Marlborough Express - - TRAVEL -

The reach of Europe’s rail­ways sys­tems is im­pres­sive, and the va­ri­ety of trains al­lows ev­ery­thing from panoramic me­an­ders to ef­fi­cient, high-speed hops be­tween cities and jaunts on steam trains. Lux­ury ser­vices such as the Ori­ent Ex­press through cen­tral Europe or new Grand Hibernian in Ire­land are in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar. Some lux­ury trains now take you through the Balkans and be­yond into the Mid­dle East, or deep into Rus­sia.

Some of the short­est train jour­neys, how­ever, pro­vide the most spec­tac­u­lar rides: Snow­don Moun­tain Rail­way in Wales, for ex­am­ple, takes you 7.6 kilo­me­tres from Llan­beris to the 1065-me­tre sum­mit of Snow­don, while the Di­akofto-Kalavryta Rail­way in Greece runs 22 kilo­me­tres through the rugged Vouraikos Gorge.

Even bet­ter, though, is that you don’t have to take spe­cial trains to en­joy some of Europe’s most splen­did land­scapes. Even on reg­u­lar sched­uled ser­vices, you can jour­ney through the vine­yards above Lake Geneva, along

France’s scenic Rhone Val­ley or through moun­tain-draped land­scapes be­tween Mu­nich and Inns­bruck.


Europe is knit­ted to­gether by rail­way lines: you could have an en­tire hol­i­day on the rails, from high-speed in­ter­city trains to all­stops ser­vices serv­ing small towns and rack rail­ways up moun­tain­tops.

With­out hav­ing to con­cen­trate on the road, you can en­joy the scenery. Many sta­tions are ar­chi­tec­tural mar­vels, and newer sta­tions at­tached to air­ports (such as Zurich, Mu­nich, Am­s­ter­dam, Copen­hagen and Vi­enna) al­low seam­less con­nec­tions.

Trains are eco-friendly, re­li­able, safe, punc­tual and have im­proved enor­mously in com­fort and value as na­tional rail­ways seek to com­pete with bud­get air­lines.


The only real down­side is that the end­less com­bi­na­tions of tick­ets and passes are enough to in­duce a headache. Multi-des­ti­na­tion or multi-day rail passes might at­tract ad­di­tional pay­ments, such as for manda­tory seat reser­va­tions or for us­ing high-speed trains.

In­di­vid­ual trips can some­times be ex­pen­sive. Rail travel is cheaper the more you go by train. Still, if you do your re­search, some passes al­low you to travel as much as you want for about $20 a day, an im­pres­sive bar­gain.

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