The pre-travel essentials and general tips
This summer I bought a twenty-two day global interrail pass and travelled in a disjointed horseshoe shape from Warsaw to Amsterdam, passing through (and marvelling at) Krakow, Budapest, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Split, Zagreb and Ljubljana. The following paragraphs run through what I believe to be the pre-travel essentials, both literal and figurative.
Pack light – this is one of the imperatives to hold in mind if you’re thinking of going interrailing. Mind you, only a person wishing to do themselves serious back harm, or someone who is wedded to the idea that pain and discomfort are ‘part of the journey’ (they are, but come on, do yourself a favour – at least this pain is avoidable) would think of packing ‘heavy’. I bought the twenty-two day global pass, and as a rough set of guidelines I packed: just over two week’s worth of underwear, two pairs of trousers, two pairs of shorts, six or seven t-shirts, a couple of warm layers and a waterproof. Add to that: toiletries, universal adapters, a bundle of entangled chargers/wires and a few books and that should just about see you through your trip. This should all easily fit into one of those ubiquitous rucksacks that you’ll doubtless see clamped to the backs of weary youths in train stations and hostels.
Choice of reading on a trip – any trip – is also fairly important. If you’re at all yearning for a precise appreciation of a place, it does a whole chunk of good to either read about that particular city or read about how you might attain a deeper pleasure once you’re there. As my journey took me on a meandering course through Europe, I didn’t really have time to read individual pieces of writing on each area I visited – so I opted for the latter choice. My two top recommendations for those wishing to either mirror my route or travel in vaguely the same part of Europe would be Alain De Botton’s The Art of Travel and Claudio Magris’ Danube. Both of these books are philosophical, historical and artistic treatises on the enriching qualities of travelling. The Art of Travel is more accessible that Magris’ work, and I would suggest that you dive into this before drowning in Danube’s elaborate poetry. If you’re feeling very adventurous and are planning on travelling round the former Yugoslavian territory, you might give Rebecca West’s elephantine masterpiece Black Lamb and Grey Falcon a go – but just to warn you, you may need to begin the book a year before you set off, it’s that thick!