Being Irish is a huge commodity when travelling. People naturally pre-conceive us as friendly, beer-guzzling socialites that love to party and have absolutely no desire to take life seriously. I mean, I don’t think many other nationalities get that reaction. Of course, we know these stereotypes aren’t true (to a large extent), but regardless, being an Irish person abroad truly is a unique buzz. The focus of this series will be to reveal my own personal experience, and that of fellow Irish people I have contacted, on spending time in other countries for prolonged periods of time. As you can imagine, life is quite different outside of Éire’s coastal shores… With Inter-railing around Europe being this week’s choice. Remember, everything documented here is from an Irish perspective, culturally and socially. Therefore, it may not necessarily reflect the views of other nationalities towards a place.
Inter-railing is a strange concept. Packing up a suit-case full of about 25 kgs worth of clothes, and travelling from place to place for a few weeks with no real plan in mind. I mean, it’s great, but a bit odd nonetheless. Even still, it has become a popular trend amongst Irish people over the past few decades, and continues to grow in the modern age. My own dad often recalls his time spent railing around Central and Northern Europe, but for obvious reasons, I don’t like to get into details with him *shivers in disgust*.
Mainland Europe, as we all know, is a pretty large and diverse land mass, making up nearly 30 countries and an estimated population of 600 million. So when speaking about the people an Irish person can expect to come across, there’s no exact trend to follow. However, they are seemingly a few common traits to expect from locals when passing by. Most won’t speak English as their first language, so you’re going to need to be patient, or else brush up on your secondary school Latvian. Yet many people will still be eager to show you what their native city/country has to offer, and sometimes, will go as far as attempting to prove it is better than neighbouring states (ask a German about Austria). Yet being Irish, an expected barrel of laughs in their eyes, you usually will receive a warm reception and maybe a free pint or two in return for a few words of Gaeilge (insert sentence drilled into brain in junior infants). Although parts of the Continent can be somewhat dangerous, it will soon become clear where you should and shouldn’t go.
With regard to encountering fellow Irish people on your travels, there’s a fairly good chance that you’ll come across a few peeps. We all tend to do the same things (coffee shops in Amsterdam, clubs in Berlin, festivals when cheap and Irish bars for GAA matches). Channel your inner-Bulmers drinker, and you generally won’t go too far without meeting another Irish heads. There’s also a few mad ones that went to actually live in Europe, but I’ll deal with them in a different part of the series.
To really enjoy inter-railing, it’s important to leave your inhibitions at home. That means trying, or attempting to try, every possible weird, interesting thing you can during your few weeks of travelling. Maybe bungee-jumping in Croatia might catch your eye, or wind-surfing in Greece. You’ll always come home wishing that you had done more, but try minimalize that feeling as much as possible while you can.
Finally, my two major tips this week are as follows. Firstly, have as much craic and do as much peculiar shit as possible in the midst of your inter-rail trip. Europe is an untamed, wild beast ready to break you down and leave you with a few foggy memories of joy. Secondly, go to Ljubljana. It’s the capital of Slovenia, and a truly marvellous city, devoid of other tourists such as yourself. It’s also an hour and a half away from the majestic Lake Bled.