One day Henrik Westregård was sitting and talking about travelling with a friend. They realised that they knew more about Thai cooking, nightclubs in Sunny Beach and North American society than about how young people on the Mediterranean coast spend their days and what French delicacies actually taste like. Inspired by Henrik’s mother, who had travelled around Europe during the golden age of the InterRail card, they decided to leave on a train journey through Europe.
Together they planned a journey with an average of one new destination per day.
– There was so much to explore and we had no time to take it easy and sit and drink cappuccinos on some soulless crossroads in the tourist district, says Henrik.
Their first stop on the journey was Berlin. Once there, they took the underground to the end of the line in the east of the city in the hope of seeing poverty and destitution, but instead found terraced houses fronted by newly mown lawns. They travelled on to Basel in Switzerland, where they cheered on Germany to the semi-final of the European Championship in football. The next stop was Milan, the city of fashion. But they were disappointed by their first impressions – which were of traffic, high-rise buildings and office workers dressed in black. The journey continued in Italy and Henrik and his friend visited the charming town of Rapallo and the village of Portofino before getting back on the train and travelling on to Nice in France. There they tasted homemade onion, avocado and chewing-gum-flavoured ice cream and met a group of young people whom they spent the evening with, before finally falling asleep on the stony beach. The following day they travelled on to Paris. There they took the opportunity to spread a little love by writing “Free hugs” on a piece of cardboard box. After hundreds of hugs and a lunch of snails they left for their next destination, Reims and Epernay in the French Champagne region. The final stop on their adventure was Amsterdam, known for its liberal attitudes, cyclists and house music. Henrik and his friend decided to finish their journey with a visit to Sensation White, the most legendary music festival in its genre.
What would you say you’ve taken with you from your journey?
– A lot of the positive things I’ve taken with me from the journey come from the warm reception we experienced. During that brief period, we were welcomed by a group of East German alcoholics, German football fans, French teeny bobbers from Nice and over 40,000 fired-up festival goers in Amsterdam Arena.
Do you have any tips for anyone who is thinking of InterRailing?
– It’s both cheap and easy to travel round Europe by train. And it also gives you the chance to experience the different countries from a front-row seat. I would recommend travelling as a group of 2-4 people but no more. Having too many people along reduces your freedom to choose and makes it less likely that you will be able to do what you yourself want to. Give some thought to what you want to experience before you travel, but don’t decide too much in advance. The most memorable moments are those that are unplanned.
Text: Lucella Bergström