February 19, 2017

Tips to Riding the Rails in Europe!

There are many methods of traveling around Europe. You could decide to drive, fly or take the bus but one of the most sought after modes of transportation in Europe are trains.

Riding the train in Europe is often seen as a romantic way to travel. I’m sure we’ve all dreamt about seeing church spires peak out from the fog or the Alps from the comfort of our train seat, and yes it is beautiful and can be romantic but only once you’ve found your seat and are able to relax 🙂

From Glacier Express Switzerland

Here are some tips to help make riding the trains in
Europe easier and more relaxing!

I won’t get into a debate on whether it’s better to use point-to-point tickets or rail passes because I think it depends on the cost. Just remember, no matter what type of ticket you have it doesn’t mean you have an actual seat reserved unless you pay extra for a seat reservation.

Europe Train Belin Germany Station

First tip, Use websites for information on trains. My favorite site for researching European trains is the Deutsche Bahn website. This website offers all kinds of information including countries other than Germany. You can check the schedule, get connecting train information including arrival gate and departing gate, buy tickets and seat reservations. It’s important to remember to use the local name for cities, i.e. Wien=Vienna and München=Munich. Also keep in mind Europe uses the 24hour clock (1400 is 2 pm) and dates are day/month (11/03 is March 11).

Rail Ticket Vienna Austria to Budapest Hungary

From the reservation above you can see my train was leaving from the Wien West station and going to Budapest Keleti.

Which leads me to another tip – it is very important that you arrive at the correct station. Most large European cities have many rail stations.

From the reservation, you can also see the ticket was for 2nd Class (klasse) and departs August 31 at 12:49 pm. The train number is 49, car (wagen) is 22 and my seat is number 86.

Seating Chart at train station Salzburg Austria

Next tip, arrive at the station early! Some of the main stations in large cities are huge. The main station in Berlin even has multiple floors. Arriving early will allow you time to check the boards to confirm your train is on time and find the right platform. Once you’re at the platform use the seating chart (example above) to see where you should stand. Using the information from your reservation, this guide will show you where to stand making it easier to get on the right train car. If you don’t have seat reservations, confirm where the right class train is and stand at the appropriate spot.

Berlin Train Station Germany

PACK LIGHT! No matter what, you’ll be toting your bags. Usually there are stairs getting under tracks to your platform then more stairs getting up to the platform and even a few steps climbing aboard the train. Of course, once on the train you’ll be hefting your bag up to the baggage rack above your seat! Today a lot of stations have elevators (but not all) but many times I find it’s easier just to grab my bag and use the stairs than wait for the elevator to arrive.

Using the train for travel is a great experience and one I recommend everyone have! The best tip I could give you is to ask questions if you’re unsure about anything which is another reason arriving early may actually be the best tip anyone could give you!

 

What’s your #1 tip for making riding trains easier?

Whimsical Salzburg

One of Austria’s most popular cities is Salzburg. The city known for Mozart, the Sound of Music and marionettes has a fun and whimsical side that can be found at Hellbrunn Palace.

On my last visit to Mozart’s city I purchased a Salzburg card which included free use of the busses and many discounted or free entrances to Salzburg’s sights including Hellbrunn Palace and Trick Fountains.  So I hopped on the bus and a short ride later was at Hellbrunn.

Grotto Dining Table Hellbrunn Salzburg Austria

Hellbrunn Palace is a Baroque villa built by the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg as a summer house and a place to hold outrageous parties.  Built in 1612, in the Italian style of architecture, Hellbrunn is one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture north of the Alps. The beautiful grounds hold the Palace, park, gardens and the popular trick fountains.

Hellbrunn Fountain Salzburg Austria

Your ticket includes an audio tour of the palace which can be done either before or after you tour the trick fountains. While the palace is interesting, it is the trick fountains that attract most visitors!

Dining Table Hellbrunn Salzburg Austria

During your time at Hellbrunn you’ll see elaborate grottoes, sculptures, statues, ponds, fountains and the fabulous trick dining table.

Getting Wet at Dining Table Helbrunn Salzburg Austria

Touring the trick fountains you’ll come across a miniature theater and water.   Lots of water which will be coming at you from every direction even from the occasional deer head!  Keep this in mind, you will get wet!

Deer Head and Pond Hellbrunn Salzburg Austria

The whimsical trick fountains are funny and quite an architectural and engineering feat for the 1600’s!

Grotto Statue Hellbrunn Salzburg Austria

Upon exiting the fountain tour you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful gardens full of flowers, ponds and statues. They’re also a great place to enjoy an ice cream or picnic before getting back on that bus headed back to town.

Statue Hellbrunn Salzburg Austria

Hellbrunn is a fun and peaceful adventure not far from Salzburg’s Old Town and one that is enjoyed by young and old alike.


These pictures are part of Travel Photo Thursday!
For more great pictures,make sure to check out Budget Travelers Sandbox.
Maybe I’ll see you there!

Tidbits from the Historic Highlights of Germany!

Germany is one of my favorite countries to visit so it was with great excitement that I set out on a whirlwind 6 city tour of Germany!  Every trip to Germany is exciting but this one was especially so since I was going to explore cities and regions I have never been to including 3 in former East Germany.

Map of my German trip

by David Liuzzo on Wikimedia

As the wonderful Deutche Bahn trains carried me far and wide, I was amazed by the green beautiful scenery passing by my eyes.  The rolling landscape is full of green meadows, dense forests, farmland and the ever present church steeple!  Even as I neared the Baltic coast the landscape was still rolling just not quite as high.

German Countryside from Train

German Countryside from Train

Today I’m sharing a few interesting tidbits I learned as I explored these historic highlights of Germany!

Cecilienhof Palace Potsdam Germany

Cecilienhof Palace Potsdam Germany

In Freiburg I enjoyed a guided tour by the monk, Berthold Schwarz, who invented Black Powder during medieval times in the very same city!

During a tour of Mainz my guide told me that Germany has a population of about 83 million people and is roughly the same size as the state of Montana, which only has a population of about 1 million people.  Interestingly, I’ve never thought of Germany being that crammed full!

Erfurt was the first city I visited that was once part of East Germany. While wandering the medieval streets I was struck by the number of pregnant women I saw (they were seriously everywhere!).  Matthias, my guide, said it was true and felt it was due to the fact that people are finally feeling they have a future!

Beautiful Potsdam was where I discovered that President Truman first learned the tests on the atomic bomb were successful at the beginning of the Potsdam Conference and approved the order to drop the bombs while still at the conference held at Cecilienhof Palace.

Dostoyevsky Bust Wiesbaden Germany

Dostoyevsky Bust Wiesbaden Germany

I really enjoyed the funny dry sense of humor my guide in Rostock possessed and had to chuckle when he explained that Rostock was once part of the German Democratic Republic of which they were neither Democratic nor really a Republic.  Times have definitely changed here!

My last stop was Wiesbaden which has been a town attracting the rich and famous for decades.  Originally drawn to Wiesbaden by its spa, the casino helped keep the rich entertained.  In fact, the casino in Wiesbaden is where Fjodor Dostoyevsky lost his fortune and subsequently became the inspiration for his novel, The Gambler.

During the next few weeks I’ll tell you more about the amazing cities I’ve visited and hopefully inspire YOU to explore some of Germany that is off the normal tourist path!

 

 

Many thanks to Historic Highlights of Germany for organizing this trip and to the wonderful people at all the local tourist offices that made it all happen!  To learn more about Germany off the Beaten Path, please visit the Historic Highlights of Germany website.

InterRail: A Book Review

As I said in Four Reasons to Use a European Rail Pass, I think we all want to travel around Europe by train.  In the book “InterRail” by Alessandro Gallenzi the main character, Francesco, lives all our dreams.

As a young adult, Francesco decides to leave his home in Italy to travel around Europe using an InterRail pass. During his rail trip he meets quite a few people, some even become lifelong friends, and has an adventure full of intrigue.

Munchen Skyline Bavaria Germany

Munchen by Andrew Bossi

His first stop is Munich, Germany where he meets an interesting con man named Pierre who is the catalyst for most of Francesco’s intrigue and adventures.  It was during a party hosted by Pierre that Francesco’s intrigue begins when he is asked to deliver a package to someone in Amsterdam by Pierre’s wife.  Even though he did not know what is in the package, he agrees.

Francesco visits cities that are on many of our own itineraries:  Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, London and Rome. As he travels through Europe, the intrigue follows him and continues to build.  It heightens when an event in Amsterdam lands Francesco in the hospital and during a secret meeting with Pierre’s wife in the Père Lachaise Cemetery while winding his way back to Italy via London and Paris.

OudezijdsKolk Amsterdam Holland

OudezijdsKolk Amsterdam by Massimo Catarinells

While the intrigue of the book kept me reading, the parts that stood out for me was his ability to travel with only the clothes on his back, his trust of strangers, and the guts to show up at a station without a destination in mind taking the next departing train!

Now I don’t see myself traveling with only the clothes on my back and I don’t think I’d ever be quite as trusting of strangers as Francesco but I really like the idea of showing up at a train station without a plan and taking the next departing train.  In fact, that is on my personal bucket list.

Parliament at Sunset London England

Parliament at Sunset London England

“InterRail” is a work of fiction based on the InterRail trip taken by the author, Alessandro Gallenzi.  It’s a story about a young man who had enough courage to step out of his comfort zone to find himself and live the life he chose.  By stepping out of the safety of his home to travel he was able to gain the confidence and clarity he needed to make the choices that shaped his life.

How has travel helped shape your life?


Although I was given the book InterRail by Alma Books and asked to review it, all opinions are my own. Alma Books is also giving away a free InterRail pass to EU residents and there is still a couple days left to enter.  So mosey your way over to Alma Books to enter!

Four Reasons to Use a European Rail Pass

I’d be willing to bet that every new traveler to Europe dreams of traveling by train.

Is that because the movies have made it seem so romantic?  Or are the very expensive gas prices the culprit?  Or do we just want to travel in a new fashion?

Sevilla Spain Train Station with High Speed Trains

Sevilla Spain Train Station with High Speed Trains by Martin Kers and Eurail

Well traveling by train might not be all that romantic ( face it, the rigors of just traveling aren’t romantic!) but it is a fun, easy and exciting way to travel while visiting the many European countries!

So you’ve made the decision to visit Europe and travel by train, now comes the decision whether to buy individual tickets or a rail pass.  Here are 4 reasons to travel using a rail pass.

1. Convenience

With a rail pass all you do is hop on any train.  Most trains do not require seat reservations; just sit in any open seat.  There are exceptions such as high speed trains (TGV), scenic trains (Glacier Express) or sleeper trains that do require a seat reservation or upgrade.

2. Fits any Itinerary

Rail passes can be purchased for a single country, multiple countries or even as a Global pass covering all 23 countries that participate in the Eurail program.  Once you’ve set an outline of your itinerary, calculate the number of days you‘ll be traveling by rail to determine the best pass for you!

Furka Railway Switzerland

Furka Railway Switzerland by Martin Kers and Eurail

3. Fits any budget

You can purchase 1st or 2nd class rail passes.  Keep in mind, 1st class pass holders can sit in 2nd class but this does not work the other way around! The individual rail passes are great but if you’re traveling as a group of 2-5 you may want to purchase the discounted saver passes.  With the saver pass you must always travel on trains together!

4. It’s just plain easy!

Just check the rail schedule and go!  It really is that easy.

Once you decide a rail pass is your best option, Eurail passes can be purchased at RailEurope or Eurail.

German Rail Station Platform Germany

German Rail station platform by Martin Kers and Eurail

When I am researching train options, including connections, I look at the Deutsche Bahn (German) website or OBB (Austria) website. They both have English options and are fantastic sites to help plan your European trip.

Remember, Eurail passes are only available to those living outside Europe and must be purchased prior to your departure.  EU residents have their own pass, InterRail passes!  If you’re an EU resident, Alma Books is offering a chance to win a 5-day InterRail Pass.  For details visit Alma Books.

 

What has been your experience traveling with a Rail Pass?

A Year at European Travelista

Today is the first anniversary for European Travelista!!!

It’s Been a Year and What a Year It’s Been!

As I looked back at the year, I discovered that during this time I’ve written 134 posts which received 2,868 comments.

Together we’ve visited 18 of Europe’s countries!

The countries we’ve visited include France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.  Along with those we’ve also touched ground in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Holland and even Estonia.Views walking up the hill to Gruyeres Switzerland

We’ve looked at food, aperitifs and experienced European wine beer and beer festivals!

Our journey has been by train, feet, bikes and post bus crossing rivers, bridges and scenic routes. We’ve taken a look at the awesome waterfalls in Europe along with some festivals, even if they are a bit crazy!Budapest and Danube River

Because I had a hard time telling the difference between Baroque, Gothic or Romanesque, we spent some time learning a bit about all that wonderful architecture found in European capitals.

I’ve shared my love for Germany and in particular Bavaria.  Heck one of my first posts was titled “Bavaria, Bavaria How do I Love thee?”.  That should have been your first clue 🙂

Hohenschwangau Bavarian Castle

View from Hohenschwangau

Together we delved into my passion for those small little quaint charming picturesque mountain villages.  Yes you know that I am a mountain girl!

We’ve spent time in castles, feasted our eyes on jewels, taken drives and just dreamed.

Cesky Krumlov Castle Czech Republic

Cesky Krumlov Castle by Docsj

Yup it’s been quite a year!

And it’s not going to stop yet!

I have many more adventures lined up for 2012 but I also want to include some of your interests.

Where do you want to go?

How do you want to get there and what do you want to do once you get there?

Where or where in Europe shall we go during 2012?  Help me out by leaving suggestions in your comment!

 

Before I go, I want to send out a BIG thanks to you all for making 2011 such a great year!

Gracias.Köszi.Merci.Takk.Grazie.Obrigada.Danke.

 

My Travel ABC’s

Before Thanksgiving I received an invitation from Katherina  of 1000 Miles Highway to participate in the A to Z survey about travel called The ABC of Travel!

Thanks Katherina for including me!

Now, European Travelista’s ABC’s of Travel.

A: Age you went on your first international trip: At 23 I made my first international trip to Europe which was also my first solo trip and is still my favorite!

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where: The best foreign beer I’ve had was at Stiegl Keller in Salzburg.  If I’m honest, I’m not sure why it is my favorite but I think it might have something to do with the amazing views of Salzburg or the fantastic meal I enjoyed. Whatever the reason, it was memorable!Schnitzel at Klosterbrau Bamberg Germany

C: Cuisine (favorite): Mexican Food!  I love it spicy and could eat it for every meal.  While in Europe, my favorite cuisine would have to be German.  Can’t get enough of schnitzel, spatzle, sausage and sauerkraut or goulash soup 🙂

D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why: Bavaria Germany holds a special place in my heart!  This was my first stop on my first trip and Bavaria just feels so comfy to me.  I can’t seem to get enough of the mountains and tiny Bavarian villages. My least favorite would have to be Budapest which just left me feeling Bleh!  Although I am going to give it another try.

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”: This summer I had the unexpected opportunity to witness Lederhosen clad goat herders bringing the goats back to the barn! An event I thought only lived on in books.

F: Favorite mode of transportation: Ooh that’s hard.  I actually like all modes of transportation and have used them at different times.  Trains, buses, cars are all amazing and offer different perspectives.  I guess my favorite mode is via an airplane because when I get on an airplane it means I’m going somewhere!

G: Greatest feeling while traveling: The feeling of awe when seeing amazing scenery, experiencing the peace and serenity of mountains, flower bedecked houses or realizing how old the city or building really is.

H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to: Ixtapa, Mexico during July!

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where: Once we were eating at a café in Paris and we had a great waiter.  He would joke with us (yes it was Paris France) and when we asked what type of Dijon mustard they had on the table he gave us a bottle!  It’s the little things that make a difference to me.

J: Journey that took the longest: Driving through Austria and Switzerland during my 2 week honeymoon!

Kathe Wohlfahrt Rothenburg Germany

In Front of Kathe Wohlfahrt Rothenburg Germany

K: Keepsake from your travels: I love buying Christmas ornaments from any where I travel because I get to relive my travels while decorating the tree with my family!

L: Let-down sight, why and where: The Terror Museum in Budapest. This museum left me wanting more. . . much more.  Upon entering you hear intimidating music, see an old Soviet tank and busts of some of the more notorious characters of the soviet period in Budapest.  I was expecting many more items of torture and not the narration in Hungarian I got.  The museum was really very stark without many exhibits of actual devices of terror.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel: My first trip to Europe in 1981 filled me with a love of Europe that has lasted to this day!  I love traveling anywhere and am the one that does all the research and planning for trips no matter where we are going.

View from room at Palace Hotel Lucerne Switzerland

View from Palace Hotel

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in: My personal budget doesn’t include luxury hotels very often but I do enjoy luxury when I get it.  The nicest hotel I have ever stayed in would have to be the Palace Hotel in Lucerne Switzerland!  I had a corner suite which had amazing views of the lake and mountains surrounding this lovely city.  My next choice would have to be the Hotel Del Coronado in Coronado, California. I love old historic hotels and my room in the old portion of this beauty was perfect.

O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?: I’m not sure I have an obsession but would have to say amazing views usually from or of mountains!

P: Passport stamps, how many and from where? Oh if only they consistently stamped my passport!  Many places in Europe including London, Paris, Biarritz, Toulouse, Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, Zurich and Copenhagen.  Add in Mexico and Tahiti.

Biarritz Seaview France

Biarritz

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where: The Alligator Farm in Buena Park, California.  I loved this spot as a child since those alligators were really scary but alligators right across the street from Knots Berry Farm?!!

R: Recommended sight, event or experience: Spend a day in Auvers sur Oise (outside Paris) reliving Van Gogh’s last days, then visit the Orsay museum to view his art work!  This will make an art lover out of anyone!

S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling: Local food, but not at trendy fashionable restaurants, including beer, wine or local cocktail!

T: Touristy thing you’ve done: A tour including the Changing of the Guard in London.  Couldn’t see a thing but I went back early in April and was able to visit on my own and see the entire procession without any one in my way!

U: Unforgettable travel memory: Visiting Zermatt Switzerland for the first time!  This charming village took my breath away.  Explore the village and mountains during the day and then enjoy an exquisite meal of fondue that night.  It is so warm and comfy!

V: Visas, how many and for where? To date, I haven’t need any visas 🙁

W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where? So I don’t remember what type of wine we had  but my husband and I had some great Italian red wine in Stresa overlooking Lago Maggiore!

Hohenschwangau Bavarian Castle

View from Hohenschwangau

X: eXcellent view and from where?: Ooh there are a lot of great vantage points.  How about the amazing views from Neuschwanstein castle or the top of Mt. Pilatus?  Or the view of Paris after climbing the stairs at Notre Dame!  Or locally, the view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge from Fisherman’s Wharf.

Y: Years spent traveling?: I have traveled my entire life if you include some vacations.  Unfortunately, my life has not afforded me the opportunity to spend years abroad . . . yet.  That is on the bucket list!

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?: I am not a zealous sport fan but my first ice hockey game was very memorable.  My friend got tickets about 4 rows from the glass which makes for an exceptional game.  I didn’t know I had so much testosterone in me!

 

Well that’s my ABC’s, I would love to read the ABC’s of these fine bloggers:

Inside Journeys
Devour the World
Adventures with Ben
A View to a Thrill
EuroTravelogue

Bridging Europe

When traveling we come across many bridges that are part of the local customs, history and folklore.

Some bridges are very famous or very high

Đurđevića Tara Bridge over the river Tara in Montenegro

Đurđevića Tara Bridge in Montenegro by Cornelius Bechtler

Tower Bridge London England

Tower Bridge London England by Diliff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some are very beautiful and some you couldn’t pay me to cross!

Kapellbrucke Lucerne Switzerland

Kapellbrucke Lucerne Switzerland

Rickety Bridge in Europe

Rickety Bridge Latvia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But they all are works of art, functional and just plain amazing. I’m not an engineer, so it always amazes me how these structures can stretch so far, reach so high and withstand all the abuse they take from vehicles and the elements.

 

I thought it would be fun to look at few bridges Europe has to offer!

Oresund Bridge

Öresund Bridge Sweden Denmark

Öresund Bridge by Hardo, on Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Øresund or Öresund Bridge is one of the more unique bridges I have ever seen. This bridge connects Denmark and Sweden and is both a bridge and tunnel! The bridge portion spans 25,739 feet from Sweden to a manmade island, Peberholm, from here you enter the tunnel to cross under the Drogden strait. The tunnel includes 2 rail tracks and 4 lanes for cars. During construction there were 2 delays one being do to finding 16 unexploded bombs from WWII laying on the seafloor.

Goltzsch Viaduct

Goltzsch Viaduct Saxony Germany

Goltzsch Viaduct Saxony Germany© Chriusha (Хрюша)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goltzsch Viaduct is the largest brick built bridge in the world. This railway bridge was built between 1846 – 1851, spans the Goltzsch valley and connects Bavaria and Saxony in Germany. There are 98 vaults over 4 levels with the top level made up of 29 arches.

Rio-Antirrio Bridge

Rio-Antirrio Bridge Greece

Rio-Antirrio Bridge Greece © Guillaume Piolle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The beautiful Rio-Antirrio Bridge is official known as the Charilaos Trikoupis bridge and is the longest multi span cable-stayed bridge in the world. Crossing the Gulf of Corinth and connecting the towns of Rion and Antrion (on the Greek mainland), this 9,449’ long bridge is a feast for the eyes! The bridge has 2 lanes for traffic in each direction and a path for walkers or bikers. An interesting fact is the piers can slide on the gravel to accommodate any tectonic movement.

Bosphorus Bridge

Bosphorus Bridge Istanbul Turkey

Bosphorus Bridge Istanbul Turkey By Kara Sabahat

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bosphorus Bridge is one of the few bridges on this earth that spans 2 continents. This beautiful bridge spans the Borphorus strait connecting Europe and Asia. The suspension bridge has 3 lanes in each direction for cars and when it is fully loaded sags 35” at mid span! There is an annual marathon that includes running over the bridge.

Vasco de Gama Bridge

Vasco de Gama Bridge Lisbon Portugal

Vasco de Gama Bridge Lisbon Portugal by Till Niermann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The longest bridge in Europe is the Vasco de Gama which spans the Tagus river near Lisbon, Portugal. The bridge is almost 11 miles long and was opened in 1998 just in time for Expo 98 which celebrated the 500th anniversary of de Gama’s discovery of the route from Europe to India.

Magdeburg Water Bridge

Madgeburg Water Bridge Germany

Madgeburg Water Bridge Germany by Botaurus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magdeburg Water Bridge caught my eye because it isn’t a bridge made for cars or trains. This bridge is a navigable aqueduct for boats connecting the Elbe-Havel canal to the Mittelandkanal by spanning the Elbe river in Eastern Germany! There is a walkway and bike path along the span including signs telling the history and construction of the bridge.

So there you have it! Some beautiful, unique and interesting bridges you could find while in Europe.


Have you seen any of these? Do you like Bridges?

Musings on European Rail Travel

There are many ways to travel around Europe.  One of my favorites is using the train!  Train travel evokes mythical and magical feelings in me.  Train trips always seem so exciting, serene and romantic but why?

I suppose it has to do with the fact that there isn’t much opportunity to travel by train in California.  Yes I have been on the Amtrak train from Orange County to Los Angeles (yup that was a long trip) but somehow Amtrak just doesn’t seem to compare with trains in Europe.

This infatuation could be due to all the movies and books portraying train travel as adventurous, daring and romantic.  Doesn’t everyone find love on a train?  Spies abound on trains, right?  What about those long lustful goodbyes on the platform?  Or even chasing the train to have one last glimpse. . .

European Rail Travel

by Wootang01, on Flickr

No matter where it comes from, I relish the opportunity to travel by train in Europe!

So I am very excited to be traveling this summer solely by train.  In preparation I have been thinking about past train travel and the tips I have learned along the way.

The first tip is to PACK LIGHT! I learned this lesson the hard way on my first trip to Europe way back in 1981.  For a 3 week solo trip I had one LARGE suitcase, 1 hanging garment bag, 1 overnight case and a large bag/purse plus the bags of souvenirs I collected along the way.  I swear my arms are longer today because of this trip!  The thing I didn’t know about train travel is there are a lot of walking and stairs involved.  Stairs that go down under the track, stairs that go back up to the platform and then more stairs to get on the train.  Ugh, I’m tired just remembering this.  Some of the newer trains are actually at platform level so that makes it a little easier but there is still quite a bit of walking and stairs.  So PACK LIGHT!

The last time I traveled solely by train was in Switzerland and for this trip I had a rail pass.  The pass made it extremely easy because I didn’t have to arrive early to purchase tickets so I just got on what ever train I wanted.    Just as a train ticket, the pass doesn’t guarantee me a seat.  If you want a guaranteed seat, then you need to purchase a reservation.

European Rail Travel

by Hunter-Desportes, on Flickr

The pass I had allowed me first class seats but I could sit in 2nd class if I wanted, however, it doesn’t work the other way around!  Also some trains require seat reservations so make sure to check this if you are traveling with a rail pass.

This summer’s trip is pricing out quite a bit less if I buy point-to-point tickets so that is probably what I am going to do.  The one thing I haven’t decided is if I will purchase some ticket prior to departing the US.  Any suggestions?

There is a price difference between 1st class seats and 2nd class seats and sometimes this difference can be quite a lot.  The differences between the classes are pretty much the same as in airplanes – roomier seats, more comfortable seats etc. It is my experience that if you want to travel with locals then travel in 2nd class.  One note to mention, 2nd class can be very full during rush hours so a seat may not be found.

European Rail Travel

by Hunter-Desportes, on Flickr

My last tip is to arrive early at the station so that you have time to find the platform your train will be departing from.  I hate rushing around at the station at the last minute.

Here are a couple websites I find useful for looking up train schedules and even pricing.

Deutsche Bahn (Germany)

Österreichische Bundesbahnen (ÖBB) (Austria)

 

What train experiences have you had?  Any tips you’d like to share?

Fabulous Friday – When flying, do you prefer the window, middle, or aisle seat?

I can distinctly remember my first ever trip on an airplane.  I was 8 years old and we were flying from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City to visit my mom’s family.  Oh boy was I excited!  And dressed up too!  No sloppy jeans for us.  My mom and I were in new dresses and my brother wore a little tie.

Oh how things have changed today!  Everyday you can hear someone complaining about the airlines, the food, TSA or the seats.  Its bad enough the amount they charge for First or Business class seats but now they even charge extra for extra room in coach.

Middle Seat Cartoon

From Paul Fell http://www.executivetravel.com

My co-worker is flying to Hawaii and the other day we got started talking about seat preferences when on an airplane.

She really likes the window seat because she can see what is outside especially as the plane is descending for landing.  But if she is traveling with her husband she usually selects the dreaded center seat so he can have an aisle.

I prefer an aisle seat solely because I get the feeling of having more space since one shoulder is not next to someone or something.  My second choice would be a window.  That said,  I usually select a center seat when traveling with my husband.  That is, of course, until he spilled red wine on me during a flight to New York City.  The aisle across from him will work just fine, thank you!

by Daquella manera, on Flickr

I book corporate travel as part of my “job” and most co-workers prefer aisles but some opt for windows.

No one books that center seat!!

On this Friday and just for Fun I thought I’d ask . . .

 

When flying, do you prefer window, middle or aisle seat?

Does this change if you are traveling with a friend, significant other or spouse?