European Highlights – Taking to the Rails

 

From Munich we railed north to Amsterdam, and from Amsterdam, home.

It felt weird. It felt final. Like the end of an era; like Europe was in our rear-view for good.

Which is ridiculous, of course. Europe isn’t going anywhere, and we most definitely are still moving – we will cross paths again, undoubtedly.

But with each chapter that ends, there is cause to be reflective. And as Pete and I tend to do when passing long hours on transportation, we reviewed the best of our latest exploration. Of all our European adventures, there is one thing that was abundantly clear to us, that many of our favorite moments on the continent were those spent in transit.

And for that, we can thank Eurail.com.

 

We could relax… No stress of checking bags, security, or waiting at the airport, and using the Eurail pass in train stations was a breeze. Many people also use travel days as time to become absorbed in work, but we became absorbed in the experience. From losing ourselves in people-watching on the platforms to drifting off to dreams while the world rolled by, we were unproductive, unwound, and unapologetic. That was OUR time.

Eurail Dusseldorf

 

We saw the countryside. We REALLY saw the countryside… The European tourist experience is largely concentrated in the cities. Paris, London, Rome – these are the places that first come to mind when contemplating the continent from abroad. What a mistake to miss all that is offered in between – the country roads with bicycle paths in the Netherlands, weaving between the Alps in Germany, skirting the Tyrrhenian Sea in Sicily. All experiences that would have been missed on a plane. All very worthy of our time.

Hanging out of a train

 

Borders came alive… Being from North America, where few borders separate only three vast countries, the idea of being surrounded by several different cultures accessible in only a few hours has mass appeal. And it became a fun game for Pete and I to guess when exactly we crossed those invisible lines by spotting differences in architecture and characteristics of the countryside.

Eurail Enroute to Salzburg

 

We met interesting characters… A Hungarian couple on a train in Croatia shared their bananas and walnuts, trying to convince us to visit their home. An Italian hair-dresser taught us her language. A German lady asked Pete to stop typing as ‘he must not realize how annoying that sound was to everyone around him‘. Hey, so they may not all have been ‘cute’ local experiences, but there was never-ending amusement.

There truly is no better way to see Europe.

 

Traveling by train with a Eurail pass is economical, environmental, educational, and well, entertaining-al.

With so much of Europe left to be explore, there is no debate on ‘if’ we’ll be back, only when. And you can bet we’ll be taking to the rails once again.

Eurail Dalene waiting in Innsbruck

 

Many thanks to Eurail.com for the complimentary Select Pass which got us around Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. All opinions expressed, as always, are our own.

 

35 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own

  • September 10 2012

    We are really itching to do more long distance train travel in Europe. I’m fascinated by the idea of heading to Eastern Europe on trains, especially after reading your adventures. As for you guys coming back… we need house-sitters next year :)

    • September 11 2012

      We really, really, want to get back and do more Eastern Europe that way too. And Scandinavia. And France. Hmmm. Perhaps we should just plan a joint trip and you can find other house-sitters. :)

  • September 10 2012

    Sounds amazing! I’ve never done the Eurorail, but have done some of the Canadian here at home – and it was an beautiful and new way to see a part of a country I thought I already knew so well!

    • September 11 2012

      And that’s what we haven’t done yet – NO train travel in Canada! Must change that!

  • September 10 2012

    Ugh I really want to do this… and for some reason just chilling on the train watching everything go by sounds like a lot of fun.
    Hogga recently posted..Hogga and the Tokyo Police

    • September 11 2012

      Nothing beats it really. No airport stress, no cramped seats on the bus. :)

  • September 10 2012

    Trains have ALWAYS been my preferred mode of transportation when possible. Eurail is such a perfect way to travel through Europe! I road ViaRail in Canada for the first time and couldn’t of been happier!
    Chrystal McKay recently posted..Not JUST Another Ancient Ruin: Butrint, Albania

    • September 11 2012

      Yup, we definitely have to explore our options via VIA, as it’s something we haven’t done yet. :)

  • September 10 2012

    I love the trains in Europe and almost always choose them over flying. I only wish we had a system like it in N. America.
    Jeff @ GoTravelzing recently posted..Ten Days in Ireland – Trip Itinerary

    • September 11 2012

      Yeah, North America sure has a long way to go to catch up with the system over there, sadly.

  • Ter
    September 10 2012

    While reading this post, I couldn’t help but hear little Avery in my head…

    “What was your favourite part?”

    • September 11 2012

      HAHA! Okay, my favorite part I think was one of the short trains that we took in Slovenia back in November, out to Lake Bled – it was so foggy except for the bright green of the Soca River running beside the tracks. Ooh, and the train from Italy to Sicily where they loaded the train cars onto a ferry. That was pretty cool!

  • September 10 2012

    I was already excited about my upcoming 2-month Eurail adventure, but this just makes me more eager to jump on a train right now! Though buying a Eurail ticket is pretty expensive (especially in the age of cheap budget flights), I chose to buy one so that I can stop at all the little towns and see the countryside (as opposed to bopping from big city to big city).
    Hannah recently posted..Dealing with Last Minute Doubts

    • September 11 2012

      Yes, sometimes it can end up being a little more pricey (although there were times that it was the other way for us), but it is SO worth it.

    • September 11 2012

      Yes, sometimes it can end up being a little more pricey (although there were times that it was the other way for us), but it is SO worth it.

  • September 10 2012

    That German lady that you mention – SO German. Only a German could say something like that ;-)
    Dani recently posted..What I Wonder When I Wander: What exactly is the ‘West’?

    • September 11 2012

      Ha! The funny thing about that was that we had *just* crossed the border from Belgium to Germany when that happened. After, Pete and I looked at each other and said…”We MUST be in Germany!” And it was our first time in the country, what a welcome! Haha :)

  • September 11 2012

    It really is so nice traveling in parts of the world where train travel really is an option. When I backpacked around Europe in 2005, my friend and I logged some serious miles with our Eurail passes. We definitely didn’t regret the investment and traveling by train was far less stressful than constantly having to take flights!

    When Tony & I make it to Europe, I’m not sure what we’ll do in terms of getting a pass or not. From what I have seen, it seems that if you are over the age of 26, you have to get a Eurail pass that is significantly more expensive because they don’t offer the second-class pass option (which honestly, is all we would need). Comparing the price of the first-class pass with what it would cost buying 2nd class tickets, I’m not sure we’d save any money at all.

    • September 11 2012

      Hmmm. I wasn’t aware of that Steph?! If you have any specific questions for Eurail, be sure to hit them up on their twitter or facebook page. They are VERY responsive!

    • November 3 2012

      I just did a trip thru Europe by rail this past summer and your’e right Steph. If you are between the ages of 26 and 65, and want to actually spend some time at your destinations (instead of continually riding the train) it is NOT worth it and they do require that age bracket to buy 1st class tickets. My pass, covering 8 different countries over a 2 month period, would have cost close to $1200. That was NOT including any required reservation fees, and some countries weren’t covered or only partially covered. I decided to track my point to point ticket purchases instead and in the end it only cost me around $800 total (and I think there were a couple of EasyJet tickets in there as well). But if you are eligible for the youth or senior passes, you can save about 50% of that price because you are allowed to ride 2nd class. I found traveling by train itself, however, was TOTALLY worth it, for the same reasons you have mentioned Dalene!

  • September 11 2012

    I totally agree that train is the best way to travel in Europe, especially because of two reasons you mentioned–seeing the countryside (gorgeous) and meeting local people. I would love to ride the rails there with my kids and see what it’s like as a family.
    Jenna recently posted..The Czech Republic that No One Knows About

    • September 11 2012

      It would be the best option for a family, I would think! No cramped seats, ability to move around, gorgeous scenery!

  • September 11 2012

    I’m lucky enough to live in Europe and work for rail (hence having a free train ticket around) so I took the opportunity to travel across Europe by train few times and these were the best travel experiences ever! Not only you can admire so many amazing views from the window (and so you can really say you saw a country, not only its capital city as it usually is) but that’s also the best way to meet local people. And that way you really feel you’re on the road
    kami recently posted..Photo of the Week #3 – Lake Bohinj

    • September 11 2012

      That is a pretty sweet job if it comes with free rail passes! I used to work for a railroad in Canada, but it was just freight. I got to ride in a caboose once. That wasn’t so great. :)

  • September 11 2012

    I’ve done some traveling in Europe with a Eurail Pass — Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland. You can get pretty much anywhere and see so much of the countryside and small towns along the way. I’ve also met some very friendly & helpful people on the train. I’m a big fan of train travel in Europe and the Eurail Pass makes it easy.

    • September 11 2012

      Another strong supporter for training and Eurail! :)

  • September 11 2012

    Kent and I maintain that a robust rail system is one argument against American exceptionalism.
    Caanan @ No Vacation Required recently posted..We Want Marriage Equality – We Need Your Help

  • Ali
    September 15 2012

    I’m really starting to enjoy train travel now that I’m living in Germany. It is nice to see the countryside go by, and it just feels so much more relaxed that flying. Although I’d still rather fly longer distances, Andy would be all for a 24 hour train trip to Spain or something.
    Ali recently posted..Travel Resources I Like

    • September 18 2012

      I’d much rather take that train trip too! I’m with Andy on that one, albeit maybe for different reasons. :)

  • September 15 2012

    Eh, I miss the story about the older German man politely asking Pete to move his bag…and where are the Dutch trains (did you know they are not orange)?? But apart from that this blogpost makes me wanna jump on a train and explore more of Europe.

    • September 18 2012

      The Dutch aren’t as pretty. I wish they were orange. :)

  • September 15 2012

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, that picture of Dalene is bloody brilliant. Fine work!

    • September 18 2012

      Thank you! Thank you! I’ve been working out. :)

  • September 15 2012

    I really like that picture of Dalene!

    We haven’t done much train travel, but we have thoroughly enjoyed our road trips throughout Europe. More often than not, we end up enjoying some off-the-beaten-path town we come across or the countryside way more than the big cities.
    Jennifer recently posted..Bay of Kotor Blanketed in Haze

  • September 16 2012

    We totally agree that train travel is the way to go. No fuss, great scenery. Sounds like you guys had a fantastic time!

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