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Pleading for the train

Train: Interlaken Jungfraubahn

We live in a world of speed where acceleration is pressed more and more often. In the last decade, there have appeared lots of low cost airlines that can get you from one corner of the continent to another for 100 euro and sometimes even less. You jump on a plane and in 3 hours you are on the other side of old Europe. Well under these circumstances why would we have to take a train?

First of all, I can say I’m a veteran of travel by train. My first escapades abroad were by train in the 90s. I used to buy Inter Rail tickets and then travel – at that time, it was the only viable option in terms of cost. I travelled 7 times using Inter Rail tickets. Thanks to this magic ticket, I could visit the city of Barcelona, Venice, Paris, Vienna, Athens, Rome, Lucerne or Krakow. I travelled by train beyond the Arctic Circle, to Narvik, but also to the gates of the Sahara, at Marrakech. Later on, I traveled by train to other parts of the world, too, in India, Thailand, the USA, Peru, Tunisia, Iran, China or Egypt.

The train has its charm. Although, meanwhile, it has been modernized across all Europe, speeds have increased, but the charm still remains. You can go by train with the whole gang and tell stories. On a plane, you can, at best, talk to the person by your side. On the train, you enjoy the view out the window, unforgettable sights – I think I will never forget the way on the rim of the fjord to Narvik, Norway, the suspended highways of Switzerland or waking up at 5 am to admire the Mediterranean Sea on the Cote d’Azur.

But how shall we travel by train, how shall we spend a successful vacation? It’s easy – any insignificant town in Europe has a train station through which a rail is going. By train, you no longer have a parking problem, a problem with the the police, with the fact that you cannot drink a beer. Many say that they travel by car to have freedom … you have freedom by train, too, it travels everywhere and, besides, after a day of running through cities, broken down, you cannot imagine what a pleasure it is to throw yourself on a chair and stop minding one-way streets and traffic jams!

When you think of conquering Europe, consider an Inter-Rail-type ticket, too. Basically, these tickets give you the freedom of movement in some countries for a certain number of days. You can take practically any train (beware, you will have to pay some not very significant supplements for some) and go through a country and a region long and wide. Back when I began to InterRail through Europe, there was only one type of ticket – you used to go with it for one month anywhere in Europe! Meanwhile, there appeared various combinations based on time and the countries visited.

But first thing’s first. Inter Rail first appeared in 1972. The original purpose was to help young people to travel, to meet European countries in a time when the desire to visit other countries had burst throughout Europe. The first InterRail ticket costs £ 27.50, it was only available for youth under 21 years old and was covering 21 countries, including some from behind the Iron Curtain – GDR, Yugoslavia and Hungary. Subsequently, the age limit was raised to 26 years old and several other countries were added, including Romania. In 1985, several ferry boats were included in the Inter-Rail and continue to be there today, as well (Algeciras – Tanger, Brindisi – Corfu – Igoumentisa – Patras and several others).

Between the 1980s and the 1990s, Inter Rail had become so popular that many railway companies, especially those from tourist countries (like France, Spain, Italy) lobbied to discontinue the Inter Rail tickets. But an Italian Euro-MP whom I will remain forever indebted to, opposed and managed to pass a resolution through the European Parliament that that will oblige the European railways to continue the Inter – Rail ticketing. And they have kept the tickets until today with the mention that starting 1998, there is also an Inter Rail for those over 26 years old, indeed, more expensive than that for the young. And again I got lucky, as in 1998, I turned 26 and so I was able to go the World Cup Soccer Championship in France and, in between matches, I was able to visit the whole France!

But enough with the stories, let’s get down to practical things – what tickets can you purchase – firstly, there is the Classic Inter Rail, now called Global Inter Rail. Prices vary according to age (below or above 26 years old), class (just for the ones over 26 years old, is it likely to buy Inter Rail for Class 1) and how many days you want to travel (5 within 10 days, 10 days of travel within 22 days, 22 days in a row and the “Big Mac” of the European trains, Il Classico – the Global Inter Rail for 1 month! The last costs 638 euro for those over 26 years old and 422 euro for the travellers below 26 years old. It seems much… think that this means 21 euro per day for adults or 14 euro per day for a young man under 26 years old… I don’t think it’s so much!

There is also the Inter Rail One Contry Pass alternative that covers a single country. Here the algorithm of offers and prices is more complicated (according to the country, three age groups, the number of days, so I will let you study the offer):

http://www.raildude.com/en/shop-buy-interrail-pass

Do you want to know the train schedule, too? It is online for all of Europe:

http://plannerint.b-rail.be/bin/query.exe/en?L=profi&amp

Frankly, the Inter Rail ticket has given me a great sense of freedom … In the pre-Internet world, I used to go to the station and I was thinking where to go … could it be Amsterdam with its canals, Mannekin Piss’s Brussels, Maastricht with the cupolas of its ancient churches, or Cologne with its imposing Dome? I could have chosen anything. Anywhere. Anytime. And leave to visit, to explore, to charge myself spiritually with new and beautiful places… Just keep walking! And don’t stay away from railway transportation!

 Train: train in Switzerland

A mountainous train in Switzerland – the Interlaken region

Train: Nederlandse Spoorwagen

A train of the Dutch Railways – Nederlandse Spoorwagen

Train: French TGV

The famous French TGV

Train to Narvik

On the way to Narvik

Până acum există "9 comentarii" la acest articol:

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