There is little in life that gets me more excited than the prospect of travelling. I love the discoveries, the changes of scenery and the many things travel teaches you. Heck, I even like packing!
For our first trip as a married couple, Christian and I wanted something special. A honeymoon to remember is not an everyday thing, after all. Other people may jet off to the Maldives, but with an airplane-phobic partner, we settled on an entirely different kind of adventure.
Why You Should Discover Europe by Train
Train travel might not be the first idea on your mind when you think about covering thousands of miles in distance, but don't dismiss the idea. There are so many great advantages! Beyond the idea of romance it conjures up, train travel is also surprisingly quick and good for the environment. Trains don't have security queues or luggage limits. They elegantly get around anyone's fear of flying (I'm looking at you, husband!). But can train travel be affordable and flexible?
Flexible Train Ticket = Interrail
After years of fascination with the idea of travelling anywhere spontaneously, we finally decided that the honeymoon is the time to try Interrail. The flexibility of our ticket was one of the most impressive things I discovered during this trip.
Here are the basics of what the ticket is all about:
Interrail tickets are flexible rail passes that allow travellers to travel on any train in 30 European countries. With Interrail, you carry one train ticket valid on all trains, so you really can hop onto trains spontaneously. It is an absolute adventurer's dream.
The tickets can be ordered from several places around the internet. It's worth comparing prices. We got ours My Interrail. And there is an amazing rail planner app for smartphones (it works offline, a huge bonus when there are 30 mobile networks to navigate). You can start anywhere and explore routes all over the continent.
The European Honeymoon Itinerary
You'll instantly notice one thing about this trip: There aren't many big capitals and famous cities to be seen. No Berlin, Prague or Rome on a European trip? That's right. The continent has so much more to offer than the obvious stops and sights, so come along and travel with us to discover Europe off the beaten track:
Our trip started in our wedding location, the small village Mülheim an der Mosel. After the wedding, journeyed along the romantic and gorgeous train route of the Rhine to..
1) Dresden, Germany
Dresden is a great German destination: affordable, historic and hipster-new at the same time. It was once an important and royal city in Saxony, then destroyed in WW2, then hidden away in Socialist East Germany. But today you can look through that lens to discover Dresden is full of life. The city just can't be knocked down. Right from your arrival at the beautiful train station, there's so much to see. The impressive Frauenkirche, unmissable Zwinger palace, a whole baroque quarter and four historic castles nearby.
After all that old stuff, you can discover the hippity hoppity cool of new Dresden up in the Neustadt. This area is where culture and society come together to hang out drinking beer, eating vegan burgers and putting on arty plays. We found a Big Lebowski themed bar, much to Christian's delight. And if you're pop culture crazy, note that this city is also the setting of Kurt Vonnegut's classic novel Slaughterhouse Five.
After a few days in Dresden, our next train took us South via Munich and all the way to..
2) Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg is totally on the tourist trail. If you want to see classic Austrian quaintness and a city centre that's easy to access for tourists, then this is the place for you. Even though Salzburg is so conscious of its popularity, it's just so cute!
Salzburg was the setting of The Sound of Music and the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, so it's a must for music lovers. Underneath the tourist trail, you'll also discover a lively bar and coffee house scene. And above it all thrones Burg Hohensalzburg, an enormous fortress that is well worth discovering. You can travel up in a super-modern funicular or get fit by climbing the hill, and both trips reward you with amazing views over the city and the countryside nearby.
So even if Salzburg is very nice and all, there were things to do and places to see. The night train took us to Florence, the day trains to Piombino and then a ferry ride made a holiday paradise into reality in the form of..
3) Elba, Italy
Elba is a small and beautiful island in the Mediterranean Sea, right nearby Sardinia and Corsica. It was such a fantastic place to spend a week relaxing in a pretty Airbnb apartment. The island has more beaches than you could ever discover in a week. It's surrounded by lovely blue sea, and our travel dates in early September made it possible to go there at the end of high season. We got the tan and holiday feeling without all the summer crowds. Yay!
Elba has a few little towns to check out, and we saw beautiful Capoliveri, Portoferraio and Lacona. It's a 45 minute ferry ride from Piombino, which you can reach by train via Pisa.
The next stop in our journey took us back up North along the gorgeous coastal train lines to..
4) Milan, Italy
We stopped in Milan for the specific reason of visiting Expo 2015 which is held in Milan this year. The Expo is an enormous exhibition of every country in the world. I had hoped for a bigger range of languages from lots of different countries and was a bit disappointed to see that most of the staff at Expo are Italian. But nonetheless, we saw some hugely impressive sights: The UK pavilion with a huge architectural beehive sculpture, the Sao Tomé & Principe pavilion with its delicious chocolate, a special coffee tutorial, and the Nutella concept bar (yum!!). And look, I got to meet count Dracula and survived.
Our original plan saw us heading from Milan to Amsterdam, but I could not find any nice and affordable accommodation in the city for our dates. It was jinxed!
We set off on Sunday morning leaving Milan for Switzerland without a clue of where we would end up. During the journey I whipped out the train map and changed our itinerary at a moment's notice. The flexibility of Interrail made it possible to change plans right on the day. Amazing!
With Christian's final decision we settled on our final stop and continued from Basel (pretty!) on to..
5) Bruges, Belgium
Bruges is a wonder of canals, old houses, lovely squares, chocolate and beer. There is nothing I didn't enjoy in that city, from our cute and affordable B&B to the long climb up to the Belfry. You can stock up on awesome souvenirs from Belgian chocolates to beers produced by the local monks. It was the perfect last stop on our honeymoon before ending the trip with the obligatory Eurostar trek to the UK.
All in all, our honeymoon itinerary turned out to be pretty awesome and very different from what I had planned. It wasn't too tiring to hop on all the trains. In fact, I finally had the chance to read all those books that had been stacking up on my shelves!
What is Your Dream Trip Around Europe?
I hope you enjoyed travelling with me on this little blog itinerary.
What are your top European destinations and cities that can't be missed? Have you used an Interrail ticket before?
Share your own European tours and itinerary ideas in the comments below and look out for more travel-themed articles in the future!
My thanks to MyInterrail.co.uk who supported our trip and helped make this article possible. Other ticket vendors are available. The sponsor had no influence over any of our travel choices, including the decision to go by Interrail.