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82-year-old’s Budget Interrail Trip to the Balkans

I've been back a month now and my Report is still not finished. Because of its length it has to be in instalments, so I thought I would send the first parts now. Here we go, and thank you everybody who helped me on the forum.
Part 1
The inspiration for this epic journey, which covered 11 countries in 8 weeks, was the worldwide movement among young people sparked off by Greta Thunberg of the need to live with respect to the planet our home. So – like, I believe, many others - I decided not to fly this year ­(in my case to Thailand), and bought a two-month Interrail Pass for Europe, with the secondary gain of being absolved of the hassle of airport discipline!
The backbone of the trip was the Youth Hostel, occasionally called just that, but in fact all ages equally welcome. And doubtless the greatest benefit it has given me was the opportunity to meet and commune with young people of the generation of my children and grandchildren, of all nationalities and cultures.

People on the Forum had warned me that train travel in southern Europe is not what it used (or ought) to be, but I had bought my Pass and was committed, given that an 8-week trip further north would have stretched my budget impossibly.

Day 1, September 1st, 2019 - Geneva, Switzerland to Verona, Italy
At Cornavin station, I discovered that the direct 7:39 express was full, and had just time to catch the 7:12 to Brig, permitting me to include my beloved Centovalli ride from Domodossola to Locarno. This was my first experience of train juggling, an 11-hour journey requiring no less than six trains! I had booked an airbnb room in Verona, out of town.
For convenience I moved the next day to the Ostello della Giuventù Youth Hostel housed in a beautiful ancient convent in the middle of the city. Not easy to find, as the city’s bus system is difficult to understand. Umberto at reception was very kind. Later, I discovered the San Pietro Castle campsite a stone’s throw and a big climb away, and marched up the hill with my heavy backpack to camp there next. (Later I discovered that there is a funicular!)
Coming back to Verona from a day trip to Chioggia (so-called “Little Venice”, not too exciting, but not overcrowded...) I found myself late at night on the wrong bus flying in the wrong direction. Getting off I was helped by a young woman who took me to the right bus stop. She was my first Guardian Angel, of whom I now have a list. On this whole trip, whenever I needed help, it was either offered spontaneously or I received it when I asked. For this I am deeply grateful to Life.
Verona on the other hand was horribly swamped by tourists and expensive, and I was very happy to leave. Tip: All you need to do is to walk a couple of streets away from the main attractions to divide the price of a coffee by 3!
In the night before my planned departure from the campsite it began to rain, and as I could not travel with a wet tent I got up at 3am, folded and packed everything together and lay on my my pad under an awning for the rest of the night. Of course I got to the station early.

Day 6 – Verona to Ljubljana, Slovenia
At Trieste, where I had to change, I discovered that the Trieste-Ljubljana leg is by coach, and not covered by my Pass! The driver wanted to take my whole Pass away or put me off the bus! It hadn’t occurred to him that I might be ready to pay for the trip, all of 9 euros.
Tresor Hostel, Ljubljana. An amazing place, a former bank building in the centre of town. I loved Ljubljana with its Central European atmosphere. But it rained throughout my stay there. Slovenian youth looks very vital, and they all speak English well.

Day 9 – Ljubljana to Zagreb
This short distance would not have justified a day’s travel on the Interrail Pass.
At Zagreb, I stayed at the quaint Temza Hostel, a family-type business occupying all the floors of a house not far from the station. Recommended. Zagreb is a lovely city to visit on foot, steeped in history.

Posted by
78 posts

Looking forward to the rest of this report. I love the train/bus/hostel aspect.

I'm planning on an eastern Austria/Slovenia/Croatia trip next summer. Since I'm in the US, it's very difficult to get to Europe without a flight, but I'm going to try to get a non-stop to/from Vienna and do the remaining travel via public transport.

Posted by
4698 posts

There are direct flights from Vienna to Newark, Dulles, JFK, Chicago, Miami and Toronto. All on Austrian Airlines. For direct, those are your only options from the US/North America.

Posted by
2930 posts

Loving your trip reports (I'm thru part III). I would love to take a trip like this, although a few of the spots seem a little daring for me, solo. I must admit.

Posted by
95 posts

Thanks for the encouragement, guys! I'll work on the continuation as fast as I can. I'm also very gratified to see that my reference to not flying has had an echo. Yes, it's difficult to get to Europe from the US without flying (despite Greta's demonstration to the contrary)!

Posted by
55 posts

Thank you Rainbow for sharing your trip experience with us. You are an inspiration to be doing such an adventurous trip the way that you did. I'll bet you got more out of your trip than a lot of people who travel more conventional ways. Good for you! I look forward to reading the rest of your installments as I have time. Keep traveling and Happy New Year!