Hi friends and family,

Recently, I’ve been traveling by train through Europe. My trip started out in the vegan capital of the European Union: Berlin! Former colleague Matthijs gave me plenty of options to choose from and after an afternoon of walking around the city I ended up at the amazing restaurant Soy. On my birthday I went to a cute French pastrie shop and rented a bike to see the rest of the city. For dinner, I decided to go to restaurant 1990 (coincidentally my birthyear; plus it’s entirely vegan!). The restaurant was completely full and there was a line outside. During the wait I called my grandma and mom. The wait was worth it. Their food is really good. When I got back to the hostel, hostel employee Thea (whose birthday it was as well) arranged cake for us. How nice!



Note to self: While on a train never place your A Song of Ice and Fire book on the table in front of you. People will start a conversation about Game of Thrones. Even when it’s too freakin’ early 😉 Luckily, the train arrived in Prague after a few hours and I got to explore the city. The city center was extremely busy and the astronomical clock was under maintenance, but it was still pretty spectacular. The gothic architecture is beautiful and there are some interesting sights. On the Karlův Bridge are various statues and one of them is very popular with the tourists. It’s the statue of St. John of Nepomuk. This saint got thrown off the bridge and drowned in 1393. The figures on the base of the statue get touched so often they shine. When you touch St. John falling off the bridge on the right plaque you will return to Prague again. Touching the watching woman on that plaque brings luck. Lots of people also touch the dog on the left plaque, but there is no real superstition about that one.
Close to the John Lennon Wall is a park where you can find three giant baby statues. My tourist map stated that once a year the locals visit the statues and kiss the butt for luck. I’m just hoping it wasn’t a prank 😉
Other interesting sights are the Communism Victims Memorial and the Jan Palach Memorial.




Whereas Prague is apparently a popular Stag Do destination, Budapest is also known for its nightlife. In Pest you can find the popular ruin bars. The alternative vibe of ruin bar Szimpla is really cool.
Of course, the city is also known for the stunning Parliament building and some buildings look like they come straight from a fairy tale. On the Buda side of the city you can find the Liberty Statue high up on a hill overlooking the castle and the magical Fisherman’s Bastion.
Close to the Parliament building they’ve placed a controversial German Occupation Memorial. Critics contend that it is aimed to distort Hungary’s role in the Holocaust. Therefore, they’ve decorated the memorial with information (in many languages) of what really happened.



Considering I was named after Romy Schneider – the beautiful actress known for playing Elisabeth in the Sissi trilogy – I had to visit this city. Plus, it’s home to the Spanish Riding School that I’ve been wanting to visit. On the first day I was in Vienna I visited the Schönbrunn Palace, which was the summer residence of Elisabeth and Franz Joseph. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take photos within the palace. Nadav from Israel was doing the audio tour at the same pace as me and we had some nice conversations. He told me that he had never heard from Empress Elisabeth, which really surprised me. I guess the Sissi trilogy didn’t reach much further than Europe.
At the Spanish Riding School I watched their morning exercise and took a guided tour, both with mixed feelings. The beautiful Lipizzaner stallions look well taken care of and I do like that all horses each have their own rider, but I’m also very critical about it all. They are forced to perform these incredibly difficult exercises (jumps), they get rewarded with sugar cubes (healthy carrots will leave stains on their white mouths…), and they don’t have a paddock in the city. This means that the horses just get one or two hours of exercise per day, after which they get led back to the stables. The riders also have a very outdated way of working. Very hierarchical and not emancipated at all. Okay, rant over.
The Lipizzaner stallions are gorgeous (no photos allowed) and one of them stood out in particular. Next to the many white stallions, the Spanish Riding School also has a few dark Lipizzaner stallions. And no, they are not the black sheep of the bunch. They are actually considered to be lucky charms. “As long as the Riding School has a dark Lipizzaner it will continue to exist”.
After my visit to the Spanish Riding School I visited the Sisi museum. Again, you’re not allowed to take photos here. The Viennese do not like cameras. The museum was very interesting and also revealed the dark side of Elisabeth’s life.
Then, I visited other main sights before meeting up with a local. Whereas the city center is very historical with many monuments (and elderly tourists), just a little outside of the city center you’re surrounded by hip bars and young people. We met up for a coffee at Naschmarkt and strolled along the Donaukanal.


The journey from Vienna to Milan was painfully long… The first train was forced to take a different route, which delayed it by 2+ hours. The entire journey took about 14 hours in total. Luckily, the hostel was extremely luxurious (a single bed in a 4-person dorm wíth an ensuite. All of hotel quality, by the way) and I had a nice chat with two South African dormmates. One of the girls was living in England and the other was studying in Groningen. They both own a Dutch passport, but were sad that they did not speak and/or understand the language.
The city itself wasn’t that interesting, unless you’re addicted to fashion or you care too much about status. Of course, I did visit Il Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II. Plus, I stumbled upon a nice sculpture of a raised middle finger. Which I liked. A lot.
Italy is well known for it’s coffee, so I did drink quite a few espresso’s. The Italians cannot seem to understand that I want them to pour the coffee in my foldable cup instead of the single-use plastic cups, but the quality is good and it’s extremely cheap. Throughout my entire journey within Italy not one vendor has managed to pour it directly within my own cup. Mostly, they first pour it into the plastic cup and from the plastic cup into my foldable cup. Which kinda defeats the purpose.


Okay, I did not stay in Naples itself but in an Eco hostel in Ercolano (underneath Naples). From Ercolano you have both a beautiful view on the coastline and you can see the volcano. After spending a nice afternoon reading a book in a hammock on the roof terrace I spent an entire day at Pompeii. One of my dormmates recommended to use an app as an audio guide and it really enriched my visit. The site is enormous and the (free) audio tour guides you past the most important sights. I really like that the rich and the poor lived next to each other and not in seperate neighbourhoods. They also had really nice pieces of art, like pretty mosaics or the statue of the faun. However, most of the pieces that you see at Pompeii are replicas… Something you start noticing quite soon after entering Pompeii is the many phallic symbols and other erotic images. These are symbols for fertility, but also to ward off the “evil eye” and ensure prosperity.



Before I started my Interrail journey I wondered how I would be able to travel by train from mainland Italy to Sicily, but now I know. The train goes on a boat (!).
My stay in Catania was cut short, due to the medicane. I was supposed to take the ferry from Sicily to Malta in the evening of September 25, but the ferry organisation rescheduled it to the (extremely) early morning of that same day. So here’s a picture of a beautiful pedestrian crossing leading to a wall:



An important part of this trip is Malta. I really wanted to see my friends again ánd meet my beautiful baby shark Bruce, who has hatched from his eggcase in March. When I arrived at the Malta National Aquarium my friend Radislav immediately took me to the Back of House to finally meet Bruce. He’s a healthy nursehound I hope to be releasing into the Mediterranean Sea in the next year or the year after.
In Malta we visited my favorite places, such as Mdina, Valletta, and an Indian restaurant. I also met up with my Sharklab friends at Science in the City, the wholesale fish market, an activity at the aquarium, and for a coffee in Mosta. It was great to see everyone again. But I definitely have not missed the extremely crowded buses and the multitude of money laundering construction sites, that lead to the disappearance of every little piece of nature the country has left. During my last full day in Malta I visited Birgu, took a ferry to Valletta, and another ferry to Sliema. It was weird to be back in the town where I used to buy my groceries when I lived in Gzira.



After Malta I headed back to Italy. My plans to visit Mt Etna failed, unfortunately. So I visited a Monastery and enjoyed a cup of coffee at the Piazza del Duomo.


The train journey from Catania to Florence was pretty spectacular. In Sicily, you’re able to see the volcano on your left and on your right you see the beautiful coastline right next to you.
The woman in the seat next to mine wasn’t such a treat, though. She was constantly on the phone and during one of her many facetime conversations she even filmed me. Without asking. And trying to do it without me noticing. I should have spoken up or shoved that phone somewhere the sun doesn’t shine, but I gave her the stink eye. I guess that will be my new year’s resolution.
Anyway, the city of Florence is beautiful. Clearly, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Thousands of other tourists crowd the many sights. On the first Sunday of the month you can visit the public museums for free. Even though I went to the Accademia Galleria quite early in the morning, the line in front of it was insane. Considering I’ve visited that museum before I decided to spend my day exploring the city and seeing if I could visit the Uffizi Gallery. Fortunately, I was in time to secure a ticket for the Uffizi. So after a nice and healthy lunch at a juice bar, I was able to see pieces of Botticelli, Fritz Koenig, and Leonardo da Vinci.
After a day of beautiful art and architecture, I stumbled upon a cube of Anonymous for the Voiceless. What a nice surprise. It’s good to see people care.



Last stop of this Interrail journey: Interlaken, Switzerland. Boy, the train ride through the north of Italy and through Switzerland is pretty. Mountains everywhere, lots of trees, some lakes, and sometimes you even see snow! Interlaken is a small town located between two beautiful lakes and surrounded by mountains. I’m extremely glad I picked this Swiss gem as my last stop. I took a funicular to get to the top of Harder Kulm. From Harder Kulm you have an amazing view of both lakes and its surrounding mountains. The hike down the mountain was a bit more tough than expected (did not wear my hiking boots) and took over two hours. A nice falafel meal at a Lebanese restaurant was definitely earned and more than welcome.

Even though it did lead to a few frustrations (delays and/or annoying passengers), traveling by train through Europe is definitely something I would recommend. The views on the beautiful coastlines, lakes, and mountains are great and give inspiration for future travels.


One Response to “Interrail

  • Wow wat heb jij een mooie reis gemaakt!
    Erg leuk; ik heb de meeste steden ook gezien…..
    Je kunt je eigen reisbureau beginnen;) —> prachtige foto’s, mooie verhalen, je liefde voor het reizen!
    X San

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