Travelling across Europe has always been a dream of mine. The idea of visiting different countries, experiencing new cultures, and exploring unknown territories was something that always fascinated me. However, the cost of travel, accommodation, and other expenses made it almost impossible for me to fulfil (if you want to keep the British spelling throughout the article) this dream. That was until I discovered the DiscoverEU program.

DiscoverEU is an initiative that offers 18-year-olds a unique opportunity to explore Europe by train. By providing free rail tickets to selected applicants, the program empowers young people to uncover new destinations, meet new friends, learn from their travels, and create valuable memories. I was fortunate enough to be among the chosen participants in the last year where UK citizens were eligible, due to our departure from the European Union.

So during my winter break, I embarked on an interrailing adventure to six countries, where I encountered new places, traditions, and cuisines.


My journey began in London, where I caught an early train to Amsterdam. St Pancras was a bit confusing, and I realised that arriving two hours early, as advised by the Eurostar, was not necessary. Security took less than 30 minutes and I even had the time to take a nap while waiting for my train.


I arrived in Amsterdam after a journey that passed by too quickly. The city is charming and picturesque, especially in the morning when the streets are quiet and peaceful. Its narrow streets and canals give it a unique character that is hard to find in other places. There is something for everyone in Amsterdam, with museums, galleries, and shops that cater to all ages and interests. You can spend hours exploring the city’s many attractions, enjoying the art, culture, and history that it has to offer.

As the sun sets, the city takes on a different charm, and the red-light district comes alive. It’s a very interesting place, and a must-visit if you’re in Amsterdam. You’ll see things that you never thought you’d see, and experience a side of the city that is unlike any other.

One of the things that sets Amsterdam apart from other cities is its relaxed attitude towards marijuana. It’s legal in coffee shops and it’s not uncommon to see people enjoying a joint on the street. This policy has prompted mixed reactions, but overall it seems to be working well for Amsterdam. Perhaps it’s something that other countries could learn from and implement – maybe the UK should consider it at some point.


My next stop was Berlin, where I spent New Year’s Eve.

Finding tickets for any activities for the night was quite difficult, but as midnight approached, I decided to walk around the city and take in the atmosphere. Eventually, I found myself at the TV tower, where a stunning fireworks display was taking place.

Unfortunately, soon after the clock hit 12, things took a turn for the worse. Violence broke out, and the German police had to intervene to restore order. It was a frightening, but also interesting experience. Seeing these officers in a SWAT-like uniform going around holding up their shields on streets strewn with shattered glass and burned items was definitely a very different New Years experience than any I’ve had before.

The next day, I resumed my sightseeing activities and visited several famous landmarks, including the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Gate, and Checkpoint Charlie. The Berlin Wall, in particular, was a powerful symbol of the division that existed within Germany and its people for almost 30 years. Today, it serves as a symbol of hope and unity, a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.


After spending some time in Berlin, I decided to hop on a night train to Vienna, which was one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. From the moment I arrived, I was struck by how clean and pristine it was. The streets were immaculate, and the air was fresh and crisp. It was like walking into a fairy tale.

The night train from Berlin to Vienna was a high-speed train with excellent facilities, including double-decker carriages and vending machines. Not only that, but the internet speed was over 50mps! There’s not a single train in the UK that provides anything even close. It is possible that the nationalised system of trains in Germany allowed for more investment in their trains, resulting in the high-quality services they offer. Even if some may dispute this, it remains unfortunate that UK trains still lag behind. 

While I was in Vienna, I also got the chance to visit some of the city’s famous attractions. One of the highlights was the Schmetterlinghaus, a house that was filled with hundreds of different species of butterflies. I felt like I was walking through a magical wonderland as the colourful wings fluttered all around me.


Salzburg was not originally on my itinerary, but I decided to take a detour and visit this charming city, where I tried to recreate an old photo of myself as a child. However, as I arrived after sunset, taking pictures was a bit more challenging. One silly mistake I made was forgetting that I was wearing white trousers, and then lying on the dirt. I had to then rush to the nearest laundromat to wash my trousers before having to catch my next train.

Thankfully, I made it back to the station on time, and boarded my train to Liechtenstein.


Liechtenstein was definitely one of the highlights of my trip, even though I never planned to visit it in the first place. After noticing that I would be passing through it anyway on my way to Switzerland, I thought, “If I don’t visit now, I will never find the incentive to visit in the future.” After visiting it, I can confidently say that it is one of the most underrated places in Europe and earns the top spot in all the countries I visited.

To get there, I had to take a train from Salzburg to Feldkirch, a city in Austria near the border with Liechtenstein. I can definitely say that it was the most uncomfortable journey I had on this trip. The train was old, there was no control over the assigned seats, and not to mention the terrible ventilation.

When I arrived in Feldkirch in the early hours of the morning, I realised that I could leave my suitcase at the train station’s baggage storage. I unfortunately didn’t know that this is an option at most stations, and I regret it because it was cheaper and more convenient than the online websites as I had always gone back to the stations anyways.

After catching a bus from Feldkirch, Austria to the border of Lichtenstein, I started my journey following The Liechtenstein Trail. It was definitely the highlight of my interrailing trip.

The Liechtenstein Trail is a 75 km walking path passing through all eleven of the country’s municipalities. It is full of attractions, spectacular views, fine food, and secluded spots, making it the ideal way to explore the Principality of Liechtenstein. The trail takes 3-5 nights to complete and has a length of 78.9km.

Obviously, I didn’t have that much time to do it in full. I had to cut it short, and focus on the spots and attractions that I’m most interested in. I walked from the northern border with Austria, until I arrived in the capital, Vaduz. During the hike, I decided to rent an electric bike to explore more destinations. It only costed me £18 for 24 hours and allowed me to go through the country much more quickly.

It was such a peaceful and underrated place, and it definitely deserves more recognition.


In Switzerland, I had one purpose, which was to experience the Glacier Express: a train journey that goes through the Alps, through narrow valleys, tight curves, 91 tunnels, and across 291 bridges, and most importantly has very large windows that gives you a clear view of the beautiful Swiss mountains.

Switzerland was the most expensive country I visited, and despite being there for less than 10 hours, St. Moritz was the most expensive night of the entire interrailing trip.

After a five-hour journey on the Glacier Express, I arrived in Andermatt and had only half an hour to spare before catching my next trains towards Paris. However, things went downhill when my train broke down in the middle of a tunnel, and as a result, I missed my last possible connection that would allow me to get to my reserved train on time. The problem was worse than usual because most trains going to Paris required a seat reservation, unlike most other trains where you can just jump in.


Paris, the city of love, lights, and fashion, was my next stop on the interrail adventure. The train from Zurich to Paris, operated by ‘Lyna,’ was a pleasant surprise. Compared to the my traumatic experience with the Swiss train that brokedown in the middle of a tunnel, the French train had Wi-Fi, comfortable seats, and electric plugs. The lights were also calm, which helped me take some rest.

As soon as I walked out of the station, the first thing that hit me was the smell of urine. I’m still unsure about the origins of the substance, but the liquid on the wall might have an explanation. Tired and exhausted, I reached the hostel, hoping to get some rest. At this point in the interrail journey, I was ready to go home, but I still had a few days left.

Luckily, I was staying in Paris for two nights, which gave me the luxury to take it slow and not rush from one place to another.

Despite my exhaustion, I couldn’t resist going out to explore the city on the following day . I even had a funny interaction on my first day when I went to a place selling main course meals as takeaways. As soon as the guy heard me speak English, he rolled his eyes so far back that I could see his brain.

Of course, the first thing I had to see in Paris was the Eiffel Tower. It was just as grand as I had imagined it to be. However, one thing that struck me while walking around the city was that winter might not be the best time to visit this city. The trees were dead, the sky mostly cloudy and grey, and that vibrant and colourful aesthetic of the Paris of our expectations was not there.

On my last day, I had to quickly visit the Louvre and Arc de Triomphe. Unfortunately, I had to skip seeing our good old friend Lisa, Mona, as I was running out of time before my next train.

Rating of Trains and Accommodation

Throughout my journey, I rated the trains and accommodation based on several factors, including comfort, cleanliness, price, and location. In terms of trains, the German train system was definitely the best, followed by Eurostar, Austrian, Dutch, French, and finally Swiss trains, which were the worst.

When it comes to accommodation, the cheapest and most comfortable option was in Austria, followed by Germany and France. Switzerland had the most expensive accommodation, although the rooms were nice, and the breakfast was good. The Dutch accommodation was also expensive, with small rooms and many beds cramped into one space.

Importance of Programs like DiscoverEU

DiscoverEU is an important program that offers students and young people the chance to experience different cultures, explore new places, and learn essential skills for independent travel across countries with different laws, systems, and methods. It is unfortunate that the UK decided to leave this program and others like Erasmus. 

Travelling across Europe allowed me to meet new people and develop important skills that aided me in discovering new places. I learned that travelling involves not only visiting new places, but also challenging oneself and exploring unknown territories. From the stunning landscapes of the Swiss Alps to the bustling streets of Berlin, each day was filled with new adventures and challenges. I met people from all over the world, who captivated me with their diverse stories and perspectives, and gained valuable insights into different cultures and ways of life.

Moreover, the trip helped me develop essential skills such as problem-solving, communication, and organisation. I had to navigate unfamiliar cities, plan my itinerary, and manage my budget, which required me to be resourceful and adaptable. These skills will undoubtedly benefit me in my future endeavours, both personally and professionally.

Regarding the DiscoverEU program, I believe it is a vital initiative that should be continued and expanded. It provides young people with a unique opportunity to explore the world, broaden their horizons, and acquire crucial life experiences. Given its positive impact, the government should rejoin the program or, at least, provide an alternative for it, as it can be a highly rewarding experience for many young people.