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Travelogue Rail Europe  
1 Answers
Aug 31 2011 (09:05)

Entry# 701     
Travelogue Rail Europe

Aug 31 2011 (09:03)
News Entry# 36294  Rail Europe: Train Travel Made Easy  
Posted by: rdb*^   Added by: rdb*^  Aug 31 2011 (09:05)
Thoreau supposedly said, “It is not worthwhile to go around the world to count the cats in Zanzibar.” We don’t think Thoreau knew about Rail Europe! It has been our “fall back” solution every time we ran into travel difficulties on the continent.We are comfortable on Europe’s trains; we have used Rail Europe so often. It’s a simple process and easily understood even in a country like Romania where English is hardly heard especially in remote areas and that’s surely where we are heading now. The train stops for a moment and we ask each other, Could that be our taxi, but no, we have an hour still to go on our journey.We know where we’re going, of course, and we have taken a precaution because it’s getting late and we are heading into the land where Dracula was born and by dark in this far-off place surely we should be...
abed. Our precaution, on our way to the medieval town of Sighisoara, was getting a local who spoke English (and was leaving the train at an earlier stop) to tell those in our compartment we wanted off at Sighisoara and would they give us warning when it was our next stop? Sighisoara is a beautiful but remote town and doesn’t see much American tourism so we were glad to know we had help on this trip.
The Romanians in our compartment grunted something suggesting this was our train stop – but we were leaving it! Oops! We grabbed our bags, headed for the exit and stood on the threshold as the train gathered speed. We shouted to each other, “Jump!” but we had the sense not to do so. There were two lessons there for us. First, all European train travel takes its lead from the Deutsche Bundesbahn: trains don’t hang around at stations. It really is Touch and Go. Second, we all travel with too much baggage. This is foolish for several reasons. You must not expect porters in railway stations --you are usually on your own as far as baggage is concerned. And most railway stations in small towns do not have elevators but they do have stairs.
It’s salutary to compare how Europeans handle luggage compared to Americans more used to throwing stuff in the trunk of a car. The only downside really to train travel is this need to travel light, since there are lots of concrete steps and few ramps at most European terminals. If that’s the only disadvantage what are the advantages? Well, first of all views you'll never get from a car; a more restful travel for jet-lagged tourists; and a chance to ask fellow travelers for suggestions for restaurants, hotels, and attractions at the end of the line. Train travelers love to talk and share.
You never know what you might find at your destination railway station. In Amsterdam expect a superb facility convenient to comfortable hotels and close to the port; in Switzerland an old world village surrounded by mountains. The trains themselves will vary but all will be clean, many showing little difference between First and Second Class. They look exotic even the older models of the TGF (Train à Grande Vitesse) that make train travel between cities faster at times than air when you calculate time spent dragging through airport security.
To us the nicest thing about train travel in Europe is that in the uncertain, fuzzy world of travel where nothing can be taken for granted, the exception is that the trains of Europe essentially run on time. They are dependable.
So what happened when we didn’t get off the train in time at Sighisoara? The train took us west for about an hour and we were disgorged at a spooky little place that looked straight out of Bram Stoker’s novel. A young woman sat waiting for the night train back to Bucharest. We realized we’d be accompanying her for the first hour but our landlord might sell our room. We had no local currency and no cell phone. But we had a bar of chocolate! We got the loan of her cell phone. A deal’s a deal, chocolate is chocolate and the trip, like life, ended well.
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