Category Archives: Manchester to Paris

Guns and coffee

We got up, packed and were on our way to Cesky Krumlov by 11:00am. We took the number 16 to just outside of the coach station. We had six minutes before our coach was due to leave.

We couldn’t find it.

We found a yellow bus with “Cesky Krumlov” written on the list of stops on the side of the bus. “Could this be us?” I pointed.

“FlixBus are usually green. But they do sometimes contract out… I’m not sure.” We asked the driver, he nodded, or at least we thought he did, until we showed him our ticket before trying to board.

“THIS IS NOT FLIXBUS!” he shouted, pointing dramatically at the bus logo on the side, placing his hands on to it for extra emphasis. “NOT THIS BUS.” He took our bags out of the hold with dramatic exasperation, sighing loudly.

We wondered what to do. If this wasn’t our bus, then our bus wasn’t here. Had we missed it? Continue reading

Travel Buddies

The previous evening, chilling in my PJs, I met Stu. He was from Canada, had been travelling for seven months, with another three to go. We chatted and laughed. Went for a beer and bought takeaway pizza. It was nice to feel a connection with someone. I’d been sad to leave that behind in Berlin.

In the morning we exchanged numbers. “Leave your data on so I can message and come find you when I’m ready. Check your phone, like, every five minutes.”

I laughed, “Every five minutes? You’ll be lucky if I check it every hour.” I wasn’t joking. Travelling alone, separated from everyone, I was enjoying it. I didn’t want to feel attached to my phone waiting for a text. I wasn’t even sure I wanted company.

The weather was brighter but chilly, the sky had cleared. My plan was to cross the Charles Bridge, visit Prague Castle, and then go to the monastic brewery.

I caught the number 22 to Narodni Trida and from there walked the streets until I found the Charles Bridge. I wasn’t in a rush. I was happy to see where the roads took me. Continue reading

Portishead in Prague

I got back from PAX BAR the night I arrived in Prague, and went down to the hostel bar. I was uncomfortable. I didn’t want to step out of my comfort zone. I was safe in my bubble of being alone. But that’s not the point of staying in a hostel. You’re supposed to talk to people. Meet other travellers.

I sat in the bar, alone, and thought, Why isn’t anyone talking to me? And then, Well shit Hope, you might actually have to be the one to start the conversation. The prospect was horrible. A pub quiz was taking place and everyone was sat round tables in groups already. I spotted one table. Kept telling myself to just go over and join them. It felt so unnatural. Continue reading

Goodbye Berlin. Hello Prague.

I woke up on the morning of my departure early. I wanted to make sure that I had plenty of time along the way to Prague to get lost, be confused, and make mistakes. The train journey was only four hours, but I had to catch the tram there, and then a metro and another tram on the other side too. I was really nervous that arriving in Prague would be just as frightening as arriving in Berlin had been.

Anders, true to himself, sent me on my way with a packed lunch fit for a queen. “It’s a long journey,” he asserted as he carefully placed a slice of blueberry cake first on a cardboard plate, wrapped it in baking paper, and then placed it carefully in a paper bag (all recycled and reused might I add).

When I arrived at the train station to catch my Eurostar I was suddenly so excited. I jumped up and down a little on the spot and grinned manically to myself. I’m doing this! I’m travelling! Interrailing here I come! “There’s a room over there if you’re cold ma’am.” The voice came from an American man waiting on the same platform as me.

“I’m OK, but thanks.” I smiled. He raised an eyebrow and nodded. Continue reading

Cookie dough and coffee

Sunday morning. I lay in until 9:45am. No real plans for the day ahead. I would see what happened.

I got up and went into the kitchen to see Anders. I felt chirpy and could hear him boiling the kettle (a permanent state of being where Anders is concerned: he is always boiling the kettle and always drinking tea). He had already started making breakfast. We were having a fry up. Cati, Claudia, Slvae, and Mel were all coming over to join us from the other apartments in the building. Claudia brought coffee for everyone, Slvae and Mel brought juice, Cati brought porridge (a tasty but odd addition to a fry up).

We sat round and food was served.

Pans of bacon and eggs were passed round. A tray of fried potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes and onions were divvied up. A basket of bread. Butter. Jam. We feasted and talked. Continue reading

The Berlin Wall

Yesterday was hard. In a way that made me not want to talk about it. I guess because I felt silly, or maybe because I was simply struggling to find the words to explain it suitably.

After a night of good food, great company, and fine discussion, I slept peacefully. I woke the next morning full of beans, and ready to embrace the bright and beautiful day. The weather here really was gorgeous.

I was up and out of the house by 10am ready to do a walking tour using ‘The Berlin Experience’ route from my guide book as a, well, guide.

I took the S-Bahn from Wollankstraße to Nordbahnhof, and walked up through the Berlin Wall Memorial.

There was a group of students in bright blue hoodies following a guide around the site. I hung back and waited for there to be distance between us. Continue reading

Kindred spirits in Pankow

My third night in Neukölln is the best night’s sleep I have had since arriving. I sleep soundly, without nightmares, and awake feeling refreshed and absolutely enthused for my new adventure. Today I leave Neukölln for Pankow, to meet and stay with my second couchsurfing hosts on the other side of Berlin.

On the S-Bahn over I feel my heart rising with anticipation. The tears of my first day swelling beneath the surface. Transition is hardest when you have nothing solid to hold on to. But I tell myself to take a deep breath. This is one of the things I need to learn to be better with. Transition. Change. Finding solace and comfort in myself. Finding stability in my bones.

I take the S-Bahn to Wollankstrasse, and walk the five minute distance to Brehmestrasse. This was a much better arrival than my previous one already. Clear directions to the apartment I am due to stay in, and a midday arrival too, giving me plenty of time to be lost and found! Thankfully, I arrive at my destination without a hiccup. Success!

I stand in front of the huge doors fronting the apartment block and ring the doorbell which reads ‘Ettinger-Majewski’. The only things I know about Anders and his family are that they live in a communal type arrangement, live sustainable lives, and are self-described anarchists and Gaia lovers. The intercom fuzzes and a voice speaks out, “Hello?”

“Hi, it’s Hope.”

“Ahh yes, come on up, third floor.”

As I climb the stairs, I notice that the walls are decorated sporadically with painted illustrations of climbing stick figures and trees. I reach the third floor and meet Anders. We shake hands. Continue reading

Couchsurfing and exploring Neukölln

Kelly, my first couchsurfing host, is confident, outgoing, and independent. She lives on her own in a studio apartment, and has only ever travelled alone. She loves it that way, she says. “You can do anything you want, you don’t have to check with anyone, and you can change your plans without having to think of anyone else!”

Having Kelly as my first host was brilliant. When she picked me up from The Pink Cafe I was raw with emotion and wanted to curl up and cry under a blanket and stay there. However, with Kelly as a host I wasn’t able to. Which actually, was great, and exactly as it should have been. Her enthusiasm for total independence helped me get my gears moving.

As we walked the streets of Neukölln she told me about the area, “This is the hipster part of Berlin. All the young people come here. It’s where everything is happening.” I told her about my plans to go to Adlershof and Pankow. “Why you go there? There is nothing there! Everything is here!” Continue reading

From Manchester to Paris and everywhere in between

On the 26th September 2017, I said goodbye to my husband at Manchester Airport and boarded a flight for Berlin.

For those of you who don’t already know, I have embarked on a five week solo trip around Europe interrailing, couchsurfing, and hosteling.

“Alone? But why?!”

I’ve told many people who have asked me this that it’s because my husband couldn’t get the time off work and that we agreed I should go it alone as opposed to not going at all. But in all honesty, there are so many other reasons I have done this.

There is so much about myself that I want to learn and confront, and sometimes you can’t do that with the honesty you deserve giving yourself when you know you have external validation and reassurance from your peers. The hands you are so familiar with holding you. Sometimes, the kind of honesty with oneself I am seeking comes from being alone. Continue reading