In 2007, my sister and I bought 10-day Eurail passes and decided to do some train travel in Western Europe. We didn’t know which countries we wanted to visit and wanted a fair bit of flexibility, so we decided on a 4-country ticket for a total of 10 travel days in 2 months. If you’re interested, it’s here.
We started our trip in Amsterdam (the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands) where we spent 4 days; walking around, visiting coffee shops, shopping and admiring the general spender.
We walked along the canals, shopped at antique markets, and visited the red light district … as you do in Amsterdam.
Then we caught the train to Bruges (the capital and largest city of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium). The whole city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – freakin’ amazing. It sits on a network of canals, just like Amsterdam and has (unlike many other cities in the region ravaged by WW2) most of its medieval buildings intact. Walking around Bruges is like stepping back in time.
From Bruges we did a day tour called the Best of Belgium and Triple treat tour (the triple treats were chocolate, waffles and beer – ummm HELL yes!). Click here to find the tour. The rest of the tour included the Loppem Chateau, the moated Castle of Tillegem, German bunkers from WW2 and the oldest gothic building in Belgium (from the 13th century) at the monastery Ter Doest. It was a really good day.
Other than that my main recollection of Bruges was that we drank lots of beer – there is a vast selection (such as cherry-infused beer)! And I had lots of food envy – I kept making bad food decisions (like buying a microwaved waffle that was so hot and soggy it melted my plastic fork AND had fake chocolate syrup instead of Belgian chocolate on it). My sister walked up the street a bit and bought one that was made fresh in front of her AND had real melted chocolate on it. IT looked amazing. And I was devastated. THEN to make matters worse, she found the most amazing hot chocolate place where she bought a hot chocolate melted from yummy Belgian chocolate and wouldn’t tell me where she got it. Suffice to say, I was pretty emo that day.
After Bruges, we spent a day in Brussels, Belgium. Neither of us had a great time there. I think we managed to get ourselves a B&B in the suburbs and couldn’t really find the centre of town, so we walked around aimlessly for hours just getting frustrated and trying to find food. One day I’ll have to give Brussels another go I think.
We also went through Germany to Vienna in Austria for a few days. I LOVED Vienna. It is such a beautiful city; has heaps of historic buildings, the weather was great and there were loads of people out. There was some sort of celebration going on while we were walking around one day and people were all dressed up and singing. I think my best memory of Vienna is standing outside St. Stephen’s Cathedral (get this… from the year 1147!) and eating huge wieners (of the food variety).
Our last destination on the Eurail pass was Salzburg in Austria (where we stayed for two days). Salzburg’s ‘Old Town’ is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this time for its baroque architecture (no idea what that is). Salzburg is also famous for being the birthplace of Mozart and the setting for parts of the film The Sound of Music. I think Salzburgians (I just made that term up for the people of Salzburg) really enjoy the latter status. The city actually runs The Sound of Music Tours (don’t believe me? Click here). And we met a girl who came to Salzburg just to do the tour. That’s pretty rad if you ask me. But then again, I’ve been known to travel to locations just because they were Mr Darcy’s house in the new Pride and Prejudice movie. And Dave has been known to drag me to microbreweries in New Zealand, just because they made the beer from the Lord of the Rings. So, I’m in no position to judge.
Anyway, I think Salzburg is a must do. The ‘old town’ is contained within a beautiful hilltop fortress and you can spend hours just walking around, getting lost in all the shops dedicated to Christmas (all year round) or admiring the old buildings.
In fact, I think that whole trip is a must do. It certainly wasn’t the area of Europe that I had heard the most about. But it was damn fun, it was beautiful, easy to access, there was SO much yummy food and heaps to do. In my eyes, all of that definitely makes a place worth visiting.