Why I Love European Train Travel

13.June 2013

Our Journey

Travelling by train is one of my favourite things. Watching the scenery stream by the window, drifting off with my thoughts seems like a luxury compared to stuffing like a sardine in a microbus travelling on some goat path. It is a bit of a toss up between Japan and Europe for who has the best train system. Japan’s trains are so efficient you can set your watch to the arrivals and departures. The breadth of destinations across so many countries interconnecting with ferries and tunnels perhaps pushes Europe over the top.

Photo Credit: miss604

The seemingly endless possible destinations and connections, while a blessing in richness, can also be a nightmare for logistic planning. There are online resources that can remove much of the head out of searching for train times and ticketing. Sites like Direct Trail compile train timetables and ticketing into a easy to use single site to plan the journey. This is far nicer than having to keep dozens of browser windows open while I attempt to match up arrivals and departures to link together a multiple country trip plan.

Photo Credit: Pretz

Logistics is the boring part of travel for me. Some people like the looking around for a clever route or the best possible deal but I’m about getting on the train. I like to make the travel more than just a way to get from point A to point B particularly when I don’t have to pay attention to navigation or actually driving. Make sure there is some reading material handy to break up the scenery, sometimes more trees or fields doesn’t really hold my attention out the window. An extra sweater close at hand is good in case of aggressive air conditioning or it will make a nice pillow if the eyes need a little rest. Definitely some snacks or a nice little sandwich if it is going to be an epic trip is a must have for any travel. Ideally, if the train has beverage service of the adult variety then things have stepped up into top shelf in my books. If in doubt, packing one or two never hurts because I may get thirsty at the destination as well.

Photo Credit: shaggyshoo

I have limited experience with over night sleeper trains having taken them only in Vietnam and Thailand. In both of these cases, the beds were comfortable and the gentle rocking back and forth of the train felt like a wind blown hammock. I can only imagine that an appropriate class of sleeper in Europe would be practically dreamy. There may not be little faeries tucking me in but I’m sure it would be comfortable. Having said that, I prefer to take day trains. I’m not looking on combining the expenses of hotel and transportation. I like watching the view out the window far too much to bypass the scenery in the dark. For me train travel is about the journey, it is time to contemplate that I value. Particularly when travelling extensively, there isn’t much opportunity to sit back and reflect on what just happened or to anticipate what is ahead. It all seems to blur together at times. Being on a train helps to bring a quiet place between destinations.

Photo Credit: Shelly and Roy

I do think more than any other means of transportation, train travel and European train travel especially, is about the journey. The freedom from having to pay attention like driving combined with the freedom to move about and not having to suffer through yet another airport pat down make train travel the best way to go. Now if the rest of the world could get on board, I won’t need to chew on my kneecaps in the minibus anymore.

Photo Credit: dw_globalideas

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