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InterRail: How my travels began

JESSAt 18 I was almost too shy to ask at the station counter for an InterRail ticket and yet I was committed to a month of travelling alone. First stop, Paris, and I realised how un-prepared I was.  I couldn't find the Eiffel Tower, navigate the underground and my choice of hotel made my skin crawl - literally.  I'm sure it was a brothel - I seemed to be the only person trying to get some sleep!

Feeling defeated I slumped on a bench at Gare du Nord whilst my train was still some hours from departing, people watching and rationing out a bag of nuts, for fear of wasting more money merely being lost.

The next stop was Clermont-Ferrand to meet my former french exchange partner from school days.  What would be harder, I wondered as my carriage flew along the track, being alone or staying with people I barely knew? Luckily Beatrice had mastered my language much better than I had hers.  I let her do the talking.

A night train took me on to Frankfurt some days later. I woke to a carriage full of commuter suits. Those standing eyed my 3 seat bed disapprovingly. A friend I had planned to meet there had at the last moment decided on a trip to the States, so his sister told me. I said 'No worries' as joyfully as I could. Now realising what a good investment a travel guide would have been I trawled the city for cheap accommodation. The ticket system on the trams was new to me, as was everything.  I walked, my rucksack as my only (overweight) companion. Finally I reached a large, defrosted (empty and damp) freezer of a hostel. 

beersteinThings started to come together in Munich.  The beer loosened by tongue a little and I made some friends.  I got the knack of how to stay 'on' the beaten track. I discovered that once you learn to say something - anything - to a fellow traveller a quiet dinner over a book can turn into a series of eventful days. So followed a shocking visit to Dachau concentration camp, a cultural afternoon in The Hofbräuhaus sharing vast steins of beer followed by bratwurst and sauerkraut and hanging out at the Marienplatz in time to see the Glockenspeil's figures do their dance as the clock strikes midday... all with new friends.

Through (then) Yugoslavia and on to Greece ... I felt uninhibited, free, an adventurer, as if nothing could stop me now.  And it didn't. Ten years on I was still on the move, comfortable in my nomadic existence.  The self-conscious, timid, inept teenager was left far behind.  The hardest thing actually, was learning how to stop.

www.InterRail.com - Still an amazing and cheap way to get around Europe.

If a non-European resident try www.Eurail.com.

Of course travelling in these technological times can never be quite so complicated or solitary with mobile phones and emails and the internet keeping us in the know and in touch. I used to queue up for letters at a Post Restante - I don't suppose they even exist anymore. If you missed meeting up with someone, that was it, they were gone. It is amazing how many times I used to randomly bump into people I knew though.

I hope you find Quirky Accom's growing unusual accommodation listings useful when you are on the move - ensuring you stay in memorable places along the way. If you come across anywhere that should be included, let me know! Here are some unique hostel suggestions that I could have benefited from back in the day...

Oops Budget Hotel, Paris - click

Goldman 25h Hotel, Frankfurt - click

The Tent, Munich - click