by - Amaury Bisiaux
My name is Amaury, I’m 23, I’m French and for my last summer as a student I wanted to do something special.. So, I find a student job for a month and use this extra money for a travel. I couldn’t offer an all-inclusive trip in Miami, but Europe held out my arms. As a convinced European, I was very excited about this new challenge, but I wanted more and do something very interesting with that. I didn’t want to write another common blog about traveling in Europe, so I had this idea: traveling alone across 9 European country by trains and meet inhabitant on the road, sleep in their house and size this opportunity to talk to them about Europe. Because next year there will be the European elections, I thought talk about all the European crisis that Europe have to face will be a good idea. So I visited 9 European countries, made 3762km by train (thanks to Interrail), walked more than 500km by foot, did 9 interviews about 9 different crisis and try to respond the famous question: “but what is Europe doing?”.
Each city I made, each people I met was an amazing experience on its own. I’ve been in 9 different countries such as Germany, Czech Republique, Poland, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece, mostly the capitals. I’ve seen such a beautiful place in Europe like the Berlin wall, the concentration camp in Auschwitz, the United Nation Building in Vienna, the thermal baths in Budapest, the Parthenon in Athens etc. But most important I met some wonderful people who host me very gracefully in their house for few nights. Whether they are in favor or against Europe, we talk a lot about what Europe represent for them. I met among others, a student in architecture, an employee, someone unemployed, but also a nuclear engineer, an international worker and even a former member of parliament! These difference backgrounds make the conversation really interesting.
For my part, I'm just a French student in communication, so I wrote a blog called “Miroirs d’Europe” to talk about the people I met. If the main theme is the European crisis, I decided to talk about one specific crisis with my different hosts. In France, we talked a lot about the terrorist crisis, but what about the other countries? In Germany the theme was the environmental crisis which is very important for Europe, but there is also a main political crisis in Europe with the loss of confidence on European institutions in Czech Republique (a confidence crisis), the victory of Sebatian Kurz in Austria (a populist crisis), the corruption crisis in Slovakia with the recent death of a journalist and of course the immigration crisis, especially in Hungary under Orban’s administration. We also had to talk about the economic crisis and if Romania could be one day in the Schengen area and the Eurozone (an integration crisis) same for Bulgaria which is also facing a social exclusion crisis and to finish, ask if the Greek economy will be one day better after the austerity crisis they suffered.
Even if the people I met is not representative, it was so rewarding to talk to them; I learned so many things. For example, in Germany I could understand how the History is important in the way they live today. Same thing for the former countries of the communist bloc like the Czech Republique which is stay suspicious against institutions, especially when it comes from ‘outside’; that’s why the GDPR was very criticized there unlike in France. In Vienna, I learned that the immigration was the main subject during the campaign even if there were not many migrants. In Bratislava the main political subject is not immigration, is corruption and I understood that all the money that the EU send here is not well seen because it brings a lot of corruption over the country. In Budapest I could talk to an immigrant who told me that lot of immigrants work in the construction because no one want these jobs. BUCAREST. In Sofia, I discovered that the poverty of the country come from just after the collapse of the communism system, when all their industries were sold for nothing because of the corruption. And finally, in Athens, I could see that the Greeks consider Germany as the ‘government of Europe’, that is not good for a better understanding.
Interrail is a wonderful project. Thanks to it I could discover Europe, meet so many people and learned so many things. The interrail pass is also an EU-funded project because the European Commission finance the ‘Premium pass’? and this year 15 000 18-years-old people won a interrail pass to #DiscoverUE, lucky them! Also, the European Commission invest more than 4 billion of euros in the European railway for the 2014-2020 period; it represents nearly 20€ per km of railway! I lived one year in north America and I can tell you, traveling in Europe is so wonderful, thanks to the infrastructures, thanks to the investments and thanks to Schengen!
I wanna thanks all my host in these different countries, we are still in touch and I hope to see them again really soon.