Six European Train Tales
Remember your first trip to Europe? Remember your first trip on a European train?
My earliest experiences with European trains were of the classic, lost-American-in- Wonderland variety. I made ambitious plans (too many cities in not enough days), I bought a Eurailpass (as all good first-time Americans in Europe do), I hopped on board a train from Paris to Lyon, and promptly got into a heated discussion (in a language of which I had only a tenuous grasp) with the conductor about supplements that were news to me, had not been made in advance, and for which I did not have enough money. My friends and I were not unceremoniously booted from the train, but nor were we very well treated after that. I did later figure out both what I had done wrong and how not to make that mistake again. I also went on to enjoy my super-accelerated attempt to see all of Europe in only one breath.
Although I started as a carefree post-collegiate train-based tourist, I subsequently spent a decade as a tour leader fretting over train comfort levels and the satisfaction of my clients, and have now happily returned to the rails as a mindless holiday commuter. Throughout, I have gazed at land-, mountain- and seascapes of unforgettable dazzle. Throughout, I have met amazing people. Throughout, I have enjoyed the constancy and coziness of a dependable system of transport.
And so have plenty of others. The tales they have to tell are worth the time spent reading them. Six train travelers and writers have here set words to the page and shared some of the magic (and frustration) of train travel.
- Train maven Nicolas Clifford tells us about his first rail ride to Portugal on a night train with an edge of mystery.
- Anthony Ziehmke laughs about a Spain-bound trip when he was packing much more than the usual amount of luggage.
- GORP's Expert Hiker, Karen Berger, recollects her first time in Paris and those nervous moments after stepping off a train in a new and foreign city.
- An anonymous adventurer gives us a taste of the yin (forced removal from a train) and yang (sudden-found fleeting romance) of training.
- Denise Berger Abouaf remembers the day one train split in two and she was separated from her luggage.
- GORP's Expert Cyclist, Ethan Gelber, speeds through an almost ill-fated race across Europe by train.
I have clocked more hours on European trains than I care to tally. It's not because those hours were in any way uncomfortable that I choose not to total them; rather, the final figure might reveal the degree to which the plush of padded seats on wheels has easily made itself a permanent and agreeable part of my life. I may not be on board right now, but I will find my way there sooner or later. And the first thing I will do is slip into a practiced pattern part of a great American tradition of napping, reading, gazing out the window, and pondering the passage of time and place. We hope that you will enjoy these tales and a taste of faraway times and places.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication