Monday, 3 September 2007

The romance of travelling by train

I love travelling by train across international borders. Standing at the Gare du Nord or or de l'Est or de Lyon in Paris I love looking at the departure boards and dreaming about just getting on the train and going to Vienna or Berlin or London or Milan.

Railway stations are always slightly seedy places but I love the press of people and luggage and the fact that I'll be going somewhere. When I get on a train to another country I remember so many other crazy train journeys I've made in the past. In Zurich and Vienna on Saturday the train destinations were even more alluring and romantic: Bucarest, Budapest, Wroclaw, Venice...

We travelled by train to Sibiu.
It took a long time - 27 hours - it was tiring and occasionally a little too exciting (jumping off our wagon lit at 6.30 in the morning down onto a non existent platform on arrival in Romania was rather more athletic than I was expecting!).

But above all it was fun, interesting and for me much more relaxing than travelling by air. Waiting for our connexion in Vienna we ate a proper Wiener Schnitzel and drank fabulous Czech Budweiser Budvar. I promise after tasting real Budvar you'll never want to drink that pale US drink called Bud. (And no I'm not going to put up a link to their website!)

And of course if you do have to get up horribly early to catch your train, breakfast still tastes better in the restaurant carriage than on the plane. Proper table, with fabulous changing scenery and freshly made tea or coffee. Travelling this way has class; it's romantic and sensual; you meet interesting people, noisy school children and packs of mountain hikers; and your carbon footprint is much lower than travelling by air or car. More of that later. The downside to the train? In a word: luggage. No matter how hard I try I always pack too much. However as I looked out of the window this morning I realised that as usual I needed the one item I had chosen not to bring - my umbrella! We came to Sibiu and the Romanian heatwave ended abruptly, but at least the rain means we can approach the pre-assembly organisational chaos with slightly cooler heads. Here's hoping!