6:10 pm. The night train to Copenhagen is ready to depart. I just entered my sleep cabin, in which the bed is already made up. A déja vu comes to mind from when I was little, and traveled as such to France to visit my family. Will this journey bring me the same adventurous memories?
Traveling by train is sustainable, and you experience the journey to your destination with more intensity. You’re closer to earth than from 30.000 feet up, can enjoy the landscape and it can be quite adventurous. Other pluses: no queueing at customs and you can take your Starbucks latte on board.
It’s easy to go around Europe by train with an InterRail Global pass, and we can assure you that Interrail is not only reserved for vacationing teenagers. For us it was a quick way to visit 4 European cities in 5 days, as our itinerary took us from Copenhagen > Hamburg > Münich > Venice. Do keep in mind that we spent less than 24 hours in each city, but we can tick the boxes of those we hadn’t visited yet, and at least we had enough of a teaser of each city to convince us to visit them more extensively again. Read our travel diary below:
Day 1 – 10:54 am Arrival at Copenhagen Central Station
After a slightly bumpy ride -yes, railways are still not as smooth as we’d wish- I turn off the movie I was watching on my iPad and prepare to go off the train. Copenhagen’s station is familiar to me, and the Andersen hotel we’re staying at, is just one block away. A friendly receptionist welcomes me, and within 15 minutes I can go up to my comfy room to shower and hit town, as my travel companions will only arrive at 4 pm. It is Sunday but many shops are open, so I stroll around a bit before heading back to the hotel and meet the others: Towe, Per, Sofia from Sweden, Anne-Sophie from Norway and our travel guide Bonita from Amsterdam. After a cup of delicious Hans-Christian Andersen (the famed Danish fairytale writer) tea blend, we walk towards Nyhavn to grab the last boat tour of the day, which shows us many highlights -including the back of the Little Mermaid- and offers us an entertaining musical intermezzo by one of the guides. I have discovered an other side of Copenhagen. A tad more touristy, but still charming, friendly and very keen on sustainability and biological food.
Day 2 – 9:42 am The train-on-boat experience
Coffee? Check. Danish pastries? Check. 1st class ICE compartment? Check. We’re ready for our next train ride. This is going to be an interesting one as our train will be parked on a ferry boat for 45 minutes while we cross Denmark to Germany. Being a group of 6 granted us our own compartment, and that’s sooo relaxing.The boat-on-the-Ferry thing is well timed during lunch, so we have our meal there.
In Hamburg we stay at a hostel, which I wouldn’t exactly recommend (even though we had separate rooms). After a quick fresh up a guide takes us to see some landmarks such as Speicherstadt and the newly built Hafencity (Hamburg is the third biggest port in Europe). Even if those are important city sights, I get easily bored with guided tours and can’t wait to settle on a terrace, relax and discover the ‘Hamburg-vibe’. We finally end up at Yoko Mono in the St.Pauli area. Not far from the Messe (Trade Center) and the Schanzenviertel where we’ll have dinner at Bullerei later that evening. Unfortunately we all suffer from an after dinner dip (big, big hamburgers..) so we don’t have any energy left for drinks at the Reeperbahn district. But, I’ll definitely come back to explore more of this interesting city!
Day 3 – 16:00 pm Is this high tea or high beer??
Oktoberfest is in full preparation in Münich, and to get a taste of this ‘Bayerish’ tradition, we gather with the Dutch and French group at the Löwenbrau biergarten for a high tea…err, high beer. When visiting a biergarten one cannot drink anything else but beer! I cheated a little and ordered a Radler which actually tastes better with the Kaiserschmarren, strüdels and apfelbeignets.
The Marketing lady gives us a little tour of the premises, and we can only half imagine the crowd of people and gallons of beer that will fill the venue just a few weeks later. She told us some things worth keeping in mind if you intend to go to an Oktoberfest in the near future: 1. The specially brewed Oktoberfest-beer is higher on alcohol, 2. No beer is served under a liter. So be prepared. And don’t worry if you don’t own a dirndl or lederhosen. Every regular fashion shop offers them during this period, or you can stop by the special stand at the station where you can purchase one for €50. No kidding!
At the end of the day we have a collective dinner in an other brewery: the Paulaner Brauhaus (did we mention Münich is beer-heaven? For those who lavish on a cold glass of that golden fluid that is…) and enjoy typical Bayerisch cuisine.
After a good night’s sleep at Motel One, we have a few hours to quickly scan other parts of the city, and my likeminded Swedish fellow travelers and I check out the Viktualienmarkt -one of the city’s landmarks to do some proper grocery shopping- and some trending coffee places. But time flies and before we know it we have to head back to the station to grab the next train which will bring us to: Venice.
Day 4/5 – Go to Venice and have a Bellini
Arriving by train and being surrounded by water is already a different experience -hence the lovely route through the Austrian Alps beforehand- and underlines the adventurous feel of railroad traveling. You get more time to adjust to the next destination, and where airports are usually located outside a city center, you can’t go further to the core of a city than the Central Station.
Venezia! The mythical city in the water. Extremely touristy, yet one to visit at least once in a lifetime. Coincidently, longtime bachelor George Clooney is to marry his Amal here (at the moment of writing this post they’ve already said ‘I do’), and I can now understand the romantic setting. If it wasn’t for the tourists you could believe time stood still. Just close your eyes and Casanova, gondoliers and Bal Masqué’s become quite reality, but vanish as soon as you open them again.
Luckily I have some tips from a friend that assured me that it was possible to have an almost tourist-free dinner at a local hotspot. The nearest one is a 10 minutes walk and named Al Timon. There is live music outside (a tad too loud, but hey, you’re either going local or you don’t!) and the crowd seems the least touristy until now. The friendly clerk at the hotel made our reservation and we get seated in the tiny eatery. We share a delish burrata (again), and I have roasted duck with balsamic jus, cherry tomatoes and arugola as a main. Simple, savoury food, and a lively ambiance. We couldn’t have a better dinner to conclude our trip.
As the Swedish ladies leave earlier the next day, Bonita and I have more time to do some sightseeing. We even drop by the legendary Harry’s Bar to have a Bellini. Too bad we missed George…
Cruising on the Vaporetto, a reverse parking gondolier, the original ‘Bellini’
Drinks: Harry’s Bar
Eat: Al Timon
Buy: tea and chocolate at Florian
TIP: Don’t get talked into taking an overly expensive water taxi unless it is necessary. The vaporetto’s are the means of public transport. A ticket is €7 and if you don’t want to queue, take the ones that don’t cross the Canal Grande, but go around the city.
The easiest way to get to San Marco airport is to take the bus (line 5) just a little further from the front right side of the Central Station, across the bridge (unless you have too much luggage).
Read more about shopping in Copenhagen here.
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