Tracks of my heart.
Updated: Aug 7
The romance of travel by train, that comforting pull & sway as the train rolls over its tracks hurtling you towards your next destination, is for me the greatest delight of travel. From the very first holiday I undertook through Europe where I traversed across flatlands, through alpine passes, along meandering rivers and into the depths of forests, I was hooked as I looked on in awe of an ever changing landscape that was so rich in history.
One of my very first journey's was between Berlin and Prague. This 4 hour train ride goes through the stunning Elbe River gorge & is replete with mountaintop castles and hillside villages. Many say this is one of the best middle distance train rides in Europe, a ranking I would definitely agree with. The stunning Berlin Hauptbahnhof is a fantastic gateway to ultra cool Berlin, a city that is a must see, whilst the Gothic spires and cobblestone lanes of Prague are a mere 10 minutes on foot from its main station, Praha hlavní nádraží.
My absolute favourite train memory though is the journey from Munich to Zurich. Just under 5 hours in travel time it remains a highlight for one very large reason. The Swiss Alps. I remember seeing a mountain range in the distance as we travelled along, watching them be a constant image as I gazed out the window. I mused at how large they looked as we moved along before the dawning realization that it was the actual Alps getting closer & closer & larger & larger. I burst out with delight at their recognition, much to the amusement of the Swiss couple across the aisle! The Alps are truly magnificent & no matter how many times I return, and it is usually by train, I am always awestruck by them.
Whilst in Switzerland I realized a dream by travelling the 8 hour ride upon the Glacier Express, the slowest express train in the world. You can never tire of the breathtaking views from the panoramic car as you journey over 291 bridges and into 91 tunnels through the center of the Swiss Alps, including the tracks highest point the Oberalp Pass at 2,033m. It was a bucket list item for me and it did not disappoint. You can do the same journey with the regular commuter trains however the panoramic views from a scenic car are breathtaking. You will either start or finish in the picturesque, car free alpine village of Zermatt. Overlooked by the iconic Matterhorn, Zermatt is an all year destination. For those who may need to be budget conscious look to travel in the brief shoulder seasons. Whilst some restaurants are not open it can be a very cost effective way to experience this beautiful destination. I highly recommend a Swiss Travel Pass for riding the rails in this train friendly country.
Since then I have returned back to Europe & the UK where I feel lucky to have taken the opportunity to travel on a train as it rolls onto a ferry in order to cross the Øresund strait. This journey between Hamburg and Copenhagen has sadly now stopped & the crossing will soon be undertaken by an undersea tunnel. This unique journey was so much fun and now one of the last remaining train ferries in operation is to be found in Italy across the Straits of Messina.
Other countries whose rail systems I have enjoyed include New Zealand, Australia, China and the super fast Shinkansen of Japan, complete with a Bento box lunch. As always, the journey by train has allowed me to see & experience more than just the tourist highlights but the extraordinary landscape each country has been built upon.
Travel writer Paul Theroux said "I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it”, which sums up my sentiments to journeying by train perfectly.