30 Days, 30 Countries - Introduction - The route

30 Days, 30 Countries – Introduction

As you have probably read in the About me section, I love train traveling. So.. I will start my Interrail trip through Europe: visiting at least the capital cities of 30 participating countries in 30 days. In this blog I will describe the first part of my journey and the most important/interesting things that I will expect to see, will do and shall experience.

30 Days, 30 Countries - Introduction - Preparation
30 Days, 30 Countries – Introduction – Preparation

April 22 – April 27

My journey starts in my own country: Amsterdam, from there I will first go up to Scandinavia. I will conquer the icy cold of Lapland, cruising the Baltic sea and railing through the Fjords of Norway on the rail-line Oslo-Bergen (which is supposed to be one of the world’s most stunning rail-lines). A very funny aspect is that one of the trains that I’m going to take will cross the Baltic sea without tracks… HUH? Yep! As a result, one of the ICE’s in Germany is actually being transported by a ferry on a part of it’s itinerary – the same way as cars do. I have to admit, haven’t seen that before :).
#01 – Copenhagen
#02 – Helsinki
#03 – Stockholm
#04 – Oslo

April 28 – April 29

When leaving Scandinavia by train, there are 3 options; in my case it’s the same as how I got there; the train-ferry. However there are also options for the very adventurous travelers which are not included in Interrail passes – but who knows when this will change? It is possible to take a ferry from Helsinki, and make your way down via Tallinn (Estonia), Riga (Latvia) & Vilnius (Lithuania) to Warsaw (major improvements are going on with respect to the tracks in those countries, so bus replacement all over the place). Or you can decide to go via Helsinki – Sint Petersburg – Moscow with Russian Trains and then make your way South/East. But, sticking to my journey: I will leave Scandinavia via Copenhagen – and will continue my trip in the direction of Berlin and Warsaw.
#05 – Berlin
#06 – Warsaw

April 30 – May 03

When done exploring Berlin & Warsaw I will take the night train to Prague, from which other capital cities are located very nearby (Vienna & Bratislava); which is good for my tight schedule! Hence I decided to visit all 3 cities in just 1 day: Prague (05:58 – 10:49), Vienna (14:51 – 18:16), Bratislava (19:22 – 07:53). The main reason I do this is to give me some extra time later-on, where train-traveling will be a lot less straightforward (but, more exciting!). From Bratislava I will start railing into the Balkan area. Via Budapest and Bucharest I will make my way west all the way to Ankara. This is a rather interesting part of my journey, due to the fact that in Turkey rail-maintenance is taking place roughly everywhere (they are making high-speed tracks). To get from Bucharest to Ankara I have to take a train first in Bucharest (duhh..), then change in the middle of nowhere to another train that will bring me to Dimitrovgrad (where?). In Dimitrovgrad a train from the direction of Sofia (capital of Bulgaria) will bring me to Kapikule, where currently a bus replacement is scheduled (after you’ve been accepted into Turkey… in the middle of the night..). From Kapikule to Istanbul will be a small 5-hours bus journey. But that’s not all.. from Istanbul I have to figure out how I cross the Bosphorus (something called a Marmaris), and take a metro (Ayrılıkçeşme) + bus (Kartal) to Pendik from where high-speed trains to Ankara run. Oef… I hope I can find my way.
#07 – Prague
#08 – Vienna
#09 – Bratislava
#10 – Budapest
#11 – Bucharest

30 Days, 30 Countries - Introduction - Remembering the route
30 Days, 30 Countries – Introduction – Remembering the route

May 04 – May 09

After taking some rest in Ankara (if you don’t hear anything from me after May 3th, pray for me…), I will go explore the Balkan. As you have been able to read in part 1, getting in and out of Turkey is quite an accomplishment. However, it will probably be even more challenging traveling in the Balkan: trains are quite frankly old and dirty (although that doesn’t make them less reliable) – and delays up to a few hours occur daily. I’m rather curious how the trip through those countries will be, due to the immigration crisis and countries closing up their borders… but we’ll see! One part I’m particularly looking forward to is the train from Beograd (Belgrado) to Bar (I’ll be departing the train at Podgorica), which is again one of the most scenic trips in Europe. Apparently the whole trip covers 254 tunnels and 435 bridges, on a 296-mile journey (seat61.com). Unfortunately there aren’t that many rail lines through those countries, so that also implies that I will take a bus from Podgorica to Sarajevo to continue my trip (in the middle of the night…!). From Sarajevo I’ll make my way up to Ljubljana (via Zagreb), which will be my last destination in the Balkan.
#12 – Ankara
#13 – Sofia
#14 – Athens
#15 – Skopje
#16 – Belgrade
#17 – Podgorica
#18 – Sarajevo
#19 – Zagreb

May 10 – May 14

From Ljubljana I’ll make my way south to the Mediterranean Sea. Luckily in this trip I’ve managed to include 2 incredible stunning locations. Just outside of Ljubljana one of the most prettiest lakes you’ll ever see is located: Lake Bled (go google it!). Lake Bled has 2 train stations nearby; lesce bled and bled jezero, so it’s an easy-to-reach destination! After hiking around Lake Bled, I will board the train that will bring me through the stunning mountains of the Alps to Feldkirch. After visiting the capital of Liechtenstein (which is a really really really small country), I will take the regular trains that run on the famous ‘Bernina Express’ line. These trains will literally dive into the Alps, giving you spectacular views on the mountains while crossing stunning bridges and narrow passages (again, lucky me, one of the most scenic train-routes in Europe). Finally when the train has brought me to Tirano (on the boarder of Italy and Switzerland), I’ll make my way down to the beautiful architecture of Rome. Then from Rome I will make my way to Madrid, all the way around the Mediterranean Sea. Which is again (repeating myself, I know) one of the most scenic journeys on my trip. Before reaching Madrid I’ve planned a small stop-over in Barcelona (can’t leave that one out of the trip). In Barcelona a high-speed train will bring me to Madrid in only 2 hours and 45 minutes, which is quite fast compared to the regular train that does the same in 9 hours and 4 minutes. Do keep in mind that Italy, Spain and France are not that Interrail-friendly.
#20 – Ljubljana
#21 – Bern
#22 – Rome
#23 – Madrid

May 15 – May 20

Leaving Madrid will probably be one of the most luxurious parts of my travel, with respect to sleep & comfort. Between Madrid and Lissabon there’s only 1 train per day: Lusitania (Trenhotel). And based on the name you can probably already guess; it’s traveling in hotel style. The same train will also bring me to Hendaye (direction of Paris), after staying for a day in Lissabon. As mentioned earlier, traveling in France is rather expensive with Interrail. However, I’ve chosen to travel at least with 2 TGV’s; one which will bring me from Hendaye (border of France & Spain) to Paris in only 6 hours. After Paris my trip will almost be over, unfortunately. In total visiting all the official capital cities should be do-able in 28 days; while the Interrail pass is valid for 30 days. So, if everything goes according to planning (which I don’t expect) I will give myself some more time in the UK: exploring the highlands of Scotland.
#24 – Lisbon
#25 – Paris
#26 – Luxembourg
#27 – Brussels
#28 – London
#29 – Dublin
#30 – Amsterdam

30 Days, 30 Countries - Introduction - The journey starts
30 Days, 30 Countries – Introduction – The journey starts

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