European travels by train!

Rebecca Horton, International Training Programme Coordinator

After this year’s ITP summer programme I took a 2 week holiday to explore Europe via train! Through the interrail pass my friend, Francesca, and I were able to catch trains from Krakow, Poland to Bratislava, Slovakia to Salzburg, Austria and Fussen, Germany.

In Krakow we spent our time walking back and forth across the main square (one of the largest Medieval town squares in Europe) visiting Cloth Hall, the medieval wall, St Mary’s Basilica and Wawel Castle and Cathedral. We also spent time away from Krakow, visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mine, dating back to the 13th Century when salt was worth as much as gold in the region. As early as the 15th Century the mine became a tourist destination and is also one of the first sites to be entered into the UNESCO World Heritage list. Over the centuries miners uncovered beautiful crystals and used their skills with picks and chisels to create stunning underground chapels and sculptures from the salt rock.

On our final day in Poland we visited what is now the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, formally the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp. On a self-guided visit we walked around the remaining buildings and read detailed information panels covering many aspects of the two sites including: the causes of WWII; Nazi Germany; Jewish history; history of Auschwitz-Birkenau; first hand accounts; post WWII.

In Bratislava we visited Devin Castle on the River Danube and from the highest turret looked over to Austria, our next destination! We walked around the city, to the Cathedral, ‘the Blue Church’, Bratislava Castle,  the ‘UFO’ (see picture below for explanation) checking off the variety of sculpture as we went. We took two ‘day trips’ out of the capital, to a wine tasting tour in Svaty Jur, where we saw another castle! This castle was completely derelict, immersed in tree roots and woodland as a conscious decision had been made to let the castle naturally fall into disrepair. A second day trip was to Senec Lake, where Slovakians holiday, for a relaxing day in the sun.

Upon arrival in Salzburg we wandered through the main highstreet, admiring the beautifully ornate shop signs and overwhelmed by the Mozart merchandise! We climbed to the top of Hohensalzburg Fortress and Kapuzinerberg for the best views of where we would be staying for the next 3 days. For better or for worse we also spent a day on a ‘Sound of Music tour’ combined with a visit to a traditional Austrian mountain village: Hallstatt. The views in the mountains were incredible, the air so fresh and I am now a very unlikely Sound of Music expert.

Lechfalls made a wonderful first stop to our final stop, Fussen. The highlight of our trip had to be our days walking through woodland to and from Fussen to 19th Century Schloss Neuschwanstein, Alpsee Lake and Telegberg.