When my boyfriend, Ben, said his friend Emme was considering a trip to Europe I remembered all my silly Eurorail experiences. When you’re at art school in Glasgow, summer isn’t the best (we get A LOT of rain). So we felt the continent calling, for artistic inspiration of course.
With Emme’s upcoming trip, I feel it is my duty to fill her in on the joys available on my continent, to help her to avoid the many pitfalls we fell into.
Eurorailing can open up a world of culture, art, history and travel. But when you let three 19 year old art students loose on the rails, mayhem is sure to be on the cards. Being spontaneous we felt there was no need to plan ahead. We would book our flights for the start and finish then find our way in between (avoiding Morocco, our mothers made it clear that was off limit as: ‘you pale and pasty girls are sure to be sold for camels’). It kind of worked!
Over a couple of summers we covered eight countries, and our friendship survived sleeping opposite brothels, getting left with no money in Berlin (in the middle of the night), over sized luggage stuck in trains, missing trains and being told to get out of Spain (swear words were included) in Spanish!
I could go on forever, but my mishap highlight has to be Italy, a lot can happen in a week! Our arrival from France into Milan may have set the tone for the trip. As the train slowed for arrival, we pulled our rucksacks down from the high compartment shelves and one of the cords got stuck. As we tugged it free it pulled the emergency stop lever and the train jolted to a stop. The other riders in our compartment stared in disbelief, silence (we don’t speak Italian, they don’t speak English or Spanish or French). The silence broke as the conductor rushed down the carriage checking compartments. It turned out the train can’t restart until the lever is returned to the safe position, whoops! Terrified of a fine we simply didn’t have, unable to communicate, my friend Sadie, pushed me saying: “do that look where you look like you’re going to cry.” A skill I had mastered when I got nervous, and it seemed to work. The conductor fixed the lever, the train moved and we almost RAN off the train, still scared someone was going to grab us demanding a €300 fine. We left from a different station
Luggage was an Italian issue, as our friend Chloe’s suitcase (yes she brought a suitcase backpacking) would get stuck on every Italian train, as the aisles were too narrow, resulting in us spending a lot of time in the space between carriages.
Rome, wonderful Rome, brought a different issue, money! Accommodation was so expensive, so we ended up following a tipper person from the train station offering the cheapest space in an area we knew was accessible for town. We arrived in a two-bedroom dorm hostel, seemed really nice and clean, brilliant! Until the sun goes down and we realise we are neighbours with a brothel, and a big one at that.
I haven’t even gotten into the stories of sleeping in space huts, nunneries or train stations (during the day, we couldn’t find a park). So if you want a list of top tips of what to avoid when arriving here, I’m an expert in what not to do, just give me a shout.