Interrailing: The Second Half

15 minute read

The Interrail trip is sadly over now, but I’m pleased to report that the trains were much more reliable during the second half of the trip, with no more unplanned route changes or delays. I was getting quite tired by the end of it, and I’m quite happy to be back in Canada right now, relaxing in my family home before university classes start again. A word of warning: this is quite a long post, with a ton of pictures.

Paris

Paris was a little overwhelming, it’s such a large place and there is so much to do. I feel like I could have easily spent a week there seeing all of the main attractions, but since I was only there for two days I had to decide what I wanted to see and what I had to ignore.

I did make it to the Notre Dame Cathedral, as it wasn’t too far from my hostel.


The front of Notre Dame

Walking around one side

The "back" side

Seen from a bridge nearby

One of the many boat tours, with Notre Dame in the background

When I was in Paris, I survived almost entirely on pastries. I had quite a few pain au chocolat, and I also ate a lot of baguettes. My favorite baguette was from “La Parisienne”, where it was the winner of the best baguette of Paris in 2016. Later in the trip I also stumbled upon a bakery that was proudly advertising a second place finish in the 2014 edition of the same contest, so I guess it’s a pretty big deal in Paris!


The champion of 2016

Another famous building I wanted to see in Paris was the Panthéon.


The front

And slightly different lighting

I didn’t want to miss the Louvre, and I spent almost an entire afternoon there. However, I didn’t even come close to seeing everything, but I saw most of what interested me. I focused on sculptures, historical rooms, and Egyptian relics, which meant I skipped a lot of paintings.


The famous pyramid entrance

And the partner upside-down pyramid sculpture

The golden sculpture inside the main pyramid

A magnificent beard

Almost every room had artwork on the ceiling

More ceiling art

The hallway that led to Mona Lisa

The crowd around Mona Lisa

The closest I got to Mona Lisa

Some absolutely gigantic paintings on display

This hallway contains the French crown jewels

The French crown jewels

Me in the French jewel hall

The start of the Egyptian collection

Some Egyptian pyramid shaped objects

Metal fish - not sure if this was part of the Egyptian collection or not

Sphinx - this was definitely Egyptian

Old, fancy, European "snuff boxes"

Honestly not sure what this is

An example of a historic bedroom

A clock that was in a room filled with scientific instruments

I thought these figures with multicolored heads were neat

Pretty sure this was carved from mother of pearl

In one section of the Louvre, there was an exceptional collection of rooms that were modelled after the apartments of Napolean III. There were living spaces, as well as a large dining room.


Napolean's living room

Napolean's dining hall

Side view of the dining table

Another historical bedroom

Meticulously crafted stone table with colored inlays

Intricately colored medallions

This was either from the Egyptian collection or from the earliest civilization in history (it all blends together in my mind now)

Canadian vibes

Impressive pillars to hold up roof beams from an old palace

More Egyptian stuff

Fun fact - these grates blew out cold air, and were very satisfying to walk over

Another sphinx

Egyptian jewelry

The biggest sphinx

Interactive display about the history of the Louvre

On my way to the exit - the base of the old Louvre fortress

Another view of the golden sculpture in the glass pyramid

The way that I was getting between everything in Paris on this day of sightseeing was by walking, and I had a route planned out that I followed throughout the day:


The route I walked to get to various landmarks

Leaving the Louvre - the Eiffel tower in the distance

Fun in the gardens behind the Louvre

Path leading towards an Egyptian obelisk

The obelisk from the last picture in more detail

The Arc de Triomphe

Me and the Arc

Sculptures on the Arc in more detail

The underside of the Arc

The tomb of the unknown soldier

More sculptures on the Arc

The tunnel to get underneath the Arc

Walking closer to the Eiffel Tower

Near the base

It's a lot bigger in person than in photos!

Underneath the Eiffel Tower

One of the elevators going up

View from farther away

Me and the tower

After seeing the Eiffel Tower, I had seen most of the big name tourist items that I wanted to see in Paris. I was looking for something else to do, and decided on a natural history / science museum.


From a temporary exhibit on meteorites

Aerogel (if you haven't heard of this material, it's incredible, look it up!) used in a satellite to collect "space dust"

The main section of the natural history museum

The central parade of animals

A pangolin

Mesmerizing shapes inside a shell

Collection of bugs and butterflies

View from an upper floor

The morning that I was leaving Paris, I had a little bit of free time, and I decided to walk to another famous building, the Sacré-Cœur.


The Sacré-Cœur

Brussels

Brussels was the city that exceeded my expectations the most. I can’t put my finger on it, but I really loved the vibe of the city. The architecture was modern in places, and historic in others, and every part of the public transit that I saw ran very smoothly.


This ferris wheel was almost directly beside the train station

The main square in Brussels

Another view of the main square

I stopped at the Belgian Comic Strip Center for a few hours. The main attraction for me was Tintin, as I read a lot of those comics growing up, and I bought some Tintin related souvenirs that I really liked. Tintin and The Smurfs are the two most famous comics that come from Belgium, and the museum had large sections devoted to both.


Luffy from One Piece

The Tintin characters!

The author of the Tintin comics

Chart outlining the appearance of all characters throughout the course of the comics

Section for the Smurfs

The Smurf village

There were also more serious comics on display

The view from the main entryway

Destination Moon

Street art

Church in Brussels

One of the most unique buildings in Brussels (and all of Europe) is the Atomium. It’s not near the center of the city, and it took me about an hour and 15 minutes to walk there. I then took the metro back to my hostel afterwards.


Seeing this on the horizon made me feel like I was in a sci-fi film

View from the main entrance

Me and the Atomium

Details on the main structure

View from underneath

Walking away gave another unique perspective of the Atomium

The Belgian Olympic committee has their offices near the Atomium

I tried a Belgian waffle downtown - pretty good, nothing special

Tintin street art

The Manneken Pis

Bruges

One of the main reasons I stopped in Bruges was a film called In Bruges that I watched for the first time a couple of months ago. In the film it is depicted as a small town with medieval architecture, and that is true. I didn’t realize Bruges was actually a fairly popular tourist destination though, and there was a decent amount of people roaming around town when I was exploring, especially around the belfry.


Bruges had a small town vibe

The belfry in the distance

Small side street

There were some small rivers running through the town

I went on a run at night and came across this well-lit bridge

The Belfry of Bruges

There was a parade to celebrate a holiday the day I was there

More costumes from the parade

Horses and medieval clothes

This was the symbolic reason for the parade I think - twelve virgins leading a candle to the church to offer to Mary (but don't quote me on that)

Last part of the parade

The main square in Bruges

The base of the belfry

Amsterdam

Amsterdam was a pretty interesting stop. I knew that it was known for having a lot of bicycles, but that didn’t prepare me for just how many there were. Almost every bridge I crossed had both railings covered with bikes, and when waiting at crosswalks it was more important to keep an eye on the bike lane than the car lane. In fact, it would be very difficult to drive a car in downtown Amsterdam, which I think contributes to the bike culture.


Bikes and buildings

Incredible baked potato

Heron in a park downtown

One of the many canals

Crossing the canal

I went to a fairly large zoo in Amsterdam, which had a lot of animals and a large variety of species.


Near the entrance to the zoo

Birds

Zoboomafoo?

Porcupine getting close to the crowd

Komodo dragon

Cool path between the elephant enclosure

The giraffes came very close to everyone

I could have reached out and touched them

Stopped at a bench here to eat lunch

Tarantula (I think)

Seals being fed

Gorillas are huge in person

Penguins

Inside the massive aquarium

Funky colors

Sea horses

Some kind of ray and some kind of shark

Snack time in the butterfly house

Collection of butterflies

This elephant kept to himself more than the others

A different elephant in the larger enclosure

Monkey island

Old sailing ship

After the zoo, I walked around more of Amsterdam, and checked out anything that looked remotely cool.


Tilted building that has a resturant on the roof

Walkway

Outdoor concert next to a canal

Antwerp

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Antwerp, and I didn’t even know what the city was known for before I got there. I learned that it’s called the city of diamonds, and my walking tour guide told us that quite a large percentage of diamonds (more than 50%) worldwide pass through Antwerp for certification or something like that.


Antwerp has a very beautiful train station

Statue holding lightning bolts

Cathedral of Our Lady

One of the oldest buildings in Antwerp

Statue in the main market square

I think this was the town hall?

A library

This building used to be home to butchers, and ironically looks a little like bacon

Nello and Patrasche - a local legend

As I was leaving Antwerp, I noticed this inflatable dragon (not sure what it was doing there)

The free walking tour I was a part of

Beautiful train station between Antwerp and Luxembourg (in Liege)

Luxembourg City

The main reason I stopped in Luxembourg was because it was conveniently located on my way back to Reutlingen to pick up my suitcase. It was a pretty interesting stop though; the hostel was full of lots of fun people and the city had lots of history.


The sun was setting as I arrived in Luxembourg

Going down a big hill to the hostel

It's a pretty old place

One of Luxembourg’s most famous historical attractions is their Casemates - underground tunnels and rooms that were historically used for military purposes.


View from inside the Casemates du Bock

Another view from inside

Looking up out of a well

More historical buildings as seen from inside the Casemates

Sheer rock faces

Bars blocking the view

Looking down the main tunnel

I was inside the tunnel in the center of this picture

Looking back at the Casemates

Old bridge

Walking back to the hostel on a different route

One last view of the Casemates du Bock

Strasbourg

Strasbourg is very close to the border of France and Germany, and was one of my last stops before I got back to Reutlingen to pick up my suitcase. I didn’t stay there for long, but was able to take in an outdoor video/multimedia presentation beside a massive cathedral.


Well illuminated church

The cathedral in Strasbourg

This was a video projected onto a thin mesh screen stretched above the audience next to the cathedral

Side view of the cathedral

Garmisch-Partenkirchen / Zugspitze

I could easily have written an entire post about the Zugsptize climb, as it is one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life. I also tried to make a Google photos album for personal use with only the good photos that I took, and it still has 234 photos in it! I’ll pick a selection of those to put in this post, but I might make another post in the future that has more details and photos about the hike.


The mountain looms behind the train station

The hostel I stayed at

Different routes up the Zugspitze - I took A

The morning I left for the summit

The official route starts at a ski jump

You pass through an incredible gorge on the way

Clear water in the gorge

Mist coming off the frigid mountain water

Coolest place I've ever eaten a banana

Starting to gain some elevation

Remnants of an old river

So many beautiful views

Sheer mountains on both sides of me

I had to walk through herds of sheep

This was where the climb started to get really real

These symbols marked the trail

Another symbol marking the trail

Unbelievable panoramic view of the valley

Neighboring mountains

A nice place for a pit stop along the route

My new buddy

Still getting higher

Not sure what this sign meant

Up among the clouds

Starting to see some snow patches

The sketchiest part of the hike - very vertical climb up loose gravel / shale

There was an option to bypass the gravel climb with this cable car

Partway up the gravel slope, looking back at the snow patches

What the gravel climb looked like

Getting on to more sturdy rocks

Cables provided extra confidence and support

Very close to the summit

Climbing along a ridge to the summit

These stones mark the border between Austria and Germany

The building at the summit is in sight

Me on top of the ridge near the summit

Looking down at more hikers

Finally at the summit!

Surprisingly, there is a quite modern and large building at the summit

Views from the highest point in Germany

Selfie from the top

The official highest point in Germany

Reutlingen and Final Travel

I only stayed in Reutlingen for one night, mainly to pick up my suitcase and other bag. I then took a train from Reutlingen to Stuttgart, a Flixbus from Stuttgart to Strasbourg, a long distance train from Strasbourg to Angers, and a local train from Angers to Cholet. It was obviously more difficult to travel with a suitcase instead of just a backpack, but on most trains there was an easily accessible place to store large luggage.

Cholet

I got to spend a week in Cholet with a friend’s family, which was super relaxing and fun. I tried tons of French cuisine and wine, and got to see historic locations. After my week in Cholet was done, I got on a 6 am train to the Paris CDG airport, arrived there around 9, and dropped off my luggage and went through security in less than an hour (surprisingly, because that airport is notoriously slow to get through). I got on a Westjet direct flight to Halifax at 11:20am, which ended up taking off about an hour later than planned, and landed in Halifax around 2:30pm.