February 17, 2018

InterRail: A Book Review

As I said in Four Reasons to Use a European Rail Pass, I think we all want to travel around Europe by train.  In the book “InterRail” by Alessandro Gallenzi the main character, Francesco, lives all our dreams.

As a young adult, Francesco decides to leave his home in Italy to travel around Europe using an InterRail pass. During his rail trip he meets quite a few people, some even become lifelong friends, and has an adventure full of intrigue.

Munchen Skyline Bavaria Germany

Munchen by Andrew Bossi

His first stop is Munich, Germany where he meets an interesting con man named Pierre who is the catalyst for most of Francesco’s intrigue and adventures.  It was during a party hosted by Pierre that Francesco’s intrigue begins when he is asked to deliver a package to someone in Amsterdam by Pierre’s wife.  Even though he did not know what is in the package, he agrees.

Francesco visits cities that are on many of our own itineraries:  Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, London and Rome. As he travels through Europe, the intrigue follows him and continues to build.  It heightens when an event in Amsterdam lands Francesco in the hospital and during a secret meeting with Pierre’s wife in the Père Lachaise Cemetery while winding his way back to Italy via London and Paris.

OudezijdsKolk Amsterdam Holland

OudezijdsKolk Amsterdam by Massimo Catarinells

While the intrigue of the book kept me reading, the parts that stood out for me was his ability to travel with only the clothes on his back, his trust of strangers, and the guts to show up at a station without a destination in mind taking the next departing train!

Now I don’t see myself traveling with only the clothes on my back and I don’t think I’d ever be quite as trusting of strangers as Francesco but I really like the idea of showing up at a train station without a plan and taking the next departing train.  In fact, that is on my personal bucket list.

Parliament at Sunset London England

Parliament at Sunset London England

“InterRail” is a work of fiction based on the InterRail trip taken by the author, Alessandro Gallenzi.  It’s a story about a young man who had enough courage to step out of his comfort zone to find himself and live the life he chose.  By stepping out of the safety of his home to travel he was able to gain the confidence and clarity he needed to make the choices that shaped his life.

How has travel helped shape your life?

Although I was given the book InterRail by Alma Books and asked to review it, all opinions are my own. Alma Books is also giving away a free InterRail pass to EU residents and there is still a couple days left to enter.  So mosey your way over to Alma Books to enter!

Munich – My Olympic Adventure

I don’t know about you but I am really looking forward to watching the Olympics which officially begin this Friday in London England! To honor this auspicious event, I thought I would dig deep into the archives and share some photos of the Munich Olympic grounds.

Olympic Village Munich Bavaria Germany

Olympic Village Munich

Way back in 1982 I took my first trip to Europe and my first stop was the wonderful capital of Bavaria, Munich Germany!  During this trip I decided to visit the Olympic grounds where, in 1972, Munich hosted the 20th and their second Olympic games.

Olympic Diving Pool Munich Bavaria Germany

Olympic Diving Pool Munich

Besides gymnastics, swimming and diving are two of my favorite events at any Olympics and 1972 was no exception!

Olympic Pool Munich Bavaria Germany

Olympic Pool Munich

Of course, I couldn’t miss the pool where the one Olympian that made my heart beat faster swam!  Mark Spitz won a world record 7 medals in a single Olympics in this very pool!  Each of his medals were also earned in World Record times.

Olympic Stadium Munich Bavaria Germany

Olympic Stadium Munich

My love affair with Munich, Bavaria and Germany started on this trip and the Olympic grounds were an enjoyable part of this memorable trip.

Have you visited any Olympic grounds?

These photo’s are shared as part of Travel Photo Thursday.
For more great pictures, check out Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Maybe I’ll see you there!


Eye Catching Porrentruy Switzerland

A week or so ago, as my husband was watching the Tour du France, I kept seeing this beautiful village and passing landscape as the riders got closer to the days finish line.  By the end of the race, I was mesmerized by the quaint charming little town this stage ended in.  Come to find out, it wasn’t even in FranceNo this lovely village is in Switzerland and is known as Porrentruy.

Porrentruy Swizterland panorama

Porrentruy Swizterland panorama by Dietrich Michael Weidmann

Located in Northwest Switzerland, in a little pocket of land surrounded by France at the bottom of the Jura mountains, this village of approximately 6,800 people has over time wandered back and forth between being part of France and Switzerland.  Even though tools and other objects dating back to the Mesolithic, Bronze and Iron ages have been found here, the first actual settlement wasn’t established until 1140.

History has left its mark on Porrentruy and can be seen in the many Baroque, Gothic and Neoclassical buildings still standing.   Let’s go discover what’s hidden within the streets of Porrentruy!

Porrentruy Chateau Switzerland

Le Chateau Porrentry by Anne Monard jura.ch

  • The city is shadowed by a medieval castle that dates back to the 13th century and was once the home of the Bishop of Basel (1527-1792).  The Refous Tower is the oldest building standing on the castle grounds today.  The tower was built in 1271 and offers fantastic views to anyone willing to climb up!
  • A portion of the medieval city gate still stands tall even if it was built in 1563.

    Baroque Hôtel Dieu Porrentruy Switzerland

    Baroque Hôtel Dieu Porrentruy Switzerland by Polo7

  • Besides the many baroque buildings in the old town, there are also grand medieval fountains. The Fountain of the Samaritan was built in 1563 and is a stunning fountain depicting a scene from the bible.  The Standard Bearer’s Fountain, built in 1518, was the first fountain to have a figure on top.  Look closely and you will see the symbol of the city at the bottom, the wild boar.
  • The 200 year old Botanical Gardens display many types of plants including those found in the Jura region.  In one building you will even find carnivorous plants!
  • The Hotel Dieu dates back to 1761 when it was a hospital for the needy.  It remained a functioning hospital until 1956 when it became a museum.  Inside this wonderful Baroque building are exhibits detailing the history and culture of both Porrentruy and Switzerland, an old Apotheke and watchmakers display.

    Inside Gothic Saint Pierre church Porrentruy Switzerland by polo7

    Inside Gothic Saint Pierre Church by polo7

  • Porrentruy is home to a Gothic basilica, St. Peter’s Church, that was built from 1321-1333.  The interior of St. Peter’s is very beautiful and houses splendid relics and a Gothic altar.

I have never been to the Jura region but I’ve now decided there is more of Switzerland I need to explore!

View of Porrentruy Switzerland

View of Porrentruy Switzerland by Alain Perret jura.ch

Porrentruy definitely caught my eye!

Has it caught yours?

Roman Trier Germany

When visiting Europe, you expect to run into Roman ruins in Britain, France and, obviously, Rome Italy!  But you might be surprised running into Roman ruins in Germany.

Yes, I said Germany.  Sitting in the lovely valley created by the Moselle River is Trier, Germany’s oldest city.  Founded around 16 BC, Trier has had quite a history including the Roman kind!

Trier and Moselle River Germany

Trier and Moselle River

At one time Trier was the capital of the Western Roman Empire and this included being the residence of the Western Roman Emperor and his son, Constantine the Great.  During this time, Trier was known as the 2nd Rome and it was Constantine that developed the city including the beautiful Imperial Baths.

Roman Imperial Baths Trier Germany

Imperial Baths- Trier are known as the largest outside Rome and were built in 4th century

There is one of the four old Roman gates still standing in Trier, the Porta Nigra.  Built in the 2nd century this city gate is the oldest defensive structure in Germany.

Roman Porta Nigra Trier Germany

Porta Nigra Trier by Berthold Werner

During Roman times, an amphitheater was a clear sign that your city was very important.  The amphitheater in Trier was the site for gladiator fights and animal contests.

Roman Amphitheater Trier Germany

The Roman Amphitheater Trier once seated 25,000 people!

To commemorate their Roman history, Trier hosts Germany’s biggest Roman festival each year.  The Brot und Spiele festival show cases history through actual depictions of gladiator fights at the amphitheater and exhibits of Roman civil and military life at the Imperial Baths.  If you’re in Germany from August 31 through September 2 stop by Trier for some good ole Roman fun!

This is just a glimpse of the Roman history in Trier.  This UNESCO designated city has so much more to see!

These photo’s are shared as part of Travel Photo Thursday.
For more great pictures, check out Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

Europe’s Natural Monuments

While traveling we all visit monuments erected to honor those who have helped shape our history, but sometimes it is the world’s Natural Monuments that leave us speechless.

I am no spelunker but I am intrigued by caves and the underground world created by a Karst landscape.

A Karst is a unique landscape formed by the weathering of water soluble rock like Limestone, Marble and Dolomite. Rain water trickles down through openings in the rock and over time erodes the rock creating passages. Some of the larger passages we know as caves or caverns. Obviously this process takes eons to develop but it is this process that makes the beauty that lies beneath the ground.

Skocjan Caves Slovenia

Skocjan Caves Slovenia by Jabbi

The Karst landscape is identified by a lack of surface streams and a network of openings below the surface. The openings can be sinkholes, disappearing stream, springs and even caves. This fragile ecosystem is home to many plants, bacteria, fish and spiders that flourish in a dark and static world.

Domica Cave near Slovakia and Hungary

Domica Cave by jojo

It is estimated that 10% of the Earth is composed of a Karst landscape and although it is the underground wonders that we are most familiar with, I’m sure you would recognize some of the above ground Karst landscapes too!

El Torcal near Malaga Spain

El Torcal near Malaga Spain by Jakub Botwicz

Karst Landscape Minerve France

Karst Landscape Minerve France by Hugo Soria

Here are a few below the surface natural wonders you might want to visit while wandering through Europe.

Moravian Karst
Moravia is a well known part of the Czech Republic but this natural beauty sits in 120 square kilometers of landscape that includes caves, caverns, underground lakes and rivers. There are 4 caves that are open to the public but the Macocha Gorge is the most famous. The gorge is over 500 feet deep and includes 2 ponds and the Punkva River which runs underground for part of its journey. During your visit to the caves you can explore both on foot and by boat and you will be thrilled by the beauty and serenity of the cave which includes many stalactites and stalagmites. There is even a chair lift to the top of the gorge allowing amazing views across the landscape.

Moravian Karst Czech Republic

Moravian Karst by YuKengShih, on Flickr

Skocjan Caves
These UNESCO listed caves are part of an amazing limestone plateau that is full of stunning caves and tunnels near the tiny village of Skocjan in Slovenia. The landscape has been carved over time by the Reka River which actually disappears underground near Skocjan and reappears 27 miles away. While underground, the river carves through rock leaving behind amazing scenery! Near the exit you will hear the rushing river from below and see the huge Murmuring Cave, which is actually the largest underground canyon.

Škocjan Caves Slovenia by Ramon

Škocjan Caves by Ramon

Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst
Located near the border of Hungary and Slovakia is another UNESCO listed site that is also the most explored Karst area in Europe. To date, there have been 712 caves identified including an Ice cave and one known as the Fairy Tale cave. This area shows both tropical and glacial climatic affects which allows for an even greater variety of wonders! The caves in this area offer a glimpse into evolution, archeology and local cultures. The Baradla-Domica Cave system actually connects Hungary and Slovakia and is home to the world’s highest stalagmites!

Domica Cave near Hungary and Slovakia

Domica Cave by Jojo

All these caves are beautiful, distinctive and breathtaking. Touring them will leave you marveling at these Natural Monuments!

What Natural Monuments do you enjoy?


Four Reasons to Use a European Rail Pass

I’d be willing to bet that every new traveler to Europe dreams of traveling by train.

Is that because the movies have made it seem so romantic?  Or are the very expensive gas prices the culprit?  Or do we just want to travel in a new fashion?

Sevilla Spain Train Station with High Speed Trains

Sevilla Spain Train Station with High Speed Trains by Martin Kers and Eurail

Well traveling by train might not be all that romantic ( face it, the rigors of just traveling aren’t romantic!) but it is a fun, easy and exciting way to travel while visiting the many European countries!

So you’ve made the decision to visit Europe and travel by train, now comes the decision whether to buy individual tickets or a rail pass.  Here are 4 reasons to travel using a rail pass.

1. Convenience

With a rail pass all you do is hop on any train.  Most trains do not require seat reservations; just sit in any open seat.  There are exceptions such as high speed trains (TGV), scenic trains (Glacier Express) or sleeper trains that do require a seat reservation or upgrade.

2. Fits any Itinerary

Rail passes can be purchased for a single country, multiple countries or even as a Global pass covering all 23 countries that participate in the Eurail program.  Once you’ve set an outline of your itinerary, calculate the number of days you‘ll be traveling by rail to determine the best pass for you!

Furka Railway Switzerland

Furka Railway Switzerland by Martin Kers and Eurail

3. Fits any budget

You can purchase 1st or 2nd class rail passes.  Keep in mind, 1st class pass holders can sit in 2nd class but this does not work the other way around! The individual rail passes are great but if you’re traveling as a group of 2-5 you may want to purchase the discounted saver passes.  With the saver pass you must always travel on trains together!

4. It’s just plain easy!

Just check the rail schedule and go!  It really is that easy.

Once you decide a rail pass is your best option, Eurail passes can be purchased at RailEurope or Eurail.

German Rail Station Platform Germany

German Rail station platform by Martin Kers and Eurail

When I am researching train options, including connections, I look at the Deutsche Bahn (German) website or OBB (Austria) website. They both have English options and are fantastic sites to help plan your European trip.

Remember, Eurail passes are only available to those living outside Europe and must be purchased prior to your departure.  EU residents have their own pass, InterRail passes!  If you’re an EU resident, Alma Books is offering a chance to win a 5-day InterRail Pass.  For details visit Alma Books.


What has been your experience traveling with a Rail Pass?