Monday, 11 October 2010

InterRailing for Glampackers - Graz to Brno

Austria and Czech Republic and home.

21st September

Austria was a delight to watch from the train. Either gentle pasture with the odd collection of sheep, or dramatic valleys and mountains with waterfalls and lakes.
Bad Warersdorf is a natural thermal water resort in central Styria that takes the phrase ‘back to nature' very seriously, with plenty of opportunities for those of you who prefer doing your water sports naked. Quellenhotel, our wellness hotel was one of those places where you just strolled around all day in a terry cloth robe sampling the different saunas and whirlpools as the mood takes. There is something rather liberating about using a Jacuzzi naked, but that's another story.
With both of us feeling very well after our intensive two days of wellness, we moved on the Eisenstadt, the home town of Haydn in Burgenland, Austria's newest region.

For Haydn lovers it is a veritable treasure trove, but there is also an amazing Palace there the former home of yet another European wealth dynasty the Esterhaze family.
The town is very quiet and not somewhere I would recommend for lovers of nightlife, although coming across a show by an ACDC cover band in the community centre was something of a welcome surprise. Not sure if Haydn would have approved though....
The train onwards to the Czech Republic was a simple process with a quick change at WienerNeustadt and we were over the border in no time and on to our final country.

Moravia, the Czech Republic's southern region, has often been overlooked due to the fame of Prague in northern Bohemia, but now, with its wines gaining a global reputation for high quality, (the whites in particular, are simply delicious), the area is growing in popularity.
But there is more to it than wine. The Liechtensteins lived here before getting their own principality, and left behind some of the grandest palaces and gardens you will ever see. The little town of Lednice has the Liechtenstein legacy all over it, with their vast estate and palace dominating the countryside. The extensive gardens and indoor conservatories are jaw dropping with flora and fauna brought in exclusively from all over the world. These people were so filthy rich they even built huge follies all over the place just to make the countryside views more pleasant. Truly astonishing.
Brno is the Czech Republic's second city, and although nowhere near as big as Prague, it has enough of its own architecture and history to make a stay there very worthwhile.
In particular, Speilberg Castle (no relation to the film director) and the Peter and Paul cathedral. The old city has plenty of little narrow streets to get lost in, with lots of bars and restaurants and like most of Moravia, it will provide good value for money.
Czech food may be a little on the heavy side to eat all the time, but there plenty of other cuisines available as alternatives.
So we finally completed our amazing train journey. 2,500 miles, 6 countries and 14 hotels later we could reflect on a fascinating adventure where we met all kinds on interesting people and places and more than a few interesting stations too!

Travelling across Europe by train was an experience that we thoroughly enjoyed and it proves that you don't have to be a young student to ‘get it'. InteRail on today's network offer you a stress free (well most of the time) way to see Europe without the fuss and palaver of airport security.
Would you need to go first class? If you decide to stick just with major cities then the carriages would be a better standard, there are less crowds and you can use the lounges at the stations.

Otherwise, a standard class ticket will be perfectly acceptable. Of course, a luxury hotel is a different matter entirely......

InterRailing for Glampackers - Zagreb to Keszthely, Hungary

Crossing the border on the train was a little interesting, with no less than three separate passport inspections, one from the Croatian side as a sort of going away present, and then two from our new Hungarian friends, who seemed to eye us with more than a hint of suspicion. Perhaps it was our first class tickets and big suitcases, or more probably, just our vivid imaginations.
Suddenly we were in Hungary, and again, the countryside changed. A couple of changes later at stations with incomprehensible names and the wide waters of Lake Balaton came into view.
The town of Keszthely (pronounced Kesterhay) is during the Summer season, a very busy but elegant resort town that lies on the southern edge of Lake Balaton, one of the biggest inland natural lakes in Europe. It also has a remarkably grand white palace that dominates the town too.
Late September however, proved to be a very quiet time, and with the weather turning wet, it was not perhaps looking its best. The lake though was magnificent and you could see the attraction on a sunny day, taking a cruise or sunbathing by the nearby beaches. The palace is worth a visit, and nearby was a marzipan museum, a porcelain doll collection and a synagogue dating back to the 16th century.

We were guests for a couple of nights at the lovely home of the family Moritz, who run a smart inn just outside the old town centre. Herr Moritz proved to be a charming host, who spoke much better English than our feeble attempts at Hungarian and made us very welcome.
The Moritz house was very comfortable, with lovely rooms, free wi fi and a more than adequate breakfast. Herr Moritz even insisted on dropping us back at the station after our stay.

The restaurants in town are cosy and colourful, all offering hearty traditional regional cuisine with the pick of them being Bacchus a lovely rustic place that's a hotel and its own wine museum. We literally rolled out of there after a mighty meal that was all of £23 for the two of us.
Lake Balaton would certainly be worth a visit if you were in Budapest for more than a few days in summer.

Guesthaus Morritz, Mora Ferenc Utca 5
Restaurant : Bacchus, Erzsebet kiralyne st 18
Keszthely Palace