WHY YOU SHOULD TRAVEL EUROPE BY TRAIN

Unfortunately, traveling the world by plane has a nasty impact on the environment. Guest editor Larissa traveled by train to show you how beautiful Europe is when you see it from the ground.

Why travel Europe by train?

According to several environmental organisations, the best means to travel is by public transportation. I decided to book an Interrail train trip to explore Europe! This means you buy a ticket that is valid for 30 days and you can hop on or off at any European train station you would like. First of all, the beauty of Europe will pleasantly surprise you. There’s no need to travel half through the world to discover some picture perfect places. It’s closer than you think. This train tour through Europe ended up being one of the best trips of my life.

travelling by train
Ready to travel Europe by train!

First stop: Czech Republic

Okay, to be honest, Prague was a bit too touristy for me. Aa a matter of fact, locals call Prague the Disneyland of Czech Republic and I totally understand why. However, the Alternative City tour showed us a lot of cool hidden gems! Additionally, I could really appreciate the cocktail scene. Go and discover bars like The Alchemist, this place has a mysterious look and feel. Tip: try the ‘choose your fate’ of the cocktail menu, I’ll say no more..

Prague
Seeing Prague from above

Moving on in Czech Republic, we visited a place I really loved: Brno. It’s a local city full of culinary highlights, local delicious wines, pubs and vegan ice creams. Hip and happening! From this little city it’s easy to discover some beautiful castles in Lednice and Valtice. At Valtice palace, you can even try out 100 amazing local wines under the ground. My favorite: number 43, Grand Reserve Chardonnay of 2016. Definitely a winner!

Lednice castle

Next stop: Hungary

The city that surprised me in a good way was definitely Budapest. The city has four sides, the tranquil vibes at the river side, the bustling city with beautiful buildings and culinary highlights (tip: a dinner at Zeller Bistro with live music!), local hangouts in the ruin bars and total relaxation at the bathhouses. This city has a lot to offer, and I enjoyed every bit of it.

Budapest

Zamárdi

After we discovered the whole city in a couple days, we jumped in the train to Zamárdi. This weekend was all about partying and having a good festival time! At the Balaton Lake there was one of the biggest festivals of Hungary: Balaton Sound. Fortunately, the train station was at walking distance of this festival. As soon as we could, we got in our bikini to enjoy the sun, some drinks and dances during the day. After a refreshing shower, we had the whole night to dance again in our festival outfits while enjoying the music of among other Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano and Armin van Buren!

Travel Europe by train

Last stop: Croatia

In Croatia the public transport is not as common, that’s why you can better stop the Interrail when you arrive at Zagreb and continue the trip with a rental car. Our first stop on our road trip through Croatia was the Plitvice Lakes. The best time to visit is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. We arrived around 4 a clock, which was a perfect time to wander around without too much other people. They say the short route takes you about 2 to 3 hours, it took us one and a half hour, so don’t worry about a long hike! Personally, I preferred the Plitvice lakes over the Krka waterfalls. But both are worth seeing during a trip trough Croatia.

Plitvice
The stunning Plitvice lakes

Krka waterfalls

Sibenik

In the evening we arrived in Sibenik. What a lovely town! It’s pure and authentic, very cute and filled with a nice ambience. We stayed at the Heritage Hotel Life Palace and you’ll enjoy the freshest breakfast we’ve had so far. All the ingredients they use in this town is locally produced. Too bad we had to leave after the breakfast to catch our boat to Brac island. By the way, they filmed parts of Game of Thrones in Sibenik, remember the city of many faces?

Sibenik

Brac island

Last but not least, we ended the trip with some nice beach days at Brac island. This place is built to celebrate a nice tranquil holiday. We didn’t want to leave! At the famous beach ‘Zlatni Rat’ you can rent a beach bed for about 9,50 euro and enjoy the nice weather whole day long. This was exactly what we needed after the busy trip we’ve had travelling around in Europe.

Brac island

Time & Cost

In conclusion, the whole trip took us 17 days in total, but it felt like months as we saw and experienced so much in such short amount of time. One youth travel ticket costed me €515,- for 2 persons and includes all the above mentioned stops. For adults above 27 years old ticket prices start around 285 per person. Your train ticket will be valid for 30 days so you have no rush! Accommodations are not included. I enjoyed every minute of the trip and recommend this to everyone who has the same addiction as I have: Wanderlust.

Love,

Larissa

Ostrava | Czech charm meets industrial chique

The Czech Republic is certainly no stranger to foreign tourism. However, most tourists who take a visit to this country limit themselves to Prague. The vibrant city Ostrava often gets overlooked by travellers but has a lot to offer.

From skating down the Pustevny mountain to exploring underground coal mines and even partying at one of the best music festivals in Europe.. Bringing a visit to Ostrava will be a pleasant surprise for anyone looking to get off the beaten track..

Where is Ostrava?

The city isn’t too famous so there’s a big chance that most people don’t know about this place. That given, Ostrava is the third largest city in the Czech Republic and it’s located in the very Northeast of the country. The city was for a long time known (among Czechs) for being unattractively industrial because it was historically associated with the production of pig-iron and coal. Its reputation as an industrial workaday city has prevented it from seeing the tourism it deserves. Although it is not as classically beautiful as some other Czech cities, its history as the epicentre of the country’s mining industry makes it a very fascinating place to visit. Let’s delve into some of the awesome things to do in Ostrava and unique features of the city.

What to do

Masaryk Square:

It is safe to say that Masaryk Square is the central point of the city. It is surrounded by pretty pastel coloured houses with decorated facades. There are quite a few cafés on Masaryk Square, where you can relax after strolling around. The central square is a gorgeous setting and therefore a must-see in Ostrava.

City Hall Tower:

is the Czech Republic’s highest city hall tower! It offers a wonderful panorama view of the surprisingly green city of Ostrava and its surroundings from a height of 73 metres above ground level. On a clear day you can see many of the coal mines and blast furnaces in the area and you can even get a glimpse of the Poland borders.

Ostrava Center

Landek Mining Museum

If you want to learn about the history of Ostrava, the Landek Mining Museum is your calling. This mining museum is the biggest one in the Czech Republic and you get a unique peek behind the curtains of the harsh circumstances the miners worked in. The guides are former mine workers themselves and have a lot of knowledge about the mine. The absolute highlight is going down with an elevator shaft into a restored section of the underground mine. Hungry after the tour? Next to the Museum is a good traditional restaurant with national dishes.

Landek mine Ostrava

The Ostravice river

Is a beautiful river that flows through the city. Great for walking, running, cycling or hanging out in the adjacent park. Looking for more adventurous activities? Rent a raft or canoe and head down the river. It’s a really beautiful trip on the water where you can spot many wild animals. We spotted a baby deer, drinking water at the shore!

Dolní Vítkovice

is a former industrial site used for mining and iron processing. It’s an atmospheric and almost otherworldly industrial area (it looks like something out of a Mad Max movie set) which is being turned into a cultural centre. You can go up in the Bolt tower with a lift and have a view over the whole city. It’s really cool (and a bit scary) when you get to the top, and a great place for photography because of all the surrounding old buildings. The international multi-genre music festival Colours of Ostrava is organized on this venue every year.

Dolci Ostrava

Pustevny mountains

Equally worth visiting are the Pustevny mountains, about half an hour’s drive from Ostrava. A ski lift will take you 1 km above sea level. Once there, you can hike another 100 meter up a wonderful Himalayan inspired walking trail. On the top of the trail you can find a short skywalk with a glass floor where you will enjoy a beautiful view. To get back down the mountain, you can take the ski lift again or rent scooters on which you can drive down (adrenaline-kick assured!).

Bridge Ostrava

Where to stay

Harmony hotel Ostrava:

This hotel is a treat. The beds are very comfortable, the room gets cleaned every day, and the view of the city is amazing. The biggest surprise however is its breakfast. They offer a large selection of fruit, eggs, bacon, vegetables, bread and various types of cheese and salami as well as pancakes and brownies.

Airbnb:

In and around Ostrava there are quite a lot people who offer their room, apartment or house for rent. The advantage of renting an Airbnb is that you can cook for yourself (which saves costs), and you normally have more space than in a hotel room. It is also nice to be among locals if you rent a room in someone’s house! Renting an Airbnb in Ostrava is very affordable. For a small apartment you pay around 25 euros per night.

How to get there

A distance of 1.300 km needs to be covered if you travel from Amsterdam to Ostrava. Taking the airplane is the fastest option. From Amsterdam you can fly to Ostrava via Prague. Another option is flying to Prague and then take the train (3,5 hour) to Ostrava. If you prefer to travel on your own, a car is recommended for transportation. For this you invest half a day on a direct ride, but you can make your holiday a lot more interesting if you dive into the cities that you pass along the way. Berlin and Prague are perfect stopovers to hop through for example. Not in possession of a car and driver’s license? Take the train and go interrailing!

Train to Ostrava

Conclusion

In conclusion, I must say that the entire city has a certain atmosphere, there is something very interesting about Ostrava. The old buildings, abandoned factories, green parks and the nice architecture of the old town all add up to this. In short: there is plenty to do and see in Ostrava! Combining the festival and sightseeing in the city makes up for a perfect Czech trip, and is wholeheartedly recommended!

Are you planning to visit Ostrava one day? Let us know in the comments!

Love,

Iris

*Iris is one of our guest editors from The Netherlands. She’s got a big interest in photography, fashion, spirituality and traveling. She was 3 months old when she was on the plane for the first time and has been to every continent in the meantime. You can follow iris on Instagram.

Colours of Ostrava | Europe’s Hidden Festival

The very coolest festival location of the year has been found. An area surrounded by old, industrial buildings is the backdrop for a weekend full of music, workshops, films, theatre, discussions and games. And yet, it is still very unknown in The Netherlands and even Europe. Czech Republic’s best kept festival is Colours of Ostrava.

The Location

Is an international, multi-genre music festival in Ostrava. This city is located in the east of the Czech Republic and is the third biggest city in the country following Prague and Brno. The festival takes place on the breathtaking surroundings of Dolní Vítkovice – the site of former blast furnaces, mines and ironworks. It’s an absolutely stunning and unique industrial area (it looks like something out of a Mad Max movie set) which is being turned into a cultural centre. Colours of Ostrava won several prices such the ALMA Akropolis Live Music Awards for the best music event of the year in the concert / festival category.

Colours of Ostrava Festival

Colours of Ostrava won the Angel Award for the Music Event of the Year, Twice

The Music

During the 4 days in which the Colours of Ostrava festival took place, more than 150 bands played and there was a heaping dose of jazz, world music, rock, pop and alternative music. Although I was certainly not familiar with a large part of the line-up, I loved walking around and discovering new bands and artists. Perhaps the most interesting stage, and the one most prominent, was the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey Experience. Surrounded by steel pipes and high industrial walls, tattoo artists were at work, a DJ booth was installed, movies were played, and two giant games of Jenga were placed against one of the walls. Overall, the festival had first-rate jazz performances, great (known and unknown) rock bands, and international artists as The Cure, ZAZ, Years & Years and Florence + The Machine. Also a nice fact: Every year the organization gives a handful of emerging artists from the Czech Republic the opportunity to put their names on the map.

Colours of Ostrava Festival

The line-up of previous years included: Imagine Dragons, Norah Jones, Kygo, Clean Bandit, Rudimental, Ziggy Marley, London Grammar, Aurora, Paul Kalkbrenner & many more.

Food & Drinks

The food at the festival was fantastic and enormously varied. Many stalls were scattered throughout the site where, in addition to the typical festival food (burgers, fries, pasta, pizza), there were also many Czech specialties and healthy dishes available. I have never seen so many vegan and vegetarian food stalls on a festival as this one. Moreover, the price of the food is cheaper than it is at festivals in Western Europe. For a (vegan) burger you pay around 5 euros, for fries 2 euros, for a hot dog 2 euros and for a mushroom quesadilla 3 euros. For the drinks you first must do a one time purchase of 1 euro for a plastic cup. You can clamp this cup on your pants or belt which is very handy. The drinks were also very affordable. A beer of 500 ml only costed 2 euros and a G&T was around 4 euros.

 Colours of Ostrava Festival

Colours of Ostrava really is a fairly undiscovered gem!

The People

On the first day of the festival, I wanted to explore the terrain and started wandering on my own. I wasn’t feeling solo for long as I came in contact with some lovely locals who showed me around. We had surprisingly little difficulty in understanding each other as they could speak English quite well. Most of the food stall staff were also able to speak English and could translate items on their menu if needed. Overall, about 90% of the festival visitors came from the Czech Republic and neighbouring countries like Poland and Slovakia. The remaining 10% consisted visitors from all over the world.

 Colours of Ostrava

How to get there?

A distance of 1.300 km needs to be covered if you travel from Amsterdam to Ostrava. But there are several alternate travel options. Colours of Ostrava offers a bus that is leaving from The Netherlands (and Belgium) every year, which will drop you off at the entrance of the festival. If you prefer to accelerate things, then the airplane will be the best option. From Amsterdam you can fly to Ostrava via Prague. After landing, shuttle services and taxis are available outside the doors of the airport to take you to the festival in no time. Another option is flying to Prague and then taking the train to Ostrava. If you prefer to travel on your own, a car is recommended for transportation. For this you invest half a day on a direct ride, but you can make your holiday a lot more interesting if you dive into the cities that you pass along the way. Berlin and Prague are perfect stopovers to hop through for example. Not in possession of a car and driver’s license? Take the train and go interrailing!

Train station Czech Republic

My Verdict

Overall, Colours of Ostrava has absolutely astonished me. Both the location and programme are filled with surprises that will make you return from this festival with a wealth of new experiences. What I personally found so fascinating about Colours of Ostrava was that it was so much more than just a music festival. Aside from the performances and dozens of food trucks selling wonderful food, there were tons of other activities to do. In addition, the festival is also a good option if you are on a budget. A ticket for the festival only costs €105 euros for all 4 days and for 9 euros per person and 10 euros per tent you spend the night at the campsite.

Colours of Ostrava, I will be back!

Love,

Iris