Friday, 2 November 2012

Inter-railing Europe Summer 2012

After a long interlude of more than 5 months I am returning to share with you with my thoughts, views, and updates on daily life. Caught up amidst the deadlines of last year, the bustle of the long summer and the start of a new academic year, the past five months have been exciting and I can wait to start by sharing photos of my two week inter-railing trip across Eastern Europe!

We travelled from Istanbul > Sofia > (via Belgrade) to Budapest > Vienna > Hvar > Split 

This is where we started out journey, flying into Istanbul Airport on the 24th of August. We stayed for 2 nights at the Old City Esma Hostel. 
 I found Istanbul to be a magical, vibrant city full of glorious architecture (which I was soaking up and sketching!). Our lovely hostel owner, planned out our days so that we would manage to see as much as possible; the beautiful mosques, Cemberlitas Hamam (amazing turkish baths), boat trip on Bosphorus and ofcourse the Grand Bazaar.

 Inside the beautiful Suleymaniye Mosque

Amongst the fountains in the gardens between the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque

 Suleymaniye Mosque

 The Hagia Sophia

Istanbul Sirkeci Train Station 

Lamps at the Grand Bazaar 

Jo and I taking in the beauty of our surroundings

 Estelle reading our action packed day plan

SOFIA, Bulgaria
Taking a 4 hour coach from Istanbul to its Border at Kapikuli, we boarded a 6 hour overnight train to Sofia, arriving there on the morning of the 26th of August.
Sofia, was a city that I didn't really know much about before I visited. However, I had always been intrigued, partially because my sister shares the name and the greek meaning of the word being 'Wisdom', I figured it must be a pretty cool place. We stayed for only a night at the Crosspoint Hostel in  what was a quiet, leafy neighbourhood with a beautiful church a few feet away.  Sofia seemed to be unique, being the only European Capital with its own mountain and the only one named after a church.  We spent our limited time wandering the deserted streets ( it seemed that most of its residents flee to Bulgaria's Black Sea coast in summer time),  visiting its famous churches and monuments, attempting to get up the Mountain Vitosha ( and failing), and in the evening visiting an amazing, wooden, candlelit local pub which did not use any electricity! 

 Ash exploring the streets of Sofia

 The neighbourhood that our hostel was in

 Sofia's National Art Gallery

 Estelle admiring the the art

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral 

 Alexander Nevsky Cathedral 

Walking along the main squares, with the Vitosha Mountain in the background

Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. The life and culture there is exciting and our days were packed with trying to see as much of the city as we could in a few days. Some of the highlights were the amazing baths ( we went to the Szechenyi ones in Pest), visiting the Fisherman's Bastion, dancing on a roof club called Corvinteto, listening to live Hungarian music in a beautiful outdoor restaurant and spending ages walking through as many districts as we could!
We stayed at the Backpackers Hostel in Budapest, which is one of the nicest places we had stayed; hammocks and pillows in the garden! 

 Sightseeing: the mixture of modern and olden architecture in Budapest made it an excitingly beautiful city to walk around
 Sitting on a pillar on Heroes Square
 Hereos Square:  built in 1896 to celebrate 1000 years of Hungarian history, with the Archangel Gabriel at the top of the pillar
Our hostel was in the leafy suburbs across the river in Buda, near to the Castle district. Heres Estelle, Jo and Ash on one of our morning tram rides into Pest. 
VIENNA, Austria
Our trip to Vienna was very short, as we decided last minute to go on our way to Croatia, as we still had one more travel space on our Inter-rail ticket. We dumped our bags at lockers in the train station and spent 5 hours roaming the streets of Vienna. It was noticeably colder there, and it was the first time I had put on both my jeans and jumpers!
 Beautiful Architecture of Vienna
Excitement of being in Vienna for just a few hours! 
Horses from the famous Spanish Riding School
HVAR, Croatia
We arrived into Hvar's sunny neoclassical harbour after a two 8 hour train journeys, across Austria, Slovenia and most of Croatia! It was one of dazzlingly beautiful Islands we had ever seen, filled with the smell of of Lavender from its famous fields. We spent the last few days of our trip wandering the maze of cobbled streets, drinking coffee in the square, swimming on a nudist mini island, renting boats, eating dinner and watching the sun go down from the rooftop of our hostel, buying jewellery from the markets and drinking cocktails in the evenings.

View from the rooftop of our Hostel

Renting a taxi boat to the mini islands  
 Hvar's harbour

 Ash excited to be renting our own boat!

Swimming in the bluest of waters on a nudist beach

The Cathedral of St. Stephen on the eastern side of the main square

Split, Croatia
Our last stop on the map was the city of Split, from which we got our flight back to England. Spending only one night and half a day there, we managed to fit in one last beach trip and we spent the evening visiting Diocletian's Palace which was bustling with entertainers and musicians. 

 A very shallow beach!

 The last picture that was taken on my camera before it ran out of battery: Jo, Estelle and I, exploring the waters

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