Dubrovnik, Croatia

Announcing My European Eurail Itinerary

Derek Everything Else, Transportation 51 Comments

Dubrovnik, Croatia

I have spent the past three and a half days in a crazed, super-energized state of being in which I have barely been able to sit still for more than nine seconds at a time. Four hours of sleep became the norm as my mind refused to rest until I had finalized an itinerary for my upcoming trip to Europe. It wasn’t an easy task at all as there are simply too many extraordinary places to visit, but in the end, I did manage to formulate a plan.

Let me begin by saying that I could not have asked for a better collection of comments on my previous post, comments so full of tempting travel suggestions as well as offers to show me around parts of Europe and even to let me crash on your sofa. And there were even more comments that came through on Facebook, Twitter and in the dozens of personal emails that you sent my way. In fact, with every new comment I received, I would become so ecstatic that I would shout out ‘I love my readers!’ for all to hear. (I know, it sounds cheesy, but it’s the truth.)

And while my friends got used to me shouting this in their apartment every few minutes during the evenings, the other customers at Tillie’s Cafe, where I spend a few hours working on my laptop each day here in Brooklyn, never seemed to enjoy my outbursts, nor did the staff.

Anyway, you get the point. You’re awesome. Yes you.

CREATING THE ITINERARY

I began by listing every single one of your suggestions on a spreadsheet, and upon glancing at the final result, my reaction was simple enough. I just kept thinking to myself, “I need to find a way to go everywhere on this list!”

Of course, a couple of hours later, after desperately trying to map out a route that would allow me to cover Finland, Ireland, Portugal, Liechtenstein, Bulgaria and every country in between by rail in less than two months, I was forced to reach an unfortunate conclusion.

If I were to go everywhere that was suggested, I would end up spending approximately 19 minutes and 43 seconds in each destination. After all, while two months might seem like a significant amount of time to travel around Europe, it’s not enough to cover the entire continent.

And so, sadly, I had to start trimming places off the list.

The two countries that received the most mentions were, by far, Slovenia and Romania. Therefore, I figured that my itinerary definitely needed to include those two countries, especially considering that I have never been to either of them. And once those two countries made the final list, it became apparent that Northern and far-Western Europe were just too far away to include on the same trip.

So, after two days of constant (and I mean 20 hours per day constant) itinerary experimentation and re-arranging, as well as the shedding of a few tears when certain favorite destinations of mine such as Prague and Berlin were crossed off the list, I finally created the route that I will take.

And the fact that every time I glance at the names of the countries along this route I feel the urge to break into a happy dance (which for me involves standing straight up, gently swaying my arms and looking incredibly uncomfortable), I’d say that I’m satisfied with the result.

MY EUROPEAN ITINERARY

The route below includes the major destinations that I plan to visit over the next six to eight weeks, most of which I will be traveling to/from on my Eurail Global Pass. Naturally, I’ll also be stopping at and exploring other locations within each country as well, but I’m going to leave such side trips up to last minute decision making. All I wanted with this itinerary was to determine the general route I’ll take from country to country. Apart from that, I don’t even have the slightest idea yet of how long I’ll stick around each destination.

Eurail Map

So….

On Monday, September 26th, I shall fly from New York City to Zurich, Switzerland.

And then I shall continue on, by Eurail, from….

  • Zurich to Vienna, Austria
  • Vienna to Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Ljubljana to Zagreb, Croatia
  • Zagreb to Sarajevo, Bosnia
  • Sarajevo to Belgrade, Serbia
  • Belgrade to Romania (where I will use my Eurail Pass to visit such destinations as Bucharest, Brasov, Sibiu and Cluj, among others)
  • Romania to Bulgaria (where I will visit destinations along the Black Sea as well as other places such as Polvdiv and of course, the capital city, Sofia)

And that’s the plan!

One thing to note is that the portion of my trip that will take me through Bosnia and Serbia is not fully confirmed. My decision to pass through these two countries will depend on time, and if I choose not to visit them, I will re-route and head to Hungary from Zagreb instead, and then on to Romania. Also, Bosnia and Serbia are not countries that are included on my Eurail Pass (although Serbia is included on InterRail Passes which are for citizens of the European Union).

Clearly, with the above itinerary I will be missing out on such rewarding destinations as Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Spain and Germany to name a few. However, I will be covering approximately 33% of the countries that were recommended, several of which are countries that I have never visited before. My chosen route will also allow me to meet up with several friends, fellow travelers and other bloggers along the way, something that is always a bonus when traveling anywhere.

As I write this post, I feel more than ready to get this trip started, and I’m sure my friends whose sofa I’ve been sleeping on for the past three weeks are more than ready for me to get started as well!

And now that my Eurail Global Pass arrived this morning (via mail) and I shaved my armpits this afternoon in preparation for my travels, all that’s left is to get on that flight to Zurich on Monday evening.

I certainly hope you’ll follow along as I bounce around from country to country and again, I want to thank you all so very much for offering your assistance and ideas and ultimately helping me create such an ideal itinerary for this Eurail adventure.

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Comments 51

  1. Pingback: Taking a Break in Istanbul — and Where to Do It | Adventurous Kate

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  3. Travis Ball

    Sounds like an amazing trip! What I love is that it isn’t what you expect from Eurorail. When I think Eurorail I think mostly western Europe. Your trip starts there but heads east to all these places I’ve never been to and I can’t wait to follow along!

    Have a great time and safe travels!

    -Travis

    1. Earl

      Thanks Travis! I was quite surprised myself at which countries were included on the Eurail pass and as soon as I saw Romania and Bulgaria, I was hoping that my itinerary would include them!

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  5. Lily Leung

    Enjoy your Eurail trip and it’s great that you got help from your readers on planning your trip. If you get the chance, stop by Novi Sad in Serbia (just north of Belgrade), it’s very charming and it’s got town-wide WiFi in the old town with a ton of cafes and great night life.

    Looking forward to your updates!

    – Lily

    1. Earl

      Hey Lily – Novi Sad is now on the list! And it’s funny about the internet because I just read an article that listed the most ‘connected’ countries in the world and it was quite surprising, with Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and even Moldova and Serbia in the top 20 or so.

  6. Ashley

    I hope you make it to Sarajevo and Mostar – two of my favorite places! And the train ride between them is gorgeous. I’ll jump on the Mostar bandwagon and try to convince you to go there 😉 We spent two nights in Mostar – the owners of the hostel we stayed at were the best: taught us the history of Mostar, invited us on a walking tour for free and drove us all around. The husband used to jump off of Stari Most, so he had a lot of good stories (and also let us know that if anyone gave us trouble in town, to let him know – he and the boys would take care of us). The tourist action is all in Old Town, but there is more to see. You can still walk the old front line (I was shocked at how many damaged buildings remain)…we also had a great time exploring the new part of town. AND the lemonades! Super sour with your own cup of sugar – which is like the perfect lemonade in my mind 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Ashley – Mostar is definitely on the list!! I really am surprised at how many people have mentioned this one destination and now I must go and see what it’s all about. Do you happen to know the name of the hostel you stayed at?

      1. Ashley

        Yay! It’s such a wonderful town. The hostel was Hostel Nina. They have the main hostel (which is very close to old town) and an overflow apartment (which is about a 10 minutes from old town, towards the newer part of Mostar). We stayed in the overflow apartment and I loved it. Nina’s whole family helps with running the hostel – they’ll all so nice and helpful.

    1. Earl

      Thanks Amanda! Perhaps these places will prove to be such interesting destinations that they’ll make it onto your next itinerary as well 🙂

  7. Iza G

    Hi Earl! Love your blog. I did a lot of traveling around Central and Eastern Europe last year, and I have to agree with the first poster, getting to Sarajevo was very cheap. I went from Krakow through Budapest, and the most expensive part was getting to Budapest. After that it was smooth sailing. Sarajevo is such a great city, absolutely beautiful, and I also agree that Mostar is worth a visit. It’s a shame you can’t visit more of central/southern Bosnia and the coast as the scenery there is just breathtaking – lots of mountains, lakes, forests, really difficult to imagine a war going on in this place. There are some good local wines, and you should try kajmak. It’s sort of like a butter/cream type of thing, very good.

    As for Romania, we traveled all through Transylvania – also very beautiful. The small towns were very quaint, and although it is extremely touristy it was actually a bit of fun to see Bran Castle (supposedly Dracula’s) outside of Brasov. Don’t know if you were thinking of Sighisoara, but when we went (Nov 2009) it was covered in mud – they were renovating the citadel and tore up all of the stones. 🙂

    Have a great trip! I hope I can get back to traveling soon!

    1. Earl

      Hey Iza – I love the fact that so many people are now recommending Mostar, which is a place that I never even heard of until a couple of days ago! And I agree that it is a shame that I’ll have to pass relatively quickly through many of these countries, but at least I’ll get a taste of what they’re all about.

      A visit to Bran Castle will be on the list, despite the touristy atmosphere. Some things you just have to do no matter what!

      I appreciate all of the information and thank you for following along with my blog 🙂

  8. Stephen

    Awesome plan! I’m hoping to meet a friend at Euro 2012 in Poland/Ukraine next June, so if you enjoy your itinerary I might have to hit up some of these on the way!

    Also, it seems we have remarkably similar dancing styles…

    Have fun!

    1. Earl

      Hey Stephen – Poland/Ukraine should be a good combination…both of those countries are places I want to visit myself, perhaps the next time I make it to Europe. And I appreciate you coming to my support in terms of the dancing style. I try my best but I always end up with the same pathetic result!

    1. Earl

      Thanks so much Shirlene!

      And by the way, I just read your post on Thiksey Monastery in India. That entire region around Leh is an area that I really want to return to and explore again. Those monasteries are so full of positive vibes and I loved every day I was up there, as it seems you did too!

  9. Desi Ilieva

    Dear Earl,
    You might enjoy visiting Veliko Tarnovo while in Bulgaria. Veliko Tarnovo and Plovdiv are the two most enchanting Bulgarian towns, very atmospheric, and locals are ever so relaxed and hospitable. Tarnovo is Bulgaria’s former capital and it is the heart and soul of the country. Here’s a link to make things easier for you:
    http://www.velikoturnovo.info/
    I am so glad you will visit my country. You are most welcome.
    Warm regards,
    Desi

    1. Earl

      Hey Desi – That seems like an excellent suggestion to me, especially after looking at the website! And thank you for being the first to welcome me to your country 🙂

      If you want to meet up at all during my trip through, just let me know. I always enjoy meeting readers along the road.

      1. Desi Ilieva

        Hi Earl,
        Sorry for answering so late – I am on my Mediterranean trip right now. We started from Sofia, drove through Serbia and spent 2 months in Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia. Right now we are in the south of France and plan to continue to Spain, Portugal and Morocco. I don’t think we can do the full circuit because of what is going on in North Africa and the Middle East, but we can at least revisit our beloved Greece and Turkey on the way back.
        Two friends of mine called to say that they would love to welcome you to Sofia. I can give you their contacts.
        Have a lovely trip,
        Desi

  10. Eric

    Found your blog from a re-tweet by Location180.com. LOVE this! Some finger-wagging on my part for your having never visited the Baltic states, but Slovenia is a great inclusion for this trip. Best of luck; I’ll definitely be following along.

    1. Earl

      Hey Eric – The finger wagging is perfectly understandable and I believe I’ve done that to myself as well for not having yet made it up to the Baltic region. But I am super excited about Slovenia, so that does make up for it. I appreciate you following the adventure and welcome to the site! (And a big thank you to Sean from Location180 as well for linking to me!)

  11. Linda, I'd rather be traveling

    Thanks for posting your journey, I will for now, settle to travel thru your experiences your eyes! Safe travel….

  12. The World of Deej

    Our one experience on the train in Europe was awesome. It was a sleeper from Paris to Barcelona…Great time. We’re hoping to do it again this summer. Your trip sounds amazing, and I can understand the sleepless nights!

    1. Earl

      @The World of Deej: It’s good to hear from someone who has experienced the train already, even if for only one trip. Train travel is always a preferable method to me which is why it’s odd that I’ve never before used the trains in Europe. I guess that will change now. And I guess your last European trip was good enough to make you want to go back again next year!

  13. Ewelina

    I’m so excited for you Earl! Sounds like you got it all planned out and I’m glad that Bulgaria (and the Black Sea) made your list. Let me know if you need me to send you a thicker coat since in 6 to 8 weeks it’ll be pretty cold in Europe and we both know how much you love the cold. 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Ewelina – Ha! I actually went out today to buy warmer clothes and it took me a long time because I’m not used to buying long-sleeved shirts or a jacket. I think I managed to buy a few items that will make sure I stay warm but if I underestimated the Eastern European winter, I shall let you know and I’d appreciate you sending over another jacket 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Giulia – I know, it was hard not to include Italy but in the end, I have been to Italy almost a dozen times already, so I felt it was a good idea to make sure I spend enough time in the other countries I’ve yet to visit 🙂

  14. The Young Foodie

    Nice to see you’re passing through Austria! If you happen to stop in Salzburg, give me a yell! I’ll buy you a glass of delicious Austrian beer and a shot of Schnapps. That’ll loosen you up for the next train trip 😉 I also second going to Mostar!
    Have fun and safe travels!

    1. Earl

      @The Young Foodie: Perfect, I shall be in touch if I do pass through Salzburg! And thanks for the second vote for Mostar…now I’m very curious about that place.

  15. Erin

    Sounds great! We loved Brasov in Romania and Veliko Turnovo in Bulgaria, but then that was on our first interrail trip 12 years ago so I’m sure it’s changed a lot since then! Have a great trip.

    1. Earl

      Hey Erin – I’ll definitely be visiting both Brasov and Veliko Turnovo so I guess you’ll be able to see if it has changed much (which, like you, I imagine it has). But even so, those are the kind of towns that I’m most looking forward to on this trip so I’m sure I will enjoy my time there!

  16. Mat

    Hi Earl,

    I took a train between Belgrade and Sarajevo that summer and I must note that the ticket is very cheap for the journey between two capital cities – it cost me 16,80 euro in Belgrade. Belgrade itself is in my opinion worth visiting, as it is one of the most lively and friendly places I have visited.

    From Sarajevo, you could take the day trip to Mostar (and I’d recommend using a train – one of the most scenic rail routes in Europe and it’s cheaper than a bus).

    Have fun during your trip!

    1. Earl

      Hey Mat – I appreciate the wonderful tips! That is one region that I’m not familiar with at all so it’s good to know that traveling between Sarajevo and Belgrade is so easy. And the train to Mostar sounds quite ideal as well and I’m even thinking of spending a couple of days in that town. Now I’m looking forward to that rail journey between the two.

      Thanks again Mat!

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