Who doesn’t like trains! They are fast, comfortable, and sustainable compared to flying. Our member, Leon Kogel, supported one of AEGEE’s biggest projects, Europe on Track, and won an interrail ticket. And here’s the story of his summer adventure!
Hi, my name is Leon. I am a 22-year-old chemistry student and a member of AEGEE-Aachen. This summer I had the chance to travel through Europe with an interrail ticket because I participated in a crowdfunding campaign for one of AEGEE-Europe’s biggest external projects called Europe on Track. In this project, multiple young ambassadors travel to different cities within the AEGEE network, to deliver workshops and collect the input of civil society on an overall topic like climate change or social inclusion. As a thank you, everyone who donated for the crowdfunding was entered into a lottery for one Interrail Global Pass and I was the lucky person who won it. This is the story of my summer adventure.
On the 10th June 2019 I got a message of a friend reading: congratulations on winning an interrail ticket. At first, I could not believe it, I did not win anything ever before. I was at a festival at that time and did not check my mails. Opening my inbox, I discovered that I was indeed not being pranked. Now the only problem was in choosing one of the endless possibilities my prize offered. Should I go to France? Italy? Maybe Spain? In the end I decided to clear the blank spot on my travel map and venture through the central European capitals and to my favourite city in all of Europe; Lviv.
Throughout my three years in AEGEE I met so many amazing people, that I could probably travel 3 months straight and not be able to visit them all. Before I went on my interrail adventure I arranged with a good friend from AEGEE-Erfurt that we would meet in Prague. We spent an awesome time there between nice cafes, the cosy old town and our very lively hostel where we met a bunch of crazy but friendly people like us. In addition, I had published my route upfront so I could meet up with people along the way, which worked out great. For my next stop in Vienna I was hosted by a friend from Rome I met during his stay at our Summer University in Aachen in 2017. Through him I learned that another participant of this event now works in Vienna, so we joined his birthday party.
Having indulged in drinking some mysterious local drink made of water, malt, yeast and hops, I certainly had some difficulty reaching an early train to my next stop; Budapest. There I was greeted by the central European summer heat, so I naturally had some goulash to balance my body with the outside temperature. The weekend in Budapest went by way too fast for me to even see half of its
wonders, but nevertheless I really enjoyed it. On my way to Košice on the Slovak-Ukrainian border, I made a quick stop in Bratislava. Eating in a local soup restaurant and drinking the favourite Slovakian tea from the tatra mountains gave me the strength to climb up to the castle, where I admired the view of the famous bridge over the Danube river and beautiful soviet style apartment buildings. The train ride took me the better part of the day and I was very happy to finally reach my hostel at midnight.
The next morning, I went to have breakfast in the city centre, where I found a fountain that coordinated with music. Crossing the EU frontier into Ukraine was as delightful as ever (although I must admit nothing compared to the Polish-Ukrainian border). In the evening I boarded my night train from Uschgorod to Lviv. Sadly, the Interrail pass does not cover Ukraine yet, but if you have never travelled by train before in Ukraine, I can recommend you try it if you should visit (which you definitely should). It is a true adventure. In my case, I was sharing a compartment with a woman and her son aged eight or nine years old. When he got to know that I am a foreign student from Germany, he was super excited and asked me a lot of questions. Unfortunately, my knowledge of Ukrainian was as limited as his English. He even tried to use google translate on the phone of his mum, but the rural Ukrainian internet was not fast enough, so we communicated with the minimal language resources we had. After we reached our destination at two o’clock in the morning and a long sleep at my favourite hostel, I spend three amazing sunny days in Lviv. There is really no better way to spend a hot summer day then to meet up with friends and sit outside, while sipping a drink of your choice and just watch life go on.
Alas my summer paradise could not last because exams were calling me back to Aachen. The thirty-six hours trip back home via Warszawa, Wroclaw, Berlin, and Cologne was exhausting but overall uneventful. It was an amazing trip and even with the year ending, I still love to flip through the pictures I took during my summer adventure. Thank you interrail and Europe on Track for making it possible.