Half timbered house from 14th century

Today is Day 25 of the 30-Day Blogging Challenge and I have to decide on what to do for my last 6 blogs to complete the challenge. The first 24 told of our experiences of 2010 when we went to the Oberammegau Passion Play with a group of people from Durban. Thereafter, the 2 of us travelled through 4 European countries using the Global Eurail Pass.

For this blog I thought that I would not do an actual recap as with the 1st 7 blogs but rather reflect on what we learnt about travelling, especially as Senior Citizens. As you will see on my web page, I did this with our first trip together in 2006. We certainly learnt a great deal from that trip but even more with this one.

This trip was the first time that either of us had been on a organised tour with a group. We found this to have advantages and disadvantages which I listed in a blog entitled,“How should we travel?” We really enjoyed travelling with a group but whether that was because we knew most of the other persons on the trip or because of the other advantages of doing so is not absolutely clear. It was very helpful to have our luggage taken on and off the bus and also not to have to think about how to get to the next destination. What was also good was that there was enough free time to do some things we chose. Then again, there was the need to stick to times and places to visit.

For the longer, portion of the trip we were on our own and travelled mainly by train. As I have mentioned in most of the blogs which covered this part of the trip, the Eurail Pass was an excellent purchase. It paid for itself over and over. We paid €700 for 3 weeks and, whenever possible, I asked the conductor or other relevant person what we would have paid for a normal ticket for a particular journey. Within a week we would have spent almost 3 times as much.

What we learned

1.   We had not realised that, even with a Pass, one has to book seats on some of the longer journey trains and always on an overnight train. Not knowing this almost caused us to miss the train from Dijon to Montpelier. It is also important to check the seat details carefully as they may carry both a carriage and a seat number.

Half timbered house from 14th century14th Century House in Dijon

2.   When we discovered that the Pass could be used on all public transport it added a whole new dimension to our holiday. We split one journey between a boat on a lake and a train and another time we crossed a lake for lunch just for the fun of it.

Houses beside the lakeHouses on the bank of Lake Brienz on which we travelled

3.   One very important thing we learnt while travelling on our own was to pack light. When travelling by train one has to carry your own luggage on and off trains and sometimes up and down stairs. The doors and access to some trains are not level with the platform so cases have to be lifted on to the train itself. Then there is the matter of storing them up on the luggage rack.

4.   We have also learnt that no one else really cares what you are wearing as long as you are clean and not offensive smelling. You can wear the same clothes many times and mix & match as often as you like and no one will say anything. This means that you do not need to pack any more than absolutely necessary.

5.   Getting laundry done while travelling can be a challenge. The term used for the place where it is done is different in each country. You could ask for a laundrette, a laundromat, a laundry or even, in some American States, a washateria. As I said in one of the advice blogs on my site, it helps to make an effort to learn the some of the local vernacular where you can and this is a very important piece of terminology. Another could be with regard to ablution facilities.

6.   Being in Europe 2006 when we hired a car and not being accustomed to driving on the right hand side of the road, we found that using the trains and other public transport this time around was far less stressful. Conversely, we went to the UK & Ireland in 2012 and hired a car for the month. We covered over 3000 miles with minimal stress as it was on the left hand side and all the signs were in English. This is a very individual decision as there are pros and cons to each of the different forms of travel.

All in all, this was a wonderful holiday, having had the opportunity to see the Passion Play being a real highlight, returning home feeling truly educated and ready to go again, after a good rest! And, having had a rest, we visited Eatern Europe last year and, this December we are off to see the Northern Lights.

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