Author: Vlatko Velkoski
Would you like to travel around Europe? Well, you needn’t ask twice. The desire to do something like this, especially when you’re young and constantly looking for new challenges and adventures is even greater. Thanks to the Citizen’s association MOST, donors, sponsors and other supporters, this year, eighteen students from Macedonia went on this trip making sure that whatever happens, this chance should not be missed. And thus it all began. Plans about who, where, how, when, there are always many, but as usual it all remained written somewhere on paper and was short lived. Everything that happened to us, everything that we saw on this trip was planned the night before bedtime, or in the morning before leaving, or at least that was in my case. Definitely the most interesting and the most exciting are the places that we know the least about.
First stop Berlin! The first three days in the capital of Germany, brought probably one of the finest moments on this journey. For many of us Berlin was the first direct contact with Western European culture, once a symbol of division, now a symbol of unification, symbol of multiculturalism and understanding, leaving a big impression on us, so big that many of the places and towns that were our next stops on the trip felt a bit deja vu. But much more than buildings, museums and everything else that we saw in Berlin was the companionship, sharing of experiences with people from all over Europe, mostly with students from the Balkans. After these three days we started travelling around Europe, this time planning the trip by ourselves, putting little ticks on the map according to the ideas we have about what we want to visit.
The high standard in most of European countries very often determined the direction of our travelling. Visiting relatives and friends was something that we had to do in order to save some money, and to benefit the most out of the month we had available, with the Schengen visa and the Inter Rail ticket we received at the start. That Inter Rail ticket was our guarantee that each point on the map of Europe is easily accessible, and of course this meant that trains were our main means of transport. In this case, the train was like my home because I spent more than one third of my trip in the train. I was eating, sleeping, listening to music, reading books in trains with expensive restaurants and free toilets, air-conditioning , juice and water free of charge on longer destinations in Germany. And of course the people working there and taking care of us were always very careful and well organized in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, on the average in France and Belgium to the excessively rude in some countries. Friendships were struck up with the British, Russians, Hungarians, Serbs, Macedonians and many others who traveled by train. Talking with them and exchanging opinions on various topics was inevitable and this often led to continuing the trip together to our next destination.
However, what I will surely remember for a long time is the last day of my trip. On the way from Budapest to Skopje I had to make one transfer in Belgrade.When after 2 hours of delay, we finally arrived in Belgrade, the train stopped 500 meters away from the station and we missed the train for Skopje by only five minutes. That morning we gathered at the train station. It was a larger group of people who missed the train, mostly students from various European countries, so we decided to walk around Belgrade as the next train was around midnight. To be on the safe side, this time we went to the train 2 hours earlier and we sat all together in two coupes, longing for a good night sleep. Some were so exhausted that they fell asleep in a heart beat. Everything was fine, up until 10 minutes before departure when suddenly conductors came out of the blue and started asking us to show our reservations, which we didn’t know we were supposed to do. Namely, a group of students came to the station only minutes before departure, saw that the train was full and made reservations (although I still have doubts about their reservations). The conductors ordered us to leave the train, and after an hour of stormy dispute and our request to provide us with other seats, they decided that it would be fine if we stayed in the corridor. And in the corridor there was enough space for everyone who had their sleeping bags with them. That night the conductors left the tired students alone, and they didn’t return to coaches, not even to check the tickets. Students once again showed they can handle any situation.
Each new day brought new destinations, new places from Eindhoven to Amsterdam, then back to Mastricht, Cologne, and Heubach, then back to Stuttgart, again via Eindhoven, to the Hague, even down to Paris, Luxembourg, Brussels and many others. My favorite places in all these cities were the parks, because they were the only places in the urban jungle, where one can take a breath, followed by the beach in Scheveningen, the bank of the Rhine, the Dutch canals, the forests in Southern Germany and so on and so forth. I especially liked the friendships that I made with the students from Macedonia, and every meeting I had with them when our paths when our paths crossed.
Special thanks to the lady who transfered us to Izni, to Goran, Darko, Nikolce, Daniel, Miriam, Pablo, the Twins, Ivan, Isabel, Enri, Dehang, Khan, Sonia, grandmother Mare, and others who were helping me in Netherlands, Germany, France, to Jacqueline that was always with us while we were in Berlin, to the receptionists who were allowing illegal sleeping in hotels and many, many more … and once again a big thanks to the team of MOST!
Do you want to travel around Europe! Eheee,why do you bother to even ask!
P.S. Advice for future students who will go through the same experience of travelling, from my personal experience: If you choose to run across the roundabout to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, believe me it’s very difficult to return back the same way (upon my arrival in Macedonia, somebody told me that there was a tunnel underneath.