Living on a boat is a great way to see the world, no doubt, but it’s not always possible to visit places other than ports. When the opportunity to leave the boat in a safe place and travel farther afield is presented, it’s an opportunity not to be missed.
While living aboard a boat is generally inexpensive, the boat alone absorbs much of the cruising kitty, leaving little to travel overland. But now and again a trip away from the boat is justified, particularly after crossing so many oceans. After a quiet few months eating porridge and drinking rum in Flensburg, we rewarded ourselves with a month travel overland.
In 1991 after backpacking and working through Canada, then travelling through the US, we eventually made our way to the UK with empty pockets. Any dream of continuing through Europe was out of reach for us at that time.
Around that same era, many positive changes were taking place in Europe.
The moral monstrosity of the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, soon followed by the reunification of Germany in October 1990. In December 1991, while we were working and skiing at Sunshine Village in Banff, Canada, the Soviet Union crumbled and the Cold War warmed up. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, the Czech Republic and Slovakia gained independence in 1993. In 1992 I never dreamed the UK would leave the EU. Now, as a confused UK wobbles at the precipice of BREXIT who knows what the future holds for this former empire. Chlorinated chicken?
Nowadays, Europe is alive with a variety and mix of ethnicities, as a result of the Schengen Agreement of 1985 which eliminated border controls – freedom of movement between the member countries makes travelling and living in Europe just that bit easier. Most of the EU countries are also in the Eurozone so having one currency is great. But still, for some countries such as Hungary and Czech Republic, you’ll still need to convert to local currency to buy a trdlenik or goulash.
We’ve spent over a year in Europe and this one month trip gave us a taste of Europe from the window of a train. Our time in each city was spent walking around, absorbing much of the atmosphere, eating local food and drinking local beer. Besides all the typical attractions available to tourists (zoos, etc), what can’t be ignored are the many attractions related to the past brutal history; in particular how each city has moved ahead from that terrible chapter.
The cities we visited – Berlin, Hamburg, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Munich, Bern, Paris – each have scars from the ghastly wars of the 20th Century. Some more visible than others. But the determination and resilience to overcome the horrors of the past and rebuild wonderful cities from piles of rubble is truly amazing.
Ubiquitous to Europe are memorials expressing remorse, empathy, and grief, but also recognising the brutal crimes of the past. These memorials are important to educate and remind today’s youth of the awfulness of the past so that it may never happen again – ‘to try and understand horrors that can never be understood’.
While each city has attended to their wounds in their own unique way – some have done this better than others – it is interesting to see the transformations.
Some exquisite architectural restorations can be found in Budapest and Prague, while more modern buildings are popping up over Berlin; all cities attract millions of tourists each year and join the blend of races and ethnicity that have adopted those cities as their home.
Humanity appears to be restored, at least for now, or so we thought.
In Munich on a cold drizzly morning when we planned to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, reports of the Christchurch mosque massacre was all over the news. I cannot understand why so much hatred; why so much pointless death; why so much ignorance; Why?
For a couple of sailors who’ve taken eight years to see half of the world, one month is a short time but we packed in as must as possible in 28 days. Visiting ten cities and seven countries we observed and learned more about each city and their interesting populations and how they fit into the modern era of the European Union. Our Interrail pass allowed us ten days travel to use within two months and we did as much travelling as we could.
So now that our European jaunt is over we are back aboard our little Blue Heeler and we prepare for the 2019 sailing season.
And I have to say “it’s good to be home!”
Below are links to each city we visited plus some notes about train travel through Europe. I hope you enjoy my musings.