, Denmark ( a completely different tale altogether.) Yes, I admit I was slightly nervous going to an unknown city where I can hardly speak the language. I will give myself and my friend credit here though, because wherever we went we would try to learn a few words of the language. As I see it, if a foreigner came up to me in the street in England and spoke to me in a language other than English asking me to speak their language- I’d find that a bit odd and slightly insulting. Surely, it’s only polite to at least ask them to speak English in their language? Ok, so English is a world language, but what right do people have to demand nationals of a country to speak a language other than their own? True, the Finns found it amusing with our totally English speaking accents but on the whole it was obvious that they really appreciated our efforts. And therefore we got so many people being nice to us.

Sorry, slight distraction there. 😆 Back to the trip… Ok, so we arrived in Lahti about an hour and a half from Helsinki. I have to say that train journey shook us up slightly and made us dread the journeys ahead. This is because, well for a start we had those huge rucksacks on our backs (yes, overfilled with things we probably didn’t need) and secondly the nightmare of seat reservations. It’s really a good idea to reserve seats on a Finnish train before hand, we learnt because that’s what the majority of people do. So imagine falling on a seat exhausted, only to have a person come up to you talking in a language you just don’t really understand until they point to their seat number on the ticket. Which, yes, is the seat you are sitting on at the time. And so we’d find another one…only to be moved again… and again… Reserve your seats!
We found where we were staying, some un-used university rooms and a couple of hours later the rain started. I know that here in England, we’re used to rain and constant showers, but this was something else. It was ridiculous. So most of our time spent in Lahti was dashing for shelter in the town centre or using the internet. This is something to really take on board when you go travelling, times really can be tough. It becomes sometimes more of a way of living as opposed to a holiday. So our mood wasn’t at the best in this time.

However things dramatically improved as we ventured on after a few days to the city of Tampere. There are many things I could say about that place, but I’m aware this is turning into a really long entry, so I’ll keep it short. I would say its a fantastic place to visit, really refreshing but at the same time clearly has some industrial-Manchester influence (this is because a guy from Manchester went to start the main industry other there in the 1800’s.) We also found the time to visit a famous(ish) spy museum- just an example of how varied our lives were.

Our next adventure was one I had been long-awaiting, a trip to Oulu. It was a shame, we could only spend a long weekend there, because as you learn with these inter-rail trips, there’s only so much time you have. Some people literally are on the go all the time, choosing only to spend a night or two at the most but, although I wanted to see as much as I can (you’re always thinking how to make the trip cost effective), I also really wanted to get a feel for the place. I really do love cultures and getting to know the atmosphere of the town and city- it’s actually quite exciting once you know your way in big foreign towns. But we really, really did make the most of what Oulu had to offer. It is such a unique place, five hours by train from Tampere, so quite up in Northern Finland. For a start, the air was so fresh it actually cured my friend’s heavy cold within a day. (Strangely enough, the cold came back after she left Oulu.) We found our way to the camping site, thanks to a very helpful local, and to our lovely hut. Being Finland, there were lots of trees surrounding us and the beach was only a few minutes away. This was most probably my favourite part of the entire trip; the summer evenings spent watching the most glorious sunset over the Northern Sea. Its one of those moments you see in the movies, that you dream you will get to experience but you secretly don’t believe that they actually exist. Well, they really, really do.

Around this time we had decided that we wanted to go to Sweden next, Norway and possibly Denmark again, before returning to Helsinki and flying home. Therefore our next step was to Turku, where after a few days (I think it turned out to be about four) we’d catch the ferry to Stockholm (Sweden.) Turku was lovely, (I have to say I loved its shops!) but it took us a while to adjust to our new accommodation. It just seemed really cramped (even though we had just spent a few days in a wooden cabin.) That’s another thing what got to us, just the amount of times you have to pack up and move on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s exciting. But as a first- timer, of course it’s going to tire you out. We’d just get settled in one place before it was all thrown up into the air and we’d be staying in a completely different type of accommodation. Since this time, I’ve also figured out that that’s what life’s about, well my life anyway. It’s constantly changing and some times you don’t notice but it is. It’s a scary concept, but its one of the reasons I’ve taken this gap year in the first place- to actually experience life outside of the standard ‘blind-folded’ education system. I think previous to this, I got too attached to things and people too easily and so change was really hard to cope with. Now, however, I’m growing not only to accept it but also to enjoy it. Life needs to be varied . It’s so much more interesting and you can meet so many different types of people.

Anyway, back to the Inter-rail trip again… This was the time (in Turku) where we realised that it just wasn’t going to be possible to do the all the Scandinavian countries. Not only would it be pushing it to afford the flight back from Helsinki home (not even considering the prices of getting back to Helsinki) but the price of accommodation in Sweden and Norway, especially, were utterly ridiculous. Although I love Finland with my heart, we paid for the inter-rail experience and not just for Finn-rail (they are separate) and so were determined to see some other countries as well. Therefore the only way would be to, well try and get home on Inter-rail. Again this wasn’t completely certain because we had almost already used two weeks of our month pass. But it was decided that was the aim…..

{Part two, The Other Countries, will be continued after I have had some sleep!

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